No one, least of all herself, had had the slightest doubt but that to stand up with her child in her arms before the bride, would be sufficient. From the moment that Milla had burst into tears in the chancel, but still remained in her place, until now, when old Green had come, Tora's excitement had increased to such an extent that those nearest to her were alarmed; it could be observed as well from the seat opposite. They knew now that something must be done, upon which neither they nor she had reckoned, before their object could be attained. Tora was Tora, and would be true to herself.
Furst was already at the altar, accompanied by Consul Wingaard; Engel had walked carefully across the carpet to lead his daughter forward. She rose and allowed the bridesmaids to arrange her train and veil--when Tora sprang forward from her seat.
Every one in the chancel was looking at the bride, who gave her hand to her father and turned with him towards the altar. They did not see Tora come up the steps. There was a sound behind them like the breaking of a wave, and at the same moment something black passed quickly by. The ladies shrieked, the gentlemen grew rigid with dismay. Those at the altar turned round; Engel staggered backwards; Tora stood between him and his daughter.
"Do you wish me to lay the child down before you, Milla? Will you have it to kneel on?"
"No! No!" cried Milla in horror. She turned, and with her hands before her she flew from the chancel, her veil streaming behind her.
Every one had risen. Tora had hastened at once to the vestry--she felt that now her strength was exhausted--Miss Hall followed her there.
But when Milla had left the chancel, she did not know where to fly to; some one ought to come to her, to be with her--her womanly instinct told her that. She turned and looked round bewildered. The vestry door was opened, a harsh cry was heard from it for just so long as was needed for the opening and shutting of a door; but it was enough. Milla began to cry too. An arm was put round her waist, she was led from the church; it was Nora. From the moment that Milla had yielded, all resentment was over, all anger vanished. Indeed, it was so with most of them. Rendalen was quickly at her side, and then went on before them to make way.
The organist, who had not seen what had gone before, but who, after the first hymn, had expected to hear the words of the service, rose when the movement became general. What was it? He saw the bride out in the aisle, the others still in the chancel, the whole congregation standing up. "_Aber das war kurios! Wird's nichts daraus? Ho--ho! Ich hab' meine zwei tausend_."
And he began to play the organ. They tried to stop him, but he answered, "What haf they don with the brite? The music shall do her goot."
Hardly had the bellringers heard the organ before they thought, "Now they are married," and began to ring the bells. Hardly had those on board the saluting vessel heard the bells before the guns began to thunder. They were to continue firing until the bride's carriage drew up at the door of the house, and as they could not see this from the ship, a signal was to be made to them. In the general confusion this was forgotten, so on they went--bang, bang, bang! It seemed to them at last that they had fired a great many rounds, but that was other people's affair, so they thundered away as long as they had any powder; for they also had been drinking considerably.
All this caused great amusement. The affair changed from the sublime to the ridiculous. First among the crowd who left the church amid the pealing of the organ, the clash of the bells, the thunder of the cannon; their laughter was taken up in increasing measure by those in the market-place, and from there it spread over the whole town. In the memory of man there had not been so much laughter at one time as now resounded from the river banks to the most remote houses on the mountain, or out on the Point. The country people went laughing home amid the roar of the cannon, and wherever they came there was laughter.
A gala day in town and harbour. Thunder of cannon and flutter of flags, flags and cannon--and laughter!
At first the bridal party looked at each other with horror; by ones and twos they made their way out of the church, but the laughter outside was infectious; when they got home and read the _Spectator_, they laughed too.
The Town Bailiff himself laughed!
Up the avenue walked Nora and Rendalen. The cannon thundered, and they turned round and looked at the flags flying in the town and in the harbour--and laughed. Karl Vangen hurried past them on his long legs; Tora was at Niels Hansen's. She was terribly exhausted, but calm; he was going to fetch the carriage--and off he went. No less than fifteen girls passed them at once, going up to Fru Rendalen; another large group was following them. They did not walk, they raced, and were quickly past.
A little later Fru Rendalen came out on to the steps to meet her son and Nora: they were just the opposite of every one else; they stopped every moment. Now, just when she wanted them so much. How could they forget her?
All at once she pulled off her spectacles and wiped them. Then put them on slowly.
Rendalen said, as he walked along the avenue, that there had been a great deal which was one-sided and obscure, too much of a fixed idea in his first lecture, and that there was a great deal in his development as well, which was but half accomplished. Still, "life is a school, and first and foremost concerns schoolmasters." He did not say this in so many words, he had not the least need for anything so stiff and cold.
To speak the plain truth, while they involuntarily flew the flags down below for the success of his life's aim, he walked along here and paid his court--to her with the "flickering" hair. It seemed to her that she was quite unworthy, and she brushed a swarm of flies from her eyes. But it was so absolutely impossible not to wish, and so----
They agreed about many, many, many things. The first was that if one has confidence in a work, that confidence helps in its development; the second was, that when there are two it goes on twice as quickly, or it may be that the last was the first, and the first the last. They really were not accountable.
But fifteen girls were up on the tower at once; they wanted to hoist one flag to-day which would tell no lie, and also for a reason which was without deception. They called down to ask leave; Rendalen was at the foot of the steps, he laughed up to them. Nora had sprung away from him--up the steps to Fru Rendalen. She pressed closely, oh, so closely, to her--apparently to put her spectacles on better.
"No, no," called Rendalen up to the girls on the tower; "not to-day--for Milla's sake, but we will do so very soon."
[Footnote 1: Pigerne Jens.]
[Footnote 2: Some parts of it have been used in the Introduction.]
[Footnote 3: Enchanting.]
[Footnote 4: Open hearth.]
[Footnote 5: Hired posting carriage.]
END OF VOL. II.