The Herr Theological Candidate



DURING my urchin days I was greatly intrigued by a theologian. He was a failure in his field, and I knew him by fame only, for he died the year I was born, in 1895. I never saw a portrait of him, but I was shown the remains of his stickpin, the hole he had worn in the carpet, and the charred spot where, as expressed by the lay opinion, “he succumbed to a detonation.”

Though I cannot produce those evidences today, the tale of the Herr Theological Candidate Martin Strand is still with me. I heard it at its wellspring, the big kitchen of the Sund, in the evenings when cooking and eating were over and the hired help digested and ruminated as they worked at the “easy” chores with needle or knife. The best teller was Old Johannes, a great hand with words and sin and calves. He was abetted and substantiated by the women servants, who couldn’t hear enough of missteps and repentance.

It was a seasonal tale, lying fallow for eleven months of the year and then cropping up every April, usually by way of somebody’s thinking out aloud, like: “This Valborg’s Mass eve it’ll be an even seven years since the Herr Theological Candidate took off.” The tale went on, evening after evening for weeks, until the flight of the season uncovered the end of another life and the makings of another story.

The outer facts of my theologian’s life are not many and can be told briefly. Of his inner life it was said by some that it was empty, by others that it was crowded into confusion.

Martin Strand’s father was a high official in the service of the Crown — so high that underlings ran the office, giving him all the time he could wish for to pursue his hobby of being a nonentity. Martin’s mother brought a moderate fortune into the family. Uncertain of health, she was pious and still when feeling low; then she dressed in drapes and dwelt in subdued light while penning farewell verse, silhouetting her own likeness on the deadliest of black paper and writing the final FINIS in her diary.

On days when her coloring was high, too high, she was energetic and self-willed in a hectic way, discomforting her daughters and servants with senseless tasks while straining herself with anything she felt certain her husband would have disapproved of if she could have wrung an opinion out of him — botanizing in the damp woods, for instance, or singing runs and trills in her strong, beautiful voice while exposing herself to violent cross-drafts.

The Strands had twin girls the year after they were married. One day in 1819, twenty years later, after Herr Strand had witnessed an agonizing scene between his wife and two daughters, he let slip the remark he owed Providence thanks for not having sired any additional victims. Fru Strand’s coloring heightened and remained abnormal for a week.

In due time Martin was born. Fru Strand died at his birth, and the father, in keeping with himself, died of no particular cause, in no remembered year, though presumably while the boy Martin was very young.

The twin sisters reared the brother. They adored him from the very beginning, perhaps because he was fine-boned and graceful and pleasing to the eye while they themselves were plain and ungainly, a trifle on the mannish side. Living in an old land where the wars and the sea had thinned out the male population, they had already begun to suspect that they would end up as spinsters. But as their charge grew, knowing no mother but them, the suspicion lost its sting, finally to dissolve into a conception that they had been blessed with a son without being upset by vulgar preliminaries.

Martin was educated by private tutors of warranted character and learning. He was put aside for the State Church (court predicant, if the Department of Ecclesiastics willed) because his sisters, during a visit to the capital, had attended services at the Royal Chapel, and ever since had known that the next thing to being King or God was to be the combined mouthpiece of both. The gentle and wellmannered child never said that he wouldn’t like to be a court predicant, nor did he express any preference for a less exalted future.

Martin’s sisters untied the apron strings and freed him when he reached the somewhat mature age of twenty-two, to enter the University of Downsala, the faculty of theology. His correct upbringing and the high grades which he received at the entrance examination in Latin, Greek, church history, and Christianism boded better than well for the future.


AT Downsala, five years usually elapsed before a theological student of average diligence and brains passed his licentiate examination and was ordained a “kominister,” the lowest rung on the divine ladder. Martin Strand spent thirteen years at Downsala — more than sufficient time for a man of his caliber to obtain a doctorate, one would have thought, but, as it turned out, no more than was needed to win him notoriety as a seasoned “overlayer.”

An overlayer was a student who laid over his examinations, semester after semester, year after year. It was quite possible to do so, because by virtue of an ancient law no academic citizen could be removed from the rolls of the university unless, having been tried by his peers, he was found guilty of maritime barratry; and Downsala was inland. Students who dawdled during the first, couple of years for the sake of orientation and then settled down to their studies were not worthy of being called overlayers, nor were ignoramuses who tried and failed until persuaded that they were in the wrong slot.

A true overlayer was like a distrait husband: he loved his better half and would have found it hard to get along without her, but he didn’t cultivate her. Concentrating intensely at some extra pursuit, the overlayer was a busy man. It might be the playing of whist or billiards that entranced him, or the writing of nonsense verse or stark drama; or he might go in for making over the world or preserving the past; or he would invent rebuses or engage in usury; or if he was merely a man of common appetites and no imagination, he might drink too much, or gamble too heavily, or fall in love too easily; but whatever he made a fetish of, it wasn’t studying.

A few of the overlayers at length became so proficient at their activities that crass voices lured them away from the university to put what they hadn’t been taught on paying bases, but the majority of them, mercilessly hounded by parents or other financial backers, roused themselves sufficiently after a well-rounded decennium to squeeze through a minor examination and disappear into the obscurity of a country tutorship to live on their memories.

There were stirring exceptions, of course. One medical student played chess all his waking hours for fifteen solid years, never losing a game. When he finally was mated, he swept the pieces off the board, tore his hair in despair, and cried, “I have failed utterly! I’m reduced to the plying of a pair of forceps! ” Within four years, he was a specialist on maternity cases.

As an overlayer, Martin Strand showed no extreme sign of the quirks typical of his kind. Taxidermy, for instance, meant as little to him as did endless rebirth; and though he figured in the lives of women, there was no woman in his life. A celebrated soloist of the University Choir and a gifted player of roles of the Cleopatra and Delilah variety at student, theatricals, he was known as a charming and popular fellow of considerable talents and means, who entertained many and harmed nobody by putting his worldly pastimes ahead of his sacred career.

Martin’s sisters provided him with a generous allowance. The last day of every month, he received a registered letter with a hundred-krona note in it. The next morning, he wouldn’t have a coppery ore left, but token payments would have been made on the most pressing of his debts, and his credit remained unimpaired.

Early on the morning of the thirtieth of April, 1855, Martin received and signed for his remittance letter, addressed to him in the familiar handwriting of one of his sisters. He opened the envelope, but, it contained nothing — no money, no love and best wishes. That his thoughtful and orderly sisters could have forgot ten themselves to the extent of mailing an empty letter seemed incredible; yet it was the only explanation at hand, because looting of a registered letter was out of the question.

It was a minor catastrophe, too, to be out of spending money on a Valborg’s Mass eve, the night on which the “nations” of Downsala (Martin belonged to t he Medeland) marched up to Castle Hill to greet the arrival of spring. It was the night of trumpet blasts and standard-waving, of high-flown oratory, flaming bonfires, rousing mass singing, starry-eyed dancing, inspired punch drinking, or to put it short — THE NIGHT! And nothing but an empty envelope to finance it with.

Mulling over his detestable luck, Martin was interrupted by a messenger who handed him a specialdelivery letter. Taking for granted that it held the missing money, Martin cheered up and told the messenger to wait a moment, there would be a tip for him. The messenger waited a while, but after a good look at the gentleman’s face he slipped out. The letter was an official notification, informing Martin that his sisters had died under unfortunate circumstances, and that his presence was needed for the settling of the estate, against which bankruptcy proceedings had been started.

Martin hadn’t been home for many years: he had been too busy overlaying. Seen from the street, the old stone house looked pretty much as usual, but walking through the garden, Martin noticed that it was in a neglected and unkempt state. No servant met him at the door, which was unlocked. And inside! The rooms were stripped. Furniture, carpets, drapes, pictures, books — everything was removed.

Only his sisters’ bedroom showed signs of having been lived in — and died in. There were a small portable stove, a few cooking utensils and dishes, the big bed in which they had slept, a couple of chairs and a table, and a writing desk, its drawers brimming over with receipts of registered letters to Martin, paid bills of Martin’s creditors, bills of sale, old bankbooks with empty balances, and dunning letters from the bank. By the bed was a night stand with two emptied bottles of sleeping powder and the death certificates of his sisters, the cause of death being noted as “ felode-se.” The fireplace was swept clean of ashes, and on the hearth lay a tinderbox, invitingly, next to a heap of kindling of shredded matter— the remains of all the pictures of Martin his sisters had once treasured.

Martin spent Valborg’s Mass night in the house. In the morning, he went to the sheriff’s office. “What is the penalty for murder, Herr Sheriff?” he asked. Greatly embarrassed, the sheriff said that usually it was imprisonment for life: with time off for good behavior it would be, say, forty years. “Very well, Herr Sheriff, I’m commencing it,” Martin said, holding out his hands. “You are crazy, Herr Theological Candidate!” the sheriff cried.

The sheriff notified the university authorities. Before nightfall, the then owner of the Sund, an old alumnus of Downsala and a great admirer of overlayers, came to claim Martin Strand as a steady house guest.


AROUND the year 1880, Herr and Fru Louis Wachencrantz purchased the Sund. The Wachencrantzes came from a coastal city where Fru Wachencrantz had been engaged in trade. She was the daughter of a fishwife who had intended to marry. Herr Wachencrantz had been engaged in nothing in particular until he married, and in nothing at all afterwards. Born a Baron de Wachencrantz, he had resigned his title at the time of his marriage because, when his wife suggested that the de Wachencrantz crest (a plumed casque, stabbed by a lance) would look just right for a trademark inside the women’s hats which she designed and sold so profitably, the baronial conclave had ruled that while a commoner could support a baron by selling hats, a baron or his crest could not promote the selling of hats.

All the stock and certain implements were included in the purchase price of the Sund. On the day Herr and Fru Wachencrantz were busily occupied taking inventory, the agent mentioned casually that the estate had a steady house guest. It was a sultry day, and Herr Wachencrantz, who perspired easily and had taken beer as an antidote, was in a harried state of mind.

“It isn’t on the inventory list. Put it down in black and white or I won’t be responsible for it,” he fussed. The agent, a smooth young man of the kind that always obliged when it didn’t cost him anything, promptly jotted down “1 steady house guest, male” on a vacant line, directly underneath “1 gander, white.” Herr Wachencrantz made a hurried hook next to “1 steady house guest, male,” and said, “All right, but where is the white gander? I wish to see it before I check it off.”

Fru Wachencrantz asked the agent who her guest might be. The agent was evasive about the matter. People said that he was in the religious line or something similar, but then, people would talk. Old Johannes, another though a trifle more useful thing that went with the place, ought to know; and the agent went to fetch him.

Having been born in the Sund hayloft in a year that fluctuated, but which always preceded the year of the birth of the particular gaffer he might be arguing with, Old Johannes considered himself a rare reference book. Jerking and scraping, and wiping at the smear of snuff juice that denoted his shrewd mouth, he said that the guest was the Herr Theological Candidate Martin Strand, an honored friend of the deceased late owner of the Sund for twenty-five years. No, Min Fru, the Herr Theological Candidate wasn’t a preaching “präst” — he knew better. That off his chest, Old Johannes just jerked and scraped. After Fru Wachencrantz had rather sharply ordered him to speak up, she gathered, by hook or by crook, that Herr Strand was a holy student who had retired from the university, crammed with goodness and learning.

Several days passed, but the permanent guest didn’t stir from his rooms to introduce himself to his new hostess. Yet Fru Wachencrantz was constantly reminded of his presence. In the mornings, she met Old Johannes on his way to shave Herr Strand (Old Johannes did all the delicate knife work at the Sund, from gelding to grafting); in the evenings, she was bothered with requests for yellow candles for Herr Strand; and whenever she went into the kitchen, it was Herr Strand this and Herr Strand that.

Herr Strand’s needs were catered to by the women servants, a flock of capable, husky, barelegged girls who had served under the former owner. Endowed with soft feelings and a flair for hard work, they were forever fancy-folding serviettes to go on his meal tray (nobody at the Sund escaped eating five times a day), shining his boots and checking up on their elastic wedges, ironing his collars, or tenderly holding up to the sunlight a pair of his long underwear to see whether it needed to be reinforced in the crotch or not. They bickered for the privilege of taking Herr Strand’s tray to his rooms, the winner returning quite limp and starry-eyed, a sigh of how “good” the Herr Theological Candidate was, issuing from her hot lips.

Suspicious of masculine goodness in general, and thoroughly sated with hearing of Herr Strand’s goodness in particular, Fru Wachencrantz one morning asked the girls what he was so good at. He was so good at being a saint, the girls said. Fru Wachencrantz snorted impatiently and said that while every man had a prominent quality, saintliness certainly wasn’t the name for it. Looking genuinely hurt, the girls went into a huddle in the pantry, and soon dispersed with the ingredients of an extra-rich “ eggpannkaka.”

At noon, Fru Wachencrantz exchanged the dishes on Herr Strand’s tray (eggpannkaka, buttered toast, a bottle of stout, and a bouquet of forget-me-nots) for the hired men’s boiled potatoes, salt herring, and weak beer. “I’ll tend to His Goodness!” she said; and carrying the tray high and threatening, she went upstairs, followed by the strains of a folksy concert, made up of the hired men’s guffaws and the women servants’ anguished moans.


ON THE door to Herr Strand’s apartment was tacked a sheet of paper, on which was written in the untrained hand of a servant girl, “Herr Kandydot Strands place go silent?” The admonition aroused ire instead of caution in Fru Wachencrantz. She hit the door several times with the loaded tray. As nobody answered, she put down the tray on the landing, wrenched open the door, and strode boldly inside.

The big room, although furnished in the levelheaded style bachelors preferred, — polished teak and green morocco, — was cluttered with female knickknacks of the cheapest and tawdriest kind imaginable. Vases and urns and jardinieres of painted china, fired clay, carved wood, scrolled pewter, plaited straw, and stringed beads, filled with rosetted sprays of everlastings and tissue-paper roses, stood on filet crocheted eye-strainers. The window sills were crowded with discarded cigar boxes and with cracked pots in assorted saucers, in which were growing pelargoniums, wandering Jews, parsley, and other kitchen flora.

The room was impregnated with an odor of moth balls, leavened with homemade smelling-water, its source easily being traced to a clothes closet. Fru Wachencrantz peeped inside. On the front rack hung a semi-divine black suit flanked by petticoats, lacehemmed and plaited, and for all their starched virginal whiteness not without a sensual aspect. The shelves were neatly piled with underthings, one pile of low-bosomed women’s sarks, the next one of fulllength male nightshirts, another one of string-tied female drawers, and so on, the garments being separated according to sex for the sake of seemliness, yet within easy reach. A high hat lorded it between folded colorful shawlettes, and on the floor stood a pair of cloth-topped clerical boots, squarely, like a black bull among a herd of heifers of low-cut shoes with gleaming silver buckles.

Fru Wachencrantz wasn’t shocked. A rational, worldly woman, whose tawdry upbringing and hardwon success had taught her that nothing is so bad as it looks, she solved human puzzles with what she called her “putting process”; that is, she put indignation away and put two and two together.

The knickknacks and female clothing belonged to her women servants. Living and sleeping in the big kitchen, having no place to store their belongings except in a wooden box underneath their beds, the girls made use of Herr Strand’s accommodations. But why did a theologian share his sitting room and clothes closet with four kitchen wenches? Could it be that he charged the poor girls rent? And in such a case, did he collect as a curmudgeon would or as a libertine? Or was he really a saint?

Fru Wachencrantz hoped he wasn’t. She could cope with misers and philanderers, but she didn’t know how to tussle with a saint, and it distressed her to be limited. For once, her putting process almost jammed. She worked herself into such a state of suspense that before she realized it she was in Herr Strand’s bedroom, bent upon solving the puzzle.

Fru Wachencrantz knew that Herr Strand was of her own age, around sixty. She had assumed that, like herself, who was leaning towards corpulence, he looked his years. He did nothing of the kind; and she felt old and tottering at the sight of the slender, almost boyish figure which was standing by an open window, its back to the door.

But her dismay soon turned into pity for her guest. At the first glance, he had seemed so upright and free, standing there, part and parcel of sunshine and fresh air; looking at him more intently, Fru Wachencrantz perceived that, though heedless of the intruder and of anything connected with a workaday world, he was keeping some sort of vigil, as if inching towards some distant goal, which could be reached by incessant waiting only.

Fru Wachencrantz coughed and tapped a foot. It worked mildly. Herr Strand didn’t turn around, merely said, “Thank you, my child. I shall eat when I can spare the time.” He spoke in a low voice, which for all its lowness carried uncannily well, possibly because it was all voice, his emotions being hard at work on something else.

Fru Wachencrantz had to own up that the man had a saintly aura about him; a latter-day saintliness, though, for he was dressed in a form-fitting Bismarck coat and immaculate linen, and his fair face was cleanshaven and void of lines traceable to fasting and scourging. His hair only was medieval. The color and sheen of hackled flax, it fell silkily — like that of a page’s on a memorial window of stained glass — to just below his coat collar, where it ended in a dying wave. (It was established later that the women servants took turns every morning brushing it, without Herr Strand’s remonstrating in the least.)

“No, Herr Theological Candidate, I’m Rosalie Wachencrantz, your new hostess,” Fru Wachencrantz said.

Herr Strand turned around and bowed, twice and deeply. Then he came towards her, took her pudgy warm hand, kissed it, pressed it to his Bismarck coat where his heart ought to be, and said, “Min Fru, it is beating for you.”

Fru Wachencrantz felt the unruffled thump of his heart, she saw a golden stickpin, the shape of a lyre, in his white cravat, and then she looked into his eyes to thank him with a smile. Probably her lips did smile, but her eyes wept when they caught his and saw them bereft of mental light. They were seeing eyes, but they mirrored nothing — all hope, longing, and curiosity were blotted out by a retina of blankness.

There was nothing much Fru Wachencrantz could say. She had to say something, though, or else burst out sobbing. She very sensibly chose the first alternative, Herr Strand’s stickpin giving her an opening. “You sang, once?” she ventured.

“I did everything, once. Now, Min Fru —” he said, and bowing anew he released her hand.

“Good-bye, Herr Theological Candidate,” Fru Wachencrantz said.

Followed by Herr Strand, the charming smile on his lips and the nothingness in his eyes bewitching her, she backed out, in a trance, which lasted until she stepped into the tray on the landing.

The dishes clattered down the stairway, the maids came running, and Fru Wachencrantz swore abundantly to the effect that why weren’t they whipping up an eggpannkaka, the poor man was starving!


THE immediate years were not easy ones for Fru Wachencrantz. She had bought the Sund on the advice of her husband, who had assured her that it could be run from an easy chair on the veranda; all that a gentleman farmer needed was a commanding bellow, and he had that. After Herr Wachencrantz had shouted himself hoarse and the foreman dumfounded, he withdrew from the drafty veranda to his warm study, there to play solitaire and meditate sourly upon the unmalleable traits of clodhoppers and the weather. His wife had to turn to.

The one-time modiste became a farmer — a working farmer, no less; for the meager soil of the Sund, forced to its limits for a thousand years, gave grudgingly. Always the leader, a taunting and swearing one, she went, via the manure pit and hayloft, to the bottom of things as thoroughly as she soared; and she got things done by keeping her draft animals in the pink and her men on their toes.

It was all hard work, some of it larded with mistakes and disappointments, but she succeeded so far that she was able to hold on to the Sund. Though not a boaster, she enjoyed pointing out that the estate provided a living if one didn’t mind working oneself to death.

At times, when difficulties and cares piled up so high and so frequently that an ordinary victim of them would have asked for succor on bended knees, Fru Wachencrantz used to go around the corner of the corps de logis and look up to Herr Strand’s window in the west wing. After a thoughtful comparison of her lot (six weeks of precipitation and hog cholera) with that of her guest’s (twenty-five years of becloudment and no rifts within a foreseeable future), she waddled away, head up, knowing that, she was in clover, no matter if it were waterlogged.

Notwithstanding that Fru Wachencrantz and her guest had never spoken to each other since her first and only call on him, they were on perfect terms. They met in person very seldom, twice a year perhaps, in the garden, when Herr Strand was going to or coming back from his “Sermon on the Mount,” as t he women servants were wont to call his weekly excursion.

He left the Sund every Sunday morning at ninethirty, exactly on the dot, brushed and combed, kidgloved, and anointed from top to toe with the women servants’ smelling-water. From his straight shoulders fell a black cape, lined with mauve satin; his top hat was covered with mourning crepe but, tilted back a little like a boulevardier’s, it sat easily on his head; in his left hand he carried a slight prayer book from which issued a string of green silk — a bookmark marking nothing; and his right wrist was wound with a plaited leather band which upheld a cane of glistening ebony.

Should Herr Strand then encounter Fru Wachencrantz, he would reach out and pluck something in bloom, a snowdrop or a cluster of syringa, and hand it to her, his silent, smile adding to the offering, the expression in his eyes remaining as neutral as ever. Fru Wachencrantz’s part in the ceremony would be on even simpler lines: she would nuzzle the flower.

But the panes in the kitchen window, facing the garden, would be gummed by red lips and pink noses, and pale-blue eyes would drink in the spectacle, their owners perspiring with pride and excitement over having had a hand in the turning out of the good and elegant Herr Theological Candidate.

Herr Strand’s destination, an old pagan “begravningsplats” where giant oaks shaded rune stones and burial mounds, was half an hour’s brisk walk from the Sund. It was the most elevated spot in the flat province of Medeland. From it, on a clear day, one might see the churches (certainly their spires) of seven parishes, and on a still Sunday morning an acute ear could hear the pealings of many consecrated bells, coming from over lakes, forests, and fields,

Herr Strand would take up a position on the highest mound and remain there, from ten o’clock in the morning until noon, be it rain or shine. For a long while he might not move at all; then, suddenly, he would wheel around and with a stately gait walk across the mound, back and forth, his prayer book held at arm’s length, his high hat raised in a grand salute to a congregation of crying terns, heathen bones, and sailing clouds. He never looked into the book or read from it; just held it out, opened at random, for the lake breeze to ruffle the thin pages at will. After a few turns his proud bearing would slump, his steps falter — the respite was up.


IN THE early 1890’s, Fru Wachencrantz retired for good. Her only daughter, Laura, married Herr Warrant Officer Oscar Landmark. A plebeian and a doer, he did wonders with the Sund and sired three children in as many years.

As the sun was setting on Yalborg’s Mass eve, 1895, the farm boys of the Sund parish flocked to the old pagan “ begravningsplats” to build, as was the custom, a great bonfire. All the other parishes in Medeland had their bonfires that night, but the Sund folks’ could be seen the farthest because it had the advantage of elevation. By midnight, the pyre was ready to be fired. It was gigantic, so high that the builders had used ladders before they were done. It was founded on a bed of dry branches, the main body was of oak and birch togs, the sides were covered with broken-up tar barrels and doused with coal oil, and on the top, for smoke effect and firework display, was a barrel of rosin with a bag of powder hidden in it.

It was a young men’s gathering, and bottles of “brännvin” were passed around and a great deal of practical joking, shouting, and horseplay was indulged in. Later, they would go below and dance with their waiting girls. Just as they were going to touch off the bonfire, they heard hurried footsteps and a voice crying, “Wait, please, wait!” The men held out their torches in the direction from which the sounds came, and then they doffed their hats to the Herr Theological Candidate of the Sund.

But the venerable gentleman, whom they had known as far back as they could remember, had changed a great deal. One of the more sober of the young men later testified that he had seen Herr Strand only a fortnight previously, and that he seemed to have aged forty years since then. He also said that, when he raised his torch to Herr Strand’s face, he had noticed that though it looked very drawn and tired, the eyes were lighted with serene happiness. Herr Strand had spoken and acted in a natural manner. “I thank you for waiting, friends. Please enjoy yourselves and disregard an old man’s presence,” he had said.

The young men did so. The bottles were passed around again, and a tremendous hallooing and hurrahing ensued as they advanced with their torches to set off the bonfire. One tipsy fellow felt so elated that he threw his torch high up in the air. It landed plumb in the barrel of rosin and powder.

For a few seconds the ignited layer of rosin spluttered angrily, sending out thick plumes of greenishyellow smoke. Then . . . Boom! the barrel exploded with the roar of a cannon, shooting a thousand projectiles of glowing lumps of rosin, and firing the oilsoaked pyre with a mighty Swoosh! that turned it into an all-devouring blaze.

Although the onlookers had intuitively realized the danger when the tipsy fellow threw his torch, and had scattered in all directions, they all suffered burns, fortunately of no great consequence. Laughing and joking and comparing hurts, they rallied around the fire. It burned itself out in an hour; then the young men trooped down the hill to their girls, singing as they went, “Beautiful May, welcome to our North again.”

In the morning, back from the dance, the women servants gave the alarm when they went up to Herr Strand’s apartment to serve him his coffee and to brush his hair, and found him gone. Their wailings woke up the whole house. Herr Lundmark, after having questioned everybody and heard that Herr Strand had been seen at the bonfire, took for granted that the old man had lost his way in the darkness when returning to the Sund. He organized search parties to beat the woods and drag the lakes.

Fru Wachencrantz sat tight until the men returned in the afternoon, reporting that Herr Strand was nowhere to be found. “Go to the ‘begravningsplats,’” she ordered them. “Rake and sift the ashes of the bonfire until you find a small lump of melted gold. Bring it to me.”

The men followed her instructions successfully. Hats in hand, they turned over to her the remains of Martin Strand’s lyre.

From the tanned hills of Santa Barbara, California, HUGO JOHANSON looks back to his boyhood in Sweden, whence has come material for many a delightful story in the Atlantic.