Thursday, November 18, 2010

I will never kiss you again


Sunshine and quiet--a strangely bright day. The snow had disappeared.
There was life and joy, and glad faces, smiles, and laughter
everywhere. The fountains threw up sprays of water in jets,
golden-tinted from the sun-light, azure from the sky....

At noon I left my lodgings in Tomtegaden, where I still lived and found
fairly comfortable, and set out for town. I was in the merriest humour,
and lazied about the whole afternoon through the most frequented
streets and looked at the people. Even before seven o'clock I took a
turn up St. Olav's Place and took a furtive look up at the window of
No. 2. In an hour I would see her. I went about the whole time in a
state of tremulous, delicious dread. What would happen? What should I
say when she came down the stairs? Good-evening? or only smile? I
concluded to let it rest with the smile. Of course I would bow
profoundly to her.

I stole away, a little ashamed to be there so early, wandered up Carl
Johann for a while, and kept my eyes on University Street. When the
clocks struck eight I walked once more towards St. Olav's Place. On the
way it struck me that perhaps I might arrive a few minutes too late,
and I quickened my pace as much as I could. My foot was very sore,
otherwise nothing ailed me.

I took up my place at the fountain and drew breath. I stood there a
long while and gazed up at the window of No. 2, but she did not come.
Well, I would wait; I was in no hurry. She might be delayed, and I
waited on. It couldn't well be that I had dreamt the whole thing! Had
my first meeting with her only existed in imagination the night I lay
in delirium? I began in perplexity to think over it, and wasn't at all

"Hem!" came from behind me. I heard this, and I also heard light steps
near me, but I did not turn round, I only stared up at the wide
staircase before me.

"Good-evening," came then. I forget to smile; I don't even take off my
hat at first, I am so taken aback to see her come this way.

"Have you been waiting long?" she asks. She is breathing a little
quickly after her walk.

"No, not at all; I only came a little while ago," I reply. "And
besides, would it matter if I had waited long? I expected, by-the-way,
that you would come from another direction."

"I accompanied mamma to some people. Mamma is spending the evening with

"Oh, indeed," I say.

We had begun to walk on involuntarily. A policeman is standing at the
corner, looking at us.

"But, after all, where are we going to?" she asks, and stops.

"Wherever you wish; only where _you_ wish."

"Ugh, yes! but it's such a bore to have to decide oneself."

A pause.

Then I say, merely for the sake of saying something:

"I see it's dark up in your windows."

"Yes, it is," she replies gaily; "the servant has an evening off, too,
so I am all alone at home."

We both stand and look up at the windows of No. 2 as if neither of us
had seen them before.

"Can't we go up to your place, then?" I say; "I shall sit down at the
door the whole time if you like."

But then I trembled with emotion, and regretted greatly that I had
perhaps been too forward. Supposing she were to get angry, and leave
me. Suppose I were never to see her again. Ah, that miserable attire of
mine! I waited despairingly for her reply.

"You shall certainly not sit down by the door," she says. She says it
right down tenderly, and says accurately these words: "You shall
certainly not sit down by the door."

We went up.

Out on the lobby, where it was dark, she took hold of my hand, and led
me on. There was no necessity for my being so quiet, she said, I could
very well talk. We entered. Whilst she lit the candle--it was not a
lamp she lit, but a candle--whilst she lit the candle, she said, with a
little laugh:

"But now you mustn't look at me. Ugh! I am so ashamed, but I will never
do it again."

"What will you never do again?"

"I will never ... ugh ... no ... good gracious ... I will never kiss
you again!"

Knut Hamsun, Hunger (1890), translated 
from the Norwegian by George Egerton

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