It was during the time I wandered about and starved in Christiania: Christiania,
this singular city,
from which no man departs without carrying away the traces of his sojourn there.
* * * * *
I was lying awake in my attic and I heard a clock below strike six.
It was already broad daylight,
and people had begun to go up and down the stairs.
By the door where the wall of the room was papered with old numbers of the -Morgenbladet-,
I could distinguish clearly a notice from the Director of Lighthouses,
and a little to the left of that an inflated advertisement of Fabian Olsens' new-baked bread.
The instant I opened my eyes I began,
from sheer force of habit,
to think if I had anything to rejoice over that day.
I had been somewhat hard-up lately,
and one after the other of my belongings had been taken to my "Uncle."
I had grown nervous and irritable.
A few times I had kept my bed for the day with vertigo.
Now and then,
when luck had favoured me,
I had managed to get five shillings for a feuilleton from some newspaper or other.
It grew lighter and lighter,
and I took to reading the advertisements near the door.
I could even make out the grinning lean letters of "winding-sheets to be had at Miss Andersen's" on the right of it.
That occupied me for a long while.
I heard the clock below strike eight as I got up and put on my clothes.
I opened the window and looked out.
From where I was standing I had a view of a clothes,
line and an open field.
Farther away lay the ruins of a burnt-out smithy,
which some labourers were busy clearing away.
I leant with my elbows resting on the window-frame and gazed into open space.
It promised to be a clear day --autumn,
cool time of the year,
when all things change their colour,
had come to us.
The ever-increasing noise in the streets lured me out.
The bare room,
the floor of which rocked up and down with every step I took across it,
seemed like a gasping,
There was no proper fastening to the door,
and no stove.
I used to lie on my socks at night to dry them a little by the morning.
The only thing I had to divert myself with was a little red rocking-chair,
in which I used to sit in the evenings and doze and muse on all manner of things.
When it blew hard,
and the door below stood open,
all kinds of eerie sounds moaned up through the floor and from out the walls,
and the -Morgenbladet- near the door was rent in strips a span long.
I stood up and searched through a bundle in the corner by the bed for a bite for breakfast,
but finding nothing,
went back to the window.
if looking for employment will ever again avail me aught.
The frequent re pulses,
and curt noes,
and fresh endeavours that always resulted in nothing had done my courage to death.
As a last resource,
I had applied for a place as debt collector,
but I was too late,
I could not have found the fifty shillings demanded as security.
There was always something or another in my way.
I had even offered to enlist in the Fire Brigade.
There we stood and waited in the vestibule,
some half-hundred men,
thrusting our chests out to give an idea of strength and bravery,
whilst an inspector walked up and down and scanned the applicants,
felt their arms,
and put one question or another to them.
he passed by,
merely shaking his head,
saying I was rejected on account of my sight.
I applied again without my glasses,
stood there with knitted brows,
and made my eyes as sharp as needles,
but the man passed me by again with a smile;
he had recognized me.
worse than all,
I could no longer apply for a situation in the garb of a respectable man.
How regularly and steadily things had gone downhill with me for a long time,
in the end,
I was so curiously bared of every conceivable thing.
I had not even a comb left,
not even a book to read,
when things grew all too sad with me.
All through the summer,
up in the churchyards or parks,
where I used to sit and write my articles for the newspapers,
I had thought out column after column on the most miscellaneous subjects.
conceits of my restless brain;
in despair I had often chosen the most remote themes,
that cost me long hours of intense effort,
and never were accepted.
When one piece was finished I set to work at another.
I was not often discouraged by the editors' "no."
I used to tell myself constantly that some day I was bound to succeed;
and really occasionally when I was in luck's way,
and made a hit with something,
I could get five shillings for an afternoon's work.
Once again I raised myself from the window,
went over to the washing-stand,
and sprinkled some water on the shiny knees of my trousers to dull them a little and make them look a trifle newer.
Having done this,
I pocketed paper and pencil as usual and went out.
I stole very quietly down the stairs in order not to attract my landlady's attention (a few days had elapsed since my rent had fallen due,
and I had no longer anything wherewith to raise it).
It was nine o'clock.
The roll of vehicles and hum of voices filled the air,
a mighty morning-choir mingled with the footsteps of the pedestrians,
and the crack of the hack-drivers' whips.
The clamorous traffic everywhere exhilarated me at once,
and I began to feel more and more contented.
Nothing was farther from my intention than to merely take a morning walk in the open air.
What had the air to do with my lungs?
I was strong as a giant;
could stop a dray with my shoulders.
a feeling of lightsome happy-go-luckiness took possession of me.
I fell to observing the people I met and who passed me,
to reading the placards on the wall,
noted even the impression of a glance thrown at me from a passing tram-car,
let each bagatelle,
each trifling incident that crossed or vanished from my path impress me.
If one only had just a little to eat on such a lightsome day!
The sense of the glad morning overwhelmed me;
my satisfaction became ill-regulated,
and for no definite reason I began to hum joyfully.
At a butcher's stall a woman stood speculating on sausage for dinner.
As I passed her she looked up at me.
She had but one tooth in the front of her head.
I had become so nervous and easily affected in the last few days that the woman's face made a loathsome impression upon me.
The long yellow snag looked like a little finger pointing out of her gum,
and her gaze was still full of sausage as she turned it upon me.
I immediately lost all appetite,
and a feeling of nausea came over me.
When I reached the market-place I went to the fountain and drank a little.
I looked up;
the dial marked ten on Our Saviour's tower.
I went on through the streets,
without troubling myself about anything at all,
stopped aimlessly at a corner,
turned off into a side street without having any errand there.
I simply let myself go,
wandered about in the pleasant morning,
swinging myself care-free to and fro amongst other happy human beings.
This air was clear and bright and my mind too was without a shadow.
For quite ten minutes I had had an old lame man ahead of me.
He carried a bundle in one hand and exerted his whole body,
using all his strength in his endeavours to get along speedily.
I could hear how he panted from the exertion,
and it occurred to me that I might offer to bear his bundle for him,
but yet I made no effort to overtake him.
Up in Graendsen I met Hans Pauli,
who nodded and hurried past me.
Why was he in such a hurry?
I had not the slightest intention of asking him for a shilling,
more than that,
I intended at the very first opportunity to return him a blanket which I had borrowed from him some weeks before.
Just wait until I could get my foot on the ladder,
I would be beholden to no man,
not even for a blanket.
Perhaps even this very day I might commence an article on the "Crimes of Futurity,"
"Freedom of Will,"
or what not,
at any rate,
something worth reading,
something for which I would at least get ten shillings ....
And at the thought of this article I felt myself fired with a desire to set to work immediately and to draw from the contents of my overflowing brain.
I would find a suitable place to write in the park and not rest until I had completed my article.
But the old cripple was still making the same sprawling movements ahead of me up the street.
The sight of this infirm creature constantly in front of me,
commenced to irritate me --his journey seemed endless;
perhaps he had made up his mind to go to exactly the same place as I had,
and I must needs have him before my eyes the whole way.
In my irritation it seemed to me that he slackened his pace a little at every cross street,
as if waiting to see which direction I intended to take,
upon which he would again swing his bundle in the air and peg away with all his might to keep ahead of me.
I follow and watch this tiresome creature and get more and more exasperated with him,
I am conscious that he has,
little by little,
destroyed my happy mood and dragged the pure,
beautiful morning down to the level of his own ugliness.
He looks like a great sprawling reptile striving with might and main to win a place in the world and reserve the footpath for himself.
When we reached the top of the hill I determined to put up with it no longer.
I turned to a shop window and stopped in order to give him an opportunity of getting ahead,
after a lapse of some minutes,
I again walked on there was the man still in front of me --he too had stood stock still,
--without stopping to reflect I made three or four furious onward strides,
caught him up,
and slapped him on the shoulder.
He stopped directly,
and we both stared at one another fixedly.
"A halfpenny for milk!"
twisting his head askew.
So that was how the wind blew.
I felt in my pockets and said:
Hum-m --money's scarce these times,
and I don't really know how much you are in need of it."
"I haven't eaten a morsel since yesterday in Drammen;
I haven't got a farthing,
nor have I got any work yet!"
"Are you an artisan?"
for that matter,
I can make shoes too."
that alters the case,"
"you wait here for some,
minutes and I shall go and get a little money for you;
just a few pence."
I hurried as fast as I could down Pyle Street,
where I knew of a pawnbroker on a second-floor (one,
to whom I had never been before).
When I got inside the hall I hastily took off my waistcoat,
rolled it up,
and put it under my arm;
after which I went upstairs and knocked at the office door.
I bowed on entering,
and threw the waistcoat on the counter.
said the man.
"If it weren't that it was beginning to be a little tight for me,
of course I wouldn't part with it."
I got the money and the ticket,
and went back.
Considering all things,
pawning that waistcoat was a capital notion.
I would have money enough over for a plentiful breakfast,
and before evening my thesis on the "Crimes of Futurity" would be ready.
I began to find existence more alluring;
and I hurried back to the man to get rid of him.
"There it is,"
"I am glad you applied to me first."
The man took the money and scrutinized me closely.
At what was he standing there staring?
I had a feeling that he particularly examined the knees of my trousers,
and his shameless effrontery bored me.
Did the scoundrel imagine that I really was as poor as I looked?
Had I not as good as begun to write an article for half-a-sovereign?
I had no fear whatever for the future.
I had many irons in the fire.
What on earth business was it of an utter stranger if I chose to stand him a drink on such a lovely day?
The man's look annoyed me,
and I made up my mind to give him a good dressing-down before I left him.
I threw back my shoulders,
"My good fellow,
you have adopted a most unpleasant habit of staring at a man's knees when he gives you a shilling."
He leant his head back against the wall and opened his mouth widely;
something was working in that empty pate of his,
and he evidently came to the conclusion that I meant to best him in some way,
for he handed me back the money.
I stamped on the pavement,
swearing at him,
told him to keep it.
Did he imagine I was going to all that trouble for nothing?
If all came to all,
perhaps I owed him this shilling;
I had just recollected an old debt;
he was standing before an honest man,
honourable to his finger-tips --in short,
the money was his.
no thanks were needed;
it had been a pleasure to me.
I went on.
At last I was freed from this work-ridden plague,
and I could go my way in peace.
I turned down Pyle Street again,
and stopped before a grocer's shop.
The whole window was filled with eatables,
and I decided to go in and get something to take with me.
"A piece of cheese and a French roll,"
and threw my sixpence on to the counter.
"Bread and cheese for the whole of it?"
asked the woman ironically,
without looking up at me.
"For the whole sixpence?
I took them up,
bade the fat old woman good-morning,
with the utmost politeness,
up Castle Hill to the park.
I found a bench to myself,
and began to bite greedily into my provender.
It did me good;
it was a long time since I had had such a square meal,
I felt the same sated quiet steal over me that one feels after a good long cry.
My courage rose mightily.
I could no longer be satisfied with writing an article about anything so simple and straight-ahead as the "Crimes of Futurity,"
that any ass might arrive at,
simply deduct from history.
I felt capable of a much greater effort than that;
I was in a fitting mood to overcome difficulties,
and I decided on a treatise,
in three sections,
on "Philosophical Cognition."
give me an opportunity of crushing pitiably some of Kant's sophistries ...
on taking out my writing materials to commence work,
I discovered that I no longer owned a pencil: I had forgotten it in the pawn-office.
My pencil was lying in my waistcoat pocket.
how everything seems to take a delight in thwarting me today!
I swore a few times,
rose from the seat,
and took a couple of turns up and down the path.
It was very quiet all around me;
down near the Queen's arbour two nursemaids were trundling their perambulators;
there was not a creature anywhere in sight.
I was in a thoroughly embittered temper;
I paced up and down before my seat like a maniac.
How strangely awry things seemed to go!
To think that an article in three sections should be downright stranded by the simple fact of my not having a pennyworth of pencil in my pocket.
Supposing I were to return to Pyle Street and ask to get my pencil back?
There would be still time to get a good piece finished before the promenading public commenced to fill the parks.
depended on this treatise on "Philosophical Cognition" --mayhap many human beings' welfare,
no one could say;
and I told myself it might be of the greatest possible help to many young people.
On second thoughts,
I would not lay violent hands on Kant;
I might easily avoid doing that;
I would only need to make an almost imperceptible gliding over when I came to query Time and Space;
but I would not answer for Renan,
old Parson Renan ....
At all events,
an article of so-and-so many columns has to be completed.
For the unpaid rent,
and the landlady's inquiring look in the morning when I met her on the stairs,
tormented me the whole day;
it rose up and confronted me again and again,
even in my pleasant hours,
when I had otherwise not a gloomy thought.
I must put an end to it,
so I left the park hurriedly to fetch my pencil from the pawnbroker's.
As I arrived at the foot of the hill I overtook two ladies,
whom I passed.
As I did so,
I brushed one of them accidentally on the arm.
I looked up;
she had a full,
But she blushes,
becomes suddenly surprisingly lovely.
I know not why she blushes;
maybe at some word she hears from a passer-by,
maybe only at some lurking thought of her own.
Or can it be because I touched her arm?
full bosom heaves violently several times,
and she closes her hand tightly above the handle of her parasol.
What has come to her?
and let her pass ahead again.
for the moment,
go no further;
the whole thing struck me as being so singular.
I was in a tantalizing mood,
annoyed with myself on account of the pencil incident,
and in a high degree disturbed by all the food I had taken on a totally empty stomach.
Suddenly my thoughts,
as if whimsically inspired,
take a singular direction.
I feel myself seized with an odd desire to make this lady afraid;
to follow her,
and annoy her in some way.
I overtake her again,
pass her by,
turn quickly round,
and meet her face-to-face in order to observe her well.
I stand and gaze into her eyes,
on the spur of the moment,
on a name which I have never heard before --a name with a gliding,
nervous sound --Ylajali!
When she is quite close to me I draw myself up and say impressively:
"You are losing your book,
I could hear my heart beat audibly as I said it.
she asks her companion,
and she walks on.
My devilment waxed apace,
and I followed them.
At the same time,
I was fully conscious that I was playing a mad prank without being able to stop myself.
My disordered condition ran away with me;
I was inspired with the craziest notions,
which I followed blindly as they came to me.
I couldn't help it,
no matter how much I told myself that I was playing the fool.
I made the most idiotic grimaces behind the lady's back,
and coughed frantically as I passed her by.
Walking on in this manner --very slowly,
and always a few steps in advance --I felt her eyes on my back,
and involuntarily put down my head with shame for having caused her annoyance.
a wonderful feeling stole over me of being far,
far away in other places;
I had a half-undefined sense that it was not I who was going along over the gravel hanging my head.
A few minutes later,
they reached Pascha's bookshop.
I had already stopped at the first window,
and as they go by I step forward and repeat:
"You are losing your book,
she asks affrightedly.
"Can you make out what book it is he is talking about?"
and she comes to a stop.
I hug myself with delight at her confusion;
the irresolute perplexity in her eyes positively fascinates me.
Her mind cannot grasp my short,
She has no book with her;
not a single page of a book,
and yet she fumbles in her pockets,
looks down repeatedly at her hands,
turns her head and scrutinizes the streets behind her,
exerts her sensitive little brain to the utmost in trying to discover what book it is I am talking about.
Her face changes colour,
has now one,
now another expression,
and she is breathing quite audibly --even the very buttons on her gown seem to stare at me,
like a row of frightened eyes.
"Don't bother about him!"
says her companion,
taking her by the arm.
"He is drunk;
can't you see that the man is drunk?"
Strange as I was at this instant to myself,
so absolutely a prey to peculiar invisible inner influences,
nothing occurred around me without my observing it.
brown dog sprang right across the street towards the shrubbery,
and then down towards the Tivoli;
he had on a very narrow collar of German silver.
Farther up the street a window opened on the second floor,
and a servant-maid leant out of it,
with her sleeves turned up,
and began to clean the panes on the outside.
Nothing escaped my notice;
I was clear-headed and ready-witted.
Everything rushed in upon me with a gleaming distinctness,
as if I were suddenly surrounded by a strong light.
The ladies before me had each a blue bird's wing in their hats,
and a plaid silk ribbon round their necks.
It struck me that they were sisters.
stopped at Cisler's music-shop,
and spoke together.
I stopped also.
Thereupon they both came back,
went the same road as they had come,
passed me again,
and turned the corner of University Street and up towards St. Olav's place.
I was all the time as close at their heels as I dared to be.
They turned round once,
and sent me a half-fearful,
and I saw no resentment nor any trace of a frown in it.
This forbearance with my annoyance shamed me thoroughly and made me lower my eyes.
I would no longer be a trouble to them;
out of sheer gratitude I would follow them with my gaze,
not lose sight of them until they entered some place safely and disappeared.
Outside No. 2,
a large four-storeyed house,
they turned again before going in.
I leant against a lamp-post near the fountain and listened for their footsteps on the stairs.
They died away on the second floor.
I advanced from the lamp-post and looked up at the house.
Then something odd happened.
The curtains above were stirred,
and a second after a window opened,
a head popped out,
and two singular-looking eyes dwelt on me.
and I felt I grew red.
Why does she not call for help,
or push over one of these flower-pots and strike me on the head,
or send some one down to drive me away?
We stand and look into one another's eyes without moving;
it lasts a minute.
Thoughts dart between the window and the street,
and not a word is spoken.
She turns round,
I feel a wrench in me,
a delicate shock through my senses;
I see a shoulder that turns,
a back that disappears across the floor.
That reluctant turning from the window,
the accentuation in that movement of the shoulders was like a nod to me.
My blood was sensible of all the delicate,
and I felt all at once rarely glad.
Then I wheeled round and went down the street.
I dared not look back,
and knew not if she had returned to the window.
The more I considered this question the more nervous and restless I became.
Probably at this very moment she was standing watching closely all my movements.
It is by no means comfortable to know that you are being watched from behind your back.
I pulled myself together as well as I could and proceeded on my way;
my legs began to jerk under me,
my gait became unsteady just because I purposely tried to make it look well.
In order to appear at ease and indifferent,
I flung my arms about,
and threw my head well back --all without avail,
for I continually felt the pursuing eyes on my neck,
and a cold shiver ran down my back.
At length I escaped down a side street,
from which I took the road to Pyle Street to get my pencil.
I had no difficulty in recovering it;
the man brought me the waistcoat himself,
and as he did so,
begged me to search through all the pockets.
I found also a couple of pawn-tickets which I pocketed as I thanked the obliging little man for his civility.
I was more and more taken with him,
and grew all of a sudden extremely anxious to make a favourable impression on this person.
I took a turn towards the door and then back again to the counter as if I had forgotten something.
It struck me that I owed him an explanation,
that I ought to elucidate matters a little.
I began to hum in order to attract his attention.
taking the pencil in my hand,
I held it up and said:
"It would never have entered my head to come such a long way for any and every bit of pencil,
but with this one it was quite a different matter;
there Was another reason,
a special reason.
Insignificant as it looked,
this stump of pencil had simply made me what I was in the world,
so to say,
placed me in life."
I said no more.
The man had come right over to the counter.
and he looked inquiringly at me.
"It was with this pencil,"
in cold blood,
"that I wrote my dissertation on
in three volumes."
Had he never heard mention of it?
he did seem to remember having heard the name,
rather the title.
"that was by me,
so it was."
So he must really not be astonished that I should be desirous of having the little bit of pencil back again.
I valued it far too highly to lose it;
it was almost as much to me as a little human creature.
For the rest I was honestly grateful to him for his civility,
and I would bear him in mind for it.
I really would.
A promise was a promise;
that was the sort of man I was,
and he really deserved it.
I walked to the door with the bearing of one who had it in his power to place a man in a high position,
say in the fire-office.
The honest pawnbroker bowed twice profoundly to me as I withdrew.
I turned again and repeated my good-bye.
On the stairs I met a woman with a travelling-bag in her hand,
who squeezed diffidently against the wall to make room for me,
and I voluntarily thrust my hand in my pocket for something to give her,
and looked foolish as I found nothing and passed on with my head down.
I heard her knock at the office door;
there was an alarm over it,
and I recognized the jingling sound it gave when any one rapped on the door with his knuckles.
The sun stood in the south;
it was about twelve.
The whole town began to get on its legs as it approached the fashionable hour for promenading.
Bowing and laughing folk walked up and down Carl Johann Street.
I stuck my elbows closely to my sides,
tried to make myself look small,
and slipped unperceived past some acquaintances who had taken up their stand at the corner of University Street to gaze at the passers-by.
I wandered up Castle Hill and fell into a reverie.
How gaily and lightly these people I met carried their radiant heads,
and swung themselves through life as through a ball-room!
There was no sorrow in a single look I met,
no burden on any shoulder,
perhaps not even a clouded thought,
not a little hidden pain in any of the happy souls.
walking in the very midst of these people,
young and newly-fledged as I was,
had already forgotten the very look of happiness.
I hugged these thoughts to myself as I went on,
and found that a great injustice had been done me.
Why had the last months pressed so strangely hard on me?
I failed to recognize my own happy temperament,
and I met with the most singular annoyances from all quarters.
I could not sit down on a bench by myself or set my foot any place without being assailed by insignificant accidents,
that forced their way into my imagination and scattered my powers to all the four winds.
A dog that dashed by me,
a yellow rose in a man's buttonhole,
had the power to set my thoughts vibrating and occupy me for a length of time.
* * * * *
What was it that ailed me?
Was the hand of the Lord turned against me?
But why just against me?
for that matter,
not just as well against a man in South America?
When I considered the matter over,
it grew more and more incomprehensible to me that I of all others should be selected as an experiment for a Creator's whims.
to say the least of it,
a peculiar mode of procedure to pass over a whole world of other humans in order to reach me.
Why not select just as well Bookseller Pascha,
or Hennechen the steam agent?
As I went my way I sifted this thing,
and could not get quit of it.
I found the most weighty arguments against the Creator's arbitrariness in letting me pay for all the others' sins.
Even after I had found a seat and sat down,
the query persisted in occupying me,
and prevented me from thinking of aught else.
From the day in May when my ill-luck began I could so clearly notice my gradually increasing debility;
I had become,
as it were,
too languid to control or lead myself whither I would go.
A swarm of tiny noxious animals had bored a way into my inner man and hollowed me out.
Supposing God Almighty simply intended to annihilate me?
I got up and paced backwards and forwards before the seat.
My whole being was at this moment in the highest degree of torture,
I had pains in my arms,
and could hardly bear to hold them in the usual way.
I experienced also great discomfort from my last full meal;
I was oversated,
and walked backwards and forwards without looking up.
The people who came and went around me glided past me like faint gleams.
At last my seat was taken up by two men,
who lit cigars and began to talk loudly together.
I got angry and was on the point of addressing them,
but turned on my heel and went right to the other end of the Park,
and found another seat.
I sat down.
* * * * *
The thought of God began to occupy me.
It seemed to me in the highest degree indefensible of Him to interfere every time I sought for a place,
and to upset the whole thing,
while all the time I was but imploring enough for a daily meal.
I had remarked so plainly that,
whenever I had been hungry for any length of time,
it was just as if my brains ran quite gently out of my head and left me with a vacuum --my head grew light and far off,
I no longer felt its weight on my shoulders,
and I had a consciousness that my eyes stared far too widely open when I looked at anything.
I sat there on the seat and pondered over all this,
and grew more and more bitter against God for His prolonged inflictions.
If He meant to draw me nearer to Him,
and make me better by exhausting me and placing obstacle after obstacle in my way,
I could assure Him He made a slight mistake.
almost crying with defiance,
I looked up towards Heaven and told Him so mentally,
once and for all.
Fragments of the teachings of my childhood ran through my memory.
The rhythmical sound of Biblical language sang in my ears,
and I talked quite softly to myself,
and held my head sneeringly askew.
Wherefore should I sorrow for what I eat,
for what I drink,
or for what I may array this miserable food for worms called my earthy body?
Hath not my Heavenly Father provided for me,
even as for the sparrow on the housetop,
and hath He not in His graciousness pointed towards His lowly servitor?
The Lord stuck His finger in the net of my nerves gently --yea,
in desultory fashion --and brought slight disorder among the threads.
And then the Lord withdrew His finger,
and there were fibres and delicate root-like filaments adhering to the finger,
and they were the nerve-threads of the filaments.
And there was a gaping hole after the finger,
which was God's finger,
and a wound in my brain in the track of His finger.
But when God had touched me with His finger,
He let me be,
and touched me no more,
and let no evil befall me;
but let me depart in peace,
and let me depart with the gaping hole.
And no evil hath befallen me from the God who is the Lord God of all Eternity.
The sound of music was borne up on the wind to me from the Students' Allée.
It was therefore past two o'clock.
I took out my writing materials to try to write something,
and at the same time my book of shaving-tickets [Footnote: Issued by the barbers at cheaper rates,
as few men in Norway shave themselves.] fell out of my pocket.
I opened it,
and counted the tickets;
there were six.
"The Lord be praised,"
I exclaimed involuntarily;
"I can still get shaved for a couple of weeks,
and look a little decent";
and I immediately fell into a better frame of mind on account of this little property which still remained to me.
I smoothed the leaves out carefully,
and put the book safely into my pocket.
But write I could not.
After a few lines nothing seemed to occur to me;
my thought ran in other directions,
and I could not pull myself together enough for any special exertion.
Everything influenced and distracted me;
everything I saw made a fresh impression on me.
Flies and tiny mosquitoes stick fast to the paper and disturb me.
I blow at them to get rid of them --blow harder and harder;
to no purpose,
the little pests throw themselves on their backs,
make themselves heavy,
and fight against me until their slender legs bend.
They are not to be moved from the spot;
they find something to hook on to,
set their heels against a comma or an unevenness in the paper,
or stand immovably still until they themselves think fit to go their way.
These insects continued to busy me for a long time,
and I crossed my legs to observe them at leisure.
All at once a couple of high clarionet notes waved up to me from the bandstand,
and gave my thoughts a new impulse.
Despondent at not being able to put my article together,
I replaced the paper in my pocket,
and leant back in the seat.
At this instant my head is so clear that I can follow the most delicate train of thought without tiring.
As I lie in this position,
and let my eyes glide down my breast and along my legs,
I notice the jerking movement my foot makes each time my pulse beats.
I half rise and look down at my feet,
and I experience at this moment a fantastic and singular feeling that I have never felt before --a delicate,
wonderful shock through my nerves,
as if sparks of cold light quivered through them --it was as if catching sight of my shoes I had met with a kind old acquaintance,
or got back a part of myself that had been riven loose.
A feeling of recognition trembles through my senses;
the tears well up in my eyes,
and I have a feeling as if my shoes are a soft,
murmuring strain rising towards me.
I cried harshly to myself,
and I clenched my fists and I repeated "Weakness!"
I laughed at myself,
for this ridiculous feeling,
made fun of myself,
with a perfect consciousness of doing so,
talked very severely and sensibly,
and closed my eyes very tightly to get rid of the tears.
As if I had never seen my shoes before,
I set myself to study their looks,
when I stir my foot,
their shape and their worn uppers.
I discover that their creases and white seams give them expression --impart a physiognomy to them.
Something of my own nature had gone over into these shoes;
they affected me,
like a ghost of my other I --a breathing portion of my very self.
I sat and toyed with these fancies a long time,
perhaps an entire hour.
old man came and took the other end of the seat;
as he seated himself he panted after his walk,
As soon as I heard his voice,
I felt as if a wind had swept through my head.
I let shoes be shoes,
and it seemed to me that the distracted phase of mind I had just experienced dated from a long-vanished period,
maybe a year or two back,
and was about to be quietly effaced from my memory.
I began to observe the old fellow.
Did this little man concern me in any way?
Not in the least,
not in the very slightest degree!
Only that he held a newspaper in his hand,
an old number (with the advertisement sheet on the outside),
in which something or other seemed to be rolled up;
my curiosity was aroused,
and I could not take my eyes away from this paper.
The insane idea entered my head that it might be a quite peculiar newspaper --unique of its kind.
My curiosity increased,
and I began to move backwards and forwards on the seat.
It might contain deeds,
dangerous documents stolen from some archive or other;
something floated before me about a secret treaty --a conspiracy.
The man sat quietly,
Why did he not carry his newspaper as every other person carries a paper,
with its name out?
What species of cunning lurked under that?
He did not seem either to like letting his package out of his hands,
not for anything in the world;
perhaps he did not even dare trust it into his own pocket.
I could stake my life there was something at the bottom of that package --I considered a bit.
Just the fact of finding it so impossible to penetrate this mysterious affair distracted me with curiosity.
I searched my pockets for something to offer the man in order to enter into conversation with him,
took hold of my shaving-book,
but put it back again.
Suddenly it entered my head to be utterly audacious;
I slapped my empty breast-pocket,
"May I offer you a cigarette?"
The man did not smoke;
he had to give it up to spare his eyes;
he was nearly blind.
Thank you very much all the same.
Was it long since his eyes got bad?
In that case,
he could not read either,
not even a paper?
not even the newspaper,
more's the pity.
The man looked at me;
his weak eyes were each covered with a film which gave them a glassy appearance;
his gaze grew bleary,
and made a disgusting impression on me.
"You are a stranger here?"
Could he not even read the name of the paper he held in his hand?
For that matter,
he could hear directly that I was a stranger.
There was something in my accent which told him.
It did not need much;
he could hear so well.
when every one slept,
he could hear people in the next room breathing ....
"What I was going to say was,
'where do you live?'"
On the spur of the moment a lie stood,
in my head.
I lied involuntarily,
without any object,
without any -arrière pensée-,
and I answered --
"St. Olav's Place,
He knew every stone in St. Olav's Place.
There was a fountain,
a few trees;
he remembered all of it.
"What number do you live in?"
Desirous to put an end to this,
I got up.
But my notion about the newspaper had driven me to my wit's end;
I resolved to clear the thing up,
at no matter what cost.
"When you cannot read the paper,
"In No. 2,
I think you said,"
continued the man,
without noticing my disturbance.
"There was a time I knew every person in No. 2;
what is your landlord's name?"
I quickly found a name to get rid of him;
invented one on the spur of the moment,
and blurted it out to stop my tormentor.
nodded the man;
and he never missed a syllable of this difficult name.
I looked at him with amazement;
there he sat,
with a considering air.
Before I had well given utterance to the stupid name which jumped into my head the man had accommodated himself to it,
and pretended to have heard it before.
In the meantime,
he had laid his package on the seat,
and I felt my curiosity quiver through my nerves.
I noticed there were a few grease spots on the paper.
"Isn't he a sea-faring man,
and there was not a trace of suppressed irony in his voice;
"I seem to remember he was."
it must be the brother you know;
this man is namely J. A.
I thought this would finish him;
but he willingly fell in with everything I said.
If I had found a name like Barrabas Rosebud it would not have roused his suspicions.
"He is an able man,
I have heard?"
feeling his way.
a clever fellow!"
"a thorough business head;
agent for every possible thing going.
Cranberries from China;
feathers and down from Russia;
the devil he is?"
interrupted the old chap,
This began to get interesting.
The situation ran away with me,
and one lie after another engendered in my head.
I sat down again,
forgot the newspaper,
and the remarkable documents,
and cut short the old fellow's talk.
The little goblin's unsuspecting simplicity made me foolhardy;
I would stuff him recklessly full of lies;
rout him out o' field grandly,
and stop his mouth from sheer amazement.
Had he heard of the electric psalm-book that Happolati had invented?
"With electric letters that could give light in the dark!
a perfectly extraordinary enterprise.
A million crowns to be put in circulation;
foundries and printing-presses at work,
and shoals of regular mechanics to be employed;
I had heard as many as seven hundred men."
isn't it just what I say?"
drawled out the man calmly.
He said no more,
he believed every word I related,
and for all that,
he was not taken aback.
This disappointed me a little;
I had expected to see him utterly bewildered by my inventions.
I searched my brain for a couple of desperate lies,
went the whole hog,
hinted that Happolati had been Minister of State for nine years in Persia.
"You perhaps have no conception of what it means to be Minister of State in Persia?"
It was more than king here,
or about the same as Sultan,
if he knew what that meant,
but Happolati had managed the whole thing,
and was never at a loss.
And I related about his daughter Ylajali,
who had three hundred slaves,
and who reclined on a couch of yellow roses.
She was the loveliest creature I had ever seen;
may the Lord strike me,
never seen her match for looks in my life!
was she so lovely?"
remarked the old fellow,
with an absent air,
as he gazed at the ground.
She was beauteous,
she was sinfully fascinating.
Eyes like raw silk,
arms of amber!
Just one glance from her was as seductive as a kiss;
and when she called me,
her voice darted like a wine-ray right into my soul's phosphor.
And why shouldn't she be so beautiful?"
Did he imagine she was a messenger or something in the fire brigade?
She was simply a Heaven's wonder,
I could just inform him,
a fairy tale.
to be sure!"
not a little bewildered.
His quiet bored me;
I was excited by the sound of my own voice and spoke in utter seriousness;
the stolen archives,
treaties with some foreign power or other,
no longer occupied my thoughts;
the little flat bundle of paper lay on the seat between us,
and I had no longer the smallest desire to examine it or see what it contained.
I was entirely absorbed in stories of my own which floated in singular visions across my mental eye.
The blood flew to my head,
and I roared with laughter.
At this moment the little man seemed about to go.
He stretched himself,
and in order not to break off too abruptly,
"He is said to own much property,
How dared this bleary-eyed,
disgusting old man toss about the rare name I had invented as if it were a common name stuck up over every huckster-shop in the town?
He never stumbled over a letter or forgot a syllable.
The name had bitten fast in his brain and struck root on the instant.
I got annoyed;
an inward exasperation surged up in me against this creature whom nothing had the power to disturb and nothing render suspicious.
I therefore replied shortly,
"I know nothing about that!
I know absolutely nothing whatever about that!
Let me inform you once for all that his name is Johann Arendt Happolati,
if you go by his own initials."
"Johannn Arendt Happolati!"
repeated the man,
a little astonished at my vehemence;
and with that he grew silent.
"You should see his wife!"
"A fatter creature ...
Perhaps you don't even believe she is really fat?"
indeed he did not see his way to deny that such a man might perhaps have a rather stout wife.
The old fellow answered quite gently and meekly to each of my assertions,
and sought for words as if he feared to offend and perhaps make me furious.
"Hell and fire,
Do you imagine that I am sitting here stuffing you chock-full of lies?"
I roared furiously.
"Perhaps you don't even believe that a man of the name of Happolati exists!
I never saw your match for obstinacy and malice in any old man.
What the devil ails you?
into the bargain,
you have been all this while thinking to yourself I am a poverty-stricken fellow,
sitting here in my Sunday-best without even a case full of cigarettes in my pocket.
Let me tell you such treatment as yours is a thing I am not accustomed to,
and I won't endure it,
the Lord strike me dead if I will --neither from you nor any one else,
do you know that?"
The man had risen with his mouth agape;
he stood tongue-tied and listened to my outbreak until the end.
Then he snatched his parcel from off the seat and went,
down the patch,
with the short,
tottering steps of an old man.
I leant back and looked at the retreating figure that seemed to shrink at each step as it passed away.
I do not know from where the impression came,
but it appeared to me that I had never in my life seen a more vile back than this one,
and I did not regret that I had abused the creature before he left me.
The day began to decline,
the sun sank,
it commenced to rustle lightly in the trees around,
and the nursemaids who sat in groups near the parallel bars made ready to wheel their perambulators home.
I was calmed and in good spirit.
The excitement I had just laboured under quieted down little by little,
and I grew weaker,
and began to feel drowsy.
Neither did the quantity of bread I had eaten cause me any longer any particular distress.
I leant against the back of the seat in the best of humours,
closed my eyes,
and got more and more sleepy.
and was just on the point of falling asleep,
when a park-keeper put his hand on my shoulder and said:
"You must not sit here and go to sleep!"
and sprang immediately up,
my unfortunate position rising all at once vividly before my eyes.
I must do something;
find some way or another out of it.
To look for situations had been of no avail to me.
Even the recommendations I showed had grown a little old,
and were written by people all too little known to be of much use;
constant refusals all through the summer had somewhat disheartened me.
At all events,
my rent was due,
and I must raise the wind for that;
the rest would have to wait a little.
Quite involuntarily I had got paper and pencil into my hand again,
and I sat and wrote mechanically the date,
in each corner.
If only now one single effervescing thought would grip me powerfully,
and put words into my mouth.
I had known hours when I could write a long piece,
without the least exertion,
and turn it off capitally,
I am sitting on the seat,
and I write,
scores of times,
I write this date criss-cross,
in all possible fashions,
and wait until a workable idea shall occur to me.
A swarm of loose thoughts flutter about in my head.
The feeling of declining day makes me downcast,
autumn is here,
and has already begun to hush everything into sleep and torpor.
The flies and insects have received their first warning.
Up in the trees and down in the fields the sounds of struggling life can be heard rustling,
labouring not to perish.
The down-trodden existence of the whole insect world is astir for yet a little while.
They poke their yellow heads up from the turf,
lift their legs,
feel their way with long feelers and then collapse suddenly,
and turn their bellies in the air.
Every growing thing has received its peculiar impress: the delicately blown breath of the first cold.
The stubbles straggle wanly sunwards,
and the falling leaves rustle to the earth,
with a sound as of errant silkworms.
It is the reign of Autumn,
the height of the Carnival of Decay,
the roses have got inflammation in their blushes,
an uncanny hectic tinge,
through their soft damask.
I felt myself like a creeping thing on the verge of destruction,
gripped by ruin in the midst of a whole world ready for lethargic sleep.
oppressed by weird terrors,
and took some furious strides down the path.
I cried out,
clutching both my hands;
"there must be an end to this,"
and I reseated myself,
grasped the pencil,
and set seriously to work at an article.
There was no possible use in giving way,
with the unpaid rent staring me straight in the face.
my thoughts collected.
I paid attention to them,
and wrote quietly and well;
wrote a couple of pages as an introduction.
It would serve as a beginning to anything.
A description of travel,
a political leader,
just as I thought fit --it was a perfectly splendid commencement for something or anything.
So I took to seeking for some particular subject to handle,
a person or a thing,
that I might grapple with,
and I could find nothing.
Along with this fruitless exertion,
disorder began to hold its sway again in my thoughts.
I felt how my brain positively snapped and my head emptied,
until it sat at last,
and void on my shoulders.
I was conscious of the gaping vacuum in my skull with every fibre of my being.
I seemed to myself to be hollowed out from top and toe.
In my pain I cried:
my God and Father!"
and repeated this cry many times at a stretch,
without adding one word more.
The wind soughed through the trees;
a storm was brewing.
I sat a while longer,
and gazed at my paper,
lost in thought,
then folded it up and put it slowly into my pocket.
It got chilly;
and I no longer owned a waistcoat.
I buttoned my coat right up to my throat and thrust my hands in my pockets;
thereupon I rose and went on.
If I had only succeeded this time,
just this once.
Twice my landlady had asked me with her eyes for payment,
and I was obliged to hang my head and slink past her with a shamefaced air.
I could not do it again: the very next time I met those eyes I would give warning and account for myself honestly.
things could not last long at this rate.
On coming to the exit of the park I saw the old chap I had put to flight.
The mysterious new paper parcel lay opened on the seat next him,
filled with different sorts of victuals,
of which he ate as he sat.
I immediately wanted to go over and ask pardon for my conduct,
but the sight of food repelled me.
The decrepit fingers looked like ten claws as they clutched loathsomely at the greasy bread and butter;
I felt qualmish,
and passed by without addressing him.
He did not recognize me;
his eyes stared at me,
dry as horn,
and his face did not move a muscle.
And so I went on my way.
I halted before every newspaper placard I came to,
to read the announcements of situations vacant,
and was lucky enough to find one that I might try for.
A grocer in Groenlandsleret wanted a man every week for a couple of hours' book-keeping;
remuneration according to agreement.
I noted my man's address,
and prayed to God in silence for this place.
I would demand less than any one else for my work;
sixpence was ample,
or perhaps fivepence.
That would not matter in the least.
On going home,
a slip of paper from my landlady lay on my table,
in which she begged me to pay my rent in advance,
or else move as soon as I could.
I must not be offended,
it was absolutely a necessary request.
Friendlily Mrs. Gundersen.
I wrote an application to Christy the grocer,
No. 13 Groenlandsleret,
put it in an envelope,
and took it to the pillar at the corner.
Then I returned to my room and sat down in the rocking-chair to think,
whilst the darkness grew closer and closer.
Sitting up late began to be difficult now.
I woke very early in the morning.
It was still quite dark as I opened my eyes,
and it was not till long after that I heard five strokes of the clock down-stairs.
I turned round to doze again,
but sleep had down.
I grew more and more wakeful,
and lay and thought of a thousand things.
Suddenly a few good sentences fitted for a sketch or story strike me,
delicate linguistic hits of which I have never before found the equal.
I lie and repeat these words over to myself,
and find that they are capital.
Little by little others come and fit themselves to the preceding ones.
I grow keenly wakeful.
I get up and snatch paper and pencil from the table behind my bed.
It was as if a vein had burst in me;
one word follows another,
and they fit themselves together harmoniously with telling effect.
Scene piles on scene,
actions and speeches bubble up in my brain,
and a wonderful sense of pleasure empowers me.
I write as one possessed,
and fill page after page,
without a moment's pause.
Thoughts come so swiftly to me and continue to flow so richly that I miss a number of telling bits,
that I cannot set down quickly enough,
although I work with all my might.
They continue to invade me;
I am full of my subject,
and every word I write is inspired.
This strange period lasts --lasts such a blessedly long time before it comes to an end.
I have fifteen --twenty written pages lying on my knees before me,
when at last I cease and lay my pencil aside,
So sure as there is any worth in these pages,
so sure am I saved.
I jump out of bed and dress myself,
It grows lighter.
I can half distinguish the lighthouse director's announcement down near the door,
and near the window it is already so light that I could,
in case of necessity,
see to write.
I set to work immediately to make a fair copy of what I have written.
peculiar exhalation of light and colour emanates from these fantasies of mine.
I start with surprise as I note one good thing after another,
and tell myself that this is the best thing I have ever read.
My head swims with a sense of satisfaction;
delight inflates me;
I grow grandiose.
I weigh my writing in my hand,
and value it,
at a loose guess,
for five shillings on the spot.
It could never enter any one's head to chaffer about five shillings;
on the contrary,
getting it for half-a-sovereign might be considered dirt-cheap,
considering the quality of the thing.
I had no intention of turning off such special work gratis.
As far as I was aware,
one did not pick up stories of that kind on the wayside,
and I decided on half-a-sovereign.
The room brightened and brightened.
I threw a glance towards the door,
and could distinguish without particular trouble the skeleton-like letters of Miss Andersen's winding-sheet advertisement to the right of it.
It was also a good while since the clock has struck seven.
I rose and came to a standstill in the middle of the floor.
Everything well considered,
Mrs. Gundersen's warning came rather opportunely.
no fit room for me: there were only common enough green curtains at the windows,
and neither were there any pegs too many on the wall.
The poor little rocking-chair over in the corner was in reality a mere attempt at a rocking-chair;
with the smallest sense of humour,
one might easily split one's sides with laughter at it.
It was far too low for a grown man,
and besides that,
so to speak,
the aid of a boot-jack to get out of it.
To cut it short,
the room was not adopted for the pursuit of things intellectual,
and I did not intend to keep it any longer.
On no account would I keep it.
I had held my peace,
and endured and lived far too long in such a den.
Buoyed up by hope and satisfaction,
constantly occupied with my remarkable sketch,
which I drew forth every moment from my pocket and re-read,
I determined to set seriously to work with my flitting.
I took out my bundle,
a red handkerchief that contained a few clean collars and some crumpled newspapers,
in which I had occasionally carried home bread.
I rolled my blanket up and pocketed my reserve white writing-paper.
Then I ransacked every corner to assure myself that I had left nothing behind,
and as I could not find anything,
went over to the window and looked out.
The morning was gloomy and wet;
there was no one about at the burnt-out smithy,
and the clothesline down in the yard stretched tightly from wall to wall shrunken by the wet.
It was all familiar to me,
so I stepped back from the window,
took the blanket under my arm,
and made a low bow to the lighthouse director's announcement,
bowed again to Miss Andersen's winding-sheet advertisement,
and opened the door.
Suddenly the thought of my land-lady struck me;
she really ought to be informed of my leaving,
so that she could see she had had an honest soul to deal with.
I wanted also to thank her in writing for the few days' overtime in which I occupied the room.
The certainty that I was now saved for some time to come increased so strongly in me that I even promised her five shillings.
I would call in some day when passing by.
I wanted to prove to her what an upright sort of person her roof had sheltered.
I left the note behind me on the table.
Once again I stopped at the door and turned round;
the buoyant feeling of having risen once again to the surface charmed me,
and made me feel grateful towards God and all creation,
and I knelt down at the bedside and thanked God aloud for His great goodness to me that morning.
I knew it;
I knew that the rapture of inspiration I had just felt and noted down was a miraculous heaven-brew in my spirit in answer to my yesterday's cry for aid.
"It was God!
It was God!"
I cried to myself,
and I wept for enthusiasm over my own words;
now and then I had to stop and listen if any one was on the stairs.
At last I rose up and prepared to go.
I stole noiselessly down each flight and reached the door unseen.
The streets were glistening from the rain which had fallen in the early morning.
The sky hung damp and heavy over the town,
and there was no glint of sunlight visible.
I wondered what the day would bring forth?
I went as usual in the direction of the Town Hall,
and saw that it was half-past eight.
I had yet a few hours to walk about;
there was no use in going to the newspaper office before ten,
I must lounge about so long,
in the meantime,
over some expedient to raise breakfast.
For that matter,
I had no fear of going to bed hungry that day;
those times were over,
God be praised!
That was a thing of the past,
an evil dream.
in the meanwhile,
the green blanket was a trouble to me.
Neither could I well make myself conspicuous by carrying such a thing about right under people's eyes.
What would any one think of me?
And as I went on I tried to think of a place where I could have it kept till later on.
It occurred to me that I might go into Semb's and get it wrapped up in paper;
not only would it look better,
but I need no longer be ashamed of carrying it.
I entered the shop,
and stated my errand to one of the shop boys.
He looked first at the blanket,
then at me.
It struck me that he shrugged his shoulders to himself a little contemptuously as he took it;
this annoyed me.
"do be a little careful!
There are two costly glass vases in that;
the parcel has to go to Smyrna."
This had a famous effect.
The fellow apologized with every movement he made for not having guessed that there was something out of the common in this blanket.
When he had finished packing it up I thanked him with the air of a man who had sent precious goods to Smyrna before now.
He held the door open for me,
and bowed twice as I left.
I began to wander about amongst the people in the market place,
kept from choice near the woman who had potted plants for sale.
The heavy crimson roses --the leaves of which glowed blood-like and moist in the damp morning --made me envious,
and tempted me sinfully to snatch one,
and I inquired the price of them merely as an excuse to approach as near to them as possible.
If I had any money over I would buy one,
no matter how things went;
I might well save a little now and then out of my way of living to balance things again.
It was ten o'clock,
and I went up to the newspaper office.
"Scissors" is running through a lot of old papers.
The editor has not come yet.
On being asked my business,
I delivered my weighty manuscript,
lead him to suppose that it is something of more than uncommon importance,
and impress upon his memory gravely that he is to give it into we editor's own hands as soon as he arrives.
I would myself call later on in the day for an answer.
and busied himself again with his papers.
It seemed to me that he treated the matter somewhat too coolly;
but I said nothing,
only nodded rather carelessly to him,
I had now time on hand!
If it would only clear up!
It was perfectly wretched weather,
without either wind or freshness.
Ladies carried their umbrellas,
to be on the safe side,
and the woollen caps of the men looked limp and depressing.
I took another turn across the market and looked at the vegetables and roses.
I feel a hand on my shoulder and turn round --"Missy" bids me good morning!
I say in return,
a little questioningly.
I never cared particularly for "Missy."
He looks inquisitively at the large brand-new parcel under my arm,
"What have you got there?"
I have been down to Semb and got some cloth for a suit,"
in a careless tone.
"I didn't think I could rub on any longer;
there's such a thing as treating oneself too shabbily."
He looks at me with an amazed start.
"By the way,
how are you getting on?"
He asks it slowly.
beyond all expectation!"
"Then you have got something to do now?"
"Something to do?"
I answer and seem surprised.
I am book-keeper at Christensen's --a wholesale house."
he remarks and draws back a little.
God knows I am the first to be pleased at your success.
If only you don't let people beg the money from you that you earn.
A second after he wheels round and comes back and,
pointing with his cane to my parcel,
"I would recommend my tailor to you for the suit of clothes.
You won't find a better tailor than Isaksen --just say I sent you,
This was really rather more than I could swallow.
What did he want to poke his nose in my affairs for?
Was it any concern of his which tailor I employed?
The sight of this empty-headed dandified "masher" embittered me,
and I reminded him rather brutally of ten shilling he had borrowed from me.
But before he could reply I regretted that I had asked for it.
I got ashamed and avoided meeting his eyes,
as a lady came by just then,
I stepped hastily aside to let her pass,
and seized the opportunity to proceed on my way.
What should I do with myself whilst I waited?
I could not visit a cafe with empty pockets,
and I knew of no acquaintance that I could call on at this time of day.
I wended my way instinctively up town,
killed a good deal of time between the marketplace and the Graendsen,
read the -Aftenpost,- which was newly posted up on the board outside the office,
took a turn down Carl Johann,
wheeled round and went straight on to Our Saviour's Cemetery,
where I found a quiet seat on the slope near the Mortuary Chapel.
I sat there in complete quietness,
dozed in the damp air,
half-slept and shivered.
And time passed.
was it certain that the story really was a little masterpiece of inspired art?
God knows if it might not have its faults here and there.
All things well weighed,
it was not certain that it would be accepted;
simply not even accepted.
It was perhaps mediocre enough in its way,
perhaps downright worthless.
What security had I that it was not already at this moment lying in the waste-paper basket? ...
My confidence was shaken.
I sprang up and stormed out of the graveyard.
Down in Akersgaden I peeped into a shop window,
and saw that it was only a little past noon.
There was no use in looking up the editor before four.
The fate of my story filled me with gloomy forebodings;
the more I thought about it the more absurd it seemed to me that I could have written anything useable with such suddenness,
with my brain full of fever and dreams.
Of course I had deceived myself and been happy all through the long morning for nothing! ...
Of course! ...
I rushed with hurried strides up Ullavold-sveien,
past St. Han's Hill,
until I came to the open fields;
on through the narrow quaint lanes in Sagene,
past waste plots and small tilled fields,
and found myself at last on a country road,
the end of which I could not see.
Here I halted and decided to turn.
I was warm from the walk,
and returned slowly and very downcast.
I met two hay-carts.
The drivers were lying flat upon the top of their loads,
Both were bare-headed,
and both had round,
I passed them and thought to myself that they were sure to accost me,
sure to fling some taunt or other at me,
play me some trick;
and as I got near enough,
one of them called out and asked what I had under my arm?
"What o'clock is it?"
he asked then.
"I don't know rightly;
Whereupon they both laughed and drove on.
I felt at the same moment the lash of a whip curl round one of my ears,
and my hat was jerked off.
They couldn't let me pass without playing me a trick.
I raised my hand to my head more or less confusedly,
picked my hat out of the ditch,
and continued on my way.
Down at St. Han's Hill I met a man who told me it was past four.
already past four!
I mended my pace,
nearly ran down to the town,
turned off towards the news office.
Perhaps the editor had been there hours ago,
and had left the office by now.
jostled against folk,
knocked against cars,
left everybody behind me,
competed with the very horses,
struggled like a madman to arrive there in time.
I wrenched through the door,
took the stairs in four bounds,
"He has left,
he has left,"
I try the door which is open,
knock once again,
The editor is sitting at his table,
his face towards the window,
pen in hand,
about to write.
When he hears my breathless greeting he turns half round,
steals a quick look at me,
shakes his head,
I haven't found time to read your sketch yet."
I am so delighted,
because in that case he has not rejected it,
that I answer:
don't mention it.
I quite understand --there is no hurry;
in a few days,
I shall see;
I have your address."
I forgot to inform him that I no longer had an address,
and the interview is over.
I bow myself out,
Hope flames up again in me;
nothing is lost --on the contrary,
for that matter,
yet win all.
And my brain began to spin a romance about a great council in Heaven,
in which it had just been resolved that I should win --ay,
triumphantly win ten shillings for a story.
If I only had some place in which to take refuge for the night!
I consider where I can stow myself away,
and am so absorbed in this query that I come to a standstill in the middle of the street.
I forget where I am,
and pose like a solitary beacon on a rock in mid-sea,
whilst the tides rush and roar about it.
A newspaper boy offers me -The Viking-.
"It's real good value,
I look up and start;
I am outside Semb's shop again.
I quickly turn to the right-about,
holding the parcel in front of me,
and hurry down Kirkegaden,
ashamed and afraid that any one might have seen me from the window.
I pass by Ingebret's and the theatre,
turn round by the box-office,
and go towards the sea,
near the fortress.
I find a seat once more,
and begin to consider afresh.
Where in the world shall I find a shelter for the night?
Was there a hole to be found where I could creep in and hide myself till morning?
My pride forbade my returning to my lodging --besides,
it could never really occur to me to go back on my word;
I rejected this thought with great scorn,
and I smiled superciliously as I thought of the little red rocking-chair.
By some association of ideas,
I find myself suddenly transported to a large,
double room I once occupied in Haegdehaugen.
I could see a tray on the table,
filled with great slices of bread-and-butter.
The vision changed;
it was transformed into beef --a seductive piece of beef --a snow-white napkin,
bread in plenty,
a silver fork.
The door opened;
enter my landlady,
offering me more tea ....
I tell myself that were I to get food now my head would become dizzy once more,
fever would fill my brain,
and I would have to fight again against many mad fancies.
I could not stomach food,
my inclination did not lie that way;
that was peculiar to me --an idiosyncrasy of mine.
Maybe as night drew on a way could be found to procure shelter.
There was no hurry;
at the worst,
I could seek a place out in the woods.
I had the entire environs of the city at my disposal;
there was no degree of cold worth speaking of in the weather.
And outside there the sea rocked in drowsy rest;
ships and clumsy,
broad-nosed prams ploughed graves in its bluish surface,
and scattered rays to the right and left,
and glided on,
whilst the smoke rolled up in downy masses from the chimney-stacks,
and the stroke of the engine pistons pierced the clammy air with a dull sound.
There was no sun and no wind;
the trees behind me were almost wet,
and the seat upon which I sat was cold and damp.
I settled down to doze,
and a little shiver ran down my back.
A while after I felt that my eyelids began to droop,
and I let them droop ....
When I awoke it was dark all around me.
I started up,
bewildered and freezing.
I seized my parcel and commenced to walk.
I went faster and faster in order to get warm,
slapped my arms,
chafed my legs --which by now I could hardly feel under me --and thus reached the watch-house of the fire brigade.
It was nine o'clock;
I had been asleep for several hours.
Whatever shall I do with myself?
I must go to some place.
I stand there and stare up at the watch-house,
and query if it would not be possible to succeed in getting into one of the passages if I were to watch for a moment when the watchman's back was turned.
I ascend the steps,
and prepare to open a conversation with the man.
He lifts his ax in salute,
and waits for what I may have to say.
The uplifted ax,
with its edge turned against me,
darts like a cold slash through my nerves.
I stand dumb with terror before this armed man,
and draw involuntarily back.
I say nothing,
only glide farther and farther away from him.
To save appearances I draw my hand over my forehead,
as if I had forgotten something or other,
and slink away.
When I reached the pavement I felt as much saved as if I had just escaped a great peril,
and I hurried away.
Cold and famished,
more and more miserable in spirit,
I flew up Carl Johann.
I began to swear out aloud,
troubling myself not a whit as to whether any one heard me or not.
Arrived at Parliament House,
just near the first trees,
by some association of ideas,
bethought myself of a young artist I knew,
a stripling I had once saved from an assault in the Tivoli,
and upon whom I had called later on.
I snap my fingers gleefully,
and wend my way to Tordenskjiolds Street,
find the door,
on which is fastened a card with C. Zacharias Bartel on it,
He came out himself,
and smelt so fearfully of ale and tobacco that it was horrible.
is that you?
why the deuce do you come so late?
It doesn't look at all its best by lamplight.
I have added a hayrick to it since,
and have made a few other alterations.
You must see it by daylight;
there is no use our trying to see it now!"
"Let me have a look at it now,
all the same,"
for that matter,
I did not in the least remember what picture he was talking about.
"the whole thing will look yellow;
there's another thing" --and he came towards me,
"I have a little girl inside this evening,
so it's clearly impracticable."
in that case,
of course there's no question about it."
I drew back,
and went away.
So there was no way out of it but to seek some place out in the woods.
If only the fields were not so damp.
I patted my blanket,
and felt more and more at home at the thought of sleeping out.
I had worried myself so long trying to find a shelter in town that I was wearied and bored with the whole affair.
It would be a positive pleasure to get to rest,
to resign myself;
so I loaf down the street without thought in my head.
At a place in Haegdehaugen I halted outside a provision shop where some food was displayed in the window.
A cat lay there and slept beside a round French roll.
There was a basin of lard and several basins of meal in the background.
I stood a while and gazed at these eatables;
but as I had no money wherewith to buy,
I turned quickly away and continued my tramp.
I went very slowly,
passed by Majorstuen,
always on --it seemed to me for hours,
--and came at length at Bogstad's wood.
I turned off the road here,
and sat down to rest.
Then I began to look about for a place to suit me,
to gather together heather and juniper leaves,
and make up a bed on a little declivity where it was a bit dry.
I opened the parcel and took out the blanket;
I was tired and exhausted with the long walk,
and lay down at once.
I turned and twisted many times before I could get settled.
My ear pained me a little --it was slightly swollen from the whip-lash --and I could not lie on it.
I pulled off my shoes and put them under my head,
with the paper from Semb on top.
And the great spirit of darkness spread a shroud over me ...
everything was silent --everything.
But up in the heights soughed the everlasting song,
the voice of the air,
toneless humming which is never silent.
I listened so long to this ceaseless faint murmur that it began to bewilder me;
it was surely a symphony from the rolling spheres above.
Stars that intone a song ....
"I am damned if it is,
and I laughed aloud to collect my wits.
"They're night-owls hooting in Canaan!"
I rose again,
pulled on my shoes,
and wandered about in the gloom,
only to lay down once more.
I fought and wrestled with anger and fear until nearly dawn,
then fell asleep at last.
* * * * *
It was broad daylight when I opened my eyes,
and I had a feeling that it was going on towards noon.
I pulled on my shoes,
packed up the blanket again,
and set out for town.
There was no sun to be seen today either;
I shivered like a dog,
my feet were benumbed,
and water commenced to run from my eyes,
as if they could not bear the daylight.
It was three o'clock.
Hunger began to assail me downright in earnest.
I was faint,
and now and again I had to retch furtively.
I swung round by the Dampkökken,
[Footnote: Steam cooking-kitchen and famous cheap eating-house] read the bill of fare,
and shrugged my shoulders in a way to attract attention,
as if corned beef or salt port was not meet food for me.
After that I went towards the railway station.
A singular sense of confusion suddenly darted through my head.
I stumbled on,
determined not to heed it;
but I grew worse and worse,
and was forced at last to sit down on a step.
My whole being underwent a change,
as if something had slid aside in my inner self,
or as if a curtain or tissue of my brain was rent in two.
I was not unconscious;
I felt that my ear was gathering a little,
as an acquaintance passed by,
I recognized him at once and got up and bowed.
What sore of fresh,
painful perception was this that was being added to the rest?
Was it a consequence of sleeping in the sodden fields,
or did it arise from my not having had any breakfast yet?
Looking the whole thing squarely in the face,
there was no meaning in living on in this manner,
by Christ's holy pains,
I failed to see either how I had made myself deserving of this special persecution;
and it suddenly entered my head that I might just as well turn rogue at once and go to my "Uncle's" with the blanket.
I could pawn it for a shilling,
and get three full meals,
and so keep myself going until I thought of something else.
'Tis true I would have to swindle Hans Pauli.
I was already on my way to the pawn-shop,
but stopped outside the door,
shook my head irresolutely,
then turned back.
The farther away I got the more gladsome,
delighted I became,
that I had conquered this strong temptation.
The consciousness that I was yet pure and honourable rose to my head,
filled me with a splendid sense of having principle,
of being a shining white beacon in a muddy,
human sea amidst floating wreck.
Pawn another man's property for the sake of a meal,
eat and drink one's self to perdition,
brand one's soul with the first little scar,
set the first black mark against one's honour,
call one's self a blackguard to one's own face,
and needs must cast one's eyes down before one's self?
It could never have been my serious intention --it had really never seriously taken hold of me;
I could not be answerable for every loose,
particularly with such a headache as I had,
and nearly killed carrying a blanket,
that belonged to another fellow.
There would surely be some way or another of getting help when the right time came!
there was the grocer in Groenlandsleret.
Had I importuned him every hour in the day since I sent in my application?
Had I rung the bell early and late,
and been turned away?
I had not even applied personally to him or sought an answer!
It did not follow,
that it must needs be an absolutely vain attempt.
Maybe I had luck with me this time.
Luck often took such a devious course,
and I started for Groenlandsleret.
The last spasm that had darted through my head had exhausted me a little,
and I walked very slowly and thought over what I would say to him.
Perhaps he was a good soul;
if the whim seized him he might pay me for my work a shilling in advance,
even without my asking for it.
People of that sort had sometimes the most capital ideas.
I stole into a doorway and blackened the knees of my trousers with spittle to try and make them look a little respectable,
left the parcel behind me in a dark corner at the back of a chest,
and entered the little shop.
A man is standing pasting together bags made of old newspaper.
"I would like to see Mr. Christie,"
replied the man.
my name was so-and-so.
I had taken the liberty of sending him an application,
I did not know if it had been of any use.
He repeated my name a couple of times and commenced to laugh.
you shall see,"
taking my letter out of his breast-pocket,
"if you will just be good enough to see how you deal with dates,
You dated your letter 1848,"
and the man roared with laughter.
that was rather a mistake,"
abashed --a distraction,
a want of thought;
I admitted it.
"You see I must have a man who,
as a matter of fact,
makes no mistakes in figures,"
"I regret it,
your handwriting is clear,
and I like your letter,
I waited a while;
this could not possibly be the man's final say.
He busied himself again with the bags.
it was a pity,"
"really an awful pity,
but of course it would not occur again;
surely this little error could not have rendered me quite unfit to keep books?"
I didn't say that,"
"but in the meantime it had so much weight with me that I decided at once upon another man."
"So the place is filled?"
then there's nothing more to be said about it!"
Fury welled up in me,
blazing with brutal strength.
I fetched my parcel from the entry,
set my teeth together,
jostled against the peaceful folk on the footpath,
and never once asked their pardon.
As one man stopped and set me to rights rather sharply for my behaviour,
I turned round and screamed a single meaningless word in his ear,
clenched my fist right under his nose,
and stumbled on,
hardened by a blind rage that I could not control.
He called a policeman,
and I desired nothing better than to have one between my hands just for one moment.
I slackened my pace intentionally in order to give him an opportunity of overtaking me;
but he did not come.
Was there now any reason whatever that absolutely every one of one's most earnest and most persevering efforts should fail?
had I written 1848?
In what way did that infernal date concern me?
Here I was going about starving,
so that my entrails wriggle together in me like worms,
and it was,
as far as I knew,
not decreed in the book of fate that anything in the shape of food would turn up later on in the day.
I was becoming mentally and physically more and more prostrate;
I was letting myself down each day to less and less honest actions,
so that I lied on each day without blushing,
cheated poor people out of their rent,
struggled with the meanest thoughts of making away with other men's blankets --all without remorse or prick of conscience.
Foul places began to gather in my inner being,
black spores which spread more and more.
And up in Heaven God Almighty sat and kept a watchful eye on me,
and took heed that -my- destruction proceeded in accordance with all the rules of art,
uniformly and gradually,
without a break in the measure.
But in the abysses of hell the angriest devils bristled with range because it lasted such a long time until I committed a mortal sin,
an unpardonable offence for which God in His justice must cast me --down ....
I quickened my pace,
hurried faster and faster,
turned suddenly to the left and found myself,
excited and angry,
in a light ornate doorway.
I did not pause,
not for one second,
but the whole peculiar ornamentation of the entrance struck on my perception in a flash;
every detail of the decoration and the tiling of the floor stood clear on my mental vision as I sprang up the stairs.
I rang violently on the second floor.
Why should I stop exactly on the second floor?
And why just seize hold of this bell which was some little way from the stairs?
A young lady in a grey gown with black trimming came out and opened the door.
She looked for a moment in astonishment at me,
then shook her head and said:
we have not got anything today,"
and she made a feint to close the door.
What induced me to thrust myself in this creature's way?
She took me without further ado for a beggar.
I got cool and collected at once.
I raised my hat,
made a respectful bow,
as if I had not caught her words,
with the utmost politeness:
"I hope you will excuse me,
for ringing so hard,
the bell was new to me.
Is it not here that an invalid gentleman lives who has advertised for a man to wheel him about in a chair?"
She stood awhile and digested this mendacious invention and seemed to be irresolute in her summing up of my person.
she said at length;
there is no invalid gentleman living here."
An elderly gentleman --two hours a day --sixpence an hour?"
in that case,
I again ask pardon,"
"It is perhaps on the first floor.
I only wanted,
in any case,
to recommend a man I know,
in whom I am interested;
my name is Wedel-Jarlsberg,"
[Footnote: The last family bearing title of nobility in Norway.] and I bowed again and drew back.
The young lady blushed crimson,
and in her embarrassment could not stir from the spot,
but stood and stared after me as I descended the stairs.
My calm had returned to me,
and my head was clear.
The lady's saying that she had nothing for me today had acted upon me like an icy shower.
So it had gone so far with me that any one might point at me,
and say to himself,
"There goes a beggar --one of those people who get their food handed out to them at folk's back-doors!"
I halted outside an eating-house in Möller Street,
and sniffed the fresh smell of meat roasting inside;
my hand was already upon the door-handle,
and I was on the point of entering without any fixed purpose,
when I bethought myself in time,
and left the spot.
On reaching the market,
and seeking for a place to rest for a little,
I found all the benches occupied,
and I sought in vain all round outside the church for a quiet seat,
where I could sit down.
I told myself,
and I commenced to walk again.
I took a turn round the fountain at the corner of the bazaar,
and swallowed a mouthful of water.
dragging one foot after the other;
stopped for a long time before each shop window;
and watched every vehicle that drove by.
I felt a scorching heat in my head,
and something pulsated strangely in my temples.
The water I had drunk disagreed with me fearfully,
and I retched,
stopping here and there to escape being noticed in the open street.
In this manner I came up to Our Saviour's Cemetery.
I sat down here,
with my elbows on my knees and my head in my hands.
In this cramped position I was more at ease,
and I no longer felt the little gnawing in my chest.
A stone-cutter lay on his stomach on a large slab of granite,
at the side of me,
and cut inscriptions.
He had blue spectacles on,
and reminded me of an acquaintance of mine,
whom I had almost forgotten.
If I could only knock all shame on the head and apply to him.
Tell him the truth right out,
that things were getting awfully tight with me now;
that I found it hard enough to keep alive.
I could give him my shaving-tickets.
tickets for nearly a shilling.
I search nervously for this precious treasure.
As I do not find them quickly enough,
I spring to my feet and search,
in a sweat of fear.
I discover them at last in the bottom of my breast-pocket,
together with other papers --some clean,
some written on --of no value.
I count these six tickets over many times,
backwards and forwards;
I had not much use for them;
it might pass for a whim --a notion of mine --that I no longer cared to get shaved.
I was saved to the extent of sixpence --a white sixpence of Kongsberg silver.
The bank closed at six;
I could watch for my man outside the Opland Café between seven and eight.
and was for a long time pleased with this thought.
The wind blew lustily through the chestnut trees around me,
and the day declined.
was it not rather petty to come slinking up with six shaving-tickets to a young gentleman holding a good position in a bank?
he had already a book,
quite full of spick and span tickets,
a contrast to the crumpled ones I held.
Who could tell?
I felt in all my pockets for anything else I could let go with them,
but found nothing.
If I could only offer him my tie?
I could well do without it if I buttoned my coat tightly up,
by the way,
I was already obliged to do,
as I had no waistcoat.
I untied it --it was a large overlapping bow which hid half my chest,
--brushed it carefully,
and folded it up in a piece of clean white writing-paper,
together with the tickets.
Then I left the churchyard and took the road leading to the Opland.
It was seven by the Town Hall clock.
I walked up and down hard by the café,
kept close to the iron railings,
and kept a sharp watch on all who went in and came out of the door.
about eight o'clock,
I saw the young fellow,
coming up the hill and across to the cafe door.
My heart fluttered like a little bird in my breast as I caught sight of him,
and I blurted out,
without even a greeting:
putting on cheek;
"here is the worth of it,"
and I thrust the little packet into his hand.
"Haven't got it,"
"God knows if I have!"
and he turned his purse inside out right before my eyes.
"I was out last night and got totally cleared out!
You must believe me,
I literally haven't got it."
my dear fellow;
I suppose it is so,"
and I took his word for it.
no reason why he should lie about such a trifling matter.
It struck me,
that his blue eyes were moist whilst he ransacked his pockets and found nothing.
I drew back.
"it was only just that I was a bit hard up."
I was already a piece down the street,
when he called after me about the little packet.
"you are welcome to it.
There are only a few trifles in it --a bagatelle;
about all I own in the world,"
and I became so touched at my own words,
they sounded so pathetic in the twilight,
that I fell a-weeping ....
The wind freshened,
the clouds chased madly across the heavens,
and it grew cooler and cooler as it got darker.
and cried as I walked,
down the whole street;
felt more and more commiseration with myself,
time after time,
a few words,
which called forth fresh tears whenever they were on the point of ceasing:
I feel so wretched!
I feel so wretched!"
An hour passed;
passed with such strange slowness,
I spent a long time in Market Street;
sat on steps,
stole into doorways,
and when any one approached,
stood and stared absently into the shops where people bustled about with wares or money.
At last I found myself a sheltered place,
behind a deal hoarding,
between the church and the bazaar.
I couldn't go out into the woods again this evening.
Things must take their course.
I had not strength enough to go,
and it was such an endless way there.
I would kill the night as best I could,
and remain where I was;
if it got all too cold,
I could walk round the church.
I would not in any case worry myself any more about that,
and I leant back and dozed.
The noise around me diminished;
the shops closed.
The steps of the pedestrians sounded more and more rarely,
and in all the windows about the lights went out.
I opened my eyes,
and became aware of a figure standing in front of me.
The flash of shining buttons told me it was a policeman,
though I could not see the man's face.
I answered and got afraid.
"Where do you live?"
and without thought,
my old address,
the little attic.
He stood for a while.
"Have I done anything wrong?"
I asked anxiously.
not at all!"
"but you had perhaps better be getting home now;
it's cold lying here."
I feel it is a little chilly."
I said good-night,
and instinctively took the road to my old abode.
If I only set about it carefully,
I might be able to get upstairs without being heard;
there were eight steps in all,
and only the two top ones creaked under my tread.
Down at the door I took off my shoes,
It was quiet everywhere.
I could hear the slow tick-tack of a clock,
and a child crying a little.
After that I heard nothing.
I found my door,
lifted the latch as I was accustomed to do,
entered the room,
and shut the door noiselessly after me.
Everything was as I had left it.
The curtains were pulled aside from the windows,
and the bed stood empty.
I caught a glimpse of a note lying on the table;
perhaps it was my note to the landlady --she might never have been up here since I went away.
I fumbled with my hands over the white spot,
to my astonishment,
that it was a letter.
I take it over to the window,
examine as well as it is possible in the dark the badly-written letters of the address,
and make out at least my own name.
an answer from my landlady,
forbidding me to enter the room again if I were for sneaking back.
quite slowly I left the room,
carrying my shoes in one hand,
the letter in the other,
and the blanket under my arm.
I draw myself up,
set my teeth as I tread on the creaking steps,
get happily down the stairs,
and stand once more at the door.
I put on my shoes,
take my time with the laces,
sit a while quietly after I'm ready,
and stare vacantly before me,
holding the letter in my hand.
Then I get up and go.
The flickering ray of a gas lamp gleams up the street.
I make straight for the light,
lean my parcel against the lamp-post and open the letter.
All this with the utmost deliberation.
A stream of light,
as it were,
darts through my breast,
and I hear that I give a little cry --a meaningless sound of joy.
The letter was from the editor.
My story was accepted --had been set in type immediately,
A few slight alterations ....
A couple of errors in writing amended ....
Worked out with talent ...
be printed tomorrow ...
I laughed and cried,
took to jumping and running down the street,
slapped my thighs,
swore loudly and solemnly into space at nothing in particular.
And time went.
All through the night until the bright dawn I "jodled" about the streets and repeated --"Worked out with talent --therefore a little masterpiece --a stroke of genius --and half-a-sovereign."
A few weeks later I was out one evening.
Once more I had sat out in a churchyard and worked at an article for one of the newspapers.
But whilst I was struggling with it eight o'clock struck,
and darkness closed in,
and time for shutting the gates.
I was hungry --very hungry.
The ten shillings had,
lasted all too short.
It was now two,
nearly three days since I had eaten anything,
and I felt somewhat faint;
holding the pencil even had taxed me a little.
I had half a penknife and a bunch of keys in my pocket,
but not a farthing.
When the churchyard gate shut I meant to have gone straight home,
from an instinctive dread of my room --a vacant tinker's workshop,
where all was dark and barren,
I had got permission to occupy for the present --I stumbled on,
not caring where I went,
the Town Hall,
right to the sea,
and over to a scat near the railway bridge.
At this moment not a sad thought troubled me.
I forgot my distress,
and felt calmed by the view of the sea,
which lay peaceful and lovely in the murkiness.
For old habit's sake I would please myself by reading through the bit I had just written,
and which seemed to my suffering head the best thing I had ever done.
I took my manuscript out of my pocket to try and decipher it,
held it close up to my eyes,
and ran through it,
one line after the other.
At last I got tired,
and put the papers back in my pocket.
Everything was still.
The sea stretched away in pearly blueness,
and little birds flitted noiselessly by me from place to place.
A policeman patrols in the distance;
otherwise there is not a soul visible,
and the whole harbour is hushed in quiet.
I count my belongings once more --half a penknife,
a bunch of keys,
but not a farthing.
Suddenly I dive into my pocket and take the papers out again.
It was a mechanical movement,
an unconscious nervous twitch.
I selected a white unwritten page,
and --God knows where I got the notion from --but I made a cornet,
closed it carefully,
so that it looked as if it were filled with something,
and threw it far out on to the pavement.
The breeze blew it onward a little,
and then it lay still.
By this time hunger had begun to assail me in earnest.
I sat and looked at the white paper cornet,
which seemed as if it might be bursting with shining silver pieces,
and incited myself to believe that it really did contain something.
I sat and coaxed myself quite audibly to guess the sum;
if I guessed aright,
it was to be mine.
I imagined the tiny,
pretty penny bits at the bottom and the thick fluted shillings on top --a whole paper cornet full of money!
I sat and gazed at it with wide opened eyes,
and urged myself to go and steal it.
Then I hear the constable cough.
What puts it into my head to do the same?
I rise up from the seat and repeat the cough three times so that he may hear it.
Won't he jump at the corner when he comes.
I sat and laughed at this trick,
rubbed my hands with glee,
and swore with rollicking recklessness.
What a disappointment he will get,
Wouldn't this piece of villainy make him inclined to sink into hell's hottest pool of torment!
I was drunk with starvation;
my hunger had made me tipsy.
A few minutes later the policeman comes by,
clinking his iron heels on the pavement,
peering on all sides.
He takes his time;
he has the whole night before him;
he does not notice the paper bag --not till he comes quite close to it.
Then he stops and stares at it.
It looks so white and so full as it lies there;
perhaps a little sum --what?
A little sum of silver money? ...
and he picks it up.
it is light --very light;
maybe an expensive feather;
some hat trimming ....
He opened it carefully with his big hands,
and looked in.
slapped my thighs,
like a maniac.
And not a sound issued from my throat;
my laughter was hushed and feverish to the intensity of tears.
clink again over the paving-stones,
and the policeman took a turn towards the landing-stage.
I sat there,
with tears in my eyes,
and hiccoughed for breath,
quite beside myself with feverish merriment.
I commenced to talk aloud to myself all about the cornet,
imitated the poor policeman's movements,
peeped into my hollow hand,
and repeated over and over again to myself,
"He coughed as he threw it away --he coughed as he threw it away."
I added new words to these,
gave them additional point,
changed the whole sentence,
and made it catching and piquant.
He coughed once --Kheu heu!
I exhausted myself in weaving variations on these words,
and the evening was far advanced before my mirth ceased.
Then a drowsy quiet overcame me;
a pleasant languor which I did not attempt to resist.
The darkness had intensified,
and a slight breeze furrowed the pearl-blue sea.
the masts of which I could see outlined against the sky,
looked with their black hulls like voiceless monsters that bristled and lay in wait for me.
I had no pain --my hunger had taken the edge off it.
In its stead I felt pleasantly empty,
untouched by everything around me,
and glad not to be noticed by any one.
I put my feet up on the seat and leant back.
Thus I could best appreciate the well-being of perfect isolation.
There was not a cloud on my mind,
not a feeling of discomfort,
and so far as my thought reached,
I had not a whim,
not a desire unsatisfied.
I lay with open eyes,
in a state of utter absence of mind.
I felt myself charmed away.
not a sound disturbed me.
Soft darkness had hidden the whole world from my sight,
and buried me in ideal rest.
Only the lonely,
crooning voice of silence strikes in monotones on my ear,
and the dark monsters out there will draw me to them when night comes,
and they will bear me far across the sea,
through strange lands where no man dwells,
and they will bear me to Princess Ylajali's palace,
where an undreamt-of grandeur awaits me,
greater than that of any other man.
And she herself will be sitting in a dazzling hall where all is amethyst,
on a throne of yellow roses,
and will stretch out her hands to me when I alight;
will smile and call as I approach and kneel:
to me and my land!
I have waited twenty summers for you,
and called for you on all bright nights.
And when you sorrowed I have wept here,
and when you slept I have breathed sweet dreams in you!" ...
And the fair one clasps my hand and,
leads me through long corridors where great crowds of people cry,
through bright gardens where three hundred tender maidens laugh and play;
and through another hall where all is of emerald;
and here the sun shines.
In the corridors and galleries choirs of musicians march by,
and rills of perfume are wafted towards me.
I clasp her hand in mine;
I feel the wild witchery of enchantment shiver through my blood,
and I fold my arms around her,
and she whispers,
come yet farther!"
and we enter a crimson room,
where all is of ruby,
a foaming glory,
in which I faint.
Then I feel her arms encircle me;
her breath fans my face with a whispered "Welcome,
Kiss me ...
I see from my seat stars shooting before my eyes,
and my thoughts are swept away in a hurricane of light ....
I had fallen asleep where I lay,
and was awakened by the policeman.
There I sat,
recalled mercilessly to life and misery.
My first feeling was of stupid amazement at finding myself in the open air;
but this was quickly replaced by a bitter despondency,
I was near crying with sorrow at being still alive.
It had rained whilst I slept,
and my clothes were soaked through and through,
and I felt a damp cold in my limbs.
The darkness was denser;
it was with difficulty that I could distinguish the policeman's face in front of me.
"get up now."
I got up at once;
if he had commanded me to lie down again I would have obeyed too.
I was fearfully dejected,
and utterly without strength;
added to that,
I was almost instantly aware of the pangs of hunger again.
"Hold on there!"
the policeman shouted after me;
you're walking off without your hat,
So --h there;
"I indeed thought there was something --something I had forgotten,"
and I stumbled away.
If one only had a little bread to eat;
one of those delicious little brown loaves that one could bite into as one walked along the street;
and as I went on I thought over the particular sort of brown bread that would be so unspeakably good to munch.
I was bitterly hungry;
wished myself dead and buried;
I got maudlin,
There never was any end to my misery.
Suddenly I stopped in the street,
stamped on the pavement,
and cursed loudly.
What was it he called me?
I would just show him what calling me a "Juggins" means.
I turned round and ran back.
I felt red-hot with anger.
Down the street I stumbled,
but I paid no heed to it,
jumped up again,
and ran on.
But by the time I reached the railway station I had become so tired that I did not feel able to proceed all the way to the landing-stage;
my anger had cooled down with the run.
At length I pulled up and drew breath.
Was it not,
a matter of perfect indifference to me what such a policeman said?
but one couldn't stand everything.
I interrupted myself;
but he knew no better.
And I found this argument satisfactory.
I repeated twice to myself,
"He knew no better";
and with that I returned again.
"what things you do take into your head: running about like a madman through the soaking wet streets on dark nights."
My hunger was now tormenting me excruciatingly,
and gave me no rest.
Again and again I swallowed saliva to try and satisfy myself a little;
I fancied it helped.
I had been pinched,
for food for ever so many weeks before this last period set in,
and my strength had diminished considerably of late.
When I had been lucky enough to raise five shillings by some manoeuvre or another they only lasted any time with difficulty;
not long enough for me to be restored to health before a new hunger period set in and reduced me again.
My back and shoulders caused me the worst trouble.
I could stop the little gnawing I had in my chest by coughing hard,
or bending well forward as I walked,
but I had no remedy for back and shoulders.
Whatever was the reason that things would not brighten up for me?
Was I not just as much entitled to live as any one else?
as Bookseller Pascha or Steam Agent Hennechen?
Had I not two shoulders like a giant,
and two strong hands to work with?
and had I not,
even applied for a place as wood-chopper in Möllergaden in order to earn my daily bread?
Was I lazy?
Had I not applied for situations,
and worked day and night like a man possessed?
Had I not lived like a miser,
eaten bread and milk when I had plenty,
bread alone when I had little,
and starved when I had nothing?
Did I live in an hotel?
Had I a suite of rooms on the first floor?
I am living in a loft over a tinker's workshop,
a loft already forsaken by God and man last winter,
because the snow blew in.
So I could not understand the whole thing;
not a bit of it.
I slouched on,
and dwelt upon all this,
and there was not as much as a spark of bitterness or malice or envy in my mind.
I halted at a paint-shop and gazed into the window.
I tried to read the labels on a couple of the tins,
but it was too dark.
Vexed with myself over this new whim,
and excited --almost angry at not being able to make out what these tins held,
--I rapped twice sharply on the window and went on.
Up the street I saw a policeman.
I quickened my pace,
went close up to him,
without the slightest provocation,
"It is ten o'clock."
"it is ten o'clock!"
groaning with anger,
I stepped yet a pace or two nearer,
clenched my fist,
do you know what,
it's ten o'clock!"
He stood and considered a while,
summed up my appearance,
stared aghast at me,
and at last said,
"In any case,
it's about time ye were getting home.
Would ye like me to go with ye a bit?"
I was completely disarmed by this man's unexpected friendliness.
I felt that tears sprang to my eyes,
and I hastened to reply:
I have only been out a little too late in a café.
Thank you very much all the same!"
He saluted with his hand to his helmet as I turned away.
His friendliness had overwhelmed me,
and I cried weakly,
because I had not even a little coin to give him.
and looked after him as he went slowly on his way.
I struck my forehead,
as he disappeared from my sight,
I cried more violently.
I railed at myself for my poverty,
called myself abusive names,
invented furious designations --rich,
rough nuggets --in a vein of abuse with which I overwhelmed myself.
I kept on at this until I was nearly home.
On coming to the door I discovered I had dropped my keys.
I muttered to myself,
"why shouldn't I lose my keys?
Here I am,
living in a yard where there is a stable underneath and a tinker's workshop up above.
The door is locked at night,
and no one,
no one can open it;
why should I not lose my keys?
"I am as wet as a dog --a little hungry --ah,
just ever such a little hungry,
absurdly tired about my knees;
why should I not lose them?
for that matter,
had not the whole house flitted out to Aker by the time I came home and wished to enter it?"
and I laughed to myself,
hardened by hunger and exhaustion.
I could hear the horses stamp in the stables,
and I could see my window above,
but I could not open the door,
and I could not get in.
It had begun to rain again,
and I felt the water soak through to my shoulders.
At the Town Hall I was seized by a bright idea.
I would ask the policeman to open the door.
I applied at once to a constable,
and earnestly begged him to accompany me and let me in,
if he could.
if he could,
But he couldn't;
he had no key.
The police keys were not there;
they were kept in the Detective Department.
What was I to do then?
I could go to an hotel and get a bed!
But I really couldn't go to an hotel and get a bed;
I had not money,
I had been out --in a café ...
he knew ....
We stood a while on the Town Hall steps.
He considered and examined my personal appearance.
The rain fell in torrents outside.
you must go to the guard-house and report yourself as homeless!"
I hadn't thought of that.
that was a capital idea;
and I thanked the constable on the spot for the suggestion.
Could I simply go in and say I was homeless?
"Just that." ...
* * * * *
inquired the guard.
"Tangen --Andreas Tangen!"
I don't know why I lied;
my thoughts fluttered about disconnectedly and inspired me with many singular whims,
more than I knew what to do with.
I hit upon this out-of-the-way name on the spur of the moment,
and blurted it out without any calculation.
I lied without any occasion for doing so.
This was driving me into a corner with a vengeance.
what was my occupation?
I thought first of turning myself into a tinker --but I dared not;
I had given myself a name that was not common to every and any tinker --besides,
I wore -pince-nez-.
It suddenly entered my head to be foolhardy.
I took a step forward and said firmly,
The guard gave a start before he wrote it down,
whilst I stood as important as a homeless Cabinet Minister before the barrier.
It roused no suspicions.
The guard understood quite well why I hesitated a little before answering.
What did it look like to see a journalist in the night guard-house without a roof over his head?
"On what paper,
"I have been out a little too late this evening,
more's the shame!"
we won't mention that,"
with a smile;
"when young people are out ...
Turning to a policeman,
as he rose and bowed politely to me,
"Show this gentleman up to the reserved section.
I felt ice run down my back at my own boldness,
and I clenched my hands to steady myself a bit.
If I only hadn't dragged in the -Morgenbladet-.
I knew Friele could show his teeth when he liked,
and I was reminded of that by the grinding of the key turning in the lock.
"The gas will burn for ten minutes,"
remarked the policeman at the door.
"And then does it go out?"
"Then it goes out!"
I sat on the bed and listened to the turning of the key.
The bright cell had a friendly air;
I felt comfortably and well sheltered;
and listened with pleasure to the rain outside --I couldn't wish myself anything better than such a cosy cell.
My contentment increased.
Sitting on the bed,
hat in hand,
and with eyes fastened on the gas jet over in the wall,
I gave myself up to thinking over the minutes of my first interview with the police.
This was the first time,
and how hadn't I fooled them?
if you please!
and then -Morgenbladet-!"
Didn't I appeal straight to his heart with -Morgenbladet-?
"We won't mention that!
Sat in state in the Stiftsgaarden till two o'clock;
forgot door-key and a pocket-book with a thousand kroner at home.
Show this gentleman up to the reserved section!" ...
All at once out goes the gas with a strange suddenness,
without diminishing or flickering.
I sit in the deepest darkness;
I cannot see my hand,
nor the white walls --nothing.
There was nothing for it but to go to bed,
and I undressed.
But I was not tired from want of sleep,
and it would not come to me.
I lay a while gazing into the darkness,
this dense mass of gloom that had no bottom --my thoughts could not fathom it.
It seemed beyond all measure dense to me,
and I felt its presence oppress me.
I closed my eyes,
commenced to sing under my breath,
and tossed to and fro,
in order to distract myself,
but to no purpose.
The darkness had taken possession of my thoughts and left me not a moment in peace.
Supposing I were myself to be absorbed in darkness;
made one with it?
I raise myself up in bed and fling out my arms.
My nervous condition has got the upper hand of me,
and nothing availed,
no matter how much I tried to work against it.
There I sat,
a prey to the most singular fantasies,
listening to myself crooning lullabies,
sweating with the exertion of striving to hush myself to rest.
I peered into the gloom,
and I never in all the days of my life felt such darkness.
There was no doubt that I found myself here,
in face of a peculiar kind of darkness;
a desperate element to which no one had hitherto paid attention.
The most ludicrous thoughts busied me,
and everything made me afraid.
A little hole in the wall at the head of my bed occupies me greatly --a nail hole.
I find the marks in the wall --I feel it,
blow into it,
and try to guess its depth.
That was no innocent hole --not at all.
It was a downright intricate and mysterious hole,
which I must guard against!
Possessed by the thought of this hole,
entirely beside myself with curiosity and fear,
I get out of bed and seize hold of my penknife in order to gauge its depth,
and convince myself that it does not reach right into the next wall.
I lay down once more to try and fall asleep,
but in reality to wrestle again with the darkness.
The rain had ceased outside,
and I could not hear a sound.
I continued for a long time to listen for footsteps in the street,
and got no peace until I heard a pedestrian go by --to judge from the sound,
Suddenly I snap my fingers many times and laugh:
"That was the very deuce!
I imagined I had discovered a new word.
I rise up in bed and say,
"It is not in the language;
I have discovered it.
It has letters as a word has.
By the benign God,
you have discovered a word! ...
a word of profound import."
I sit with open eyes,
amazed at my own find,
and laugh for joy.
Then I begin to whisper;
some one might spy on me,
and I intended to keep my discovery a secret.
I entered into the joyous frenzy of hunger.
I was empty and free from pain,
and I gave free rein to my thoughts.
In all calmness I revolve things in my mind.
With the most singular jerks in my chain of ideas I seek to explain the meaning of my new word.
There was no occasion for it to mean either God or the Tivoli;
[Footnote: Theatre of Varieties,
and Garden in Christiania.] and who said that it was to signify cattle show?
I clench my hands fiercely,
and repeat once again,
"Who said that it was to signify cattle show?"
on second thoughts,
it was not absolutely necessary that it should mean padlock,
It was not difficult to find a meaning for such a word as this.
I would wait and see.
In the meantime I could sleep on it.
I lie there on the stretcher-bed and laugh slily,
but say nothing;
give vent to no opinion one way or the other.
Some minutes pass over,
and I wax nervous;
this new word torments me unceasingly,
returns again and again,
takes up my thoughts,
and makes me serious.
I had fully formed an opinion as to what it should not signify,
but had come to no conclusion as to what it should signify.
"That is quite a matter of detail,"
I said aloud to myself,
and I clutched my arm and reiterated:
"That is quite a matter of detail."
The word was found,
God be praised!
and that was the principal thing.
But ideas worry me without end and hinder me from falling asleep.
Nothing seemed good enough to me for this unusually rare word.
At length I sit up in bed again,
grasp my head in both hands,
it is just this,
it is impossible to let it signify emigration or tobacco factory.
If it could have meant anything like that I would have decided upon it long since and taken the consequences."
in reality the word is fitted to signify something psychical,
Could I not apprehend it?
and I reflect profoundly in order to find something psychical.
Then it seems to me that some one is interposing,
interrupting my confab.
I answer angrily,
Your match in idiocy is not to be found;
go to hell!"
really I had to laugh.
Might I ask why should I be forced to let it signify knitting cotton,
when I had a special dislike to its signifying knitting cotton?
I had discovered the word myself,
for that matter,
I was perfectly within my right in letting it signify whatsoever I pleased.
As far as I was aware,
I had not yet expressed an opinion as to ....
But my brain got more and more confused.
At last I sprang out of bed to look for the water-tap.
I was not thirsty,
but my head was in a fever,
and I felt an instinctive longing for water.
When I had drunk some I got into bed again,
and determined with all my might to settle to sleep.
I closed my eyes and forced myself to keep quiet.
I lay thus for some minutes without making a movement,
sweated and felt my blood jerk violently through my veins.
it was really too delicious the way he thought to find money in the paper cornet!
He only coughed once,
I wonder if he is pacing up and down there yet!
Sitting on my bench?
the pearly blue sea ...
the ships ....
I opened my eyes;
how could I keep them shut when I could not sleep?
The same darkness brooded over me;
the same unfathomable black eternity which my thoughts strove against and could not understand.
I made the most despairing efforts to find a word black enough to characterize this darkness;
a word so horribly black that it would darken my lips if I named it.
how dark it was!
and I am carried back in thought to the sea and the dark monsters that lay in wait for me.
They would draw me to them,
and clutch me tightly and bear me away by land and sea,
through dark realms that no soul has seen.
I feel myself on board,
drawn through waters,
hovering in clouds,
I give a hoarse cry of terror,
clutch the bed tightly --I had made such a perilous journey,
whizzing down through space like a bolt.
did I not feel that I was saved as I struck my hands against the wooden frame!
"This is the way one dies!"
said I to myself.
"Now you will die!"
and I lay for a while and thought over that I was to die.
Then I start up in bed and ask severely,
"If I found the word,
am I not absolutely within my right to decide myself what it is to signify?" ...
I could hear myself that I was raving.
I could hear it now whilst I was talking.
My madness was a delirium of weakness and prostration,
but I was not out of my senses.
All at once the thought darted through my brain that I was insane.
Seized with terror,
I spring out of bed again,
I stagger to the door,
which I try to open,
fling myself against it a couple of times to burst it,
strike my head against the wall,
bite my fingers,
cry and curse ....
All was quiet;
only my own voice echoed from the walls.
I had fallen to the floor,
incapable of stumbling about the cell any longer.
Lying there I catch a glimpse,
straight before my eyes,
of a greyish square in the wall,
a suggestion of white,
a presage --it must be of daylight.
I felt it must be daylight,
felt it through every pore in my body.
did I not draw a breath of delighted relief!
I flung myself flat on the floor and cried for very joy over this blessed glimpse of light,
sobbed for very gratitude,
blew a kiss to the window,
and conducted myself like a maniac.
And at this moment I was perfectly conscious of what I was doing.
All my dejection had vanished;
all despair and pain had ceased,
and I had at this moment,
at least as far as my thought reached,
not a wish unfilled.
I sat up on the floor,
folded my hands,
and waited patiently for the dawn.
What a night this had been!
That they had not heard any noise!
I thought with astonishment.
But then I was in the reserved section,
high above all the prisoners.
A homeless Cabinet Minister,
if I might say so.
Still in the best of humours,
with eyes turned towards the lighter,
ever lighter square in the wall,
I amused myself acting Cabinet Minister;
called myself Von Tangen,
and clothed my speech in a dress of red-tape.
My fancies had not ceased,
but I was far less nervous.
If I only had not been thoughtless enough to leave my pocket-book at home!
Might I not have the honour of assisting his Right Honourable the Prime Minister to bed?
And in all seriousness,
and with much ceremony I went over to the stretcher and lay down.
By this it was so light that I could distinguish in some degree the outlines of the cell and,
little by little,
the heavy handle of the door.
This diverted me;
the monotonous darkness so irritating in its impenetrability that it prevented me from seeing myself was broken;
my blood flowed more quietly;
I soon felt my eyes close.
I was aroused by a couple of knocks on my door.
I jumped up in all haste,
and clad myself hurriedly;
my clothes were still wet through from last night.
"You'll report yourself downstairs to the officer on duty,"
said the constable.
Were there more formalities to be gone through,
I thought with fear.
Below I entered a large room,
where thirty or forty people sat,
They were called up one by one by the registering clerk,
and one by one they received a ticket for breakfast.
The officer on duty repeated constantly to the policeman at his side,
"Did he get a ticket?
Don't forget to give them tickets;
they look as if they wanted a meal!"
And I stood and looked at these tickets,
and wished I had one.
"Andreas Tangen --journalist."
I advanced and bowed.
my dear fellow,
how did you come here?"
I explained the whole state of the case,
repeated the same story as last night,
lied without winking,
lied with frankness --had been out rather late,
worse luck ...
lost door-key ....
and he smiled;
"that's the way!
Did you sleep well then?"
"Like a Cabinet Minister --like a Cabinet Minister!"
"I am glad to hear it,"
and he stood up.
And I went!
a ticket for me too!
I have not eaten for more than three long days and nights.
But no one offered me a ticket,
and I dared not demand one.
It would have roused suspicion at once.
They would begin to poke their noses into my private affairs,
and discover who I really was;
they might arrest me for false pretences;
with elevated head,
the carriage of a millionaire,
and hands thrust under my coat-tails,
I stride out of the guard-house.
The sun shone warmly,
early as it was.
It was ten o'clock,
and the traffic in Young's Market was in full swing.
Which way should I take?
I slapped my pockets and felt for my manuscript.
At eleven I would try and see the editor.
I stand a while on the balustrade,
and watch the bustle under me.
my clothes commenced to steam.
Hunger put in its appearance afresh,
gnawed at my breast,
and gave small,
sharp stabs that caused me pain.
Had I not a friend --an acquaintance whom I could apply to?
I ransack my memory to find a man good for a penny piece,
and fail to find him.
it was a lovely day,
Sunlight bright and warm surrounded me.
The sky stretched away like a beautiful sea over the Lier mountains.
Without knowing it,
I was on my way home.
I hungered sorely.
I found a chip of wood in the street to chew --that helped a bit.
To think that I hadn't thought of that sooner!
The door was open;
the stable-boy bade me good-morning as usual.
That was all I found to say.
Could I ask for the loan of a shilling?
He would be sure to lend it willingly if he could;
I had written a letter for him once.
He stood and turned something over in his mind before he ventured on saying it.
I ought to pay my landlady today;
you wouldn't be so kind as to lend me five shillings,
Only for a few days,
You did me a service once before,
so you did."
I really can't do it,
"Not now --perhaps later on,
maybe in the afternoon,"
and I staggered up the stairs to my room.
I flung myself on my bed,
How confoundedly lucky it was that he had forestalled me;
my self-respect was saved.
God bless you,
you might just as well have asked me for five shares in the Dampkökken,
or an estate out in Aker.
And the thought of these five shillings made me laugh louder and louder.
Wasn't I a devil of a fellow,
My mirth increased,
and I gave way to it.
what a shocking smell of cooking there was here --a downright disgustingly strong smell of chops for dinner,
and I flung open the window to let out this beastly smell.
a plate of beef!"
Turning to the table --this miserable table that I was forced to support with my knees when I wrote --I bowed profoundly,
"May I ask will you take a glass of wine?
I am Tangen --Tangen,
the Cabinet Minister.
I --more's the pity --I was out a little late ...
Once more my thoughts ran without rein in intricate paths.
I was continually conscious that I talked at random,
and yet I gave utterance to no word without hearing and understanding it.
I said to myself,
"Now you are talking at random again,"
and yet I could not help myself.
It was as if one were lying awake,
and yet talking in one's sleep.
My head was light,
without pain and without pressure,
and my mood was unshadowed.
It sailed away with me,
and I made no effort.
only come right in!
As you see everything is of ruby --Ylajali,
that swelling crimson silken divan!
how passionately she breathes.
Kiss me --loved one --more --more!
Your arms are like pale amber,
your mouth blushes ....
Waiter I asked for a plate of beef!"
The sun gleamed in through the window,
and I could hear the horses below chewing oats.
I sat and mumbled over my chip gaily,
glad at heart as a child.
I kept all the time feeling for my manuscript.
It wasn't really in my thoughts,
but instinct told me it was there --'twas in my blood to remember it,
and I took it out.
It had got wet,
and I spread it out in the sun to dry;
then I took to wandering up and down the room.
How depressing everything looked!
Small scraps of tin shavings were trodden into the floor;
there was not a chair to sit upon,
not even a nail in the bare walls.
Everything had been brought to my "Uncle's,"
A few sheets of paper lying on the table,
covered with thick dust,
were my sole possession;
the old green blanket on the bed was lent to me by Hans Pauli some months ago ....
I snap my fingers.
Hans Pauli Pettersen shall help me!
He would certainly be very angry that I had not appealed to him at once.
I put on my hat in haste,
gather up the manuscript,
thrust it into my pocket,
and hurry downstairs.
I called into the stable,
"I am nearly certain I can help you in the afternoon."
Arrived at the Town Hall I saw that it was past eleven,
and I determined on going to the editor at once.
I stopped outside the office door to see if my sheets were paged rightly,
smoothed them carefully out,
put them back in my pocket,
My heart beat audibly as I entered.
"Scissors" is there as usual.
I inquire timorously for the editor.
The man sits and probes for minor items of news amongst the provincial papers.
I repeat my question,
and advance a little farther.
"The editor has not come yet!"
said "Scissors" at length,
without looking up.
How soon would he come?
"Couldn't say --couldn't say at all!"
How long would the office be open?
To this I received no answer,
so I was forced to leave.
"Scissors" had not once looked up at me during all this scene;
he had heard my voice,
and recognized me by it.
You are in such bad odour here,
that he doesn't even take the trouble to answer you.
I wonder if that is an order of the editor's.
'tis true enough,
right from the day my celebrated story was accepted for ten shillings,
overwhelmed him with work,
rushed to his door nearly every day with unsuitable things that he was obliged to peruse only to return them to me.
Perhaps he wished to put an end to this --take stringent measures ....
I took the road to Homandsbyen.
Pettersen was a peasant-farmer's son,
living in the attic of a five-storeyed house;
Hans Pauli Pettersen was a poor man.
But if he had a shilling he wouldn't stint it.
I would get it just as sure as if I already held it in my hand.
And I rejoiced the whole time,
as I went,
over the shilling,
and felt confident I would get it.
When I got to the street door it was closed and I had to ring.
"I want to see Student Pettersen,"
and was about to step inside.
"I know his room."
repeats the girl.
"Was it he who had the attic?"
He had moved.
she didn't know the address;
but he had asked his letters to be sent to Hermansen in Tolbod-gaden,
and she mentioned the number.
full of trust and hope,
all the way to Tolbod-gaden to ask Hans Pauli's address;
being my last chance,
I must turn it to account.
On the way I came to a newly-built house,
where a couple of joiners stood planing outside.
I picked up a few satiny shavings from the heap,
stuck one in my mouth,
and the other in my pocket for by-and-by,
and continued my journey.
I groaned with hunger.
I had seen a marvellously large penny loaf at a baker's --the largest I could possibly get for the price.
"I come to find out Student Pettersen's address!"
"Bernt Akers Street,
in the attic."
Was I going out there?
would I perhaps be kind enough to take out a couple of letters that had come for him?
I trudge up town again,
along the same road,
pass by the joiners --who are sitting with their cans between their knees,
eating their good warm dinner from the Dampkökken --pass the bakers,
where the loaf is still in its place,
and at length reach Bernt Akers Street,
half dead with fatigue.
The door is open,
and I mount all the weary stairs to the attic.
I take the letters out of my pocket in order to put Hans Pauli into a good humour on the moment of my entrance.
He would be certain not to refuse to give me a helping hand when I explained how things were with me;
Hans Pauli had such a big heart --I had always said that of him ....
I discovered his card fastened to the door --"H.
I sat down without more ado --sat down on the bare floor,
dulled with fatigue,
fairly beaten with exhaustion.
I mechanically mutter,
a couple of times,
"Gone home --gone home!"
then I keep perfectly quiet.
There was not a tear in my eyes;
I had not a thought,
not a feeling of any kind.
I sat and stared,
with wide-open eyes,
at the letters,
without coming to any conclusion.
Ten minutes went over --perhaps twenty or more.
I sat stolidly on the one spot,
and did not move a finger.
This numb feeling of drowsiness was almost like a brief slumber.
I hear some one come up the stairs.
"It was Student Pettersen,
I have two letters for him."
"He has gone home,"
replies the woman;
"but he will return after the holidays.
I could take the letters if you like!"
that was all right,"
"He could get them then when he came back;
they might contain matters of importance.
When I got outside,
I came to a standstill and said loudly in the open street,
as I clenched my hands:
"I will tell you one thing,
my good Lord God,
you are a bungler!"
and I nod furiously,
with set teeth,
up to the clouds;
"I will be hanged if you are not a bungler."
Then I took a few strides,
and stopped again.
changing my attitude,
I fold my hands,
hold my head to one side,
with an unctuous,
sanctimonious tone of voice:
"Hast thou appealed also to him,
It did not sound right!
With a large H,
with an H as big as a cathedral!
"Hast thou invoked Him,
and I incline my head,
and I make my voice whine,
That didn't sound right either.
You can't play the hypocrite,
you should say,
I have invoked God my Father!
and you must set your words to the most piteous tune you have ever heard in your life.
that was better!
But you must sigh like a horse down with the colic.
Thus I go,
drilling myself in hypocrisy;
stamp impatiently in the street when I fail to succeed;
rail at myself for being such a blockhead,
whilst the astonished passers-by turn round and stare at me.
I chewed uninterruptedly at my shaving,
as steadily as I could,
along the street.
Before I realized it,
I was at the railway square.
The dock on Our Saviour's pointed to half-past one.
I stood for a bit and considered.
A faint sweat forced itself out on my face,
and trickled down my eyelids.
Accompany me down to the bridge,
said I to myself --that is to say,
if you have spare time!
--and I made a bow to myself,
and turned towards the railway bridge near the wharf.
The ships lay there,
and the sea rocked in the sunshine.
There was bustle and movement everywhere,
quay porters with cases on their shoulders,
lively "shanties" coming from the prams.
An old woman,
a vendor of cakes,
sits near me,
and bends her brown nose down over her wares.
The little table before her is sinfully full of nice things,
and I turn away with distaste.
She is filling the whole quay with her smell of cakes --phew!
up with the windows!
I accosted a gentleman sitting at my side,
and represented forcibly to him the nuisance of having cake-sellers here,
cake-sellers there ....
but he must really admit that ....
But the good man smelt a rat,
and did not give me time to finish speaking,
for he got up and left.
and followed him,
firmly determined to convince him of his mistake.
"If it was only out of consideration for sanitary conditions,"
and I slapped him on the shoulders.
I am a stranger here,
and know nothing of the sanitary conditions,"
and stared at me with positive fear.
that alters the case!
if he was a stranger ....
Could I not render him a service in any way?
show him about?
because it would be a pleasure to me,
and it would cost him nothing ....
But the man wanted absolutely to get rid of me,
and he sheered off,
in all haste,
to the other side of the street.
I returned to the bench and sat down.
I was fearfully disturbed,
and the big street organ that had begun to grind a tune a little farther away made me still worse --a regular metallic music,
a fragment of Weber,
to which a little girl is singing a mournful strain.
The flute-like sorrowfulness of the organ thrills through my blood;
my nerves vibrate in responsive echo.
A moment later,
and I fall back on the seat,
whimpering and crooning in time to it.
what strange freaks one's thoughts are guilty of when one is starving.
I feel myself lifted up by these notes,
dissolved in tones,
and I float out,
I feel so clearly.
How I float out,
soaring high above the mountains,
dancing through zones of light! ...
whines the little organ-girl,
reaching forth her little tin plate;
"only a halfpenny."
and I sprang to my feet and ransacked all my pockets.
But the child thinks I only want to make fun of her,
and she goes away at once without saying a word.
This dumb forbearance was too much for me.
If she had abused me,
it would have been more endurable.
I was stung with pain,
and recalled her.
"I don't possess a farthing;
but I will remember you later on,
What is your name?
that is a pretty name;
I won't forget it.
But I understood quite well that she did not believe me,
although she never said one word;
and I cried with despair because this little street wench would not believe in me.
Once again I called her back,
tore open my coat,
and was about to give her my waistcoat.
"I will make up to you for it,"
"wait only a moment" ...
I had no waistcoat.
What in the world made me look for it?
Weeks had gone by since it was in my possession.
What was the matter with me,
The astonished child waited no longer,
but withdrew fearsomely,
and I was compelled to let her go.
People throng round me,
a policeman thrusts his way through to me,
and wants to know what is the row.
"nothing at all;
I only wanted to give the little girl over there my waistcoat ...
for her father ...
you needn't stand there and laugh at that ...
I have only to go home and put on another."
"No disturbance in the street,"
says the constable;
and he gives me a shove on.
"Is them your papers?"
he calls after me.
my newspaper leader;
many important papers!
However could I be so careless?"
I snatch up my manuscript,
convince myself that it is lying in order and go,
without stopping a second or looking about me,
towards the editor's office.
It was now four by the clock of Our Saviour's Church.
The office is shut.
I stead noiselessly down the stairs,
frightened as a thief,
and stand irresolutely outside the door.
What should I do now?
I lean up against the wall,
stare down at the stones,
A pin is lying glistening at my feet;
I stoop and pick it up.
Supposing I were to cut the buttons off my coat,
how much could I get for them?
Perhaps it would be no use,
though buttons are buttons;
I look and examine them,
and find them as good as new --that was a lucky idea all the same;
I could cut them off with my penknife and take them to the pawn-office.
The hope of being able to sell these five buttons cheered me immediately,
and I cried,
it will all come right!"
My delight got the upper hand of me,
and I at once set to cut off the buttons one by one.
Whilst thus occupied,
I held the following hushed soliloquy:
you see one has become a little impoverished;
a momentary embarrassment ...
do you say?
You must not make slips when you speak?
I would like to see the person who wears out less buttons than I do,
I can tell you!
I always go with my coat open;
it is a habit of mine,
an idiosyncrasy ....
if you -won't-,
But I must have a penny for them,
at least ....
who said you were obliged to do it?
You can hold your tongue,
and leave me in peace ....
you can fetch a policeman,
I'll wait here whilst you are out looking for him,
and I won't steal anything from you.
by the way,
have been out a little late.
Some one comes up the stairs.
I am recalled at once to reality.
I recognize "Scissors,"
and put the buttons carefully into my pocket.
He attempts to pass;
doesn't even acknowledge my nod;
is suddenly intently busied with his nails.
I stop him,
and inquire for the editor.
do you hear."
with a cheek that fairly amazed myself,
"I must have a word with him;
it is a necessary errand --communications from the Stiftsgaarden.
[Footnote: Dwelling of the civil governor of a Stift or diocese.]
can't you tell me what it is,
and I looked "Scissors" up and down.
This had the desired effect.
He accompanied me at once,
and opened the door.
My heart was in my mouth now;
I set my teeth,
to try and revive my courage,
and entered the editor's private office.
Is it you?"
he asked kindly;
If he had shown me the door it would have been almost as acceptable.
I felt as if I were on the point of crying and said:
"I beg you will excuse ...."
And I sat down,
and explained that I again had an article which I was extremely anxious to get into his paper.
I had taken such pains with it;
it had cost me much effort.
"I will read it,"
and he took it.
"Everything you write is certain to cost you effort,
but you are far too impetuous;
if you could only be a little more sober.
There's too much fever.
In the meantime,
I will read it,"
and he turned to the table again.
There I sat.
Dared I ask for a shilling?
explain to him why there was always fever?
He would be sure to aid me;
it was not the first time.
I stood up.
But the last time I was with him he had complained about money,
and had sent a messenger out to scrape some together for me.
Maybe it might be the same case now.
it should not occur!
Could I not see then that he was sitting at work?
Was there otherwise anything?
and I compelled my voice to sound steady.
"About how soon shall I call in again?"
any time you are passing --in a couple of days or so."
I could not get my request over my lips.
This man's friendliness seemed to me beyond bounds,
and I ought to know how to appreciate it.
Rather die of hunger!
Not even when I was outside the door,
and felt once more the pangs of hunger,
did I repent having left the office without having asked for that shilling.
I took the other shaving out of my pocket and stuck it into my mouth.
Why hadn't I done so before?
"You ought to be ashamed of yourself,"
I said aloud.
"Could it really have entered your head to ask the man for a shilling and put him to inconvenience again?"
and I got downright angry with myself for the effrontery of which I had almost been guilty.
the shabbiest thing I ever heard,"
"to rush at a man and nearly tear the eyes out of his head just because you happen to need a shilling,
you miserable dog!
you big thumping lout;
I'll teach you."
I commenced to run to punish myself,
left one street after the other behind me at a bound,
goaded myself on with suppressed cries,
and shrieked dumbly and furiously at myself whenever I was about to halt.
Thus I arrived a long way up Pyle Street,
when at last I stood still,
almost ready to cry with vexation at not being able to run any farther.
I was trembling over my whole body,
and I flung myself down on a step.
in order to torture myself rightly,
I arose again,
and forced myself to keep standing.
I jeered at myself and hugged myself with pleasure at the spectacle of my own exhaustion.
after the lapse of a few moments,
I gave myself,
with a nod,
permission to be seated,
I chose the most uncomfortable place on the steps.
how delicious it was to rest!
I dried the sweat off my face,
and drew great refreshing breaths.
How had I not run!
But I was not sorry;
I had richly deserved it.
Why did I want to ask for that shilling?
Now I could see the consequences,
and I began to talk mildly to myself,
dealing out admonitions as a mother might have done.
I grew more and more moved,
and tired and weak as I was,
I fell a-crying.
an inner sobbing without a tear.
I sat for the space of a quarter of an hour,
in the same place.
People came and went,
and no one molested me.
Little children played about around me,
and a little bird sang on a tree on the other side of the street.
A policeman came towards me.
"Why do you sit here?"
"Why do I sit here?"
"I have been watching you for the last half-hour.
You've sat here now half-an-hour."
I got up in a temper and walked on.
Arrived at the market-place,
I stopped and gazed down the street.
was that an answer to give?
you should have replied,
and made your voice whining.
You are a booby;
you will never learn to dissemble.
and you should have gasped like a horse.
When I got to the fire look-out,
I halted afresh,
seized by a new idea.
I snapped my fingers,
burst into a loud laugh that confounded the passers-by,
"Now you shall just go to Levion the parson.
as sure as death --ay,
just for a try.
What have you got to lose by it?
and it is such glorious weather!"
I entered Pascha's book-shop,
found Pastor Levion's address in the directory,
and started for it.
Now for it!
Play no pranks.
did you say?
if you please.
You are too poor to support a conscience.
You are hungry;
you have come on important business --the first thing needful.
But you shall hold your head askew,
and set your words to a sing-song.
I won't go a step farther.
Do you hear that?
you are in a sorely tempted condition,
fighting with the powers of darkness and great voiceless monsters at night,
so that it is a horror to think of;
you hunger and thirst for wine and milk,
and don't get them.
It has gone so far with you.
Here you stand and haven't as much as a halfpenny to bless yourself with.
But you believe in grace,
the Lord be praised;
you haven't yet lost your faith;
and then you must clasp your hands together,
and look a very Satan of a fellow for believing in grace.
As far as Mammon was concerned,
you hated Mammon with all its pomps in any form.
Now it's quite another thing with a psalm-book --a souvenir to the extent of a few shillings ....
I stopped at the pastor's door,
12 to 4."
now we'll go ahead in earnest!
So hang your head a little more,
and I rang at the private entrance.
"I want to see the pastor,"
said I to the maid;
but it was not possible for me to get in God's name yet awhile.
"He has gone out."
That destroyed my whole plan;
scattered all I intended to say to the four winds.
What had I gained then by the long walk?
There I stood.
"Was it anything particular?"
questioned the maid.
"Not at all,"
"not at all."
It was only just that it was such glorious God's weather that I thought I would come out and make a call.
There I stood,
and there she stood.
I purposely thrust out my chest to attract her attention to the pin that held my coat together.
I implored her with a look to see what I had come for,
but the poor creature didn't understand it at all.
Lovely God's weather.
Was not the mistress at home either?
but she had gout,
and lay on a sofa without being able to move herself ....
Perhaps I would leave a message or something?
not at all;
I only just took walks like this now and again,
just for exercise;
it was so wholesome after dinner ....
I set out on the road back --what would gossiping longer lead to?
I commenced to feel dizzy.
There was no mistake about it;
I was about to break down in earnest.
Office hours from 12 to 4.
I had knocked at the door an hour too late.
The time of grace was over.
I sat down on one of the benches near the church in the market.
how black things began to look for me now!
I did not cry;
I was too utterly tired,
worn to the last degree.
I sat there without trying to arrive at any conclusion,
My chest was much inflamed;
it smarted most strangely and sorely --nor would chewing shavings help me much longer.
My jaws were tired of that barren work,
and I let them rest.
I simply gave up.
A brown orange-peel,
I had found in the street,
and which I had at once commenced to chew,
had given me nausea.
I was ill --the veins swelled up bluely on my wrists.
What was it I had really sought after?
Run about the whole live-long day for a shilling,
that would but keep life in me for a few hours longer.
was it not a matter of indifference if the inevitable took place one day earlier or one day later?
If I had conducted myself like an ordinary being I should have gone home long ago,
and laid myself down to rest,
and given in.
My mind was clear for a moment.
Now I was to die.
It was in the time of the fall,
and all things were hushed to sleep.
I had tried every means,
exhausted every resource of which I knew.
I fondled this thought sentimentally,
and each time I still hoped for a possible succour I whispered repudiatingly:
you have already begun to die."
I ought to write a couple of letters,
make all ready --prepare myself.
I would wash myself carefully and tidy my bed nicely.
I would lay my head upon the sheets of white paper,
the cleanest things I had left,
and the green blanket.
The green blanket!
Like a shot I was wide awake.
The blood mounted to my head,
and I got violent palpitation of the heart.
I arise from the seat,
and start to walk.
Life stirs again in all my fibres,
and time after time I repeat disconnectedly,
"The green blanket --the green blanket."
I go faster and faster,
as if it is a case of fetching something,
and stand after a little time in my tinker's workshop.
Without pausing a moment,
or wavering in my resolution,
I go over to the bed,
and roll up Hans Pauli's blanket.
It was a strange thing if this bright idea of mine couldn't save me.
I rose infinitely superior to the stupid scruples which sprang up in me --half inward cries about a certain stain on my honour.
I bade good-bye to the whole of them.
I was no hero --no virtuous idiot.
I had my senses left.
So I took the blanket under my arm and went to No. 5 Stener's Street.
and entered the big,
strange room for the first time.
The bell on the door above my head gave a lot of violent jerks.
A man enters from a side room,
his mouth is full of food,
and stands behind the counter.
lend me sixpence on my eye-glasses?"
"I shall release them in a couple of days,
without fail --eh?"
can't do it."
I suppose you can't.
it was really at best only a joke.
I have a blanket with me for which,
I have no longer any use,
and it struck me that you might take it off my hands."
"I have --more's the pity --a whole store full of bed-clothes,"
and when I had opened it he just cast one glance over it and said,
but I haven't any use for that either."
"I wanted to show you the worse side first,"
"it's much better on the other side."
it's no good.
I won't own it;
and you wouldn't raise a penny on it anywhere."
it's clear it isn't worth anything,"
"but I thought it might go with another old blanket at an auction."
it's no use."
I won't have it at all,
I wouldn't have it in the house!"
I took it under my arm and went home.
I acted as if nothing had passed,
spread it over the bed again,
smoothed it well out,
as was my custom,
and tried to wipe away every trace of my late action.
I could not possibly have been in my right mind at the moment when I came to the conclusion to commit this rascally trick.
The more I thought over it the more unreasonable it seemed to me.
It must have been an attack of weakness;
some relaxation in my inner self that had surprised me when off my guard.
Neither had I fallen straight into the trap.
I had half felt that I was going the wrong road,
and I expressly offered my glasses first,
and I rejoiced greatly that I had not had the opportunity of carrying into effect this fault which would have sullied the last hours I had to live.
I wandered out into the city again.
I let myself sink upon one of the seats by Our Saviour's Church;
dozed with my head on my breast,
apathetic after my last excitement,
sick and famished with hunger.
And time went by.
I should have to sit out this hour,
It was a little lighter outside than in the house,
and it seemed to me that my chest did not pain quite so badly out in the open air.
I should get home,
soon enough --and I dozed,
and suffered fearfully.
I had found a little pebble;
I wiped it clean on my coat sleeve and put it into my mouth so that I might have something to mumble.
Otherwise I did not stir,
and didn't even wink an eyelid.
People came and went;
the noise of cars,
the tramp of hoofs,
and chatter of tongues filled the air.
I might try with the buttons.
Of course there would be no use in trying;
I was now in a rather bad way;
but when I came to consider the matter closely,
I would be obliged,
as it were,
to pass in the direction of my "Uncle's" as I went home.
At last I got up,
dragging myself slowly to my feet,
and reeled down the streets.
It began to burn over my eyebrows --fever was setting in,
and I hurried as fast as I could.
Once more I passed the baker's shop where the little loaf lay.
we must stop here!"
with affected decision.
But supposing I were to go in and beg for a bit of bread?
Surely that was a fleeting thought,
it could never really have occurred to me seriously.
I whispered to myself,
and shook my head,
and held on my way.
In Rebslager a pair of lovers stood in a doorway and talked together softly;
a little farther up a girl popped her head out of a window.
I walked so slowly and thoughtfully,
that I looked as if I might be deep in meditation on nothing in particular,
and the wench came out into the street.
"How is the world treating you,
are you ill?
the Lord preserve us,
what a face!"
and she drew away frightened.
I pulled up at once: What's amiss with my face?
Had I really begun to die?
I felt over my cheeks with my hand;
I was thin --my cheeks were like two hollowed bowls;
but Lord ...
I reeled along again,
but again came to a standstill;
I must be quite inconceivably thin.
Who knows but that my eyes were sinking right into my head?
How did I look in reality?
It was the very deuce that one must let oneself turn into a living deformity for sheer hunger's sake.
Once more I was seized by fury,
a last flaring up,
a final spasm.
what a face.
Here I was,
with a head that couldn't be matched in the whole country,
with a pair of fists that,
by the Lord,
could grind a navvy into finest dust,
and yet I went and hungered myself into a deformity,
right in the town of Christiania.
Was there any rhyme or reason in that?
I had sat in saddle,
toiled day and night like a carrier's horse.
I had read my eyes out of their sockets,
had starved the brains out of my head,
and what the devil had I gained by it?
Even a street hussy prayed God to deliver her from the sight of me.
there should be a stop to it.
Do you understand that?
Stop it shall,
or the devil take a worse hold of me.
With steadily increasing fury,
grinding my teeth under the consciousness of my impotence,
with tears and oaths I raged on,
without looking at the people who passed me by.
I commenced once more to martyr myself,
ran my forehead against lamp-posts on purpose,
dug my nails deep into my palms,
bit my tongue with frenzy when it didn't articulate clearly,
and laughed insanely each time it hurt much.
but what shall I do?
I asked myself at last,
and I stamped many times on the pavement and repeated,
What shall I do?
A gentleman just going by remarks,
with a smile,
"You ought to go and ask to be locked up."
I looked after him.
One of our well-known lady's doctors,
nicknamed "The Duke."
Not even he understood my real condition --a man I knew;
whose hand I had shaken.
I grew quiet.
I was mad;
he was right.
I felt madness in my blood;
felt its darting pain through my brain.
So that was to be the end of me!
and I resume my wearisome,
There was the haven in which I was to find rest.
Suddenly I stop again.
But not locked up!
and I grew almost hoarse with fear.
I implored grace for myself;
begged to the wind and weather not to be locked up.
I should have to be brought to the guard-house again,
imprisoned in a dark cell which had not a spark of light in it.
There must be other channels yet open that I had not tried,
and I would try them.
I would be so earnestly painstaking;
would take good time for it,
and go indefatigably round from house to house.
there was Cisler the music-seller;
I hadn't been to him at all.
Some remedy would turn up! ....
Thus I stumbled on,
and talked until I brought myself to weep with emotion.
Was that perchance a hint from on high?
His name had struck me for no reason,
and he lived so far away;
but I would look him up all the same,
and rest between times.
I knew the place well;
I had been there often,
when times were good had bought much music from him.
Should I ask him for sixpence?
Perhaps that might make him feel uncomfortable.
I would ask him for a shilling.
I went into the shop,
and asked for the chief.
They showed me into his office;
there he sat --handsome,
well-dressed in the latest style --running down some accounts.
I stammered through an excuse,
and set forth my errand.
Compelled by need to apply to him ...
it should not be very long till I could pay it back ...
when I got paid for my newspaper article ....
He would confer such a great benefit on me ....
Even as I was speaking he turned about to his desk,
and resumed his work.
When I had finished,
he glanced sideways at me,
shook his handsome head,
simply "no" --no explanation --not another word.
My knees trembled fearfully,
and I supported myself against the little polished barrier.
I must try once more.
Why should just his name have occurred to me as I stood far away from there in "It won't be I that will do that,"
"and let me tell you,
at the same time,
I've had about enough of this."
I tore myself out,
sick with hunger,
and boiling with shame.
I had turned myself into a dog for the sake of a miserable bone,
and I had not got it.
now there must be an end of this!
It had really gone all too far with me.
I had held myself up for many years,
stood erect through so many hard hours,
all at once,
I had sunk to the lowest form of begging.
This one day had coarsened my whole mind,
bespattered my soul with shamelessness.
I had not been too abashed to stand and whine in the pettiest huckster's shop,
and what had it availed me?
But was I not then without the veriest atom of bread to put inside my mouth?
I had succeeded in rendering myself a thing loathsome to myself.
but it must come to an end.
Presently they would lock the outer door at home?
I must hurry unless I wished to lie in the guard-house again.
This gave me strength.
Lie in that cell again I would not.
With body bent forward,
and my hands pressed hard against my left ribs to deaden the stings a little,
I struggled on,
keeping my eyes fastened upon the paving-stones that I might not be forced to bow to possible acquaintances,
and hastened to the fire look-out.
God be praised!
it was only seven o'clock by the dial on Our Saviour's;
I had three hours yet before the door would be locked.
What a fright I had been in!
there was not a stone left unturned.
I had done all I could.
To think that I really could not succeed once in a whole day!
If I told it no one could believe it;
if I were to write it down they would say I had invented it.
Not in a single place!
there is no help for it.
don't go and get pathetic again.
I can assure you,
it makes me have a loathing for you.
If all hope is over,
why there is an end of it.
for that matter,
steal a handful of oats in the stable?
A streak of light --a ray --yet I knew the stable was shut.
I took my ease,
and crept home at a slow snail's pace.
I felt thirsty,
luckily for the first time through the whole day,
and I went and sought about for a place where I could get a drink.
I was a long distance away from the bazaar,
and I would not ask at a private house.
I could wait till I got home;
it would take a quarter of an hour.
It was not at all so certain that I could keep down a draught of water,
my stomach no longer suffered in any way --I even felt nausea at the spittle I swallowed.
But the buttons!
I had not tried the buttons at all yet.
There I stood,
and commenced to smile.
Maybe there was a remedy,
in spite of all!
I wasn't totally doomed.
I should certainly get a penny for them;
tomorrow I might raise another some place or other,
and Thursday I might be paid for my newspaper article.
I should just see it would come out all right.
To think that I could really go and forget the buttons.
I took them out of my pocket,
and inspected them as I walked on again.
My eyes grew dazed with joy.
I did not see the street;
I simply went on.
Didn't I know exactly the big pawn-shop --my refuge in the dark evenings,
with my blood-sucking friend?
One by one my possessions had vanished there --my little things from home --my last book.
I liked to go there on auction days,
to look on,
and rejoice each time my books seemed likely to fall into good hands.
had my watch;
I was almost proud of that.
in which I had written my first small poetical attempt,
had been bought by an acquaintance,
and my topcoat had found a haven with a photographer,
to be used in the studio.
So there was no cause to grumble about any of them.
I held my buttons ready in my hand;
"Uncle" is sitting at his desk,
"I am not in a hurry,"
afraid of disturbing him,
and making him impatient at my application.
My voice sounded so curiously hollow I hardly recognized it again,
and my heart beat like a sledge-hammer.
He came smilingly over to me,
as was his wont,
laid both his hands flat on the counter,
and looked at my face without saying anything.
I had brought something of which I would ask him if he could make any use;
something which is only in my way at home,
assure you of it --are quite an annoyance --some buttons.
what was there about the buttons?
and he thrusts his eyes down close to my hand.
Couldn't he give me a couple of halfpence for them?
--whatever he thought himself --quite according to his own judgment.
"For the buttons?"
--and "Uncle" stares astonishedly at me --"for these buttons?"
Only for a cigar or whatever he liked himself;
I was just passing,
and thought I would look in.
the old pawnbroker burst out laughing,
and returned to his desk without saying a word.
There I stood;
I had not hoped for much,
all the same,
I had thought of a possibility of being helped.
This laughter was my death-warrant.
be of any use trying with my eyeglasses either?
I would let my glasses go in with them;
that was a matter of course,
and I took them off.
Only a penny,
or if he wished,
"You know quite well I can't lend you anything on your glasses,"
I told you that once before."
"But I want a stamp,"
"I can't even send off the letters I have written;
a penny or a halfpenny stamp,
just as you will."
God help you,
go your way!"
and motioned me off with his hands.
it must be so,
I said to myself.
I put on my glasses again,
took the buttons in my hand,
bade him good-night,
and closed the door after me as usual.
there was nothing more to be done!
To think he would not take them at any price,
They are almost new buttons;
I can't understand it.
Whilst I stood,
lost in thought,
a man passed by and entered the office.
He had given me a little shove in his hurry.
We both made excuses,
and I turned round and looked after him.
is that you?"
when half-way up the steps.
He came back,
and I recognized him.
"God bless me,
what on earth do you look like?
What were you doing in there?"
I had business.
You are going in too,
what were you in with?"
My knees trembled;
I supported myself against the wall,
and stretched out my hand with the buttons in it.
"What the deuce!"
this is really going too far."
and was about to go;
I felt the tears choking my breast.
wait a minute,"
What was I to wait for?
Was he not himself on the road to my "Uncle,"
his engagement ring --had been hungry,
for several days --owed his landlady?
"if you will be out soon ...."
he broke in,
seizing hold of my arm;
"but I may as well tell you I don't believe you.
You are such an idiot,
that it's better you come in along with me."
I understood what he meant,
suddenly felt a little spark of pride,
I promised to be in Bernt Akers Street at half-past seven,
but it's eight now.
Here I am,
standing with the watch in my hand that I'm going to pawn.
in with you,
you hungry sinner!
I'll get you five shillings anyhow,"
and he pushed me in.