Monday, December 09, 2013

Knut Hamsun: ... his passion ran away with him...

Knut Hamsun: Mysteries

She started walking again and he kept pace with her. He didn't answer but went on, his head bowed. His shoulders twitched a few times, and to her surprise she saw one or two big tears trickling down his face. He turned away and whistled to a songbird to hide them.

They walked for a couple of minutes without speaking! Touched, she bitterly regretted her harsh words. Maybe he was even right in what he said, what did she know? She couldn't help wondering whether this person hadn't seen more in a few weeks than she had in years.

They still didn't talk. He was again quite composed and toyed nonchalantly with his handkerchief. In a few minutes they would be in sight of the parsonage.

Then she said, "Is your hand very sore? May I see it?"

Whether she wanted to please him or really gave in to him for a moment, she said this in a sincere, almost emotional voice, meanwhile stopping.

Then his passion ran away with him. At this moment, when she was standing so close, her head leaning over his hand so that he could take in the fragrance of her hair and the nape of her neck, and without a word being said, his love reached the point of frenzy, of madness. He drew her close, first with one arm and then, when she resisted, with his other arm as well, pressing her long and fervently to his breast and almost lifting her off her feet. He felt her back yield, she was giving in. Heavy and delicious, she rested in his embrace, her eyes half veiled as she looked up at his. Then he spoke to her, telling her she was enchanting, and that she would be his one and only love till his dying day. One man had already given his life for her, and he would do the same, at the slightest hint, a word. Oh, how he loved her! And he repeated time and again, as he pressed her more and more tenderly to his breast, “I love you, I love you!"

She no longer made any resistance. Her head resting lightly on his left arm, he kissed her fervently, interrupted only, at brief in­tervals, by the most tender words. He had a distinct feeling that she clung to him of herself, and when he kissed her she closed her eyes even more.

"Meet me tomorrow by the tree, you remember the tree, the aspen. Meet me, I love you, Dagny! Will you meet me? Come whenever you like, come at seven."

She didn't make any reply to this but merely said. "Let me go now!"          

And slowly she extricated herself from his arms.

She looked about her for a moment, her face assuming a more and more bewildered expression; finally a helpless spasm trembled at the corners of her mouth, and she went over to a stone by the roadside and sat down. She was crying.

He bent over her and spoke softly. This went on for a minute or two. Suddenly she jumps up, her fists clenched and her face white with rage, and, pressing her hands against her breast, she says furiously, "You're a mean person, God, how mean you are! Though you aren't likely to agree.   Oh, how could you, how could you do it!"

And she started crying again.

He tried once more to calm her down, but to no avail; they stood at that stone by the roadside for half an hour, unable to tear themselves away.

"You even want me to see you again," she said. "But I won't see vou. I will never lay eyes on you again, you're a villain!"

He pleaded with her, threw himself down before her and kissed her dress; but she kept repeating that he was a villain and that he had behaved wretchedly. What had he done to her? Go away, go! He couldn't walk her any farther, not one step!

And she headed for home.

He still tried to go after her, but she waved her hand deprecatingly and said, "Stay away!".

He kept following her with his eyes until she had gone ten or twenty paces; then he, too, clenches his fists and runs after her— he defies her prohibition and runs after her, forcing her to stop.

"I don't want to hurt you," he said, "and do have some pity! I'm willing to kill myself here and now, just to rid you of me; it will cost you only a word. And I would repeat this tomorrow if I should meet you. Grant me the mercy of doing me justice, at least. You see, I'm in thrall to your power, and I have no control over that. And it isn't all my fault that you came into my life. I wish to God you may never suffer as I do now!"

Then he turned around and left.

Once again, those broad shoulders on the short body kept twitching as he walked down the road. He saw none of the peo­ple he met, didn't recognize a single face, and he came to his senses only after he had crossed the whole town and found him­self at the steps of the hotel.

Knut Hamsun, Mysteries, Penguin Books, 2001, translated by Sverre Lyngstad

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