Absalom's Hair

by Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson

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Chapter 2

Within a few days of the funeral mother and son were in England.

Rafael was now to enter upon a long course of study, for which, by his earlier education, his mother had prepared him, and for which, by painful privations, she had saved up sufficient money.

The property was to the last degree impoverished, and burdened with mortgages, and the timber only fit for fuel.

Their neighbour the Dean, a clear-headed and practical man, took upon himself the management of affairs; as money was needed the work of devastation must begin at once. The mother and son did not wish to witness it.

They came to England like two fugitives who, after many and great trials, for affection's sake seek a new home and a new country.

Rafael was then twelve years old.

They were inseparable, and in the shiftless life that they led in their new surroundings they became, if possible, more closely attached to each other.

Yet not long afterwards they had their first disagreement.

He had gone to school, had begun to learn the language and to make friends, and had developed a great desire to show off.

He was very tall and slender and was anxious to be athletic. He took an active part in the play-ground, but here he achieved no great success. On the other hand, thanks to his mother, he was better informed than his comrades, and he contrived to obtain prominence by this. This prominence must be maintained, and nothing answered so well as boasting about Norway and his father's exploits. His statements were somewhat exaggerated, but that was not altogether his fault, He knew English fairly well, but had not mastered its niceties. He made use of superlatives, which always come the most readily. It was true that he had inherited from his father twenty guns, a large sailing-boat, and several smaller ones; but how magnificent these boats and guns had become!

He intended to go to the North Pole, he said, as his father had done, to shoot white bears, and invited them all to come with him.

He made a greater impression on his hearers than he himself was aware of; but something more was wanted, for it was impossible to foretell from day to day what might be expected of him. He had to study hard in order to meet the demand.

As an outcome of this, he betook himself one evening to the hairdresser's, with some of his schoolfellows, and, without more ado, requested him to cut his hair quite close. That ought to satisfy them for a long time.

The other boys had teased him about his hair, and it got in the way when he was playing—he hated it. Besides, ever since the story of Absalom's rebellion and punishment, it had remained a secret terror to him, but it had never before occurred to him to have it cut off.

His schoolfellows were dismayed, and the hairdresser looked on it as a work of wilful destruction.

Rafael felt his heart begin to sink, but the very audacity of the thing gave him courage They should see what he dare do. The hairdresser hesitated to act without Fru Kaas's knowledge, but at length he ceased to make objections.

Rafael's heart sank lower and lower, but he must go through with it now. "Off with it," he said, and remained immovable in the chair.

"I have never seen more splendid hair," said the hairdresser diffidently, taking up the scissors but still hesitating.

Rafael saw that his companions were on the tiptoe of expectation. "Off with it," he said again with assumed indifference.

The hairdresser cut the hair into his hand and laid it carefully in paper.

The boys followed every snip of the scissors with their eyes, Rafael with his ears; he could not see in the glass.

When the hairdresser had finished and had brushed his clothes for him, he offered him the hair. "What do I want with it?" said Rafael. He dusted his elbows and knees a little, paid, and left the shop, followed by his companions. They, however, exhibited no particular admiration. He caught a glimpse of himself in the glass as he went out, and thought that he looked frightful.

He would have given all that he possessed (which was not much), he would have endured any imaginable suffering, he thought, to have his hair back again.

His mother's wondering eyes rose up before him with every shade of expression; his misery pursued him, his vanity mocked him. The end of it all was that he stole up to his room and went to bed without his supper.

But when his mother had vainly waited for him, and some one suggested that he might be in the house, she went to his room.

He heard her on the stairs; he felt that she was at the door. When she entered he had hidden his head beneath the bedclothes. She dragged them back; and at the first sight of her dismay he was reduced to such despair that the tears which were beginning to flow ceased at once.

White and horror-struck she stood there; indeed she thought at first that some one had done it maliciously; but when she could not extract a word of enlightenment, she suspected mischief.

He felt that she was waiting for an explanation, an excuse, a prayer for forgiveness, but he could not, for the life of him, get out a word.

What, indeed, could he say? He did not understand it himself. But now he began to cry violently. He huddled himself together, clasping his head between his hands. It felt like a bristly stubble.

When he looked up again his mother was gone.

A child sleeps in spite of everything. He came down the next morning in a contrite mood and thoroughly shamefaced. His mother was not up; she was unwell, for she had not slept a wink. He heard this before he went to her. He opened her door timidly. There she lay, the picture of wretchedness.

On the toilet-table, in a white silk handkerchief, was his hair, smoothed and combed.

She lay there in her lace-trimmed nightgown, great tears rolling down her cheeks. He had come, intending to throw himself into her arms and beg her pardon a thousand times. But he had a strong feeling that he had better not do so, or was he afraid to? She was in the clouds, far, far away. She seemed in a trance: something, at once painful and sacred, held her enchained. She was both pathetic and sublime.

The boy stepped quietly from the room and hurried off to school.

She remained in bed that day and the next, and made him sit with the servant in order that she might be alone. When she was in trouble she always behaved thus, and that he should cross her in this way was the greatest trial that she had ever known. It came upon her, too, like a deluge of rain from a clear sky. NOW it seemed to her that she could foresee his future—and her own.

She laid the blame of all this on his paternal ancestry. She could not see that incessant artistic fuss and too much intellectual training had, perhaps, aroused in him a desire for independence.

The first time that she saw him again with his cropped head, which grew more and more like his father's in shape, her tears flowed quietly.

When he wished to come to her side, she waived him back with her shapely hand, nor would she talk to him; when he talked she hardly looked at him; till at last he burst into tears. For he suffered as one can suffer but once, when the childish penitence is fresh and therefore boundless, and when the yearning for love has received its first rebuff.

But when, on the fifth day, she met him coming up the stairs, she stood still in dismay at his appearance: pale, thin, timid; the effect perhaps heightened by the loss of his hair. He, too, stood still, looking forlorn and abject, with disconsolate eyes. Then hers filled; she stretched out her arms. He was once more in his Paradise, but they both cried as though they must wade through an ocean of tears before they could talk to each other again.

"Tell me about it now," she whispered. This was in her own room. They had spoken the first fond words and kissed each other over and over again. "How could this have happened, Rafael?" she whispered again, with her head pressed to his; she did not wish to look at him while she spoke.

"Mother," he answered, "it is worse to cut down the woods at home, at Hellebergene, than that I—" She raised her head and looked at him. She had taken off her hat and gloves, but now she put them quickly on again.

"Rafael, dear," she said, "shall we go for a walk together in the park, under the grand old trees?"

She had felt his retort to be ingenious.

After this episode, however, England, and more especially her son's schoolfellows, became distasteful to her, and she constantly made plans to keep him away from the latter out of school hours.

She found this very easy; sometimes she went over his studies with him, at others they visited all the Manufactories and "Works" for miles round.

She liked to see for herself and awakened the same taste in him.

Factories which, as a rule, were closed to visitors, were readily opened to the pretty elegant lady and her handsome boy, "who after all knew nothing at all about it;" and they were able to see almost all that they wished. It was a less congenial task to use her influence to turn his thoughts to higher things, but it was rarely, nevertheless, that she failed. She struggled hard over what she did not understand and sought for help. To explain these things to Rafael in the most attractive manner possible became a new occupation for her.

His natural disposition inclined him to such studies; but to a boy of thirteen, who was thus kept from his comrades and their sports, it soon became a nuisance.

No sooner had Fru Kaas noticed this than she took active steps. They left England and crossed to France.

The strange speech threw him back on her; no one shared him with her. They settled in Calais. A few days after their arrival she cut her hair short; she hoped that it would touch him to see that as he would not look like her, she tried to look like him—to be a. boy like him. She bought a smart new hat, she composed a jaunty costume, new from top to toe, for EVERYTHING must be altered with the hair. But when she stood before him, looking like a girl of twenty-five, merry, almost boisterous, he was simply dismayed—nay, it was some time before he could altogether comprehend what had happened. As long as he could remember his mother, her eyes had always looked forth from beneath a crown; more solemn, more beautiful.

"Mother," he said, "where are you?"

She grew pale and grave, and stammered something about its being more comfortable—about red hair not looking well when it began to lose its colour—and went into her room. There she sat with his hair before her and her own beside it; she wept.

"Mother, where are you?" She might have answered, "Rafael, where are you?"

She went about with him everywhere. In France two handsome, stylishly dressed people are always certain to be noticed, a thing which she thoroughly appreciated.

During their different expeditions she always spoke French; he begged her to talk Norse at least now and then, but all in vain.

Here, too, they visited every possible and impossible factory. Unpractical and reserved as she was on ordinary occasions, she could be full of artifice and coquetry whenever she wished to gain access to a steam bakery and particular as she generally was about her toilette, she would come away again sooty and grimy if thereby she could procure for Rafael some insight into mechanics. She shrank from foul air as from the cholera, yet inhaled sulphuric acid gas as though it had been ozone for his sake.

"Seeing for yourself, Rafael, is the substance, other methods are its shadow;" or "Seeing for yourself, Rafael, is meat and drink, the other is but literature."

He was not quite of the same opinion: he thought that Notre Dame de Paris, from which he was daily dragged away, was the richest banquet that he had yet enjoyed, while from the factory of Mayel et fils there issued the most deadly odours.

His reading—she had encouraged him in it for the sake of the language and had herself helped him; now she was jealous of it and could not be persuaded to get him new books; but he got them nevertheless.

They had been in Calais for several months; he had masters and was beginning to feel himself at home, when there arrived at the pension a widow from one of the colonies, accompanied by her daughter, a girl of thirteen.

The new comers had not appeared at meals for more than two days before the young gentleman began to pay his court to the young lady. From the first moment it was a plain case. Very soon every one in the pension was highly amused to notice how fluent his French was becoming; his choice of words at times was even elegant! The girl taught him it without a trace of grammar, by charm, sprightliness, a little nonsense; a pair of confiding eyes and a youthful voice were sufficient. It was from her that he got, by stealth, one novel after another. By stealth it had to be; by stealth Lucie had procured them; by stealth she gave them to him; by stealth they were read; by stealth she took them back again. This reading made him a little absent-minded, but otherwise nothing betrayed his flights into literature: to be sure, they were not very wonderful.

Fru Kaas noticed her son's flirtation, and smiled with the rest over his progress in French. She had less objection to this friendship, in which, to a great extent, she shared, than to those in England, from which she had been quite excluded. In the evenings she would take the mother and daughter out for short excursions; and these she greatly enjoyed. But the novel reading which the young people carried on secretly had resulted in conversations of a "grown up" type. They talked of love with the deep experience which is proper to their age, they talked with still greater discretion as to when their wedding should take place; on this point they indirectly said much which caused them many a delightful tremor. As they were accustomed to talk about themselves before others, to describe their feelings in a veiled form, it often happened when there were many people near that they carried this amusement further, and before they were themselves aware of it, they were in the full tide of a symbolic language and played "catch" with each other.

Fru Kaas noticed one evening that the word "rose" was drawn out to a greater length than it was possible for any rose to attain to; at the same time she saw the languishing look in their eyes, and broke in with the question, "What do you mean about the rose, child?"

If any one had peeped behind a rose-bush and caught them kissing one another, a thing they had never done, they could not have blushed more.

The next day Fru Kaas found new rooms, a long way from the quay near which they were living.

Rafael had suffered greatly at being torn away from England just as he had come down from his high horse and had put himself on a par with his companions, but not the least notice was taken of his trouble; it had only annoyed his mother.

To be absolutely debarred from the books he was so fond of had been hard; but up to this time, being in a foreign land, amid foreign speech, he had always fallen back upon her. Now he openly defied her. He went straight off to the hotel and sought out Madame Mery and her daughter as though nothing had occurred. This he did every day when he had finished his lessons. Lucie had now become his sole romance; he gave all his leisure time to her, and not only that (for it no longer sufficed to see her at her mother's), they met on the quay! At times a maid-servant walked with them for appearance sake, at others she kept in the background. Sometimes they would go on board a Norwegian ship, sometimes they wandered about or strolled beneath some great trees. When he saw her in her short frock come out of the door, saw her quick movements, and her lively signals to him with parasol or hat or flowers, the quay, the ships, the bales, the barrels, the air, the noise, the crowd, all seemed to play and sing,

"Enfant! si j'etais roi je donerais l'empire, Et mon char, et mon septre, et mon peuple a genoux," and he ran to meet her.

He never dared to do more than to take both her chubby brown hands, nor to say more than "You are very sweet, you are very very good." And she never went further than to look at him, walk with him, laugh with him, and say to him, "You are not like the others." What experiences there had been in the life of this girl of thirteen goodness alone knows. He never asked her, he was too sure of her.

He learned French from her as one bird feeds from another's bill, or as one who looks at his image in a fountain, as he drinks from it.

One day, as mother and son were at breakfast, she glanced quietly across at him. "I heard of an excellent preparatory school of mechanics at Rouen," she said, "so I wrote to inquire about it, and here is the answer. I approve of it in all respects, as you will do when you read it. I think that we shall go to Rouen; what do you say to it?"

He grew first red, then white; then put down his bread, his table napkin; got up and left the room. Later in the day she asked him whether he would not read the letter; he left her without answering. At last, just as he was going to meet Lucie on the quay, she said, and this time with determination, that they were to leave in the course of an hour. She had already packed up; as they stood there the man came to fetch the luggage. At that moment he felt that he could thoroughly understand why his father had beaten her.

As they sat in the carriage which took them to the station he suffered keenly. It could not nave been worse, he thought, if his mother had stabbed him with a knife. He did not sit beside her in the railway carriage.

During the first days at Rouen he would not answer when she spoke to him, nor ask a single question. He had adopted her own tactics; he carried them through with a cruelty of which he was not aware.

For a long time he had been disposed to criticise her; now that this criticism was extended to all that she said or did, the spirit of accusation tinctured her whole life; their joint past seemed altered and debased.

His father's bent form, in the log chair on the hairless skin, malodorous and dirty, rose up before him, in vivid contrast with his mother in her well appointed, airy, perfumed rooms!

When Rafael stood by his father's body he had felt the same thing—that the old man had been badly treated. He himself had been encouraged to neglect his father, to shun him, to evade his orders. At that time he had laid the blame on the people on the estate; now he put it all down to his mother's account. His father had certainly adored her once, and this feeling had changed into wild self-consuming hatred. What had happened? He did not know; but he could not but admit that his mother would have tried the patience of Job.

He pictured to himself how Lucie would come running with her flowers, search for him over the whole quay, farther and farther every time, standing still at last. He could not think of it without tears, and without a feeling of bitterness.

But a child is a child. It was not a life-long grief. As the place was new and historically interesting, and as lessons had now begun and his mother was always with him, this feeling wore off, but the mutual restraint was still there. The critical spirit which had first been roused in England never afterwards left Rafael.

The hours of study which they passed together produced good results. Beginning as her pupil, he had ended by becoming her teacher. She was anxious to keep up with him, and this was an advantage to him, on account of her almost too minute accuracy, but still more from her intelligent questions. Apart from study they passed many pleasant hours together, but they both knew that something was missing in their conversation which could never be there again.

At longer or shorter intervals a shy silence interrupted this intercourse. Sometimes it was he, sometimes she, who, for some cause or other, often a most trivial one, elected not to reply, not to ask a question, not to see. When they were good friends he appreciated the best side of her character, the self-sacrificing life which she led for him. When they were not friends it was exactly the opposite. When they were friends, he, as a rule, did whatever she wished. He tried to atone for the past. He was in the land of courtesy and influenced by its teaching. When he was not friends with her he behaved as badly as possible. He early got among bad companions and into dissipated habits; he was the very child of Rebellion. At times he had qualms of conscience on account of it.

She guessed this, and wished him to guess that she guessed it.

"I perceive a strange atmosphere here, fie! Some one has mixed their atmosphere with yours, fie!" And she sprinkled him with scent.

He turned as red as fire and, in his shame and misery, did not know which way to look. But if he attempted to speak she became as stiff as a poker, and, raising her small hand, "Taisez-vous des egards, sil vous plait."

It must be said in her excuse that, notwithstanding the daring books which she had written, she had had no experience of real life; she knew no form of words for such an occasion. It came at last to this pass, that she, who had at one time wished to control his whole life and every thought in it, and who would not share him with any one, not even with a book, gradually became unwilling to have any relations with him outside his studies.

The French language especially lends itself to formal intercourse and diplomacy. They grasped this fact from the first. It may, indeed, have contributed to form their mutual life. It was more equitable and caused fewer collisions. At the slightest disagreement it was at once "Monsieur mon fils" or simply "Monsieur," or "Madame ma mere," or "Madame."

At one time his health seemed likely to suffer: his rapid growth and the studies, to which she kept him very closely, were too much for his strength.

But just then something remarkable occurred. At the time when Rafael was nineteen he was one day in a French chemical factory, and, as it were in a flash, saw how half the power used in the machinery might be saved. The son of the owner who had brought him there was a fellow-student. To him he confided his discovery. They worked it out together with feverish excitement to the most minute details. It was very complex, for it was the working of the factory itself which was involved. The scheme was carefully gone into by the owner, his son, and their assistants together, and it was decided to try it. It was entirely successful; LESS than half the motive power now sufficed.

Rafael was away at the time that it was inaugurated; he had gone down a mine. His mother was not with him; he never took her down mines with him. As soon as ever he returned home he hurried off with her to see the result of his work. They saw everything, and they both blushed at the respect shown to them by the workmen. They were quite touched when, the owner being called, they heard his expressions of boundless delight. Champagne flowed for them, accompanied by the warmest thanks. The mother received a beautiful bouquet. Excited by the wine and the congratulations, proud of his recognition as a genius, Rafael left the place with his mother on his arm. It seemed to him as though he were on one side, and all the rest of the world on the other. His mother walked happily beside him, with her bouquet in her hand. Rafael wore a new overcoat—one after his own heart, very long and faced with silk, and of which he was excessively proud. It was a clear winter's day; the sun shone on the silk, and on something more as well.

"There is not a speck on the sky, mother," he said.

"Nor one on your coat either," she retorted; for there had been a great many on his old one, and each had had its history.

He was too big now to be turned to ridicule, and too happy as well. She heard him humming to himself: it was the Norwegian national air. They came back to the town again as from Elysium. All the passers-by looked at them: people quickly detect happiness. Besides Rafael was a head taller than most of them and fairer in complexion. He walked quickly along beside his elegant mother, and looked across the Boulevard as though from a sunny height.

"There are days on which one feels oneself a different person," he said.

"There are days on which one receives so much," she answered, pressing his arm.

They went home, threw aside their wraps, and looked at one another. Sketches of the machinery which they had just seen lay about, as well as some rough drawings. These she collected and made into a roll.

"Rafael," she said, and drew herself up, half laughing, half trembling, "kneel; I wish to knight you."

It did not seem unnatural to him; he did so.

"Noblesse oblige," she said, and let the roll of paper approach his head; but therewith she dropped it and burst into tears.

He spent a merry evening with his friends, and was enthusiastically applauded. But as he lay in bed that night he felt utterly despondent. The whole thing might, after all, have been a mere chance. He had seen so much, had acquired so much information; it was no discovery that he had made. What was it, then? He was certainly not a genius; that must be an exaggeration. Could one imagine a genius without a victor's confidence, or had his peculiar life destroyed that confidence? This anxiety which constantly intruded itself; this bad conscience; this dreadful, vile conscience; this ineradicable dread; was it a foreboding? Did it point to the future?

It was about half a year after this that his desultory studies became concentrated on electricity, and after a time this took them to Munich. During the course of these studies he began to write, quite spontaneously. The students had formed a society, and Rafael was expected to contribute a paper. But his contribution was so original that they begged him to show it to the professor, and this encouraged him greatly. It was the professor, too, who had his first article printed. A Norwegian technical periodical accepted a subsequent one, and this was the external influence which turned his thoughts once more towards Norway. Norway rose before him as the promised land of electricity. The motive power of its countless waterfalls was sufficient for the whole world! He saw his country during the winter darkness gleaming with electric lustre. He saw her, too, the manufactory of the world, the possessor of navies. Now he had something to go home for!

His mother did not share his love for their country, and had no desire to live in Norway. But the money which she had saved up for his education bad been spent long ago. Hellebergene had had its share. The estate did not yield an equivalent, for it was essentially a timbered estate, and the trees on it were still immature.

So it was to be home! A few years alone at Hellebergene was just what he wished for. But—something always occurred to prevent their departure at the time fixed for it. First he was detained by an invention which he wished to patent. Up to the present time he had only sketched out ideas which others had adopted; now it was to be different. The invention was duly patented and handed over to an agent to sell; but still they did not start. What was the hindrance? Another invention with a fresh patent more likely to sell than the first, which unfortunately did not go off. This patent was also taken out, which again cost money, and was handed over to the agent to be sold. Could he not start now? Well, yes, he thought he could. But Fru Kaas soon realised that he was not serious, so she sought the help of a young relative, Hans Ravn, an engineer, like most of the Ravns. Rafael liked Hans, for he was himself a Ravn in temperament, a thing that he had not realised before; it was quite a revelation to him. He had believed that the Ravns were like his mother, but now found that she greatly differed from them. To Hans Ravn Fru Kaas said plainly that now they must start. The last day of May was the date fixed on, and this Hans was to tell every one, for it would make Rafael bestir himself, his mother thought, if this were known everywhere. Hans Ravn spread this news far and near, partly because it was his province to do so, partly because he hoped it would be the occasion of a farewell entertainment such as had never been seen. A banquet actually did take place amid general enthusiasm, which ended in the whole company forming a procession to escort their guest to his house. Here they encountered a crowd of officers who were proceeding home in the same manner. They nearly came to blows, but fraternised instead, and the engineers cheered the officers and the officers the engineers.

The next day the history of the two entertainments and the collision between the guests went the round of the papers.

This produced results which Fru Kaas had not foreseen. The first was a very pleasant one. The professor who had had Rafael's first article published drove up to the door, accompanied by his family. He mounted the stairs, and asked her if she would not, in their company, once more visit the prettiest parts of Munich and its vicinity. She felt flattered, and accepted the invitation. As they drove along they talked of nothing but Rafael: partly about his person, for he was the darling of every lady, partly about the future which lay before him. The professor said that he had never had a more gifted pupil. Fru Kaas had brought an excellent binocular glass with her, which she raised to her eyes from time to time to conceal her emotion, and their hearty praise seemed to flood the landscape and buildings with sunshine.

The little party lunched together, and drove home in the afternoon.

When Fru Kaas re-entered her room, she was greeted by the scent of flowers. Many of their friends who had not till now known when they were to leave had wished to pay them some compliment. Indeed, the maid said that the bell had been ringing the whole morning. A little later Rafael and Hans Ravn came in with one or two friends. They proposed to dine together. The sale of the last patent seemed to be assured, and they wished to celebrate the event. Fru Kaas was in excellent spirits, so off they went.

They dined in the open air with a number of other people round them. There was music and merriment, and the subdued hum of distant voices rose and fell in the twilight. When the lamps were lighted, they had on one side the glare of a large town, on the other the semi-darkness was only relieved by points of light; and this was made the subject of poetical allusions in speeches to the friends who were so soon to leave them.

Just then two ladies slowly passed near Rafael's chair. Fru Kaas, who was sitting opposite, noticed them, but he did not. When they had gone a short distance they stood still and waited, but did not attract his attention. Then they came slowly back again, passing close behind his chair, but still in vain. This annoyed Fru Kaas. Her individuality was so strong that her silence cast a shadow over the whole party; they broke up.

The next morning Rafael was out again on business connected with the patent. The bell rang, and the maid came in with a bill; it had been brought the previous day as well, she said. It was from one of the chief restaurateurs of the town, and was by no means a small one. Fru Kaas had no idea that Rafael owed money—least of all to a restaurateur. She told the maid to say that her son was of age, and that she was not his cashier. There was another ring—the maid reappeared with a second bill, which had also been brought the day before. It was from a well-known wine merchant; this, too, was not a small one. Another ring; this time it was a bill for flowers and by no means a trifle. This, too, had been brought the day before. Fru Kaas read it twice, three times, four times: she could not realise that Rafael owed money for flowers—what did he want them for? Another ring; now it was a bill from a jeweller. Fru Kaas became so nervous at the ringing and the bills that she took to flight. Here, then, was the explanation of their postponed departure: he was held captive; this was the reason for all his anxiety about selling the patent. He had to buy his freedom. She was hardly in the street when an unpretending little old woman stepped up to her, and asked timidly if this might be Frau von Kas? Another bill, thought Fru Kaas, eyeing her closely. She reminded one of a worn-out rose-bush with a few faded blossoms on it: she seemed poor and inexperienced in all save humility.

"What do you want with me?" inquired Fru Kaas sympathetically, resolved to pay the poor thing at once, whatever it might be.

The little woman begged "Tausend Mal um Verzeihung," but she was "Einer Beamten-Wittwe" and had read in the paper that the young Von Kas was leaving, and both she and her daughter were in such despair that she had resolved to come to Frau von Kas, who was the only one—and here she began to cry.

"What does your daughter want from me?" asked Fru Kaas rather less gently.

"Ach! tausend Mal um Verzeihung gnadige Frau," her daughter was married to Hofrath von Rathen—"ihrer grossen Schonheit wegen"—ah, she was so unhappy, for Hofrath von Rathen drank and was cruel to her. Herr von Kas had met her at the artists' fete—"Und so wissen Sie zwei so junge, reizende Leute." She looked up at Fru Kaas through her tears—looked up as though from a rain-splashed cellar window; but Fru Kaas had reverted to her abrupt manner, and as if from an upper storey the poor little woman heard, "What does your daughter want with my son?"

"Tausend Mal um Verzeihung," but it had seemed to them that her daughter might go with them to Norway, Norway was such a free country. "Und die zwei Jungen haben sich so gern."

"Has he promised her this?" said Fru Kaas, with haughty coldness.

"Nein, nein, nein," was the frightened reply. They two, mother and daughter, had thought of it that day. They had read in the paper that the young Von Kas was going away. "Herr Gott in Himmel!" if her daughter could thus be rid at once of all her troubles! Frau von Kas had not an idea of what a faithful soul, what a tender wife her daughter was.

Fru Kaas crossed hastily over to the opposite pavement. She did not go quite so fast as a person in chase of his hat, but it seemed to the poor little creature, left in the lurch, with folded hands and frightened eyes, that she had vanished faster than her hopes. On the other side of the waystood a pretty young flower-girl who was waiting for the elegant lady hurrying in her direction. "Bitte, gnadige Frau." Here is another, thought the hunted creature. She looked round for help, she flew up the street, away, away—when another lady popped up right in front of her, evidently trying to catch her eye. Fru Kaas dashed into the middle of the street and took refuge in a carriage.

"Where to?" asked the driver.

This she had not stopped to consider, but nevertheless answered boldly, "The Bavaria!" In point of fact she had had an idea of seeing the view of the city and its environs from "Bavaria's" lofty head before leaving. There were a great many people there, but Fru Kaas's turn to go up soon came; but just as she had reached the head of the giantess and was going to look out, she heard a lady whisper close behind her, "That is his mother." It was probable that there were several mothers up there in "Bavaria's" head beside Fru Kaas, nevertheless she gathered her skirts together and hurried down again.

Rafael came home to dine with his mother; he was in the highest spirits—he had sold his patent. But he found her sitting in the farthest corner of the sofa, with her big binocular glass in her hand. When he spoke to her she did not answer, but turned the glass with the small end towards him; she wished him to look as far off as possible.

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Anton Chekhov
Nathaniel Hawthorne
Susan Glaspell
Mark Twain
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Mary E. Wilkins Freeman
Herman Melville
Stephen Leacock
Kate Chopin
Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson