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Two Worlds part 3

“No. Now listen,” someone said; “it is true that the ideal conversation gets as far away as possible from what one is talking about; but that, it seems to me, we could best do by turning back to what we started with.”

“Very well, then. The Greeks…”

“First the Phoenicians!”

“What do you know about the Phoenicians?”

“Nothing! But why should the Phoenicians always be skipped?”

Light fell in a few short flashes

The boat was now opposite the house, and just as it passed someone on board lighted his cigarette. The light fell in a few short flashes on the lady at the helm, and in the reddish glare one beheld a fresh, girlish face with a happy smile about the parted lips and a dreamy expression in the clear eyes that looked up to the dark sky. The light went out. A slight splash was heard, as of something thrown into the water, and the boat drifted past.

About a year later. The sun was setting amidst banks of heavy, deeply glowing clouds which cast a blood-red reflection over the dark waters of the river. A fresh wind blew over the plains. There were no locusts—only the murmur of the river, and the whispering of the reeds. In the distance a boat was coming down the stream.

The old woman was down by the edge of the river. … After she had thrown her magic bouquet towards the young girl she had fainted, and the strong emotion—perhaps also the new doctor who had recently arrived in the vicinity—had worked a change in her malady. For months her condition improved, and finally she regained her health entirely.

In the beginning she was as if intoxicated by this feeling of health; but it did not last long. She grew downhearted and sorrowful, restless and full of despair, for she was constantly pursued by the picture of the young girl in the boat. It seemed to her the girl was kneeling at her feet and looked at her with pleading eyes. Later the vision vanished, but she knew that it was still there. The girl kept moaning all the time. Then she grew silent, but visible again. Presently the vision was always before her, pale and emaciated, staring at her with unnaturally large wondering eyes.

This evening she was down at the river`s edge; she had a stick in her hand, and she drew cross after cross in the soft mud; now and again she arose and listened; then she bent down and drew crosses again.

Presently the bell began to toll.

She carefully finished the last cross, put the stick away, kneeled down and prayed. Then she walked into the river till it reached her armpits. She folded her hands and let herself down into the black water. The water took her, pulled her down into its depths, and rolled on, as ever, heavy and sad, past the village, past the fields—away.

The boat was very near now. The same young people were on board who had helped each other steer the year before, and they were on their wedding-trip. He sat at the helm; she stood in the middle of the boat, draped in a large gray shawl, with a little red hood over her head… stood leaning against the short soilless mast, and hummed.

They drifted past the house. She nodded happily to the helmsman, looked up to the sky, and began to sing; sang hummingly as she leaned against the mast with her eyes lifted toward the drifting clouds… a song filled with happiness triumphant.

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Two Worlds part 2

The bell began to toll in the small village church.

She turned from the sunset, and rocked her head to and fro, as if she sought to escape the sound of the bells, while she mumbled almost as an answer to the continuous ringing:

“I cannot wait. I cannot wait.”

But the sound continued.

As if in pain, she walked back and forth on the veranda. The shadows of despair had grown deeper, and she drew her breath heavily, like one who is forced to tears and cannot cry.

In long, long years she had suffered from a painful malady which never let her rest, whether lying down or walking. She had consulted one “wise” woman after another. She had dragged herself from one “holy” spring to another, but without avail. Finally she had gone on the September pilgrimage to St. Bartholomew; and here an old one- eyed man had advised her to tie together a bouquet of edelweiss and a splinter of glass, a huck of corn, and some ferns from a graveyard, a lock of her hair and a splinter from a coffin, and this she was to throw toward a young woman who was healthy and fresh and who came toward her across flowing water. Then the malady would leave her and pass to the other.

Prow stood the puntsman

And now she had this bouquet hidden under her shawl, and up there on the river came a boat, the first since she had tied the magic posy. She had again stepped to the railing of the porch. The boat was so near, she could see that there were six passengers on board. Strangers they looked to be. At the prow stood the puntsman with his pole. At the rudder sat a lady, and close by her a young man who watched while she steered according to the directions of the puntsman. The others sat in the middle of the boat.

The sick woman bent far over the railing. Every line in her face was taut, and her hand was under her shawl. The blood beat at her temples. Her breathing almost stopped; with quivering nostrils, flaming cheeks, and wide-open staring eyes, she awaited the arrival of the boat.

Already the voices of the travelers could be heard—now clearly and now as a muffled murmur.

“Happiness,” one of them was saying, “is an absolutely pagan idea. You cannot find the word in a single place in the New Testament.”

“Salvation?” questioned another.

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Two Worlds part 1

Jens Peter Jacobsen (1847-1885)

Jacobsen, who began writing under the influence of Hans Christian Andersen, soon developed into a novelist and short story writer of great originality. Though he was as deeply interested in natural science as in literature, during the course of his short life he was influential chiefly as a writer.

Two Worlds is. typical of his poetic turn of mind, and reveals his technical skill as a story-teller. It is translated by H. Knudsen, first appeared in the Pagan magazine, and is here reprinted by permission of the editor.

Two Worlds

The Salzach is not a merry river. On its eastern bank lies a little village, very gloomy, very poor, and strangely quiet.

Like a miserable flock of misshapen beggars who have been stopped by the river, without fare for the ferryman, stand the houses down there on the uttermost edge of the bank, their decayed shoulders leaning against each other, and grope hopelessly with their weather beaten, crutch like supports in the grayish river, while their Hull windows stare from the background of their porches under the overhanging thatch-roof brows—stare with a scowling expression of hateful chagrin at the happier houses on the opposite bank which are built singly, or two by two, in cozy company, and are scattered, here and there, over the green plains, far toward the golden misty distance.

But about the poor houses there is no light; only depressing darkness and stillness, weighed down by the sound of the river which slowly, ceaselessly, rolls past, mumbling to itself on its way, so tired of life, so strangely absent minded.

The sun was setting, the locusts began to fill the air with their crystal- clear humming, which was carried over from the opposite shore by sudden weak gusts of wind that kept rising and dying away in the thin reeds on the shore.

A little way up the river a boat was approaching.

A weak, emaciated woman was standing in one of the houses close by the shore, bent over the railing of the porch, and looking toward the boat. She was shading her eyes with her almost transparent hand, for, up there where the boat was, the rays of the sun lay golden and sharply glittering on the water, as if it were sailing on a mirror of gold.

Through the clear dusk shone the woman`s wax-pale face, as if it had light in itself. Distinct and sharp, it could be seen, just as one sees the white foam which even in the darkest nights whitens the waves of the ocean. Full of fear, her hopeless eyes were searching; a strangely weak-minded smile lay about her tired mouth, but the vertical wrinkles in her protruding forehead nevertheless spread a shadow of the decision of despair over her entire face.

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