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184

(1921) Author: Sigrid Undset
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the consequences of acting contrary to your understanding —
are always far from sweet. I mean that my experiences have
made my life in a way richer and deeper than a lesser misfortune
might have done — since it was my fate not to attain
the greatest happiness. I have a feeling that once it will be
the case in a still higher degree, and will help me to
understand the real meaning of life.

“In your case, I meant it in a different way. Even if your
happiness proved to be of a passing nature, it was pure and
guiltless while it lasted, because you believed in it implicitly
and enjoyed it without any mental reservation. You deceived
nobody but yourself.”

Jenny did not speak. She would have had a great deal
to say in opposition, but she felt dimly that he would not
understand her.

“Don’t you remember Ibsen’s words:

“‘Though I ram my ship aground, it was grand to sail the
seas’?”

“I am surprised at you, Gert, for repeating those idiotic
words. Nowadays we have too great a feeling of responsibility
and too much self-esteem, most of us, to accept that kind of
reasoning. If I am wrecked and sink, I will try not to wince,
if I know that I have not run my ship aground myself. As
far as I understand, the best sailors prefer to go down with
their ship if the fault is theirs, rather than survive the
disaster.”

“I am of the opinion that, as a rule, one can thank oneself
for every misfortune,” said Gram, smiling, “but that one can
nearly always draw some spiritual benefit out of it.”

“I agree with you on the first point — and on the second
on the condition that the misfortune does not consist in the
diminution of one’s self-esteem.”

“You should not take this so seriously. You are quite
excited and bitter. I remember what you said on the day Helge

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