“There is, however, one thing,” continued the dean, “in which you show very great merit, my dear young friend, and for this very reason I have had, and I may say still have, great hopes of you. What I speak of is your integrity, and the natural leaning towards truth and sincerity, which seems to pervade your whole nature. But, my dear friend, how can a man claim to be sincere when he comes forward and cries, ’I love truth beyond everything, and my heart is full of love for what is elevated and pure,’ and then it appears all the time that the love with which his heart was full is nothing more than an earthly love for the woman who has put these thoughts into his mind? Now, can you deny that this was your case yesterday?”
Johnsen could not exactly deny the accusation, and the dean seized upon the half-confession he had made, and continued his homily, without betraying a sign of weariness. And when he at last took his leave, which was not till nearly twelve o’clock, he said, “I will look in again this afternoon. Your thoughts are doubtless so much occupied that you will not go out to-day, and perhaps it would look quite as well if you stayed at home.”
The next day also Johnsen remained in his room, and the dean paid him a visit, both morning and afternoon. At length, all at once, his conversion was accomplished. In a moment it seemed clear to him by how little he had escaped getting on the wrong path, and now all the apprehensions which he had felt on his first visit to Sandsgaard again reappeared. He felt how near he had been to forgetting and abandoning his mission—that mission among the poor, which was really his duty; but now his eyes were opened, and that very affection, the strength of which he had now only begun to recognize, he would bring as a peace-offering for his shortcoming, and for having so nearly been untrue to himself and to his calling.
He sprang up and grasped the dean’s hand. “Thank you! thank you! You have saved me!” His eyes flashed, and his broad, powerful bosom seemed to swell. At that moment the dean might have sent him to certain death, and he would have obeyed.
As they drove back from Sandsgaard, the dean narrowly observed his young friend. The visit at the Garmans’ had not passed off quite so successfully as some of the others which they had paid, where the inspector’s calm and genuine manner had made a favourable impression. The dean thought, however, that it was better not to carry things too far, now that they seemed to have taken a good direction. They did not, therefore, pay any more visits, but drove home to the dean’s to get a cup of chocolate, which Miss Barbara had prepared for them.
Miss Cordsen had now two patients to attend to, for Rachel had also kept her room for some days. The old lady went to and fro between the two. It was not easy to discover how much she comprehended of it all. Her mouth, surrounded by its innumerable wrinkles, was so tightly closed that gossip was, for her, out of the question. Calmly and methodically did Miss Cordsen carry on her duties. Both upstairs and down were to be seen her well-starched cap-strings, and the faint, old-fashioned smell of lavender seemed to hang in her very clothes.