The Ball at Ekeby

Ah, women of the olden times!

To speak of you is to speak of the kingdom of heaven; you were all beauties, ever bright, ever young, ever lovely and gentle as a mother’s eyes when she looks down on her child. Soft as young squirrels you hung on your husband’s neck. Your voice never trembled with anger, no frowns ruffled your brow, your white hand was never harsh and hard. You, sweet saints, like adored images stood in the temple of home. Incense and prayers were offered you, through you love worked its wonders, and round your temples poetry wreathed its gold, gleaming glory.

Ah, women of the past, this is the story of how one of you gave Gösta Berling her love.

Two weeks after the ball at Borg there was one at Ekeby.

What a feast it was! Old men and women become young again, smile and rejoice, only in speaking of it.

The pensioners were masters at Ekeby at that time. The major’s wife went about the country with beggar’s wallet and crutch, and the major lived at Sjö. He could not even be present at the ball, for at Sjö smallpox had broken out, and he was afraid to spread the infection.

What pleasures those twelve hours contained, from the pop of the first cork at the dinner-table to the last wail of the violins, long after midnight.

They have sunk into the background of time, those crowned hours, made magical by the most fiery wines, by the most delicate food, by the most inspiring music, by the wittiest of theatricals, by the most beautiful tableaux. They have sunk away, dizzy with the dizziest dance. Where are to be found such polished floors, such courtly knights, such lovely women?

Ah, women of the olden days, you knew well how to adorn a ball. Streams of fire, of genius, and youthful vigor thrilled each and all who approached you. It was worth wasting one’s gold on wax-candles to light up your loveliness, on wine to instil gayety into your hearts; it was worth dancing soles to dust and rubbing stiff arms which had drawn the fiddle-bow, for your sakes.

Ah, women of the olden days, it was you who owned the key to the door of Paradise.

The halls of Ekeby are crowded with the loveliest of your lovely throng. There is the young Countess Dohna, sparklingly gay and eager for game and dance, as befits her twenty years; there are the lovely daughters of the judge of Munkerud, and the lively young ladies from Berga; there is Anna Stjärnhök, a thousand times more beautiful than ever before, with that gentle dreaminess which had come over her ever since the night she had been hunted by wolves; there are many more, who are not yet forgotten but soon will be; and there is the beautiful Marianne Sinclair.

She, the famed queen of beauty, who had shone at royal courts, who had travelled the land over and received homage everywhere, she who lighted the spark of love wherever she showed herself⁠—she had deigned to come to the pensioners’ ball.

At that time Värmland’s glory was at its height, borne up by many proud names. Much had the beautiful land’s happy children to be proud of, but when they named their glories they never neglected to speak of Marianne Sinclair.

The tales of her conquests filled the land.

They spoke of the coronets which had floated over her head, of the millions which had been laid at her feet, of the warriors’ swords and poets’ wreaths whose splendor had tempted her.

And she possessed not only beauty. She was witty and learned. The cleverest men of the day were glad to talk with her. She was not an author herself, but many of her ideas, which she had put into the souls of her poet-friends, lived again in song.

In Värmland, in the land of the bear, she seldom stayed. Her life was spent in perpetual journeyings. Her father, the rich Melchior Sinclair, remained at home at Björne and let Marianne go to her noble friends in the large towns or at the great country-seats. He had his pleasure in telling of all the money she wasted, and both the old people lived happy in the splendor of Marianne’s glowing existence.

Her life was a life of pleasures and homage. The air about her was love⁠—love her light and lamp, love her daily bread.

She, too, had often loved, often, often; but never had that fire lasted long enough to forge the chains which bind for life.

“I wait for him, the irresistible,” she used to say of love. “Hitherto he has not climbed over several ramparts, nor swum through several trenches. He has come tamely, without wildness in his eye and madness in his heart. I wait for the conqueror, who shall take me out of myself. I will feel love so strong within me that I must tremble before him; now I know only the love at which my good sense laughs.”

Her presence gave fire to talk, life to the wine. Her glowing spirit set the fiddle-bows going, and the dance floated in sweeter giddiness than before over the floor which she had touched with her feet. She was radiant in the tableaux, she gave genius to the comedy, her lovely lips⁠—

Ah, hush, it was not her fault, she never meant to do it! It was the balcony, it was the moonlight, the lace veil, the knightly dress, the song, which were to blame. The poor young creatures were innocent.

All that which led to so much unhappiness was with the best intentions. Master Julius, who could do anything, had arranged a tableau especially that Marianne might shine in full glory.

In the theatre, which was set up in the great drawing-room at Ekeby, sat the hundred guests and looked at the picture, Spain’s yellow moon wandering through a dark night sky. A Don Juan came stealing along Sevilla’s street and stopped under an ivy-clad balcony. He was disguised as a monk, but one could see an embroidered cuff under the sleeve, and a gleaming sword-point under the mantle’s hem.

He raised his voice in song:⁠—

“I kiss the lips of no fair maid,
Nor wet mine with the foaming wine
Within the beaker’s gold.
A cheek upon whose rose-leaf shade
Mine eyes have lit a glow divine,
A look which shyly seeketh mine⁠—
These leave me still and cold.

“Ah, come not in thy beauty’s glow,
Señora, through yon terrace-door;
I fear when thou art nigh!
Cope and stole my shoulders know,
The Virgin only I adore,
And water-jugs hold comfort’s store;
For ease to them I fly.”

As he finished, Marianne came out on the balcony, dressed in black velvet and lace veil. She leaned over the balustrade and sang slowly and ironically:

“Why tarry thus, thou holy man
Beneath my window late or long?
Dost pray for my soul’s weal?”

Then suddenly, warmly and eagerly:⁠—

“Ah, flee, begone while yet you can!
Your gleaming sword sticks forth so long.
And plainly, spite your holy song,
The spurs clank on your heel.”

At these words the monk cast off his disguise, and Gösta Berling stood under the balcony in a knight’s dress of silk and gold. He heeded not the beauty’s warning, but climbed up one of the balcony supports, swung himself over the balustrade, and, just as Master Julius had arranged it, fell on his knees at the lovely Marianne’s feet.

Graciously she smiled on him, and gave him her hand to kiss, and while the two young people gazed at one another, absorbed in their love, the curtain fell.

And before her knelt Gösta Berling, with a face tender as a poet’s and bold as a soldier’s, with deep eyes, which glowed with wit and genius, which implored and constrained. Supple and full of strength was he, fiery and captivating.

While the curtain went up and down, the two stood always in the same position. Gösta’s eyes held the lovely Marianne fast; they implored; they constrained.

Then the applause ceased; the curtain hung quiet; no one saw them.

Then the beautiful Marianne bent down and kissed Gösta Berling. She did not know why⁠—she had to. He stretched up his arms about her head and held her fast. She kissed him again and again.

But it was the balcony, it was the moonlight, it was the lace veil, the knightly dress, the song, the applause, which were to blame. They had not wished it. She had not thrust aside the crowns which had hovered over her head, and spurned the millions which lay at her feet, out of love for Gösta Berling; nor had he already forgotten Anna Stjärnhök. No; they were blameless; neither of them had wished it.

It was the gentle Löwenborg⁠—he with the fear in his eye and the smile on his lips⁠—who that day was curtain-raiser. Distracted by the memory of many sorrows, he noticed little of the things of this world, and had never learned to look after them rightly. When he now saw that Gösta and Marianne had taken a new position, he thought that it also belonged to the tableau, and so he began to drag on the curtain string.

The two on the balcony observed nothing until a thunder of applause greeted them.

Marianne started back and wished to flee, but Gösta held her fast, whispering:⁠—

“Stand still; they think it belongs to the tableau.”

He felt how her body shook with shuddering, and how the fire of her kisses died out on her lips.

“Do not be afraid,” he whispered; “lovely lips have a right to kiss.”

They had to stand while the curtain went up and went down, and each time the hundreds of eyes saw them, hundreds of hands thundered out a stormy applause.

For it was beautiful to see two fair young people represent love’s happiness. No one could think that those kisses were anything but stage delusion. No one guessed that the señora shook with embarrassment and the knight with uneasiness. No one could think that it did not all belong to the tableau.

At last Marianne and Gösta stood behind the scenes.

She pushed her hair back from her forehead.

“I don’t understand myself,” she said.

“Fie! for shame, Miss Marianne,” said he, grimacing, and stretched out his hands. “To kiss Gösta Berling; shame on you!”

Marianne had to laugh.

“Everyone knows that Gösta Berling is irresistible. My fault is no greater than others’.”

And they agreed to put a good face on it, so that no one should suspect the truth.

“Can I be sure that the truth will never come out, Herr Gösta?” she asked, before they went out among the guests.

“That you can. Gentlemen can hold their tongues. I promise you that.”

She dropped her eyes. A strange smile curved her lips.

“If the truth should come out, what would people think of me, Herr Gösta?”

“They would not think anything. They would know that it meant nothing. They would think that we entered into our parts and were going on with the play.”

Yet another question, with lowered lids and with the same forced smile⁠—

“But you yourself? What do you think about it, Herr Gösta?”

“I think that you are in love with me,” he jested.

“Think no such thing,” she smiled, “for then I must run you through with my stiletto to show you that you are wrong.”

“Women’s kisses are precious,” said Gösta. “Does it cost one’s life to be kissed by Marianne Sinclair?”

A glance flashed on him from Marianne’s eyes, so sharp that it felt like a blow.

“I could wish to see you dead, Gösta Berling! dead! dead!”

These words revived the old longing in the poet’s blood.

“Ah,” he said, “would that those words were more than words!⁠—that they were arrows which came whistling from some dark ambush; that they were daggers or poison, and had the power to destroy this wretched body and set my soul free!”

She was calm and smiling now.

“Childishness!” she said, and took his arm to join the guests.

They kept their costumes, and their triumphs were renewed when they showed themselves in front of the scenes. Everyone complimented them. No one suspected anything.

The ball began again, but Gösta escaped from the ballroom.

His heart ached from Marianne’s glance, as if it had been wounded by sharp steel. He understood too well the meaning of her words.

It was a disgrace to love him; it was a disgrace to be loved by him, a shame worse than death.

He would never dance again. He wished never to see them again, those lovely women.

He knew it too well. Those beautiful eyes, those red cheeks burned not for him. Not for him floated those light feet, nor rung that low laugh.

Yes, dance with him, flirt with him, that they could do, but not one of them would be his in earnest.

The poet went into the smoking-room to the old men, and sat down by one of the card-tables. He happened to throw himself down by the same table where the powerful master of Björne sat and played “baccarat” holding the bank with a great pile of silver in front of him.

The play was already high. Gösta gave it an even greater impulse. Green banknotes appeared, and always the pile of money grew in front of the powerful Melchior Sinclair.

But before Gösta also gathered both coins and notes, and soon he was the only one who held out in the struggle against the great landowner at Björne. Soon the great pile of money changed over from Melchior Sinclair to Gösta Berling.

“Gösta, my boy,” cried the landowner, laughing, when he had played away everything he had in his pocketbook and purse, “what shall we do now? I am bankrupt, and I never play with borrowed money. I promised my wife that.”

He discovered a way. He played away his watch and his beaver coat, and was just going to stake his horse and sledge when Sintram checked him.

“Stake something to win on,” he advised him. “Stake something to turn the luck.”

“What the devil have I got?”

“Play your reddest heart’s blood, brother Melchior. Stake your daughter!”

“You would never venture that,” said Gösta, laughing. “That prize I would never get under my roof.”

Melchior could not help laughing also. He could not endure that Marianne’s name should be mentioned at the card-tables, but this was so insanely ridiculous that he could not be angry. To play away Marianne to Gösta, yes, that he certainly could venture.

“That is to say,” he explained, “that if you can win her consent, Gösta, I will stake my blessing to the marriage on this card.”

Gösta staked all his winnings and the play began. He won, and Sinclair stopped playing. He could not fight against such bad luck; he saw that.

The night slipped by; it was past midnight. The lovely women’s cheeks began to grow pale; curls hung straight, ruffles were crumpled. The old ladies rose up from the sofa-corners and said that as they had been there twelve hours, it was about time for them to be thinking of home.

And the beautiful ball should be over, but then Lilliecrona himself seized the fiddle and struck up the last polka. The horses stood at the door; the old ladies were dressed in their cloaks and shawls; the old men wound their plaids about them and buckled their galoshes.

But the young people could not tear themselves from the dance. They danced in their outdoor wraps, and a mad dance it was. As soon as a girl stopped dancing with one partner, another came and dragged her away with him.

And even the sorrowful Gösta was dragged into the whirl. He hoped to dance away grief and humiliation; he wished to have the love of life in his blood again; he longed to be gay, he as well as the others. And he danced till the walls went round, and he no longer knew what he was doing.

Who was it he had got hold of in the crowd? She was light and supple, and he felt that streams of fire went from one to the other. Ah, Marianne!

While Gösta danced with Marianne, Sintram sat in his sledge before the door, and beside him stood Melchior Sinclair.

The great landowner was impatient at being forced to wait for Marianne. He stamped in the snow with his great snow-boots and beat with his arms, for it was bitter cold.

“Perhaps you ought not to have played Marianne away to Gösta,” said Sintram.

“What do you mean?”

Sintram arranged his reins and lifted his whip, before he answered:⁠—

“It did not belong to the tableau, that kissing.”

The powerful landowner raised his arm for a deathblow, but Sintram was already gone. He drove away, whipping the horse to a wild gallop without daring to look back, for Melchior Sinclair had a heavy hand and short patience.

He went now into the dancing-room to look for his daughter, and saw how Gösta and Marianne were dancing.

Wild and giddy was that last polka.

Some of the couples were pale, others glowing red, dust lay like smoke over the hall, the wax-candles gleamed, burned down to the sockets, and in the midst of all the ghostly ruin, they flew on, Gösta and Marianne, royal in their tireless strength, no blemish on their beauty, happy in the glorious motion.

Melchior Sinclair watched them for a while; but then he went and left Marianne to dance. He slammed the door, tramped down the stairs, and placed himself in the sledge, where his wife already waited, and drove home.

When Marianne stopped dancing and asked after her parents, they were gone.

When she was certain of this she showed no surprise. She dressed herself quietly and went out in the yard. The ladies in the dressing-room thought that she drove in her own sledge.

She hurried in her thin satin shoes along the road without telling anyone of her distress.

In the darkness no one recognized her, as she went by the edge of the road; no one could think that this late wanderer, who was driven up into the high drifts by the passing sledges, was the beautiful Marianne.

When she could go in the middle of the road she began to run. She ran as long as she was able, then walked for a while, then ran again. A hideous, torturing fear drove her on.

From Ekeby to Björne it cannot be farther than at most two miles. Marianne was soon at home, but she thought almost that she had come the wrong way. When she reached the house all the doors were closed, all the lights out; she wondered if her parents had not come home.

She went forward and twice knocked loudly on the front door. She seized the door-handle and shook it till the noise resounded through the whole house. No one came and opened, but when she let the iron go, which she had grasped with her bare hands, the fast-frozen skin was torn from them.

Melchior Sinclair had driven home in order to shut his door on his only child.

He was drunk with much drinking, wild with rage. He hated his daughter, because she liked Gösta Berling. He had shut the servants into the kitchen, and his wife in the bedroom. With solemn oaths he told them that the one who let Marianne in, he would beat to a jelly. And they knew that he would keep his word.

No one had ever seen him so angry. Such a grief had never come to him before. Had his daughter come into his presence, he would perhaps have killed her.

Golden ornaments, silken dresses had he given her, wit and learning had been instilled in her. She had been his pride, his glory. He had been as proud of her as if she had worn a crown. Oh, his queen, his goddess, his honored, beautiful, proud Marianne! Had he ever denied her anything? Had he not always considered himself too common to be her father? Oh, Marianne, Marianne!

Ought he not to hate her, when she is in love with Gösta Berling and kisses him? Should he not cast her out, shut his door against her, when she will disgrace her greatness by loving such a man? Let her stay at Ekeby, let her run to the neighbors for shelter, let her sleep in the snowdrifts; it’s all the same, she has already been dragged in the dirt, the lovely Marianne. The bloom is gone. The lustre of her life is gone.

He lies there in his bed, and hears how she beats on the door. What does that matter to him? He is asleep. Outside stands one who will marry a dismissed priest; he has no home for such a one. If he had loved her less, if he had been less proud of her, he could have let her come in.

Yes, his blessing he could not refuse them. He had played it away. But to open the door for her, that he would not do. Ah, Marianne!

The beautiful young woman still stood outside the door of her home. One minute she shook the lock in powerless rage, the next she fell on her knees, clasped her mangled hands, and begged for forgiveness.

But no one heard her, no one answered, no one opened to her.

Oh! was it not terrible? I am filled with horror as I tell of it. She came from a ball whose queen she had been! She had been proud, rich, happy; and in one minute she was cast into such an endless misery. Shut out from her home, exposed to the cold⁠—not scorned, not beaten, not cursed, but shut out with cold, immovable lovelessness.

Think of the cold, starlit night, which spread its arch above her, the great wide night with the empty, desolate snowfields, with the silent woods. Everything slept, everything was sunk in painless sleep; only one living point in all that sleeping whiteness. All sorrow and pain and horror, which otherwise had been spread over the world, crept forward towards that one lonely point. O God, to suffer alone in the midst of this sleeping, icebound world!

For the first time in her life she met with unmercifulness and hardness. Her mother would not take the trouble to leave her bed to save her. The old servants, who had guided her first steps, heard her and did not move a finger for her sake. For what crime was she punished?

Where should she find compassion, if not at this door? If she had been a murderess, she would still have knocked on it, knowing that they would forgive her. If she had sunk to being the most miserable of creatures, come wasted and in rags, she would still confidently have gone up to that door, and expected a loving welcome. That door was the entrance to her home; behind it she could only meet with love.

Had not her father tried her enough? Would they not soon open to her?

“Father, father!” she called. “Let me come in! I freeze, I tremble. It is terrible out here!”

“Mother, mother! You who have gone so many steps to serve me, you who have watched so many nights over me, why do you sleep now? Mother, mother, wake just this one night, and I will never give you pain again!”

She calls, and falls into breathless silence to listen for an answer. But no one heard her, no one obeyed her, no one answered.

Then she wrings her hands in despair, but there are no tears in her eyes.

The long, dark house with its closed doors and darkened windows lay awful and motionless in the night. What would become of her, who was homeless? Branded and dishonored was she, as long as she encumbered the earth. And her father himself pressed the red-hot iron deeper into her shoulders.

“Father,” she called once more, “what will become of me? People will believe the worst of me.”

She wept and suffered; her body was stiff with cold.

Alas, that such misery can reach one, who but lately stood so high! It is so easy to be plunged into the deepest suffering! Should we not fear life? Who sails in a safe craft? Round about us swell sorrows like a heaving ocean; see how the hungry waves lick the ship’s sides, see how they rage up over her. Ah, no safe anchorage, no solid ground, no steady ship, as far as the eye can see; only an unknown sky over an ocean of sorrow!

But hush! At last, at last! A light step comes through the hall.

“Is it mother?” asked Marianne.

“Yes, my child.”

“May I come in now?”

“Father will not let you come in.”

“I have run in the snowdrifts in my thin shoes all the way from Ekeby. I have stood here an hour and knocked and called. I am freezing to death out here. Why did you drive away and leave me?”

“My child, my child, why did you kiss Gösta Berling?”

“But father must have seen that I do not like him for that. It was in fun. Does he think that I will marry Gösta?”

“Go to the gardener’s house, Marianne, and beg that you pass the night there. Your father is drunk. He will not listen to reason. He has kept me a prisoner up there. I crept out when I thought he was asleep. He will kill me, if you come in.”

“Mother, mother, shall I go to strangers when I have a home? Are you as hard as father? How can you allow me to be shut out? I will lay myself in the drift out here, if you do not let me in.”

Then Marianne’s mother laid her hand on the lock to open the door, but at the same moment a heavy step was heard on the stair, and a harsh voice called her.

Marianne listened: her mother hurried away, the harsh voice cursed her and then⁠—

Marianne heard something terrible⁠—she could hear every sound in the silent house.

She heard the thud of a blow, a blow with a stick or a box on the ear; then she heard a faint noise, and then again a blow.

He struck her mother, the terrible brutal Melchior Sinclair struck his wife!

And in pale horror Marianne threw herself down on the threshold and writhed in anguish. Now she wept, and her tears froze to ice on the threshold of her home.

Grace! pity! Open, open, that she might bend her own back under the blows! Oh, that he could strike her mother, strike her, because she did not wish to see her daughter the next day lying dead in the snowdrift, because she had wished to comfort her child!

Great humiliation had come to Marianne that night. She had fancied herself a queen, and she lay there little better than a whipped slave.

But she rose up in cold rage. Once more she struck the door with her bloody hand and called:⁠—

“Hear what I say to you⁠—you, who beat my mother. You shall weep for this, Melchior Sinclair, weep!”

Then she went and laid herself to rest in the snowdrift. She threw off her cloak and lay in her black velvet dress, easily distinguishable against the white snow. She lay and thought how her father would come out the next day on his early morning tour of inspection and find her there. She only hoped that he himself might find her.

O Death, pale friend, is it as true as it is consoling, that I never can escape meeting you? Even to me, the lowliest of earth’s workers, will you come, to loosen the torn leather shoes from my feet, to take the spade and the barrow from my hand, to take the working-dress from my body. With gentle force you lay me out on a lace-trimmed bed; you adorn me with draped linen sheets. My feet need no more shoes, my hands are clad in snow-white gloves, which no more work shall soil. Consecrated by thee to the sweetness of rest, I shall sleep a sleep of a thousand years. Oh deliverer! The lowliest of earth’s laborers am I, and I dream with a thrill of pleasure of the hour when I shall be received into your kingdom.

Pale friend, on me you can easily try your strength, but I tell you that the fight was harder against those women of the olden days. Life’s strength was mighty in their slender bodies, no cold could cool their hot blood. You had laid Marianne on your bed, O Death, and you sat by her side, as an old nurse sits by the cradle to lull the child to sleep. You faithful old nurse, who know what is good for the children of men, how angry you must be when playmates come, who with noise and romping wake your sleeping child. How vexed you must have been when the pensioners lifted the lovely Marianne out of the bed, when a man laid her against his breast, and warm tears fell from his eyes on to her face.

At Ekeby all lights were out, and all the guests had gone. The pensioners stood alone in the bachelors’ wing, about the last half-emptied punch bowl.

Then Gösta rung on the edge of the bowl and made a speech for you, women of the olden days. To speak of you, he said, was to speak of the kingdom of heaven: you were all beauties, ever bright, ever young, ever lovely and gentle as a mother’s eyes when she looks down on her child. Soft as young squirrels you hung on your husband’s neck, your voice never trembled with anger, no frowns ruffled your brow, your white hands were never harsh and hard. Sweet saints, you were adored images in the temple of home. Men lay at your feet, offering you incense and prayers. Through you love worked its wonders, and round your temples poetry wreathed its gold, gleaming glory.

And the pensioners sprang up, wild with wine, wild with his words, with their blood raging. Old Eberhard and the lazy Christopher drew back from the sport. In the wildest haste the pensioners harnessed horses to sledges and hurried out in the cold night to pay homage to those who never could be honored enough, to sing a serenade to each and all of them who possessed the rosy cheeks and bright eyes which had just lighted up Ekeby halls.

But the pensioners did not go far on their happy way, for when they came to Björne, they found Marianne lying in the snowdrift, just by the door of her home.

They trembled and raged to see her there. It was like finding a worshipped saint lying mangled and stripped outside the church-door.

Gösta shook his clenched hand at the dark house. “You children of hate,” he cried, “you hailstorms, you ravagers of God’s pleasure-house!”

Beerencreutz lighted his horn lantern and let it shine down on the livid face. Then the pensioners saw Marianne’s mangled hands, and the tears which had frozen to ice on her eyelashes, and they wailed like women, for she was not merely a saintly image, but a beautiful woman, who had been a joy to their old hearts.

Gösta Berling threw himself on his knees beside her.

“She is lying here, my bride,” he said. “She gave me the betrothal kiss a few hours ago, and her father has promised me his blessing. She lies and waits for me to come and share her white bed.”

And Gösta lifted up the lifeless form in his strong arms.

“Home to Ekeby with her!” he cried. “Now she is mine. In the snowdrift I have found her; no one shall take her from me. We will not wake them in there. What has she to do behind those doors, against which she has beaten her hand into blood?”

He was allowed to do as he wished. He laid Marianne in the foremost sledge and sat down at her side. Beerencreutz sat behind and took the reins.

“Take snow and rub her, Gösta!” he commanded.

The cold had paralyzed her limbs, nothing more. The wildly agitated heart still beat. She had not even lost consciousness; she knew all about the pensioners, and how they had found her, but she could not move. So she lay stiff and stark in the sledge, while Gösta Berling rubbed her with snow and alternately wept and kissed, and she felt an infinite longing to be able only to lift a hand, that she might give a caress in return.

She remembered everything. She lay there stiff and motionless and thought more clearly than ever before. Was she in love with Gösta Berling? Yes, she was. Was it merely a whim of the moment? No, it had been for many years. She compared herself with him and the other people in Värmland. They were all just like children. They followed whatever impulse came to them. They only lived the outer life, had never looked deep into their souls. But she had become what one grows to be by living in the world; she could never really lose herself in anything. If she loved, yes, whatever she did, one half of her stood and looked on with a cold scorn. She had longed for a passion which should carry her away in wild heedlessness, and now it had come. When she kissed Gösta Berling on the balcony, for the first time she had forgotten herself.

And now the passion came over her again, her heart throbbed so that she heard it beat. Should she not soon be mistress of her limbs? She felt a wild joy that she had been thrust out from her home. Now she could be Gösta’s without hesitation. How stupid she had been, to have subdued her love so many years. Ah, it is so sweet to yield to love. But shall she never, never be free from these icy chains? She has been ice within and fire on the surface; now it is the opposite, a soul of fire in a body of ice.

Then Gösta feels how two arms gently are raised about his neck in a weak, feeble pressure.

He could only just feel them, but Marianne thought that she gave expression to the suppressed passion in her by a suffocating embrace.

But when Beerencreutz saw it he let the horse go as it would along the familiar road. He raised his eyes and looked obstinately and unceasingly at the Pleiades.