He had gone to school, had begun to learn the language and to make friends, and had developed a great desire to show off.
He was very tall and slender and was anxious to be athletic. He took an active part in the play-ground, but here he achieved no great success. On the other hand, thanks to his mother, he was better informed than his comrades, and he contrived to obtain prominence by this. This prominence must be maintained, and nothing answered so well as boasting about Norway and his father’s exploits. His statements were somewhat exaggerated, but that was not altogether his fault, He knew English fairly well, but had not mastered its niceties. He made use of superlatives, which always come the most readily. It was true that he had inherited from his father twenty guns, a large sailing-boat, and several smaller ones; but how magnificent these boats and guns had become!
He intended to go to the North Pole, he said, as his father had done, to shoot white bears, and invited them all to come with him.
He made a greater impression on his hearers than he himself was aware of; but something more was wanted, for it was impossible to foretell from day to day what might be expected of him. He had to study hard in order to meet the demand.
As an outcome of this, he betook himself one evening to the hairdresser’s, with some of his schoolfellows, and, without more ado, requested him to cut his hair quite close. That ought to satisfy them for a long time.
The other boys had teased him about his hair, and it got in the way when he was playing—he hated it. Besides, ever since the story of Absalom’s rebellion and punishment, it had remained a secret terror to him, but it had never before occurred to him to have it cut off.
His schoolfellows were dismayed, and the hairdresser looked on it as a work of wilful destruction.
Rafael felt his heart begin to sink, but the very audacity of the thing gave him courage They should see what he dare do. The hairdresser hesitated to act without Fru Kaas’s knowledge, but at length he ceased to make objections.
Rafael’s heart sank lower and lower, but he must go through with it now. “Off with it,” he said, and remained immovable in the chair.
“I have never seen more splendid hair,” said the hairdresser diffidently, taking up the scissors but still hesitating.
Rafael saw that his companions were on the tiptoe of expectation. “Off with it,” he said again with assumed indifference.
The hairdresser cut the hair into his hand and laid it carefully in paper.
The boys followed every snip of the scissors with their eyes, Rafael with his ears; he could not see in the glass.
When the hairdresser had finished and had brushed his clothes for him, he offered him the hair. “What do I want with it?” said Rafael. He dusted his elbows and knees a little, paid, and left the shop, followed by his companions. They, however, exhibited no particular admiration. He caught a glimpse of himself in the glass as he went out, and thought that he looked frightful.