It was a bright evening in the beginning of June that they disembarked from the steamer, and at once left the town in the boat which was to take them to Hellebergene. They did not know any of the boatmen, although they were from the estate; the boat also was new.
But the islands among which they were soon rowing were the old ones, which had long awaited them and seemed to have swum out to meet them, and now to move one behind the other so that the boat might pass between them. Neither mother nor son spoke to the men, nor did they talk to each ether. In thus keeping silence they entered into each other’s feelings, for they were both awestruck. It came upon them all at once. The bright evening light over sea and islands, the aromatic fragrance from the land,—the quick splash of a little coasting steamer as she passed them—nothing could cheer them.
Their life lay there before them, bringing responsibilities both old and new. How would all that they were coming to look to them, and how far were they themselves now fitted for it?
Now they had passed the narrow entrance of the bay, and rounded the last point beneath the crags of Hellebergene. The green expanse opened out before them, the buildings in its midst. The hillsides had once been crowned and darkly clad with luxuriant woods. Now they stood there denuded, shrunk, formless, spread over with a light green growth leaving some parts bare. The lowlands, as well as the hills which framed them, were shrunk and diminished, not in extent but in appearance. They could nut persuade themselves to look at it. They recalled it all as it had been and felt themselves despoiled.
The buildings had been newly painted, but they looked small by contrast with those which they had in their minds. No one awaited them at the landing, but a few people stood about near the gallery, looking embarrassed—or were they suspicious? The travellers went into Fru Kaas’s old rooms, both up stairs and down. These were just as they had left them, but how faded and wretched they looked! The table, which was laid for supper, was loaded with coarse food like that at a farmer’s wedding.
The old lime-trees were gone. Fru Kaas wept.
Suddenly she was reminded of something. “Let us go across to the other wing,” she said this as if there they would find what was wanting. In the gallery she took Rafael’s arm; he grew curious. His father’s old rooms had been entirely renovated for him. In everything, both great and small, he recognised his mother’s designs and taste. A vast amount of work, unknown to him, an endless interchange of letters and a great expenditure of money. How new and bright everything looked! The rooms differed as much from what they had been, as she had endeavoured to make Rafael’s life from the one that had been led in them.
They two had a comfortable meal together after all, followed by a quiet walk along the shore. The wide waters of the bay gleamed softly, and the gentle ripple took up its old story again while the summer night sank gently down upon them.