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- The Treasure - 1/15 -
By Selma Lagerlof
I. At Solberga Parsonage II. On the Quays III. The Messenger IV. In the Moonlight V. Haunted VI. In the Town Cellars VII. Unrest VIII. Sir Archie's Flight IX. Over the Ice X. The Roar of the Waves
Because the Foreword contains key elements about the end of the book, it is located at the end of the e-text.
AT SOLBERGA PARSONAGE
In the days when King Frederik the Second of Denmark ruled over Bohuslen [FOOTNOTE: Frederik the Second reigned from 1544 to 1588. At that time, Bohuslen, now a province of southwest Sweden, formed part of Norway and was under the Danish Crown.--Trans.] there dwelt at Marstrand a poor hawker of fish, whose name was Torarin. This man was infirm and of humble condition; he had a palsied arm, which made him unfit to take his place in a boat for fishing or pulling an oar. As he could not earn his livelihood at sea like all the other men of the skerries, he went about selling salted and dried fish among the people of the mainland. Not many days in the year did he spend at home; he was constantly on the road from one village to another with his load of fish.
One February day, as dusk was drawing on, Torarin came driving along the road which led from Kungshall up to the parish of Solberga. The road was a lonely one, altogether deserted, but this was no reason for Torarin to hold his tongue. Beside him on the sledge he had a trusty friend with whom to chat. This was a little black dog with shaggy coat, and Torarin called him Grim. He lay still most of the time, with his head sunk between his feet, and answered only by blinking to all his master said. But if his ear caught anything that displeased him, he stood up on the load, put his nose in the air, and howled worse than a wolf.
"Now I must tell you, Grim, my dog," said Torarin, "that I have heard great news today. They told me both at Kungshall and at Kareby that the sea was frozen. Fair, calm weather it has been this long while, as you well know, who have been out in it every day; and they say the sea is frozen fast not only in the creeks and sounds, but far out over the Cattegat. There is no fairway now for ship or boat among the islands, nothing but firm, hard ice, so that a man may drive with horse and sledge as far as Marstrand and Paternoster Skerries."
To all this the dog listened, and it seemed not to displease him. He lay still and blinked at Torarin.
"We have no great store of fish left on our load," said Torarin, as though trying to talk him over. "What would you say to turning aside at the next crossways and going westward where the sea lies? We shall pass by Solberga church and down to Odsmalskil, and after that I think we have but seven or eight miles to Marstrand. It would be a fine thing if we could reach home for once without calling for boat or ferry."
They drove on over the long moor of Kareby, and although the weather had been calm all day, a chill breeze came sweeping across the moor, to the discomfort of the traveller.
"It may seem like softness to go home now when trade is at its best," said Torarin, flinging out his arms to warm them. "But we have been on the road for many weeks, you and I, and have a claim to sit at home a day or two and thaw the cold out of our bodies."
As the dog continued to lie still, Torarin seemed to grow more sure of his ground, and he went on in a more cheerful tone:
"Mother has been left alone in the cottage these many days. I warrant she longs to see us. And Marstrand is a fine town in winter-time, Grim, with streets and alleys full of foreign fishermen and chapmen. There will be dancing in the wharves every night of the week. And all the ale that will be flowing in the taverns! That is a thing beyond your understanding."
As Torarin said this he bent down over the dog to see whether he was listening to what was said to him.
But as the dog lay there wide awake and made no sign of displeasure, Torarin turned off at the first road that led westward to the sea. He flicked the horse with the slack of the reins and made it quicken its pace.
"Since we shall pass by Solberga parsonage," said Torarin, "I will even put in there and ask if it be true that the ice bears as far as to Marstrand. The folk there must know how it is."
Torarin had said these words in a low voice, without thinking whether the dog was listening or not. But scarcely were the words uttered when the dog stood up on the load and raised a terrible howl.
The horse made a bound to one side, and Torarin himself was startled and looked about him to see whether wolves were in pursuit. But when he found it was Grim who was howling, he tried to calm him.
"What now?" he said to him. "How many times have you and I driven into the parson's yard at Solberga! I know not whether Herr Arne [FOOTNOTE: At the time of this story "Herr" was a title roughly corresponding to "Sir."--Trans.] can tell us how it is with the ice, but I will be bound he'll give us a good supper before we set out on our sea voyage."
But his words were not able to quiet the dog, who raised his muzzle and howled more dismally than ever.
At this Torarin himself was not far from yielding to an uncanny feeling. It had now grown almost dark, but still Torarin could see Solberga church and the wide plain around it, which was sheltered by broad wooded heights to landward and by bare, rounded rocks toward the sea. As he drove on in solitude over the vast white plain, he felt he was a wretched little worm, while from the dark forests and the mountain wastes came troops of great monsters and trolls of every kind venturing into the open country on the fall of darkness. And in the whole great plain there was none other for them to fall upon than poor Torarin.
But at the same time he tried again to quiet the dog.
"Bless me, what is your quarrel with Herr Arne? He is the richest man in the country. He is of noble birth, and had he not been a priest there would have been a great lord of him."
But this could not avail to bring the dog to silence. Then Torarin lost patience, so that he took Grim by the scruff of the neck and threw him off the sledge.
The dog did not follow him as he drove on, but stood still upon the road and howled without ceasing until Torarin drove under a dark archway into the yard of the parsonage, which was surrounded on its four sides by long, low wooden buildings.
At Solberga parsonage the priest, Herr Arne, sat at supper surrounded by all his household. There was no stranger present but Torarin.
Herr Arne was an old white-haired man, but he was still powerful and erect. His wife sat beside him. To her the years had been unkind; her head and her hands trembled, and she was nearly deaf. On Herr Arne's other side sat his curate. He was a pale young man with a look of trouble in his face, as though he was unable to support all the learning he had gathered in during his years of study at Wittenberg.
These three sat at the head of the table, a little apart from the rest. Below them sat Torarin, and then the servants, who were old like their master. There were three serving-men; their heads were bald, their backs bent, and their eyes blinked and watered. Of women there were but two. They were somewhat younger and more able-bodied than the men, yet they too had a fragile look and were afflicted with the infirmities of age.
At the farthest end of the table sat two children. One of them was Herr Arne's niece, a child of no more than fourteen years. She was fair-haired and of delicate build; her face had not yet reached its fullness, but had a promise of beauty in it. She had another little maid sitting beside her, a poor orphan without father or mother, who had been given a home at the parsonage. The two sat close together on the bench, and it could be seen that there was great friendship between them.
All these folk sat at meat in the deepest silence. Torarin looked from one to another, but none was disposed to talk during the meal. All the old servants thought to themselves: "It is a goodly thing to be given food and to be spared the sufferings of want and hunger, which we have known so often in our lives. While we are eating we ought to have no thought but of giving thanks to God for His goodness."
Since Torarin found no one to talk to, his glance wandered up and down the room. He turned his eyes from the great stove, built up in many stages beside the entrance door, to the lofty four-post bed which stood in the farthest corner of the room. He looked from
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