Unwelcome by August Strindberg

The baptism service was over, and the family party had got into the boats and hoisted sail. The little fleet now glided out of the green bay below the island chapel. In the first boat sat the god-parents with the newly baptised infant.

"It was a strange idea to call the boy 'Christian,'" said the mother's sister to the father's sister, as she put the child's feeding-bottle to its mouth.

"Oh, it doesn't matter what one is called, and if he has the same name as the Danish King it is good enough," said the other.

"Yes, but the poor boy will have no name-day if he has no patron saint."

"That is all right, for then no one will have the trouble of celebrating it. He was not wished for and he was hardly welcome," said the father's sister.

In the second boat sat the father and mother and the two elder children, a boy and a girl aged seven and eight respectively.

"We could have done very well without another one," said the father as he ported the helm.

"It is all very well talking now," said his wife as she counter-braced the sail.

"Yes, I know," he replied.

"But you will be kind to him?" she said.

"I must be, I suppose," was his answer. He pushed his boy down from the boat-side on which he had clambered, saying, "Keep still in the boat, children, or the devil will have you."

In the third boat sat the pastor and the grand-parents.

"How is the fishing?" asked the former.

"So-so," answered the grandfather. "The Lord knows where the fish go now. When I was young, one caught enough herrings in two nights to last the winter, and now it is doubtful whether one catches any at all."

"Yes, it is strange; I had three standing nets out there on Wednesday night and did not catch a fin," said the pastor. "Winter will bring hard times, and one ought to look forward before producing more mouths than one can fill."

"I told him so," said the grandfather assentingly. "The house is big enough for one brood, not for two. Better one farmer than two cottagers. I don't think, however, he will divide the farm, but this last child must go out into service like others."

"That is certainly as good as starving at home," said the pastor.

The July sun blazed hotly upon the fjord, the sky was perfectly blue, and the newly baptised child screamed, whether from joy or grief it was difficult to say. Soon the thatched roofs of the farm were visible among the alders, and the boats halted at the bridge. The occupants disembarked and were regaled with a good meal spread under the oak trees. Afterwards the pastor thanked God for the happiness with which he had blessed the house, and bade the guests raise their glasses to welcome the new citizen of the world into the congregation.


Christian grew up among the calves and pigs, for his brother and sister were too old to play with him. He seemed born with two characteristics which never left him: one was to be always in the way, the other was to be never welcome. Wherever he appeared, behind a bush, on a haystack, under a boat, in a loft, or in the cottage, the cry always was, "Is it you, young scoundrel?" Wherever he happened to be, and anyone approached, they said, "You always have to be in the way."

His parents, who for eight years had been unaccustomed to the crying of a baby, and were now a good deal older so that they enjoyed a good sleep, found it somewhat difficult to reconcile themselves to his crying at night, and they soon came to regard it as a failing which was peculiar to their youngest born. It was in vain that the grandmother asserted that all children cried, and that Hans the eldest had really cried much more when he was little. His father said he could not remember that at all; all he remembered was that Hans had been an uncommonly good child, who had always been a source of joy to his parents. There was such a great difference, he added, between children.

Meanwhile Christian, who was intelligent enough to see that he was in the way, acquired the habit of keeping out of the way; when he saw anyone he hid himself, ran out to the woods and fields, and was up to all kinds of mischief.

As he became older and was strong enough to do some useful work, attempts were made to tame him, but in vain. When put in charge of cattle, he ran away from them and let them go into the fields; he laid the fishing-nets so deep that they could not be got up again, and when sought for, he was not to be found. In short he seemed half a savage. Once, at his elder brother's suggestion, he was beaten, but then he remained away eight whole days, and when he reappeared he was as stout and strong as before; no one knew what he had eaten or where he had slept.

But Christian himself knew well enough. The scanty diet of his home consisted chiefly of salt fish, turnips and bread. Christian, who often had to satisfy himself with what fell from the table, or was left over, often felt a longing for more nourishing food, especially as he grew older and approached manhood. He was hungry the whole day, and went to the wood and the seashore to get food. Fish did not attract him, for he had chewed them till he was tired and they gave him no strength; he looked for warm-blooded creatures, and when he caught some young birds he ate them raw. Then he felt stronger as the blood diffused an intoxicating warmth throughout his body. Eggs had the same effect; these he took ruthlessly from the nests of the sea-birds on the shore. In this way he procured for himself a diet which was much more nourishing than his parents and brother and sister could contrive to obtain.

So he grew, and became strong, but could not make up his mind to work. In a rude boat which he had managed to construct himself, he cruised about the islands and hunted for eggs. His parents, who did not exactly miss his presence, soon began to regard him as having flown from the nest.

One fine spring day, when the eider-geese were flying over the outermost islands, Christian sailed out with his bow and his nooses, more for the sake of amusement and passing the time than for practical purposes, for he never killed anything except for immediate consumption. He landed with his boat on one of those skerries which form the last breakwater against the open sea, and which only sea-birds and fishermen frequent during the summer. The skerry was uninhabited, but a rude shed had been built on it to serve as a sleeping-place for fishermen in the fishing season, and as a shelter for travellers and those who might be driven ashore. It consisted of a single room with the bare earth for its floor; along the wall were arranged berths like shelves furnished with sheep-skins for sleeping under. Two stones on the ground marked where a fire might be lit, and flint and steel were kept in a place well known to all between the beams above the door. The door was always closed but could be opened with a bent wooden peg. Everyone had a right to enter if they only closed the door after them and put back the flint and steel in its place. If any-body wished to show benevolence or gratitude, they placed an armful of grass or juniper twigs near the fire-place, for there was not a tree on the skerry. It was in these shelters that Christian generally slept, and there he took his simple meals; he knew each one of them for miles around, and where the best sheep-skins were to be found. The fleas which infested them generally left him alone.

Meanwhile the spring evening was beautiful, and the sea lay there serene in blue tranquillity. Christian, who had learnt not to trust it, drew his boat up and hid it behind some great stones. He had rowed far and clambered about on the rocks, so that he went into the rest-house and got into the topmost berth to sleep. He lay there for a time and thought about various things—about the day which had just passed, about his life and its purposes, and the life which should follow this. He had opened the sky-light and saw the steel-grey heaven above him, and a star or two which palely glimmered in the lingering sunlight. Has religious instincts had not been educated either by parents, pastors or teachers, nor had he been confirmed, but he knew that behind nature and the events of life were guiding powers of which one had no nearer knowledge. He had arrived at no certainty regarding the object of his existence. Together with the gift of life, he had received the instinct to preserve it, and obeyed this instinct. What more was there to do? He ate in order to be able to work, and worked in order to get something to eat. Yes, but in the intervals, he thought, or, rather, he wondered. He wondered whether perhaps these very thoughts of his constituted the higher aim of life of which he dreamt; he remembered that his mother had said that the earth was a vale of tears through which we must wander in order to become better and thereby worthier of the Kingdom of Heaven. He found, on closer reflection, that he neither grew better nor worse from one day to another, and he did not understand how he was to improve. Perhaps he was an exception? Possibly. All others took the oath of loyalty to the King; all others paid taxes, went to church, paid tithes to the clergy, paid rent, swept the snow away for one another, bought and sold, summoned each other before the law-courts, but could do nothing without asking permission and payment. They asked permission to be able to marry, to be received into the community where they were born, to be buried in the earth; and on each occasion there were fees to pay. They paid the King for ruling them, they paid the judge for judging them, the pastor for saving them, and the executioner for hanging them; they paid in the town for the right to sell their fish, and they paid for the bridges on which the town's existence depended. Christian, who did nothing of all this, was therefore an exception, and the reason he escaped all these payments was, that he possessed nothing. That was the difference between him and them: he possessed nothing. In earlier times he had heard those who had nothing sailed out on the sea and took from those who had. This was now not permitted, and rightly so, for Christian could not think it permissible that anyone should come and take his boat or his axe from him.

While these half-developed thoughts came and went in the half-consciousness of a tired brain, sleep overcame him. After some hours he awoke with a choking feeling in his chest and a terrible smarting in his eyes. He sat up in his berth and saw that a fire had been made on the ground below. By it sat two men—one in the half-barbaric costume of the inhabitants of Dägo, the other in the everyday garb of a Swedish fisherman. They were roasting some herrings before the fire. Christian, who did not feel inclined to move, as he did not know how the strangers might be disposed, protected himself from the smoke as well as he could by creeping as far as possible under the coverlet; he did not blame himself for listening to their conversation, but, as we shall see afterwards, turned it to profit.

"They are a stupid lot, these Swedes!" said the man from Dägo, who believed that his superior bodily strength gave him the right to say what he liked.

"Oh, you mustn't talk ill of the Swedes," said the other, who in such a nocturnal tęte-ā-tęte did not venture to use a more impolite form of speech.

"Well, can one imagine less enterprising people than these fishermen? If they knew what the eider-birds' down was worth in Russia, they would be able to make a pile of money."

"Yes, but you see the Swedes think it wrong to deprive the birds of the down which they need for hatching their eggs."

"That is just their stupidity; for if they don't take it, foreigners will, like they take everything else."

"No, it is not stupidity, it is consideration to think of our successors, who also should derive profit from the birds which would disappear, if disturbed."

"That is not true; but if foreigners came, they would take both eggs and down together."

"They can do that if they have no conscience; Swedes would rather be poor than behave so badly."

"That is why I call them stupid. But now, to speak of another matter. Why don't you hunt ermines and squirrels here as they do inland?"

"Because we have enough to do with the fish and prefer the certain to the uncertain."

"That is right; but I should prefer a sure income from skins and down to an insecure one from the sea. If I had nothing else to do, it wouldn't be long before I had enough money to buy a piece of ground to build upon and fish too."

The Swede dropped the subject and shared his food with the stranger, who had anchored before the skerry because the wind had fallen. When it rose again at sunrise they both left the rest-house, little guessing what seeds they had sown in Christian's uncultured brain.

No sooner had the sound of their footsteps died away than he sprang up and went out. The rifling sun illumined the open sea which was ruffled by the morning breeze, and over whose surface sea-birds were circling. To Christian this scene was not new, but to-day the sun seemed to shine more brightly and his horizon was enlarged. His eye, which had often swept the surface of the water without finding an object behind the blue line which bound the horizon, fancied it perceived, hidden by the clouds in the east, a distant land where the deliverer dwelt who would come and make him like other men; he would cease to be in the way; he would be welcome somewhere, would rest upon his own roof, and perhaps possess a small spot on this earth where he hitherto was hunted about like a trespassing dog. Hope awoke in his soul, and when he saw the strange boat hoist sail and enter the golden path traced on the waves by the sun, he fancied himself standing by the helm and steering to the distant land behind the blue horizon with his precious cargo, and now he determined to begin a new life.


Far out in the Fjallang Fjord, almost in the open sea, lies a skerry which is called Trollhattorna or the "Goblin's Cap." It consists of a round crag with four flat sides which have a certain resemblance to the cape which the goblins of fairy-tales are supposed to wear. Between these faces of the crag are deep clefts where guillemots build their nests, and where they are completely protected from rain and wind. After sundry combats with the fearless owners Christian had succeeded in obtaining undisturbed possession of that cleft which faced the land, into which the wind from the sea never blew. Here he had contrived a storehouse for his collected treasures by stretching a rain-proof sealskin, which he occasionally smeared with train-oil, between the walls of the cleft. He spent two years in amassing these treasures, and employed in doing so all his long-trained capacities. He could imitate all creatures' voices; he could whistle like the weasel, make a smacking noise like the squirrel, and grumble like the eider-duck. He knew how to approach one of the latter when sitting on her nest of seaweed on the open beach, and he could look at her so that she quietly let him stroke her back while he plucked the down. He never took more than one of the six eggs, and if the nestlings were already hatched he left them in peace; the ermine he sometimes caught with traps and sometimes shot them with blunted arrows so that the fur should not be injured. Squirrels he watched for from behind an oak, and could entice them to come so near that he could seize them with his hands; in the winter he dragged them by the help of a willow branch from their nests, and obtained their entire store of hazel-nuts besides.

His senses had grown so fine by practice that he could hear a mile off what sort of bird was approaching, and even in the twilight he could distinguish at an incredible distance between a black water-hen and a merganser. Among his worst rivals, the crows, who hunted the eider-ducks in order to devour their eggs, he did great execution. By exposing the bodies of weasels and squirrels which he had skinned, he allured whole swarms of these uninvited plunderers, which he then shot down. Such was his skill and so completely undisturbed was he, that within two years he had accumulated in his grotto a store which seemed to him sufficient to bring him to the foreign land where the sun rose, and where people would know how to appreciate his treasures. Now again the spring was approaching, and the thought how he should construct a vessel sufficiently large and sea-worthy began to disquiet him.

He knew that he could get out to the open sea very easily with a large fishing-boat such as was used for catching herrings, and that it was not more than two days' journey to the land on the other side, but he saw small prospect of being able to build such a boat and of procuring the expensive sails. His natural instinct, which revolted against the idea of anyone coming and taking from him what he had earned by his own work, forbade his procuring such a boat in any unlawful way.

The spring came nearer and nearer, and his disquietude increased. One afternoon he was sitting on the highest point of Trollhattorna, looking out over the sea where sails appeared and disappeared. A red-brown eider-duck came swimming with its young ones after it; the sea-gulls flew past his ears screaming, and the mergansers answered them. Christian felt like a mountain king as he sat there above his treasure-chamber, but at the same time he seemed to himself to have been bewitched by the mountain spirits, for he saw no prospect of getting away. Just then he heard the measured stroke of oars behind him, and saw a boat with four men in it being rowed towards the place where he sat. As it came nearer, he recognised his father and brother, but did not know the two others, one of whom shouted to him: "Come down, you pirate!"

Christian remained where he was.

"Obey, when the King's sheriff orders you," said his father.

High up on the skerry stood a pile of stones which the fishermen had set there as a mark. Christian was prepared to defend himself. "I am not a pirate," he said.

"Ah, do you contradict the King's sheriff," said his father. "Beware! and do not make us all miserable."

"I make no one miserable," answered Christian, "but I defend myself when I see that people wish me ill. What do you want from me?"

"You have here a hiding-place for goods which you have stolen from peaceful traders," said the sheriff. "We have seen all."

"I have stolen nothing from anyone," said Christian. "All that is here I have earned by hard work."

"Nonsense! Do you think we shall believe that one can collect so many skins and all this down here in these bare skerries. Come down, for the last time, or we will take you."

They began to climb the cliff, but then Christian began to hurl down blocks of stone, which bounded over the heads of his assailants, knocked splinters out of the rocks, and plumped into the water, without however striking anyone.

"Wretched boy!" cried his father. "You were born for my ruin!"

"Who begot me?" answered Christian, and threw the last stone.

Now the besiegers had a prospect of success, and soon Christian felt his legs caught in a noose; and he was soon wound up like a ball, rolled down the hill, and laid in the bottom of the boat.

"Do not hurt him unnecessarily," said his father. "I will be security for him."

Then he began in a comparatively friendly tone to tell Christian how badly he had treated his parents, who had produced him, clothed him, and been kind to him; with what sorrow and shame he had requited them since their name would now become notorious and dishonoured in the neighbourhood. He adjured him by the Cross of Christ and all the saints that he should confess his sin, since by his doing so the offence would be half pardoned and might be atoned for by a fine. He pointed to his grey hairs and begged Christian not to bring dishonour on them; he bade him to think of his brother who would soon take his father's place and uphold the good name and prosperity of the family; he concluded by declaring that one must not live for oneself but for others also, because society was built up of families, and if families did not hold together, society would fall. Christian should therefore acknowledge his crime.

But Christian had committed no crime, and therefore could not save society. His father's unwonted mildness moved him and he wished for a moment that he had done what he was accused of.

Their talk continued till they reached home. Christian was taken to the barn and locked up there. The others went to the cottage, where they ate their supper and talked over the matter. Presently, as Christian lay reflecting on the floor of the barn, the door opened, and his mother stepped in.

"Son," she said, "think of your old mother, and tell the truth."

"Then mother would rather have a thief for her son than an honourable boy?"

"I want you to confess; then your father will pay a fine for your offence, and our good name will be saved."

"That is strange," said Christian, whose brain could not follow this line of thought. "If I make myself a criminal, then the crime can be pardoned, but if I continue to be honourable, it cannot. What crime? One which has never been committed? For I have not stolen; I have only gone where anyone can go, and for a long time have collected skins and eggs as I have leave to do."

But his mother replied that that had nothing to do with it; the one thing necessary was that he should confess, since; the King's sheriff desired it.

His mother departed sadly. Then came his sister, and said that Christian should not plunge her too into misery; for if the family were disgraced, her fiancé, Peter, could not marry her. Christian had only to confess, then he would be free and his father would pay the fine.

Christian replied that he could not say "yes" when he ought to say "no."

But why, she rejoined, could he not when he would make so many people happy?

Oh, did his sister then wish him to lie?

Why should he not under the circumstances?

He would despise himself and not wish to live any longer.

Yes, but if he made his father and mother and brother and sister happy? Did not Christian want them to be happy?

Yes he did, but lying was another matter.

All men did that a little, and Christian should not make himself better than others.

All men liars! Christian had never believed that, and he himself had never lied.

That was because he had never needed to lie.

Why, that was dreadful! How could men live together if they did not speak the truth?

His sister said she could not explain that, but now she would go her way, and never wished to see again a brother who made her so unhappy.

Christian felt quite nervous by having so much attention concentrated on his person; he was not accustomed to people busying themselves about him, and this close dealing with his soul had disturbed his wonted equanimity. These people begged and implored him to do them a service; he could make them happy or miserable with a word—he was therefore a person of importance. This made him self-conscious, and he was seized with a desire to see the result of his intervention on their behalf. It was merely a matter of saying "yes" instead of "no," and after all what did it signify when all men were accustomed to change little words in case of need. Perhaps he would have fared better if he had done so before. His resolve was taken.

His father then entered and asked him if it was possible for a boy to collect such a stock of things?

Yes it was, if one did nothing else and was diligent.

His father could not believe it; he had never seen it and therefore found it incredible.

Christian repeated his affirmation. His father asked him to confess that he had stolen. Christian said "yes." His father, with the knife in his hand, asked whether he would confess to the bailiff. Christian promised solemnly to do so. His father cut the rope and they went together to the cottage. There sat the bailiff eating his porridge peacefully.

"Has he confessed?" he asked, letting his spoon rest.

"He has," said the father, to the great joy of those of the family who were present.

But the bailiff seemed to have made some miscalculation, for he was not glad.

"Well," he resumed, turning to Christian, "how did you manage it? I should like to know."

Christian, who would also have been pleased to hear how a single man sets about plundering a trader's boat, stood at first speechless, but as he began to think how he would act under the specified circumstances, his imagination came to his help. He went to the stand near the door, where the axes were kept, and took the largest gimlet he could see. Then he took down his father's great sheep-skin, threw it on the bed, and after he had taken his stand in the middle of the room, began thus. "There lies the boat at anchor" (be pointed to the bed) "and there lies the skipper asleep" (he indicated the sheep-skin).

"Wait! Let me think!" interrupted the bailiff, whose brain worked slowly.

But Christian continued. "Here I stand on the shore, watching the boat. Then I consider. There lies a boat and here am I. Probably there is something at the bottom of the boat."

Christian, who was not accustomed to lie, came to a stop, for his awakening conscience urged him to flight and freedom. Fortunately the bailiff utilised this pause to get his ideas into order.

"Let me see," he said. "There lies the skipper, and there lies the gimlet. What had you to do with the gimlet?"

Christian knew well, but that was, for the present, his secret. "I throw myself into the sea, my legs are entangled in the weeds, I wrench myself loose, swim to the anchor-rope, take the gimlet and sink the boat."

"That is too fast, too fast! Wait! Where were we?" said the bailiff. "We sank the boat."

He dipped the wooden spoon into the jug of milk, and continued.

"Well, and the cargo sank too?"

"Yes."

"That is remarkable. How did you get hold of it then?"

"I raised it," said Christian.

"He raised it. Quite right. Now I begin to see," said the bailiff, turning to Christian's father. "But," he resumed, after rubbing his nose with the spoon handle, "I do not understand why he sank the boat when he took the cargo."

"The skipper! The skipper!" broke in Christian's father, who was quite absorbed in the adventure.

"The skipper! Yes, that is quite right! He is a sharp youngster! It is a serious case, but finely managed."

Christian had had time to make his plan. He drew back to the door and asked, "Can I go now?"

The bailiff asked himself, "Can he go now?" Then he said, "Wait a moment! Did you not take up the skipper too?"

"No, I did not," said Christian, "but if the bailiff wishes it I will."

Then he disappeared through the door, with the sheep-skin on his shoulder and the gimlet in his hand, indicating his intention to save the skipper, and leaving those present to their reflections and discussions.

When Christian went out he went straight to the shore, reflecting how quickly he had become a liar and how comfortably lying helped one through the difficulties of life. Then he bored holes in all the boats except the largest fishing-boat, on which he hoisted sail and steered towards Trollhättor. There he put his stores on board till the sun rose, then hoisted sail again and held on in the sun's track.


Two years had passed. The old fisherman and his wife were dead. Their son Hans had taken over the farm and married a poor girl. Nothing had been heard of Christian, and at the division of the property he had been declared disinherited because he had left the country on account of a crime and nothing more had been heard of him. Hans' cottage stood on the shore of the fjord, just where it narrowed to a sound through which boats had to pass to reach the large fishing skerries. Exactly opposite the sound lay a little island about one acre in extent. It consisted mostly of hillocks, but in a hollow between them some earth had collected, covered with very good grass, and a score of birches had sprung up. Through his cottage windows Hans could see the island which was part of a neighbour's property.

One day during the spring thaw he sat and watched how the crows sailed on the pieces of ice in the sound; snow lay in patches on the banks, but there were glimpses of green in the clefts of the rocks. By chance he glanced over to the other shore and there perceived some movements going on which aroused his curiosity. Some workmen were bringing stones and timber already hewn and cut as if for building a cottage, but he could see no vessel which had conveyed the materials or the workmen. He could not rest till he had sent a servant over to his neighbour to ask what was going on. The messenger returned with the news that a stranger from Esthland had bought the island and was intending to build on it. This was all that Hans could discover at present. But not long after he discovered that the new-comer was his own brother, Christian, who had returned, accompanied by his wife whom he had married abroad. On mature consideration the risks for his freedom had not seemed great to him since no witnesses to hid adventurous plundering could be produced, and as regards the disappearance of the fishing-boat and the boring of holes in the others, there would only be a fine to pay, if his brother lodged a complaint against him.

Meanwhile the house grew higher and became such a stately building, with its outhouses, as to attract the attention of all who passed by, and to arouse the envy of Hans. One day he said to his wife, "I begin to think that this old house must be rebuilt."

"It is not long since that was done," she answered.

But Hans was wilful and had his own way. He was obliged to hire workmen who ate up his seed-corn and finished his winter stock of herrings.

"Pride comes before a fall," said people.

During the winter Hans sat in his large house and was half starved. In spring he had to sell a cow in order to buy seed.

Christian, on the other hand, lived comfortably in his roomy dwelling, though he possessed neither land, meadows, woods, fishing-grounds, cattle, nor yacht. Hans and he never met.

One evening the pastor, on his way from visiting a sick person, called in at Hans' house, and sat by the fire to warm himself. "I cannot understand how he has his train-oil factory far away in Esthland, and can sit here at home and manage it," said the pastor.

"Who?" asked Hans.

"He over there; Christian, your brother."

"Train-oil factory? He told my neighbour he was a rope-maker."

"Rope-maker? That is strange! Then one of us has heard wrong."

While they were discussing the matter, there was a knock at the door and the bailiff entered. He had been engaged in his business out of doors.

"It is quite incomprehensible," he said, "how one can sit here among the skerries and manage mines far away in Russia."

General commotion! Christian was a scoundrel! The pastor must go over and speak with him and the bailiff must find out how he supported himself.

The next day the pastor and the bailiff paid Christian a visit. They were received on the bridge and conducted into the house, which was handsomely furnished like that of a rich man, so that all questions as to Christian's means of subsistence were prevented. The floor was covered with smooth hewn planks, the fire-place was made of stone, and the walls were covered with hangings. Christian's wife was lively and pretty; her hair was black and hung over her eyes. She went round and poured Greek wine into their glasses while Christian related the moat extraordinary adventures of his travels which the pastor and the bailiff, under the influence of wine, found quite credible. This went on till late at night, and the pastor was carried down to the boat on a pair of oars, bestowing his blessing on tools and buildings and not least on Christian who had presented the church with a goblet of gilt silver. The bailiff, who had received a hunting-dog as a gift from Christian, was guided by it down to the boat where, placing his fingers on a tub of herrings, he took an oath that Christian was the most honourable man in the skerries.

Some time afterwards Christian came home, after an excursion among the skerries, in a great sailing boat rigged with two lateen sails which could hold straight against the wind and needed not to be taken down when he turned.

Hans now had no more peace. He must have lateen sails. His wife had been weaving linen during the whole winter for new shirts; Hans soon convinced her that the sails were more important. But he was also convinced, after bearing of the great reception which his brother had given to his guests, that a house-holder could not offer beer to his guests when a small-tenant offered wine. Still, wine was very dear, and he had a sharp struggle with himself as well as with his wife. He said they could economise with milk, to which he attached no special importance, and that he was quite willing to give up his own share of it. The second cow was sold.

Meanwhile wonderful reports began to go about and were repeated. Trollhättor was said to be haunted, and no one ventured to go there. Flames had been seen dancing over the sea. About that time there was a shipwreck, accompanied by the unusual circumstance that not one of the crew was saved. It seemed still more peculiar that Christian, shortly before the ship was driven on shore, had rented an inferior fishing ground among the outermost skerries, which had shallow banks and where no one wished to fish. He had been seen there carrying fishing-forks and lighting fires, but no one could understand why he went so far out with fishing-forks.

The reports increased and became threatening. But the pastor and the bailiff, who were regular guests at Christian's, took him vigorously under their protection, refuted the scandal, and thus the whole affair was forgotten.

When the spring came Hans had no seed-corn. He took no trouble about his patches of ground but let anything grow on them. He killed his own oxen for a baptism-feast which he held in March. No resource was now left to him but fishing. It was an insecure means of earning a living, almost like gambling. When he got nothing, he went hungry; when he had a good haul, he made a feast. His brother-in-law, who had a claim on his farm on account of his wife, caused him uneasiness also.

When the week of prayer before Easter arrived and the pastor came with the Holy Cross and the boys sang the litany round the fields in order to bless the seed sown, Hans was ashamed to acknowledge that his field had no seed sown in it. Then when only thistles appeared on it, people said he had betrayed the Cross of Christ.

The next year Hans had another son. Then he burnt up his last wood and sowed turnips in the ashes. But Christian sat on the shore exactly opposite, and saw how the beautiful island was changed to a bare skerry. He felt neither grief nor joy, but only found it instructive to watch the development of the affair.

In autumn Hans' turnip-crop failed, for the wood which had been a protection from the north wind was gone. One day, when their need was great and Hans had gone out fishing, his wife took a punt and rowed over the sound. Christian received her in a friendly way and bade her come into the guest-house where private conversations were generally held. She told him her great need and asked for help. Christian made no objection but gave help generously, including a cow, seed-corn, and so on. Hans' wife was moved, and confessed that her husband had not behaved well. Christian said he knew nothing about that and did not mix in other people's affairs. So they parted.

When she had gone, Christian said to his wife, "Olga, I have nothing more to do here. I have seen the punishment come without lifting my hand against my own flesh and blood. Hans is a beggar; in winter he will become a thief, since he must steal wood, after having burnt his trees. His children will become servants, if nothing worse. And that is right! They taught me to lie, and the representative of the law made me a thief. I was honest, but they would not let me be so. Now I could be so if I wished, for they have told me I can be an honorary magistrate, if I like to buy ground. But I will possess nothing of this earth for which men fight; I will not be respected by this society, who suspect that I am a scoundrel, and yet pardon me because I have a stone fire-place and drink wine. All my toils put together could not make me rich, you know, for one cannot become so by collecting skins and down. If I had lived three hundred years ago I would have been a pirate and my name would have been celebrated and cursed in the world. Then I would have staked my life and won my bread in honourable battle; now I am a wreck-plunderer and a corpse-robber, who enjoy the respect of everyone except my own—and thine, Olga. Let us leave this country which had no place for us when we were honest, but opened its doors when we were dishonest. Let us go where the earth has yet no owner, where the freeborn man can pasture his flocks, where the sky itself waters the grass, and the sun entices it to grow. Your eyes, Olga, ask me whether I shall not miss the old home where my childhood passed? I had no childhood; no one bade me welcome when I came, and no one says farewell when I go. When I saw you, Olga, my childhood began, and where you are, there is my home."


In the evening the Trollhättor was again haunted, and an incendiary set fire to Christian's house. By the light of the fire his largest boat was seen sailing out in an easterly direction. Christian sat at the helm, but his young wife sat in front by the main-sheet, keeping the look-out.