She led him away to a tomb. She sat down on it, pulled him down in front of her and laid his bead on her lap. She sat and caressed him, while he wept.
He was like some one waking from a nightmare.
“Why am I weeping?” he asked himself. “Oh, I know; I had such a terrible dream. But it is not true. She is alive. I have not killed her. So foolish to weep for a dream.”
Gradually everything grew clear to him; but his tears continued to flow. She sat and caressed him, but he wept still for a long time.
“I feel such a need of weeping,” he said.
Then he looked up and smiled. “Is it Easter now?” he asked.
“What do you mean by now?”
“It can be called Easter, when the dead rise again,” he continued. Thereupon, as if they had been intimate many years, he began to tell her about the Spirit of Fasting and of his revolt against her rule.
“It is Easter now, and the end of her reign,” she said.
But when he realized that Edith was sitting there and caressing him, he had to weep again. He needed so much to weep. All the distrust of life which misfortunes had brought to the little Vaermland boy needed tears to wash it away. Distrust that love and joy, beauty and strength blossomed on the earth, distrust in himself, all must go, all did go, for if was Easter; the dead lived and the Spirit of Fasting would never again come into power.
Hatto the hermit stood in the wilderness and prayed to God. A storm was raging, and his long beard and matted hair waved about him like weather-beaten tufts of grass on the summit of an old ruin. But he did not push his hair out of his eyes, nor did he tuck his beard into his belt, for his arms were uplifted in prayer. Ever since sunrise he had raised his gnarled, hairy arms towards heaven, as untiringly as a tree stretches up its branches, and he meant to remain standing so till night. He had a great boon to pray for.
He was a man who had suffered much of the world’s anger. He had himself persecuted and tortured, and persecutions and torture from others had fallen to his share, more than his heart could bear. So he went out on the great heath, dug himself a hole in the river bank and became a holy man, whose prayers were heard at God’s throne.
Hatto the hermit stood there on the river bank by his hole and prayed the great prayer of his life. He prayed God that He should appoint the day of doom for this wicked world. He called on the trumpet-blowing angels, who were to proclaim the end of the reign of sin. He cried out to the waves of the sea of blood, which were to drown the unrighteous. He called on the pestilence, which should fill the churchyards with heaps of dead.
Round about stretched a desert plain. But a little higher up on the river bank stood an old willow with a short trunk, which swelled out at the top in a great knob like a head, from which new, light-green shoots grew out. Every autumn it was robbed of these strong, young branches by the inhabitants of that fuel-less heath. Every spring the tree put forth new, soft shoots, and in stormy weather these waved and fluttered about it, just as hair and beard fluttered about Hatto the hermit.