The Bridal March; One Day
[Transcriber's note: Front matter listing the novels of BJÖRNSTJERNEBJÖRNSON moved to end of book]
THE BRIDAL MARCH
(Translated from the Norwegian)
[The Bridal March (Brude-Slaatten) was written inChristiania in 1872. It was originally published in the second volumeof the first popular edition of Björnson's collected tales, issued inCopenhagen in that year. In November 1873, a small edition waspublished in separate form, and this was followed by an illustratedissue, of which a second edition appeared in 1877. The Bridal Marchwas originally composed as the text to four designs by the Norwegianpainter, Tidemand. It was dedicated to Hans Christian Andersen.
One Day (En Dag) was originally issued in the NorwegianMagazine "Nyt Tidsscrift," late in 1893; and was republished in avolume of short stories during the following year.
There lived last century, in one of the high-lying inlandvalleys of Norway, a fiddler, who has become in some degree alegendary personage. Of the tunes and marches ascribed to him, someare said to have been inspired by the Trolls, one he heard from thedevil himself, another he made to save his life, &c., &c. But the mostfamous of all is a Bridal March; and its story does not end with thestory of his life.
Fiddler Ole Haugen was a poor cottar high among the mountains. He hada daughter, Aslaug, who had inherited his cleverness. Though she couldnot play his fiddle, there was music in everything she did—in hertalk, her singing, her walk, her dancing.
At the great farm of Tingvold, down in the [Pg 2]valley, a young man hadcome home from his travels. He was the third son of the rich peasantowner, but his two elder brothers had been drowned in a flood, so thefarm was to come to him. He met Aslaug at a wedding and fell in lovewith her. In those days it was an unheard-of thing that a well-to-dopeasant of old family should court a girl of Aslaug's class. But thisyoung fellow had been long away, and he let his parents know that hehad made enough out in the world to live upon, and that if he couldnot have what he wanted at home, he would let the farm go. It wasprophesied that this indifference to the claims of family and propertywould bring its own punishment. Some said that Ole Haugen had broughtit about, by means only darkly hinted at.
So much is certain, that while the conflict between the young man andhis parents was going on, Haugen was in the best of spirits. When thebattle was over, he said that he had already made them a Bridal March,one that would never go out of the family of Tingvold—but [Pg 3]woe to thegirl, he added, whom it did not play to church as happy a bride as thecottar's daughter, Aslaug Haugen! And here again people talked of theinfluence of some mysterious evil power.
So runs the story. It is a fact that to this day the people of thatmountain district have a peculiar gift of music and song, which thenmust have been greater still. Such a thing is not kept up without someone caring for and adding to the original treasure, and Ole Haugen wasthe man who did it in his time.
Tradition goes on to tell that just as Ole Haugen's Bridal March wasthe merriest ever heard, so the bridal pair that it played to church,that were met by it again as they came from the altar, and that drovehome with its strain in their ears, were the happiest couple that hadever been seen. And though the race of Tingvold had always been ahandsome race, and after this were handsomer than ever, it ismaintained that none, before or after, could equal this particularcouple.
With Ole Haugen legend ends, and now history begins. Ole's bridalmarch kept its place in the house of Tingvold. It was sung, andhummed, and whistled, and fiddled, in the house and in the stable, inthe field and on the mountain-side. The only child born of themarriage, little Astrid, was rocked and sung to sleep with it bymother, by father, and by servants, and it was one of the first thingsshe herself learned. There was music in the race, and this brightlittle one had her full share of it, and soon could hum her parent'striumphal march, the talisman of her family, in quite a masterly way.
It was hardly to be wondered at that when she grew up, she too wishedto choose her lover. Many came to woo, but at the age of twenty-threethe rich and gifted girl was still single. The reason came out atlast. In the house lived a quick-witted youth, whom Aslaug had takenin out of pity. He went by the name of the tramp or gipsy, though hewas neither. But Aslaug was ready enough to call him so [Pg 5]when sheheard that Astrid and he were betrothed. They had pledged faith toeach other in all secrecy out on the hill pastures, and had sung thebridal march together, she on the height, he answering from below.
The lad was sent away at once. No one could now show more pride ofrace than Aslaug, the poor cottar's daughter. Astrid's father calledto mind what was prophesied when he broke the tradition of his family.Had it now come to a husband being taken in from the wayside? Wherewould it end? And the neighbours said much the same.
"The tramp," Knut by name, soon became well known to every one, as hetook to dealing in cattle on his own account. He was the first in thatpart of the country to do it to any extent, and his enterprise hadbegun to benefit the whole district, raising prices, and bringing incapital. But he was apt to bring drinking bouts, and often fighting,in his train; and this was all that people talked of as yet; they hadnot begun to understand his capabilities as a business man.
Astrid was determined, and she was twenty-three, and her parents cameto see that either the farm must go out of the family or Knut mustcome into it; through their own marriage they had lost the moralauthority that might have stood them in good stead now. So Astrid hadher way. One fine day the handsome, merry Knut drove with her tochurch. The strains of the family bridal march, her grandfather'smasterpiece, were wafted back over the great procession, and the twoseemed to be sitting humming it quietly, and very happy they looked.And every one wondered how the parents looked so happy too, for theyhad opposed the marriage long and obstinately.
After the wedding Knut took over the farm, and the old people retiredon their allowance. It was such a liberal one that people could notunderstand how Knut and Astrid were able to afford it; for though thefarm was the largest in the district, it was not well-cultivated. Butthis was not all. Three times the number of workpeople were taken on,and everything was [Pg 7]started in a new way, with an outlay unheard of inthese parts. Certain ruin was foretold. But "the tramp"—for hisnickname had stuck to him—was as merry as ever, and seemed to haveinfected Astrid with his humour. The quiet, gentle girl became thelively, buxom wife. Her parents were satisfied. At last people beganto understand that Knut had brought to Tingvold what no one had hadthere before, working capital! And along with it he had brought theexperience gained in trading, and a gift of handling commodities andmoney, and of keeping servants willing and happy.
In twelve years one would hardly have known Tingvold again. House andoutbuildings were different; there were three times as manyworkpeople, they were three times as well off, and Knut himself, inhis broadcloth coat, sat in the evenings and smoked his meerschaumpipe and drank his glass of toddy with the Captain and the Pastor andthe Bailiff. To Astrid he was the cleverest and best man in the world,and she was fond of telling how in his young days [Pg 8]he had fought anddrunk just to get himself talked about, and to frighten her; "for hewas so cunning!"
She followed him in everything except in leaving off peasant dress andcustoms; to these she always kept. Knut did not interfere with otherpeople's ways, so this caused no trouble between them. He lived withhis "set," and his wife saw to their entertainment, which was,however, modest enough, for he was too prudent a man to makeunnecessary show or outlay of any kind. Some said that he gained moreby the card-playing, and by the popularity this mode of life won forhim, than all he laid out upon it, but this was probably puremalevolence.
They had several children, but the only one whose history concerns usis the eldest son, Endrid, who was to inherit the farm and carry onthe honour of the house. He had all the good looks of his race, butnot much in the way of brains, as is often the case with children ofspecially active-minded parents. His father soon [Pg 9]observed this, andtried to make up for it by giving him a very good education. A tutorwas brought into the house for the children, and when Endrid grew uphe was sent to one of the agricultural training schools that were nowbeginning to flourish in Norway, and after that to finish off in town.He came home again a quiet young fellow, with a rather over-burdenedbrain and fewer town ways than his father had hoped for. But Endridwas a slow-witted youth.
The Pastor and the Captain, both with large families of daughters, hadtheir eye on him. But if this was the reason of the increasedattention they paid to Knut, they made a great mistake; the idea of amarriage between his son and a poor pastor's or captain's daughter,with no training to fit her for a rich farmer's wife, was soridiculous to him that he did not even think it necessary to warnEndrid. And indeed no warning was needed, for the lad saw as well ashis father that, though there was no need for his bringing more wealthinto the family through [Pg 10]his marriage, it would be of advantage if hecould again connect it with one of equal birth and position. But, asill-luck would have it, he was but an awkward wooer. The worst of itwas that he began to get the name of being a fortune-hunter; and whenonce a young man gets this reputation, the peasants fight shy of him.Endrid soon noticed this himself; for though he was not particularlyquick, to make up for it he was very sensitive. He saw that it did notimprove his position that he was dressed like a townsman, and "hadlearning," as the country people said. The boy was sound at heart, andthe result of the slights he met with was that by degrees he left offhis town dress and town speech, and began to work on his father'sgreat farm as a simple labourer. His father understood—he had begunto understand before the lad did—and he told his wife to take nonotice. So they said nothing about marriage, nor about the change inEndrid's ways; only his father was more and more friendly to him, andconsulted him in everything connected with the [Pg 11]farm and with hisother trade, and at last gave the management of the farm altogetherinto his hands. And of this they never needed to repent.
So the time passed till Endrid was thirty-one. He had been steadilyadding to his father's wealth and to his own experience andindependence; but had never made the smallest attempt at courtship;had not looked at a girl, either in their own district or elsewhere.And now his parents were beginning to fear that he had given upthoughts of it altogether. But this was not the