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Augusta stood gazing on in mute astonishment; then, suddenly remembering her hasty toilet, she started to run; but, as chance would have it, a dry branch, which hung rather low, caught at her hood, and her hair fell in a black waving stream down over her shoulders. She gave a little cry, the tree shook violently, and Strand was at her side. She blushed crimson over neck and face, and, in her utter bewilderment, stood like a culprit before him, unable to move, unable to speak, and only returning with a silent bow his cordial greeting. It seemed to her that she had ungenerously intruded upon his privacy, watching him, while he thought himself unobserved. And Augusta was quite unskilled in those social accomplishments which enable young ladies to hide their inward emotion under a show of polite indifference, for, however hard she strove, she could not suppress a slight quivering of her lips, and her intense self-reproach made Strand's words fall dimly on her ears, and prevented her from gathering the meaning of what he was saying. He held in his hands a young bird with a yellow line along the edge of its bill (and there was something beautifully soft and tender in the way those large palms of his handled any living thing), and he looked pityingly at it while he spoke.
"The mother of this little linnet," he said, smiling, "did what many foolish young mothers are apt to do. She took upon her the responsibility of raising offspring without having acquired the necessary knowledge of housekeeping. So she lined her nest with hemp, and the consequence was, that her first-born got his legs entangled, and was obliged to remain in the nest long after his wings had reached their full development. I saw her feeding him about a week ago, and, as my curiosity prompted me to look into the case, I released the little cripple, cleansed the deep wound which the threads had cut in his flesh, and have since been watching him during his convalescence. Now he is quite in a fair way, but I had to apply some salve, and to cut off the feathers about the wound, and the little fool squirmed under the pain, and grew rebellious. Only notice this scar, if you please, Miss Oddson, and you may imagine what the poor thing must have suffered."
Augusta gave a start; she timidly raised her eyes, and saw Strand's grave gaze fixed upon her. She felt as if some intolerable spell had come over her, and, as her agitation increased, her power of speech seemed utterly to desert her.
"Ah, you have not been listening to me?" said Strand, in a tone of wondering inquiry. "Pardon me for presuming to believe that my little invalid could be as interesting to you as he is to me."
"Mr. Strand," stammered the girl, while the invisible tears came near choking her voice. "Mr. Strand-I didn't meanreally-"
She knew that if she said another word she should burst into tears. With a violent effort, she gathered up her wrapper, which somehow had got unbuttoned at the neck, and, with heedlessly hurrying steps, darted away toward the house.
Strand stood long looking after her, quite unmindful of his feathered patient, which flew chirping about him in the grass. Two hours later Arnfinn found him sitting under the birches with his hands clasped over the back of his head, and his surgical instruments scattered on the ground around him.
"Corpo di Baccho," exclaimed the student, stooping to pick up the precious tools; "have you been amputating your own head, or is it I who am dreaming ?"
"Ah," murmured Strand, lifting a large, strange gaze upon his friend," is it you?" "Who else should it be? I come to call you to breakfast."
"I WONDER What is up between Strand and Augusta ?" said Arnfinn to his cousin Inga. The questioner was lying in the grass at her feet, resting his chin on his palms, and gazing with roguishly tender eyes up into her fresh, blooming face; but Inga, who was reading aloud from "David Copperfield," and was deep in the matrimonial tribulations of that noble hero, only said "hush," and continued reading. Arnfinn, after a minute's silence, repeated his remark, whereupon his fair cousin wrenched the cane out of his hand, and held it threateningly over his head.
"Will you be a good boy and listen?" she exclaimed, playfully emphasizing each word with a light rap on his curly pate.
"Ouch! that hurts," cried Arnfinn, and dodged.
"It was meant to hurt," replied Inga, with mock severity, and returned to "Copperfield."
Presently the seed of a corn-flower struck the tip of her nose, and again the cane was lifted; but Dora's housekeeping experiences were too absorbingly interesting, and the blue eyes could not resist their fascination.
"Cousin Inga," said Arnfinn, and this time with as near an approach to earnestness as he was capable of at that moment, "I do believe that Strand is in love with Augusta."
Inga dropped the book, and sent him what was meant to be a glance of severe rebuke, and then said, in her own amusingly emphatic way:
"I do wish you wouldn't joke with such things, Arnfinn."
"Joke! Indeed I'm not joking. I wish to heaven that I were. What a pity it is that she has taken such a dislike to him!" "Dislike! Oh, you are a profound philosopher, you are! You think that because she avoids
Here Inga abruptly clapped her hand over her mouth, and, with sudden change of voice and expression, said:
"I am silent as the grave."
"Yes, you are wonderfully discreet," cried Arnfinn, laughing, while the girl bit her under lip with an air of penitence and mortification which, in any other bosom than a cousin's, would have aroused compassion.
"Aha! So steht's!" he broke forth, with another burst of merriment; then, softened by the sight of a tear that was slowly gathering beneath her eyelashes, he checked his laughter, crept up to her side, and in a halfchildishly coaxing, half-caressing tone, he whispered :
"Dear little cousin, indeed I didn't mean to hurt your feelings. You are not angry with me, are you? And if you will only promise me not to tell, I have something here which I should like to show you."
He well knew that there was nothing which would sooner soothe Inga's wrath than confiding a secret to her; and while he was a boy, he had, in cases of sore need, invented secrets lest his life should be made miserable by the sense that she was displeased with him. In this instance her anger was not strong enough to resist the anticipation of a secret, probably relating to that little drama which had, during the last weeks, been in progress under her very eyes. With a resolute movement, she brushed her tears away, bent eagerly forward, and, in the next moment, her face was all expectancy and animation.
Arnfinn pulled a thick black note-book from his breast pocket, opened it in his lap, and read:
“August 3, 5 A. M.-My little invalid is doing finely; he seemed to relish much a few dozen flies which I brought him in my
IO A. M.-Miss Augusta's eyes have a strange, lustrous depth, whenever she speaks of subjects which seem to agitate the depths of her being. How and why is it that an excessive amount of feeling always finds its first expression in the eye? One kind of emotion seems to widen the pupil, another kind to contract it. To be noticed in future, how particular emotions affect the eye.
"6 P. M.-I met a plover on the beach this afternoon. By imitating his cry, I induced him to come within a few feet of me. The plover, as his cry indicates, is a very melan. choly bird. In fact I believe the melancholy temperament to be prevailing among the wading birds, as the phlegmatic among birds of prey. The singing birds are choleric or sanguine. Tease a thrush, or even a lark, and you will soon be convinced. A snipe, or plover, as far as my experience goes, seldom shows anger; you cannot tease them. To be considered, how far the voice of a bird may be indicative of its temperament.
“August 5, 9 P. M.-Since the unfortunate meeting yesterday morning, when my intense pre-occupation with my linnet, which had torn its wound open again, probably made me commit some breach of etiquette, Miss Augusta avoids me.
"August 7-I am in a most singular state. My pulse beats 85, which is a most unheardof thing for me, as my pulse is naturally full and slow. And, strangely enough, I do not feel at all unwell. On the contrary, my physical functions seem to be more intensely active than ever. The life of a whole week is crowded into a day, and that of a day into an hour."
Inga, who, at several points of this narrative, had been struggling hard to preserve her gravity, here burst into a ringing laugh. That is what I call scientific love-making," said Arnfinn, looking up from the book with an expression of subdued amusement.
"But Arnfinn," cried the girl, while the laughter quickly died out of her face, “does Mr. Strand know that you are reading this?"
"To be sure he does. And that is just what to my mind makes the situation so excessively comical. He has himself no suspicion that this book contains anything but scientific notes. He appears to prefer the empiric method in love as in philosophy. I verily believe that he is innocently experi
menting with himself, with a view to making | some great physiological discovery."
"And so he will, perhaps," rejoined the girl, the mixture of gayety and grave solicitude making her face, as her cousin thought, particularly charming.
"Only not a physiological, but possibly a psychological one," remarked Arnfinn. "But listen to this. Here is something rich:
"August 9-Miss Augusta once said something about the possibility of animals being immortal. Her eyes shone with a beautiful animation as she spoke. I am longing to continue the subject with her. It haunts me the whole day long. There may be more in the idea than appears to a superficial observer.'"
"Oh, how charmingly he understands how to deceive himself," cried Inga.
"Merely a quid pro quo," said Arnfinn.
"Won't you tell me, please?"
"Then I sha'n't tell you either."
And they flew apart like two thoughtless little birds ("sanguine," as Strand would have called them), each to ponder on some formidable plot for the reconciliation of the estranged lovers.
During the week that ensued, the multifarious sub-currents of Strand's passion seemed slowly to gather themselves into one clearly defined stream, and, after much scientific speculation, he came to the conclusion that he loved Augusta. In a moment of extreme discouragement, he made a clean breast of it to Arnfinn, at the same time informing him that he had packed his knapsack, and would start on his wanderings again the next morning. All his friend's All his friend's entreaties were in vain; he would and must go. Strand was an exasperatingly headstrong fellow, and persuasions never prevailed with him. He had confirmed himself in the belief that he was very unattractive to women, and that Augusta, of all women, for some reason which was not quite clear to him, hated and abhorred him. Inexperienced as he was, he could see no reason why she should avoid him, if she did not hate him. They sat talking together until midnight, each entangling himself in those passionate paradoxes and contradictions peculiar to passionate and impulsive youth. Strand paced the floor with large steps, pouring out his long pent-up emotion in
violent tirades of self-accusation and regret ; while Arnfinn sat on the bed, trying to soothe his excitement by assuring him that he was not such a monster as, for the moment, he had believed himself to be, but only succeeding, in spite of all his efforts, in pouring oil on the flames. Strand was scientifically convinced that Nature, in accordance with some inscrutable law of equilibrium, had found it necessary to make him physically unattractive, perhaps to indemnify mankind for that excess of intellectual gifts which, at the expense of the race at large, she had bestowed upon him.
Early the next morning, as a kind of etherealized sunshine broke through the white muslin curtains of Arnfinn's room, and long streaks of sun-illumined dust stole through the air toward the sleeper's pillow, there was a sharp rap at the door, and Strand entered. His knapsack was strapped over his shoulders, his long staff was in his hand, and there was an expression of conscious martyrdom in his features. Arnfinn raised himself on his elbows, and rubbed his eyes with a desperate determination to get awake, but only succeeded in gaining a very dim impression of a beard, a blue woolen shirt, and a disproportionately large shoe-buckle. The figure advanced to the bed, extended a broad, sunburnt hand, and a deep bass voice was heard to say:
Arnfinn, who was a hard sleeper, gave another rub, and, in a querulously sleepy tone, managed to mutter:
"Why, is it as late as that already ?" The words of parting were more remotely repeated, the hand closed about Arnfinn's half-unfeeling fingers, the lock on the door gave a little sharp click, and all was still. But the sunshine drove the dust in a dumb, confused dance through the room.
Some four hours later, Arnfinn woke up with a vague feeling as if some great calamity had happened; he was not sure but that he had slept a fortnight or more. He dressed with a sleepy, reckless haste, being but dimly conscious of the logic of the various processes of ablution which he underwent. He hurried up to Strand's room, but, as he had expected, found it empty.
During all the afternoon, the reading of "David Copperfield" was interrupted by frequent mutual condolences, and at times. Inga's hand would steal up to her eye to brush away a treacherous tear. But then she only read the faster, and David and
Agnes were already safe in the haven of matrimony before either she or Arnfinn was aware that they had struggled successfully through the perilous reefs and quicksands of courtship.
Augusta excused herself from supper, Inga's forced devices at merriment were too transparent, Arnfinn's table-talk was of a rambling, incoherent sort, and he answered dreadfully malapropos, if a chance word was addressed to him, and even the goodnatured pastor began, at last, to grumble; for the inmates of the Gran Parsonage seemed to have but one life and one soul in common, and any individual disturbance immediately disturbed the peace and happiness of the whole household. Now gloom had, in some unaccountable fashion, obscured the common atmosphere. Inga shook her small wise head, and tried to extract some little consolation from the consciousness that she knew at least some things which Arnfinn did not know, and which it would be very unsafe to confide to him.
FOUR weeks after Strand's departure, as the summer had already assumed that tinge of sadness which impresses one as a foreboding of coming death, Augusta was walking along the beach, watching the flight of the sea-birds. Her latest "aberration," as Arnfinn called it, was an extraordinary interest in the habits of the eider-ducks, auks, and sea-gulls, the noisy monotony of whose existence had, but a few months ago, appeared to her the symbol of all that was vulgar and coarse in human and animal life. Now she had even provided herself with a note-book, and (to use once more the language of her unbelieving cousin) affected a half-scientific interest in their clamorous pursuits. She had made many vain attempts to imitate their voices and to beguile them into closer intimacy, and had found it hard at times to suppress her indignation when they persisted in viewing her in the light of an intruder, and in returning her amiable approaches with shy suspicion, as if they doubted the sincerity of her intentions.
She was a little paler now, perhaps, than before, but her eyes had still the same lustrous depth, and the same sweet serenity was still diffused over her features, and softened, like a pervading tinge of warm color, the grand simplicity of her presence. She sat down on a large rock, picked up a curiously twisted shell, and seeing a
plover wading in the surf, gave a soft, low whistle, which made the bird turn round and gaze at her with startled distrust. She repeated the call, but perhaps a little too eagerly, and the bird spread its wings with a frightened cry, and skimmed, half flying, half running, out over the glittering surface of the fjord. But from the rocks close by came a long melancholy whistle like that of a bird in distress, and the girl rose and hastened with eager steps toward the spot. She climbed up on a stone, fringed all around with green slimy sea-weeds, in order to gain a wider view of the beach. Then suddenly some huge figure started up between the rocks at her feet; she gave a little scream, her foot slipped, and in the next moment she lay-in Strand's arms. He offered no apology, but silently carried her over the slippery stones, and deposited her tenderly upon the smooth white sand. There it occurred to her that his attention was quite needless, but at the moment she was too startled to make any remonstrance.
"But how in the world, Mr. Strand, did you come here?" she managed at last to stammer. "We all thought that you had gone away."
"I hardly know myself," said Strand, in a beseeching undertone, quite different from his usual confident bass. "I only know that-that I was very wretched, and that I had to come back."
Then there was a pause, which to both seemed quite interminable, and, in order to fill it out in some way, Strand began to move his head and arms uneasily, and at length seated himself at Augusta's side. The blood was beating with feverish vehemence in her temples, and for the first time in her life she felt something akin to pity for this large, strong man, whose strength and cheerful self-reliance had hitherto seemed to raise him above the need of a woman's aid and sympathy. Now the very shabbiness of his appearance, and the look of appealing misery in his features, opened in her bosom the gate through which compassion could enter, and, with that generous self-forgetfulness which was the chief factor of her character, she leaned over toward him, and said:
"You must have been very sick, Mr. Strand. Why did you not come to us and allow us to take care of you, instead of roaming about here in this stony wilderness ?"
"Yes; I have been sick," cried Strand with sudden vehemence, seizing her hand; "but it is a sickness of which I shall never, never be healed."
And with that world-old eloquence which | unobscured upon the widening expanses of is yet ever new, he poured forth his passionate confession in her ear, and she listened, hungrily at first, then with serene, wide-eyed happiness. He told her how, driven by his inward restlessness, he had wandered about in the mountains, until one evening, at a saëter, he had heard a peasant lad singing a song, in which this stanza occurred:
A woman's frown, a woman's smile,
Then it had occurred to him for the first time in his life that a woman's behavior need not be the logical indicator of her deepest feelings, and, enriched with this joyful discovery, inspired with new hope, he had returned, but had not dared at once to seek the Parsonage, until he could invent some plausible reason for his return; but his imagination was very poor, and he had found none, except that he loved the pastor's beautiful daughter.
The evening wore on. The broad mountain-guarded valley, flooded now to the brim with a soft misty light, spread out about them, and filled them with a delicious sense of security. The fjord lifted its grave gaze toward the sky, and deepened responsively with a bright, ever-receding immensity. The young girl felt this blessed peace gently stealing over her; doubt and struggle were all past, and the sun shone ever serene and
the future. And in his breast, too, that mood reigned in which life looks boundless and radiant, human woes small or impossible, and one's own self large and all-conquering. In that hour they remodeled this old and obstinate world of ours, never doubting that, if each united his faith and strength with the other's, they could together lift its burden.
That night was the happiest and most memorable night in the history of the Gran Parsonage. The pastor walked up and down on the floor, rubbing his hands in quiet contentment. Inga, to whom an engagement was essentially a solemn affair, sat in a corner and gazed at her sister and Strand with tearful radiance. Arnfinn gave vent to his joy by bestowing embraces promiscuously upon whomsoever chanced to come in his way.
This story, however, has a brief but not unimportant sequel. It was not many weeks after this happy evening that Arnfinn and the maiden with the "amusingly unclassical nose" presented themselves in the pastor's study and asked for his paternal and unofficial blessing. But the pastor, I am told, grew very wroth, and demanded that his nephew should first take his second and third degrees, attaching, besides, some very odious stipulations regarding average in study and college standing, before there could be any talk about engagement or matrimony. So, at present, Arnfinn is still studying, and the fair-haired Inga is still waiting.
A FAIR, pale face, most delicately wrought
A gentle mien
Subdued to charity. Shadowy eyes,
With something timorous in their depths, as they
A voice so sweet, silence seems harsh beside
Its intermitted measure, and a soul
As sweetly pure; so to the listener's ear
The sound and sense one self-same music make.
Yet ever in that melody there thrills
A low vibration of unspoken pain,
Like the wind's sigh through bending cypresses,—
The memory of hopes that glow no more
Save in the firmament of God's Hereafter.