Ebba Dohna’s Story

The beautiful point on Löfven’s eastern shore, about which the bay glides with lapping waves, the proud point where the manor of Borg lies, beware of approaching.

Löfven never looks more glorious than from its summit.

No one can know how lovely it is, the lake of my dreams, until he has seen from Borg’s point the morning mist glide away from its smooth surface; until he, from the windows of the little blue cabinet, where so many memories dwell, has seen it reflect a pink sunset.

But I still say, go not thither!

For perhaps you will be seized with a desire to remain in that old manor’s sorrowful halls; perhaps you will make yourself the owner of those fair lands; and if you are young, rich, and happy, you will make your home there with a young wife.

No, it is better never to see the beautiful point, for at Borg no one can live and be happy. No matter how rich, how happy you may be, who move in there, those old tear-drenched floors would soon drink your tears as well, and those walls, which could give back so many moans, would also glean your sighs.

An implacable fate is on this lovely spot. It is as if misfortune were buried there, but found no rest in its grave, and perpetually rose from it to terrify the living. If I were lord of Borg I would search through the ground, both in the park and under the cellar floor in the house, and in the fertile mould out in the meadows, until I had found the witch’s worm-eaten corpse, and then I would give her a grave in consecrated earth in the Svartsjö churchyard. And at the burial I would not spare on the ringer’s pay, but let the bells sound long and loud over her; and to the clergyman and sexton I should send rich gifts, that they with redoubled strength might with speech and song consecrate her to everlasting rest.

Or, if that did not help, some stormy night I would set fire to the wooden walls, and let it destroy everything, so that no one more might be tempted to live in the home of misfortune. Afterwards no one should be allowed to approach that doomed spot; only the church-tower’s black jackdaws should build in the great chimney, which, blackened and dreadful, would raise itself over the deserted foundations.

Still, I should certainly mourn when I saw the flames close over the roof, when thick smoke, reddened by the fire and flecked with sparks, should roll out from the old manor-house. In the crackling and the roaring I should fancy I heard the wails of homeless memories; on the blue points of the flames I should see disturbed spirits floating. I should think how sorrow beautifies, how misfortune adorns, and weep as if a temple to the old gods had been condemned to destruction.

But why croak of unhappiness? As yet Borg lies and shines on its point, shaded by its park of mighty pines, and the snow-covered fields glitter in March’s burning sun; as yet is heard within those walls the young Countess Elizabeth’s gay laughter.

Every Sunday she goes to church at Svartsjö, which lies near Borg, and gathers together a few friends for dinner. The judge and his family from Munkerud used to come, and the Ugglas from Berga, and even Sintram. If Gösta Berling happens to be in Svartsjö, wandering over Löfven’s ice, she invites him too. Why should she not invite Gösta Berling?

She probably does not know that the gossips are beginning to whisper that Gösta comes very often over to the east shore to see her. Perhaps he also comes to drink and play cards with Sintram; but no one thinks so much of that; everyone knows that his body is of steel; but it is another matter with his heart. No one believes that he can see a pair of shining eyes, and fair hair which curls about a white brow, without love.

The young countess is good to him. But there is nothing strange in that; she is good to all. She takes ragged beggar children on her knee, and when she drives by some poor old creature on the high road she has the coachman stop, and takes the poor wanderer up into her sledge.

Gösta used to sit in the little blue cabinet, where there is such a glorious view over the lake, and read poetry to her. There can be no harm in that. He does not forget that she is a countess, and he a homeless adventurer; and it is good for him to be with someone whom he holds high and holy. He could just as well be in love with the Queen of Sheba as with her.

He only asks to be allowed to wait on her as a page waits on his noble mistress: to fasten her skates, to hold her skeins, to steer her sled. There cannot be any question of love between them; he is just the man to find his happiness in a romantic, innocent adoration.

The young count is silent and serious, and Gösta is playfully gay. He is just such a companion as the young countess likes. No one who sees her fancies that she is hiding a forbidden love. She thinks of dancing⁠—of dancing and merrymaking. She would like the earth to be quite flat, without stones, without hills or seas, so that she could dance everywhere. From the cradle to the grave she would like to dance in her small, thin-soled, satin slippers.

But rumor is not very merciful to young women.

When the guests come to dinner at Borg, the men generally, after the meal, go into the count’s room to sleep and smoke; the old ladies sink down in the easy-chairs in the drawing-room, and lean their venerable heads against the high backs; but the countess and Anna Stjärnhök go into the blue cabinet and exchange endless confidences.

The Sunday after the one when Anna Stjärnhök took Ulrika Dillner back to Berga they are sitting there again.

No one on earth is so unhappy as the young girl. All her gayety is departed, and gone is the glad defiance which she showed to everything and everybody who wished to come too near her.

Everything which had happened to her that day has sunk back into the twilight from which it was charmed; she has only one distinct impression left⁠—yes, one, which is poisoning her soul.

“If it really was not God who did it,” she used to whisper to herself. “If it was not God, who sent the wolves?”

She asks for a sign, she longs for a miracle. She searches heaven and earth. But she sees no finger stretched from the sky to point out her way.

As she sits now opposite the countess in the blue cabinet, her eyes fall on a little bunch of hepaticas which the countess holds in her white hand. Like a bolt it strikes her that she knows where the flowers have grown, that she knows who has picked them.

She does not need to ask. Where else in the whole countryside do hepaticas bloom in the beginning of April, except in the birch grove which lies on the slopes of Ekeby?

She stares and stares at the little blue stars; those happy ones who possess all hearts; those little prophets who, beautiful in themselves, are also glorified by the splendor of all the beauty which they herald, of all the beauty which is coming. And as she watches them a storm of wrath rises in her soul, rumbling like the thunder, deadening like the lightning. “By what right,” she thinks, “does Countess Dohna hold this bunch of hepaticas, picked by the shore at Ekeby?”

They were all tempters: Sintram, the countess, everybody wanted to allure Gösta Berling to what was evil. But she would protect him; against all would she protect him. Even if it should cost her heart’s blood, she would do it.

She thinks that she must see those flowers torn out of the countess’s hand, and thrown aside, trampled, crushed, before she leaves the little blue cabinet.

She thinks that, and she begins a struggle with the little blue stars. Out in the drawing-room the old ladies lean their venerable heads against the chair-backs and suspect nothing; the men smoke their pipes in calm and quiet in the count’s room; peace is everywhere; only in the little blue cabinet rages a terrible struggle.

Ah, how well they do who keep their hands from the sword, who understand how to wait quietly, to lay their hearts to rest and let God direct! The restless heart always goes astray; ill-will makes the pain worse.

But Anna Stjärnhök believes that at last she has seen a finger in the sky.

“Anna,” says the countess, “tell me a story!”

“About what?”

“Oh,” says the countess, and caresses the flowers with her white hand. “Do not you know something about love, something about loving?”

“No, I know nothing of love.”

“How you talk! Is there not a place here which is called Ekeby⁠—a place full of pensioners?”

“Yes,” says Anna, “there is a place which is called Ekeby, and there are men there who suck the marrow of the land, who make us incapable of serious work, who ruin growing youth, and lead astray our geniuses. Do you want to hear of them? Do you want to hear love-stories of them?”

“Yes. I like the pensioners.”

So Anna Stjärnhök speaks⁠—speaks in short sentences, like an old hymnbook, for she is nearly choking with stormy emotions. Suppressed suffering trembles in each word, and the countess was both frightened and interested to hear her.

“What is a pensioner’s love, what is a pensioner’s faith?⁠—one sweetheart today, another tomorrow, one in the east, another in the west. Nothing is too high for him, nothing too low; one day a count’s daughter, the next day a beggar girl. Nothing on earth is so capacious as his heart. But alas, alas for her who loves a pensioner. She must seek him out where he lies drunk at the wayside. She must silently look on while he at the card-table plays away the home of her childhood. She must bear to have him hang about other women. Oh, Elizabeth, if a pensioner asks an honorable woman for a dance she ought to refuse it to him; if he gives her a bunch of flowers she ought to throw the flowers on the ground and trample on them; if she loves him she ought rather to die than to marry him. There was one among the pensioners who was a dismissed priest; he had lost his vestments for drunkenness. He was drunk in the church. He drank up the communion wine. Have you ever heard of him?”


“After he had been dismissed he wandered about the country as a beggar. He drank like a madman. He would steal to get brandy.”

“What is his name?”

“He is no longer at Ekeby. The major’s wife got hold of him, gave him clothes, and persuaded your mother-in-law, Countess Dohna, to make him tutor to your husband, young Count Henrik.”

“A dismissed priest!”

“Oh, he was a young, powerful man, of good intelligence. There was no harm in him, if he only did not drink. Countess Märta was not particular. It amused her to quarrel with the neighboring clergymen. Still, she ordered him to say nothing of his past life to her children. For then her son would have lost respect for him, and her daughter would not have endured him, for she was a saint.

“So he came here to Borg. He always sat just inside the door, on the very edge of his chair, never said a word at the table, and fled out into the park when any visitors came.

“But there in the lonely walks he used to meet young Ebba Dohna. She was not one who loved the noisy feasts which resounded in the halls at Borg after the countess became a widow. She was so gentle, so shy. She was still, although she was seventeen, nothing but a tender child; but she was very lovely, with her brown eyes, and the faint, delicate color in her cheeks. Her thin, slender body bent forward. Her little hand would creep into yours with a shy pressure. Her little mouth was the most silent of mouths and the most serious. Ah, her voice, her sweet little voice, which pronounced the words so slowly and so well, but never rang with the freshness and warmth of youth⁠—its feeble tones were like a weary musician’s last chord.

“She was not as others. Her foot trod so lightly, so softly, as if she were a frightened fugitive. She kept her eyelids lowered in order not to be disturbed in her contemplation of the visions of her soul. It had turned from the earth when she was but a child.

“When she was little her grandmother used to tell her stories; and one evening they both sat by the fire; but the stories had come to an end. But still the little girl’s hand lay on the old woman’s dress, and she gently stroked the silk⁠—that funny stuff which sounded like a little bird. And this stroking was her prayer, for she was one of those children who never beg in words.

“Then the old lady began to tell her of a little child in the land of Judah; of a little child who was born to become a great King. The angels had filled the earth with songs of praise when he was born. The kings of the East came, guided by the star of heaven, and gave him gold and incense; and old men and women foretold his glory. This child grew up to greater beauty and wisdom than all other children. Already, when he was twelve years old, his wisdom was greater than that of the chief-priests and the scribes.

“Then the old woman told her of the most beautiful thing the earth has ever seen: of that child’s life while he remained among men⁠—those wicked men who would not acknowledge him their King.

“She told her how the child became a man, but that the glory surrounded him still.

“Everything on the earth served him and loved him, except mankind. The fishes let themselves be caught in his net, bread filled his baskets, water changed itself to wine when he wished it.

“But the people gave the great King no golden crown, no shining throne. He had no bowing courtiers about him. They let him go among them like a beggar.

“Still, he was so good to them, the great King! He cured their sicknesses, gave back to the blind their sight, and waked the dead.

“But,” said the grandmother, “the people would not have the great King for their lord.

“ ‘They sent their soldiers against him, and took him prisoner; they dressed him, by way of mockery, in crown and sceptre, and in a silken cloak, and made him go out to the place of execution, bearing a heavy cross. Oh, my child, the good King loved the high mountains. At night he used to climb them to talk with those who dwelt in heaven, and he liked by day to sit on the mountainside and talk to the listening people. But now they led him up on a mountain to crucify him. They drove nails through his hands and feet, and hung the good King on a cross, as if he had been a robber or a malefactor.

“ ‘And the people mocked at him. Only his mother and his friends wept, that he should die before he had been a King.

“ ‘Oh, how the dead things mourned his death!

“ ‘The sun lost its light, and the mountains trembled; the curtain in the temple was rent asunder, and the graves opened, that the dead might rise up and show their grief.’

“The little one lay with her head on her grandmother’s knee, and sobbed as if her heart would break.

“ ‘Do not weep, little one; the good King rose from his grave and went up to his Father in heaven.’

“ ‘Grandmother,’ sobbed the poor little thing, ‘did he ever get any kingdom?’

“ ‘He sits on God’s right hand in heaven.’

“But that did not comfort her. She wept helplessly and unrestrainedly, as only a child can weep.

“ ‘Why were they so cruel to him? Why were they allowed to be so cruel to him?’

“Her grandmother was almost frightened at her overwhelming sorrow.

“ ‘Say, grandmother, say that you have not told it right! Say that it did not end so! Say that they were not so cruel to the good King! Say that he got a kingdom on earth!’

“She threw her arms around the old woman and beseeched her with streaming tears.

“ ‘Child, child,’ said her grandmother, to console her. ‘There are some who believe that he will come again. Then he will put the earth under his power and direct it. The beautiful earth will be a glorious kingdom. It shall last a thousand years. Then the fierce animals will be gentle; little children will play by the viper’s nest, and bears and cows will eat together. No one shall injure or destroy the other; the lance shall be bent into scythes, and the sword forged into ploughs. And everything shall be play and happiness, for the good will possess the earth.’

“Then the little one’s face brightened behind her tears.

“ ‘Will the good King then get a throne, grandmother?’

“ ‘A throne of gold.’

“ ‘And servants, and courtiers, and a golden crown?’

“ ‘Yes.’

“ ‘Will he come soon, grandmother?’

“ ‘No one knows when he will come.’

“ ‘May I sit on a stool at his feet?’

“ ‘You may.’

“ ‘Grandmother, I am so happy,’ says the little one.

“Evening after evening, through many winters, they both sat by the fire and talked of the good King and his kingdom. The little one dreamed of the kingdom which should last a thousand years, both by night and by day. She never wearied of adorning it with everything beautiful which she could think of.

“Ebba Dohna never dared to speak of it to anyone; but from that evening she only lived for the Lord’s kingdom, and to await his coming.

“When the evening sun crimsoned the western sky, she wondered if he would ever appear there, glowing with a mild splendor, followed by a host of millions of angels, and march by her, allowing her to touch the hem of his garment.

“She often thought, too, of those pious women who had hung a veil over their heads, and never lifted their eyes from the ground, but shut themselves in in the gray cloister’s calm, in the darkness of little cells, to always contemplate the glowing visions which appear from the night of the soul.

“Such had she grown up; such she was when she and the new tutor met in the lonely paths of the park.

“I will not speak more harshly of him than I must. I will believe that he loved that child, who soon chose him for companion in her lonely wanderings. I think that his soul got back its wings when he walked by the side of that quiet girl, who had never confided in any other. I think that he felt himself a child again, good, gentle, virtuous.

“But if he really loved her, why did he not remember that he could not give her a worse gift than his love? He, one of the world’s outcasts, what did he want, what did he think of when he walked at the side of the count’s daughter? What did the dismissed clergyman think when she confided to him her gentle dreams? What did he want, who had been a drunkard, and would be again when he got the chance, at the side of her who dreamed of a bridegroom in heaven? Why did he not fly far, far away from her? Would it not have been better for him to wander begging and stealing about the land than to walk under the silent pines and again be good, gentle, virtuous, when it could not change the life he had led, nor make it right that Ebba Dohna should love him?

“Do not think that he looked like a drunkard, with livid cheeks and red eyes. He was always a splendid man, handsome and unbroken in soul and body. He had the bearing of a king and a body of steel, which was not hurt by the wildest life.”

“Is he still living?” asks the countess.

“Oh, no, he must be dead now. All that happened so long ago.”

There is something in Anna Stjärnhök which begins to tremble at what she is doing. She begins to think that she will never tell the countess who the man is of whom she speaks; that she will let her believe that he is dead.

“At that time he was still young;” and she begins her story again. “The joy of living was kindled in him. He had the gift of eloquence, and a fiery, impulsive heart.

“One evening he spoke to Ebba Dohna of love. She did not answer; she only told him what her grandmother had told her that winter evening, and described to him the land of her dreams. Then she exacted a promise from him. She made him swear that he would be a proclaimer of the word of God; one of those who would prepare the way for the Lord, so that his coming might be hastened.

“What could he do? He was a dismissed clergyman, and no way was so closed to him as that on which she wanted him to enter. But he did not dare to tell her the truth. He did not have the heart to grieve that gentle child whom he loved. He promised everything she wished.

“After that few words were needed. It went without saying that some day she should be his wife. It was not a love of kisses and caresses. He hardly dared come near her. She was as sensitive as a fragile flower. But her brown eyes were sometimes raised from the ground to seek his. On moonlit evenings, when they sat on the veranda, she would creep close to him, and then he would kiss her hair without her noticing it.

“But you understand that his sin was in his forgetting both the past and the future. That he was poor and humble he could forget; but he ought always to have remembered that a day must come when in her soul love would rise against love, earth against heaven, when she would be obliged to choose between him and the glorious Lord of the kingdom of the thousand years. And she was not one who could endure such a struggle.

“A summer went by, an autumn, a winter. When the spring came, and the ice melted, Ebba Dohna fell ill. It was thawing in the valleys; there were streams down all the hills, the ice was unsafe, the roads almost impassable both for sledge and cart.

“Countess Dohna wanted to get a doctor from Karlstad; there was none nearer. But she commanded in vain. She could not, either with prayers or threats, induce a servant to go. She threw herself on her knees before the coachman, but he refused. She went into hysterics of grief over her daughter⁠—she was always immoderate, in sorrow as in joy, Countess Märta.

“Ebba Dohna lay ill with pneumonia, and her life was in danger; but no doctor could be got.

“Then the tutor drove to Karlstad. To take that journey in the condition the roads were in was to play with his life; but he did it. It took him over bending ice and breakneck freshets. Sometimes he had to cut steps for the horse in the ice, sometimes drag him out of the deep clay in the road. It was said that the doctor refused to go with him, and that he, with pistol in hand, forced him to set out.

“When he came back the countess was ready to throw herself at his feet. ‘Take everything!’ she said. ‘Say what you want, what you desire⁠—my daughter, my lands, my money!’

“ ‘Your daughter,’ answered the tutor.”

Anna Stjärnhök suddenly stops.

“Well, what then, what then?” asks Countess Elizabeth.

“That can be enough for now,” answers Anna, for she is one of those unhappy people who live in the anguish of doubt. She has felt it a whole week. She does not know what she wants. What one moment seems right to her the next is wrong. Now she wishes that she had never begun this story.

“I begin to think that you want to deceive me, Anna. Do you not understand that I must hear the end of this story?”

“There is not much more to tell.⁠—The hour of strife was come for Ebba Dohna. Love raised itself against love, earth against heaven.

“Countess Märta told her of the wonderful journey which the young man had made for her sake, and she said to her that she, as a reward, had given him her hand.

“Ebba was so much better that she lay dressed on a sofa. She was weak and pale, and even more silent than usual.

“When she heard those words she lifted her brown eyes reproachfully to her mother, and said to her:⁠—

“ ‘Mamma, have you given me to a dismissed priest, to one who has forfeited his right to serve God, to a man who has been a thief, a beggar?’

“ ‘But, child, who has told you that? I thought you knew nothing of it.’

“ ‘I heard your guests speaking of him the day I was taken ill.’

“ ‘But, child, remember that he has saved your life!’

“ ‘I remember that he has deceived me. He should have told me who he was.’

“ ‘He says that you love him.’

“ ‘I have done so. I cannot love one who has deceived me.’

“ ‘How has he deceived you?’

“ ‘You would not understand, mamma.’

“She did not wish to speak to her mother of the kingdom of her dreams, which her beloved should have helped her to realize.

“ ‘Ebba,’ said the countess, ‘if you love him you shall not ask what he has been, but marry him. The husband of a Countess Dohna will be rich enough, powerful enough, to excuse all the follies of his youth.’

“ ‘I care nothing for his youthful follies, mamma; it is because he can never be what I want him to be that I cannot marry him.’

“ ‘Ebba, remember that I have given him my promise!’

“The girl became as pale as death.

“ ‘Mamma, I tell you that if you marry me to him you part me from God.’

“ ‘I have decided to act for your happiness,’ says the countess. ‘I am certain that you will be happy with this man. You have already succeeded in making a saint of him. I have decided to overlook the claims of birth and to forget that he is poor and despised, in order to give you a chance to raise him. I feel that I am doing right. You know that I scorn all old prejudices.’

“The young girl lay quiet on her sofa for a while after the countess had left her. She was fighting her battle. Earth raised itself against heaven, love against love; but her childhood’s love won the victory. As she lay there on the sofa, she saw the western sky glow in a magnificent sunset. She thought that it was a greeting from the good King; and as she could not be faithful to him if she lived, she decided to die. There was nothing else for her to do, since her mother wished her to belong to one who never could be the good King’s servant.

“She went over to the window, opened it, and let the twilight’s cold, damp air chill her poor, weak body.

“It was easily done. The illness was certain to begin again, and it did.

“No one but I knows that she sought death, Elizabeth. I found her at the window. I heard her delirium. She liked to have me at her side those last days.

“It was I who saw her die; who saw how she one evening stretched out her arms towards the glowing west, and died, smiling, as if she had seen someone advance from the sunset’s glory to meet her. It was also I who had to take her last greeting to the man she loved. I was to ask him to forgive her, that she could not be his wife. The good King would not permit it.

“But I have never dared to say to that man that he was her murderer. I have not dared to lay the weight of such pain on his shoulders. And yet he, who won her love by lies, was he not her murderer? Was he not, Elizabeth?”

Countess Dohna long ago had stopped caressing the blue flowers. Now she rises, and the bouquet falls to the floor.

“Anna, you are deceiving me. You say that the story is old, and that the man has been dead a long time. But I know that it is scarcely five years since Ebba Dohna died, and you say that you yourself were there through it all. You are not old. Tell me who the man is!”

Anna Stjärnhök begins to laugh.

“You wanted a love-story. Now you have had one which has cost you both tears and pain.”

“Do you mean that you have lied?”

“Nothing but romance and lies, the whole thing!”

“You are too bad, Anna.”

“Maybe. I am not so happy, either.⁠—But the ladies are awake, and the men are coming into the drawing-room. Let us join them!”

On the threshold she is stopped by Gösta Berling, who is looking for the young ladies.

“You must have patience with me,” he says, laughing. “I shall only torment you for ten minutes; but you must hear my verses.”

He tells them that in the night he had had a dream more vivid than ever before; he had dreamt that he had written verse. He, whom the world called “poet,” although he had always been undeserving of the title, had got up in the middle of the night, and, half asleep, half awake, had begun to write. It was a whole poem, which he had found the next morning on his writing-table. He could never have believed it of himself. Now the ladies should hear it.

And he reads:⁠—

“The moon rose, and with her came the sweetest hour of the day.
From the clear, pale-blue, lofty vault
She flooded the leafy veranda with her light.
On the broad steps we were sitting, both old and young,
Silent at first to let the emotions sing
The heart’s old song in that tender hour.

“From the mignonette rose a sweet perfume,
And from dark thickets shadows crept over the dewy grass.
Oh, who can be safe from emotion
When the night’s shadows play, when the mignonette sheds its heavy perfume?

“The last faded petal dropped from the rose,
Although the offering was not sought by the wind.
So⁠—we thought⁠—will we give up our life,
Vanish into space like a sound,
Like autumn’s yellowed leaf go without a moan.
Death is the reward of life; may we meet it quietly,
Just as a rose lets its last faded petal fall.

“On its fluttering wing a bat flew by us,
Flew and was seen, wherever the moon shone;
Then the question arose in our oppressed hearts⁠—

“The question which none can answer,
The question, heavy as sorrow, old as pain:
‘Oh, whither go we, what paths shall we wander
When we no longer walk on earth’s green pastures?’
Is there no one to show our spirits the way?
Easier were it to show a way to the bat who fluttered by us.

“She laid her head on my shoulder, her soft hair,
She, who loved me, and whispered softly:
‘Think not that souls fly to far-distant places;
When I am dead, think not that I am far away.
Into my beloved’s soul my homeless spirit will creep
And I will come and live in thee.’

“Oh what anguish! With sorrow my heart will break.
Was she to die, die soon? Was this night to be her last?
Did I press my last kiss on my beloved’s waving hair?

“Years have gone by since then. I still sit many times
In the old place, when the night is dark and silent.
But I tremble when the moon shines on the leafy veranda,
For her who alone knows how often I kissed my darling there,
For her who blended her quivering light with my tears,
Which fell on my darling’s hair.
Alas, for memory’s pain! Oh, ’tis the grief of my poor, sinful soul
That it should be her home! What punishment may he not await
Who has bound to himself a soul so pure, so innocent.”

“Gösta,” says Anna, jestingly, while her throat contracts with pain, “people say of you that you have lived through more poems than others have written, who have not done anything else all their lives; but do you know, you will do best to compose poems your own way. That was night work.”

“You are not kind.”

“To come and read such a thing, on death and suffering⁠—you ought to be ashamed!”

Gösta is not listening to her. His eyes are fixed on the young countess. She sits quite stiff, motionless as a statue. He thinks she is going to faint.

But with infinite difficulty her lips form one word.

“Go!” she says.

“Who shall go? Shall I go?”

“The priest shall go,” she stammers out.

“Elizabeth, be silent!”

“The drunken priest shall leave my house!”

“Anna, Anna,” Gösta asks, “what does she mean?”

“You had better go, Gösta.”

“Why shall I go? What does all this mean?”

“Anna,” says Countess Elizabeth, “tell him, tell him!”

“No, countess, tell him yourself!”

The countess sets her teeth, and masters her emotion.

“Herr Berling,” she says, and goes up to him, “you have a wonderful power of making people forget who you are. I did not know it till today. I have just heard the story of Ebba Dohna’s death, and that it was the discovery that she loved one who was unworthy which killed her. Your poem has made me understand that you are that man. I cannot understand how anyone with your antecedents can show himself in the presence of an honorable woman. I cannot understand it, Herr Berling. Do I speak plainly enough?”

“You do, Countess. I will only say one word in my defence. I was convinced, I thought the whole time that you knew everything about me. I have never tried to hide anything; but it is not so pleasant to cry out one’s life’s bitterest sorrow on the highways.”

He goes.

And in the same instant Countess Dohna sets her little foot on the bunch of blue stars.

“You have now done what I wished,” says Anna Stjärnhök sternly to the countess; “but it is also the end of our friendship. You need not think that I can forgive your having been cruel to him. You have turned him away, scorned, and wounded him, and I⁠—I will follow him into captivity; to the scaffold if need be. I will watch over him, protect him. You have done what I wished, but I shall never forgive you.”

“But, Anna, Anna!”

“Because I told you all that do you think that I did it with a glad spirit? Have I not sat here and bit by bit torn my heart out of my breast?”

“Why did you do it?”

“Why? Because I did not wish⁠—that he should be a married woman’s lover.”