“I saw the distress of your soul,” was the whispered answer, for it could not be spoken aloud. “And there was nothing to forgive,” she added. She had laid her face against his again. “And it was quite true, Rafael,” she murmured.
She must have passed through terrible days and nights here, he thought, before she could say that.
“Mother, mother! what a fearful time!”
Her little hand sought his: it was cold; it lay in his like an egg in a deserted nest. He warmed it and took the other as well.
“Was not the illumination splendid?” she said. And now her voice was like a child’s.
He moved the screen which obstructed the light: he must see her better. He thought, when he saw the look of happiness in her face, if life looks so beautiful to her still, we shall have a long time together.
“If you had told me all that about Absalom, the picture which you made when you were told the story of David, Rafael; if you had only told me that before!” She paused, and her lips quivered.
“How could I tell it to you, mother, when I did not understand it myself?”
“The illumination—that must signify that I, too, understand. It ought to light you forward; do you not think so?”
I must have been somewhere about seven years old, when one Sunday afternoon a rumour reached the parsonage that, on that same day, two men, rowing past the Buggestrand in Eidsfjord, had discovered a woman who had fallen over a cliff, and had remained half lying, half hanging, close to the water’s edge.
Before moving her, they tried to find out from her who had thrown her over.
It was thirty-five miles by water to the doctor’s, and then an order for admission to the hospital had also to be procured. She had lain twenty-four hours before help reached her, and shortly afterwards she died. Before she breathed her last, she said it was Peer Hagbo who had done it. “But,” she added, “they mustn’t do him any harm.”
Everybody knew that there had been an attachment between the girl, who was in service at Hagbo’s, and the son of the house, and the shrewd ones instantly guessed why he wanted to get her out of the way.
I remember clearly the arrival of the news. It was, as I have said, on a Sunday afternoon, her death having occurred on the morning of the same day.
It was in the very middle of summer, when the whole place was flooded with sunshine and gladness. I remember how the light faded, faces turned to stone, the fjord grew dim, and village and forest shrank away into shadow. I remember that even the next day I felt as though a blow had been dealt to ordinary existence. I knew that I need not go to school. Men knocked off work, leaving everything just as it was, and sat down with idle hands. The women especially were paralysed: it was evident they