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193

(1921) Author: Sigrid Undset
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one grey tint in the twilight. A reddish light rose from the
streets, colouring the frosty haze. The rolling of carriages and
the screech of a tram on the rails sounded clearly on the frozen
ground.

She did not feel inclined to go home to dinner, but, having
promised her mother to come, she put the stove out and left.

The cold was raw and damp; the fog smelt of soot and gas
and frozen dust. What a dull street it was where her studio lay.
It led down from the centrum, with its noise and traffic, its
shops with brilliant show windows and people streaming in and
out, and its course ended by the lifeless grey walls of the fort.
The houses on either side looked grey and deserted: the new
buildings of stone and glass, where business fluttered in and
out on paper, prepared by busy young people in the strong
white light behind big windows, and people talked to each
other by telephone — and the old ones remaining from the time
the town was small were low and brown, with shiny fronts and
linen blinds in the office windows. Here and there behind a
small pane with curtains and flower-pots was a humble home
— strangely solitary dwellings in this thoroughfare, where the
houses mostly were deserted at night. The shops were not of
the kind that people rush in and out of. Some of them had
wallpaper, plaster ornaments for ceilings, and stoves for sale;
others were furniture stores, with the windows full of empty
mahogany beds and varnished oak chairs that looked as if
nobody would ever sit on them.

In a gateway a child was standing — a little boy, blue in the
face from cold with a big basket on his arm. He was looking
at two dogs fighting in the centre of the street and making the
frozen dust fly about. He started when the dogs came tumbling
near the place where he was standing.

“Are you afraid?” asked Jenny. As the boy did not
answer, she continued: “Would you like me to see you past
them?” He came to her side immediately, but did not speak.

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