My wife, who had now become very fond of him, confided to me one day that she was sure she knew what my friend was suffering from; it was certainly nothing but unrequited love.
She had never thought any one could look so touchingly beautiful as he did, when death was near. When he lay still and smiled, it was as though he were thinking of a tryst he should go to, as soon as he had done with us here on earth.
One evening he asked my wife to sit with him. At nine o’clock a message came for me; but when I got there, he was gone.
He had asked my wife to read to him, for the first time, a part of Solomon’s Song, where she found an old mark in his Bible. It was the second chapter, in which both the bride and the bridegroom speak, and which begins: “I am the rose of Sharon, and the lily of the valley”; and ends: “Until the day break, and the shadows flee away, turn, my beloved, and be thou like a roe or a young hart upon the mountains of Bether.”
He had asked her to read it a second time, but during the reading he had quietly fallen asleep.
And there he lay, beautiful in death, with a peaceful smile, as though he were greeting just such a grove, on the other side of the mountains of Bether.
Next summer there stood a wooden cross, and a blooming, wild briar-rose, on a grave in one of the churchyards of the town. There rests my friend David Holst.
* * * * *
As a beginning of the story of my friend’s life, I found, laid aside, a section, part of which seems to have been added at a riper age. It shows with what strong ties nature had bound him to his home, and with what affection he clung to it.
* * * * *
Nordland and Nordlanders
* * * * *
NORDLAND AND NORDLANDERS
In so far as a man like myself, who lives in such a sad reality, dare talk of illusions—how great, and what a number of illusions I have had shattered, during the two or three years since I left my home in Nordland, and became a student; how grey and colourless is the world down here, how small and mean, compared with what I had imagined it as regards both men and conditions of life!
This afternoon, I was out fishing in the fjord with some friends; of course they all enjoyed themselves—and I pretended that I did. No, I did not enjoy myself! We sat in a flat-bottomed, broad, ugly boat, that they called a “pram,” a contrivance resembling a washtub, and fished the whole afternoon in muddy water a few feet deep, with a fine line, catching altogether seven whiting—and then rowed quite satisfied to land! I felt nearly sick; for the whole of life down here seems to me like this pram, without a keel, by which to shape a course, without a sail, which one cannot even fancy could be properly set in such a boat, without rough weather, which it could not stand, and like this muddy, grey, waveless sea outside the town, with only a few small whiting in it. Life here has nothing else to offer than such small whiting.