- Project Runeberg -  Jenny /

(1921) Author: Sigrid Undset
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He passed down another narrow, almost empty street. A
small strip of clear, blue sky was visible between the high
houses with their frameless windows, looking like black holes
cut in the wall. On the uneven stone bridge dust and straw and
bits of paper were tossed about by a light gust of wind.

Two women, walking behind him, passed him close under a
lamp. He gave a start: they were the ones he had noticed that
afternoon in the Corso and believed to be Norwegian. He
recognized the light furs of the taller one.

Suddenly he felt an impulse to try an adventure — to ask
them the way, so as to hear if they were Norwegian — or
Scandinavian at any rate, for they were certainly foreigners. With
slightly beating heart he started to walk after them.

The two young girls stopped outside a shop, which was closed,
and then walked on. Helge wondered if he should say
“Please” or “Bitte” or “Scusi” — or if he should blurt out
at once “Undskyld” — it would be funny if they were

The girls turned a corner; Helge was close upon them, screwing
up courage to address them. The smaller one turned round
angrily and said something in Italian in a low voice. He felt
disappointed and was going to vanish after an apology, when the
tall one said in Norwegian: “You should not speak to them,
Cesca — it is much better to pretend not to notice.”

“I cannot bear that cursed Italian rabble; they never will
leave a woman alone,” said the other.

“I beg your pardon,” said Helge, and the two girls stopped,
turning round quickly.

“I hope you will excuse me,” he muttered, colouring, and,
angrily conscious of it, blushed still deeper. “I only arrived
from Florence today, and have lost my way in these winding
streets. I thought you were Norwegian, or at any rate
Scandinavian, and I cannot manage the Italian language. Would

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