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187

(1921) Author: Sigrid Undset
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ideal of love will reap his recompense in the greatest and purest
bliss.

“I told you once that I learnt to know and to love a woman
when it was too late. She had loved me from the time we
were children without my knowing, or caring to know it. When
she heard of my marriage she accepted a man who vowed that
she could save and raise him if she married him. I know you
would scorn any such means of saving, but you don’t know,
child, how you would act yourself, if you knew the being you
loved with your whole soul was in the arms of another, and
found your life not worth living, and if you heard an erring
human being ask you to give him the life you did not value and
save him thereby.

“Helene was unhappy, and so was I. Later we met, understood
one another, and it came to an explanation which, however,
did not result in what people call happiness. We were
both bound by ties we dared not break, and I must admit that
my love for her changed as the hope of making her my wife
slowly died, but the memory of her is the greatest treasure of
my life. She is now living in another part of the world,
devoting her life to her children and trying to lessen for them
the misery of having to live with a father who is a drunkard
and a moral wreck. For her sake I have held on to my faith
in the purity of the human soul, in its beauty and its strength
— and in love, and I know, too, that the remembrance of me
inspires Helene with the strength to struggle on and to suffer
because she loves me today as she did in our childhood, and
believes in me, in my talent, my love, and that I was worthy of
a better fate. I am still something to her, don’t you think?”

Jenny did not answer.

“The happiness in life is not only to be loved, Jenny; the
greatest happiness is to love.”

“H’m. A very poor sort of happiness, I should say, to love
when your love is not returned.”

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