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- In Midsummer Days and Other Tales - 1/20 -
Produced by Nicole Apostola.
IN MIDSUMMER DAYS AND OTHER TALES.
BY AUGUST STRINDBERG
TRANSLATED BY ELLIE SCHLEUSSNER
IN MIDSUMMER DAYS THE BIG GRAVEL-SIFTER THE SLUGGARD THE PILOT'S TROUBLES PHOTOGRAPHER AND PHILOSOPHER HALF A SHEET OF FOOLSCAP CONQUERING HERO AND FOOL WHAT THE TREE-SWALLOW SANG IN THE BUCKTHORN TREE THE MYSTERY OF THE TOBACCO SHED THE STORY OF THE ST. GOTTHARD THE STORY OF JUBAL WHO HAD NO "I" THE GOLDEN HELMETS IN THE ALLEBERG LITTLE BLUEWING FINDS THE GOLDPOWDER
IN MIDSUMMER DAYS
In Midsummer days when in the countries of the North the earth is a bride, when the ground is full of gladness, when the brooks are still running, the flowers in the meadows still untouched by the scythe, and all the birds singing, a dove flew out of the wood and sat down before the cottage in which the ninety-year-old granny lay in her bed.
The old woman had been bedridden for twenty years, but she could see through her window everything that happened in the farmyard which was managed by her two sons. But she saw the world and the people in her own peculiar manner, for time and the weather had painted her window-panes with all the colours of the rainbow; she need but turn her head a little and things appeared successively red, yellow, green, blue, and violet. If she happened to look out on a cold winter's day when the trees were covered with hoar-frost and the white foliage looked as if it were made of silver, she had but to turn her head a little on the pillow, and all the trees were green; it was summer-time, the ploughed fields were yellow, and the sky looked blue even if a moment before it had been ever so grey. And therefore the old granny imagined that she could work magic, and was never bored.
But the magical window-panes possessed another quality; they bulged a little and consequently they magnified or reduced every object which came into their field of vision. Whenever, therefore, her grown-up son came home in a bad temper and scolded everybody, granny had but to wish him to be a good little boy again, and straightway she saw him quite small. Or, when she watched her grandchildren playing in the yard, and thought of their future--one, two, three--she changed her position ever so slightly, and they became grown-up men and women, as tall as giants.
Ail during the summer the window stood open, for then the window-panes could not show her anything so beautiful as the reality. And now, on Midsummer Eve, the most beautiful time of all the year, she lay there and looked at the meadows and towards the wood, where the dove was singing its song. It sang most beautifully of the Lord Jesus, and the joy and splendour of the Kingdom of Heaven, where all are welcome who are weary and heavy laden.
The old woman listened to the song for a little while, and then she laid that she was much obliged, but that Heaven could be no more beautiful than the earth itself, and she wanted nothing better.
Thereupon the dove flew away over the meadow into the mountain glen, where the farmer stood digging a well. He stood in a deep hole which he had dug, three yards below the surface; it was just as if he were standing in his grave.
The dove settled on a fir tree and sung of the joy of Heaven, quite convinced that the man in the hole, who could see neither sky, nor sea, nor meadow, must be longing for Heaven.
"No," said the farmer, "I must first dig a well; otherwise my summer guest will have no water, and the unhappy little mother will take her child and go and live elsewhere."
The dove flew down to the strand, when the farmer's brother was busy hauling in the fishing-nets; it sat among the rushes and began to sing.
"No," said the farmer's brother, "I must provide food for my family, otherwise my children will cry with hunger. Later on! Later on, I tell you! Let's live first and die afterwards."
And the dove flew to the pretty cottage, where the unhappy little mother had taken rooms for the summer. She sat on the verandah, working at a sewing machine; her face was as white as a lily, and her red felt hat looked like a huge poppy on her hair, which was as black as a mourning veil. She was busy making a pinafore which her little girl was to wear on Midsummer Eve, and the child sat at her feet on the floor, cutting up little pieces of material which were not wanted.
"Why isn't daddy coming home?" asked the little girl, looking up.
That was a very difficult question, so difficult that the young mother could not answer it; and very possibly daddy could not have answered it either, for he was far away in a foreign country with his grief, which was twice as great as mammy's.
The sewing machine was not in good order, but it stitched and stitched; it made as many pricks as a human heart can bear before it breaks, but every prick only served to pull the thread tighter--it was curious!
"I want to go to the village, mammy," said the little girl. "I want to see the sun, for it is so dark here."
"You shall go and play in the sunshine this afternoon, darling."
I must tell you that it was very dark between the high cliffs on this side of the island; the cottage stood in a gloomy pine-grove, which completely hid the view of the sea.
"And I want you to buy me a lot of toys, mammy."
"Darling, we have so little money to buy toys with," answered the mother, bending her head still lower over their work.
And that was the truth; for their comfort had changed into penury. They had no servant, and the mother had to do the whole house-work herself.
But when she saw the sad face of the little girl, she took her on her knees.
"Put your little arms round mammy's neck," she said.
The little one obeyed.
"Now give mammy a kiss!"
The rosy little half-open mouth, which looked like the mouth of a little bird, was pressed against her lips; and when the blue eyes, blue as the flower of the flax, smiled into hers, her beautiful face reflected the sweet innocence of the little one, and made her look like a happy child herself, playing in the sunshine.
"No use my singing to them of the Kingdom of Heaven," thought the dove, "but if I can in any way serve them, I will."
And then it flew away towards the sunny village, for it had work to do there.
It was afternoon now; the little mother took a basket on one arm and the child's little hand into hers, and they left the cottage. She had never been to the village, but she knew that it was situated somewhere towards sunset, on the other side of the island, and the farmer had told her that she would have to get over six stiles and walk through six latticed gates before she could get there.
And on they went.
Their way lay along a footpath, full of stones and old tree-roots, so that she was obliged to carry the little girl, and that was very hard work. The doctor had told her that the child must not strain her left foot, because it was so weak that it might easily have grown deformed.
The young mother staggered along, under her beloved burden, and large beads of perspiration stood like pearls on her forehead, for it was very hot in the wood.
"I am so thirsty, mammy," whispered the little, complaining voice.
"Have patience, darling, there will be plenty of water when we get there."
And she kissed the little parclied mouth, and the child smiled and forgot all about her thirst.
But the scorching rays of the sun burned their skin and there was not a breath of air in the wood.
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