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Very many years ago, in an age when departures from the regular line of thought were accounted but vagaries of a diseased brain, when science was a thing of dread, and great knowledge deemed but sorcery, Nordhung Nordjansen was born, and grew to early manhood on the far northern coast of Norway.
Through all his boyhood days—whenever he could steal away from his father and his father’s plodding work—he would climb the bold crags which overlooked the Northern Sea, and gaze with hungry eyes over the vast expanse of water.
“If I could but know what lies beyond that cold horizon,” he would sigh.
He expressed this longing to his father.
“Get your mother a bundle of fagots, and pry not into the unknown,” answered his father, so sternly that Nordhung dared not mention it again, and being an obedient boy he went into the forest; but with every stick he gathered, he also gathered a doubt of his father’s wisdom.
“How can it be wrong to wish to know what lies in that beautiful beyond?”
He gathered another stick or two, and idly twirling them in his hand, he murmured, “My father says it is a sin to pry into that which is hidden; perhaps it is not hidden, but just lies there waiting to be admired, as did our beautiful Norway, long, long ago.”
He piled the sticks in a little heap, and sat beside them, idly throwing pebbles at a little bird which sat on a branch, and mocked his restlessness with happy song.
“I wish that I could know what lies beyond my sight. The sky has stooped down to meet the waves, and they are so glad that they leap and dimple in the sunlight. Oh, it must be very beautiful in that far country! Why must the longing for all things beautiful be a sin? It is no sin to work, to pick up fagots to make the pot boil, but I do not like to do this! My father says it is a sin to sit on the crags, and look across the sea, and wish and wish that I were a bird, so that I could fly; but I love to do that. I wonder why the sinful cannot be ugly, and those things which are right be beautiful and nice to do!”
Thus the battle went on in this mind, thirsty for knowledge; a battle as old as man himself, with his ignorance, and the prejudice of false teaching.
One day Nordhung climbed the boldest of the crags overlooking Tana Fiord, and gazed long and wistfully over the many islands which lay along the coast.
A stately ship sailed out of Sylte Fiord, and made its way around the headland to the open sea. With fascinated gaze he watched it spread its white wings; the waves lapped and beat about its prow, it kept on its majestic way as though scorning their childish gambols. His heart swelled with eager desire; if he could but own that wonderful ship and sail away into the unknown! If he could but reach the home of the beautiful Aurora Borealis and search out its mysteries!
There sprang into life in that hour the firm resolve that some day he would know—that some day he would stand on the deck of a beautiful ship of his own, and proudly sail away into the pale glory of those northern skies, and discover the wonderful things lying beyond those opaline tints. Then the mist creeping up from the sea began to envelop him, and he cried aloud, thinking it a spirit sent to punish him for the sinfulness of his desires, and he ran home as fast as his legs could carry him.