They screamed, and, gathering together, still in their nightgowns, held a council of war as to the advisability of leaving at once; but when one of them cried “You should not have called us, Aunt, and then we should not have seen him,” they could not help laughing, and therewith the whole affair ended. Certainly they were a little stiff at breakfast; but when Harold Kaas began a story about an old black mare of his which was in love with a young brown horse over at the Dean’s, and which plunged madly if any other horse came near her, but, on the other hand, put her head coaxingly on one side and whinnied “like a dainty girl” whenever the parson’s horse came that way—well, at that they had to give in, as well first as last.
If they had strayed here out of curiosity they must just put up with the “Night side of nature,” as Harald Kaas expressed it, with the stress on the first word.
For all that they were nearly frightened out of their wits the very next night, when he discharged his gun right under their windows. The aunt even asserted that he had shot through her open casement. She screamed loudly, and the others, starting from their sleep, were out on the floor before they knew where they were. Then they crouched in the windows and peeped out, although their aunt declared that they would certainly be shot—they really must see what it was.
Yes! there they saw him among the cherry and apple trees, gun in hand, and they could hear him swearing. In the greatest trepidation they crept back into bed again. Next morning they learned that he had shot at some night prowlers, one of whom had got “half the charge in his leg, that he had, Deush take him! It ain’t the prowling I mind, but that he should prowl here. We bachelors will have no one poaching on our preserves.”
The four ladies sat as stiff as four church candles, till at length one of them sprang up with a scream, the others joining in chorus.
The visitors were not bored; Harald Kaas dealt too much in the unexpected for that. There was a charm, too, in the great woods, where there had been no felling since he had come into the property, and there were merry walks by the riverside and plenty of fish in the river.
They bathed, they took delightful sails in the cutter and drives about the neighbourhood, though certainly the turn-out was none of the smartest.
The youngest of the girls, Kristen Ravn, presently became less eager to join in these expeditions. She had fallen in love with the disused east wing of the house, and there she spent many a long hour, alone by the open window, gazing out at the great lime-trees which stood straggling, gaunt, and mysterious.
“You ought to build a balcony here, out towards the sea,” she said. “Look how the water glitters between the limes.”
When once she had hit upon a plan, Kristen Ravn never relinquished it, and when she bad suggested it some four or five times, he promised that it should be done. But on the heels of this scheme came another.