Erling looked down. A nasty trick I played on her, he thought, bitterly. I'll try to make up for some of it. And how was it Øystein had continued? But that's not the reason we're getting married.
He emptied the glass, walked over to the window and pulled back the curtain. By the light of the lamp over the door he could see Julie and the younger of the Etruscans walking back and forth along the veranda, arms round each other's shoulders.
He went out by another door, crossed the yard diagonally toward Old Venhaug; he wanted to be alone for a while. As he entered the hall he could hear a noise above him. What a hell of a lot of crying there was nowadays; it must be Felicia and the Etruscan Birgit. He stole silently out again, but the thought struck him he would have liked to hear what these two women had to cry over together.
Julie and Adda were still walking on the veranda where the autumnal insects kept swarming around the light, creating fluttering shadows. He walked along the fence so the girls wouldn't see him. It always bothered him to disturb people who might have need of talking about their own problems; it was almost a fear, perhaps some remnant of embarrassment at being the fifth wheel. He felt exposed by the light from the lamp even though he well knew they couldn't see him from where they were. He stopped behind some tall bushes, still in leaf, and watched the two who had just now turned and walked toward him. Were they also crying together?
No, apparently not, and now he wondered why he had thought so. Well, they weren't crying then, but each had much to cry over, perhaps as much or more than Felicia and Birgit who had gone into hiding at Old Venhaug. One could be terribly blind to the most obvious; why hadn't he at once understood why Julie literally rushed after the others? Why hadn't he realized the reason for those two girls walking together? Of these two illegitimate children, Birgit's daughter had been the more fortunate, but who finds comfort in the thought that someone else's fate might have been worse. And his own child had been pushed from one impossible foster-home to another until Felicia rescued her.
Rescued by Felicia. And the Little Etruscan had until now lived in a sort of closed conspiracy with her mother to keep people from feeling sorry for them. It had been a joy when her father materialized yesterday, but it was too late, she was grown, she now took care of herself. Erling [p. 259] had heard she had a boy-friend somewhere. But she had gone through her childhood and early youth without a father, and from the moment she could think her own thoughts she had been made to feel there was something degrading in not having a father.
Those two young girls under the light, they had one thing in common—their forgiveness to a father. Julie had grown up like a tree that has languished in poor soil but is moved to an advantageous spot before it is too late. Even that obligation of gratitude Felicia has burdened me with. She demands a high and peculiar price. I owe her my life, I owe her everything, I owe her for the lives of others whom I deserted. She hasn't spared me anything. Great has been your revenge, Felicia, great when you demanded blood-revenge for your brothers, and equally unmerciful has been your revenge on me. The remarkable fact is that you have lived out the revenge as a natural and organic part of your life. What I understand least is how you find the time. Here you came, a city girl, and assumed the reins of Venhaug. Yet, you have time for anything you get your mind on, and you never seem to tire. I imagine you have added the strength and the will of your young dead brothers to that of your own. Many were those who declared a private war against Hitler, but I know of no one who declared him total war as did you—cold-blooded, consuming, uninterrupted, without letting anything else stand in your way. It has always been dangerous to injure you, for then you grow tall and double your strength. Compared with you most others become remarkably ordinary.
Copyright © 1958 by H. Aschehoug & Co., Oslo, Norway. Used by permission. English translation copyright © 1966 The Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System. All rights reserved. Use of this material falling outside the purview of "fair use" requires the permission of the University of Wisconsin Press.
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