Emanuel, or Children of the Soil/Book 1, Chapter 4

Emanuel, or Children of the Soil (1896)
by Henrik Pontoppidan, illustrated by Nelly Erichsen, translated by Alice Lucas
Book I; Chapter IV
Henrik Pontoppidan4502995Emanuel, or Children of the SoilBook I; Chapter IV1896Alice Lucas (1855-1935)

They were just about to leave the table, when the lame old family servant put her head in from the kitchen, and announced that a person was at the door with a sledge, and insisted on seeing the Provst.

"At this time of day!" exclaimed the Provst, raising his eye-brows ominously, "What does he want, Loné?"

"How should I know?" she answered, sourly, "He said he had to fetch the Provst to a sick person."

"To a sick person! In this weather! And now, at night … who ever can it be, Loné?"

"How can I tell … he says he is Anders Jörgen's son from Skibberup."

"Oh, indeed!" murmured the Provst, with a gloomy look and nodding his head. "Is old Anders Jörgen to be called away now? Dear, dear? Where is the messenger?"

"I shewed him into the study."

The Provst finished his tea, wiped his mouth, and rose.

On his way through the drawing-room he drew out of his tail pocket a black silk cap, with which he was wont to cover himself before presenting himself to his parishoners. Having also prepared himself by clearing his throat loudly, he entered his study.

A little figure stood by the door in the subdued green light, enveloped in an immense great coat several sizes too large for him, from which only a light mop of hair, two swollen blue hands and a pair of feet in white woollen socks stuck out.

"Good evening," said the Provst, in a friendly voice, waving his hand, "Do you want to speak to me?"

A hiccup was his first answer, followed by "yes" in a frightened whisper.

"What is your name, friend? " continued the Provst.

For a moment the only sound was the chattering of the lad's teeth. At last the answer came hoarsely and hurriedly, "Ole Christian Julius Andersen."

"Are you a son of old Anders Jörgen of Skibberup?"


"Then it was you who came to me as a candidate for confirmation last year, wasn't it."


"And now you have come to request me to administer the Sacrament to your old father—I thought I had heard that he had been ailing for some time."

A quiver passed through the lad at these words, he began to shift his feet uneasily and twirled his fur cap round and round in his hands like a wheel.

"It's rather late in the evening you know, and the state of the roads is very bad," continued the Provst calmly. "But in consideration of the gravity of the case I will not refuse—well, what is it? have you anything else on your mind? I suppose the roads are passable now. Are the lanes dug out?"

"Yes; but—"

"Are they cleared down under the ridge?"

"The snow clearers are out.…"

"Good! go out to your horses and wait, I shall be ready directly."

With these words the Provst waved his hands again and returned to the sitting-room—without paying any attention to a pair of distracted, wide opened eyes, with which the boy followed him out of the room.

When the Provst re-entered the sitting-room and his eye fell upon the curate, who at the same moment came in from the dining-room, a smile suddenly lighted up his face.

"Listen, I have an idea," he exclaimed gaily, "I daresay you heard, Mr Hansted, that there was a message from a sick man in the parish, who wishes to receive the Holy Communion. Now, I can't think of a better opportunity than this, for you to begin your ministrations. I know the old fellow very well, he has always been a respectable hard working man, to whom a few ordinary words of consolation will be all that is requisite. I am convinced that it will not give you the least trouble."

The Provst's request was visibly embarrassing to the young clergyman. The colour came and went quickly in his cheeks, and he began to stammer excuses. He said the Provst had promised to support him at first—till he had had some practice—besides, he was quite unprepared—.

But the Provost interrupted him hastily; "Oh, that has nothing in the world to do with it. You can think over the few words you wish to say on the way. I always do that myself, and, as I said before, a few every day words of consolation will be more than sufficient in this case. Only courage! my friend, and all will come right. The most important thing is to keep the ritual clearly in your mind and not to get confused. Go, and God be with you, dear friend, always rely surely on His blessing."

After these words the curate did not raise any more objections. He left the room quietly and went up to put on his gown.