That same night the brothers met in an evil hour; from words they came to blows, knives were drawn, and after midnight Tharald was carried up to the farm with a deep wound in his shoulder and quite unconscious. He hovered for a week on the brink of death; then the wound began to heal and he recovered rapidly. Arne was nowhere to be found; rumor reported that he had been seen the day after the affray, on board a brig bound for Hull with lumber. At the end of a year Tharald married his brother’s bride and took possession of the farm.
One morning in the early summer of 1868, some thirty-five years after the events just related, the fjord valley under the glacier was startled by three shrill shrieks from the passing steamer, the usual signal that a boat was wanted to land some stray passenger. A couple of boats were pushed out from the beach, and half a dozen men, with red-peaked caps and a certain picturesque nonchalance in their attire, scrambled into them and soon surrounded the gangway of the steamer. First some large trunks and boxes were lowered, showing that the passenger, whoever he might be, was a person of distinction,—an impression which was still further confirmed by the appearance of a tall, dark-skinned man, followed by a woolly-headed creature of a truly Satanic complexion, who created a profound sensation among the boatmen. Then the steamer shrieked once more, the echoes began a prolonged game of hide-and-seek among the snow-hooded peaks, and the boats slowly ploughed their way over the luminous mirror of fjord.
“Is there any farm here, where my servant and myself can find lodgings for the summer?” said the traveller, turning to a young peasant lad. “I should prefer to be as near to the glacier as possible.”
He spoke Norwegian, with a strong foreign accent, but nevertheless with a correct and distinct enunciation.
“My father, Tharald Ormgrass, lives close up to the ice-field,” answered the lad. “I shouldn’t wonder if he would take you, if you will put up with our way of living.”
“Will you accompany me to your father’s house?”
“Yes, I guess I can do that.” (Ja, jeg kan nok det.)
The lad, without waiting for further summons, trotted ahead, and the traveller with his black servant followed.
Maurice Fern (for that was the stranger’s name) was, as already hinted, a tall, dark-complexioned man, as yet slightly on the sunny side of thirty, with a straight nose, firm, shapely mouth, which was neither sensual nor over-sensitive, and a pair of clear dark-brown eyes, in which there was a gleam of fervor, showing that he was not altogether incapable of enthusiasm. But for all that, the total impression of his personality was one of clear-headed decision and calm energy. He was a man of an absorbing presence, one whom you would have instinctively noticed even in a crowd.