AT THE CLERK’S
It was only two days before I was to start for Trondenaes in a vessel which was lying ready to go north.
While I was irresolutely considering every possible means of getting a last talk with Susanna before I started, there came a message from the clerk to say that I must be sure to come out to him the next day at eleven o’clock precisely; he would not be at home later.
The same morning that the message came Susanna had been at the clerk’s. Without saying a word, she sat down at the table with her face buried in her arms.
When the alarmed clerk pressed the “child of his heart”—as he called her in his concern—for an explanation, she at length lifted up a tear-stained face to him, and said she was crying because she was so very, very unhappy.
“But why, dear Susanna?”
“Because,” burst suddenly on his ear, “I love David, and he loves me, and we are engaged; but no one must know it except you—and you will not betray us?”
With this last question she threw herself weeping upon the neck of the stunned and bewildered clerk, who in his heart was already won over, long before he had made out what it was he was undertaking.
He replaced Susanna in her chair, talked to her and comforted her until he had matured in his own mind the sensible reply, that we ought to look upon the coming two years of separation as trial years, and therefore, during that time, we ought not to write to one another. Only, he had to promise in return that we should meet the next morning at his house for a few moments, for a last farewell, and that, during the time I was away, he should tell her everything he heard about me.
When I came to him the next day, I found him sitting on a wooden chair, very serious and thoughtful, with his arms supported on his knees, and staring down at the floor, which was strewn with juniper, as if for a grand occasion. My arrival did not seem to disturb his reflections, although a little nod when I entered showed me that at any rate I was noticed. He swung his violin slowly backwards and forwards before his knees, with a gentle twang of the strings at each swing, so that it sounded like a far-off church bell. His gentle grey eyes rested on me with a pondering, critical gaze, as if he were really looking at me now for the first time, and a faint smile showed that the examination had not a bad result.
A little while after, a shadow crossed the doorway, and to my surprise Susanna came in. She came quickly up to me, blushing, and took my hand, saying:
“Dear David, the clerk knows everything; he has given us leave to say good-bye here.”
“Yes, children, I have,” said the clerk, “but only for a few moments, because Susanna begged so hard for it, and also that you may both hear my opinion of the whole thing after thinking it over.”