“It is strange that the sea birds no longer breed on the islands in here,” he said.
“That is because for a long time the birds have not been protected; they have gone farther out.”
“They must be protected again: we must manage to bring the birds back, must we not?”
“Yes,” she answered.
He turned quickly towards her. Perhaps she should not have said that, she thought, for had he not said “we”?
To show how far she was from such a thought, she looked towards the land. “The clover is not good this year.”
“No. What shall you do with the plot next year?”
But she did not fall into the trap. He turned round, but she looked away.
Now the rush of the river tossed them up and down in a giddy dance, as the force of the stream met the boat. Rafael looked up to where they had walked together the first day. He turned to see if she were not, by chance, looking in the same direction. Yes, she was!
They rowed on towards the landing-place at the parsonage, and he spoke once or twice, but she had learned that that was dangerous. They reached the beach.
“Helene!” said he, as she jumped on shore with a good-bye in passing, “Helene!” But she did not stay. “Helene!” he shouted, with such meaning in it that she turned.
She looked at him, but only remained for a moment. No more was needed! He rowed home like the greatest conqueror that those waters had ever seen. Ever since the Vikings had met together in the innermost creek, and left behind them the barrow which is still to be seen near the parsonage—yes, ever since the elk of the primaeval forest, with mighty antlers, swam away from the doe which he had won in combat, to the other which he heard on the opposite shore. Since the first swarm of ants, like a waving fan, danced up and down in the sunlight, on its one day of flight. Since the first seals struggled against each other to reach the one whom they saw lie sunning herself on the rocks.
Fru Kaas had seen them pass as they rowed out at a furious pace. She had seen them row slowly back, and she understood everything. No sooner had the cement stone been found than—
She paced up and down; she wept.
She did not put any dependence on his constancy; in any case it was too early for Rafael to settle himself here: he had something very different before him. The cement stone would not run away from him, or the girl either, if there were anything serious in it. She regarded his meeting with Helene as merely an obstacle in the way, which barred his further progress.
Rafael rowed towards home, bending to his oars till the water foamed under the bow of his boat. Now he has landed; now he drags the boat up as if she were an eel-pot. Now he strides quickly up to the house.
Frightened, despairing, his mother shrank into the farthest corner of the sofa, with her feet drawn up under her, and, as he burst in through the door and began to speak, she cried out: “Taisez-vous! des egards, s’il vous plait.” She stretched out her arms before her as if for protection. But now he came, borne on the wings of love and happiness. His future was there.