Midsummer was hot then as now when I am writing. It was the most beautiful season of the year. It was the season when Sintram, the wicked ironmaster at Fors, fretted and grieved. He resented the sun’s triumphal march through the hours of the day, and the overthrow of darkness. He raged at the leafy dress which clothed the trees, and at the many-colored carpet which covered the ground.

Everything arrayed itself in beauty. The road, gray and dusty as it was, had its border of flowers: yellow and purple midsummer blossoms, wild parsley, and asters.

When the glory of midsummer lay on the mountains and the sound of the bells from the church at Bro was borne on the quivering air even as far as Fors, when the unspeakable stillness of the Sabbath day reigned in the land, then he rose in wrath. It seemed to him as if God and men dared to forget that he existed, and he decided to go to church, he too. Those who rejoiced at the summer should see him, Sintram, lover of darkness without morning, of death without resurrection, of winter without spring.

He put on his wolfskin coat and shaggy fur gloves. He had the red horse harnessed in a sledge, and fastened bells to the shining horse-collar. Equipped as if it were thirty degrees below zero, he drove to church. He believed that the grinding under the runners was from the severe cold. He believed that the white foam on the horse’s back was hoarfrost. He felt no heat. Cold streamed from him as warmth from the sun.

He drove over the wide plain north of the Bro church. Large, rich villages lay near his way, and fields of grain, over which singing larks fluttered. Never have I heard larks sing as in those fields. Often have I wondered how he could shut his ears to those hundreds of songsters.

He had to drive by many things on the way which would have enraged him if he had given them a glance. He would have seen two bending birches at the door of every house, and through open windows he would have looked into rooms whose ceilings and walls were covered with flowers and green branches. The smallest beggar child went on the road with a bunch of lilacs in her hand, and every peasant woman had a little nosegay stuck in her neckerchief.

Maypoles with faded flowers and drooping wreaths stood in every yard. Round about them the grass was trodden down, for the merry dance had whirled there through the summer night.

Below on the Löfven crowded the floats of timber. The little white sails were hoisted in honor of the day, although no wind filled them, and every masthead bore a green wreath.

On the many roads which lead to Bro the congregation came walking. The women were especially magnificent in the light summer-dresses, which had been made ready just for that day. All were dressed in their best.

And the people could not help rejoicing at the peace of the day and the rest from daily work, at the delicious warmth, the promising harvest, and the wild strawberries which were beginning to redden at the edge of the road. They noticed the stillness of the air and the song of the larks, and said: “It is plain that this is the Lord’s day.”

Then Sintram drove up. He swore and swung his whip over the straining horse. The sand grated horribly under the runners, the sleigh-bells’ shrill clang drowned the sound of the church bells. His brow lay in angry wrinkles under his fur cap.

The churchgoers shuddered and thought they had seen the evil one himself. Not even today on the summer’s festival might they forget evil and cold. Bitter is the lot of those who wander upon earth.

The people who stood in the shadow of the church or sat on the churchyard wall and waited for the beginning of the service, saw him with calm wonder when he came up to the church door. The glorious day had filled their hearts with joy that they were walking the paths of earth and enjoying the sweetness of existence. Now, when they saw Sintram, forebodings of strange disaster came over them.

Sintram entered the church and sat down in his seat, throwing his gloves on the bench, so that the rattle of the wolves’ claws which were sewed into the skin was heard through the church. And several women who had already taken their places on the front benches fainted when they saw the shaggy form, and had to be carried out.

But no one dared to drive out Sintram. He disturbed the people’s devotions, but he was too much feared for anyone to venture to order him to leave the church.

In vain the old clergyman spoke of the summer’s bright festival. Nobody listened to him. The people only thought of evil and cold and of the strange disaster which the wicked ironmaster announced to them.

When it was over, they saw him walk out on to the slope of the hill where the Bro church stands. He looked down on the Broby Sound and followed it with his eyes past the deanery and the three points of the west shore out into the Löfven. And they saw how he clenched his fist and shook it over the sound and its green banks. Then his glance turned further south over the lower Löfven to the misty shores which seemed to shut in the lake, and northward it flew miles beyond Gurlitta Cliff up to Björnidet, where the lake began. He looked to the west and east, where the long mountains border the valley, and he clenched his fist again. And everyone felt that if he had held a bundle of thunderbolts in his right hand, he would have hurled them in wild joy out over the peaceful country and spread sorrow and death as far as he could. For now he had so accustomed his heart to evil that he knew no pleasure except in suffering. By degrees he had taught himself to love everything ugly and wretched. He was more insane than the most violent madman, but that no one understood.

Strange stories went about the land after that day. It was said that when the sexton came to shut up the church, the bit of the key broke, because a tightly folded paper had been stuck in the keyhole. He gave it to the dean. It was, as was to be expected, a letter meant for a being in the other world.

People whispered of what had stood there. The dean had burnt the paper, but the sexton had looked on while the devil’s trash burned. The letters had shone bright red on a black ground. He could not help reading. He read, people said, that Sintram wished to lay the country waste as far as the Bro church tower was visible. He wished to see the forest grow up about the church. He wished to see bear and fox living in men’s dwellings. The fields should lie uncultivated, and neither dog nor cock should be heard in the neighborhood. He wished to serve his master by causing every man’s ruin. That was what he promised.

And the people looked to the future in silent despair, for they knew that his power was great, that he hated everything living, that he wished to see the wilderness spread through the valley, and that he would gladly take pestilence or famine or war into his service to drive away everyone who loved good, joy-bringing work.