Burgomaster Hoeck and His Wife

A Double Portrait


A little town in its party clothes. Flags on all the streets. Pennant-bedecked ships in the harbor. A triumphal arch in front of a large, modern villa at the edge of town. Over all of it, a sharply clear April firmament, quivering with light. Not a shadow on earth.

A folk procession, with a police officer and four brass players in the lead, had just passed along the main street on its way to the villa. A pair of curs was left standing in the middle of the roadway barking at it.

A short time later, at a quiet house on a side street, there was a gentle ringing of the Burgomaster's doorbell. An elderly housekeeper opened her window a crack and peeked out. The little, wide-hipped wife of the pharmacist stood on the stone tile steps with a big bouquet of Easter lilies in her hand.

The housekeeper let her wait a little while before opening the door. With a silent greeting she led her in to the dining room, where the trusted servant gave daily updates to people who came to inquire about the status of her sick mistress.

"How goes it, little Miss Mogensen?"

"No better, in any case," answered the maid, like one who knew more than she wished to say. "Madame's sister from Germany arrived today."

"So it's true! I heard over at Sorensen & Lund that a strange and very foreign looking woman had come. So I immediately thought I must know. Has she changed much?"

"The Major's wife?"


The housekeeper gave an indulgent smile. "I have no way of knowing that, Mrs. Bergmann. The Major's wife has not been here in my time."

"Ah, no, no—I'm just chattering away. But you can believe, Miss Mogensen, she was lovely when she was young. She looked like a queen. And you'd better believe there was sorrow and grief when he, that rotten German, got permission to run off with her. People could never agree upon which of the two sisters was the prettiest. For my part, I always thought it was your mistress here—Do you think I could see her today?"

"No I don't think so. Madam has had a bad night. But I would be glad to inquire."

"Ah, yes, do that, dear little Miss Mogensen. That is so sweet of you. Perhaps it would even entertain the Burgomaster's wife to hear a little about the festival. In fact I just came from the Artisans' Parade. You must have heard the music."

"I have enough to do as it is, Mrs. Bergmann. When one has a responsibility…"

"Oh yes, I understand. There is a lot on your shoulders right now, Miss Mogensen."

"One does one's duty."

"You should, however, get out a bit anyway and see all the finery. The villa will be illuminated this evening, after we've eaten. It has been arranged for the regimental band from Randers to play. Jorgen Ovesen is responsible, and when he does something it's worth writing home about."

"Shall I bring the Burgomaster's wife the flowers you have there, ma'am?"

"Yes, if you would. I'm just sorry they are so meager."


The invalid lay in a bed that stood away from the end wall of the large bedroom. She was stretched out on her back between bright clean sheets of bluish-white with lots of handwork. A small pillow of maroon silk supported her neck.

Her sister sat in a wicker chair on the window side of the bed. By the other side stood one of those low vanity tables filled with flasks and small jars. There can be an air of mystery suspended over such a table, and when it is furnished with a mirror and mirror hanger it becomes an altar of passion for the woman in love. By doctor's orders, all superfluous furnishings were removed from the room. Even the drapes were taken down to get as much light and air as possible. However, the Burgomaster's wife would not be without that shrine during her long illness. She also wished to have close at hand the many familiar trinkets that stood on the table. They hid so well the medicine bottles and pillboxes that she didn't want to see.

Four long-stemmed roses stood in a vase on the table. There was a small silver bowl with peppermints and assorted candies that she offered to the doctor and other visitors. In the middle of it all one could see a pair of portraits, including a small photograph of the Burgomaster.

She wanted that portrait constantly near her. She had stared at it with wet eyes through the many long hours that she lay here alone fighting her fear of death and her self-reproach. Even now, while her sister sat with her, she fell into thought many times, her sight fixed upon the photograph. She made frequent, nervous interruptions to the conversation, to say she was expecting her husband soon.

Madame von Rauch was a woman approaching forty, four years older than the Burgomaster's wife. The two sisters had been beautiful women and, each in her own way, pleased with her beauty. The Major's wife, who was childless, still looked very good. By appearance she was completely a Prussian officer's wife, straightlaced and ample. She had become so utterly German in her preferences. The years, and specifically the months of wasting disease, had set deeper marks in the finer, softer features of the Burgomaster's wife. Her previously warm, brown eyes were now covered with that filmy gloss that is death's first forewarning. The attractive mouth, once shaped like a little heart, now lay bloodlessly stretched around a row of prominent white teeth. Only these teeth and the red brown hair still held the fort against the desecration of disease.

The two women were daughters of a customs agent who, in the sixties, had led a merry life in this same little town on Jutland's fjords, where the youngest had become the wife of the Burgomaster. It was wartime and a year after the peace treaty the oldest daughter, to the indignation of the townsfolk, had married one of the enemy officers who had been quartered in her father's home during the occupation.

Now, for the first time in eighteen years, the Major's wife visited her fatherland. In all this time she had seen her sister and brother-in-law only once, namely on their honeymoon, fourteen years previously. A meeting had been arranged at one of the grand hotels on the shore of Lake Como, where Mrs. von Rauch was spending the spring undergoing a fresh air cure after a serious sickness, the nature of which she, incidentally, didn't wish to discuss.

Meanwhile, over all those years, the sisters continued to exchange letters. That morning's reunion had been tempestuously moving.

However, the wife of the Burgomaster had rather quickly grown tired and also somewhat withdrawn. Her sister's many questions were making her shy. She often seemed to ignore them and tried to change the subject of the conversation every minute.

Finally she grew quiet, lying there with eyes closed, not exactly listening as she let the Major's wife tell about life in the German capital.

There was a quiet knock on the door. Miss Mogensen came in with the pharmacist's wife's bouquet.

"Now what is it?" the invalid asked impatiently.

"Mrs. Bergmann has called. She asks if she can come in and visit with Madame."

"No, no, that is impossible. I can't receive anyone today. Tell Mrs. Bergmann that."

"Mrs. Bergmann wondered whether Madame would perhaps enjoy hearing about the festival in town. She just came from the Artisans' Parade."

"Oh dear, what do I care about that foolishness! Well, naturally you mustn't say that, Miss Mogensen. Tell Mrs. Bergmann that it was awfully lovable of her, but I am just too tired."

"I was also supposed to bring you these here flowers. Will Madame have them in here?"

"Oh no, there are so many. And they smell too strong. Put them in the sitting room."

"That seems like a sin," said the Major's wife, who had stood up and taken the bouquet. "They are really nice. Let me take at least a few of them and put them in this vase in place of the roses. Those are not really fresh anymore."

"Oh, no I don't want to get rid of them. They can last a little while longer. It was my doctor who brought them. Aren't they lovely? Miss Mogensen, bring Mrs. Bergmann my thanks. Tell her it makes me terribly sad, but I can't receive anyone today."

"What kind of a woman is Mrs. Bergmann?" asked the Major's wife as soon as the housekeeper had gone. "Is she one of your friends here?"

"It is the pharmacist's wife. Yes, it's true, you may know her. Do you remember my old classmate, Laurine Holm?"

"Yes—the name rings a bell."

"Don't you remember…Mother always used her as a frightening example for us. She called her 'wiggle rump'."

"Ah yes, of course. She was otherwise very pretty, right? Blond and with a good complexion. Is she out there?"

"Yes, she comes almost every day to ask about me. When I am not too worn out, she is allowed to come in. She is basically sweet, but frightfully tiring, you can believe."

In spite of her serious concern for her sister, the Major's wife had to smile. She thought to herself that Anne Marie had obviously not changed in her treatment of her friends. It was the same capricious indifference with which she had tyrannized the many female admirers and protectors who had always swarmed around her while she was growing up.

"I would actually enjoy greeting your friend. Do you believe she would remember me?"

"Remember? Oh you don't know how well one remembers in a little town like this. If you want to know what you ate for lunch for the past twenty-five years, I am sure there is one or another who can tell you."

"Do you think she is still out there?"


The sick woman reached out her hand. She had caught the sound of a man's footsteps from the sitting room next door.

"It's my husband," she burst out jubilantly—and the weak remainder of blood her body still owned rose up into her cheeks.


The Burgomaster came straight from a hearing at City Hall and was in uniform. He bowed formally to the Major's wife.

"I would hope that it is not I who chases you away," he said when he saw that she was about to leave.

"Not at all," she answered shortly. "But I have heard that there is an old school comrade in the house at the moment and I would like to greet her. Please excuse me."

The Burgomaster bowed again, with a certain forced courtesy.

Meanwhile his wife, there in the bed, had reached her hand out toward him. Because of her sister's presence, she was a little sorry that he was in uniform. She didn't know why, but in spite of his tall, straight body, the uniform didn't suit him. She saw immediately that a little bit of a strap stuck out at the collar.

After the Major's wife left, he went to the bed and stroked her face tenderly. She took his large, suntanned hand and placed its vein-mapped flesh against her mouth as if she were kissing it secretly.

"Do you realize that we've hardly seen each other today?" she asked.

"I didn't want to disturb. It is natural that you and your sister had a lot to talk to each other about."

"You are never a disturbance. How often do I have to tell you that? I have just missed you so much this afternoon. Isn't it strange, I think I yearn less when I am alone than when I have company—even if it's my own sister."

"You have no doubt overstrained yourself with talking," he said instead of answering. His bearded face, which looked as if it were carved from an old oak tree took on an even colder, more withdrawn appearance.

"I am tired…and so troubled," she sighed, pulling her chin in towards his hand like a child seeking rest on a pillow. "Lisa and I talked so much of the old days…about our honeymoon trip…that time we met in Bellagio. That remarkably delightful afternoon by the lake. Do you remember?"

"Yes, we had good weather," he answered in a dry tone and, gently but deliberately, took his hand away.

She lay a short time, in silence, with her eyes closed eyes. She had noticed the little shudder that had gone through him at her question.

"Won't you sit with me a while?" she asked and made a gesture toward the wicker chair without looking at him.

"At the moment I have no time. I was actually on my way in to Mogensen to get my cocoa. There are people sitting in the office waiting for me. At three o'clock there is a reception at Jorgen Ovesen's, and I have to be there as the spokesman for the town council's delegation."

"Tell me a little about the Artisans' Parade. Was there anything to it? I would like to hear about it."

"I just got a glimpse of it from the Town Hall window. It was pretty orderly. Jorgen Ovesen himself arranged the whole thing. Suddenly doubts have sprung up as to whether he really has an jubilee today. But in any case, it is a good advertisement for his business."

"Is it true that he will illuminate the villa tonight?"

"So I've heard."

"When is your meeting?"

"Three o'clock."

"And what time is it now?"


"You must promise to come in here and say good-bye before you go."

"I'll hardly have time for that. As I told you, the office is filled with people."

"But when I beg you so much about it."

"You certainly have a lot of odd moods, Anne Marie."

"You understand me well. What if I were to lay here and die while you were away?"

"You are constantly full of unreasonable talk," he said, but at the same time lowered his eyes to avoid the fearful, tense and persistent gaze with which she looked up at him.

"Promise me you will come."

"Yes, naturally, if it means so much to you."

"Well you know what the doctor has said."

The Burgomaster straightened a little.

"Oh yes, Doctor Bjerring," he said tolerantly, "he says so many things. But now you must try to be calm. You have obviously talked more than you should today."

Shortly after, he left.

The sick woman lay with trembling lips and looked at the closed door through which he had disappeared until her mouth twisted and her eyes swam with tears.


When Burgomaster Hoeck went about his business in his office, which lay in a side wing of the large building, his being was a great deal freer and warmer than when he was in his wife's room. He never cast off that certain touch of official solemnity, and his oversensitive self-importance meant people had to be particularly careful around him. However when he dealt with people who didn't forget who he was, there frequently was present a mild and indulgent friendliness. It was this, especially that had made him popular with the most common part of the population.

With criminals, even the most dangerous and shameless, he frequently showed an odd tolerance. On the other hand, he could antagonize good-hearted people, even the town's foremost citizens, by directing the full strength of the law at them with regard to small offenses that they themselves saw as meaningless.

Because of this, one always felt insecure around him. On the whole opinions about him were evenly divided. If there was one thing on which everyone agreed, it was that he was no ordinary member of the constabulary. Basically they were more than a little proud of him, admitting that both he and his wife adorned the town. In those first years, before Mrs. Hoeck took sick, they walked each afternoon, with their prettily dressed daughter, along the main street on their way out to the gardens. Their arrival was one of the day's main events for those who sat behind sitting room windows following strollers with a street mirror. The Burgomaster's straight figure, with head held high, the tawny face and prematurely white hair and beard looked distinguished in these surroundings. And his wife's beauty aroused feelings just one step from envy.

There were other reasons that one felt honored by their presence. Burgomaster Hoeck had previously belonged to the Criminal Court in Copenhagen. He was considered one of the country's sharpest trial judges and was, on the whole, one of the great names in the judicial world. He had that rare title of Doctor of Juris and was once seen as an obvious candidate for the Supreme Court. By all accounts it was nearly his turn to wear the purple robes of jurisprudence when, to the dismay of all, he allowed himself to be transferred as Burgomaster of this little town in Jutland.

It appeared to his friends that it was an offering—although one without any great self-sacrifice—he gave his wife. She yearned to return to the region where she was born. Mrs. Hoeck had offered no other explanation.

They had lived here for five years, far from his friends and companions, in fact, more than half forgotten by them. They never complained about it or revealed that they wasn't here by their own free will and inclination.


After Madame von Rauch had escorted the pharmacist's wife to the door, she stood for a long time by the large corner window in the dining room and drummed on the sill with her ring-laden fingers. Her face had taken on a thoughtful expression.

That her sister was unhappily married was something she had long suspected, despite the pains that Anne Marie had taken to hide it in her letters. The string of enthusiastic and love-filled adjectives with which her sister constantly spoke of her husband had not misled her. Between the fine, restlessly waving lines she had detected a longing, a hidden sorrow that had deepened with the years until it ended in hopeless desperation.

Down in Germany, the Major's wife had formed her own opinion. With her experience from the circles in which she traveled and specifically from her own marriage to a life-devouring officer (who had been unfaithful not a year after their wedding), she put all the blame on the husband. When Anne Marie informed her of the husband's transfer to the provinces, she wrote explicitly that she hadn't prompted the move but only submitted to her husband's wishes. The Major's wife interpreted these words as an attempt to hide a humiliating truth from her. Even though her many words of praise for her husband excluded thoughts of actual unfaithfulness on his part, she would still have had good reason to want him away from the temptations of the capital.

After the conversation with the pharmacist's wife, the sister-in-law began to understand that it might be different with this love tragedy. The little country wife had spoken of the Burgomaster in the most respectful terms and seemed to have absolutely no suspicion of any marital unhappiness. In addition, the Major's wife also had to admit to herself that her brother-in-law didn't exactly fit the picture that she, from a distance, had formed of him as head of the family—partly in the image of her own wine-smelling partner in marriage.

But in the name of heaven, what could have happened?

When she, after a half-hour's absence, returned to the sickroom she found her sister alone. Anne Marie had, on her own, raised herself up to her elbow and taken a hand mirror from the vanity in order to fix her hair a bit.

"Did you know it was almost one o'clock?" she asked. "We can expect the doctor any minute now. Would you just spray a little in here? The air is not quite good."

"What is it, Anne M'? Have you been crying?"

"Can you see it? Are my eyes all red? I am just so tired." She put the mirror away with a ponderous movement. "I think I will rest a little until the doctor comes."

She turned away, onto her side with her back towards her sister, while the sister straightened the sheets and adjusted the pillow under her head. The exertion it took to lift her arm had affected her strongly. Accompanied by various bits of insignificant mumbling, her eyelids fell little by little. Finally she slumbered.

Mrs. von Rauch had once again taken her place in the wicker chair by the side of the bed and sat there without moving. She was very disturbed to see how sickly, sallow and exhausted Anne Marie had suddenly become. Overall, she found her sister a lot weaker than she had believed, and than she'd expected from statements in the letters. The situation had to be grave.

She could see her sister so clearly in front of her, the way Anne Marie looked at the time when Lisa herself had gotten married and left. She was so pretty! Barely out of childhood, just sixteen years old, medium height, of a harmonious build, dressed in a half long frock with a little crinoline and short, puffed sleeves. Her long hair was tied up in back of her head like a little hill, which actually didn't suit her. On the other hand she remembered a large velvet cape with fur trimming from the winter before, in which she looked so terribly sweet. Anne Marie had always been as happy as a bird; full of whims and pranks and yet totally ladylike, extremely correct, particularly with regard to men. It was so funny when there were strangers in the sitting room and Anne Marie presented herself there with the most perfect poise immediately after having been fighting with the kitchen maid for the right to lick the jelly dish. She had also developed early in physical appearance and she had been very preoccupied with the swelling of her breasts. In any case, it was still more than four years before she, with the full warm-bloodedness of her little body, flung herself at a man.

The Major's wife remembered clearly the funny, rather self-conscious letter in which Ann Marie informed her sister of the engagement. In it she stated that her intended was absolutely not handsome. Even so, she was visibly very absorbed in his person. At that time a criminal-law judge, he had resided in the town for a few months as circuit court judge in a murder investigation. They had not known one other longer than that. Once the Major's wife had made his acquaintance during the honeymoon trip, she understood that the quiet man's odd ways and habits, in comparison to those of the provincial folk, could easily pass for a glimmer of distinction. The respectability of his profession and the reputation that crowned his name after the discovery of the murder plot had done their part to idealize him in her eyes.

Since then, the Major's wife had frequently thought that she had never seen two happier people. For a week they had wandered the mountains like a pair of real vagabonds, bringing a snow-fresh invigoration down with them to the muggy resort town filled with cooking odors, where Lisa dragged herself through days of loneliness and longing. Anne Marie had confided in her that she never thought life could be so wonderfully delightful. She would never forget Ann Marie's charming countenance as she spoke. It had driven a nail into her heart. This impression of the husband had been pretty much eroded by the course of the years. In the end she remembered only his silence, in which there must have been the threat of power.

What had occurred in the interim to destroy their happiness?

Lisa stumbled at once over an old recollection. She recalled a cousin, tall Alexander, who worked in their father's office and visited daily at their home. He had been much taken with Anne Marie who, on the other hand, was not altogether indifferent. She was, early on, extremely welcoming to men's homage. However, the fellow was a rogue, just as lazy and negligent as he was handsome. He had to be whisked out of town suddenly and they hadn't seen him since.

Anne Marie, who was going through her sixteenth year, was down in the mouth for a day and then feigned indifference. Still, she it was obvious that she never completely forgot him. The Major's wife remembered that several times, even after marriage, Ann Marie had spoken of him in her letters and revealed a lot of sympathy for his sorrowful fate. With the possessive, motherly faith she reserved for those towards whom she had once felt affection, she had, surely in complete secrecy, followed him along his crooked way. It probably more than once led him very near the thick walls with iron bars.

Was it possible to think that the wayward cousin had crossed her path once again? One did sometimes hear remarkable tales of the ghost-like power with which a first love could ambush an otherwise well-fortified mind.

Oh, idle chatter! Now she remembered. The fellow had died long ago over in America.

The invalid opened her eyes again, looked around confused and asked, "What time is it?"

"It just struck one-thirty. It was probably the clock in the sitting room that woke you."

"So we can give up on the doctor for today," she said, still half asleep and with a reluctant expression once again turned her head away to sleep again.

A moment later she reached her bony hand toward the cologne flask and stroked herself on the forehead with the glass stopper.

"How warm it is here," she complained. "I just don't feel well."

"I'll open the window."

Some time passed, with scattered small talk about the weather and the people of the town and finally about Ingrid, the house's twelve-year-old daughter and only child. She had been placed in a boarding school in a large, nearby city. The Major's wife had until now, as much as possible, avoided speaking of her because she though it would upset her sister. Now she was struck by the fact that her sister had not once mentioned the child, whose picture stood in a silver frame on the vanity table, next to the one of her husband. With that, Madame von Rauch was newly confronted with questions about what secrets this marriage was hiding. This time it wakened not only her sisterly compassion, but also an ordinary bit of feminine curiosity.

The sick woman again lay on her back and turned her face toward the light. Sleep had refreshed her, putting a little color back in her cheeks.

"Tell me," said the Major's wife after some silence, "why in the world did your husband actually let himself be moved here to this little mousehole where it's evident that there isn't suitable diversion for any of you? For the sake of Ingrid's education and development alone, it would have been far better to stay in Copenhagen."

Anne Marie seemed a little alarmed by the question, as it came crashing headlong into the conversation. As she turned her eyes from the window and up toward the ceiling, her glance brushed past her sister with the same somewhat shy and searching expression with which she had regarded Lisa's many questions a few times before.

"The time was perhaps not so lucky for Ingrid's sake," she answered. "However the office was also available at that time and that forced the decision. Anyway, I, myself, am very happy to be here. I don't miss Copenhagen in the least. If I could just get well. On the whole, as long as I am with my husband, they can send me to Greenland, if it comes to that."

"Yes, so one says. Naturally, in certain situations, one means it. Even so, I think this must have been an unpleasant transition for you. You loved Copenhagen so much."

"Ah well, I really didn't have any time to feel that transition…it was like this: We had just gotten things arranged after moving when little Kai got sick. Then, three months later the boy died."

"That's true. You have his little grave here. You can believe it has been odd for me to imagine—that you had such a big, six-year-old lad whom I never got to see. He was so beautiful."

"Beautiful? I don't know. But he was a wonderful boy. He had his father's eyes. So serious and deep. So filled with thoughts."

"That must have been a difficult time for you, little Anne M'."

"Oh yes, that it certainly was," she said. She lay with her hand under her head and stared unceasingly at the ceiling. "Anyway—it is so strange—in the beginning I thought it was an easy time. You get so deeply close to each other in the face of such a great misfortune. All the small, everyday things become unimportant, all the small disagreements are forgotten. You just don't know what a comfort and support my husband was to me. He didn't move from my side during that time. If I hadn't had him, I would probably have gone mad. It is almost sinful to say, but I have since thought, when I think of those days, that he, with his endless affection, gave me full compensation for what I had lost."

There was a short silence after these words. The Major's wife was deep in thought for another moment. Outside in the garden a tireless starling called in the piercing spring sunshine.

"I don't understand, however, how you fail to miss the pleasures of society," the Major's wife began again. "You had so many good and enjoyable acquaintances in Copenhagen. I remember that you wrote of several of your husband's colleagues with whom you spent a great deal of time. Wasn't there one in particular—what was his name now? Judge Lunding, I believe."

"Ah, yes, he was very amusing," answered Anne Marie a little quickly. "However he turned out to be a bad person. In any case, my husband always said he didn't have much promise. Then there was some business with a married woman and in the end we didn't socialize with him at all."

The Major's wife observed her suspiciously. Her womanly instinct told her that she was on the trail of the secret. She just couldn't get herself to intrude upon her sister. She broke off her subtle inquiry for fear of upsetting her.

"Is it too cold in here?" she asked. "Shall I close the window?"

"Yes, do it. That bird is shrieking so unpleasantly."

The conversation slid back to the conditions in the village and to Ingrid, who was expected home for a brief stay on the occasion of her aunt's visit.

"How I look forward to seeing her," said the Major's wife. "You must miss her horribly. Don't you?"

"Terribly," said the mother, bringing forth the word with difficulty, as if from a sigh. Tears came into her eyes and there was a tightening around her mouth again.

"Wouldn't it have been better, both for the child's sake and for yours, to keep her at home. There must be some education to be gotten even here. Even if it isn't first class, she could make do with it for the time being. How do the other families in the town deal with it? Mrs. Bergmann for example? Does she also send her children out of town?"

"No, no. The school here is actually irreproachable. Ingrid went there until a year ago. Then my husband decided it was time that she leave home."

"I think that is so unreasonable. Especially now when you are sick. You should have a serious talk about this with your husband."

"Don't you think I've done that?" She lay with her eyes closed to hide the tears that were about to trickle out from under her lids.

"Well excuse me for saying it, but I really find it extremely irrational of your husband. Because now I understand that you must lie here and feel bad just from missing the child. For God's sake, even he can comprehend that! Will you permit me to talk to him about this?"

"It won't do any good! I know that."

There was something intemperate, something desperately hopeless in that outburst that startled the Major's wife.

"I just don't understand it. You say that your husband is otherwise so thoughtful and reasonable."

Madame Anne Marie hesitantly turned her face toward her sister. She gazed at her, somewhat shamefaced, for a long time with large, tear-filled eyes. Her mouth grew ever wider from fighting back tears.

"Haven't you noticed something, Lisa?"


"That my husband is…is…sick?"

"Sick? Is your husband sick? I thought he looked quite hearty for his age."

"No, it is not in that way…that's not what I mean. You don't understand me."

She turned away again, lifted both arms with a despairing gesture and let them fall to the bedclothes with the weight of death.

"No one understands me!" she complained disconsolately.

At that moment the Major's wife really understood less than ever before, but she dared not pry further. Her sister's face had again taken on the bluish tinge that frightened her. In addition, Lisa's attention was taken in another way. Anne Marie again complained of the heat and asked for something to drink. She needed her medicine and her sweaty hands needed wiping. The Major's wife assisted her with it all. She wouldn't allow Housekeeper Mogensen to be called.

"I want so much to help you a little," she said and tried to put a deeper meaning into the words with her tone. "It is really why I came, little Anne M'."


The doctor arrived right in the middle of the disturbance. Neither of the sisters had heard his ringing or heard him knock. They had no idea until he stood in the room.

"So you came," said Anne Marie, a little displeased. I had pretty much given up on you for today. This is Doctor Bjerring. My sister, Madame von Rauch."

The doctor was a younger, slightly misshapen man. He dressed with the haughty elegance with which such people try to compensate for their physical defects. His presence, however, was neither ridiculous nor frightening. He had a longish, pale and beardless face with large, very handsome features, an underslung jaw and strong, red lips. His brows were thick, deep, bluish hollows around a pair of sparkling, dark eyes with the metallic glint that, to the informed glance, betrays a ladies' man. The layer of thin, ink black hair on top of his head looked as though it had been painted there.

He seemed very unhappy at having incurred his patient's disfavor and made many apologies. He had been delayed on the way.

"Well yes, have a chair, doctor. Let us hear a bit about the company this evening. There really isn't much to report about me. I am the same today as I was yesterday. No appetite, no strength…nothing."

"And sleep?" he asked as his long, white fingers took hold of her wrist to feel her pulse. "Didn't the powder help?"

"Not in the least. You are a bad doctor who can't help me. Now don't ask any more. I am on vacation today. So tell us about the soiree out at Krogstrup. Were there many people there?"

"Yes, I must say, it was the Royal Gamekeeper's big banquet this time. I dare say there was every dinner jacket one could find in the region there. However, the Burgomaster sent his regrets."

"Yes, that's a shame. I implored him so much to go and not worry about me. It would have done him so much good to get away from his office a little. I could also have gotten a first-hand report. Well, what about the ladies? Were there lots of beautiful ensembles?"

"Well there were even more ladies who didn't have especially much on."

"Do you hear that, Lisa? The doctor is impossible! And whom did you have the honor of accompanying to the table?"

"The Royal Gamekeeper's new governess, Miss Lang."

"Aha. I hear she is pretty. What did you think?"

"Very nice."

"That's all? Perhaps she was vivacious?"

"Yes, in one way. The only time she opened her mouth in an hour and a quarter was to eat. Toward the end I sat there in fear that her corset might not hold."

The invalid laughed cheerfully.

"You are awful, doctor! But didn't she suit you anyway, this Miss Lang? You should know," here she turned to her sister, "I go to considerable trouble to find a wife for Doctor Bjerring. I recommend the prettiest and richest young women in the district to him. It just doesn't help."

"Perhaps Doctor Bjerring doesn't wish to marry at all," said the sister. "It is often a hazardous game."

"Ah, not only for that reason, Madame Major's wife," said the doctor and looked out the window. Love is just like theater tickets: the place one wants most is usually already taken."

"Yes, one always has plenty of excuses," said the Burgomaster's wife quickly. "And this evening you will be out in company again. You are certainly at full speed these days. Is it true that there will be illuminations and fireworks at the harbor? It will be magnificent!"

So went the cheerful chitchat as if they were in the sitting room. The Major's wife took a lively role in it. She had gradually become interested in the little provincial lifestyle.

When at last he left, Madame von Rauch saw him out to the entrance hall. She wanted to talk to him in private about her sister's condition. Out there he shook his head seriously and said that he was expecting a crisis. Her strength was still on the decline, but the possibility of a sudden improvement was not excluded. Yes, it wasn't completely unimaginable that the Burgomaster's wife might one fine day just blossom and completely regain her former health. This kind of kidney disease was unpredictable. One could live to be a hundred with it or could be killed in an hour. On her way back through the dining room the Major's wife ran into the Burgomaster. He came in from his own room and was in full dress. Housekeeper Mogensen followed with his overcoat. The Burgomaster asked how it went "in there" and his sister-in-law answered that Anne Marie wasn't doing so well.

"Well the doctor has been here and that cheered her up," she said.

The Burgomaster said not a word.

He had planned, so as not to awaken any suspicion in his sister-in-law, to go in and say good-bye to his wife, as she had asked. Now he settled for sending a greeting. As soon as he had donned his overcoat, he left.

The Major's wife returned to the sickroom. Anne Marie lay in the same position, with her hand on her cheek, just as when her sister and the doctor had left. She was looking out the window and had fallen so deep into her thoughts that her sister's arrival didn't immediately bring her back to herself.

"Well, what do you think of my doctor?" she asked, when the Major's wife took her former place in the wicker chair by the side of the bed. "He isn't a beauty, but he is really nice. And you just don't know how touching his solicitousness for little Kai was."

"But do you also think he's a skilled doctor? After all, that is the main question."

"Dear, he is considered a miracle doctor. If it weren't for his physical weakness he would never have settled in the provinces. I know that for a fact. You could also see that his cheerfulness was not altogether genuine. In reality, he is of a terribly melancholy nature. It almost breaks your heart to see how depressed he can be at times when you see him in private. There are times when he has sat here for a couple of hours just because he longed to talk to a person who understood him. Didn't you notice his eyes? I think there is a lot of sorrow in them…It just struck three."

The clock in the sitting room had reminded her.

"Are you expecting someone?" asked the sister.

"No—other than my husband. I always expect him."

"That's true—your husband went out. I'm supposed to give you his regards."

"Has he left?"

"Yes. He was busy, he said. He was on his way to an jubilee party. He was in full finery."

Anne Marie remained silent. She closed her eyes and turned away as if to slumber again. She pulled the blanket up over her shoulders so it almost hid her face and lay very still. However, when her sister, a few minutes later, stretched forward to make sure she was sleeping, she saw that a stream of tears ran down her cheek.

The Major's wife couldn't control herself any longer. She leaned over the bed, took her sister's hand and said, "Anne Marie. Little sister. Tell me what's wrong. Confide in me. Maybe I can help you."

"No, nothing will help here, nothing."

"So talk anyway. It will make it easier."

"What good will it do? You don't understand. I don't completely understand it myself."

"Try though. Tell me everything."

"Oh, it's a long, long story. I'll never be finished with it."

"I can be patient. Remember now, I am your sister."

"Yes," she said and pressed Lisa's hand to her heart in deadly fear.


Anne Marie began by telling about her late mother-in-law, Madame Hoeck, widow of a good-natured postmaster. She was a tall, dry and self-righteous lady with very unilateral developed spiritual interests. She came from a well-known priestly lineage. She was born a Sidenius and very proud of it. She had brothers and cousins around the nation who wrote books on elevated themes in which she took great pride. Since, in her eyes, the Sidenius family was, above all other honored clans, bestowed with a holy mission throughout the country, these writings were, to her, the final word of truth on the great puzzles of life and death. Whatever one talked about when she was around, she could always turn the conversation in such a way that she could find an opportunity for a remark such as "My brother Peter has a splendid piece about that in his Sunday reflections" or "My cousin Johannes developed that question with wonderful depth and clarity in his Advent sermon." If the conversation took place in her own home, she immediately got up and retrieved the mentioned work from the bookcase. Then, with her rough, masculine voice, she read long excerpts from it. After every point she glared over her glasses at her audience, demanding their admiration.

Her son's choice of life partner had aroused her deep displeasure and anxiety. With the uncompromising and inconsiderate honesty that was one of her most essential characteristics, she had not disguised her feelings from Anne Marie, let alone from the son himself. Still Anne Marie used all her wiles to ingratiate herself with her strict mother-in-law. The mother-in-law, on her first visit, had come right out and told her she was a "shabby little painted doll." She said she considered it her duty, out of consideration for her son's happiness, to become her teacher "in order to try to make a person out of her."

The mother-in-law lived in Copenhagen and, for the sake of peace, Anne Marie had kept silent and resigned herself to her tutelage. As a newlywed she had, with angelic patience, sat evening after evening and listened to her endless readings, while desperately fighting a convulsive urge to yawn. She wasn't accustomed to this form of entertainment as in her childhood home one played gin rummy or sat around the piano singing Erik Boeghske songs. But she loved her husband to the point of embarrassment and she feared the influence his mother's anger or displeasure could have on his affection.

The relationship had also improved by degrees, but it never achieved mother-in-law's full trust. Anne Marie could never show up with a modern hat, or a new pair of gloves or even just a radiant smile without arousing the widow's suspicions and starting a tactless interrogation. Since Anne Marie was most vulnerable to criticism of her appearance there were vehement scenes between them. For instance, it was a source of constant indignation to the old lady, whose face had always been like a frost-bitten apple, that Anne Marie, through her own instinctive defiance, wouldn't relinquish her womanly right to use beauty products.

"That sort of finery is for harlots—not for honorable women," the mother-in-law had pointed out indignantly a hundred times.

It was this relationship in particular that Anne Marie tried to make clear for her sister who incidentally knew something about it ahead of time from her letters. Her husband, Anne Marie said, had, at first, positioned himself chivalrously at her side in the battle with the mother-in-law in the beginning, often speaking up with great authority. There wasn't much love lost between the son and the mother who, when he was young, had wearied him with her eternal admonitions. At an early age, he followed his pride, ambition and sense of honor and made himself independent of her by finding work and providing for his own support.

After the mother's death, she explained, Anne Marie marked a change in his feelings. He constantly found fault with her. It was as if the mother's mistrust and displeasure reappeared in him like some inherited mental disorder. His activities as a police official added to it, she believed. The fact that he was always involved with crimes and criminals caused him to see deception and pretense everywhere. It became a fixation with him. Finally, one day, in a fit of sick agitation, he had decided that the child must leave because Anne Marie, in his opinion, was a damaging influence. Ingrid had come home with some apples from a shopkeeper's older boy and the husband had seen that as an improper advance from the child's side. It had been a frightening day!

She spoke quickly and breathlessly, with many digressions and sudden stops. It was like someone who no longer is able to hold a secret but still can't get herself to tell the whole truth and still tries to confuse. Anne Marie avoided looking at her sister the whole time, but continued to hold her hand with a fearful, convulsive grip.

The Major's wife quietly stroked her sister's hair. She was beginning to understand the connection and had to fight violent agitation. She now suspected that the misfortune was more terrible than anything she had imagined. She couldn't intrude on her sister with more questions. Pity made her silent.

In spite of the self-blame that was heard so clearly throughout Anne Marie's disconnected story, she didn't believe there was any mistake. She would stake her life on it that Anne Marie didn't have anything serious for which to reproach herself. The situation was far more grievous. Her poor sister was the victim of an insane man's jealousy. In her loneliness and despair, she was ready to believe herself guilty.

There was a knock at the door. It was Housekeeper Mogensen in her snow-white kitchen apron.

"What is it?" asked the Major's wife, getting up. Anne Marie was too affected to receive any information.

"Pastor Torm is out there. He asks whether he has come at Madame's convenience."

"A minister?" said the Major's wife with surprise and turned toward the bed. "It's probably not a good idea."

"Yes, let him come in!" said Anne Marie. "He is so nice. He comes here almost every day to look in on me."

"But aren't you too upset now?"

"That's exactly why. I always feel so calm when Pastor Torm is here with me."

"Show the Pastor in", said the Major's wife a little snappishly.

Pastor Torm was a nice, white-haired old man who radiated propriety.

"Who are you?" he asked with astonishment on seeing the Major's wife. He had been the priest in this town for fifteen years and knew its inhabitants right down to the dogs and cats in the street.

"This is my sister," introduced Anne Marie, "Madame von Rauch."

"Well," he said indifferently, "yes now…well…Rauch, yes."

Pastor Torm had no interest in strangers. Whatever lay outside the borders of his parish didn't exist for him.

"How goes it, little lady?" He asked, seating himself in the wicker chair by the bed. "Aren't you just a little bit better?"

"No, absolutely not. I feel weaker and weaker every day."

The priest shook his little silvery head with a sighing, hissing sound.

"How sad it makes me. I have prayed so fervently for you, little lady."

"Have you, dear Pastor Torm. So it must be God's will that I shall not recover."

"Don't say that. Nobody knows God's plan. He goes down so many hidden paths to find the way into our hearts. He often lays His hand so heavily upon us, that we might cast off the vain burdens of the world. Therefore we shall also thank Him for our sufferings. Don't forget, little lady, that every sleepless night brings you closer to God."

"I have felt that. It is my only comfort."

"I have just come from the home of Andersen the butcher. You know he has been lying sick the whole winter. There wasn't much hope for his recovery…it was cancer…and now, this morning, he passed away quietly and gently."

"Is Andersen the butcher dead?"

Anne Marie raised up a little in the bed and looked at the priest with big, round eyes.

"Yes, it was so beautiful. One could really say about him that his sufferings brought him to a rebirth. Before his illness I never saw him at the Lord's table. It was a long trial for me to wake his deeply slumbering consciousness. However, at the end he gave his heart entirely to God. I was called at seven this morning to give him Holy Communion and I can tell you that I never with greater confidence said to a person, 'Your sins are all forgiven.' A few minutes later he slipped peacefully away with the Lord's blood on his lips."

Anne Marie had closed her eyes. These days every death made such an impression on her that she started to shake.

"Pastor Torm," she said, "will you pray with me?"

"Yes, dear lady. That is why I have come, isn't it?" – –

The Major's wife had stepped away in the meantime and gone into the sitting room. She stood by one of the windows and drummed intensely on the windowsill with her fingers while her tense chest rose and fell with the storm waves in her mind. The door to the bedroom was ajar. She could hear Anne Marie praying a paternoster in there. She was at the point of bursting into tears from sadness and exasperation when she heard her sister, with raised voice, speak the words, "And forgive us our sins."


Pastor Torm had come, that time, by the Burgomaster's explicit request. The two gentlemen had met on the stairway of the Jubilee celebration and the Burgomaster had said his wife felt ill and would certainly be glad to see him. His sister-in-law's depressing remarks about Anne Marie's condition had troubled his mind. In and of itself, the news didn't surprise him. He believed that she was making long strides towards death's door and he desired nothing more. However, this was the first time his hopes had been raised by anyone other than the doctor, in whose word he had no confidence.

For that reason he made his congratulatory visit to the jubilee party as short as the situation and considerations of duty would allow. Along with a special delegation from the town council, whose spokesman he was, he presented the town's gift, a silver coffee service. Then he drank a glass of wine with the jubilee celebrant and his family, excused himself and withdrew.

Burgomaster Hoeck wasn't all that fond of the day's celebrated hero although he readily recognized his great ability and his service to the growth of the town. At a time when the remote little harbor town was thought to be on the path to ruin, he had, as a seventeen-year-old, arrived here from the backwoods with the rustic force that made him its rebuilder. According to the story, he made his entrance into town with eight shillings in his pocket. He then worked his way up from a stock boy in an old, failing grocery shop until, after only a decade, he ended as its chief. With that blend of bullish and foxlike characteristics that, under Danish conditions, constitute great business skill he had set the town's business back on its feet. He had increased ship traffic, developed the surrounding area, and at the same time amassed himself a fortune of about a million. In spite of this, one couldn't really say he boasted of his merits. He was an even-tempered, jovial, in a way, childlike man with an open heart and a generous hand.

In spite of all that the Burgomaster felt at a loss when, like today, his position forced him to give laudatory speeches about the honoree. The broad, blond, light blue-eyed man with the strong voice and the raw, Jutland accent physically offended him. He wasn't exactly refined and although he hadn't done anything downright fraudulent, he had been the type of person whom frequently moved quite close to the law-protected border between mine and yours. For example, the transactions through which he acquired command of the company, although the case seemed to have taken a favorable turn for his former employer, were shrouded in dark mystery. The Burgomaster, in spite of thorough investigation, hadn't been able to penetrate it.

He was therefore a little afraid that his congratulations today sounded a little dry. Fortunately the local school director spoke after him and didn't spare the verbal bouquets.

The Burgomaster walked up a high country road that looped around the town, and from which there was a beautiful view of the harbor and meadows. It wasn't for the sake of the view though, that he in recent times, preferred this path for his walks, but because he was more undisturbed here than in the park in town. It wasn't because of the nice weather that he walked so slowly and stopped so often to take intense deep breaths. Today he felt less desire than usual to go home. The foreign sister-in-law's presence was particularly painful to him because of the memories she awakened.

At the lunch table she had entertained him with recollections of their meeting on the honeymoon trip, of Anne Marie's letter from the time of their engagement, and much else he would rather not hear. Half-forgotten events from the past were again unbearably present for him. The disappointments and sorrows, like ghosts, rose up again like rheumatism in an old wound.

He walked here on the same path where, fifteen years ago—on a spring day somewhat like this one—he went out to ask Anne Marie's hand in marriage. In those days her parents lived in a dilapidated wooden house up on the slope of the hill where the municipal water tank now stood. It had not been a very easy road for him and it was with earnest affection for himself that he thought back to that day. For it could easily serve as witness to the seriousness and sincerity of his feelings that he, at that time so self-assured criminal law judge, had been able to convince himself to appear as a supplicant before a man whom everyone knew had been rescued from loss of his business and disgrace only through the help of his clubmates. For the Burgomaster, with both his current position and his future prospects, it had been pretty much of a sacrifice, yes, and a risky game, connecting with that family. The rumor mill had often been busy with them for other reasons too and their reputation was in no way improved by the oldest daughter's recent marriage to a Prussian officer.

He had been very happy though, when he sat out there that day in the pink, old-fashioned garden room, with Anne Marie's nervous little hand in his. The sun shone festively into the room and struck sparks from the sherry glasses that his father-in-law had brought out for a toast.

In spite of his thirty years he was fairly inexperienced in love. In his youth, while most of his friends and fellow students merrily cavort through society and danced into a new infatuation at every ball, he was absorbed in his studies and lived entirely to work for his future. He had not known that such sweetness could live in the kiss of a woman. Anne Marie completely enchanted him with her small, shy caresses. He let himself be thoroughly ensnared by her tender, twittering happiness.

It didn't affect him at all then that he had heard town gossip that he was not Anne Marie's first romance, that she, in all innocence, had had other, smaller passions. All that belongs to the past should now be forgotten. Anne Marie's basic nature had changed quite a bit after the engagement. She had become quieter and more self-possessed around strangers. Apparently that which he, out of thoughtfulness, had pointed out to her one day, had born fruit. He had let her understand that a young, pretty woman opened herself up to slander by being too communicative with people and that, in his opinion, it didn't suit her to be too vivacious and smiling; she was exactly at her prettiest when her face was tranquil. A little reticence disfigured neither women nor men; it gave distinction, stature and grace.

He couldn't understand now, as he thought back to that time, that he could have been so full of hope. It was a new, justifying proof of the seriousness of his love that he had let himself be so blinded. He had realized quickly—from a moral viewpoint—what a disorderly, neglected little person she was. What good would it do if she learned, little by little, to behave herself, when all of her thoughts were focused on getting attention and looking good? Only a few days after their engagement he began to notice the nervous agitation that overtook her whenever there were men present. She was also still a little occupied with her various admirers there in the city. Her conversation, probably without her being aware of it, still turned most often to what one Chief Bursar Anderson, a Head Clerk Jorgensen or a shop assistant Jensen had said or done on this or that occasion. That she looked at them a little too closely was revealed by her fully knowledge about not only their figures and their hair and eye color, but also the shape of their hands and feet and details about their attire, all of which she, in her lively manner, either praised or ridiculed.

Still there was something so simple minded about her preoccupation that he never had the heart to talk to her about it. He preferred not to have her regard him as jealous. Besides, he excused her because of her youth and the bad influences of her home. Her mother was a gadabout for whom looks were important. It was surely her obsession with fun and finery that was mainly to blame for her husband's embezzlement. A beautiful woman, she trained her daughters to be vain. Anne Marie had told of how it felt to be on display when she and her sister, during their childhood, had gone with their parents on walks through the town. One constantly heard her mother's reminders, "Anne Marie, hold your head a little higher" or "Stretch your arches, Lisa! Keep your elbows at your sides, both of you."

So it was that he had decided to have the wedding the same summer in order to get her away from the influences of her provincial home as soon as possible. However, even on the honeymoon trip, his trust received another blow.

The Major's wife's narrative at the breakfast table had reminded him of exactly such an episode. It was just two weeks after the wedding. For a week they had wandered together up in the mountains, all the way up near the sky. There Anne Marie had, by degrees, completely overcome her virginal embarrassment and given in without constraints to her strong desires to totally submit.

Deep down she completely lacked any understanding of the subtleties of nature. She found extreme enjoyment in its coarser effects: mile wide views, bottomless, dizzying canyons. She looked at the fine play of light and line with the same lack of understanding as a savage. Nonetheless, she had been so awed by the trip and cheerfully endured quite strenuous climbs. The impressions of nature and everything else she experienced nourished her newly awakened sexuality and transmuted itself to erotic warmth. Sun showers over a mountain lake, a rustling through the woods, the sound of a hidden spring, and even disappointments and travel mishaps were for her just occasions for a renewed ecstasy of love-filled caresses.

He had misgivings about this. The divine disregard of an uncontrolled natural power was in this small, slender woman's affection. It was like an eruption from a glowing abyss when she clung to him in a firestorm of kisses. He was all too deeply moved and felt himself all too fortunate at her devotion. What's more he had too little experience at that time to really understand a woman like that and to fear her.

The day they went down the crowded little resort town to meet her sister, the three of them spent the afternoon sitting out on the hotel terrace. A man came by and greeted Madame von Rauch and at her encouragement finally joined them. He looked like an officer, with a very neat but insignificant appearance—an Austrian land squire. All at once Anne Marie became someone else. She once again took on that nervously restive and affected quality he knew so well. The young man immediately began to shower her with tactless compliments. She far from rejected them. Quite to the contrary, she appeared, with her smile, to invite his flirtation. She understood enough German to hold a conversation in that language, but her awkwardness gave the young foreigner an opportunity to demonstrate how kind he was and to pay her further compliments. She so completely forgot her husband's presence that she, who just a few seconds ago had secretly squeezed his hand under the table and for fourteen days had not noticed anything but him, that she didn't once attempt to draw him into the conversation.

To test her he got up, under the pretext that he had to go to the post office and check on their mail. She remained sitting calmly, smilingly threw him a nod and said that she would wait there for him. When he returned half an hour later, the young man had just left. Her husband revealed nothing of his feelings and Anne Marie evidently hadn't the slightest impression that she had done anything wrong. Nothing in her expression betrayed that she knew she had awakened bad feelings in him. Later, when they took a moonlight stroll together by the lake she walked with her head charmingly leaned on his shoulder and was most affectionate. That evening he, for the first time, seriously suspected her honesty.

Many times since, he thought that he should have foreseen where her temperament would lead. He should have separated from her before any big calamity and specifically before they had brought children into the world. But she knew how to make him secure again. Besides he still counted on the influence that their new surroundings, into which she would be brought as his wife, would have on her.

It turned out, however, that the influence was altogether different than he had expected. Anne Marie, with her youth and beauty, aroused a justified fascination everywhere. She quickly, and with undisguised joy, accepted even the most awkward gallantry—even the ones that were, in his opinion, improper. He just couldn't bring himself to talk to her about it. With faith in her basic character, he promised himself to show patience. He also admonished his mother not to be unfair to her.

So far, he had found it easy to forgive her because he didn't yet have grounds to doubt her love. Her happiness and gratitude for their attractive home, which he had paid for top to bottom, was touching. As soon as he stepped in the door she flew to him and kissed him countless times before he'd even removed his overcoat. In her rapture over their life she tried to make every day festive. She adorned herself and used all her feminine inventiveness to be pleasing to him.

He still eventually found cause to warn her against being too open with strangers. Completely calmly, without showing any displeasure, let alone jealousy, he told her to be a little careful for her own sake. He repeated what he had said to her during their engagement, that it didn't really suit her to be so vivacious. In spite of her attractive teeth, she was most captivating when her face was still.

She listened to him with earnestness and the conversation ended with her contrite and crying on his shoulder.

They were going out to a large gathering the next evening. Anne Marie looked breath-taking with her bare neck and the completely exposed arms that he, not without some difficulty, had gotten used to seeing her display in company.

When they were ready to go she put those arms around his neck, looked him directly in the eye and said, "Tonight you won't have any reason to reproach me. I promise you that."

In spite of that promise, hardly an hour had passed before she began to draw attention with her vivacity. Gentlemen flocked around her and smirked with contentment. To warn her and also to show people his confidence, since he noticed that pitying glances were being cast his way, he eventually stood among her cavaliers and, smiling, took part in the entertainment. In spite of that, she didn't, in the slightest, try to control herself. Even when he made his expression severe, to give her a sign, she acted as if she hadn't seen it. It was like an obsession. Anne Marie was under the domination of some natural urge that she couldn't control. When they sat in the carriage on the way home, he waited for her to say something. She behaved as if nothing had happened. She talked about the ladies at the gathering and criticized the men. He only half believed her that time. Was it all a show? Or was she disappointed in herself? Or are there feelings and states of mind in women that men don't comprehend and for which there is no name?

Year after year she had become more of a mystery to him. In fact the longer they lived with each other and the more intimate their life together became, the more he felt she was a stranger. Just when he believed he finally really knew her, a word from her, a chance remark, a pensive moment would reveal hidden feelings and expose foreign aspects of her soul that then disappeared into a new darkness, a new concealment. Her mind made him think of a geyser whose seething waters bubble innocently up to the surface in one instant and, in the next, throw themselves with magnificent rainbows against the heavens. Then, just as suddenly, they sink and vanish into the abyss whose bottom none have sounded.

Burgomaster Hoeck remembered one time while they sat at lunch a letter came to her from a Jutland relative with news of the death of a cousin in America. They had already been married for several years and Anne Marie had spoken frankly of that cousin. In her younger days he would come to her parents' house and they had been a little infatuated with each other. The Burgomaster was therefore very astonished to see the strong impression the death message had made on her. It wasn't immediate, but little by little. Ultimately she became pale and he could see that she was forcing herself to act as if she was eating. When, later that evening, he unexpectedly stepped from his own room into the sitting room, he saw her hide something hurriedly under a newspaper. When he asked to see it, she resisted and even got a bit upset. So he took it himself. It turned out to be some small remembrances from the cousin: a few dried flowers, a pair of ball ribbons with dates written on them, a silly verse and similar things. She had hidden them in one or another locked drawer in her bureau. He scolded her for her childishness, but most of all because she had wanted to hide them from him. Then the same old scene repeated itself. After a weak attempt at self-defense, she listened remorsefully to him, eventually threw herself crying on his shoulder—and continued the same as before.

He still felt very happy in those days. Anne Marie's devotion and tenderness had, in a sense, never been greater than it was in those days—right after the birth of the children. Although he was quite a bit older than she and beginning to have gray hair, she still regarded him with worshipful humility. In those years he was more attracted to her than ever before. Childbirth had ripened her as a woman, had made her plumper and lighter complexioned. He recalled, with shame, those humiliations his passion often had seduced him into since then. In any case, he had never, completely and undividedly, owned her. He was never sure of the origin of her feelings, even in the moment of submission. There were times when he felt he was a mere substitute. Slowly he let the veil drop from his eyes.

One evening when they had come home from a party and he was preoccupied and tired, she clung to him in a groundless fit of tenderness that made him suspicious. He went through the evening's events in his mind. It struck him that he had, a few times, seen her with one of his colleagues, Judge Lunding, a handsome, younger man with a talent for entertaining. Recently they had run into him a few times when out in town. They also had him to their home once at their annual lawyers' dinner.

He took the opportunity to tell her what had been said about that man's doubtful character, particularly what was known about his relationship to women. She listened seriously and thanked him for what he had said.

"I had a suspicion about that," she said. "He has a way of staring that I don't like." Some weeks later, during an important trial, it happened that he couldn't eat lunch at home for a few days. In those situations he usually ate in a restaurant just across from the Industrial Association Building. From the window of the restaurant he saw Anne Marie walking along the other side of the street with her rolled up music in her muff. It surprised him, since she was at least half an hour early for her singing lesson and yet she seemed to be hurrying. In addition, he noticed that she had her new hat on even though the weather was dark and threatened rain.

He asked the waiter for the check and, at a distance, hidden by the crowds on the opposite side of the street, followed her for a while. On Fredriksberg Street she glanced at a clock in a store window and slowed down. A moment later, Lundings tall, light figure appeared ahead on the same sidewalk. He greeted her with a big smile and although she had once again put on the appearance of being busy, he stopped her. They stood and chatted enthusiastically for a few minutes. Anne Marie, with very red cheeks, stayed a few feet away from him and looked ready to rush away. In that instant he recalled that a while ago Anne Marie had, at the dinner table, told him of meeting Lunding on the street. On that occasion she had, with a cunning he first now understood, expressed her amazement that he could have left the court so early. Her husband, in his naiveté, had explained that Lunding was now in charge of the Civil Court, which adjourned early, at a fixed time.

In spite of all this he decided, for the time being, not to make anything out of this matter. He couldn't bring himself to talk about it. Besides, he knew that Lunding had requested a sabbatical to take a journey abroad. He would wait and see.

One evening, a few weeks later, they sat in a balcony box in the theater. From there they could easily see the entire orchestra section. During the first act he noticed that Anne Marie sat restlessly and several times pointed her opera glasses towards an end seat in a dark part of the orchestra. When he surreptitiously looked at the spot he discovered Lunding leaning forward and entertaining himself with a woman in the seat in front of him. It was one Mrs. Ellingsen, whom, it would later be learned, had met him on his trip, and was now engaging in a relationship with him.

During the intermission Anne Marie was very quiet. He asked her whether she had seen anyone she knew in the audience. She serenely answered no. Yet when the curtain went up—and for the rest of the evening—she turned her opera glasses repeatedly, and with growing nervousness, towards the whispering couple down in the orchestra. During the performance the two used the darkness in the house for an intimate tete-a-tete.

On the way home he said casually, "Judge Lunding was in the theater this evening. He's been out of town, you know. Did you see him?"

She hesitated a moment.

"No. Where was he sitting?" she asked, as if she had been thinking of something else. It was the first time he had caught her in an obvious untruth, but he still couldn't make himself say anything. He had pity on her. He thought he could see how she too suffered from her lack of honesty. He also understood well that when she lied it was partly because she feared losing his trust and affection by telling the truth.

Soon after that, the office of Burgomaster in this town became vacant because of a death. He took that as a sign from above. He no longer believed he could use persuasion to influence Anne Marie's character. He had also tried religion—to no avail. She went to church regularly enough and took communion, but when she came home she was always more impressed with the priest than with the sermon and with the congregation than with the psalms.

He thought that a reverse transplanting to the home soil, with its comparatively innocent memories and the peaceful, monotonous life of a little provincial town, would help her settle her mind and put an end to her straying thoughts and feelings. He had made that heavy sacrifice in the hope of being able to rescue the last, poor shreds of their love.

So completely in vain!


The Burgomaster sat on a bench under a sycamore tree, outside the cemetery walls, on the path down to the southern side of the town. He sat with his hands on the knob of his walking stick and his vision heavily fixed on the fjord and the broad meadows. He saw nothing. He couldn't free his thoughts from the past. One bitter memory dragged up another. He was gripped by a desire to wallow in his unhappiness. Every time a resolution to Anne Marie's illness seemed in sight, the Burgomaster's conscience demanded that he take stock of his marital bankruptcy.

The nearby cemetery gate squeaked and a stoop-shouldered man in mourning clothes came into view on the path. It was the bookkeeper from the savings bank, a middle-aged man who had lost his wife a few months before. He came out here to her grave every day after office hours.

He respectfully tipped his tall, funereal hat and stopped.

"Well, there is the Burgomaster. Ah yes, a wonderful view from here."

"A magnificent view, yes and unusual weather today."

"Right, and a big day for the town, Mr. Burgomaster. It is really beautiful with all the flags. Perhaps you're surprised at meeting me here while all the other people are out looking at the finery. I just don't care to. My life is finished. My home is at that grave in there."

"I know. You have suffered a great loss, Mr. Jensen. Perhaps not the greatest a man can experience, but anyway it doesn't go away easily. I truly understand that."

"It doesn't ever go away, Mr. Burgomaster."

"Ah no, I agree. However, it is a matter of subduing one's grief, Mr. Jensen. If one loses oneself in it, it easily can become devastating."

"OK, Mr. Burgomaster, but for me it's all over. My wife and I were so unspeakably happy with each other. For twenty years we lived side by side and I can tell you we were everything to each other. The Lord didn't send us any children, but we were unusually well suited to each other. We had the same interests, the same taste in all things, and finally, the same habits. Now when I go home it is to emptiness, Mr. Burgomaster. The only one I have to talk to is my wife's canary. When I turn on the light and sit down with a book, I'm only reading for myself and I don't find any joy in that."

The widower's sorrow made a deep impression on the Burgomaster. It let him feel his own hopeless emotional poverty. Large tears came from the bookkeeper's eyes—puffy and inflamed from two months of crying—and rolled down his rough-bearded cheeks.

"Aren't you alone too much, Mr. Jensen? You should try to occupy yourself a little. Didn't you see the Artisans' Parade at noon?"

"Yes, that I did. The bank closed at twelve in honor of the occasion. I found a really wonderful place over on Smith Street—up on merchant Hansen's high stairway. It was a festive sight without comparison. Don't you think so, Mr. Burgomaster?"

"Yes it was nice…extremely nice."

"We celebrate an important man today. A benefactor of the town."

"Without a doubt! Without a doubt."

"The Burgomaster will surely be at the party this evening?"

"No, I won't be there. My wife lies ill."

"Yes, yes—and I just chatter idly. One totally forgets oneself. How is Mrs. Burgomaster?"

"About the same, but with help from above, everything will be alright soon."

"Thank God! That's good to hear. I myself am a widower and I know what it's like to lose your dearest. So…."

"Who manages your house now, Mr. Jensen?" asked the Burgomaster, changing the subject. "You certainly can't be without help."

"Yes, for the time being I am alone, altogether alone. When I come home it is to emptiness, Mr. Burgomaster. One should have a person in the house, though and I have engaged a housekeeper to start in May. It is Miss Broager. Perhaps the Burgomaster knows her?"

"Well, yes, wasn't once the maid out at Krogstrup's?"


"And more recently, she has been cooking for people here in town."

"Yes, that is her. You haven't heard anything unfavorable about her have you, Mr. Burgomaster?"

"No, quite the opposite. Her cooking is well known. You have certainly made a good choice."

"I basically think so too. I have heard though that her health is not really strong and that has me a bit worried. She looks hale and hearty though."

"Yes, as far as I remember her she is a large and strong woman."

"That's her. A very impressive figure."

The Burgomaster was a little startled by the tone. He looked at him more closely. Yes, absolutely! Deep in the grief-swollen, eyes, still wet with tears, he caught a little lustful glint.

"How long has it been since your wife died, Mr. Jensen?"

"On Friday it will be exactly two months. Two frightfully long months."

"You'll see, times will be better for you when you have Miss Broager in the house. As long as we stay alive, life exercises its power over us."

"How do you mean that, Mr. Burgomaster?"

"Oh I just mean that one shouldn't be too depressed. Life is generous. Perhaps it still has great joy in reserve for you."

The widower still looked at him, uncomprehending and even a little shy.

The Burgomaster was silent. His feeling of destitution was at once stricken from him. He understood now that this man, in the middle of sincere mourning for his wife had, in his thoughts, already tried and enjoyed the merits of the next one. Before a year had passed the two of them would have a wedding and the little man would be the happiest groom under the sun. The bookkeeper again lifted his high hat and respectfully took his leave.

The Burgomaster, with a look of scorn, watched him go. A while later he got up and walked home.


It was almost dark when the Burgomaster arrived home. Anne Marie received him with reproaches because he had gone out without saying goodbye to her. She seemed a little nervous and upset. She said she was very exhausted, even though she had slept for an hour after the priest's departure. She still felt restless, without strength and indescribably tired.

The Major's wife sat in the wicker chair by the side of the bed. The Burgomaster stood on the other side and listened quietly to her complaints. A grayish twilight filled the room. The only other light was the glow of a newly lit fire in the wood stove.

Miss Mogensen came in and announced that dinner was served.

The Major's wife began talking excitedly about the sister's condition as soon as she and the Burgomaster got to the table. Lisa said Anne Marie's low spirits and lack of resistance was surely not entirely due to her physical pain. She asked finally—and provocatively—whether missing her daughter could have a negative influence on the course of Anne Marie's disease.

The Burgomaster avoided the issue with small talk. He then began to ask the Major's wife about social and political conditions in Germany and whether she still felt comfortable in her new fatherland.

To that the Major's wife answered that, in any case, a large society had an advantage over a small one. People didn't trim each other down to fit conventional patterns, but supported the right of their fellow citizens to develop in their own ways.

"And you've really found that right to be something good?"

"Yes, unconditionally."

"I must say, that amazes me a little."

"Why?" asked the Major's wife, turning a little red.

"Ah…but possibly I misunderstand you. Which conditions do you think of in particular?"

"Of all conditions. But especially marriage—it is such a Procrustean bed, upon which many of the small society's best women bleed to death."

The Burgomaster's tawny face seemed to get longer. A stiffness came over his features. He had begun to understand what this was about.

"I am not unfamiliar," he said and offered her more roast, "with how marriage and its obligations are seen in modern Europe. I must confess though that such a release of all controls, as is the aim there, does not have my sympathy. Honestly, dear sister-in-law, I can't believe that it could possibly have yours either."

"I prefer it nonetheless to that kind of marital loyalty that sits like a rope around the neck of its victim."

"Besides," continued the Burgomaster as if he had not heard the last, "I don't understand why you only mention women as the victims of the constraints of marriage. Had you included men, I would have understood you better. I will admit gladly that marriage is far from an ideal institution. I had frequent opportunity in my double position as policeman and judge to see that proven. Unfortunately, nature has created men and women so different that it takes a lot of civilization—or if you will permit me the word—self-denial on both sides in order to make married life completely satisfying."

"Yes, exactly! It is precisely that diversity that brings about the attraction. It is our instinctive urge to complete ourselves that expresses itself in our passion. And the greater the friction, the warmer it is."

Miss Mogensen came in at that moment from the pantry with dessert. The Burgomaster tried to lead the conversation down another path. The Major's wife, ready for battle, held fast to the theme and forced him to express himself.

He said that he was in great awe of that passion of which she spoke. He had to admit, without in any way sharing her enthusiasm for primitive man, that erotic passion was a great and holy power, to which one had to resign oneself. In his experience, though, that lofty feeling seldom caused matrimonial miseries. It was more often the many small, reckless infidelities and the constant betrayals caused by vanity and a desire to be liked. Without a doubt it was women who presented the most attacks in this respect.

The Major's wife laughed wildly.

Didn't men also have vanity? Didn't even the best of them often make themselves ridiculous and contemptible in their hunt for distinction and influence? Did they ask their wives or sweethearts for permission? In general, a man had little respect for the woman who loved him. He would rather possess her totally and exclusively, to own and control her up to her random thoughts and flightiest fantasies. It was arrogance and outrageous barbarity, just as crude and inhuman as the wife cages and chastity belts of the Middle Ages. The only excuse for such men was that they, in their indifference, hadn't a suspicion of the wealth of tenderness a woman could possess. It was far greater than the husband and a whole flock of children were able to receive. She would suffocate or explode if she didn't, at least through fantasy, pour off some of the surplus. The Burgomaster answered with an empty smile that exposed a whole row of well-cared-for teeth. "The view of your gender advanced here seems to me to lead, by dubious paths, out to the absurd. The whore would be the ideal woman, according to that opinion. She is, at least in literature, well on the way to becoming that."

The Major's wife threw her napkin down on the table.

"Ah yes, this country's priestly sermonizing. How well I know it."

The Burgomaster quickly looked at her and remained silent.

"Thank you for sharing this meal" he said shortly after and got up with a slight, measured bow.

The Major's wife remained sitting.

She didn't regret her provocation. She was completely sure that her sister had no reason for self-blame. Not only that, she was also convinced that Anne Marie's weakening was not—as the doctor concluded—caused completely by her kidneys; even though they had always been weak. Her sister was the unhappy victim of an insanely jealous man's vindictiveness.

Miss Mogensen had left immediately after serving the dessert. She had been offended because the Burgomaster and the Major's wife had switched to speaking German when she was there.

She let off some steam to the kitchen maid.

"They simply sat and quarreled. She, the German, leaned back in her chair in a real crude way. The Burgomaster's face looked like when he is having his heart problems, all ashy gray. I could see how his hands shook when he ate the crêpe. I haven't seen him this upset since the day Ingrid begged some apples from the shopkeeper's oldest boy."


The Burgomaster had gone into his own room—by itself, just off the entrance hall. A lamp burned on the desk, between the windows. The rest of the room lay in semi-darkness.

It was a large, longish, solidly furnished room that connected the family apartment to the office.

He paced the softly carpeted floor, which muffled his footsteps. His shadow glided back and forth over the shelves and the tall, white porcelain stove that stood against the longest wall.

Anne Marie had made her sister her confidant and complained about him. Naturally, he should have foreseen that. He still understood her so little. What did she tell? And how much did she suppress?

An old clock in the corner struck seven. He stopped in front of the desk where, lately, hearing documents, legal pleadings, estate accounts and unanswered business letters piled up shamefully.

There was almost nothing else that tormented and humiliated him more. He who had once been punctual and meticulous had become neglectful and even sloppy. He could hardly pull himself together enough to work. His thoughts went their own way as soon as he was alone. He had even suffered the indignity of having two of his judgements set aside by a higher court in the past year.

The sleepy striking of the church clock sounded over the town.

He stood, lost in his thoughts, with his hand on the chair back and his gaze fixed on the lampshade. He remembered an evening two-and-a-half years before when Anne Marie had sat here by his desk and helped him write the judgement in the big arson case. He paced up and down and dictated to her.

It was about two years after they had moved here. He remembered that Anne Marie still wore mourning for little Kai's death.

The great hope with which he had come here still looked like it could be fulfilled in those days. The boy's sickness and death had, in its own way, brought them closer together again. The common grief, the common loss, the common confidence in a reunion had, for a while, bound them to each other very intimately. The consciousness of how hard-earned that reconciliation had been, set a stamp of sanctity on the reunification for both of them.

In essence he never felt happier than in the first years in this little, dead village where, outside his own home, he felt like he was in a foreign country in whose language he was barely fluent. Anne Marie seemed to have undergone purification. Sorrow had given her a quite beautiful look. She said that now she had gotten to know the seriousness of life, she first really understood its value. Even the mourning clothes contributed to giving her dark blond form a new, fine appearance.

They were always together in those days, went to the churchyard every day, avoided all company and lived just for each other. Anne Marie had always taken exemplary care of the house. In those years she concentrated fully on her duties as a wife and mother.

In the evenings after Ingrid had been put to bed she preferred to sit in here with him and do her handicraft work. She was frightened by the loneliness of the sitting room. He wasn't disturbed by her presence; quite the opposite. He found it comforting to have her sitting there on the sofa. His work never went easier than when he heard the monotonous clicking of her knitting needles or when she fussed around the room to put his books in order or tend to the wood stove.

Once, when he had injured his right hand, she immediately offered to be his secretary. She abandoned the housework for days in order to be fully available to him. He had just received detailed material about the big arson case and was impatient to get the case expedited and the judgement written. It took a whole night to get it finished. In his preoccupation he didn't think of the strain on Anne Marie. She didn't say anything until suddenly the pen dropped from her hand and she fainted. Later she was inconsolable, clung to him sheepishly and was filled with apologies.

During that time he was so trusting that he no longer believed in the possibility of a betrayal. Least of all did he think there was any danger where Doctor Bjerring was concerned. Anne Marie had often spoken of her uneasy feelings about him and, in spite of his skill, was upset he had to be the family doctor. The day he came home from the court to find the doctor on a visit and, quite unusually, the table set with wine and sweets, was the day he began to suspect something.

It didn't take him long to verify Anne Marie's absorption in the little, disabled man and his fate. He noticed how often she spoke, not about him, but about his patients, about people he cured successfully, and what was said about him in the village—both good and bad. The Burgomaster observed a number of times that she became pensive at the mention of the doctor's name. When a carriage approached in the street he, hidden behind his newspaper, studied her watchful expression as she leaned toward the window to see if it might be the doctor passing by.

It was on the occasion of little Kai's illness that Doctor Bjerring first came to their house. He was there every day, often finding Anne Marie at home alone. The seeds of the new treachery were planted there, right over the child's deathbed.

She probably wasn't aware of her feelings until later. However, when the year of mourning was over and they began take part in the town's social life again, it was not difficult for him to see the relationship evolve in the same way as the earlier one. Anne Marie couldn't resist his weakest flattery, was delighted by his most insipid remarks and, in her fantasy, gave in more and more freely to her infatuation. Meanwhile, she again tangled them in a web of small concealments and falsifications until she no longer knew right from wrong.

That time, as so often before, the Burgomaster considered separating from her. He gave up the idea, not for fear of scandal—he was indifferent to people's opinions of him by then—but because of Ingrid. According to the law he couldn't take Ingrid from Anne Marie. In Anne Marie's hands, the girl would be heading for ruin. Besides, how could a divorce help him? His life was destroyed beyond repair. The future was as poisoned for him as the past. All his good memories were defiled. He was even ashamed when he remembered his mother. There was only one thing that could atone for the guilt, ease the pain and perhaps finally bring forgetfulness—death.


The Burgomaster had finally seated himself in his office chair and got started on the afternoon mail, which had been delivered at the office door. He pulled a small letter with childish handwriting from in between the blue and yellow envelopes that carried the miscellaneous business correspondence. It was from his daughter.

She wrote: "Dear Father, Many thanks for letting me come home Saturday because of Aunt Lisa's visit. I want to ask whether I could come on Friday. We have only arithmetic, geography and handicrafts, so it won't matter that much. Miss Andersen has given me permission, and now I need yours. A thousand regards to sweet mother. I am terribly happy about it. Yours truly, Ingrid."

The Burgomaster took a disapproving breath through his nose. He regretted that he ever had allowed her to come home. It was obviously preferable that she avoid acquaintanceship with this aunt. As far as additional dereliction of duty, it was out of the question.

He had taken out some notepaper to answer her immediately when Miss Mogensen, very pale, came rushing in. The dignified old woman was so shaken that she had forgotten to knock.

She told him to come immediately. Madame was suddenly much sicker. She was dying.

The Burgomaster was seriously frightened for a moment. However, on the way into the sickroom he remembered that Anne Marie, one evening a while ago, had similarly frightened them all, for no other apparent reason than to have the doctor called. The fact is, she knew that Doctor Bjerring was dining with a certain Mrs. Grabe, who was a guest at the customs officer's house. According to the gossip, the doctor was a little involved with Mrs. Grabe. As far as the Burgomaster knew, that woman was still in town and most likely, at this moment, along with Doctor Bjerring, took part in the festivities at Jorgen Ovesen's house. He supposed it was this thought that had upset Anne Marie.

When he came into the bedroom he saw immediately that it was a real emergency.

Anne Marie lay with open, unseeing eyes and coughed stiffly with a choking fit. Her sister stood bent over her and held her shuddering arms. The whole bed shook.

"Has someone been sent for the doctor?" he asked Miss Mogensen, who, totally confused, stood in the middle of the floor with her hands folded.

"Yes, Jens Christian ran for him."

"Miss, give me that eau de cologne bottle there," commanded the Major's wife, "and a spoon!"

She let go of her sister with one hand, bathed her temples and loosened the collar of Anne Marie's nightdress. A hoarse little cry forced its way out of her congested throat—followed by vomiting.

The attack was over shortly after that.

Anne Marie, limp and covered with sweat, closed her eyes and sunk back into the bed. Occasional tremors still ran through her body and she had trouble breathing. When she heard her husband's voice, she made an attempt to stretch a hand up to him, but she couldn't do it. Her hand fell dully onto the blanket. Soon after she dozed off.

The Burgomaster was so overwhelmed that he had to support himself on the bedpost. He suspected that this was her death.

"How did it start?" he asked.

The Major's wife told him that for the last hour, Anne Marie had complained of a violent headache and tightness in her chest. Then she suddenly had chills and started to throw up. In the middle of that came the fit.

The Burgomaster turned toward Housekeeper Mogensen with his watch in his hand.

"Does Jens Christian know that the doctor is at Jorgen Ovesen's house?"

"Yes, Madame said that when she knew she started feeling sick."

The Burgomaster didn't ask anything else after that and ten minutes passed without anyone saying a word. Many footsteps were heard in the usually quiet streets. It was people going out to see the illumination at the other end of town.

Anne Marie began to moan again. Her eyelids opened. Another attack was beginning.

"The doctor should be here by this time!" the Major's wife exclaimed despairingly.

The Burgomaster took his watch out again with shaking hands.

"I don't understand it either. I thought he would be here by now."

"Maybe the stable boy got lost. Let the kitchen maid run."

The Burgomaster said that he would rather go to the retired, old district doctor who lived in the house next door and ask him to come. If he were home he could be there in two minutes.

He had just crossed the sitting room when the bell rang. He went in to his own room to wait until the girl opened the door.

He heard Doctor Bjerring take his overcoat off and go through the dining room.

Another ten minutes passed. A few times he went to the door, but he couldn't convince himself to return to the sickroom while that man was in there and the examination underway. He was also so physically affected that he felt he might faint. His heartbeat seemed to stop every minute and he had to resort to his naphtha drops to keep himself up.

He heard footsteps and a knock on the door. "Come in."

It was Miss Mogensen.

"The doctor would like a word with the Burgomaster."

"Thank you."

Doctor Bjerring was in his dinner jacket and, in the rush, he had forgotten to take a flower out of his buttonhole. He said no more than "Yes" and held both hands out in a gesture of deep regret.

"You don't think there's any hope?" asked the Burgomaster.

"Unfortunately no. I don't think so."


"No, I can't keep it from you, Burgomaster Hoeck. Your wife has just a few hours left. I prepared you and many times told you that you were perhaps too optimistic about your wife's illness."

"I knew that. You have nothing to reproach yourself with. I just don't understand…that it came so suddenly."

"The blood poisoning I had long feared has attacked her now. It can be fatal in an unbelievably short time. Madame was already very weak."

"Do you think anything can be done just for relief?"

"Your wife has been given a calming powder, and I gave an order to keep a warm bath ready in case of another fit—which I don't think will happen. Other than that, there is unfortunately nothing to do."

The Burgomaster asked nothing more. He could see that the doctor was impatient to return to the party and, at the moment, had his thoughts more on the pretty Mrs. Grabe than on his patient. The Burgomaster felt full of pity for Anne Marie who, for the sake of that person, had sacrificed her home's happiness and her own peace, and now died lonely like one whose life was cursed.

"I mustn't keep you any longer," he said politely. "You had company."

"Oh, that doesn't mean anything. If only my presence could do some good, so…"

"No, no. After what you just told me, I understand that it can't."

"I will look in again later this evening. Around eleven, I think."

"Yes, since you are passing this way…I mean on the way home from the party."

"Yes, certainly."

When the doctor had gone, the Burgomaster went back to the sickroom. He was struck by a strong, musky odor when he reached the sitting room.

Anne Marie was dozing, but awoke as soon as she sensed his presence. She opened her eyes and stared at him with wild fear in her stiff gaze. She could no longer speak. Her hearing was almost gone. The last word she had said was whispered with difficulty into her sister's ear while the doctor was there. It was the word, "Ingrid."

The Major's wife got up immediately to let him be alone with Anne Marie. She shyly made a detour around him to get to the door.

She went in to her own room, alongside the dining room. The moon shone in on the floor and she didn't light a candle. She was in an uproar and couldn't calm down. She sat on the sofa, then got up and paced the floor. Finally she threw herself on the back of a chair and pressed a handkerchief to her mouth so nobody would hear her sobs.

"Murderer, murderer!" was the incessant cry inside her.

Lisa no longer remembered when the suspicion had first arisen in her. But she knew when she saw her brother-in-law's empty, cadaverous smile in answer to her remarks about small-minded morals, that he had deliberately destroyed Anne Marie's life in retribution for some imagined wrong. He had killed her knowingly and willfully. With the crafty cruelty of a madman, he had satisfied his desire for revenge by watching her tortured and tormented by his frigidity and contempt. He had known she would die. A deliberate murder was committed here. He knew Anne Marie couldn't live without affection.

She finally lit a lamp. She wanted to get away from here—that very night. She didn't dare stay under the same roof as that man after Anne Marie had closed her eyes. To avoid being tempted to bloody vengeance she had to leave as soon as the death occurred. She would take the first train to that city where Ingrid was at school, in order to bring that poor child the mother's last greetings.

The Burgomaster sat in the chair by the bed. He hadn't talked to her and Anne Marie was no longer able to hear anything. Only a little sight was left. Her wide open eyes were unceasingly fixed on him but they no longer had any expression. Her eyes could no longer entreat for her.

Her hand—her always so restless hand—now lay without life on the blanket. She had turned her left hand, the one nearest to him, upward. It lay there like a mute prayer for mercy.

The Burgomaster was not at all aware of that hidden life-sign.

On the other hand, he had caught sight of Doctor Bjerring's roses, still standing on the table by the headboard. The small, silver bowl of candies also attracted his gaze. He remembered how Anne Marie had bought it when she found out the doctor like that kind of sweets and how, after that, the house was never without them.

Time passed. With her dwindling life force Anne Marie watched in vain for some little glimmer of the previous love, or even just of forgiveness, in his face. Toward the end he had taken her hand. He sat there, pallid, hunched over, not moving, and looking like it was he who was dying.

Outside, the street again became lively with people returning from the illumination. They spoke excitedly of light balloons and rockets and colored lamps.

Anne Marie's breathing was almost inaudible. Her eyelids shut more and more. Her mouth was open.

Around midnight, when the Major's wife and the doctor came into the room, she was dead.