A STORY FROM THE SAND-DUNES 723
They were both young and strong,* well grown and stalwart ; but Jurgen was the cleverer of th» two.
In Norway the peasants go up to the mountains, and lead out the cattle there to pasture. On the west coast of Jutland, huts have been erected among the sand-hills ; they are built of pieces of wreck, and roofed with turf and heather. There are sleeping-places around the walls, and here the fisher people live and sleep during the early spring. Every fisherman has his female helper, whose work consists in baiting the hooks, handing the warm beer to the fishermen when they come ashore, and getting their dinners cooked when they come back into the hut tired and hungry. Moreover, the girls bring up the fish from the boats cut them open, and have generally a great deal to do.
Jurgen, his father, and several other fishermen and their helpers inhabited the same hut; Martin lived in the next one.
One of the girls, Elsie by name, had been known to Jurgen from childhood : they got on well with each other, and in many things were of the same mind; but in outward appearance they were entirely opposite, for he was brown, whereas she was pale and had flaxen hair, and eyes as blue as the sea in sunshine.
One day as they were walking together, and Jurgen held her hand in his very firmly and warmly, she said to him,
' Jurgen, I have something weighing upon my heart! Let me be your helper, for you are like a brother to me, whereas Martin, who has engaged me—he and I are lovers ; but you need not tell that to the rest.'
And it seemed to Jurgen as if the loose sand were giving way under his feet. He spoke not a word, but only nodded his head, which signified ' yes '. More was not required ; but suddenly he felt in his heart that he detested Martin ; and the longer he considered of this—for he had never thought of Elsie in this way before—the more did it become clear to him that Martin had stolen from him the only being he loved ; and now it was all at once plain to him that Elsie was that one.
When the sea is somewhat disturbed, and the fishermen come home in their great boats, it is a sight to behold