On the second day after his arrest, Harald returned home.
Heis had allowed him to stay at school another two days to take the last of his exams. He would be permitted to graduate, though not to attend the ceremony, which was a week away. But the important thing was that his university place was safe. He would study physics under Niels Bohr - if he lived that long.
During those two days he had learned, from Mads Kirke, that the death of Poul had not been a straightforward crash. The army was refusing to reveal details, saying they were still investigating, but other pilots had told the family that the police had been on the base at the time, and shots had been fired. Harald was sure, though he could not say this to Mads, that Poul had been killed because of his Resistance work.
Nevertheless, he was more afraid of his father than of the police as he made his way home. It was a tediously familiar journey across the width of Denmark from Jansborg, in the east, to Sande, off the west coast. He knew every small-town railway station and fish-smelling ferry dock and all the flat green landscape in between. The journey took the whole day, because of multiple train delays, but he wished it could be longer.
He spent the time anticipating his father's wrath. He composed indignant speeches of self-justification which even he found unconvincing. He tried out a variety of more or less groveling apologies, unable to find a formula that was sincere but not abject. He wondered whether to tell his parents to be grateful he was alive, when he might have met the same fate as Poul Kirke; but that seemed to make cheap use of a heroic death.
When he reached Sande, he further postponed his arrival by walking home along the beach. The tide was out, and the sea was barely visible a mile away, a narrow strip of dark blue touched with inconstant smears of white surf, sandwiched between the bright blue of the sky and the buff-colored sand. It was evening, and the sun was low. A few holidaymakers strolled through the dunes, and a group of boys around twelve or thirteen years old were playing football. It would have been a happy scene, but for the new gray concrete bunkers at intervals of a mile along the high-tide mark, bristling with artillery and manned by steel-helmeted soldiers.
He came to the new military base and left the beach to follow the long diversion around it, welcoming the additional delay. He wondered whether Poul had managed to send off his sketch of the radio equipment to the British. If not, the police must have found it. Would they wonder who had drawn it? Fortunately there was nothing to connect it with Harald. All the same, the thought was frightening. The police still did not know he was a criminal, but now they knew about his crime.
At last he came within sight of his home. Like the church, the parsonage was built in the local style, with red-painted bricks and a thatched roof that swept low over the windows, like a hat pulled over the eyes to keep out the rain. The lintel over the front door was painted in slanting stripes of black, white, and green, a local tradition.
Harald went to the back and looked through the diamond-shaped pane of glass in the kitchen door. His mother was alone. He studied her for a moment, wondering what she had been like when she was his age. Ever since he could remember, she had looked tired; but she must have been pretty, once.
According to family legend Harald's father, Bruno, had been thought by everyone to be a confirmed bachelor at the age of thirty-seven, wholly dedicated to the work of his little sect. Then he had met Lisbeth, ten years younger, and lost his heart. So madly in love was he that he had worn a colored tie to church in an attempt to appear romantic, and the deacons had been obliged to reprimand him for inappropriate attire.
Watching his mother as she bent over the sink, scrubbing a pot, Harald tried to imagine the tired gray hair as it had once been, jet black and gleaming, and the hazel eyes twinkling with humor; the lines of the face smoothed away, and the weary body full of energy. She must have been irresistibly sexy, Harald supposed, to have turned his father's remorselessly holy thoughts to the lusts of the flesh. It was hard to imagine.
He went in, put down his suitcase, and kissed his mother.
"Your father's out," she said.
"Where has he gone?"
"Ove Borking is sick." Ove was an elderly fisherman and faithful member of the congregation.
Harald was relieved. Any postponement of the confrontation was a reprieve.
His mother looked solemn and tearful. Her expression touched his heart. He said, "I'm sorry to have caused you distress, Mother."
"Your father is mortified," she said. "Axel Flemming has called an emergency meeting of the Board of Deacons to discuss the matter."
Harald nodded. He had anticipated that the Flemmings would make the most of this.
"But why did you do it?" his mother asked plaintively.
He had no answer.
She made him a ham sandwich for his supper. "Is there any news of Uncle Joachim?" he asked.
"Nothing. We get no answers to our letters."
Harald's own troubles seemed nothing when he thought about his cousin Monika, penniless and persecuted, not even knowing whether her father was dead or alive. While Harald was growing up, the annual visit of the Goldstein cousins had been the highlight of the year. For two weeks the monastic atmosphere of the parsonage was transformed, and the place was full of people and noise. The pastor had for his sister and her family an indulgent fondness that he showed no one else, certainly not his own children, and he would smile benignly as they committed transgressions, such as buying ice cream on a Sunday, for which he would have punished Harald and Arne. For Harald, the sound of the German language meant laughter and pranks and fun. Now he wondered if the Goldsteins would ever laugh again.
He turned on the radio to hear the war news. It was bad. The British assault in North Africa had been abandoned, a catastrophic failure, half their tanks lost, either crippled in the desert by mechanical failures or destroyed by experienced German antitank gunners. The Axis grip on North Africa was unshaken. Danish radio and the BBC told essentially the same story.
At midnight a flight of bombers crossed overhead. Harald looked out and saw they were heading east. That meant they were British. The bombers were all the British had, now.
When he went back inside, his mother said, "Your father could be out all night. You'd better go to bed."
He lay awake for a long time. He asked himself why he was scared. He was too big to be beaten. His father's wrath was formidable, but how bad could a tongue-lashing be? Harald was not easily intimidated. Rather the reverse: he was inclined to resent authority and defy it out of sheer rebelliousness.
The short night came to an end, and a rectangle of gray dawn light appeared around the curtain at his window like a picture frame. He drifted into sleep. His last thought was that perhaps what he really feared was not some hurt to himself, but his father's suffering.
He was awakened brusquely an hour later.
The door burst open, the light came on, and the pastor stood beside the bed, fully dressed, hands on his hips, chin thrust forward. "How could you do it?" he shouted.
Harald sat up, blinking at his father, tall, bald, dressed in black, staring at Harald with the blue-eyed glare that terrified his congregation.
"What were you thinking of?" his father raged. "What possessed you?"
Harald did not want to cower in his bed like a child. He threw off the sheet and stood up. Because the weather was warm, he had slept in his undershorts.
"Cover yourself, boy," his father said. "You're practically naked."
The unreasonableness of this criticism stung Harald into a rejoinder. "If underwear offends you, don't enter bedrooms without knocking."
"Knocking? Don't tell me to knock on doors in my own house!"
Harald suffered the familiar feeling that his father had an answer for everything. "Very well," he said sulkily.
"What devil took hold of you? How could you bring such disgrace upon yourself, your family, your school, and your church?"
Harald pulled on his trousers and turned to face his father.
"Well?" the pastor raged. "Are you going to answer me?"
"I'm sorry, I thought you were asking rhetorical questions." Harald was surprised by his own cool sarcasm.
His father was infuriated. "Don't try to use your education to fence with me - I went to Jansborg, too."
"I'm not fencing. I'm asking whether there's any chance you'll listen to anything I say."
The pastor raised his hand as if to strike. It would have been a relief, Harald thought as his father hesitated. Whether he took the blow passively, or hit back, violence would have been some kind of resolution.
But his father was not going to make it that easy. He dropped his hand and said, "Well, I'm listening. What have you got to say for yourself?"
Harald gathered his thoughts. On the train he had rehearsed many versions of this speech, some of them most eloquent, but now he forgot all his oratorical flourishes. "I'm sorry I daubed the guard post, because it was an empty gesture, a childish act of defiance."
"At the least!"
For a moment he considered whether to tell his father about his connection with the Resistance, but he quickly decided not to risk further ridicule. Besides, now that Poul was dead, the Resistance might no longer exist.
Instead, he concentrated on the personal. "I'm sorry to have brought disgrace on the school, because Heis is a kindly man. I'm sorry I got drunk, because it made me feel dreadful the next morning. Most of all, I'm sorry to have caused my mother distress."
"And your father?"
Harald shook his head. "You're upset because Axel Flemming knows all about this and he's going to rub your nose in it. Your pride has been hurt, but I'm not sure you're worried about me at all."
"Pride?" his father roared. "What has pride to do with anything? I've tried to bring up my sons to be decent, sober, God-fearing men - and you've let me down."
Harald felt exasperated. "Look, it's not that much of a disgrace. Most men get drunk - "
"Not my sons!"
" - once in their lives, at least."
"But you were arrested."
"That was bad luck."
"It was bad behavior - "
"And I wasn't charged - the police sergeant actually thought that what I did was funny. 'We're not the joke patrol,' he said. I wouldn't even have been expelled from school if Peter Flemming hadn't threatened Heis."
"Don't you dare try to minimize this. No member of this family has ever been to jail for any reason. You've dragged us into the gutter." The pastor's face changed suddenly. For the first time, he showed sadness rather than anger. "And it would be shocking and tragic even if no one in the world knew of it but me."
Harald saw that his father was sincere in this, and the realization threw him off balance. It was true that the old man's pride was wounded, but that was not all. He genuinely feared for his son's spiritual welfare. Harald was sorry he had been sarcastic.
But his father gave him no chance to be conciliatory. "There remains the question of what is to be done with you."
Harald was not sure what this meant. "I've only missed a few days of school," he said. "I can do the preliminary reading for my university course here at home."
"No," his father said. "You're not getting off so lightly."
Harald had a dreadful foreboding. "What do you mean? What are you planning?"
"You're not going to university."
"What are you talking about? Of course I am." Suddenly Harald felt very afraid.
"I'm not going to send you to Copenhagen to pollute your soul with strong drink and jazz music. You've proved you aren't mature enough for the city. You'll stay here, where I can supervise your spiritual development."
"But you can't phone the university and say, 'Don't teach this boy.' They've given me a place."
"They haven't given you any money, though."
Harald was shocked. "My grandfather bequeathed money for my education."
"But he left it to me to dispense. And I'm not going to give it to you to spend in nightclubs."
"It's not your money - you don't have the right!"
"I most certainly do. I'm your father."
Harald was stunned. He had not dreamed of this. It was the only punishment that could really hurt him. Bewildered, he said, "But you've always told me that education was so important."
"Education is not the same as godliness."
"Even so . . ."
His father saw that he was genuinely shocked, and his attitude softened a little. "An hour ago, Ove Borking died. He had no education worth speaking of - he could barely write his name. He spent his life working on other men's boats, and never made enough to buy a carpet for his wife to put on the parlor floor. But he raised three God-fearing children, and every week he gave a tenth of his meager wages to the church. That's what God considers a good life."
Harald knew and liked Ove, and was sorry he had died. "He was a simple man."
"Nothing wrong with simplicity."
"Yet if all men were like Ove, we'd still be fishing from dugout canoes."
"Perhaps. But you're going to learn to emulate him before you do anything else."
"And what does that mean?"
"Get dressed. Put on your school clothes and a clean shirt. You're going to work." He left the room.
Harald stared at the closed door. What next?
He washed and shaved in a daze. He could hardly believe what was happening.
He might go to university without his father's help, of course. He would have to get a job to support himself, and he would not be able to afford the private tuition that most people considered essential to supplement the free lectures. But could he achieve all he wanted in those circumstances? He did not want merely to pass his exams. He wanted to be a great physicist, the successor to Niels Bohr. How could he do that if he did not have the money to buy books?
He needed time to think. And while he was thinking, he had to go along with whatever his father was planning.
He went downstairs and ate without tasting the porridge his mother had made.
His father saddled the horse, Major, a broad-backed Irish gelding strong enough to carry them both. The pastor mounted, and Harald got up behind.
They rode the length of the island. The journey took Major more than an hour. When they reached the dock, they watered the horse at the quayside trough and waited for the ferry. The pastor still had not told Harald where they were going.
When the boat docked, the ferryman touched his cap to the pastor, who said, "Ove Borking was called home early this morning."
"I expected as much," said the ferryman.
"He was a good man."
"Rest his soul."
They crossed to the mainland and rode up the hill to the town square. The stores were not yet open, but the pastor knocked at the door of the haberdashery. It was opened by the owner, Otto Sejr, a deacon of the Sande church. He seemed to be expecting them.
They stepped inside, and Harald looked around. Glass cases displayed balls of colored wool. The shelves were stacked with lengths of material, wool cloth and printed cotton and a few silks. Below the shelves were drawers, each neatly marked: "Ribbon - white," "Ribbon - fancy," "Elastic," "Buttons - shirt," "Buttons - horn," "Pins," "Knitting needles."
There was a dusty smell of mothballs and lavender, like an old lady's wardrobe. The odor brought to Harald's mind a childhood memory, suddenly vivid: standing here as a small boy while his mother bought black satin for his father's clerical shirts.
The shop had a run-down air now, probably because of wartime austerity. The higher shelves were empty, and it seemed to him there was not the astonishing variety of colors of knitting wool he recalled from his childhood.
But what was he doing here today?
His father soon answered the question. "Brother Sejr has kindly agreed to give you a job," he said. "You'll be helping in the shop, serving customers and doing anything else you can to make yourself useful."
He stared at his father, speechless.
"Mrs. Sejr is in poor health, and can't work any longer, and their daughter has recently married and gone to live in Odense, so he needs an assistant," the pastor went on, as if that were what needed explaining.
Sejr was a small man, bald with a little moustache. Harald had known him all his life. He was pompous, mean, and sly. He wagged a fat finger and said, "Work hard, pay attention, and be obedient, and you may learn a valuable trade, young Harald."
Harald was flabbergasted. He had been thinking for two days about how his father would respond to his crime, but nothing he anticipated had come close to this. It was a life sentence.
His father shook hands with Sejr and thanked him, then said to Harald in parting, "You'll take your lunch with the family here, and come straight home when you finish work. I'll see you tonight." He waited a moment as if expecting an answer, but when Harald said nothing he went out.
"Right," said Sejr. "There's just time to sweep the floor before we open. You'll find a broom in the cupboard. Start at the back, sweep towards the front, and push the dust out through the door."
Harald began his task. Seeing him brush one-handed, Sejr snapped, "Put both hands on that broom, boy!"
At nine o'clock, Sejr put the "Open" sign in the door. "When I want you to deal with a customer, I'll say, 'Forward,' and you step forward," he said. "You say, 'Good morning, how may I serve you?' But watch me with one or two customers first."
Harald watched Sejr sell six needles on a card to an old woman who counted out her coins as carefully as if they were pieces of gold. Next was a smartly dressed woman of about forty who bought two yards of black braid. Then it was Harald's turn to serve. The third customer was a thin-lipped woman who looked familiar. She asked for a reel of white cotton thread.
Sejr snapped, "On your left, top drawer."
Harald found the cotton. The price was marked in pencil on the wooden end of the reel. He took the money and made change.
Then the woman said, "So, Harald Olufsen, you've been in the fleshpots of Babylon, I hear."
Harald flushed. He had not prepared himself for this. Did the whole town know what he had done? He was not going to defend himself to gossipmongers. He made no reply.
Sejr said, "Young Harald will come under a more steady influence here, Mrs. Jensen."
"I'm sure it will do him good."
They were thoroughly enjoying his humiliation, Harald realized. He said, "Will there be anything else, then?"
"Oh, no thank you," said Mrs. Jensen, but she made no move to leave. "So you won't be going to the university?"
Harald turned away and said, "Where's the toilet, Mr. Sejr?"
"Through the back and upstairs."
As he left, he heard Sejr say apologetically, "He's embarrassed, of course."
"And no wonder," the woman replied.
Harald climbed the stairs to the apartment over the shop. Mrs. Sejr was in the kitchen, dressed in a pink quilted housecoat, washing breakfast cups at the sink. "I've only got a few herrings for lunch," she said. "I hope you don't eat much."
He lingered in the bathroom, and when he returned to the shop he was relieved to see that Mrs. Jensen had gone. Sejr said, "People are bound to be curious - you must be polite, whatever they say."
"My life is none of Mrs. Jensen's business," he replied angrily.
"But she's a customer, and the customer is always right."
The morning wore on with painful slowness. Sejr checked stock, wrote orders, did his books, and dealt with phone calls, but Harald was expected to stand waiting, ready for the next person to come through the door. It left him plenty of time to ponder. Was he really going to spend his life selling reels of cotton to housewives? It was unthinkable.
By midmorning, when Mrs. Sejr brought him and Sejr a cup of tea, he had decided he could not even spend the rest of the summer working here.
By lunchtime he knew he was not going to last the day.
As Sejr flipped the "CLOSED" sign, Harald said, "I'm going for a walk."
Sejr was startled. "But Mrs. Sejr has prepared lunch."
"She told me she doesn't have enough food." Harald opened the door.
"You've only got an hour," Sejr called after him. "Don't be late!"
Harald walked down the hill and got on the ferry.
He crossed to Sande and walked along the beach toward the parsonage. He felt a strange, tight sensation in his chest when he looked at the dunes, the miles of damp sand, and the endless sea. The view was as familiar as his own face in the mirror, yet now it gave him an aching sense of loss. He almost felt like crying, and after a while he realized why.
He was going to leave this place today.
The rationale came after the realization. He did not have to do the job selected for him - but he could not continue to live in the house after defying his father. He would have to go.
The thought of disobeying his father was no longer frightening, he realized as he strode along the sand. The drama had gone out of it. When had this change taken place? It was when the pastor had said he would withhold the money Grandpa had left, Harald decided. That had been a shocking betrayal which could not possibly leave their relationship intact. At that moment, Harald had understood that he could no longer trust his father to have his best interests at heart. He had to look after himself now.
The conclusion was strangely anticlimactic. Of course he had to take responsibility for his own life. It was like realizing that the Bible was not infallible: he found it hard to imagine how he had formerly been so trusting.
When he reached the parsonage, the horse was not in the paddock. Harald guessed his father had returned to the Borking house to make arrangements for Ove's funeral. He went in by the kitchen door. His mother was at the table peeling potatoes. She looked frightened when she saw him. He kissed her, but gave no explanations.
He went to his room and packed his case as if he were going to school. His mother came to the bedroom door and stood watching him, wiping her hands in a towel. He saw her face, lined and sad, and he looked quickly away. After a while, she said, "Where will you go?"
"I don't know."
He thought of his brother. He went into his father's study, picked up the telephone, and placed a call to the flying school. After a few minutes, Arne came on the line. Harald told him what had happened.
"The old man overplayed his hand," Arne commented. "If he'd put you into a tough job, like cleaning fish at the canning plant, you'd have stuck it out just to prove your manhood."
"I suppose I might."
"But you were never going to stay long working in a damn shop. Our father can be a fool, sometimes. Where will you go now?"
Harald had not decided until this moment, but now he had a flash of inspiration. "Kirstenslot," he said. "Tik Duchwitz's place. But don't tell Father. I don't want him coming after me."
"Old Man Duchwitz might tell him."
That was a good point, Harald reflected. Tik's respectable father would have little sympathy for a boogie-playing, slogan-daubing runaway. But the ruined monastery was used as a dormitory by seasonal workers on the farm. "I'll sleep in the old monastery," he said. "Tik's father won't even know I'm there."
"How will you eat?"
"I may be able to get a job on the farm. They employ students in summer."
"Tik is still at school, I presume."
"But his sister might help me."
"I know her, she went out with Poul a couple of times. Karen."
"Only a couple of times?"
"Yes. Why - are you interested in her?"
"She's out of my league."
"I suppose she is."
"What happened to Poul . . . exactly?"
"It was Peter Flemming."
"Peter!" Mads Kirke had not known that detail.
"He came with a car full of cops, looking for Poul. Poul tried to escape in his Tiger Moth, and Peter shot at him. The aircraft crashed and burned."
"Good God! Did you see it?"
"No, but one of my airmen did."
"Mads told me some of this, but he didn't know it all. So Peter Flemming killed Poul. That's terrible."
"Don't talk about it too much, you might get into trouble. They're trying to pass it off as an accident."
"All right." Harald noticed that Arne was not saying why the police had come after Poul. And Arne must have noticed that Harald did not ask.
"Let me know how you get on at Kirstenslot. Phone if you need anything."
"Good luck, kid."
As Harald hung up, his father walked in. "And what do you think you're doing?
Harald stood up. "If you want money for the phone call, ask Sejr for my morning's wages."
"I don't want money, I want to know why you're not at the shop."
"It's not my destiny to be a haberdasher."
"You don't know what your destiny is."
"Perhaps not." Harald left the room.
He went outside to the workshop and lit the boiler of his motorcycle. While he waited for it to build up steam, he stacked peat in the sidecar. He did not know how much he would need to get him to Kirstenslot, so he took it all. He returned to the house and picked up his suitcase.
His father waylaid him in the kitchen. "Where do you think you're going?"
"I'd rather not say."
"I forbid you to leave."
"You can't really forbid things anymore, Father," Harald said quietly. "You're no longer willing to support me. You're doing your best to sabotage my education. I'm afraid you've forfeited the right to tell me what to do."
The pastor looked stunned. "You have to tell me where you're going."
"If you don't know where I am, you can't interfere with my plans."
The pastor looked mortally wounded. Harald felt regret like a sudden pain. He had no desire for revenge, and it gave him no satisfaction to see his father's distress; but he was afraid that if he showed remorse he would lose his strength of purpose, and allow himself to be bullied into staying. So he turned his face away and walked outside.
He strapped his suitcase to the back of the bike and drove it out of the workshop.
His mother came running across the yard and thrust a bundle into his hands. "Food," she said. She was crying.
He stowed the food in the sidecar with the peat.
She threw her arms around him as he sat on the bike. "Your father loves you, Harald. Do you understand that?"
"Yes, Mother, I think I do."
She kissed him. "Let me know that you're all right. Telephone, or send a postcard."
She released him, and he drove away.