So I disappeared a few more kroner for him and finally showed him how it wasdone. When I left for my walk he was standing in the middle of that real dining roomtrying to snap a coin up the sleeve of his Eton jacket:
The castle's drive is a good mile long, absolutely straight, nearly level along thecrest of the ridge, and bordered all the way by flowering lindens. They filled the airwith sweetness and dropped sticky liquor onto the gravel sand now and then onto me.It began to drizzle before I had gone a hundred yards. The view down the slope to theright, through the English park with its big spaced oaks and bursts of rhododendronand lawns that ran down to the very edge of the Sea, was dim and romantic.
I saw it, or tried to see it, with my mother's eyes. She had lived at the end of thislane, and undoubtedly walked along it sometimes, and stood back respectfully whenthe great folks from the castle passed. And dreamed, maybe. And had friends to whomshe talked about what she'd like t} do and be, and what she'd like to see. MissWeibull's mother, one of the Sverdrups. And then one day she had gone down to thelittle harbor almost corked by its green island, and taken the ferry to Copenhagen, andlike a bewildered animal crowded aboard an immigrant boat, and voyaged to America.There was something that made the women of the castle tighten their mouths andstraighten their backs, and my mother was somehow part of it. And in I come, intothis Old World shenanigan, like Miss Connie Coincidence herself. Incredible, thecountess said. I guess. But not by any means intelligible.
The upper side of the drive is alI one big planting of pines, with lines of sheltertrees between the rows-a fu ure forest as neat as a vegetable garden. Straight ahead through a green hollow and up the church hill. The church was very old. Its doors of built-up planks were grayed and weathered, the grain so raised that it half effaced the carving. Inside the vestibule, hardly bigger than the hall of an ordinary house, was an enormous poor box made from a section of the trunk of an oak. It was four feet across, hopped around with five or six bands of heavy iron, and fitted with an iron lid. Through the lid on each side came an iron hoop as thick as my finger, and in each hoop was a hand-wrought padlock the size of a good-sized lobster. The coin slot was three inches long and a quarter inch wide, suitable for the croppers of giants.
The thing looked as if it had been made to withstand Viking raiders---too heavy to lift, too strong to smash with battle-axes. As I stood inspecting it, a wispy young man in a black robe and an Elizabethan ruff came into the vestibule from the church. He stopped, surprised: a Danish clergyman who finds anybody in his church these days is bound to be surprised. He spoke to me and I replied. Then there seemed nothing more to say. After a questioning moment he went softly through the door and outside.
In a spirit of scientific research I fished out of my pocket the kYOne I had been snapping up my sleeve for the little baron and dropped it into the slot of the poor box. It fell with a dry sound on wood. No giant coppers in there, nothing at all in there, evidently. I wondered how often they took off the manhole cover to collect the loot. I imagined the thin young clergyman in his ruff coming out with foot-long keys on an iron ring, unlocking the massive padlocks one after the other, prying up the ponderous lid, and reaching in to scrape up a button, a couple of Tuborg caps, and-with a shout of triumph---my single krone.
At least the poor box, armored like Fort Knox, made poverty authentic andtangible, as the Sverdrup cottage did not. It made more plausible the flight of my mother, at an age no greater than that of the wench who now perhaps slept in her room. It said something about meagerness and lack of generosity and feudal limitation, it radiated suspicion in the very act of soliciting alms.
Inside, though, the church said something entirely different. It was small, clean, painted white, the prototype of dozens of little Lutheran churches I have seen in the Middle West except that it was built of stone and that the altar under its grayish lace was more high church. But what took my eye was the ship's models hanging on wires from the ceiling. There must have been a dozen of them, three-maters; trawlers, even one white passenger ship with rows of portholes. Each had a card tacked to it, detailing the shipwreck from which its grateful maker had been saved. Here was none of the mean charity expressed by the poor box. Each one of these lovely things was a prayer of thanksgiving. I was reminded of Karen Blixen's remark that Denmakr was full of retired sea captains growing roses. Maybe poor old Bertelson, headed for the Swedish village of his childhood, had something after all. Whatever it was to me(nothing), this placid island in its landlocked sea was for the makers of these modelsthe ultimate safe place.
Ambiguous church, speaking, simultaneously of deprivation and sanctuary. Its antiphonal voices may well have come from different periods, different ages even, the place seemed so old. As I went around reading the cards on the hanging models, I came to a little bare cell to the right of the front door, with a long horizontal slit in the wall facing the altar, and a little door that opened to the outside. This was the medieval leper chapel, where the afflicted and dying could hear and see the mass without offending the sight of their families and friends. I make a practice of trying to imagine myself into human situations, but when I tried to imagine myself into that ten-by-twelve cell with other noseless, fingerless, suppurating sufferers, and to ponder what consolation I might get from crowding to a crack in the wall to hear somebody in a starched ruff preach God's mercy, I found myself wanting to be out in the air.
So out of the church and down the hill and up again to the linden lane. At its end, a mile away, the ivied front and stepped gables of the castle sat like a barricade-absolute destination, utter terminus, total power: No ambiguity there.
The Sverdrup cottage, as I passed it, showed no sign of life, but when I was a couple of hundred yards down the drive; I heard a door close and looked back to see a man come out the gate and turn my way. I went on, not hurrying. The drizzle had stopped, there were ragged clouds dispersing out over the sea beyond the reaches of vivid lawn. The lane steamed.
The man behind me was walking faster than I was: I could hear his gritting steps on the gravel. Then just inside the iron gates, where the drive looped to circle before the doorway and enclose a medallion of impeccable lawn, I glanced back again, and he motioned with his arm and called to me. "Du!"
I stopped, and he came up-hard eye, hard mouth, bushy sandy eyebrows. Younger than I, vigorous mid-forties, probably, in a corduroy jacket and jodhpurs and an Ascot tie. He looked rne up and down. His contemptuous "Du!" and his arrogant air annoyed me, so I looked ham up and down, too. Even without the resemblance-something about the eyes and the shape of the head-it would have been clear who he was. The wicked brother. I had seen him before plenty of times, without the feudal trappings-a muscular bulldozer, a pusher-around.
I hadn't had a racket in my hand since last summer, I hadn't played in even a club tournament in six or seven years. But if I couldn't summon up enough of what used to be there to make Eigil work for his exercise; I would eat three fuzzy new Slazenger tennis balls.
So fifteen minutes after he intercepted me at his castle gate, I was warming upwith him on a damp clay court near the stables; and thinking, Mistake, mistake! I felt old and stiff the balls were heavy, the racket unfamiliar and too big in the handle. There was no whip in my shots, the opposite base line looked fifty yards away. There I sat with my little paws on my chest, waiting to be run over.
Because ho was no dub. I suspect he was used to beating anybody in Denmark except maybe Torben Ulrik. He hit his forehand with a lot of juice on it, and it came off the damp clay whizzing. When I sent a floater over to his backhand, he wound up and exploded on it, a real old Western-grip broken-arm backhand of a kind I hadn't seen since Wiliner Allison and Johnny Van Ryn were winning the national doubles. It went down the line like a rocket and bruised the fence.
I kept scrambling, knocking them back off the rim and the handle or not getting them back at all. Eigil liked to score off you, he shot for the lines and corners even when warming up. I did get a little warm chasing balls. But little by little something began to came back, I hit a few forehands that felt right, I found that I could at least chip my backhand and control it. And when I went up to try a volley or two, and old Eigil threw me up a lob, I hit that one exactly where I wanted to---into the corner, where Eigil could chase it for a change.
He tried a couple of serves, and I got a look at them. Twist, with a sharp kick to the backhand. A juicehead all the way. So I moved to the left and a little back to give myself room, and he aced rne with a sliced one into the forehand corner. In the odd court I moved up, thinking I' d try taking it on the rise, and he gave me one high on the backhand that I couldn't handle.
I lost the game at love, won only one point on my own service, and lost the third game, also at love. Time for the Seventh Cavalry to come riding down the Little Big Horn.
Both his forehand and backhand were hot as a firecracker; but it seemed to me he had to hit them close to his body, it seemed to me that, like a lot of topspin players, he might not be able to reach. So I served wide to his forehand and came up, and sure enough, high weak return, easy lay-away volley. I tried the same thing in the odd court, and same result. Right then I began to to think I could take him if I didn't burst a blood vessel with all that running. Tf I stayed back, his ground strokes would murder me. But he was used to hitting them deep; I didn't think he could consistently put them at my feet as I came up, and if he didn't get them at my feet they came over high, begging to be swatted. And I must say that when he fed me one of those shoulder-high returns, it was a pleasure to see him strain and lunge, or go smoking off in the wrong direction when he anticipated wrong.
I wasn't able to break him back, and he took the first set of 6-3. By the time I stepped up to the line to serve the first game of the second set I had a blister forming at the base of my thumb, I was soaked with sweat, and my feet in Eigil's too big sneakers were red hot. But I was damned well going to take him, and I did. We went with service through the fifth game, and then I broke him with a net cord shot and a sliced backhand down the line--God, I loved myself. Then all I had to do was hold service and I had him 6-4.
Enough. Quit -with honor. I had been running on the sides of my feet for ten games. I went straight to the grass at the side of the court and sat down and took off one shoe and sock. A big flap of skin was peeled off the ball of the foot, with red meat exposed underneath. "What is it?" Eigil was saying, smacking the top of the net with his racket. "What is it?" Eigil was saying, smacking the top of the net with his racket. "We can't stop now, a set apiece!"
"I'll have to default," I said, and held up my scalped foot. You never saw such disappointment. He was raging with it, like a high school quarterback whose- coach won't send him in in the last two minutes to pull out th,e game. Of course he had won, since I couldn't continue: But the score was dead even, and he had had to run his tongue out. I was willing to settle for that. I flopped on my back on the lawn, tasting brass, my lungs burning, my heart pounding, and my feet on fire--and if the truth were told, thankful-to my feet for getting me out of more.
Eigil took two towels off the net post, yanked one around his neck, and came over and dropped one to me. Oddly, his disappoint was over. He was elated, exhilarated by combat, full of chivalry and sportsmanship. His face was red and happy know; you're too modest by half,”he said, panting. "You really are a tennisplayer."
I think he meant it. I was almost sorry to remind him that we were leaving in themorning, and that even if we weren't, I wouldn't be able to play on those feet for atleast week. There we sat, pouring sweat and rehashing shots, a couple of locker-roomjocks. I have to admit that I've always enjoyed the company of jocks more than thatof the literary intellectuals and hyperthyroid geniuses among whom, unhappy one, Iearned my living. Also, I hadn't had any company but that of women since we landedin Denmark, more than six weeks ago: I found myself half hiking the bugger. Quiteplainly he was delighted with me.
After we showered he found me some Band-Aids to patch my feet. Then nothingwould do but I must see the estate. I said that my wife; whom I had left at two o'clock,would wonder what had happened to me. Promptly he called the castle and toldsomebody that Mr. AIlston would be in around seven.
Me feelings were mixed. My mind's kept wandering to the bottle of scotch in mysuitcase-I knew that Ruth would expect to hold a note-comparing session over itbefore dinner. Instead, here I was hobnobbing with the hobgoblin. I wondered wherehe would go for dinner, since we were pre-empting his castle. Lonely service in thelibrary, with smoking jacket, brandy, and cigar? A tray in the kitchen? To the stable toeat with the horses? To Bregninge Inn for Kaldt bond and beer? A good old-fashionedDracula picnic in some local graveyard?
It seemed to me he was being pretty good-natured in the face of his sister'snon-fraternization policy. I enjoyed talking to him. He had been around-England,where he was educated, and Italy, some, and France and Germany a good deal, andthe United States once, with an agricultural mission. He remembered Decorah, Iowa,for some reason. He knew a lot of people and had read books and knew what went on.I had to admit that once he got past his impulse to throw me out as a trespasser he hadbeen good company.
See the estate? All right, why not? He said it was the most scientifically runestate in Denmark, perhaps in the world. The very compulsiveness of his brag mademe curious. And I supposed that he was the one who had got Miss Weibull pregnant,but who she was, and what she was doing in the castle, and why the countess was soimplacable against him for what was, in emancipated Denmark, surely no mortalsin-those were things a man might find out.
Okay, let's go. How would you say that in Danish? Having fallen into thisparticular sea, I found myself without the linguistic wherewithal. Without a Danishword I climbed into the Volkswagen parked outside the stables, and we toured thefarm.
It isn't a farm, it's an economy In an hour and a half of whizzing around an areaabout the size of Delaware, he showed me wheat fields, beet fields, truck gardens,three different varieties of hybrid corn he's experimenting with, and a battery ofgreenhouses. Also pine plantings, cherry orchards, apply orchards, game coverts, andpastures. Also pigpens, cow stables, henhouses, pheasant and grouse hatcheries, andkennels full of German short-haired pointers and English setters. Also a sawmill,smokehouse, dairy, cheese factory, and refrigerated fruit warehouse. There are twoother villages besides Bregninge on the estate, and he owns the port and its facilities;for all I know, he may have a private merchant fleet. And he is no raw materialproducer only. Everything he grows, he processes, except the cherries, which areshipped to Amager to be made into Cherry Heering, and the sugar beets, which go, Ithink he said, to Kiel.
I heard a good deal about confiscatory taxes and a government that lay in waituntil a landowner died and then came down on the heirs. I gathered that things hadshrunk sharply when his father died in the 1930x. But he had a bit left. At the hour wewent around, there was hardly a working soul in sight. He had everything mechanized,even automated. The peasants who used to work on the place must all be up in Copenhagen on welfare (my mother got out just in time).
Crops grow by blueprint. The pigs come off the belt line within a pound of theirweight. While the milking machines relieve them of their day's production, the cowscan contemplate on the stanchions by their heads the charts that reveal their intake ingrain and ensilage and their output in milk and butterfat. No contented cows there.Stakhanovized cows. No tickee, no laundly. Any cow that doesn't keep up herstatistics is schnitzel.
Everything clean, nothing smelly, nothing wasted. The straw that most Danishfarmers burn in their fields, Eigil bales and uses for fuel to heat his greenhouses,which produce the year round. Now I know where those hard little tomatoes comefrom, and those incessant cucumbers. He is proud of the hay-burning furnace, whichhe designed himself.
Without half trying, he seemed to have worked himself into a rage. I said mildlythat I knew nothing about his father, or next to nothing, but had no reason to think hewasn't exactly what Eigil said he was. Nevertheless, as an unsuccessful father myself,I almost resented so much filial loyalty. Would Curtis have defended rne if someonehad questioned my intelligence or integrity? I doubted it. But then I wasn't the DoctorFaustus of anything, either.
"All those rhododendrons you saw in the park are his hybrids," Eigil said. "Halfthe roses---did you get taken into the rose garden out beyond the ballroom terrace?Those pointers in the kennels are desired all over the world-that's the forest strainanywhere. We grow and ship two varieties of apples he developed. So it goes, all overthe estate. He made things, new things. He improved what he found. People talk aboutMendel. My father looked through windows that Mendel didn't even know werethere."
We were rolling softly along a dirt road between scrub woods and a pasturefenced with woven wire. From the woods, pheasants and grouse and what I took to bechukars watched us without flying. The pasture on the other side was humped withdozens of feeding bares as big as dogs. Everything was as Eigil said-natureimproved, cultivated as carefully as his bacon hogs and pine plantings. Even the scrubwoods were carefully cultivated scrub woods, the perfect game covert. And then aswe rolled slowly and he talked about his father, with his eyes straight ahead and hisjaw bunched up, he stepped suddenly on the brake. A buck, or stag I suppose they would call him, had just stepped out onto the bank of a ditch a hundred yards ahead.
"Khhhhh!" Eigil said in his throat. "There's that bastard with the bad horns!" he cramped the Volkswagen around in two quick moves, and we were accelerating out the way we had come in.
As soon as we turned behind a screen of trees, he put his foot to the floor. We zipped around behind the stables and pulled up in a cloud of gravel next to the room where we had showered. Eigil jumped out, leaving the door open and the motor running. In a minute he came running back with a little Mannlicher in his hand. "Hold this!" he said, and showed it at me. Qff again, like Crazy Horse on his way to intercept Ouster.
Of course the stag was gone when we got there, and five minutes of careful prowling failed to flush him. I was glad. I am not much on killing things, and I didn't need a lesson in selective breeding.
"I ought to get back,”I said as soon as we got to the car again一一me walking on the sides of my feet, my hips, knees, and shoulder already stiff: The trees on that lane were fuzzy with sprouts clear to the ground, like the legs of some chickens, and peasants had harvested these sprouts for faggots year after year, leaving an extraordinary stubble of cut sprouts out of which grew new green ones. Never waste anything. Make faggots of your prunings, and make a business of making faggots.
Eigil looked at the sun, bedding down in high clouds over the Baltic. "It's not quite six-thirty. There's time to show you the museum. Are you interested in archaeology?"
I thought I'd better be, as the quickest way of closing out the tour. "I don't know anything about the archaeology of Denmark, but sure, I'd like to see it, if you have time. Just a quick look, and then I'll have to go and dress."
Going back, we circled down to the shore, through the village, and up the hill to the lane of lindens. As we passed the Sverdrup cottage, the girl I had seen was picking flowers in the yard. Eigil lifted his hand in casual greeting from the wheel, and she gawped after us as we headed toward the castle. I had an impulse to tell hi my mother had lived in that house. Then I remembered that when I first saw him he had been coming out of it. Why not, he owned it. Visit from the landlord. Nevertheless, there was Miss Weibull,. upon whom I suspected him of having exercised a few droits de seigneur, and she lived in that house, or once did. I decided that instead of revealing my family history I would praise the lane of lindens. Naturally they一 turned out to have been planted by Eigil's father.
我们往回走了一段路，沿着海岸线行驶，穿过村子，爬上小坡，来到锻树小道。经过农舍时，我看见之前碰到过的小女孩在院子里采摘花朵。艾伊尔松开方向盘，举起手冲那女孩儿打了个招呼，看起来两人很熟。那女孩一直望着我们走向城堡。我突然有股冲动，想告诉他我妈妈曾在那间房子里生活过，不过我立即又想起来，我第一次碰见他时，他就是从这间房子里走出来的。没有什么可奇怪的，房子是他的啊，他作为房东，逛逛房子，也没什么不合理。并且，韦布尔小姐应该也住过这儿，起码在这儿住过一晚，我怀疑他在动用droits dese seigneur。我决定不去揭露我的家庭史，而去赞扬这些锻树。显然，它们的确是艾伊尔的父亲种下的。
The museum was a long half-timbered cottage beyond the stables, three rooms full of the kind of staff that quickly gives me museum feet and strabismus: tools, weapons, utensils, skulls, bones, a complete record of all the Danish horizons from the antler-and-bone culture to the Iron Age. Seems that Danish places whose names end in -inge are invariably old, and therefore often rich archaeologically. Bregninge, according to Eigil, has been continuously inhabited since at least 4000 B.C. "All Danes," he said with a grin. "There's no evidence of any immigrations or invasions. These people raided other tribes, but they don't seem to have been raided. My tribe, except for an occasional captive woman, an essentially unmixed strain for six thousand years. You can imagine what that meant to my father.”
I let it be assumed that I could. Still wearing his sidelong smile, Eigil took hold of a cloth that covered something the shape of a big bird cage. "Here, let me introduce my first known ancestor," he said, and pulled off the cloth. Inside was this mummy his peat diggers had found. Its hands and feet were tied, and it had been strangled with a thong. The museum in Copenhagen thinks it was an executed prisoner of war or criminal, but Eigil thinks it was a sacrifice to keep the fields fertile. "What's more logical?" he says. "This was hundreds of years before the invention of_ manure. In any case, I don't want him to be a prisoner of war, because then he couldn't have been my ancestor. Don't you think we look alike?"
Simpering, he posed beside the bell jar, and by God, he did look a little like the mummy I wondered if perhaps I did, but I didn't want to ask. Because that thing was more-likely to be my ancestor than his. My folks undoubtedly belonged to the class that got strangled, his to the class that did the strangling.