Emanuel, or Children of the Soil/Book 3, Chapter 12

Emanuel, or Children of the Soil (1896)
by Henrik Pontoppidan, illustrated by Nelly Erichsen, translated by Alice Lucas
Book III; Chapter XII
Henrik Pontoppidan4520348Emanuel, or Children of the SoilBook III; Chapter XII1896Alice Lucas (1855-1935)

When Emanuel came in, his expression immediately betrayed his deep disappointment at finding the red-haired friend at Hansine's side at this moment. But he quickly controlled himself, and when Ane stepped forward and congratulated him with a flaming face—her freckles standing out white—he thanked her with a hearty smile.

Emanuel gazed in Her Face.

Then he went up to Hansine, who stood half dazed, looking at the ground, and stretched out both his hands to her. She gave him—very slowly—both hers, which he pressed long and tenderly, while he gazed at her in silence. She perfectly well understood that he wanted her to look up, but she could not bring herself to it. When he at last released her hands, she stole a glance at her friend, with a sigh of relief,—she had been afraid that he would kiss her. At this moment the kitchen door was softly opened and her mother came in, in a freshly ironed cotton apron and a tight little black cap. At the first moment she was so ill at ease that, in trying to hide it, her greeting to Emanuel, and her whole bearing towards him, had an air of suspicious reserve.

Emanuel took her hand and said that he hoped the reason of his visit was known to her, and that neither she nor her husband would be afraid to trust Hansine's future to him. If they were favourable to him, he added, he would for the first time in his life feel perfectly happy.

Else answered by passing her hand sympathetically over Hansine's hair and cheek; then, as she was not a good hand at keeping silence on any subject which she had at heart, she said, "It certainly never entered our heads that anything of this sort would happen—nor can I say but that it is very strange to us. It's struck us all of a heap; for, as the saying has it, 'Like plays best with like,' 'The children of equals are the best playmates,' and you know Hansine has only been brought up as a simple peasant girl. I don't suppose your Reverence's family expected a daughter-in-law of that sort. One doesn't want one's daughter to be looked down on where she goes. However, as it has once for all turned out so, there's nothing to be said against it, and we can only ask the Lord to send His blessing."

There was a moment's silence.

This was broken by the entrance of Anders Jörgen in his dark holiday clothes and white stocking feet. He remained standing doubtfully by the door, and looked at Else as if he expected a sign from her. At last he crossed the floor awkwardly, and greeted the curate with "Good luck to ye, and God bless ye."

Emanuel pressed his hand silently.

"Won't the curate be pleased to take a seat," said Else.

While the others seated themselves round the room, Hansine and her friend on the end of the bench under the window, Emanuel took the armchair by the stove. He was hurt and almost angry. It seemed to him that he had a right to expect a more hearty reception.

Else began to talk of the weather, and the want of rain beginning to tell on the grass and the early seed, about all the sickness among the people, and about the new parish doctor at Kyndlöse.

Emanuel only answered in monosyllables.

At last the conversation dropped altogether, and a painful silence ensued.

"I say, Anders," at length Else said to her husband, "the curate mebbe would like to see the cattle."

Anders Jörgen half rose, and his eyes brightened.

"Aye, perhaps your Reverence would like to see the beasts."

Emanuel said yes, and rising with alacrity, buttoned his coat. It almost looked as if he meant to leave them altogether.

But then Else became anxious. She went up to him and said, trying to smile in her old winning manner: "Well, now, we shall expect you to spend the day with us? you will put up with what we have to offer you. If we had known it sooner, we would have managed to have something better. And you must not be vexed if we were a little upset at hearing of this. We never could have expected Hansine to climb to the top of the tree and find a husband like you. But at bottom we're right glad, and thankful for what has happened, and you must not think otherwise. You'll stay with us to-day, now won't you?"

"Dear Else," said Emanuel, immediately softened, "I shall most certainly from to-day be glad to look upon this place as my home. I have long wished to do so—and, in a way, I have no longer any other."

"Well, then! you are most heartily welcome," said Else, all at once regaining her usual familiar tone and slapping his arm. "We've always liked you since the first time we saw you, sure and certain we have. But go out now with Anders and look about you a bit. There are no grand things to shew you, for this is only a poor peasant's farm you have come to, but you knew that beforehand, I expect."

"I knew at any rate that I was not seeking that kind of wealth about which you country people say: 'The fire devours it in a single night,'" answered Emanuel, smiling. Then he turned to Hansine, and added: "Won't you come out, too, and give a look at the stables?"

She did not understand the hint, blushed, and said, with a glance at her mother, that she would have to help in the kitchen.

"Well, well, then, till we meet again," said he, and nodded to her.