Chapter 24

 

FREDER… ?” SAID THE SOFT Madonna-voice. “Yes, you beloved! Speak to me! Speak to me!” “Where are we?” “In the cathedral.” “Is it day or night?” “It is day.”

Wasn’t your father here, with us, just now?”

Yes, you beloved.”

His hand was on my hair?”

You felt it?”

Oh Freder, while your father was standing here it seemed to me as though I heard a spring rushing within a rock. A spring, weighted with salt, and red with blood. But I knew too: when the spring is strong enough to break out through the rock, then if will be sweeter than the dew and whiter than the light.”

Bless you for your belief, Maria… ”

She smiled. She fell silent.

Why don’t you open your eyes, you beloved?” asked Freder’s longing mouth.

I see,” she answered. “I see, Freder… I see a city, standing in the light… ”

Shall I build it?”

No, Freder. Not you. Your father.”

My father?”

Yes… ”

Maria when you spoke of my father, before, this tone of’ love was not in your voice… ”

Since then much has taken place, Freder. Since then, within a rock, a spring has come to life, heavy with salt and red with blood. Since then Joh Fredersen’s hair has turned snow-white with deadly fear for his son. Since then have those whom I called my brothers sinned from excessive suffering. Since then has Joh Fredersen suffered from excessive sin. Will you not allow them both, Freder—your father as well as my brothers—to pay for their sin, to atone, to become reconciled?”

Yes, Maria.”

Will you help them, you mediator?”

Yes, Maria.”

She opened her eyes and turned the gentle wonder of their blue towards him. Bending low above her, he saw, in pious astonishment, how the gay-coloured heavenly kingdom of saintly legends, which looked down upon her from out the lofty, narrow church-windows, was reflected in her Madonna-eyes.

Involuntarily he raised his eyes to become aware, for the first time, of whither he had borne the girl whom he loved.

God is looking at us!” he whispered, gathering her up to his heart, with longing arms. “God is smiling to us, Maria.”

Amen,” said the girl at his heart.