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Title: The Treasure

Author: Selma Lagerlof

Release Date: February, 2004 [EBook #5161]

[This file was first posted on May 24, 2002]

[Most recently updated: October 15, 2003]

Edition: 10

Language: English

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information about the original edition.

The Treasure

By Selma Lagerlof

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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.



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

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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

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uttered when the dog stood up on the load and raised a terrible


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


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.

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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

the fixed benches that ran round the room to the hole in the roof,

through which the smoke escaped and wintry air poured in.

As Torarin the fish hawker, who lived in the smallest and poorest

cabin on the outer isles, looked upon all these things, he

thought: "Were I a great man like Herr Arne I would not be content

to live in an ancient homestead with only one room. I should build

myself a house with high gables and many chambers, like those of

the burgomasters and aldermen of Marstrand."

But more often than not Torarin’s eyes rested upon a great oaken

chest which stood at the foot of the four-post bed. And he looked

at it so long because he knew that in it Herr Arne kept all his

silver moneys, and he had heard they were so many that they filled

the chest to the very lid.

And Torarin, who was so poor that he hardly ever had a silver

piece in his pocket, said to himself: "And yet I would not have

all that money. They say Herr Arne took it from the great convents

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that were in the land in former days, and that the old monks

foretold that this money would bring him misfortune."

While yet these thoughts were in the mind of Torarin, he saw the

old mistress of the house put her hand to her ear to listen. And

then she turned to Herr Arne and asked him: "Why are they whetting

knives at Branehog?"

So deep was the silence in the room that when the old lady asked

this question all gave a start and looked up in fright. When they

saw that she was listening for something, they kept their spoons

quiet and strained their ears.

For some moments there was dead stillness in the room, but while

it lasted the old woman became more and more uneasy. She laid her

hand on Herr Arne’s arm and asked him: "How can it be that they

are whetting such long knives at Branehog this evening?"

Torarin saw that Herr Arne stroked her hand to calm her. But he

was in no mind to answer and ate on calmly as before.

The old woman still sat listening. Tears came into her eyes from

terror, and her hands and her head trembled more and more


Then the two little maids who sat at the end of the table began to

weep with fear. "Can you not hear them scraping and filing?" asked

the old mistress. "Can you not hear them hissing and grating?"

Herr Arne sat still, stroking his wife’s hand. As long as he kept

silence no other dared utter a word.

But they were all assured that their old mistress had heard a

thing that was terrifying and boded ill. All felt the blood

curdling in their veins. No one at the table raised a bit of food

to his mouth, except old Herr Arne himself.

They were thinking of the old mistress, how it was she who for so

many years had had charge of the household. She had always stayed

at home and watched with wise and tender care over children and

servants, goods and cattle, so that all had prospered. Now she was

worn out and stricken in years, but still it was likely that she

and none other should feel a danger that threatened the house.

The old lady grew more and more terrified. She clasped her hands

in her helplessness and began to weep so sorely that the big tears

ran down her shrunken cheeks.

"Is it nothing to you, Arne Arneson, that I am so sore afraid?"

she complained.

Herr Arne bent his head to her and said: "I know not what it is

that affrights you."

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"I am in fear of the long knives they are whetting at Branehog,"

she said.

"How can you hear them whetting knives at Branehog?" said Herr

Arne, smiling. "The place lies two miles from here. Take up your

spoon again and let us finish our supper."

The old woman made an effort to overcome her terror. She took up

her spoon and dipped it in the milk bowl, but in doing it her hand

shook so that all could hear the spoon rattle against the edge.

She put it down again at once. "How can I eat?" she said. "Do I

not hear the whining of the whetstone, do I not hear it grating?"

At this Herr Arne thrust the milk bowl away from him and clasped

his hands. All the others did the same, and the curate began to

say grace.

When this was ended, Herr Arne looked down at those who sat along

the table, and when he saw that they were pale and frightened, he

was angry.

He began to speak to them of the days when he had lately come to

Bohuslen to preach the Lutheran doctrine. Then he and his servants

were forced to fly from the Papists like wild beasts before the

hunter. "Have we not seen our enemies lie in wait for us as we

were on our way to the house of God? Have we not been driven out

of the parsonage, and have we not been compelled to take to the

woods like outlaws? Does it beseem us to play the coward and give

ourselves up for lost on account of an evil omen?"

As Herr Arne said this he looked like a valiant champion, and the

others took heart anew on hearing him.

"Ay, it is true," they thought. "God has protected Herr Arne

through the greatest perils. He holds His hand over him. He will

not let His servant perish."


As soon as Torarin drove out upon the road his dog Grim came up to

him and jumped up on to the load. When Torarin saw that the dog

had been waiting outside the parsonage his uneasiness came back.

"What, Grim, why do you stay outside the gate all the evening? Why

did you not go into the house and have your supper?" he said to

the dog. "Can there be aught of ill awaiting Herr Arne? Maybe I

have seen him for the last time. But even a strong man like him

must one day die, and he is near ninety years old."

He guided his horse into a road which led past the farm of

Branehog to Odsmalskil.

When he was come to Branehog he saw sledges standing in the yard

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and lights shining through the cracks of the closed shutters.

Then Torarin said to Grim: "These folks are still up. I will go in

and ask if they have been sharpening knives here tonight."

He drove into the farmyard, but when he opened the door of the

house he saw that a feast was being held. Upon the benches by the

wall sat old men drinking ale, and in the middle of the room the

young people played and sang.

Torarin saw at once that no man here thought of making his weapon

ready for a deed of blood. He slammed the door again and would

have gone his way, but the host came after him. He asked Torarin

to stay, since he had come, and led him into the room.

Torarin sat for a good while enjoying himself and chatting with

the peasants. They were in high good humour, and Torarin was glad

to be rid of all his gloomy thoughts.

But Torarin was not the only latecomer to the feast that evening.

Long after him a man and a woman entered the door. They were

poorly clad and lingered bashfully in the corner between door and


The host at once came forward to his two guests. He took the hand

of each and led them up the room. Then he said to the others: "Is

it not truly said that the shorter the way the more the delay?

These are our nearest neighbors. Branehog had no other tenants

besides them and me."

"Say rather there are none but you," said the man. "You cannot

call me a tenant. I am only a poor charcoal-burner whom you have

allowed to settle on your land."

The man seated himself beside Torarin and they began to converse.

The newcomer told Torarin how it was he came so late to the feast.

It was because their cabin had been visited by three strangers

whom they durst not leave, three journeymen tanners who had been

with them all day. When they came in the morning they were worn

out and ailing; they said they had lost their way in the forest

and had wandered about for a whole week. But after they had eaten

and slept they soon recovered their strength, and when evening

came they had asked which was the greatest and richest house

thereabout, for thither they would go and seek for work. The wife

had answered that the parsonage, where Herr Arne dwelt, was the

best place. Then at once they had taken long knives out of their

packs and begun to sharpen them. They were at this a good while,

with such ferocious looks that the charcoal-burner and his wife

durst not leave their home. "I can still see them as they sat

grinding their knives," said the man. "They looked terrible with

their great beards that had not been cut or tended for many a day,

and they were clad in rough coats of skin, which were tattered and

befouled. I thought I had three werewolves in the house with me,

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and I was glad when at last they took themselves off."

When Torarin heard this he told the charcoal-burner what he

himself had witnessed at the parsonage.

"So it was true enough that this night they whetted knives at

Branehog," said Torarin, laughing. He had drunk deeply, because of

the sorrow and heaviness that were upon him when he came, seeking

to comfort himself as best he could. "Now I am of good cheer

again," said he, "since I am well assured it was no evil omen the

parson’s lady heard, but only these tanners making ready their



Long after midnight a couple of men came out of the house at

Branehog to harness their horses and drive home.

When they had come into the yard they saw a great fire flaring up

against the sky in the north. They hastened back into the house

and cried out: "Come out! Come out! Solberga parsonage is on


There were many folks at the feast, and those who had a horse

leapt upon his back and made haste to the parsonage; but those who

had to run with their own swift feet were there almost as soon.

When the people came to the parsonage nobody was to be seen, nor

was there any sign of movement; all seemed to be asleep, though

the flames rose high into the air.

Yet it was none of the houses that burned, but a great pile of

wood and straw and fa*ggots that had been stacked against the wall

of the old dwelling. It had not been burning long. The flames had

done no more than blacken the sound timber of the wall and melt

the snow on the thatched roof. But now they had begun to take hold

of the thatch.

Everyone saw at once that this was arson. They began to wonder

whether Herr Arne and his wife were really asleep, or whether some

evil had befallen them.

But before the rescuers entered the house they took long poles and

pulled away the burning fa*ggots from the wall and clambered up to

the roof to tear off the thatch, which had begun to smoke and was

ready to catch fire.

Then some of the men went to the door of the house to enter and

call Herr Arne; but when the first man came to the threshold he

turned aside and made way for him who came next.

The second man took a step forward, but as he was about to grasp

the door-handle he turned away and made room for those who stood

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behind him.

It seemed a ghastly door to open, for a broad stream of blood

trickled over the threshold and the handle was besmeared with


Then the door opened in their faces and Herr Arne’s curate came

out. He staggered toward the men with a deep wound in his head,

and he was drenched with blood. For an instant he stood upright

and raised his hand to command silence. Whereupon he spoke with

the death rattle in his voice: "This night Herr Arne and all his

household have been murdered by three men who climbed down through

the smoke-hole in the roof and were clad in rough skins. They

threw themselves upon us like wild beasts and slew us."

He could utter no more. He fell down at the men’s feet and was


They then entered the room and found all as the curate had said.

The great oaken chest in which Herr Arne kept his money was gone,

and Herr Arne’s horse had been taken from the stable and his

sledge from the shed.

Sledge tracks led from the yard across the glebe meadows down to

the sea, and twenty men hastened away to seize the murderers. But

the women set themselves to laying out the dead and carried them

from the bloody room out upon the pure snow.

Not all of Herr Arne’s household could be found; there was one

missing. It was the poor little maid whom Herr Arne had taken into

his house. There was much wondering whether, perchance, she had

been able to escape, or whether the robbers had taken her with


But when they made careful search through the room they found her

hidden away between the great stove and the wall. She had kept

herself concealed there throughout the struggle and had taken no

hurt at all, but she was so sick with terror that she could

neither speak nor answer a question.



The poor maid who had escaped the butchery had been taken by

Torarin to Marstrand. He had conceived so great pity for her that

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he had offered her lodging in his cramped cabin and a share of the

food which he and his mother ate.

"This is the only thing I can do for Herr Arne," thought Torarin,

"in return for all the times he has bought my fish and allowed me

to sit at his table."

"Poor and lowly as I am," thought Torarin, "it is better for the

maid that she go with me to the town than that she stay here among

the country folk. In Marstrand are many rich burgesses, and

perhaps the young maid may take service with one of them and so be

well cared for."

When first the girl came to the town she sat and wept from morning

to night. She bewailed Herr Arne and his household, and lamented

that she had lost all who were dear to her. Most of all she wept

for her foster sister, and said she wished she had not hidden

herself against the wall, so that she might have shared death with


Torarin’s mother said nothing to this so long as her son was at

home. But when he had gone on his travels again she said one

morning to the girl:

"I am not rich enough, Elsalill, to give you food and clothing

that you may sit with your hands in your lap and nurse your

sorrow. Come with me down to the quays and learn to clean fish."

So Elsalill went with her down to the quays and stood all day

working among the other fish cleaners.

But most of the women on the quays were young and merry. They

began to talk to Elsalill and asked her why she was so silent and


Then Elsalill began to tell them of the terrible thing that had

befallen her no more than three nights ago. She spoke of the three

robbers who had broken into the house by the smoke-hole in the

roof and murdered all who were near and dear to her.

As Elsalill told her tale a black shadow fell across the table at

which she worked. And when she looked up three fine gentlemen

stood before her, wearing broad hats with long feathers and velvet

clothes with great puffs, embroidered in silk and gold.

One of them seemed to be of higher rank than the others; he was

very pale, his chin was shaven, and his eyes sat deep in his head.

He looked as though he had lately been ill. But in all else he

seemed a gay and bold-faced cavalier, who walked on the sunny

quays to show his fine clothes and his handsome face.

Elsalill broke off both work and story. She stood looking at him

with open mouth and staring eyes. And he smiled at her.

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"We are not come hither to frighten you, mistress," said he, "but

to beg that we too may listen to your tale."

Poor Elsalill! Never in her life had she seen such a man. She felt

she could not speak in his presence; she merely held her peace and

cast her eyes upon her work.

The stranger began again: "Be not afraid of us, mistress! We are

Scotsmen who have been in the service of King John of Sweden ten

full years, but now have taken our discharge and are bound for

home. We have come to Marstrand to find a ship for Scotland, but

when we came hither we found every channel and firth frozen over,

and here we must bide and wait. We have no business to employ us,

and therefore we range about the quays to meet whom we may. We

should be happy, mistress, if you would let us hear your tale."

Elsalill knew that he had talked thus long to let her recover from

her emotion. At last she thought to herself: "You can surely show

that you are not too homely to speak to a noble gentleman,

Elsalill! For you are a maiden of good birth and no fisher lass."

"I was but telling of the great butchery at Solberga parsonage,"

said Elsalill. "There are so many who have heard that story."

"Yes," said the stranger, "but I did not know till now that any of

Herr Arne’s household had escaped alive."

Then Elsalill told once more of the wild robbers’ deed. She spoke

of how the old serving-men had gathered about Herr Arne to protect

him and how Herr Arne himself had snatched his sword from the wall

and pressed upon the robbers, but they had overcome them all. And

the old mistress had taken up her husband’s sword and set upon the

robbers, but they had only laughed at her and felled her to the

floor with a billet of wood. And all the other women had crouched

against the wall of the stove, but when the men were dead the

robbers came and pulled them down and slew them. "The last they

slew," said Elsalill, "was my dear foster sister. She begged for

life so piteously, and two of them would have let her live; but

the third said that all must die, and he thrust his knife into her


While Elsalill was speaking of murder and blood the three men

stood still before her. They did not exchange a glance with each

other, but their ears grew long with listening, and their eyes

sparkled, and sometimes their lips parted so that the teeth


Elsalill’s eyes were full of tears; not once did she look up

whilst she was speaking. She did not see that the man before her

had the eyes and teeth of a wolf. Only when she had finished

speaking did she dry her eyes and look up at him.

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But when he met Elsalill’s glance his face changed in an instant.

"Since you have seen the murderers so well, mistress," said he,

"you would doubtless know them again if you met them?"

"I have no more than seen them by the light of the brands they

snatched from the hearth to light their murdering," said Elsalill;

"but with God’s help I’ll surely know them again. And I pray to

God daily that I may meet them." "What mean you by that,

mistress?" asked the stranger. "Is it not true that the murderous

vagabonds are dead?"

"Indeed, I have heard so," said Elsalill. "The peasants who set

out after them followed their tracks from the parsonage down to a

hole in the ice. Thus far they saw tracks of sledge-runners upon

the smooth ice, tracks of a horse’s hoofs, tracks of men with

heavy nailed boots. But beyond the hole no tracks led on across

the ice, and therefore the peasants supposed them all dead."

"And do you not believe them dead, Elsalill?" asked the stranger.

"Oh, yes, I think they must be drowned," said Elsalill; "and yet I

pray to God daily that they may have escaped. I speak to God in

this wise: ’Let it be so that they have only driven the horse and

the sledge into the hole, but have themselves escaped.’"

"Why do you wish this, Elsalill?" asked the stranger.

The tender maid Elsalill, she flung back her head and her eyes

shone like fire. "I would they were alive that I might find them

out and seize them. I would they were alive that I might tear

their hearts out. I would they were alive that I might see their

bodies quartered and spiked upon the wheel."

"How do you think to bring all this about?" said the stranger.

"For you are only a weak little maid."

"If they were living," said Elsalill, "I should surely bring their

punishment upon them. Rather would I go to my death than let them

go free. Strong and mighty they may be, I know it, but they would

not be able to escape me."

At this the stranger smiled upon her, but Elsalill stamped her


"If they were living, should I not remember that they have taken

my home from me, so that I am now a poor lass, compelled to stand

here on the cold quay and clean fish? Should I not remember that

they have slain all those near to me, and should I not remember

most of all the man who plucked my foster sister from the wall and

slew her who was so dear to me?"

But when the tender little maid gave proof of such great wrath,

the three Scottish campaigners burst out laughing. So full of

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merriment were they that they went off, lest Elsalill might take

offence. They walked across the harbour and up a narrow alley

which led to the market-place. But long after they were out of

sight Elsalill heard their roars of loud and scornful laughter.



A week after his death Herr Arne was buried in Solberga church,

and on the same day an inquest was held upon the murder in the

assize house at Branehog.

Now Herr Arne’s fame was such throughout Bohuslen, and so many

people came together on the day of his funeral, both from the

mainland and the islands, that it was as though an army had

assembled about its leader. And so great a concourse moved between

Solberga church and Branehog that toward evening not an inch of

snow could be seen that had not been trampled by men’s feet.

But late in the evening, when all had gone their ways, came

Torarin the fish hawker driving along the road from Branehog to


Torarin had talked with many men in the course of the day; again

and again had he told the story of Herr Arne’s death. He had been

well entertained too at the assize and had been made to empty many

a mug of ale with travellers from afar.

Torarin felt dull and heavy and lay down upon his load. It

saddened him to think that Herr Arne was gone, and as he

approached the parsonage a yet more grievous thought began to

torment him. "Grim, my dog," he said, "had I believed that warning

of the knives I might have warded off the whole disaster. I often

think of that, Grim, my dog. It disquiets my spirit, I feel as

though I had had a part in taking Herr Arne’s life. Now remember

what I say--next time I hear such a thing I will hold it true and

be guided by it!"

Now while Torarin lay dozing upon his load with eyes half closed,

his horse went on as he pleased, and on coming to Solberga

parsonage he turned into the yard from old habit and went up to

the stable door, Torarin being all unwitting. Only with the

stopping of the sledge did he rise up and look about him; and then

he fell a-shuddering, when he saw that he was in the yard of a

house where so many people had been murdered no more than a week


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He seized the reins at once to turn his horse and drive into the

road again, but at that moment he felt a hand upon his shoulder

and looked round. Beside him stood old Olof the groom, who had

served at the parsonage as long as Torarin could remember.

"Have you such haste to leave our house tonight, Torarin?" said

the man. "Let be and come indoors! Herr Arne sits there waiting

for you."

A thousand thoughts came into Torarin’s head. He knew not whether

he was dreaming or awake. Olof the groom, whom he saw standing

alive and well beside him, he had seen a week before lying dead

amongst the others with a great wound in his throat.

Torarin took a firmer hold of the reins. He thought the best thing

for him was to make off as soon as he could. But Olof the groom’s

hand still lay upon his shoulder, and the old fellow gave him no


Torarin racked his brains to find an excuse. "I had no thought of

coming to disturb Herr Arne so late in the evening," said he. "My

horse turned in here whilst I was unaware. I will go now and find

a lodging for the night. If Herr Arne wishes to see me, I can well

come again tomorrow."

With this Torarin bent forward and struck his horse with the slack

of the reins to make him move off.

But at the same instant the parson’s man was at the horse’s head;

he caught him by the bridle and forced him to stand still. "Cease

your obstinacy, Torarin!" said the man. "Herr Arne is not yet gone

to bed, he sits waiting for you. And you should know full well

that you can have as good a night’s lodging here as anywhere in

the parish."

Torarin was about to answer that he could not be served with

lodging in a roofless house. But before speaking he raised his

eyes to the dwelling house, and then he saw that the old timber

hall stood unharmed and stately as before the fire. And yet that

very morning Torarin had seen the naked rafters thrusting out into

the air.

He looked and looked and rubbed his eyes, but there was no doubt

of it, the parsonage stood there unharmed, with thatch and snow

upon its roof. He saw smoke and sparks streaming up through the

louver, and rays of light gleaming through the illclosed shutters

upon the snow.

A man who travels far and wide on the cold highway knows no better

sight than the gleam that steals out of a warm room. But the sight

made Torarin even more terrified than before. He whipped up his

horse till he reared and kicked, but not a step would he go from

the stable door.

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"Come in with me, Torarin!" said the groom. "I thought you had

enough remorse already over this business."

Then Torarin remembered the promise he had made himself on the

road and, though a moment before he had stood up and lashed his

horse furiously, he was now meek as a lamb.

"Well, Olof groom, here am I!" he said, and sprang down from the

sledge. "It is true that I wish to have no more remorse over this

business. Take me in to Herr Arne!"

But it was with the heaviest steps he had ever known that Torarin

went across the yard to the house.

When the door was opened Torarin closed his eyes to avoid looking

into the room, but he tried to take heart by thinking of Herr

Arne. "He has given you many a good meal. He has bought your fish,

even when his own larder was full. He has always shown you

kindness in his lifetime, and assuredly he will not harm you after

death. Mayhap he has a service to ask of you. You must not forget,

Torarin, that we are to show gratitude to the dead as to the


Torarin opened his eyes and looked down the room. He saw the great

hall just as he had seen it before. He recognized the high brick

stove and the woven tapestries that hung upon the walls. But he

glanced many times from wall to wall before daring to raise his

eyes to the table and the bench where Herr Arne had been wont to


At last he looked there, and then he saw Herr Arne himself sitting

in the flesh at the head of the table with his wife on one side

and his curate on the other, as he had seen him a week before. He

seemed to have just finished his meal, the dish was thrust away,

and his spoon lay on the table before him. All the old men and

women servants were sitting at the table, but only one of the

young maids.

Torarin stood still a long time by the door and watched them that

sat at table. They all looked anxious and mournful, and even Herr

Arne was gloomy as the rest and supported his head in his hand.

At last Torarin saw him raise his head.

"Have you brought a stranger into the house with you, Olof groom?"

"Yes," answered the man, "it is Torarin the fish hawker, who has

been this day at the assize at Branehog."

Herr Arne’s looks seemed to grow more cheerful at this, and

Torarin heard him say: "Come forward then, Torarin, and give us

news of the assize! I have sat here and waited for half the

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All this had such a real and natural air that Torarin began to

feel more and more courageous. He walked quite boldly across the

room to Herr Arne, asking himself whether the murder was not an

evil dream and whether Herr Arne was not in truth alive.

But as Torarin crossed the room, his eyes from old habit sought

the four-post bed, beside which the great money chest used to

stand. But the ironbound chest was no longer in its place, and

when Torarin saw that a shudder again passed through him.

"Now Torarin is to tell us how things went at the assize today,"

said Herr Arne.

Torarin tried to do as he was bid and tell of the assize and the

inquest, but he could command neither his lips nor his tongue, and

his speech was faulty and stammering, so that Herr Arne stopped

him at once. "Tell me only the main thing, Torarin. Were our

murderers found and punished?"

"No, Herr Arne," Torarin had the boldness to answer. "Your

murderers lie at the bottom of Hakefjord. How would you have any

take revenge on them?"

When Torarin returned this answer Herr Arne’s old temper seemed to

be kindled within him and he smote the table hard. "What is that

you say, Torarin? Has the Governor of Bohus been here with judges

and clerks and held assize and has no man had the wit to tell him

where he may find my murderers?"

"No, Herr Arne," answered Torarin. "None among the living can tell

him that."

Herr Arne sat awhile with a frown on his brow, staring dismally

before him. Then he turned once more to Torarin.

"I know that you bear me affection, Torarin. Can you tell me how I

may be revenged upon my murderers?"

"I can well understand, Herr Arne," said Torarin, "that you wish

to be revenged upon those who so cruelly have deprived you of your

life. But there is none amongst us who walk God’s earth that can

help you in this."

Herr Arne fell into a deep brooding when he heard this answer.

There was a long silence. After a while Torarin ventured to put

forward a request. "I have now fulfilled your desire, Herr Arne,

and told you how it went at the assize. Have you aught else to ask

me, or will you now let me go?"

"You are not to go, Torarin," said Herr Arne, "until you have

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answered me once more whether none of the living can give us


"Not if all the men in Bohuslen and Norway came together to be

revenged upon your murderers would they be able to find them,"

said Torarin.

Then said Herr Arne: "If the living cannot help us, we must help


With this Herr Arne began in a loud voice to say a paternoster,

not in Norse but in Latin, as had been the use of the country

before his time. And as he uttered each word of the prayer he

pointed with his finger at one of those who sat with him at the

table. He went through them all in this way many times, until he

came to Amen. And as he spoke this word his finger pointed at the

young maid who was his niece.

The young maid rose at once from the bench, and Herr Arne said to

her: "You know what you have to do."

Then the young maiden lamented and said: "Do not send me upon this

errand! It is too heavy a charge to lay upon so tender a maid as


"You shall assuredly go," said Herr Arne. "It is right that you

go, since you have most to revenge. None of us has been robbed of

so many years of life as you, who are the youngest among us."

"I desire not to be revenged on any man," said the maiden.

"You are to go at once," said Herr Arne. "And you will not be

alone. You know that there are two among the living who sat with

us here at table a week ago."

But when Torarin heard these words he thought they meant that Herr

Arne charged him to contend with malefactors and murderers, and he

cried out: "By the mercy of God I conjure you, Herr Arne--"

At that moment it seemed to Torarin that both Herr Arne and the

parsonage vanished in a mist, and he himself sank down as though

he had fallen from a giddy height, and with that he lost


When he came to himself again dawn was breaking and he saw that he

was lying on the ground in the yard of Solberga parsonage. His

horse stood beside him with the sledge, and Grim barked and howled

over him.

"It was all but a dream," said Torarin; "now I see that. The house

is deserted and in ruin. I have seen neither Herr Arne nor any

other. But I was so startled by the dream that I fell off the


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When Herr Arne had been dead a fortnight there came some nights of

clear, bright moonlight, and one evening Torarin was out with his

sledge. He checked his horse time after time, as though he had

difficulty in finding the way. Yet he was not driving through any

trackless forest, but upon what looked like a wide and open plain,

above which rose a number of rocky knolls.

The whole tract was covered with glittering white snow. It had

fallen in calm weather and lay evenly, not in drifts and eddies.

As far as the eye could see there was nothing but the same even

plain and the same rocky knolls.

"Grim, my dog," said Torarin, "if we saw this tonight for the

first time we should think we were driving over a great heath. But

still we should wonder that the ground was so even and the road

free from stones and ruts. What sort of tract can this be, we

should say, where there are neither ditches nor fences, and how

comes it that no grass or bushes stick up through the snow? And

why do we see no rivers and streams, which elsewhere are wont to

draw their black furrows through the white fields even in the

hardest frost?"

Torarin was delighted with these fancies, and Grim too found

pleasure in them. He did not move from his place on the load, but

lay still and blinked.

But just as Torarin had finished speaking he drove past a lofty

pole to which a broom was fastened.

"If we were strangers here, Grim, my dog," said Torarin, "we might

well ask ourselves what sort of heath this was, where they set up

such marks as we use at sea. ’This can never be the sea itself?’

we should say at last. But we should think it utterly impossible.

This that lies so firm and fast, can this be only water? And all

the rocky knolls that we see so firmly united, can they be only

holms and skerries parted by the rolling waves? No, we should

never believe it was possible, Grim, my dog."

Torarin laughed and Grim still lay quiet and did not stir. Torarin

drove on, until he rounded a high knoll. Then he gave a cry as

though he had seen something strange. He put on an air of great

surprise, dropped the reins and clapped his hands.

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"Grim, my dog, so you would not believe this was the sea! Now you

can tell what it is. Stand up, and then you will see that there is

a big ship lying before us! You would not recognize the beacons,

but this you cannot mistake. Now I think you will not deny that

this is the sea itself we are driving over."

Torarin stayed still awhile longer as he gazed at a great vessel

which lay frozen in. She looked altogether out of place as she lay

with the smooth and even snowfields all about her.

But when Torarin saw a thin column of smoke rising from the

vessel’s poop he drove up and hailed the skipper to hear if he

would buy his fish. He had but a few codfish left at the bottom of

his load, since in the course of the day he had been round to all

the vessels which were frozen in among the islands, and sold off

his stock.

On board were the skipper and his crew, and time was heavy on

their hands. They bought fish of the hawker, not because they

needed it, but to have someone to talk to. When they came down on

to the ice, Torarin put on an innocent air.

He began to speak of the weather. "In the memory of man there has

not been such fine weather as this year," said Torarin. "For

wellnigh three weeks we have had calm weather and hard frost. This

is not what we are used to in the islands."

But the skipper, who lay there with his great gallias full-laden

with herring barrels, and who had been caught by the ice in a bay

near Marstrand just as he was ready to put to sea, gave Torarin a

sharp look and said: "So then you call this fine weather?"

"What should I call it else?" said Torarin, looking as innocent as

a child. "The sky is clear and calm and blue, and the night is

fair as the day. Never before have I known the time when I could

drive about the ice week after week. It is not often the sea

freezes out here, and if once and again the ice has formed, there

has always come a storm to break it up a few days after."

The skipper still looked black and glum; he made no answer to all

Torarin’s chat. Then Torarin began asking him why he never found

his way to Marstrand. "It is no more than an hour’s walk over the

ice," said Torarin. But again he received no answer. Torarin could

see that the man feared to leave his ship an instant, lest he

might not be at hand when the ice broke up. "Seldom have I seen

eyes so sick with longing," thought Torarin.

But the skipper, who had been held ice-bound among the skerries

day after day, unable to hoist his sails and put to sea, had been

busy the while with many thoughts, and he said to Torarin: "You

are a man who travels much abroad and hears much news of all that

happens: can you tell me why God has barred the way to the sea so

long this year, keeping us all in captivity?"

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As he said this Torarin ceased to smile, but put on an ignorant

air and said: "I cannot see what you mean by that."

"Well," said the skipper, "I once lay in the harbour of Bergen a

whole month, and a contrary wind blew all that time, so that no

ship could come out. But on board one of the ships that lay there

wind-bound was a man who had robbed churches, and he would have

gone free but for the storm. Now they had time to search him out,

and as soon as he had been taken ashore there came good weather

and a fair wind. Now do you understand what I mean when I ask you

to tell me why God keeps the gates of the sea barred?"

Torarin was silent awhile. He had a look as though he would make

an earnest answer. But he turned it aside and said: "You have

caught the melancholy with sitting here a prisoner among the

skerries. Why do you not come in to Marstrand? I can tell you

there is a merry life with hundreds of strangers in the town. They

have naught else to do but drink and dance."

"How can it be they are so merry there?" asked the skipper.

"Oh," said Torarin, "there are all the seamen whose ships are

frozen in like yours. There is a crowd of fishermen who had just

finished their herring catch when the ice stayed them from sailing

home. And there are a hundred Scottish mercenaries discharged from

service, who lie here waiting for a ship to carry them home to

Scotland. Do you think all these men would hang their heads and

lose the chance of making merry?"

"Ay, it may well be that they can divert themselves, but, as for

me, I have a mind to stay out here."

Torarin gave him a rapid glance. The skipper was a tall man and

thin; his eyes were bright and clear as water, with a melancholy

look in them. "To make that man merry is more than I or any other

can do," thought Torarin.

Again the skipper began of his own accord to ask a question.

"These Scotsmen," he said, "are they honest folk?"

"Is it you, maybe, that are to take them over to Scotland?" asked


"Well," said the skipper, "I have a cargo for Edinburgh, and one

of them was here but now and asked me would I take them. But I

have small liking to sail with such wild companions aboard and I

asked for time to think on it. Have you heard aught of them? Think

you I may venture to take them?"

"I have heard no more of them but that they are brave men. I doubt

not but you may safely take them."

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But no sooner had Torarin said this than his dog rose from the

sledge, threw his nose in the air, and began to howl.

Torarin broke off his praises of the Scotsmen at once. "What ails

you now, Grim, my dog?" he said. "Do you think I stay here too

long, wasting the time in talk?"

He made ready to drive off. "Well, God be with you all!" he cried.

Torarin drove in to Marstrand by the narrow channel between

Klovero and Koo. When he had come within sight of the town, he

noticed that he was not alone on the ice.

In the bright moonlight he saw a tall man of proud bearing walking

in the snow. He could see that he wore a plumed hat and rich

clothes with ample puffs. "Hallo!" said Torarin to himself; "there

goes Sir Archie, the leader of the Scots, who has been out this

evening to bespeak a passage to Scotland."

Torarin was so near to the man that he drove into the long shadow

that followed him. His horse’s hoofs were just touching the shadow

of the hat plumes.

"Grim," said Torarin, "shall we ask if he will drive with us to


The dog began to bristle up at once, but Torarin laid his hand

upon his back. "Be quiet, Grim, my dog! I can see that you have no

love for the Scotsmen."

Sir Archie had not noticed that any one was so close to him. He

walked on without looking round. Torarin turned very quietly to

one side in order to pass him.

But at that moment Torarin saw behind the Scottish gallant

something that looked like another shadow. He saw something long

and thin and gray, which floated over the white surface without

leaving footprints in the snow or making it crunch.

The Scotsman advanced with long and rapid strides, looking neither

to the right hand nor to the left. But the gray shadow glided on

behind him, so near that it seemed as though it would whisper

something in his ear.

Torarin drove slowly on till he came abreast of them. Then he

could see the Scotsman’s face in the bright moonlight. He walked

with a frown on his brow and seemed vexed, as though full of

thoughts that displeased him.

Just as Torarin drove past, he turned about and looked behind him

as though aware of someone following.

Torarin saw plainly that behind Sir Archie stole a young maid in a

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long gray garment, but Sir Archie did not see her. When he turned

his head she stood motionless, and Sir Archie’s own shadow fell

upon her, dark and broad, and hid her.

Sir Archie turned again at once and pursued his way, and again the

maiden hurried forward and made as though she would whisper in his


But when Torarin saw this his terror was more than he could bear.

He cried aloud and whipped up his horse, so that it brought him at

full gallop and dripping with sweat to the door of his cabin.



The town with all its houses and buildings stood upon that side of

Marstrand island which looked to landward and was protected by a

wreath of holms and islets. There people swarmed in its streets

and alleys; there lay the harbour, full of ships and boats, the

quays, with folk busy gutting and salting fish; there lay the

church and churchyard, the market and town hall, and there stood

many a lofty tree and waved its green branches in summer time.

But upon that half of Marstrand island which looked westward to

the sea, unguarded by isles or skerries, there was nothing but

bare and barren rocks and ragged headlands thrust out into the

waves. Heather there was in brown tufts and prickly thorn bushes,

holes of the otter and the fox, but never a path, never a house or

any sign of man.

Torarin’s cabin stood high up on the ridge of the island, so that

it had the town on one side and the wilderness on the other. And

when Elsalill opened her door she came out upon broad, naked slabs

of rock, from which she had a wide view to the westward, even to

the dark horizon of the open sea.

All the seamen and fishermen who lay icebound at Marstrand used to

pass Torarin’s cabin to climb the rocks and look for any sign of

the ice parting in the coves and sounds.

Elsalill stood many a time at the cottage door and followed with

her eyes the men who mounted the ridge. She was sick at heart from

the great sorrow that had befallen her, and she said to herself:

"I think everyone is happy who has something to look for. But I

have nothing in the wide world on which to fix my hopes."

One evening Elsalill saw a tall man, who wore a broad-brimmed hat

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with a great feather, standing upon the rocks and gazing westward

over the sea like all the others.

And Elsalill knew at once that the man was Sir Archie, the leader

of the Scots, who had talked with her on the quay.

As he passed the cabin on his way home to the town, Elsalill was

still standing in the doorway, and she was weeping.

"Why do you weep?" he asked, stopping before her.

"I weep because I have nothing to long for," said Elsalill. "When

I saw you standing upon the rocks and looking out over the sea, I

thought: ’He has surely a home beyond the water, and there he is


Then Sir Archie’s heart was softened, and it made him say: "It is

many a year since any spoke to me of my home. God knows how it

fares with my father’s house. I left it when I was seventeen to

serve in the wars abroad."

On saying this Sir Archie entered the cottage with Elsalill and

began to talk to her of his home.

And Elsalill sat and listened to Sir Archie, who spoke both long

and well. Each word that came from his lips made her feel happy.

But when the time drew on for Sir Archie to go, he asked if he

might kiss her.

Then Elsalill said No, and would have slipped out of the door, but

Sir Archie stood in her way and would have made her kiss him.

At that moment the door of the cottage opened, and its mistress

came in in great haste.

Then Sir Archie drew back from Elsalill. He simply gave her his

hand in farewell and hurried away.

But Torarin’s mother said to Elsalill: "It was well that you sent

for me, for it is not fitting for a maid to sit alone in the house

with such a man as Sir Archie. You know full well that a soldier

of fortune has neither honour nor conscience."

"Did I send for you?" asked Elsalill, astonished.

"Yes," answered the old woman. "As I stood at work on the quay

there came a little maid I had never seen before, and brought me

word that you begged me to go home."

"How did this maid look?" asked Elsalill.

"I heeded her not so closely that I can tell you how she looked,"

said the old woman. "But one thing I marked; she went so lightly

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upon the snow that not a sound was heard."

When Elsalill heard this she turned very pale and said: "Then it

must have been an angel from heaven who brought you the message

and led you home."


Another time Sir Archie sat in Torarin’s cabin and talked with


There was no one beside them; they talked gaily together and were

very cheerful.

Sir Archie was telling Elsalill that she must go home with him to

Scotland. There he would build her a castle and make her a fine

lady. He told her she should have a hundred serving-maids to wait

upon her, and she should dance at the court of the King.

Elsalill sat silently listening to every word Sir Archie said to

her, and she believed them all. And Sir Archie thought that never

had he met a damsel so easy to beguile as Elsalill.

Suddenly Sir Archie ceased speaking and looked down at his left


"What is it, Sir Archie? Why do you say no more?" asked Elsalill.

Sir Archie opened and closed his hand convulsively. He turned it

this way and that.

"What is it, Sir Archie?" asked Elsalill. "Does your hand pain you

on a sudden?"

Then Sir Archie turned to Elsalill with a startled face and said:

"Do you see this hair, Elsalill, that is wound about my hand? Do

you see this lock of fair hair?"

When he began to speak the girl saw nothing, but ere he had

finished she saw a coil of fine, fair hair wind itself twice about

Sir Archie’s hand.

And Elsalill sprang up in terror and cried out: "Sir Archie, whose

hair is it that is bound about your hand?"

Sir Archie looked at her in confusion, not knowing what to say.

"It is real hair, Elsalill, I can feel it. It lies soft and cool

about my hand. But whence did it come?"

The maid sat staring at his hand, and it seemed that her eyes

would fall out of her head.

"So was it that my foster sister’s hair was wound about the hand

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of him who murdered her," she said.

But now Sir Archie burst into a laugh. He quickly drew back his


"Why," said he, "you and I, Elsalill, we are frightening ourselves

like little children. It was nothing more than a bright sunbeam

falling through the window."

But the girl fell to weeping and said: "Now methinks I am

crouching again by the stove and I can see the murderers at their

work. Ah, but I hoped to the last they would not find my dear

foster sister, but then one of them came and plucked her from the

wall, and when she sought to escape he twined her hair about his

hand and held her fast. And she fell on her knees before him and

said: ’Have pity on my youth! Spare my life, let me live long

enough to know why I have come into the world! I have done you no

ill, why would you kill me? Why would you deny me my life?’ But he

paid no heed to her words and killed her."

While Elsalill said this Sir Archie stood with a frown on his brow

and turned his eyes away.

"Ah, if I might one day meet that man!" said Elsalill. She stood

before Sir Archie with clenched fists.

"You cannot meet the man," said Sir Archie. "He is dead."

But the maid threw herself upon the bench and sobbed. "Sir Archie,

Sir Archie, why have you brought the dead into my thoughts? Now I

must weep all evening and all night. Leave me, Sir Archie, for now

I have no thought for any but the dead. Now I can only think upon

my foster sister and how dear she was to me."

And Sir Archie had no power to console her, but was banished by

her tears and wailing and went back to his companions.


Sir Archie could not understand why his mind was always so full of

heavy thoughts. He could never escape them, whether he drank with

his companions, or whether he sat in talk with Elsalill. If he

danced all night at the wharves they were still with him, and if

he walked far and wide over the frozen sea, they followed him


"Why am I ever forced to remember what I would fain forget?" Sir

Archie asked himself. "It is as though someone were always

stealing behind me and whispering in my ear.

"It is as though someone were weaving a net about me," said Sir

Archie, "to catch all my own thoughts and leave me none but this.

I cannot see the pursuer who casts the net, but I can hear his

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step as he comes stealing after me."

"It is as though a painter went before me and painted the same

picture wherever my eyes may rest," said Sir Archie. "Whether I

look to heaven or to earth I see naught else but this one thing."

"It is as though a mason sat within my heart and chiselled out the

same heavy care," said Sir Archie. "I cannot see this mason, but

day and night I can hear the blows of his mallet as he hammers at

my heart. ’Heart of stone, heart of stone,’ he says, ’now you

shall yield. Now I shall hammer into you a lasting care.’"

Sir Archie had two friends, Sir Philip and Sir Reginald, who

followed him wherever he went. They were grieved that he was

always cast down and that nothing could avail to cheer him.

"What is it that ails you?" they would say. "What makes your eyes

burn so, and why are your cheeks so pale?"

Sir Archie would not tell them what it was that tormented him. He

thought: "What would my comrades say of me if they knew I yielded

to these unmanly thoughts? They would no longer obey me if they

found out that I was racked with remorse for a deed there was no


As they continued to press him, he said at last, to throw them off

the scent: "Fortune is playing me strange tricks in these days.

There is a girl I have a mind to win, but I cannot come at her.

Something always stands in my way."

"Maybe the maiden does not love you?" said Sir Reginald.

"I surely think her heart is disposed toward me," said Sir Archie;

"but there is something watching over her, so that I cannot win


Then Sir Reginald and Sir Philip began to laugh and said: "Never

fear, we’ll get you the girl."

That evening Elsalill was walking alone up the lane, coming from

her work. She was tired and thought to herself: "This is a hard

life and I find no joy in it. It sickens me to stand all day in

the reek of fish. It sickens me to hear the other women laugh and

jest in their rude voices. It sickens me to see the hungry gulls

fly above the tables trying to snatch the fish out of my hands.

Oh, that someone would come and take me away from here! I would

follow him to the world’s end."

When Elsalill had reached the darkest part of the lane, Sir

Reginald and Sir Philip came out of the shadow and greeted her.

"Mistress Elsalill," they said, "we have a message for you from

Sir Archie. He is lying sick at the inn. He longs to speak with

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you and begs you to accompany us home."

Elsalill began to fear that Sir Archie might be grievously sick,

and she turned at once and went with the two Scottish gallants who

were to bring her to him.

Sir Philip and Sir Reginald walked one on each side of her. They

smiled at one another and thought that nothing could be easier

than to delude Elsalill.

Elsalill was in great haste; she almost ran down the lane. Sir

Philip and Sir Reginald had to take long strides to keep up with


But as Elsalill was making such haste to reach the inn, something

began to roll before her feet. It seemed to have been thrown down

in front of her, and she nearly stumbled over it.

"What can it be that rolls on and on before my feet?" thought

Elsalill. "It must be a stone that I have kicked from the ground

and sent rolling down the hill."

She was in such a hurry to reach Sir Archie that she did not like

being hindered by the thing that rolled close before her feet. She

kicked it aside, but it came back at once and rolled before her

down the lane.

Elsalill heard it ring like silver when she kicked it away, and

she saw that it was bright and shining.

"It is no common stone," she thought. "I believe it is a coin of

silver." But she was in such haste to reach Sir Archie that she

thought she had no time to pick it up.

But again and again it rolled before her feet, and she thought:

"You will go on the faster if you stoop down and pick it up. You

can throw it far away if it is nothing."

She stooped down and picked it up. It was a big silver coin and it

shone white in her hand.

"What is it that you have found in the street, mistress?" asked

Sir Reginald. "It shines so white in the moonlight."

At that moment they were passing one of the great storehouses,

where foreign fisher-folk lodged while they lay at Marstrand.

Before the entrance hung a lantern, which threw a feeble light

upon the street.

"Let us see what you have found, mistress," said Sir Philip,

standing under the light.

Elsalill held up the coin to the lantern, and hardly had she cast

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eye upon it when she cried out: "This is Herr Arne’s money! I know

it well. This is Herr Arne’s money!"

"What’s that you say, mistress?" asked Sir Reginald. "What makes

you say it is Herr Arne’s money?"

"I know the coin," said Elsalill. "I have often seen it in Herr

Arne’s hand. Yes, it is surely Herr Arne’s money."

"Shout not so loudly, mistress!" said Sir Philip. "People run here

already to know the cause of this outcry."

But Elsalill paid no heed to Sir Philip. She saw that the door of

the warehouse stood open. A fire blazed in the midst of the floor

and round about it sat a number of men conversing quietly and at


Elsalill hastened in to them, holding the coin aloft. "Listen to

me, every man!" she cried. "Now I know that Herr Arne’s murderers

are alive. Look here! I have found one of Herr Arne’s coins."

All the men turned toward her. She saw that Torarin the fish

hawker sat among them.

"What is that you tell us so noisily, my girl?" Torarin asked.

"How can you know Herr Arne’s moneys from any other?"

"Well may I know this very piece of silver from any other," said

Elsalill. "It is old and heavy, and it is chipped at the edge.

Herr Arne told us that it came from the time of the old kings of

Norway, and never would he part with it when he counted out money

to pay for his goods."

"Now you must tell us where you have found it, mistress," said

another of the fishermen.

"I found it rolling before me in the street," said Elsalill. "One

of the murderers has surely dropped it there."

"It may be as you say," said Torarin, "but what can we do in this

matter? We cannot find the murderers by this alone, that you know

they have walked in one of our streets."

The fishermen were agreed that Torarin had spoken wisely. They

settled themselves again about the fire.

"Come home with me, Elsalill," said Torarin. "This is not an hour

for a young maid to run about the streets of the town."

As Torarin said this, Elsalill looked about for her companions.

But Sir Reginald and Sir Philip had stolen away without her

noticing their departure.

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One morning the hostess of the Town Cellars at Marstrand threw

open her doors to sweep the steps and the lobby, and then she

caught sight of a young maid sitting on one of the steps and

waiting. She was dressed in a long gray garment which was fastened

with a belt at the waist. Her hair was fair, and it was neither

bound nor braided, but hung down on either side of her face.

As the door opened she went down the steps into the lobby, but it

seemed to the hostess that she moved as though walking in her

sleep. And all the time she kept her eyelids lowered and her arms

pressed close to her side. The nearer she came, the more

astonished was the hostess at the fragile slenderness of her form.

Her face was fair, but it was delicate and transparent, as though

it had been made of brittle glass.

When she came down to the hostess she asked whether there was any

work she could do, and offered her services.

Then the hostess thought of all the wild companions whose habit it

was to sit drinking ale and wine in her tavern, and she could not

help smiling. "No, there is no place here for a little maid like

you," she said.

The maiden did not raise her eyes nor make the slightest movement,

but she asked again to be taken into service. She desired neither

board nor wages, she said, only to have a task to perform.

"No," said the hostess, "if my own daughter were as you are, I

should refuse her this. I wish you a better lot than to be servant


The young maid went quietly up the steps, and the hostess stood

watching her. She looked so small and helpless that the woman took

pity on her.

She called her back and said to her: "Maybe you run greater risks

if you wander alone about the streets and alleys than if you come

to me. You may stay with me today and wash the cups and dishes,

and then I shall see what you are fit for."

The hostess took her to a little closet she had contrived beyond

the hall of the tavern. It was no bigger than a cupboard and had

neither window nor loophole, but was only lighted by a hatch in

the wall of the public room.

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"Stand here today," said the hostess to the maid, "and wash me all

the cups and dishes I pass you through this hatch, then I shall

see whether I can keep you in my service."

The maiden went into the closet, and she moved so silently that

the hostess thought it was like a dead woman slipping into her


She stood the whole day and spoke to none, nor ever leaned her

head through the hatch to look at the folk who came and went in

the tavern. And she did not touch the food that was set before

her. Nobody heard her make a clatter as she washed, but whenever

the hostess held out her hand to the hatch, she passed out clean

cups and dishes without a speck on them.

But when the hostess took them to set them out on the table, they

were so cold that she thought they would sear the skin off her

fingers. And she shuddered and said: "It is as though I took them

from the cold hands of Death himself."


One day there had been no fish to clean on the quays, so that

Elsalill had stayed at home. She sat at the spinning-wheel and was

alone in the cottage. A good fire was burning on the hearth, and

it was light enough in the room.

In the midst of her work she felt a light breath, as though a cold

breeze had swept over her forehead. She looked up and saw her dead

foster sister standing beside her.

Elsalill laid her hand on the wheel to stop it, and sat still,

looking at her foster sister. At first she was afraid, but she

thought to herself: "It is unworthy of me to be afraid of my

foster sister. Whether she be dead or alive, I am still glad to

see her."

"Dear sister," she said to the dead girl, "is there aught you

would have me do?"

The other said to her in a voice that had neither strength nor

tone: "My sister Elsalill, I am in service at the tavern, and the

hostess has made me stand and wash cups and dishes all day. Now

the evening is come and I am so tired that I can hold out no

longer. I have come hither to ask if you will not give me your


When Elsalill heard this it was as though a veil was drawn over

her mind. She could no longer think nor wonder nor feel any fear.

She only knew joy at seeing her foster sister again, and she

answered: "Yes, dear sister, I will come straight and help you."

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Then the dead girl went to the door, and Elsalill followed her.

But as they stood on the threshold her foster sister paused and

said to Elsalill: "You must put on your cloak. There is a strong

wind outside." And as she said this her voice sounded clearer and

less muffled than before.

Elsalill then took her cloak from the wall and wrapped it around

her. She thought to herself: "My foster sister loves me still. She

wishes me no evil. I am only happy that I may go with her wherever

she may take me."

And then she followed the dead girl through many streets, all the

way from Torarin’s cabin, which stood on a rocky slope, down to

the level streets about the harbour and the market place.

The dead girl always walked two paces in front of Elsalill. A

heavy gale was blowing that evening, howling through the streets,

and Elsalill noticed that when a violent gust would have flung her

against the wall, the dead girl placed herself between her and the

wind and screened her as well as she could with her slender body.

When at last they came to the town hall the dead girl went down

the cellar steps and beckoned Elsalill to follow her. But as they

were going down the wind blew out the light in the lantern that

hung in the lobby and they were in darkness. Then Elsalill did not

know where to turn her steps and the dead girl had to put her hand

on hers to lead her. But the dead girl’s hand was so cold that

Elsalill started and began to quake with fear. Then the dead girl

drew her hand away and wound it in a corner of Elsalill’s cloak

before she led her on again. But Elsalill felt the icy chill

through fur and lining.

Now the dead girl led Elsalill through a long corridor and opened

a door for her. They came into a little dark closet where a feeble

light fell through a hatch in the wall. Elsalill saw that they

were in a room where the scullery wench stood and scoured cups and

dishes for the hostess to set out on the tables for her customers.

Elsalill could just see that a pail of water stood upon a stool,

and in the hatch were many cups and goblets that wanted rinsing.

"Will you help me with this work tonight, Elsalill?" said the dead


"Yes, dear sister," said Elsalill, "you know I will help you with

whatsoever you wish."

Elsalill then took off her cloak, rolled up her sleeves and began

the work.

"Will you be very quiet and silent in here, Elsalill, so that the

hostess may not know that I have found help?"

"Yes, dear sister," said Elsalill; "you may be sure I will."

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"Then farewell, Elsalill," said the dead girl. "I have only one

more thing to ask of you. And it is that you be not too angry with

me for this thing."

"Wherefore do you bid me farewell?" said Elsalill. "I will gladly

come every evening and help you."

"No, there is no need for you to come after this evening," said

the dead girl. "I have good hope that tonight you will give me

such help that my mission will now be ended."

As they spoke thus Elsalill was already leaning over her work. All

was still for a while, but then she felt a light breath on her

forehead, as when the dead girl had come to her in Torarin’s

cabin. She looked up and saw that she was alone. Then she knew

what it was that had felt like a faint breeze upon her face, and

said to herself: "My dead foster sister has kissed my forehead

before she parted from me."

Elsalill now turned to her work and finished it. She rinsed out

all the bowls and tankards and dried them. Then she looked in the

hatch whether any more had been set in there, and finding none she

stood at the hatch and looked out into the tavern.

It was an hour of the day when there was usually little custom in

the cellars. The hostess was absent from her bar and none of her

tapsters was to be seen in the room. The place was empty, save for

three men, who sat at the end of a long table. They were guests,

but they seemed well at their ease, for one of them, who had

emptied his tankard, went to the bar, filled it from one of the

great tuns of ale and wine that stood there, and sat down again to


Elsalill felt as though she had come here from a strange world.

Her thoughts were with her dead foster sister, and she could not

clearly take in what she saw. It was a long while before she was

aware that the three men at the table were well known and dear to

her. For they who sat there were none other than Sir Archie and

his two friends Sir Reginald and Sir Philip.

For some days past Sir Archie had not visited Elsalill, and she

was glad to see him. She was on the point of calling to him that

she was there at hand; but then the thought came to her, how

strange it was that he had ceased to visit her, and she kept

silence. "Maybe his fancy has turned to another," thought

Elsalill. "Maybe it is of her he is thinking."

For Sir Archie sat a little apart from the others. He was silent

and gazed steadily before him, without touching his drink. He took

no part in the talk, and when his friends addressed a word to him,

he was seldom at the pains to make them an answer.

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Elsalill could hear that the others were trying to put life into

him. They asked him why he had left drinking, and even sought to

persuade him that he should go and talk with Elsalill and so

recover his good humour.

"You are to pay no heed to me," said Sir Archie. "There is another

that fills my thoughts. Still do I see her before me, and still do

I hear the sound of her voice in my ears."

And then Elsalill saw that Sir Archie was gazing at one of the

massive pillars that upheld the cellar roof. She saw, too, what

till then she had not marked, that her foster sister stood beside

that pillar and looked upon Sir Archie. She stood there quite

motionless in her gray habit, and it was not easy to discover her,

as she stood so close against the pillar.

Elsalill stood quite still looking into the room. She noted that

her foster sister kept her eyes raised when she looked upon Sir

Archie. During the whole time she was with Elsalill she had walked

with her eyes upon the ground.

Now her eyes were the only thing about her that was ghastly.

Elsalill saw that they were dim and filmed. They had no glance,

and the light was not mirrored in them any more.

After a while Sir Archie began again to lament. "I see her every

hour. She follows me wherever I go," he said.

He sat with his face toward the pillar where the dead girl stood,

and stared at her. But Elsalill was sure that he did not see her.

It was not of her he spoke, but of one who was ever in his


Elsalill never left the hatch and followed with her eyes all that

took place, thinking that most of all she wished to find out who

it was that filled Sir Archie’s thoughts.

Suddenly she was aware that the dead girl had taken her place on

the bench beside Sir Archie and was whispering in his ear.

But still Sir Archie knew nothing of her being so close to him or

of her whispering in his ear. He was only aware of her presence in

the mortal dread that came over him.

Elsalill saw that when the dead girl had sat for a few moments

whispering to Sir Archie, he hid his face in his hands and wept.

"Alas, would I had never found the maid!" he said. "I regret

nothing else but that I did not let the maiden go when she begged


The other two Scotsmen ceased drinking and looked in alarm at Sir

Archie, who thus laid aside all his manliness and yielded to

remorse. For a moment they were perplexed, but then one of them

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went up to the bar, took the tallest tankard that stood there and

filled it with red wine. He brought it to Sir Archie, clapped him

on the shoulder and said: "Drink, brother! Herr Arne’s hoard is

not yet done. So long as we have coin to buy such wine as this, no

cares need sit upon us."

But in the same instant as these words were spoken: "Drink,

brother! Herr Arne’s hoard is not yet done," Elsalill saw the dead

girl rise from the bench and vanish.

And in that moment Elsalill saw before her eyes three men with

great beards and rough coats of skin, struggling with Herr Arne’s

servants. And now it was plain to her that they were the three who

sat in the cellar--Sir Archie, Sir Philip, and Sir Reginald.


Elsalill came out of the closet where she had stood and rinsed the

hostess’s cups, and softly closed the door behind her. In the

narrow corridor outside she stopped and stood motionless leaning

against the wall for nearly an hour.

As she stood there she thought to herself: "I cannot betray him.

Let him be guilty of what evil he may, I love him with all my

heart. I cannot send him to be broken upon the wheel. I cannot see

them burn away his hands and feet."

The storm that had raged all day became more and more violent as

evening wore on, and Elsalill could hear its roar as she stood in

the darkness.

"Now the first storms of spring have come," she thought. "Now they

have come in all their might to set the waters free and break up

the ice. In a few days we shall have open sea, and then Sir Archie

will sail from hence, never to return. No more misdeeds can he

commit in this land. What profits it then if he be taken and

suffer for his crime? Neither the dead nor the living have any

comfort of it."

Elsalill drew her cloak about her. She thought she would go home

and sit quietly at her work without betraying her secret to any


But before she had raised a foot to go, she changed her purpose

and stayed.

She stood still listening to the roaring of the gale. Again she

thought of the coming of spring. The snow would disappear and the

earth put on its garment of green.

"Merciful heaven, what a spring will this be for me!" thought

Elsalill. "No joy and no happiness can bloom for me after the

chills of this winter.

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"No more than a year ago I was so happy when winter was past and

spring came," she thought. "I remember one evening which was so

fair that I could not sit within doors. So I took my foster sister

by the hand, and we went out into the fields to fetch green

boughs and deck the stove.

She recalled to mind how she and her foster sister had walked along

a green pathway. And there by the side of the way they had seen a

young birch that had been cut down. The wood showed that it had

been cut many days before. But now they saw that the poor lopped

tree had begun to put forth leaves and its buds were bursting.

Then her foster sister had stopped and bent over the tree. "Ah,

poor tree," she said, "what evil can you have done, that you are

not suffered to die, though you are cut down? What makes you put

forth leaves, as though you still lived?"

And Elsalill had laughed at her and answered: "Maybe it grows so

sweet and green that he who cut it down may see the harm he has

wrought and feel remorse."

But her foster sister did not laugh with her, and there were tears

in her eyes. "It is terrible for a dead man if he cannot rest in

his grave. They who are dead have small comfort to look for;

neither love nor happiness can reach them. All the good they yet

desire is that they may be left to sleep in peace. Well may I weep

when you say this birch cannot die for thinking of its murderer.

The hardest fate for one deprived of life is that he may not sleep

in peace but must pursue his murderer. The dead have naught to

long for but to be left to sleep in peace."

When Elsalill recalled these words she began to weep and wring her


"My foster sister will not find rest in her grave," she said,

"unless I betray my beloved. If I do not aid her in this, she must

roam above ground without respite or repose. My poor foster

sister, she has nothing more to hope for but to find peace in her

grave, and that I cannot give her unless I send the man I love to

be broken on the wheel."


Sir Archie came out of the tavern and went through the long

corridor. The lantern hanging from the roof had now been lighted

again, and by its light he saw that a young maid stood leaning

against the wall.

She was so pale and stood so still that Sir Archie was afraid and

thought: "There at last before my eyes stands the dead girl who

haunts me every day."

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As Sir Archie went past Elsalill he laid his hand on hers to feel

if it was really a dead girl standing there. And her hand was so

cold that he could not say whether it belonged to the living or

the dead.

But as Sir Archie touched Elsalill’s hand she drew it back, and

then Sir Archie knew her again.

He thought she had come there for his sake, and great was his joy

to see her. At once a thought came to him: "Now I know what I will

do, that the dead girl may be appeased and cease to haunt me."

He took Elsalill’s hands within his own and raised them to his

lips. "God bless you for coming to me this evening, Elsalill!" he


But Elsalill’s heart was sore afflicted. She could not speak for

tears, even so much as to tell Sir Archie she had not come there

to meet him.

Sir Archie stood silent a long while, but he held Elsalill’s hands

in his the whole time. And the longer he stood thus, the clearer

and more handsome did his face become.

"Elsalill," said Sir Archie, and he spoke very earnestly, "for

many days I have not been able to see you, because I have been

tormented by heavy thoughts. They have left me no peace, and I

believed I should soon go out of my mind. But tonight it goes

better with me and I no longer see before me the image that

tormented me. And when I found you here, my heart told me what I

had to do to be rid of my torment for all time."

He bent down to look into Elsalill’s eyes, but as she stood with

drooping eyelids he went on: "You are angry with me, Elsalill,

because I have not been to see you for many days. But I could not

come, for when I saw you I was reminded even more of what tortured

me. When I saw you I was forced to think even more of a young maid

to whom I have done wrong. Many others have I wronged in my

lifetime, Elsalill, but my conscience plagues me for naught else

but what I did to this young maid."

As Elsalill still said nothing, he took her hands again and raised

them to his lips and kissed them.

"Now, listen, Elsalill, to what my heart said to me when I saw you

standing here and waiting for me. ’You have done injury to one

maiden,’ it said, ’and for what you have made her suffer, you must

atone to another. You shall take her to wife, and you shall be so

good to her that she shall never know sorrow. Such faithfulness

shall you show her that your love will be greater on the day of

your death than on your wedding day.’"

Elsalill stood still as before with downcast eyes. Then Sir Archie

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laid his hand on her head and raised it. "You must tell me,

Elsalill, whether you hear what I say," he said.

Then he saw that Elsalill was weeping so violently that great

tears ran down her cheeks.

"Why do you weep, Elsalill?" asked Sir Archie.

"I weep, Sir Archie," said Elsalill, "because I have too great

love for you in my heart."

Then Sir Archie came yet closer to Elsalill and put his arm around

her. "Do you hear how the wind howls without?" said he. "That

means that soon the ice will break up, and that ships again will

be free to sail over to my native land. Tell me now, Elsalill,

will you come with me, so that I may make good to you the evil I

have done to another?"

Sir Archie continued to whisper to Elsalill of the glorious life

that awaited her, and Elsalill began to think to herself: "Alas,

if only I did not know what evil he had done! Then I would go with

him and live happily."

Sir Archie came closer and closer to her, and when Elsalill looked

up she saw that his face was bending over her and that he was

about to kiss her on the forehead. Then she remembered the dead

girl who had so lately been with her and kissed her. She tore

herself free from Sir Archie and said: "No, Sir Archie, I will

never go with you."

"Yes," said Sir Archie, "you must come with me, Elsalill, or else

I shall be drawn down to my destruction."

He began to whisper to the girl ever more tenderly, and again she

thought to herself: "Were it not more pleasing to God and men that

he be allowed to atone for his evil life and become a righteous

man? Whom can it profit if he be punished with death?"

As these thoughts were in Elsalill’s mind two men came by on their

way to the tavern. When Sir Archie marked that they cast curious

eyes on him and the maid, he said to her: "Come, Elsalill, I will

take you home. I would not that any should see you had come to the

tavern for me."

Then Elsalill looked up, as though suddenly calling to mind that

she had another duty to perform than that of listening to Sir

Archie. But her heart smote her when she thought of betraying his

crime. "If you deliver him to the hangman, I must break," her

heart said to her. And Sir Archie drew the girl’s cloak more

tightly about her and led her out into the street. He walked with

her all the way to Torarin’s cabin, and she noticed that whenever

the storm blew fiercely in their faces, he placed himself before

her and screened her.

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Elsalill thought, all the time they were walking: "My dead foster

sister knew nothing of this, that he would atone for his crime and

become a good man."

Sir Archie still whispered the tenderest words in Elsalill’s ear.

And the longer she listened to him, the more firmly she believed

in him.

"It must have been that I might hear Sir Archie whisper such words

as these in my ear that my foster sister called me forth," she

thought. "She loves me so dearly. She desires not my unhappiness

but my happiness."

And as they stopped before the cabin, Sir Archie asked Elsalill

once more whether she would go with him across the sea. And

Elsalill answered that with God’s help she would go.



Next day the storm had ceased. The weather was now milder, but it

had caused little shrinking of the ice and the sea was closed as

fast as ever.

When Elsalill awoke in the morning she thought: "It is surely

better that a wicked man repent and live according to God’s

commandments than that he be punished with death."

That day Sir Archie sent a messenger to Elsalill, and he brought

her a heavy armlet of gold.

And Elsalill was glad that Sir Archie had thought of giving her

pleasure, and she thanked the messenger and accepted the gift.

But when he was gone she fell to thinking that this armlet had

been bought for her with Herr Arne’s money. When she thought of

this she could not endure to look on it. She plucked it from her

arm and threw it far away.

"What will my life be, if I must always call to mind that I am

living on Herr Arne’s money?" she thought. "If I put a mouthful of

food to my lips, must I not think of the stolen money? And if I

have a new gown, will it not ring in my ears that it is bought

with ill-gotten gold? Now at last I see that it is impossible for

me to go with Sir Archie and join my life to his. I shall tell him

this when he comes."

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When evening was drawing on, Sir Archie came to her. He was in

cheerful mood, he had not been plagued with evil thoughts, and he

believed it was owing to his promise to make good to one maiden

the wrong he had done another.

When Elsalill saw him and heard him speak she could not bring

herself to tell him that she was sad at heart and would part from


All the sorrows which gnawed at her were forgotten as she sat

listening to Sir Archie.

The next day was a Sunday, and Elsalill went to church. She was

there both in the morning and in the evening.

As she sat during the morning service listening to the sermon, she

heard someone weeping and sobbing close by.

She thought it was one of those who sat beside her in the pew, but

whether she looked to right or left she saw none but calm and

devout worshippers.

Nevertheless, she plainly heard a sound of weeping, and it seemed

so near to her that she might have touched the one who wept by

putting out her hand.

Elsalill sat listening to the sighing and sobbing, and thought to

herself that she had never heard so sorrowful a sound.

"Who is it that is afflicted with such deep grief that she must

shed these bitter tears?" thought Elsalill.

She looked behind her, and she leaned forward over the next pew to

see. But all were sitting in silence, and no face was wet with


Then Elsalill thought there was no need to ask or wonder, for

indeed she had known from the first who it was that wept beside

her. "Dear sister," she whispered, "why do you not show yourself

to me, as you did but lately? For you must know that I would

gladly do all I may to dry your tears."

She listened for an answer, but none came. All she heard was the

sobbing of the dead girl beside her.

Elsalill tried to hearken to what the preacher was saying in the

pulpit, but she could follow little of it. And she grew impatient

and whispered: "I know one who has more cause to weep than any,

and that is myself. Had not my foster sister revealed her murderer

to me I might have sat here with a heart full of joy."

As she listened to the weeping she became more and more resentful,

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so that she thought: "How can my dead foster sister require of me

that I shall betray the man I love? Never would she herself have

done such a thing, if she had lived."

She was shut up in the pew, but she could scarcely sit still. She

rocked backward and forward and wrung her hands. "Now this will

follow me all day," she thought. "Who knows," she went on, growing

more and more anxious, "who knows whether it will not follow me

through life?"

But the sobbing beside her grew ever deeper and sadder, and at

last her heart was touched in spite of herself, and she too began

to weep. "She who weeps so must have a terribly heavy grief," she

thought. "She must have to bear suffering heavier than any of the

living can conceive."

When the service was over and Elsalill had come out of church, she

heard the sobbing no longer. But all the way home she wept to

herself because her foster sister could find no peace in her


When the time of evensong came Elsalill went again to the church,

being constrained to know whether her foster sister still sat

there weeping.

And as soon as Elsalill entered the church she heard her, and her

soul trembled within her when she caught the sound of the sobbing.

She felt her strength forsaking her and she had but one desire--to

help the dead girl who was wandering among the living and knew no


When Elsalill came out of church it was still light enough for her

to see that one of those who walked before her left bloody

footprints in the snow.

"Who can it be so poor that he goes barefoot and leaves bloody

footprints in the snow?" she thought.

All those who walked before her seemed to be well-to-do folk. They

were neatly dressed and well shod.

But the red footprints were not old. Elsalill could see they were

made by one of the group that walked before her. "It is someone

who is footsore from a long journey," she thought. "God grant he

may not have far to go ere he find shelter and rest."

She had a strong desire to know who it was that had made this

weary pilgrimage, and she followed the footprints, though they led

her away from her home.

But suddenly she saw that all the church-goers had gone another

way and that she was alone in the street. Nevertheless, the blood-

red footprints were there as plain as before. "It is my poor

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foster sister who is going before me," she thought; and she owned

to herself that she had guessed it all the time.

"Alas, my poor foster sister, I thought you went so lightly upon

earth that your feet did not touch the ground. But none among the

living can know how painful your pilgrimage must be."

The tears started to her eyes, and she sighed: "Could she but find

peace in her grave! Woe is me that she must wander here so long,

till she has worn her feet to bleeding!"

"Stay, my dear foster sister!" she cried. "Stay, that I may speak

to you!"

But as she cried thus, she saw that the footprints fell yet faster

in the snow, as though the dead girl were hastening her steps.

"Now she flies from me. She looks no more for help from me," said


The bloody footprints made her quite frantic, and she cried out:

"My dear foster sister, I will do all you ask if only you may find

rest in your grave!"

So soon as Elsalill had uttered these words a tall, big woman who

had followed her came up and laid a hand on her arm.

"Who may you be, crying and wringing your hands here in the

street?" the woman asked. "You call to my mind a little maid who

came to me on Friday looking for a place and then ran away from

me. Or perhaps you are the same?"

"No, I am not the same," said Elsalill, but if, as I think, you

are the hostess of the Town Cellars, then I know what maid it is

you speak of."

"Then you can tell me why she took herself off and has not come

back," said the hostess.

"She left you," said Elsalill, "because she did not choose to hear

the talk of all the evildoers who gather in your tavern."

"Many a wild companion comes to my tavern," said the hostess, "but

among them are no evildoers."

"Yet the maid heard three that sat there talking among

themselves," said Elsalill, "and one of them said: ’Drink,

brother! Herr Arne’s hoard is not yet done.’"

When Elsalill had said these words she thought: "Now I have helped

my foster sister and told what I heard. Now may God help me that

this woman pay no heed to my words; so I shall be quit."

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But when she saw in the hostess’s face that she believed her, she

was afraid and would have run away.

But before she had time to move, the hostess’s heavy hand had

taken firm hold of her so that she could not escape.

"If you can witness that such words have been uttered in my

tavern, mistress," said the hostess, "then you were best not to

run away. For you must go with me to those who have the power to

seize the murderers and bring them to justice."



Elsalill came into the tavern wrapt in her long cloak and went

straight to a table where Sir Archie sat drinking with his

friends. A crowd of customers sat about the tables in the cellar,

but Elsalill took no heed of all the wondering glances that

followed her, as she went and sat down beside the man she loved.

Her only thought was to be with Sir Archie in the few moments of

freedom which were left to him.

When Sir Archie saw Elsalill come and sit by him, he rose and

moved with her to a table that stood far down the room, hidden by

a pillar. She could see that he was displeased at her coming to

meet him in a place where it was not the custom for young maids to

show themselves.

"I have no long message to bring you, Sir Archie," said Elsalill;

"but I would have you know that I cannot go with you to your own


When Sir Archie heard Elsalill speak thus he was in despair, since

he feared that, if he lost Elsalill, the evil thoughts would again

take possession of him.

"Why will you not go with me, Elsalill?" he asked.

Elsalill was as pale as death. Her thoughts were so confused that

she scarce knew what answer she made him.

"It is a perilous thing to follow a soldier of fortune," she said.

"For none can tell whether such a man will keep his plighted


Before Sir Archie had time to answer, a sailor came into the


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He went up to Sir Archie and told him he was sent by the skipper

of the great gallias which lay in the ice behind Klovero. The

skipper prayed Sir Archie and all his men to make ready their

goods and come aboard that evening. The storm had sprung up again

and the sea was clearing far away to the westward. It might well

be that before daybreak they would have open water and could sail

for Scotland.

"You hear what this man says?" said Sir Archie to Elsalill. "Will

you come with me?"

"No," said Elsalill, "I will not go with you."

But in her heart she was very glad, for she thought: "Now belike

it will turn out so that he may escape ere the watch can come and

seize him."

Sir Archie rose and went over to Sir Philip and Sir Reginald and

spoke to them of the message. "Get you back to the inn before me,"

he said, "and make all ready. I have a word or two yet to say to


When Elsalill saw that Sir Archie was coming back to her, she

waved her hands as though to prevent him. "Why do you come back,

Sir Archie?" she said. "Why do you not hasten down to the sea as

fast as your feet may carry you?"

For such was her love for Sir Archie. She had indeed betrayed him

for her dear foster sister’s sake, but her most fervent wish was

that he might escape.

"No, first will I beg you once more to come with me," said Sir


"But you know, Sir Archie, that I cannot come with you," said


"Why can you not?" said Sir Archie. "You are a poor orphan, so

forlorn and friendless that none will care what becomes of you.

But if you come with me, I will make you a noble lady. I am a

powerful man in my own country. You shall be clad in silk and

gold, and you shall tread a measure at the King’s court."

Elsalill was shaking with alarm at his delaying while flight was

still open to him. She could scarce calm herself to answer: "Go

hence, Sir Archie! You must tarry no longer to importune me."

"There is something I would say to you, Elsalill," said Sir

Archie, and his voice became more tender as he spoke. "When first

I saw you, my only thought was of tempting and beguiling you. In

the beginning I promised you riches in jest, but since two nights

ago I have meant honestly by you. And now it is my purpose and

desire to make you my wife. You may trust in me, as I am a

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gentleman and a soldier."

At that moment Elsalill heard the march of armed men in the square

outside. "If I go with him now," she thought, "he may yet escape.

If I refuse, I drive him to destruction. It is for my sake he

tarries here so long that the watch will lay hands on him. But how

can I go with the man who has murdered all my dear ones?"

"Sir Archie," said Elsalill, and she hoped her words might startle

him, "Do you not hear the tramp of armed men in the square?"

"Oh, yes, I hear it," said Sir Archie; "there has been some

alehouse brawl, I doubt not. Let it not fright you, Elsalill; it

is but some fishermen that have come to clapper-claws over their


"Sir Archie," said Elsalill, "do you not hear them stand before

the town hall?"

Elsalill was trembling from head to foot, but Sir Archie took no

note of it; he was quite calm.

"Where else would you have them stand?" said Sir Archie. "They

must bring the brawlers here to lay them by the heels in the watch

house. Listen not to them, Elsalill, but to me, who ask you to

follow me over the sea!"

But Elsalill tried once more to put fear into Sir Archie. "Sir

Archie," she said, do you not hear the watch coming down the steps

to the cellar?"

"Oh, yes, I hear them," said Sir Archie; "they will come here to

empty a pot of ale, since their prisoners are safe under lock and

key. Think not of them, Elsalill, but think how tomorrow you and I

will be sailing the wide sea to my dear native land!"

But Elsalill was pale as a corpse, and she shook so that she could

scarce speak. "Sir Archie," she said, "do you not see them

speaking with the hostess yonder at the bar? They are asking her

whether any of those they seek is within."

"I’ll wager they are charging her to brew them a warm, strong

drink this stormy night," said Sir Archie. "You need not quake and

tremble so mightily, Elsalill. You can follow me without fear. I

tell you that if my father would have me wed the noblest damsel in

our land, I should now say her nay. Come with me over the sea in

full security, Elsalill! Nothing awaits you there but joy and


More and more of the pikemen had collected about the door, and

Elsalill was now beside herself with terror. "I cannot look on

while they come and seize him," she thought. She leaned toward Sir

Archie and whispered to him: "Do you not hear, Sir Archie? They

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are asking the hostess whether any of Herr Arne’s murderers is

here within."

Then Sir Archie threw a glance across the room and looked at the

pikemen who were speaking with the hostess. But he did not rise

and fly as Elsalill had expected: he bent down and looked deeply

into her eyes. "Is it you, Elsalill, who have discovered and

betrayed me?" he asked.

"I have done it for my dear foster sister’s sake, that she might

have peace in her grave," said Elsalill. "God knows what it has

cost me to do it. But now fly, Sir Archie! There is yet time. They

have not yet barred all doors and lobbies."

"You wolf’s cub!" said Sir Archie. "When first I saw you on the

quay I thought I ought to kill you."

But Elsalill laid her hand on his arm. "Fly, Sir Archie! I cannot

sit still and see them come and take you. If you will not fly

without me, then in God’s name I will go with you. But do not stay

longer here for my sake, Sir Archie! I will do all you ask of me,

if only you will save your life."

But now Sir Archie was very angry, and he spoke scornfully to

Elsalill. "Now, mistress, you shall never go in gold-embroidered

shoes through lofty castle halls. Now you may stay in Marstrand

all your days and gut herrings. Never shall you wed a man who has

castle and lands, Elsalill. Your man shall be a poor fisherman and

your dwelling a cabin on a cold rock."

"Do you not hear them setting guards before all the doors to bar

the way with their pikes?" asked Elsalill. "Why do you not hasten

hence? Why do you not fly out upon the ice and hide yourself in a


"I do not fly because I have a mind to sit and talk with

Elsalill," said Sir Archie. "Are you thinking that now there is an

end of all your joy, Elsalill? Are you thinking that now there is

an end of my hope of atoning for my crime?"

"Sir Archie," whispered Elsalill, rising from her seat in her

terror; "now the men are all posted. Now they will catch and seize

you. Make haste and fly! I shall come out to your ship, Sir

Archie, if only you will fly."

"You need not be so frightened, Elsalill," said Sir Archie. "We

have some time left to talk together. These fellows have no

stomach to set upon me here, where I can defend myself. They mean

to take me in the narrow stair. They think to spit me on their

long pikes. And that is what you have always wished me, Elsalill."

But the more her terror gained on Elsalill, the calmer became Sir

Archie. She never ceased praying him to fly, but he laughed at

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"You need not be so sure, mistress, that these fellows can take

me. I have come through greater dangers than this. I’ll warrant I

was harder put to it some months since in Sweden. Some slanderers

had told King John that his Scots guard was disloyal to him. And

the King believed them. He threw the three commanders into dungeon

and sent their men out of his realm, and had them guarded till

they had passed the border."

"Fly, Sir Archie, fly!" begged Elsalill.

"You need not be troubled for me, Elsalill," said Sir Archie with

a hard laugh. "This evening I am myself again, my old humour is

come back. I see no more the young maid that haunted me, and I

shall hold my own, never fear. I will tell you of those three who

lay in King John’s dungeon. They stole out of the tower one night,

when their guards were drowsy with liquor, and ran their ways. And

then they fled to the border. But so long as they were in the

Swedish king’s land they durst not betray themselves. They had no

choice, Elsalill, but to make themselves rough coats of skin and

give out that they were journeymen tanners travelling the country

in search of work."

Now Elsalill began to mark how changed Sir Archie was toward her.

And she knew he hated her, since he had found out that she had

betrayed him.

"Speak not so, Sir Archie!" said Elsalill.

"Why should you play me false, just when I trusted you most?" said

Sir Archie. "Now I am again the man I was. Now none shall find me

merciful. And now you’ll see, Fortune will favour me, as she has

done hitherto. Were we not in bad case, I and my comrades, when at

last we had walked through all Sweden and come down to the coast

here? We had no money to buy us honourable clothes. We had no

money to pay for our shipping to Scotland. We knew no remedy but

to break into Solberga parsonage."

"Speak no more of that!" said Elsalill.

"Yes, now you must hear all, Elsalill," said Sir Archie. "There is

one thing you know not, and it is that when first we came into the

house we went to Herr Arne, roused him, and told him he must give

us money. If he gave it freely, we would not harm him. But Herr

Arne resisted us with force, and so we had to strike him down. And

when we had dispatched him, we had to make an end of all his


Elsalill interrupted Sir Archie no more, but her heart felt cold

and empty. She shuddered as she looked upon Sir Archie, for as he

spoke a cruel and bloodthirsty look came over him. "What was I

about to do?" she thought. "Have I been mad and loved the man who

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murdered all my dear ones? God forgive my sin!"

"When we thought all were dead," said Sir Archie, "we dragged the

heavy money chest out of the house. Then we set fire about it,

that men might think Herr had been burnt alive."

"I have loved a wolf of the woods," said Elsalill to herself. "And

him I have tried to save from justice!"

"But we drove down to the ice and fled to sea," Sir Archie went

on. "We had no fear so long as we saw the flames mounting to the

sky, but when we saw them die down we took alarm. We knew then

that neighbours had come and put out the fire, and that we should

be pursued. So we drove back toward land, for we had seen the

outlet of a stream where the ice was thin. We lifted the chest

from the sledge and drove forward till the ice broke under the

horse’s hoofs. Then we let it drown and sprang off to one side. If

you were aught but a little maid, Elsalill, you would see that

this was bravely done. We acquitted ourselves like men."

Elsalill kept still; she felt a sharp pain tearing at her heart.

But Sir Archie hated her and delighted to torment her. "Then we

took our belts and fastened them to the chest and began to draw

it. But as the chest left tracks in the ice, we went ashore and

gathered twigs of spruce and laid them under the chest. Then we

took off our boots and went over the ice without leaving a trace

behind us."

Sir Archie paused to throw a scornful glance at Elsalill.

"Although we had prospered in all this, we were yet in bad case.

Wherever we went our bloodstained clothes would betray us and we

should be seized. But now listen, Elsalill, so that you may tell

all those who would be at the pains to give us chase, that they

may understand we are not of a sort to be lightly taken! Listen to

this: As we came over the ice toward Marstrand here, we met our

comrades and countrymen, who had been banished by King John from

his land. They had not been able to leave Marstrand because of the

ice, and they helped us in our need, so that we got clothes. Since

then we have gone about here in Marstrand and been in no danger.

And no danger would threaten us now, if you had not been faithless

and played me false."

Elsalill sat still. This was too great a grief for her. She could

scarce feel her heart beating.

But Sir Archie sprang up and cried: "And no ill shall befall us

tonight either. Of that you shall be witness, Elsalill!"

In an instant he seized Elsalill in both his arms and raised her

off her feet. And with Elsalill before him as a shield Sir Archie

ran through the tavern to the doorway. And the men who were posted

to guard the door levelled their long pikes at him, but they durst

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not use them for fear of hurting Elsalill.

When Sir Archie reached the narrow stair and the lobby, he held

Elsalill before him in the same way. And she protected him better

than the strongest armour, for the pikemen who were drawn up there

could make no use of their weapons. Thus he came a good way up the

steps, and Elsalill could feel the free air of heaven blowing

about her.

But Elsalill’s love for Sir Archie was changed to the most deadly

hatred, and her only thought was that he was a villain and a

murderer. And when she saw that her body shielded him, so that he

was likely to escape, she stretched out her hand and took hold of

one of the watchmen’s pikes and aimed it at her heart. "Now I will

serve my foster sister, so that her mission shall be fulfilled at

last," thought Elsalill. And at the next step Sir Archie took up

the stairs, the pike entered Elsalill’s heart.

But then Sir Archie was already at the top of the stairway. And

the pikemen fell back when they saw that one of them had hurt the

maid. And he ran past them. When Sir Archie came out into the

market-place he heard a Scottish war cry from one of the lanes: "A

rescue! A rescue! For Scotland! For Scotland!"

It was Sir Philip and Sir Reginald, who had mustered the Scots and

now came to relieve him.

And Sir Archie ran toward them and cried in a loud voice: "Hither

to me! For Scotland! For Scotland!"



As Sir Archie walked out over the ice he still held Elsalill on

his arm.

Sir Philip and Sir Reginald walked beside him. They tried to tell

him how they had discovered the trap laid for them and how they

had succeeded in getting the heavy treasure chest away to the

gallias and in collecting their countrymen; but Sir Archie paid no

heed to their words. He seemed to be conversing with her he

carried on his arm.

"Who is that you carry there?" asked Sir Reginald.

"It is Elsalill," answered Sir Archie. "I shall take her with me

to Scotland. I will not leave her behind. Here she would never be

aught but a poor fish wench."

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"No, that is like enough," said Sir Reginald.

"Here none would give her clothes but of the coarsest wool," said

Sir Archie, "and a narrow bed of hard planks to sleep on. But I

shall spread her couch with the softest cushions, and her resting-

place shall be made of marble. I shall wrap her in the costliest

furs, and on her feet she shall wear jewelled shoes."

"You intend her great honour," said Sir Reginald.

"I cannot let her stay behind here," said Sir Archie, "for who

among them would be mindful of such a poor creature? She would be

forgotten by all ere many months were past. None would visit her

abode, none would relieve her loneliness. But when once I reach

home, I shall rear a stately dwelling for her. There shall her

name stand graven in the hard stone, that none may forget it.

There I myself shall come to her every day, and all shall be so

splendidly devised that folk from far away shall come to visit

her. There shall be lamps and candles burning night and day, and

the sound of music and song shall make it seem a perpetual


The gale blew violently in their faces as they walked over the

ice. It tore Elsalill’s cloak loose and made it flutter like a


"Will you help me to carry Elsalill a moment," said Sir Archie,

"while I wind her cloak about her?"

Sir Reginald took Elsalill in his arms, but as he did so he was so

terrified that he let her slip between his hands on to the ice. "I

knew not that Elsalill was dead," he said.



All night the skipper of the great gallias walked back and forth

on his lofty poop. It was dark, and the gale howled around him,

lashing him with sleet and rain. But the ice still lay firm and

fast about the vessel, so that the skipper might just as well have

slept quietly in his berth.

But he stayed up the whole night. Time after time he put his hand

to his ear and listened.

It was not easy to say what he was listening for. He had all his

crew on board, as well as all the passengers he was to carry over

to Scotland. Every one of them lay below decks fast asleep, and

there was no sound of talk to which the skipper might be

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As the storm came sweeping over the icebound gallias it threw

itself upon the vessel, as though from old habit it would drive

her through the water. And as the ship still stood fast the wind

took hold of her again and again. It rattled all the little

icicles that hung from her ropes and tackles, it made her timbers

creak and groan. Her masts were strained and gave loud cracks, as

though they would go by the board.

It was no quiet night. There was a muffled rustling in the air, as

the snow came whizzing past; there was a patter and splash as the

rain came pelting down.

And in the ice one crack after another opened with a noise like

thunder, as though ships of war had been at sea exchanging heavy


But to none of this was the skipper listening.

He stayed up the whole night, until a gray dawn spread over the

sky; but still he did not hear the sound he was waiting for.

At last a singing, monotonous murmur was borne upon the night air,

a rocking, caressing sound as of distant music.

Then the skipper hurried across the rowers’ thwarts amidships to

the lofty forecastle where his crew slept. "Turn out," he called

to them, "and take your oars and boat-hooks! The time is almost

come when we shall be free. I hear the roar of open water. I hear

the song of the free waves."

The men left sleeping and came out at once. They posted themselves

along the ship’s sides, while the day slowly dawned.

When at last it was light enough for them to see what changes the

night had brought, they found that all the creeks and channels

were open far out to sea, but in the bay where they were frozen in

not a fissure could be seen in the ice, which lay firm and


And in the channel which led out of this bay the ice had piled

itself up into a high wall. The waves in their free play outside

continually cast up floating ice upon it.

In the sound between the skerries there was a swarm of sails. All

the fishing-boats which had lain icebound off Marstrand were now

streaming out. The sea ran high and blocks of ice still floated

among the waves, but the fishermen seemed to think they had no

time to wait for safe and calm water, and they had set sail. They

stood in the bows of their boats and kept a sharp lookout. Small

blocks of ice they fended off with an oar, but when the big ones

came they put the helm over and bore away. On the high poop of the

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gallias the skipper stood and watched them. He could see that they

had their troubles, but he saw too that one boat after another

wriggled through and came out into the open sea.

And when the skipper saw the sails gliding over the blue water, he

felt his disappointment so bitterly that tears came into his eyes.

But his ship lay still, and before him the wall of ice was piling

up higher and higher.

The sea outside bore not only ships and boats, but sometimes small

white icebergs came floating past. They were big ice-floes that

had been thrown one upon another and were now sailing southward.

They shone like silver in the morning sun, and now and then they

showed as pink as though they had been strewed with roses.

But high up among the whistling of the wind loud cries were heard,

now like singing voices, now like pealing trumpets. There was a

sound of jubilation in these cries, swelling the heart of him who

heard them. They came from a long flight of swans on their way

from the south.

But when the skipper saw the icebergs moving southward and the

swans flying to the north such longing seized him that he wrung

his hands. "Woe’s me, that I must lie here!" he said. "Will the

ice never break up in this bay? I may lie waiting here many days


Just as he said this, he saw a man come driving on the ice. He

came out of a narrow channel on the Marstrand side, and he drove

as calmly on the ice as if he did not know the waves had begun

once more to carry ships and boats.

As he drove under the stern of the gallias he hailed the skipper:

"Ho, you there, frozen in the ice, do you lack food aboard? Will

you buy my salt herring or dried ling or smoked eel?"

The skipper did not trouble to answer him. He only shook his fist

at him and swore.

Then the fish hawker stepped off his load. He took a bunch of hay

from the sledge and laid it in front of his horse. Then he climbed

up on the deck of the gallias. When he faced the skipper he said

to him very earnestly:

"Today I have not come to sell fish. But I know that you are a

God-fearing man. Therefore I have come to ask your help to find a

maiden whom the Scotsmen brought out to your ship with them


"I know naught of their bringing any maiden with them," said the

skipper. "I have heard no woman’s voice aboard the ship tonight."

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"I am Torarin the fish hawker," said the other; "maybe you have

heard of me? It was I who supped with Herr Arne at Solberga

parsonage the same night he was murdered. Since then I have had

Herr Arne’s foster daughter under my roof, but last night she was

stolen away by his murderers, and they have surely brought her

with them to your vessel."

"Are Herr Arne’s murderers aboard my vessel?" asked the skipper in


"You see that I am a poor and feeble man," said Torarin. "I have a

palsied arm, and therefore I am fearful of taking upon myself any

bold and hazardous thing. I have known these many days who were

Herr Arne’s murderers, but I have not dared to bring them to

justice. And because I have held my peace they have made their

escape and have found occasion to carry the maiden with them. But

now I have said to myself that I will have no more of my

conscience in this matter. At least I will try to save the little


"If Herr Arne’s murderers are on board my ship, why does not the

watch come out and arrest them?"

"I have begged and prayed them all this night and morning," said

Torarin, "but the watch durst not come out. They say there are a

hundred men-at-arms on board, and with them they durst not

contend. Then I thought, in God’s name I must come out here alone

and beg you help me to find the maiden, for I know you to be a

God-fearing man."

But the skipper paid no heed to his question of the maiden; his

mind was full of the other matter. "What makes you sure that the

murderers are on board?" he said.

Torarin pointed to a great oaken chest which stood between the

rowers’ thwarts. "I have seen that chest too often in Herr Arne’s

house to be mistaken," he said. "In it is Herr Arne’s money, and

where his money is, there you will find his murderers."

"That chest belongs to Sir Archie and his two friends, Sir

Reginald and Sir Philip," said the skipper.

"Ay," said Torarin, looking at him fixedly; "that is so. It

belongs to Sir Archie and Sir Philip and Sir Reginald."

The skipper stood silent awhile and looked this way and that.

"When think you the ice will break up in this bay?" he said to


"There is something strange in it this year," said Torarin. "In

this bay we have always seen the ice break up early, for there is

a strong current. But as it shapes now you must have a care that

you be not thrust against the land when the ice begins to move."

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"I think of naught else," said the skipper.

Again he stood silent for a while and turned his face toward the

sea. The morning sun shone high in the sky, and the waves

reflected its radiance. The liberated vessels scudded this way and

that, and the sea birds came flying from the south with joyous

cries. The fish lay near the surface and glittered in the sun as

they leapt high out of the water, wanton after their long

imprisonment under the ice. The gulls, which had been circling out

beyond the edge of the ice, came in great flocks toward land to

fish in their old waters.

The skipper could not endure this sight. "Shall I be counted the

friend of murderers and evildoers?" he said. "Can I close my eyes

and refuse to see why God keeps the gates of the sea barred

against my vessel? Shall I be destroyed for the sake of the

unrighteous who have taken refuge with me?"

And the skipper went forward and said to his men: "Now I know why

we have been held back while all other ships have put to sea. It

is because we have murderers and evildoers on board."

Then the skipper went to the Scottish men-at-arms, who still lay

asleep in the ship’s hold. "Listen," he said to them; "keep you

quiet yet awhile, no matter what cries or tumult you may hear on

board. We must follow God’s commandment and not suffer evildoers

amongst us. If you obey me I promise to bring you the chest which

holds Herr Arne’s money, and you shall share it among you."

But to Torarin the skipper said: "Go down to your sledge and cast

your fish out on the ice. You shall have other freight anon."

Then the skipper and his men broke into the cabin where Sir Archie

and his friends slept. And they threw themselves upon them to bind

them while they still lay asleep.

And when the three Scotsmen tried to defend themselves, they smote

them hard with their axes and handspikes, and the skipper said to

them: "You are murderers and evildoers. How could you think to

escape punishment? Know you not that it is for your sake God keeps

all the gates of the sea closed?"

Then the three men cried aloud to their comrades, bidding them

come and help them.

"You need not call to them," said the skipper. "They will not

come. They have gotten Herr Arne’s hoard to share amongst them,

and are even now measuring out silver coin in their hats. For the

sake of this money the evil deed was done, and this money has now

brought retribution upon you."

And before Torarin had finished unloading the fish from his

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sledge, the skipper and his men came down on to the ice. They

brought with them three men securely bound. They were grievously

hurt and fainting from their wounds.

"God has not called on me in vain," said the skipper. "As soon as

His will was clear to me, I hearkened to it."

They laid the prisoners on the sledge, and Torarin drove with them

by creeks and narrow sounds where the ice still lay firm, until he

came to Marstrand.

Now late in the afternoon the skipper stood on the lofty poop of

his vessel and looked out to seaward. Nothing was changed around

the vessel, and the wall of ice towered ever higher before her.

Then the skipper saw a long procession of people coming out to his

ship. All the women of Marstrand were there, both young and old.

They all wore mourning weeds, and they brought with them a group

of boys who carried a bier.

When they were come to the gallias, they said to the skipper: "We

are come to fetch a young maiden who is dead. Those murderers have

confessed that she gave her life to hinder their escape, and now

we, all the women of Marstrand, are come to bring her to our town

with all the honour that is her due."

Then Elsalill was found and brought down to the ice and borne in

to Marstrand; and all the women in the place wept over the young

maid, who had loved an evildoer and given her life to destroy him

she loved. But even as the line of women advanced, the wind and

waves broke in behind them and tore up the ice over which they had

but lately passed; and when they came to Marstrand with Elsalill,

all the gates of the sea stood open.



The Treasure is an opposite fairy tale, presenting Prince Charming

as he really is: an orphan girl is cleaning fish and foreseeing

her life of poverty; a man well-dressed in seductive splendor woos

her and offers her ... forever after. There is only one catch: she

must betray her sister.

Although Selma Lagerlof won the Nobel Prize for literature in

1909, her name is known in this country--if at all--as author of a

children’s book only. All her other works, including novels and

feminist essays, have been unavailable in English for almost fifty


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In 1911, she made a speech entitled "Home and State" to the

International Woman Suffrage Alliance Congress. She argued, first,

that the Home was the creation of woman and the place where the

values of women were nourished and protected. The Home was a

community where "punishment is not for the sake of revenge, but

for training and education," where "there is a use for all

talents, but [she] who is without can make [her] self as much

loved as the cleverest." It was the "storehouse for the songs and

legends of our fore-fathers," and, she said, "there is nothing

more mobile, more merciful amongst the creations of [humankind]."

Although not all homes are good, good and happy homes do sometimes

exist. Men by themselves, on the other hand, were responsible for

creating the State which "continually gives cause for discontent

and bitterness." There has never been a State which could satisfy

all its members, which did not ask to be reformed from its very

foundations. Yet it is through the State that humankind will reach

its highest hopes. Her conclusion: women must add their special

virtues, what she calls "God’s spirit," to the "law and order"

goals of men.

Selma Lagerlof’s own home was a community of family and servants,

within which she experienced profound affections--for the

nursemaid who carried her as a crippled child upon her back, for

the old housekeeper, her younger sister, her grandmother who told

the children stories every afternoon. She never married; she spent

her entire life within communities of women, and her career could

be described as the author being handed up to greatness by a

procession of women who gave encouragement, advice, editorial

help, criticism, contacts, companionship. She called Frederika

Bremer the first feminist and "last old Mamsell" of Sweden,

meaning that Frederika Bremer’s life’s work had banished the "old

maid" from the realm of pitiful figures. Selma Lagerlof was

herself proof of her statement.

In The Treasure, written midway between her farewell to Frederika

Bremer and her plea for woman suffrage, the men are interested in

money, murder, and revenge. They miss the evil apparent even to

their dogs. When the old mistress (and who should know better that

the home is threatened?) warns that knives are being sharpened two

miles away, her lord refuses to believe that she could hear what

he cannot. The fishpeddler’s dog has instinct enough to balk and

howl, sensing death; the fishpeddler’s wife and the woman tavern-

keeper respond to the supernatural however little they understand;

the men turn their backs on understanding even when they are being


But the thrust of the story deals with the maiden Elsalill’s

painful struggle to choose between her dearest sister, who has had

to wander so long on earth "she has worn her feet to bleeding" and

can find grave’s rest only if her murderer is apprehended; and Sir

Archie, the murderer himself, whom Elsalill loves with all her


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Sir Archie is a subtle Prince Charming; he understands innocence

and tempts Elsalill mightily: "You are a poor orphan, so forlorn

and friendless that none will care what becomes of you. But if you

come with me, I will make you a noble lady. I am a powerful man in

my own country. You shall be clad in silk and gold, and you shall

tread a measure at the King’s court."

Even after Elsalill knows that her love is the murderer of her

sister, she still hopes to escape the action this knowledge

demands: she tries to persuade herself that because he wants to

make up to Elsalill for the evil he did to her sister, she should

give him a chance to save his soul. She thinks that her sister

does not know he will atone for his sin and become a good man; her

sister could not wish her unhappiness; how can she ask that

Elsalill betray the man she loves?

But she hears her sister weep and she sees her sister’s blood on

the snow, and she turns him in quickly, hoping that will be

enough. It isn’t. Her choice requires that she give her life.

At the book’s end Sir Archie, still clinging to his belief in

money-power, still trying to use her saintliness to save his own

soul, says he will erect a grand monument to her memory. He

believes that if he leaves her body in Marstand she will have only

a pauper’s grave and be soon forgotten. An exactly opposite event

occurs. A long procession walks out across the ice toward the

ship; all the women of Marstand, young and old, are coming to

retrieve Elsalill’s body and carry her back "with all the honor

that is her due."

The Treasure is a fable, a fairytale, an allegory of sisterhood

itself. There is good reason that this book has been out of print

for two generations. Daughters, Inc. is proud to retrieve Selma

Lagerlof and publish her in English once again--with all the honor

that is her due.

June Arnold Plainfield, Vermont 1973


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What is the treasure Selma Lagerlof about? ›

Book overview. The Treasure is set in Bohuslän in the 16th century, it tells the story of a group of Scottish mercenaries who escape from prison; they go on to murder a family to steal a treasure chest, after which one of them falls in love with the family's sole survivor.

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What is the main lesson of the story the treasure in the forest? ›

Greed and Human Nature: The story revolves around the theme of greed and its consequences. Evans and Hooker's relentless pursuit of treasure blinds them to the potential dangers. Their greed makes them ignore warning signs, leading to their tragic end.

What is the story of the case of the missing treasure? ›

When Daisy's birthday treasure hunt leads them into the path of the culprit, Daisy and Hazel realise where they'll strike next - the British Museum! With help from their friends (and rivals) the Junior Pinkertons, the girls must crack codes, unravel clues and race against time to solve the mystery.

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What is the treasure box about? ›

The Treasure Box is the story of Peter, a small boy fleeing a ravaged, war-torn city with his father. During this time of tragedy, Peter is entrusted with the care of his father's most precious possession: a book that he loves more than anything else he owns.

What is the plot of the search for treasure? ›

Summary: Once again Geronimo Stilton is pulled into the Kingdom of Fantasy, where he is needed to fulfill the ancient Gemstone Prophecy, and prevent Scorcher, the evil Empress of Witches, from obtaining the Royal Sapphire which will give her immense power. Original Publisher: New York, NY, Scholastic Inc.

What is the plot of the treasure in the lake? ›

A fantasy-adventure graphic novel about two best friends and their discovery of a mysterious village, perfect for fans of Kazu Kibuishi's Amulet or Raina Telgemeier's Ghost. Grand adventures often begin where you least expect. Iris knows this because she's read them all.

What is the story of the treasure seekers about? ›

The Story of the Treasure Seekers is a novel by E. Nesbit first published in 1899. It tells the story of Dora, Oswald, Dicky, Alice, Noel, and Horace Octavius (H. O.) Bastable, and their attempts to assist their widowed father and recover the fortunes of their family.

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