Garman and Worse

by Alexander Kielland

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Chapter XXV

Thus passed six years. According to Martens's prediction, Dean Sparre had been made a bishop. His predecessor in office had been a strict and haughty prelate, and there was, therefore, no little disturbance in the camp when he departed. But from the moment Dean Sparre mounted the vacant seat, all friction ceased, and everything went on evenly and smoothly. It was like covering the hammers of an old piano with new felt. The hitherto sharp tone gives place to a soft and agreeable sound; and after Dean Sparre's patent felt had been introduced into the mechanism, it all worked silently and noiselessly, and gave the greatest pleasure to all parties concerned.

The bishop did not forget his young friend, Inspector Johnsen, of whom he had always had such "good hopes." He obtained for Johnsen a chaplaincy in his cathedral town; and some people were so mischievous as to assert that the bishop's "good hopes" were now fulfilled, for Pastor Johnsen was shortly after engaged to Miss Barbara Sparre.

A great change had taken place in the ci-devant school inspector. When the turning-point was once reached, he set to work in his new line in real earnest, as was only to be expected from one of his energetic character. He never dabbled any more in advanced philosophy, and had but little to do with grand society; on the contrary, he grew to be a clergyman to whom the women were particularly attracted. His sermons were always severe, very severe; and those who cared to listen closely, might remark that he never repeated the prayer for the arms of the country by land and by sea.

Down at Mrs. Worse's shop, in the dark corner of the lane, trade went on regularly and well. Little Pitter Nilken had arrived at that stage of shriveldom, at which both fruits and people cannot hold out much longer without a change. He still managed to swing himself over the counter as lightly as a cork when the enemy became too troublesome, and the redoubtable iron ruler had lost none of its gruesome terrors.

Mrs. Worse, on the contrary, had become rather stout in the course of years. Her legs would no longer "balance" her properly, as she said. But still she refused to buy a carriage until all had "come right," which she thought could not be long now.

When all had come right! It required a faith as blind as Mrs. Worse's to reckon on such a possibility. Rachel had now been six years in Paris without saying a word about coming home. What her occupation there really was, Jacob Worse could never discover Each time he sent her money—and it was marvellous how much she used—he wrote her a few lines. She always answered briefly and reservedly. Through his friend Mr. Barnett he did not learn anything explicit. He only knew that Rachel was still living in the house, and that they were much attached to her. Mrs. Barnett's salon was quite a place of assembly for the American colony, among which were many rich and accomplished men. Any day might bring the intelligence of her approaching marriage.

Worse was in the habit of reading the papers every morning as they sat at breakfast in his mother's room. One day Mrs. Worse, who usually occupied herself half the morning with her paper, read out to her son that Pastor Martens had been nominated as clergyman in the town.

"Just fancy! So they are coming westward again!" ejaculated Mrs. Worse. "I should like to know how little Madeleine has got on in married life," sighed the old woman, who knew but too well the uncertainty which marriage brings with it. The news awoke many painful recollections in Worse's breast, and he paced up and down in his office for a long time, before he could bring himself to begin upon the foreign post, which lay in a formidable packet on his desk.

Among the letters there was one from Barnett Brothers in Paris; he knew the handwriting, but the office stamp was missing. As he opened it, it struck him that it was longer than usual. He turned it over hastily. What was this? Rachel Garman's signature stood at the foot of the letter! Jacob Worse read as follows:—

"Dear Mr. Worse, ⁠

"As I sit down to write to you, and thus carry out a long-formed resolution, I feel so overcome by emotion, that I find it difficult to control myself sufficiently, to express my thoughts verbatim. But now, as I have made up my mind, I will endeavour to make my letter clear and concise.

"I have, as you now perhaps perceive, carried on the Norwegian correspondence of Messrs. Barnett Brothers for several years. In my private letters to you I have disguised my handwriting, so as not to betray my secret. I wished, in fact, to see first if I could make myself useful, and am at length satisfied that I can. I have learnt to adopt your mother's homely maxim—remember me kindly to her—'I can work.' In your kind letters, for which receive my best thanks, I have sometimes thought that I could perceive a feeling of astonishment, as to how I could be employing all the money you have sent me. It is placed in our business. I say our business, because Messrs. Barnett Brothers have offered me a share in their Paris house. I have thus attained the object of my ambition in that direction.

"You once gave me some advice. You see, I attack each point separately, so as to prevent confusion, to avoid wasting words, or forgetting anything important. But to return. When you advised me to come forward as an authoress, I did not at that time think that your idea was reasonable. Since then I have, however, thought the subject carefully over, and have indeed made some small attempts that way, and now I beg to thank you for the good advice you gave me. I have indeed much to thank you for.

"Now that I am able to work, I no longer feel so apprehensive about the future. It is true, as you said long ago, that there are many things which a woman may have to write about, and this is more especially true with us in our own country. I am fortunately in an independent position, bonheur oblige, and I have courage, so I will make the attempt. But I must first get home, not only because I am as homesick as a child—for I know perfectly well that when I have been at home for a short time, I shall be anxious to start again on my travels—but I feel that if I am to accomplish anything, I must be among those I wish to help. I also wish to be able to go abroad again, and thus make existence more interesting; but I must at the same time have a pied à terre at home, so as to be able to return whenever I may desire to do so. And now comes the great 'but' which is, in fact, the chief point in this letter—and that, Mr. Worse, is yourself.

"I do not wish to return home before I know clearly in what position we stand to each other. Of this I feel convinced, that you have no ill feeling towards me on account of my former behaviour to you. But still I know nothing further; and if there is nothing more to know, I hope we may meet as good friends. If there should be anything further, kindly let me have a few lines.

"There, now! you see how the matter lies; let us now understand each other plainly, and I beg that you will be honourable and straightforward towards me. On one thing you can count for a certainty, which is, that I am, in any case,

"Your very sincere friend,⁠ "Rachel Garman."

When Jacob Worse had read this letter, he sprang up, seized his hat and umbrella, and went into the clerk's office.

"Has the Hamburg steamer started?"

"No, sir, but the first bell has just rung," was the answer.

"Have you any gold?"

"Yes; that is to say, not very much," answered the cashier.

"Let me have what you have got, and send Thomas over to the bank for some more. A couple of thousand kroner or so will do."

The boy ran off with a bundle of notes and a little canvas bag.

"I am going abroad, Svendsen, for a fortnight or so—I cannot say for certain. Look, here is my address. And with that he snatched the pen from behind Svendsen's ear and wrote across a large sheet of paper, on which the unfortunate man had just begun a magnificent letter:

"Pavillon Rohan,

The second bell was now heard on board the steamer.

"All right, Svendsen. Now you must manage as well as you can; telegraph if you want anything—my keys are in my desk." When he reached the door he turned round and cried, "Yes, I forgot, Svendsen; run over to my mother and tell her—yes, just tell her that it's all 'come right;'" and with that away he ran.

Old Svendsen stood perfectly speechless, staring through the open door, as he rubbed his thumb and forefinger together, which was a habit of his when anything unusually perplexing occurred. Every door was open, a chair upset in the inner office, and Mr. Worse on the road to Paris with a hat and umbrella, Thomas after him in full career with the canvas bag. The cashier was sitting with the coin and notes scattered on the table in front of him, looking as if he had been robbed; and as old Svendsen's eye rested on the ruined letter, he discovered that he had a smudge of ink on one of his fingers. Now, it was thirty years since old Svendsen had had any ink on his fingers. Mr. Worse must have made a splutter with his pen when he snatched it so hurriedly; and as the old bookkeeper's eye wandered from the smudge of ink, to the frightful confusion which reigned in the office, and back again to the smudge, he repeated, slowly and majestically, the magic words which were to awake him from this horrible nightmare: "Tell my mother it has all come right." But matters grew still worse when, a short time afterwards, he presented himself before Mrs. Worse in the back room; for scarcely had he pronounced the fatal words, "It has all come right!" than Mrs. Worse flew at him and kissed him right on his lips.

This kiss, in connection with the smudge of ink, made this day a memorable one for old Svendsen, and he used to reckon from it as an epoch which he could never forget.

The same post brought, among other things, a note for Morten Garman. He opened it, smiled in a singular manner, and sent it upstairs to his wife. Fanny took the two enclosed cards, on one of which was written the name of a lady, which she recognized as belonging to a wealthy family in Christiania, and on the other was the name of George Delphin.

She stood before the looking-glass with his card in her hand, observing narrowly the expression on her face, while the genuine sorrow she had hitherto felt, now turned to mortification and bitterness. There was scarce a shadow to be seen on her brow while these sensations passed through her heart. She had accustomed herself to these exercises before the glass; this was a grand rehearsal, and she bore it bravely. Only the delicate wrinkles round her eyes quivered slightly; but when she smiled again they made her as charming as ever. No emotion should spoil her beauty; and while these six years of pain and sorrow seemed again to burst forth, she stood as lovely and undisturbed as ever, without losing anything of her self-command.

At this moment the doctor entered the room.

"Have you spoken to my husband, doctor?"

"No, Mrs. Garman. Is there anything the matter with him?"

"Has he anything the matter with him! I am really surprised that you should ask such a question," replied Fanny, sharply. "Can you not see that he is weary—overworked? He must go to Carlsbad this year, or his health will suffer severely."

"Oh yes!" said the doctor, good-humouredly, "it might perhaps have a good effect; but you know yourself that his answer always is that he has no time, and so——"

"Bah!" answered Fanny; "as if a doctor ought to listen to rubbish of that sort!"

The doctor went off straight to the office, and succeeded in frightening Morten to such a degree that the journey was arranged for the next week.

Jacob Worse's "disappearance," as it was called, caused a great sensation, and the astonishment did not diminish when a telegram arrived, announcing his engagement to Rachel Garman. At the same time he begged Morten to arrange everything for the wedding, as they intended to be married shortly after their return home.

Morten, after consulting his wife, answered that the doctor had ordered him off to Carlsbad at once; but he proposed to meet them both in Copenhagen, where the wedding might take place. He received an answer assenting to his proposal, and the day was fixed. Although he had not been consulted, Morten was much pleased with the match.

During the last six years, he had often thought upon the advice his father had given him before his death, when he had advised him to take Jacob Worse into partnership. Morten had never mentioned the idea to any one. He could not reconcile himself to such a humiliation. Now the opportunity came of itself, and at a most fortunate time, when he was on the point of starting for abroad. Worse would, therefore, be able to get an insight into everything during his absence, and there were some weak places in the business which were causing Morten much uneasiness. Matters of this nature are more easily got over when they can be explained by letter.

The wedding thus took place in Copenhagen. Gabriel was present at the ceremony. He had been for some time in an office in England, whither they had telegraphed to him from Paris, and he joined them at Cologne. It was already more than half settled, that Gabriel should take Rachel's place with Barnett Brothers in Paris, a prospect at which he was quite overjoyed.

The wedding-breakfast was served at the Hôtel d'Angleterre, in one of the large salons looking out on the Kongen's Nytorv. Every one was in the highest spirits, and Morten made a speech in which he remarked, that Garman and Worse would now again become a reality.

"And my old enemy Aalbom?" asked Gabriel at dessert.

"Oh, he is the same as ever," answered Morten. "The other day he made a virulent speech somewhere about the Garman dynasty. He is terribly bitter since we have ceased inviting him to Sandsgaard."

"Poor Aalbom!" said Gabriel, thoughtfully. He was so happy himself, and in such a forgiving mood, that he sat down at a table by the window, and began sketching, with the greatest care and attention, the equestrian statue on the Kongen's Nytorv. The sketch was intended as a present for Mr. Aalbom.

A few days after each went to his own place; Morten and Fanny to Carlsbad, Gabriel to England to arrange his change of quarters, and the newly married couple home to Norway.

On the quay where the steamers landed their passengers was to be seen a shining new carriage, with a new coachman and a new pair of horses. In the carriage sat Mrs. Worse, wearing a new silk mantle and a new bonnet. She had telegraphed for the whole set-out to Worse's agent in Copenhagen, with whom the money had for some time been lying ready.

On the box of the carriage, huddled up in a heap, sat Mr. Samuelsen. Mrs. Worse's efforts to make him take his place by her side had been unavailing; he thought it was quite bad enough as it was.

A group of small boys were naturally standing round the carriage, partly to see the horses, and partly to have a good look at the dreaded Pitter Nilken. Suddenly one of the young rascals took it into his head to repeat the well-known irritating verse—not exactly singing out loud, but only barely moving his lips. The idea was soon caught up by his comrades, and wherever the unhappy Mr. Samuelsen turned his head he could read the couplet on the busy lips, and follow the song—

"Little Pitter Nilken
Sitting on his chair"—

It was enough to drive one mad.

"He's always growing smaller
The longer he sits there."

The newly married couple got in, and the carriage rolled off through the town. Mrs. Worse laughed boisterously with tears in her eyes the whole way; she kept bowing in all directions, and her face was radiant with smiles. As they turned into the yard, the new bonnet had slipped so far over to one side that it fell off when the carriage stopped at the door; and as the worthy Mr. Samuelsen jumped down, in his great anxiety to help the ladies to alight, he came with both feet right on top of the bonnet, notwithstanding that he had seen the danger when he was making his spring.

It was quite a business to get Mrs. Worse "balanced" upstairs, she laughed so immoderately. They all laughed; the coachman laughed; the maids laughed; the newly married couple laughed; every one laughed except the unfortunate Mr. Samuelsen, who followed the others upstairs, carrying, with averted eyes, his mistress's bonnet by one string, and dragging the other after him up the staircase. The lovely new bonnet, which was scarcely recognizable as a bonnet any longer!

They had dinner in the young people's apartments, where Mrs. Worse did the fine lady to her own intense satisfaction, and persisted in talking something which she called French. In the evening, when Rachel and her husband returned from a visit from Sandsgaard, the whole party moved over to Mrs. Worse's room at the back of the house.

And there, there was laughing, story-telling, drinking of healths, and rejoicing, until Pitter Nilken was quite overcome, and offered of his own accord to sing "The Knife-Grinder's Courtship"—a song which had been a great favourite in the days of his youth. He sang amidst rounds of applause, in a curious thin voice, which sounded as if he had all at once recovered his boy's treble, and which was high, squeaky, and cracked. He, however, rendered the air with a great deal of feeling, and his eye rested on Mrs. Worse as he sang—

"Maiden, oh list! With those sweet winning glances,
Thy looks nought but goodness and kindness betide!
Oh, couldst thou but smile on my timid advances!
Say, wilt thou be thine own knife-grinder's bride?"

Mrs. Worse beat time with her knitting as she joined in the chorus—

 	"Whirr! Whirr!
Blithely we go.
Never say no!

  My foot's on the treadle, which rocks to and fro!


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