The Show by Knuth Beeper
Translated By J. F. S. Pearce
Sofie is ready, and she knocks on the floor with a stick. Sine is
hearing Erma recite part of Luther's Catechism, and the same time she
keeps one eye on Mrs. Paysen's milk which is on the gas.
Erna sits on the hay-box repeating her lesson aloud, her eyes fixed
on the yellow-washed kitchen ceiling. "I believe in God the Father,
maker of Heaven and Earth."
"Yes," says Sine, stirring the milk and following the catechism at
the same time. Erna goes on. "That is...I believe God created me and
all living things, that he gave and preserves my body and soul, my
eyes ears and all parts of me, my reason and my senses...my senses...
senses..." Erna is stuck.
"Also shoes and clothing, food and drink," Sine goes on, reading
from the book. "Phew...these blooming flies...can't get rid of them in
this hot weather."
"Also shoes and..." Erna foes on with renewed confidence. A loud
and continuous knocking can be heard from above.
"Oh, blow that!" Sine throws Luther on to the kitchener, and runs
Erna calls after her: "I've got to go in a quarter of an hour...the
vicar gets so cross if I don't know it!"
"All right, just a minute!" Sine calls back.
Erna takes the book and reads it over.
"Well, Sine, I really must come downstairs. What glorious weather!
Who'd think the weather had turned out specially nice just for the
"Yes, it's all right as far as the weather's concerned," says Sine.
"Take my arm and help me, then."
Sine takes Mrs. Gotsche's arm, and helps her across the room. A
golden beam of dancing sunlight shines in through the skylight. Sine
takes Mrs. Gotsche's arm, and helps her across the room. A golden beam
of dancing sunlight shines in through the sky-light.
"I'm so happy, Sine."
"Oh, yes," says Sine, panting under the weight of Mrs. Gotsche.
"There'll be a lot of people in town, and we'll have plenty of people
in ordering material and so on, and then there's Jens Aagaard and dear
"Well, they haven't written, but they'll be sure to come. Jens is
going to be one of the judges, you know. There aren't many shows they
don't go to; it wouldn't be much of a show if they weren't there...
we all got engaged at the same time, Gotsche and me, and Jens and
"That must be lovely!" says Sine, gazing out over the roof-tops.
"What must be?"
"Why, getting engaged."
"It's even lovelier getting married...if you can find a husband
"Ready?" Sine asks.
Sofie takes hold of the banister, and turns round so as to go down
backwards, and Sine goes in front to support her.
"I'm ready now."
So is Sine.
"Oh, how we used to dance in those day! All night long!" Sofie
feels for the first step with her foot.
"No, here," says Sine, taking her ankle to set it on the step.
Sofie steps down.
Her heavy body lowers itself down. There is not a trace of spring
in it, just weight, and under this dead weight her weak foot turns
feebly, almost like a dead leaf curling up.
Sine pushes, panting, with both hands, and puts the foot straight.
"It's this here left foot," Sine groans. "The right foot isn't
"And then there were the cadets from the 'Niels Juel', Gotsche used
to be so jealous of them," Sofie interrupts.
"Oh, yes." Sine sets the foot on the second step.
"They're fine chaps..." Sine has seen them when they have been in
harbour at Skagen.
"But you don't know that they were the same ones," says Sofie, who
has found the third step for herself. "Do you think the stairs are
safe, Sine, I think they're giving!"
Die Milch...I can die Milch smell!" Mrs. Paysen calls from her
bed, and she bangs with her hand on the wall.
"Yes, ah...hold on a minute!" Sine dives downstairs.
The milk is boiling over on to the table and floor.
Erna is sitting on the hay-box, deep in her book, mumbling half to
herself: "The finest of God's creations is Man, whom God made in his
own image, that he might know, being a creature of reason..."
"Why didn't you turn it off, you silly girl!" shouts Sine, dashing
over to the gas.
"Eh, what?" Erna comes back to earth, and stares at the saucepan
and the pool of milk on the floor.
"Sine...Sine...Do you hear me!" Mrs. Paysen calls from her room,
just as Sine is going back to Sofie.
"Yes." says Sine, poking her head round the door.
"Had it boiled over?" Mrs. Paysen asks from her bed.
"What a pity," sighs Mrs. Paysen, who can tell by Sine's voice what
had happened to the milk.
"Come along, now, Sine," Sofie calls out from up the stairs. "Or
else I'll tumble downstairs, and then you'll have Gotsche to deal
"Coming!" Sine calls, and runs off.
"Never leave die Milch when it heating is," Mrs. Paysen says—to
the closed door...
Then Sofie and Sine get on with the task of getting down the
narrow, steep stairway.
"When I get to walk properly again, Sine,...do you know what we'll
"We'll clear the dining-room one evening, and have a dance...One
show day, it must be...then Jens and Line'll be
there...la...lalala...just think!" Sofie nearly takes the last three
steps at one go in her excitement about dancing, but Sine is there,
and puts her strong young shoulder in the way.
After they have got downstairs, and Sine has taken Sofie's arm,
Sofie, who thinks she sees tears in Sine's eyes, asks: "What are you
crying for? Has your sweetheart left you?"
"Crying?...I'm not!" Sine protests.
"I don't see as there's anything to cry about," Sofie makes a
sweeping gesture with her arm. "All this sunshine, and the show,
too... lots of people in the shop, and Jens and Line here too!"
"Man is composed of an immortal soul and a mortal body." Erna is
mumbling away on the hay-box.
"So that's where you are, is it," says her mother.
"I've got to go to the Vicar's and Sine's got to hear me, and it's
time for me to go!" wails Erna.
"Don't be silly...If you don't know one thing, then say something
else...that's what we did with the vicar at Skaerum...it worked
fine...and we got coffee afterwards...those of us who came from the
farms, that is."
Erna purses her lips, and reads on: "The dust returneth to the
earth whence it came..."
Sofie and Sine go on into the drawing-room. "I was just thinking,
Sine, I hope you have dusted and cleaned everything well for Jens and
"I always do that anyway!" Sine exclaims, in rather injured tones.
"Of course, Sine, you're a good girl,...we couldn't find another
like you anywhere!"
"Oh...there now...just think!" Sine is flattered, and smiles.
"No, I really don't think we could." Sofie flops down in the window
"Give me the foot-stool, then...that's right...and my
work-box...I've got to sew a new ribbon on to my frock...Mother won't
be getting up to do it for me..."
No, Sine does not think so either.
"I'll have to do it myself...I'll want my glasses too...Thank
Sine starts to leave.
"Just thread this needle for me, Sine."
Sine turns round, licks her fingers and threads the needle. "Here
"That can wait till later." Sofie sticks the needle into the pin-
cushion in the work-box.
"You do it so easily...you're real smart at it, Sine."
"Sorensen's flag's lots bigger than ours!" says Kai, who is holding
a bag of nails. "But we've got the most...he's only got one."
"H'm, yes. Give me another nail!" Gotsche nails up the last of the
eight foreign ensigns to the whitewashed shop-front. He bought them
all at an auction for a shilling, plus commission, just for this kind
of occasion...They are flags of all countries, and such nice
colours...Unfortunately there wasn't a Danish flag amongst them...But
they stream out wonderfully in the wind, making a fine show.
There is a constant stream of carriages passing. Some of them turn
in at Tinus Sorensen's, and others carry on down the street, with its
rows of white flag-poles all along each side, each with its proper
Danish flag hoisted, as at Sorensen's.
Kai hardly knows what to look at first. He wants to be in on the
decorating, and he wants to watch the wagons as they rumble by. Three
men come along, leading a large black and white bull. There are two
poles fastened to the ring in its nose, a rope round its hind leg, and
its eyes are blindfolded. The men holding the poles and the rope take
their job very seriously. The bull is snorting as it walks between
them. A white paper, red-rimmed, is fastened between its horns, with
the inscription, in black: First Prize...Nero of Vraa.
"Oh, just...just look!" Kai shouts, and retreats, backwards, to the
"Ssh! Quiet, boy, you might startle him!" warns his father.
The bull gives a frightening, ominous roar, and disappears with his
three guardians down the avenue of flags.
Then come two men with a stallion, striking sparks from the road
with its four hooves, as they clatter on the paving. It neighs and
tosses its noble head and maned neck, making the yellow harness and
hood rattle. Kai jumps with delight at this.
"Oh, yes," says Gotsche, casting his eyes over the animal's sleek
flanks and down to its strong, lively legs. "Yes." He stands lost in
thought for a moment, on the pavement of this sun-bathed town.
"Oh, yes," says Gotsche, and shakes his head, as if to drive
something out of his mind. "Now don't you run off...there might be
some errands for you...H'm!"
"Man's body is more perfect than the beast's, and it alone is meet
to be the habitation and instrument of Man's soul!" Erna is learning
her lesson out loud to Sine in the kitchen.
"You know it all right, I should think," says Sine.
Kai is in Sorensen's yard, where there are long rows of carriages
standing. Emil and a new hand are busy unharnessing the horses.
Farmers and their wives are chatting in the yard, and unloading things
off the carts...A man and his wife are sitting in the back shop
Tinus Sorensen is kept running between the shop and the yard, and
back to the shop again...where people are standing at the counter
smoking and talking...the coffee-mills are at work...the two
assistants and the apprentice are everywhere, pencils tucked behind
Tinus Sorensen gives everybody a welcome, and wishes good appetite
to the two who are eating.
Then he goes to run in again, but suddenly remembers something, and
calls out loudly across the yard: "Emil...there's that load of
coffee...we ought to have collected that..." Then he turns to go in
The farmers look at one another.
"Can we get coffee, too, Sorensen?" one of them asks.
"All you want, Lars Pedersen." Sorensens piggy little eyes sparkle.
"We keep it in store for years...it improves with keeping...WE can
afford to do that...little shops can't!" Sorensen hurries off into the
office, where a man is standing with a wrinkled brow, wishing to pay
his account, but not understanding how it can have mounted up so much.
"Ha ha...they do, you know, they do...when you leave them so long,
Senius Hansen!" says Sorensen...
"I keep the books myself, Senius Hansen. Do have a good cigar to
smoke at the show...it's a lot pleasanter when you have a smoke...
we'll soon square this up...that was a first-class meeting you had in
the woods the other day...God's good weather, and Naerum's good
address...both excellent...Unfortunately I wasn't there, no...couldn't
get...but according to the paper...I must say...yes...that agrees with
the ledger, Senius Hansen..."
"Let's just shut the door for a moment...I'll be there directly,
Per Knudsen...Welcome to the show, Hans Svendsen...I'll be there
Never before had Kai seen so many horses as there are to-day in
Sorensen's stables...They stand side by side there in their stalls,
pawing the stone paving with their front hooves, and eating from their
mangers. The latest arrivals shake themselves, making their harness
rattle, and a pungent steam is given off from their heavy, sweating
One of them lifts its tail and the yellow balls of dung drop into
the open drain, and form a little pyramidal heap. Then it lets its
tail fall back like a stopper going into place, and it goes on chewing
the fodder in the manger.
"It would be a lot easier if you were a horse!" thinks Kai, and
runs over to find out about the sacks.
"H'm, there aren't any yet!" says his father, who is sitting at the
desk stamping catalogues.
"There's such a lot over at Sorensen's...there can't be many more
to come..." says Kai.
"There'll be plenty come here yet, you see," says Sofie
"H'm, perhaps...just move aside, boy!" Kai has moved right up to
his father, thus hindering him from using his arms.
This is well worth seeing.
This is that stamp his father got from Copenhagen. He just bangs it
down on a little pad, and then on the paper, and it prints "Hans
"Marvellous, isn't it," says Sofie.
"If you're a good boy, you might get one like that when you grow
up," his mother promises.
"Can't it write anything else?" Kai wants to know.
"H'm, write anything else?" his father asks. He thinks it is rather
grand as it is...it looks so nice on these white catalogues with the
black-printed reaping machines printed on them. "H'm, if only we sell
some of them," he says to himself.
"Sell them...they're just to give away, aren't they?" Kai asks,
afraid of losing his afternoon's job.
"Oh, yes, the catalogues...but not the reapers...I should think
"Oh, good!" Kai is relieved, and asks if he may have one.
He trots jubilantly over to Fraerik and Persen with catalogue in
"Eh?" Persen asks, as he stands by the drilling machine, giving the
metal-work a good coating of cutting-oil..."What's this... Jones
reaping-machine..." He takes the paper and studies it.
"Your father going to sell them, eh?"
Kai nods, looking at his nice catalogue and Persen's oily fingers.
"He's having us on, I bet...carry on, Fraerik...get a move on..."
When Kai gets the catalogue back, there is a big black thumb-mark
right over the blue stamp...Kai makes haste off, so that Fraerik
doesn't get a chance to see it...if he does, there'll be just one
more finger-mark on it.
Oh, yes...he has to go and see Granny, and see if he can get
sixpence out of her to spend down at the show. There's such a lot of
things to go in and look at...but not free...only for the policeman's
children. You can go into the refreshment tents free, all right, but
what's the good of that? But there's so many other things...he was
down there yesterday when the tents arrived, and there's a circus, and
a roundabout too...
Grandmother is in bed, with her long, thin fingers folded over the
eiderdown. Her white hair straggles out from under her night-cap. She
looks older, now she hasn't got her bonnet and wig on, Kai thinks.
Medicine bottles and a hymn-book stand on a chair beside the bed.
The curtains are still drawn, as the sun is shining strongly from the
"Well, boy, it's you, eh?"
"Yes, it's me, Granny."
"You come not to see me. Yesterday you were here only yesterday
"I was down at the show-ground, Granny, and then I went to Knud's."
"Oh, yes, Kai." Grandmother smiles wearily.
"But I'm here now, Granny," says Kai, standing looking at his
Grandmother for a moment. She nods and smiles feebly at him again.
He stands silent, hesitating for a moment, fiddles with the
medicine bottle, lifts up the lid of the box of green powder, and
shuffles his feet.
"Well, my boy?"
"I'm going to the show, Granny!"
"Oh, yes." His Grandmother nods vaguely.
"I wouldn't half like to go in and see some of the things...
There's real poisonous snakes and a circus and an escaping man and
canaries riding bikes...and lots of things...and a bear too...there
was just the tent there yesterday, but the bear's coming to-day by
"That costs money, though," says Mrs. Paysen, and tries to ease
herself up a little on the pillow. She reaches her bony, wrinkled old
hand up for the bed-cord...She hits it, instead of catching hold of
it, and the cord swings back against the wall. Her hand searches in
the empty air for it...then at last she finds it, and raises herself
"That costs money!"
"Yes. I know that." Kai agrees with her there.
"And is isn't hardly worth to see!"—There is no agreement here.
"Yes Granny, you bet it's worth seeing...snakes...bears...
canaries. That's worth seeing, ain't it?"
"I shall you twopence give...but promise me you will not go too
near the snakes and bears...It is nasty, savage animals..."
"All right, Granny...But won't you give me sixpence, eh?" Kai does
not think this is too high a price to keep him clear of the bears and
"Nein, nein, um Gottes willen...du bist wahnsinnig...sixpence for
"But I've got to have a ticket into the ground, Granny!"
"Und that cost?"
"Then is sixpence not enough!"
"No, but I can easy slip into the ground, but I daren't try that on
where the snakes are!"
"Nein, nein, it's ganz furchtbar that you such ideas should have."
Grandmother is so shocked that it brings on a fit of coughing...
"Nein, now I give you sixpence for ticket and twopence for etwas
"Oh, thank you, Granny!" says Kai and thinks to himself that that
will be enough for lots of sideshows.
"Never be deceitful. Can you my purse find...under the pillow...
Mrs. Paysen unwinds the elastic band that is bound round and round
the old, battered purse with her trembling fingers, and feels in the
dark depths of the purse.
"Hier, und hier." She puts a sixpence and two pennies on the chair,
and carefully winds the elastic round her purse again..."I have only
two shillings and five pence left, and I get not my old age pension
until the first...ach ja...and I must have once more some
medicine...und stamps...I must to Anna in America und Hermann in
Hamburg und Ludolphine at Gothersgade write...ach ja...it is for the
last time, no doubt...and little Aake will I never see again...ach
"I'll tell you all about everything when I get back, Granny," Kai
promises, and puts her purse back under the pillow.
"Yes, if you like to." Grandmother sinks back under the clothes.
Kai picks up the money, and stands shuffling his feet for a moment.
"Well, I'll be going, then, Granny." He is already beginning to think
that he has been too long in this room, with its drawn curtains and
medicine bottles. Outside, the clatter of hooves can be heard as
further high-spirited stallions are led through the streets to the
show-ground, to show all and sundry the strength of a healthy animal,
whilst the vicar in his quiet, secluded room near the market-place is
teaching the confirmation candidates of the strength of God's Holy
Spirit which dwells in the body of man...
A living stream of people of all ages push and elbow each other,
chattering and laughing as they pass along the pavements on each side
of the road.
The street itself is choked with people on foot.
And every few moments along come men with horses, which might
easily kick out, and bulls, trying to gore people, and amongst them
all, carriages drive through. Wagonettes, with the foreman in the
driver's seat, with the kitchen-maid beside him. They are in love, and
ride along as proudly as a prince and princess. The farm-hands and
maids sit behind on the long seats, chattering, and laughing or
squabbling...It is the greatest day of the year.
The squire of Vilstrup drives up in his gig, his brow wrinkled. He
looks more as if he had been sent for by his bank than as if he is
coming in for the show.
One-horse carts, driven by thin, quarrelsome small-holders, their
children in the back, sitting on sacks of vegetables, drive down the
same avenue of flags as the two-horse wagons with their high boxes,
driven by stout farmers, who are at peace both with God and the bank.
Elmegade is black with people riding, driving, walking and cycling
towards the show-ground. Behind the yellow, drawn curtains at the
public houses, there is a continual never-ending buzz of voices,
swelling and decreasing by turns. And in the background can be heard
the clattering of bottles and glasses, roars and shouts, and the plop
of never-idle bottle-openers. A door opens, two men reel out, and two
more seem almost to be sucked in by the noise from the open door.
They have been waiting for this day for months, at home, in their
blue working blouses...and now, in they go, proud of their paper
collars and shop clothes. Just one half-day, which stands out from so
many grey ordinary days.
"Go to the Devil!" shouts someone inside.
"Seven beers, Hansen!" calls another.
"'War Cry'. But a 'War Cry!'" comes the feeble voice of a woman.
It's like a rabbit picking a fight with a bull-dog.
Then the Landlord slams the door to.
A pair of old tramps, red in the face with drink are re-living
their early days. They walk along like a couple of two-year-olds,
stopping now and again to have a good laugh. "No, no, but what about
Batty Petra!' says one of them, reminiscently, and he laughs so much
that he nearly drops his pipe on to the pavement.
"Oh, yes...Ba...Ba...Batty Petra!" The other is nearly bursting
with laughter, and he has to lean against a fruit stall. Children from
town and country stand around, united in their attempts to get in
amongst the delights of the stall; honey cakes, rock, apples, pears
and long black strings of licorice.
The children have already, with their round, greedy eyes, eaten all
the contents of the stall in their imaginations, and only lack of
money holds them back in actual fact.
The old woman in charge of the stall seems almost afraid of being
eaten up herself. She slaps at them with her shrivelled old hand with
its dirty nails, and it looks strangely dead against the shining red
and yellow apples on the stall.
"Clear off, you children...let the grown-ups through...Do you want
anything?" she asks the man leaning on the stall.
"Eh?" He stares at her absent-mindedly. His mind is forty years
away in the maids' room on a farm. "Want anything?...You bet we do..."
He winks at the other. "But we aren't letting on." The two young rips
of sixty sweep on in the stream of people, leaving a wake of laughter
Kai is carried along in the midst of the pushing sea of people as
it surges past fruit stalls, and stalls selling cigarettes and pipes
and sticks, past fishermen from Aalbaek, selling dried fish off carts.
He is one little wave in that sea of people pouring towards the show-
ground. Intoxicated with happiness, he keeps tight hold of the bundle
of catalogues under his arm.
He has tried to hand out some of them to the swarm of people who
came off the train...but they passed him without stopping...He managed
to press one into the hand of a man, but he threw it down straight
away, without even looking at it.
Kai picked it up crossly. He'll wait until he gets to the show now.
Besides, there are so many boys here trying to sell things...Cigars,
a penny each...Good cigars, a penny each...
Kai is pushed and shoved by the crowd, and at last finds himself by
the ticket office. He works his way round outside the crowd, and
towards the entrance, which is decorated by flags and spruce branches.
Over the top is a board with "Welcome" painted on it in red and white
letters, flanked with sheaves of rye...On each side of the entrance,
there stands a man with an armband on his left arm, with the word
"Steward" on it. These men look stern and aloof...People swarm
through, pointing virtuously, and with unnecessary emphasis to their
tickets, which they have stuck in their hatbands or their top-pockets.
A farm-hand and a girl in a white dress push their way through, arm
in arm. "Has the girl got a ticket?" ask the steward.
"I'm looking after her. She's got a ticket all right!" the man
says. He smiles warmly at the girl, and shows her ticket.
"Quite in order." The steward is very solemn, as if it were a death
certificate he was discussing.
A few men in long, black, shining boots, with feathers in their
hats, and with yellow dust-coats over their arms, and each carrying a
knobbly stick, push through. They are wearing ties and shop clothes;
not the sloppy ready-made kind, but the sort that fits the body like a
glove. They hold their heads high, looking right over the "Welcome"
sign, and they pay no attention to the stewards whatsoever. They are
talking amongst themselves just as if the stewards and tickets and
people were completely non-existent. But they have their tickets in
their pockets, at least, the stewards, who step obsequiously aside,
are quite satisfied that they have.
"Old bastard", says a tall, beery labourer, who once worked for one
Kai, his catalogues under his arm, stands with a number of other
boys and girls, who are also on the wrong side of the "Welcome", but
who gaze in, their wide and bright eyes betraying to the stewards that
they would like to sneak in.
"Clear off, you kids...Stand back...let the grown-ups in!"
Oh, what a swarm of people there will be in there on the grass,
just like ants, and the horses will be paraded, neighing right into
the faces of the judges, with their yellow coats and red rosettes. The
roundabout is going...da...dum da...da...dum da da...dum da da.
That's one pennyworth, and then off again...da dum da da...da dum da
Kai was successful in slipping under the wire fence when one of
the stewards further along the fence had his back turned, and then he
ran so hard that he left half his catalogues floating in the air
behind him. He nearly knocked over a table on which a man was selling
waffles, and he got a black look, and a "Young blighter" for his
Kai starts to explain politely that he didn't mean to, but the
stall- holder has his eye on two girls in white dresses, and he smiles
at them, showing a mouthful of yellow teeth. "Come along, now,
Ladies... hot waffles...nothing extra for the jam...only twopence
Kai walks off, not knowing where to turn in all the uproar of the
There is an avenue of refreshment tents, and there are men trying
to shout each other down in front of the side-shows, with their gory
Kai feels for the eightpence in his pocket, and hurries past the
fruit and cake stalls.—He has no time for them. He squirms through
groups of people which are all over the place, pushing along and
There is Constable Svendsen standing by a cart, talking to someone.
That makes Kai jump...what about a ticket...suppose the policeman
wants to see it...bet he will...he won't have forgotten that business
about the soldier's cap.
Kai makes a wide detour round Svendsen on his way to the roundabout
and the side-shows, where the volume of the showmen's voices is in
proportion to the smallness of their tents...People are crowding up
and elbowing each other, standing watching, and then struggling on to
the next tent.
"Roll up, roll up! Ladies and Gentlemen, here we have..." The
ringmaster stands up on a stage, shouting and waving his hat...three
little Austrians are playing the bag-pipes, a clown with a dead-white
face and red nose is beating the drum, and another clown is playing on
his own even redder nose as if it were a flute...Fraulein Kausky, the
equestrienne, is flicking her patent leather boots with her whip, and
Dulharpe, the death diver, stands with his arms folded, and looks down
with a cold gaze at the mass of people below the stage.
A tall, weedy youth, his large ears red with exposure to the
weather, pushes towards the entrance, eating a doughnut covered in
The ringmaster rings his bell..."This is your last chance, Ladies
and Gentlemen. This world-famous show is just about to begin...Come
along now, Ladies and Gentlemen."
The youth with the doughnut pushes himself one whole pace forward
as he tries to comply with this invitation. "Come and see Dulharpe's
dive of death..."
At this point, the youth drops his doughnut in the grass.
"Pick it up, Guv!"
The fellows laugh, and some of the girls shriek with laughter.
The youth licks the brown off his fingers, and gives the ringmaster
a good, hearty stare.
The bell is ringing every moment or so at the "Try your strength"
machine, whilst the tubercular little owner of the machine keeps on
calling out his invitation to the lads to have a go at a penny a time,
and they do so with the same seriousness as they try their strength
365 days in the year earning their living...Her...cu...les. Her...
cu...les. One winner after another puts down the wooden club
phlegmatically, and the area is swarming with penny Hercules.
The Salvation Army is there, playing hymns and preaching, and a few
old women and children stand around listening, their mouths gaping...
A young man with fair, curly hair, in uniform, like the rest,
stands with bared head, shouting out his message above the noise. He
stands on tip-toe at every other word, so as to give more weight to
"I rejoice that I am saved!"
"We present Miss Eva, the famous snake-charmer!"
"That Jesus found me, in this vale of tears!"
"Hot waffles, twopence each!"
"That Jesus received me, a sinner!"
From the beer tents can be heard voices in a sort of chorus of
"Cigars, honey cakes and squeaking balloons!"
"Miss Eva will take up the deadly boa-constrictor!"
"He folded me into his arms!" cries the Salvation Army man.
"And fold it into her arms!" the showman roars, at the same time.
"Amen...Alleluia and amen...Oh, how true!" sigh the Salvation Army
people, and they hold their caps before their faces, or lower their
eyes beneath the straw bonnets.
"Adults fourpence, children twopence...to see the charming Miss Eva
from California wind the monster snake round her neck!"
Miss Eva, who stands to one side, has on a very low-cut, sleeveless
dress, and wears large ear-rings. She smiles a little crookedly at the
Her face looks as if it had been painted with paint from the same
pot as the placards on the sides of the tent—a dead-white background,
crimson lips and cheeks, and blue-black eyebrows, the colour of a
Miss Eva pushes her hair up with her bare arm, showing the hair
under arm-pit; she bobs up and down daintily on the toes of one foot,
and smiles, revealing a row of teeth that is too realistic ever to be
Kai has been standing there a long time, quite absorbed in her, his
eyes glued on her.
Oh, how pretty she is! If only she were his mother, and would put
those bare arms round his neck and love him.
He daren't, otherwise he would go and take hold of her arm.
Oh, how pretty she is...He feels the money in his pocket.
"Ladies and Gentlemen, you see here Miss Eva from California!"
"California, eh!" says a passer-by.
"Church Street, Fjordby, more likely!" says another.
"Come along, now...Come along...No waiting..."
Miss Eva sits down at the cash desk, and starts to sell herself, as
the crowds stream in.
Kai would like to go in. He stands by the tent door, with his
pennies in his hot, sticky hand, but he is going to wait until Miss
Eva herself has gone in.
A few fellows push him right up to the cash desk.
"Coming in?" Miss Eva smiles at Kai, who stammers and blushes all
over at these words from Miss Eva, and all he can say
is..."Yes...er... no...I mean..."
"Then clear off, you scruffy urchin, and don't stand there blocking
up the entrance!"
Kai is down-cast that she should speak to him like that, and give
him such a black look, too.
"Just starting, Miss," says the double-chinned showman with die
pointed nose into her ear.
Eva gets up, and starts to close up the cash desk...Kai runs up,
takes off his cap, bows, and, very red in the face, sacrifices his
two-pence to Miss Eva's cash desk. She smiles at him, and he drops his
catalogues on the grass in his confusion.
Then he picks them up, and hurries in behind the tent-flap and the
broad grey backs that are in there already, waiting for Miss Eva.