Emanuel, or Children of the Soil/Book 4, Chapter 3

Emanuel, or Children of the Soil (1896)
by Henrik Pontoppidan, illustrated by Nelly Erichsen, translated by Alice Lucas
Book IV; Chapter III
Henrik Pontoppidan4527160Emanuel, or Children of the SoilBook IV; Chapter III1896Alice Lucas (1855-1935)

Emanuel at this same time was walking briskly, humming as he went along the path from Veilby common to Skibberup.

He had exchanged his inseparable umbrella for a more countrified oak staff, and in place of his former head-covering he now wore a broad-brimmed rush hat. The burning spring sun of the past week, when he had been constantly on foot, had tanned his face and covered it with freckles, and bleached his fair pointed beard, till it looked almost white against his reddened skin.

He had no clear idea of the stir that had been made in the parish during the week. As he was the object of it, the people—again by the weaver's advice—had not informed him of it; and as Hansine's parents for the same reason had kept out of the contest, he only knew that it was intended in some way or other to protest against his dismissal. He waited quietly for the Provst's formal notice, which must come soon, as he had been prohibited all clerical work. For the first few days after the rupture he had thought of breaking the last thread which bound him to the Parsonage, by leaving at once and taking some rooms which had been offered to him in Skibberup. But when he heard that the Provst had really lodged a complaint with the bishop, he decided to remain, so that it should not look as if he feared to face the responsibility for his actions in the right place.

But he passed as much time as possible in the house of Hansine's parents, avoiding any meeting with the Provst; besides which, he was filled with the joy of his young love, and of all the new world which was opened to him in Anders Jorgen's home, his fields, stables, and cattle, so that he only half took in what was going on around him.

At last he had his own plans for the future to busy himself with; and in these he often forgot the strife of the moment entirely.

He was quite determined to marry as soon as his circumstances in any way permitted. He thought of buying a small property in the neighbourhood, with what he had inherited from his mother, and intended to support himself entirely as a tiller of the earth. For the work he might do among the congregation, as priest or teacher, he would not take any pay. He wished to lead a perfectly independent life on his farm, sharing what he had with his friends.

He thought in a couple of years he might have acquired enough knowledge of farming—with Hansine at his side and the support of kind friends—to take upon himself, without any great risk, the management of so small a property as he had in his mind, for his means would not allow of more than ten or twelve acres of land, a horse, a couple of cows, and a few sheep.

He was already a pupil of Anders Jorgen, and had—as he thought—made great progress. He had learnt something of the manner of dealing with the earth, could almost drive a pair of horses, and could harness them either to a waggon or a plough, and knew how to feed cattle.

There was a little farm for sale beyond Skibberup—and he had already thought of it. It was a pretty little house with idyllic surroundings, at the bottom of a tiny green dale opening on the fiord. The buildings were small and dilapidated; to make up for this, there was an unusually large and pretty garden, with hollyhocks and honeysuckles covering the walls. One evening he spoke about the place to Hansine, who for the time was the only person to whom he had divulged his plans; and as she liked it too, and quite approved of his proposals, he almost made up his mind that this was to be their future home.

He had been every day since, to look at the place, and was more in love with it every time he saw it. When the setting sun threw a crimson light on to the small window panes and gilded the bushes in the garden, and the white wings of the pigeons as they fluttered backwards and forwards over the thatched roof, it seemed to him a little earthly paradise guarded by gentle angels of peace.

He already knew exactly how the house was to be arranged and furnished, how their housekeeping was to be carried on, and the labour of the day shared. First of all, luxury of every kind, and idleness, were to be banished from their home. The furniture was to be plain deal, painted red; and they were to live so simply, that not even the poorest person could feel too humble to take a place at their board. They would rise with the sun and the lark, and when the work was over in the evening, they would gather their friends around them to cheer each other with songs, reading, conversation and prayer. He already saw himself in a peasant's smock, following the plough up and down the ridges; saw himself rowing out into the fiord on fine evenings, setting lines and traps, while Hansine busied herself at home in the cottage, now and then coming to the door to look for him. How plainly he could see her upright little figure standing there under the eaves, her left hand resting on her hip, as was her habit—shading her eyes with her right, smiling her tender little smile so like her mother's, and which lighted up the stern lines of her face like a gleam of sunshine in a dark forest. Yes, his dreams carried him even further into the future. He saw their children running and playing on the sands, as happy as birds … no pale, unhealthy creatures of culture in velvet blouses, with faces prematurely old; but strong, healthy angels of nature and the fresh air, with peasants' roses on their cheeks, and eyes as clear and blue as the blue waves.

He had reached the top of the ridge above Skibberup, and looked down on the almost deserted village, with its little orchards still covered with withering bloom. When he got a little way down the slope he caught sight of Hansine, in the meadow behind her father's house, feeding a lamb with milk from a bottle. She had on her cherry-coloured dress, which she had worn the first time he saw her properly, and in which he always thought she looked her prettiest. Her head was covered with a big white sun bonnet completely hiding her face.

In a sudden fit of wild gaiety, which made him forget that it was church-time, he put his hands to his mouth and called "cuckoo!" She looked up hurriedly; and when she discovered him, let go both the lamb and the bottle and ran to meet him. At sight of this a little cold shiver ran through him,… she did not run nicely. But when she came nearer, and he held her in his arms, he was almost angry with himself for noticing it, and pressed a kiss on her fresh, warm cheek. She had become fairly familiar with him by degrees, but still always blushed when he kissed her; and to hide her confusion began eagerly telling him all that had happened at home since the evening before—a sow had littered, a cow broken loose in the night, and the butter which wouldn't "come." Emanuel's new zest in his out-door life had awakened her own interest in all these everyday things; had, as it were, ennobled them and her home. He laid his hand on her arm, and so they wandered confidentially down towards the farm.

Else was at the window of her bedroom arranging her thick iron grey hair. Far from minding Emanuel's approach, she nodded to him, only drawing a towel she had round her shoulders closer together at the neck.

"Good morning, mother!" he said gaily.

He had quickly accustomed himself to their natural simplicity of life; and in fact saw in it the simple leaning of the peasant's mind to the purity of childhood.

"How is all with you to-day?"

"Oh, very well—the big sow has littered."

"Yes, so I hear. How many pigs are there?"

"Twelve, I believe."

"Ah, that's something to be proud of! He looked about and added "Where's father? Has he gone to church?"

Else threw a stolen glance at him, and then looked at Hansine. "Have you told him anything?" her eyes asked.

Both Else and Hansine had known since the day before, what was to happen in church to-day; but they had decided not to tell Emanuel, because they had a feeling that he might not altogether approve of Hansen's measures, and also because Else did not wish that he should come between them and hinder their plans.

"Anders went down into the meadow to look after the young cattle," she said, calmed by Emanuel's look.

"Oh—I suppose we ought to be foddering now."

"I daresay he'll be back directly. But you're clever enough now, I expect, to feed them yourself, if you like."

"We must see about it," he said, and went across the yard to Ole's bedroom, which was next the stable, to change his clothes.

Hansine went slowly up the stone steps to the brew-house, loosening the strings of her sunbonnet as she went. She had to see after the dinner. She stopped on the top step and glanced uneasily over the little gate between the stables, down the church road.

"Not a creature to be seen yet," she said to her mother, while the only bitter feeling in her heart, namely, the righteous hatred of the Skibberup people towards the Provst, shone out of her beautiful dark blue eyes.

Emanuel went into the cow-byre dressed in a long belted sacking smock and pair of wooden shoes.

It was the first time he had fed the cattle by himself, and he felt rather nervous about it, but he weighed and measured out the portions with the greatest exactitude, and mixed the bran mashes, and, lastly, gave each cow a truss of barley straw.

His work soon made him warm, and he felt, after he had successfully accomplished it, that delightful sense of satisfaction which only bodily labour gives. Even after these few days of work he could feel his muscles developing and the blood coursing quicker through his veins. Why had he not long, long ago realized the old saying, "the sanctity of labour!" he asked himself daily.

His next labour was to clean out the cow-byre and wheel away the sweepings to the manure heap, the sweat streaming down his face. He felt the need of occupying himself with the hardest and dirtiest work he could find, to prove to himself that he had freed himself from the trammels of the past, and did not consider his hands too good for any work however lowly.

While occupied in this way he began to think of his family and the faces they would make if they could see him at this moment. He had had a letter from his father and sister the day before, on the occasion of his engagement; that is to say, he had received a curt acknowledgment of his "astounding announcement," nothing more. Hansine was not even mentioned, nor a single question asked about her.

Although he had never expected to be understood in that quarter, his father's coldness had surprised and saddened him. So they had drifted as far apart as this! He quite understood that they wished to shew by their silence, that from this time they looked upon him as past help and hopelessly lost; and that they did not wish in any way to be mixed up with his new connexions. He saw that they looked upon his engagement as a sort of social suicide, which was not less disgraceful to the respected Hansted family than his poor mother's had been. So he did not doubt that from this time his name would also be blotted out from the family recollection.