The house looked out over a bay studded with islands; farther out were more islands and the open sea. An immensely long building, raised on an old and massive foundation, its eastern wing barely half furnished, the western inhabited by Harald Kaas, who lived his curious life here.
These wings were connected by two covered galleries, one above the other, with stairs at each end.
Curiously enough, these galleries did not face the sea, that is, the south, but the fields and woods to the north. The portion of the house between the two wings was a neutral territory—namely, a large dining-room with a ballroom above it, neither of which was used in later years.
Harald Kaas’s suite of rooms was distinguished from without by a mighty elk’s head with its enormous antlers, which was set up over the gallery.
In the gallery itself were heads of bear, wolf, fox and lynx, with stuffed birds from land and sea. Skins and guns hung on the walls of the anteroom, the inner rooms were also full of skins and impregnated with the smell of wild animals and tobacco-smoke. Harald himself called it “Man-smell;” no one who had once put his nose inside could ever forget it.
Valuable and beautiful skins hung on the walls and covered the floors; his very bed was nothing else; Harald Kaas lay, and sat, and walked on skins, and each one of them was a welcome subject of conversation, for he had shot and flayed every single animal himself. To be sure, there were those who hinted that most of the skins had been bought from Brand and Company, of Bergen, and that only the stories were shot and flayed at home.
I for my part think that this was an exaggeration; but be that as it may, the effect was equally thrilling when Harald Kaas, seated in his log chair by the fireside, his feet on the bearskin, opened his shirt to show us the scars on his hairy chest (and what scars they were!) which had been made by the bear’s teeth, when he had driven his knife, right up to the haft, into the monster’s heart. All the queer tankards, and cupboards, and carved chairs listened with their wonted impassiveness.
Harald Kaas was sixty, when, in the month of July, he sailed into the bay accompanied by four ladies whom he had brought from the steamer—an elderly lady and three young ones, all related to him. They were to stay with him until August.
They occupied the upper storey. From it they could hear him walking about and grunting below them. They began to feel a little nervous. Indeed, three of them had had serious misgivings about accepting the invitation; and these misgivings were not diminished when, next morning, they saw Kaas composedly strolling up from the sea stark naked!