FROM ASTRID TO LINDGREN (A BIOGRAPHICAL NOVEL) -3
Published : 08 Mar 2019, 19:23
From Astrid to Lindgren and the sequel to From Astrid to Lindgren, a synopsis by Kurt Peter Larsen & Vladimir Oravsky, may in part or in entirety be copied or otherwise be reproduced, electronically, mechanically, in analog or digital form and digitally, or telepathically or through other as yet unknown means, on paper, plastic, tape, or other known or future substance, in Braille, in sound or image form; it may also be set to music, dramatized, be filmed or put on video, be animated or transformed to ballet, mime presentation, or musical, oratorio, or opera. It may also be used in relation to advertising, for purposes of agitation and propaganda. However, a written agreement with the copyright holder (© Vladimir Oravsky) concerning the abovementioned is required.
“Mama, why the hurry?” complained Astrid, while she adjusted her hat.
“Better a little early than frazzled and late. And remember all I said about ... ”
“The white slave trade. I know.” Astrid had heard that story many times now. How newborn white children were kidnapped and sold to evil people.
“It's nothing to joke about!” warned her mother, shaking her finger.
“I'll be careful,” promised Astrid.
“More young girls than you think have wound up in trouble just because they were too wide-eyed and gullible! If you catch my drift!”
“Yes, Mama, I understand exactly what you mean,” Astrid assured her mother and gave her a hug.
“Old women’s talk!” muttered Samuel August, and drew Astrid away from the others.
“Anyway, as I was about to say…,” he began, but got interrupted by Ingegerd, Stina, and Gunnar, to Samuel August’s great annoyance and irritation.
“We’re going to go along with you to the station!” shouted Ingegerd happily.
“That’s so nice of you,” said Astrid, and felt a lump in her stomach of emptiness and longing.
“And we’ve brought our biggest, whitest handkerchiefs,” said Stina, and pulled out her white snuff rag.
“So you can see us wave goodbye from the platform much longer!” Gunnar laughed and waved his also.
Astrid could see them all standing by the train and waving her off with white handkerchiefs till they were like little black dots on the platform. Soon she would be sitting on the train, hearing its whistle and feeling the jerk when the train left the station, destined for Stockholm.
“I’m so touched!” whispered Astrid.
“No reason to be!” mumbled Samuel August, and drew Astrid away from the others.
“Like Moses out of Egypt, like Abraham’s journey into Canaan. What am I saying! You’re heading straight for Ninevah itself! Outright Sodom!” he muttered, and looked his daughter in the eye.
“That’s where the course is, Papa … Pelle!” she hollered then, to change the subject of conversation, and waved to the hired man who had come forward to say goodbye.
“If you only knew how much I like you, Pelle!” said Astrid happily, and took his hand.
“Hmph! Who says a person doesn’t know that? If there wasn’t anything else, then …”
“You’re absolutely right, Pelle. Why, the hay is rotting in the field!” complained Samuel August, while Pelle disappeared across the yard. Astrid followed his vigorous stride. Maybe for the last time, she thought, and cast her eyes on the ground.
“Hired men nowadays! Say, have I ever told you about the time I was a hired man and …,” began Samuel August. “Well, it was in those days when I’d scraped up enough money to buy a couple of rabbits. What a time I had keeping house with them!”
“Just like now with …,” joked Astrid.
“They were always trying to leave home, too!”
“Them, too,” mumbled Astrid.
“Exactly, and if I’m not mistaken, that’s how …”
“Småland’s collection of wild rabbits came to life!” called out Ingegerd, Stina, Astrid, and Gunnar at the same time. They had heard the story before. Many times. And what a storyteller he was, Samuel August. Astrid didn’t remember all the times she and her brothers and sisters had sat around their father and listened to his stories.
“Seeds of the Devil!” laughed Samuel August, and grew quiet when his wife cleared her throat.
“Astrid, if you’re going to make it ….” She sounded stressed. Time was passing. The train wouldn’t wait.
“Yes, mother, I will.”
“We’ll go along! Everybody!” said Ingegerd, and happily tugged Astrid by the skirt. “Astrid, you mustn’t forget to tell us either if it was a boy or a little girl! I’m hoping for a little girl, of course, but it’s okay, anyway, if it’s a boy! I’m going to like him just as much because he’s yours!”
“Oh, Lord, Ingegerd ...,” panted Hanna and brought her hand to her mouth at the same time that she stared at the little girl. That second Astrid’s body froze to ice. Why couldn’t Ingegerd be quiet?
Samuel August turned toward Hanna.
“What’s she talkin’ about? What boy? What girl?” He suddenly looked confused.
“Neither! The girl’s confused.” Hanna tried to smooth over Ingegerd’s innocent words, but the little girl was stubborn and didn’t understand at all why her mother was trying to hush up what she had said.
“I certainly am not confused! Father knows Astrid is having a baby, doesn’t he!” she said crossly.
Samuel August released his hold on Astrid and looked at her, but avoided eye contact.
“Papa…,” began Astrid, but was interrupted by Ingegerd who happily continued to tell what she knew.
“As soon as Astrid has finished her course in Stockholm, she’s going to Copenhagen and have her baby there!”
“Ingegerd, now you really must …,” exclaimed Hanna, and crossed her arms across her chest.
“Why, everybody knows it!” said Ingegerd, and skipped about around those gathered.
Gunnar, who up to this moment had been quiet and who didn’t usually say anything, tried to excuse it all. “I didn’t know that, actually….”
“Papa, we wanted to tell you about it, but …,” whispered Astrid, and wished that she could sink through the earth or go up in smoke. Just at that moment she wished that the coat she was carrying could make her invisible.
“I understand: a conspiracy of women!” hissed Samuel August. His usually calm face had been transformed and now it was bright red.
“And when were you planning to tell the old geezer?” he went on wondering, and did everything to maintain the little bit of calm that still remained with him.
Carefully Hanna put her hand on his arm.
“Well, we knew how you …”
“Me, a tenant of the parsonage and church warden!” he panted.
“That’s exactly why I thought …,” whispered his wife, in a calming voice.
“You thought?” he tittered.
“Naturally, we won’t say anything to folks outside …,” attempted Hanna.
“Not to folks inside, either, I see — now!” Then he tore away his arm from his wife.
“Papa, you have to understand …,” attempted Astrid quietly, but was interrupted by her father.
“I understand completely. I’ve been nurturing a snake at my bosom!” he screamed, and could no longer hold back his anger. This was supposed to be a happy day, except for a goodbye, but he hadn’t expected this.
“You don’t mean that.” Astrid was almost crying, but made an effort to conceal her tears.
“Copenhagen! Sodom and Gomorrah! The sin has already made its way deep into my house! Lies and cover-ups! But not any more! There’s going to be an end to it! I’ve been betrayed just like Him in his time in Gethsemane! And by exactly the one I believed the most! The Devil has taken my dearest belonging … but he can take it! Out! Out of my house, you Harlot of Babylon!”
“You’re joking, aren’t you?” wondered Astrid in despair.
The rest of the children withdrew and tried to hide from their father’s wrath.
“The day of judgment is nothing to joke about! Prepare thyself!”
“I am no longer your father!” sputtered Samuel August, and stared at Astrid, who stood with her eyes on the ground.
Ingegerd and Stina hardly dared to breathe.
“The devil is your father now! Find shelter in him if you can! You’re never to cross my threshold again, anyhow!”
“I’m never going to forgive you for this,” said Astrid, and tried to keep her voice as steady as possible.
“Get out!” The big man pointed with his arm toward the gate and the road.
“You can’t throw me out, you thief,” hissed Astrid.
“Really, why not?”
“No, because I’m leaving myself first! Voluntarily! I would never want to cast shame on my own home, so that’s why I’m leaving of my own free will. Do you hear that?”
“I hear nothing!”
“Goodbye then, Mama,” said Astrid, with the strongest voice she could muster. Hanna walked forward and stretched her arms toward her daughter.
“Woman! Don’t you touch her!” screamed Samuel August.
“She may not be your daughter any longer, even though I doubt that, but she is still my daughter anyway!” replied Hanna, and put her arms around Astrid.
The sound of a train whistle far away was heard suddenly. Astrid grabbed her trunk after she had hugged her mother, and ran toward the gate. The train was on its way. Soon she would be far away. With the tears running down her cheeks, she ran as fast as she could toward the train station.
Soon she was out of sight. Remaining among the crying children, Samuel August sat down and started to cry.
“Why, why, why did she do it?!!! Why, why … ?”
Very soon the whole family was sitting together in the yard and weeping, missing her. A happy departure had been turned into disaster.
Hanna took a seat next to her husband and put her arms around him. And without anyone actually noticing it, Pelle came back and lowered the flag to half-mast.
Samuel August had not wept in many years. Now he turned his glance to the sky.
“What have I done?!!!! Astrid, my Astrid!!!!!!
(to be continued...)
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