Early the next morning Rafael was out rowing in the bay, the play-ground of his childhood. Notwithstanding the shorn and sunken aspect of the hills, his delight at being there again was indescribable. Indescribable because of the loneliness and stillness: no one came to disturb him. After having lived for many years in large towns, to find oneself alone in a Norwegian bay is like leaving a noisy market-place at midday and passing into a high vaulted church where no sound penetrates from without, and where only one’s own footstep breaks the silence. Holiness, purification, abstraction, devotion, but in such light and freedom as no church possesses. The lapse of time, the past were forgotten; it was as though he had never been away, as though no other place had ever known him.
Indescribable, for the intensity of his feelings surpassed anything that he had hitherto known. New sensations, impressions of beauty absolutely forgotten since childhood, or remembered but imperfectly, crowded upon him, speaking to him like welcoming spirits.
The altered contour of the hills, the dear familiar smell, the sky which seemed lower and yet farther off, the effects of light in colder tones, but paler and more delicate. Nowhere a broad plain, an endless expanse. No! all was diversified, full of contrast, broken; not lofty, still unique, fresh, he had almost said tumultuous.
Each moment he felt more in accord with his memories, his nature was in harmony with it all.
He paused between each stroke of the oars, soothed by the gentle motion; the boat glided on, he had not concerned himself whither, when he heard from behind the sound of oars which was not the echo of his own. The strokes succeeded each other at regular intervals. He turned.
At that moment Fru Kaas came out on to the terrace with her big binocular. She had had her coffee, and was ready to enjoy the view over the bay, the islands, and the open sea. Rafael, she was told, had already gone out in the boat. Yes! there he was, far out. She put up her glass at the moment that a white painted boat shot out towards his brown one. The white one was rowed by a girl in a light-coloured dress. “Grand Dieu! are there girls here too?”
Now Rafael ceases rowing, the girl does the same, they rest on their oars and the boats glide past each other. Fru Kaas could distinguish the girl’s shapely neck under her dark hair, but her wide-brimmed straw hat hid her face.
Rafael lets his oars trail along the water and resting on them looks at her, and now her oars also touch the water as she turns towards him. Do they know each other? Quickly the boats draw together; Rafael puts out his hand and draws them closer, and now he gives her his hand. Fru Kaas can see Rafael’s profile so plainly that she can detect the movement of his lips. He is laughing! The stranger’s face is hidden by her hat, but she can see a full figure and a vigorous arm below