济群教育校训
点击查看更多每日学堂内容
在线报名
更多视频

苏菲的世界 Sophies World-34

文章来源:吉林市济群培训    发布时间:2020-06-23   浏览次数: 31
Hilde sat up in bed. That was the end of the story of Sophie and Alberto. But what had actually happened?

Why had her father written that last chapter? Was it just to demonstrate his power over Sophie's world?

Deep in thought, she took a shower and got dressed. She ate a quick breakfast and then wandered down the garden and sat in the glider.

She agreed with Alberto that the only sensible thing that had happened at the garden party was his speech. Surely her father didn't think Hilde's world was as chaotic as Sophie's garden party? Or that her world would also dissolve eventually?

Then there was the matter of Sophie and Alberto. What had happened to the secret plan?

Was it up to Hilde herself to continue the story? Or had they really managed to sneak out of it?

And where were they now?

A thought suddenly struck her. If Alberto and Sophie really had managed to sneak out of the story, there wouldn't be anything about it in the ring binder. Everything that was there, unfortunately, was clear to her father.

Could there be anything written between the lines? There was more than a mere suggestion of it. Hilde realized that she would have to read the whole story again one or two more times.

*    *    *

As the white Mercedes drove into the garden, Alberto dragged Sophie with him into the den. Then they ran into the woods in the direction of the major's cabin.

"Quickly!" cried Alberto. "It's got to happen before he starts looking for us."

"Are we beyond the major's reach now?"

"We are in the borderland."

They rowed across the water and ran into the cabin. Alberto opened a trapdoor in the floor. He pushed Sophie down into the cellar. Then everything went black.

In the days that followed, Hilde worked on her plan. She sent several letters to Anne Kvamsdal in Copenhagen, and a couple of times she called her. She also enlisted the aid of friends and acquaintances, and recruited almost half of her class at school.

In between, she read Sophie's World. It was not a story one could be done with after a single reading. New thoughts about what could have happened to Sophie and Alberto when they left the garden party were constantly occurring to her.

On Saturday, June 23, she awoke with a start around nine o'clock. She knew her father had already left the camp in Lebanon. Now it was just a question of waiting. The last part of his day was planned down to the smallest detail.

Later in the morning she began the preparations for Midsummer Eve with her mother. Hilde could not help thinking of how Sophie and her mother had arranged their Midsummer Eve party. But that was something they had done. It was over, finished. Or was it? Were they going around right now, decorating everywhere?

Sophie and Alberto seated themselves on a lawn in front of two large buildings with ugly air vents and ventilation canals on the outside. A young couple came walking out of one of the buildings. He was carrying a brown briefcase and she had a red handbag slung over one shoulder. A car drove along a narrow road in the background.

"What happened?" asked Sophie.

"We made it!"

 "But where are we?"

"This is Oslo."

"Are you quite sure?"

"Quite sure. One of these buildings is called Chateau Neuf, which means 'the new palace.' People study music there. The other is the Congregation Faculty. It's a school of theology. Further up the hill they study science and up at the top they study literature and philosophy."

"Are we out of Hilde's book and beyond the major's control?"

"Yes, both. He'll never find us here."

"But where were we when we ran through the woods?"

"While the major was busy crashing the financial adviser's car into an apple tree, we seized the chance to hide in the den. We were then at the embryo stage. We were of the old as well as of the new world. But concealing ourselves there was something the major cannot possibly have envisaged."

"Why not?"

"He would never have let us go so easily. As it was, it went like a dream. Of course, there's always the chance that he was in on it himself."

"What do you mean?"

"It was he who started the white Mercedes. He may have exerted himself to the utmost to lose sight of us. He was probably utterly exhausted after everything that had been going on . . ."

By now the young couple were only a few yards away. Sophie felt a bit awkward, sitting on the grass with a man so much older than herself. Besides, she wanted someone to confirm what Alberto had said.

She got up and went over to them"Excuse me, would you mind telling me the name of this street?"

But they ignored her completely.

Sophie was so provoked that she asked them again.

"It's customary to answer a person, isn't it?"

The young man was clearly engrossed in explaining something to his companion:

"Contrapuntal form operates on two dimensions, horizontally, or melodically, and vertically, or harmonically.

There will always be two or more melodies sounding together . . ."

"Excuse me for interrupting, but. . ."

"The melodies combine in such a way that they develop as much as possible, independently of how they sound against each other. But they have to be concordant. Actually it's note against note."

How rude! They were neither deaf nor blind. Sophie tried a third time, standing ahead of them on the path blocking their way,She was simply brushed aside.

"There's a wind coming up," said the woman.

Sophie rushed back to Alberto.

'They can't hear me!" she said desperately--and just as she said it, she recalled her dream about Hilde and the gold crucifix.

"It's the price we have to pay. Although we have sneaked out of a book, we can't expect to nave exactly the same status as its author. But we really are here. From now on, we will never be a day older than we were when we left the philosophical garden party."

"Does that mean we'll never have any real contact with me people around us?"

"A true philosopher never says 'never.' What time is it?"

"Eight o'clock."

"The same as when we left Captain's Bend, of course."

"This is the day Hilde's father gets back from Lebanon."

"That's why we must hurry."

"Why--what do you mean?"

"Aren't you anxious to know what happens when the major gets home to Bjerkely?"

"Naturally, but. . ."

"Come on, then!"

They began to walk down toward the city. Several people passed them on the way, but they all walked right on by as if Sophie and Alberto were invisible.

Cars were parked by the curbside all the way along the street. Alberto stopped by a small red convertible with the top down.

 "This will do," he said. "We must just make sure it's ours."

"I have no idea what you mean."

"I'd better explain then. We can't just take an ordinary car that belongs to someone here in the city. What do you think would happen when people noticed the car driving along without a driver? And anyway, we probably wouldn't be able to start it."

"Then why the convertible?"

"I think I recognize it from an old movie."

"Look, I'm sorry, but I'm getting tired of all these cryptic remarks."

"It's a make-believe car, Sophie. It's just like us. People here only see a vacant space. That's all we have to confirm before we're on our way."

They stood by the car and waited. After a while, a boy came cycling along on the sidewalk. He turned suddenly and rode right through the red car and onto the road.

"There, you see? It's ours!"

Alberto opened the door to the passenger seat.

"Be my guest!" he said, and Sophie got in.

He got into the driver's seat. The key was in the ignition, he turned it, and the engine started.

They drove southward out of the city, past Lysaker, Sandvika, Drammen, and down toward Lillesand. As they drove they saw more and more Midsummer bonfires, especially after they had passed Drammen.

"It's Midsummer, Sophie. Isn't it wonderful?"

"And there's such a lovely fresh breeze in an open car. Is it true that no one can see us?"

"Only people of our own kind. We might meet some of them. What's the time now?"

"Half past eight."

"We'll have to take a few shortcuts. We can't stay behind this trailer, that's for sure."

They turned off into a large wheatfield. Sophie looked back and saw that they had left a broad trail of flattened stalks.

"Tomorrow they'll say a freak wind blew over the field," said Alberto.

*    *    *

Major Albert Knag had just landed at Kastrup Airport outside Copenhagen. It was half past four on Saturday, June 23. It had already been a long day. This penultimate lap had been by plane from Rome.

He went through passport control in his UN uniform, which he was proud to wear. He represented not only himself and his country. Albert Knag represented an international legal system--a century-old tradition that now embraced the entire planet.

He carried only a flight bag. He had checked the rest of his baggage through from Rome. He just needed to hold up his red passport.

"Nothing to declare."

Major Albert Knag had a nearly three-hour wait in the airport before his plane left for Kristiansand. He would have time to buy a few presents for his family. He had sent the present of his life to Hilde two weeks ago. Marit, his wife, had put it on her bedside table for her to discover when she woke up on her birthday. He had not spoken with Hilde since that late night birthday call.

Albert bought a couple of Norwegian newspapers, found himself a table in the bar, and ordered a cup of coffee. He had hardly had time to skim the headlines when he heard an announcement over the loudspeakers: "This is a personal call for Albert Knag. Albert Knag is requested to contact the SAS information desk."

What now? He felt a chill down his spine. Surely he was not being ordered back to Lebanon? Could something be wrong at home?

He quickly reached the SAS information desk.

"I'm Albert Knag."

"Here is a message for you. It is urgent."

He opened the envelope at once. Inside lay a smaller envelope. It was addressed to Major Albert Knag, c/o SAS Information, Kastrup Airport, Copenhagen.

Albert opened the little envelope nervously. It contained a short note:

Dear Dad, Welcome home from Lebanon. As you can imagine, I can't even wait till you get home. Forgive me for having you paged over the loud-speakers. It was the easiest way.

P.S. Unfortunately a claim for damages has arrived from financial adviser Ingebrigtsen regarding a stolen and wrecked Mercedes.

P.S. P.S. I may be sitting in the garden when you get here. But you might also be hearing from me before that.

P.S. P.S. P.S. I'm rather scared of staying in the garden too long at a time. It's so easy to sink into the ground in such places. Love from Hilde, who has had plenty of time to prepare your homecoming.

Major Albert Knag's first impulse was to smile. But he did not appreciate being manipulated in this manner. He had always liked to be in charge of his own life. Now this little vixen in Lillesand was directing his movements in Kastrup Airport! How had she managed that?

He put the envelope in his breast pocket and began to stroll toward the little shopping mall. He was just about to enter the Danish Food deli when he noticed a small envelope taped to the store window. It had MAJOR KNAG written on it with a thick marker pen. Albert took it down and opened it:

Personal message for Major Albert Knag, c/o Danish Food, Kastrup Airport. Dear Dad, please buy a large Danish salami, preferably a two-pound one, and Mom would probably like a cognac sausage. P. S. Danish caviar is not bad either. Love, Hilde.

Albert turned around. She wasn't here, was she? Had Mark given her a trip to Copenhagen so she could meet him here? It was Hilde's handwriting ...

Suddenly the UN observer began to feel himself observed. It was as if someone was in remote control of everything he did. He felt like a doll in the hands of a child.

He went into the shop and bought a two-pound salami, a cognac sausage, and three jars of Danish caviar. Then he continued down the row of stores. He had made up his mind to buy a proper present for Hilde. A calculator, maybe? Or a little radio--yes, that was what he would get.

When he got to the store that sold electrical appliances, he saw that there was an envelope taped to the window there too. This one was addressed to "Major Albert Knag, c/o the most interesting store in Kastrup." Inside was the following note:

Dear Dad, Sophie sends her greetings and thanks for the combined mini-TV and FM radio that she got for her birthday from her very generous father. It was great, but on the other hand it was a mere bagatelle. I must confess, though, that I share Sophie's liking for such bagatelles. P.S. In case you haven't been there yet, there are further instructions at the Danish Food store and the big Tax Free store that sells wines and tobacco. P.S. P.S. I got some money for my birthday, so I can contribute to the mini-TV with 350 crowns. Love, Hilde, who has already stuffed the turkey and made the Waldorf salad.

A mini-TV cost 985 Danish crowns. That could certainly be called a bagatelle in comparison with how Albert Knag felt about being directed hither and thither by his daughter's sneaky tricks. Was she here--or was she not?

From that moment on, he was constantly on guard wherever he went. He felt like a secret agent and a marionette rolled into one. Was he not being deprived of his basic human rights?

He felt obliged to go into the Tax Free store as well. There hung a new envelope with his name on it. The whole airport was becoming a computer game with him as the cursor. He read the message:

Major Knag, c/o the Tax Free store at Kastrup. All I need from here is a bag of gumdrops and some marzipan bars. Remember it's much more expensive in Norway. As far as I can recall, Mom is very fond of Campari. P.S. You must keep all your senses alert the whole way home. You wouldn't want to miss any important messages, would you? Love from your most teachable daughter, Hilde.

Albert sighed despairingly, but he went into the store and shopped as instructed. With three plastic carriers and his flight bag he walked toward Gate 28 to wait for his flight. If there were any more messages they would have to stay there.

However, at Gate 28 he caught sight of another white envelope taped to a pillar: "To Major Knag, c/o GATE 28, Kastrup Airport." This was also in Hilde's handwriting, but the gate number seemed to have been written by someone else. It was not easy to judge since there was no writing to compare it with, only block letters and digits. He took it down. This one said only "It won't be long now."

He sat down on a chair with his back against the wall. He kept the shopping bags on his knees. Thus the proud major sat stiffly, eyes straight ahead, like a small child traveling alone for the first time. If Hilde was here, she was certainly not going to have the satisfaction of dis-covering him first.

He glanced anxiously at each passenger that came in. For a while he felt like an enemy of the state under close surveillance. When the passengers were finally allowed to board the plane he breathed a sigh of relief. He was the last person to board. As he handed over his boarding pass he tore off another white envelope that had been taped to the check-in desk.

Sophie and Alberto had passed Brevik, and a little later the exit to Kragera.

"You're going awfully fasf," said Sophie.

"It's almost nine o'clock. He'll soon be landing at Kjevik. But we won't be stopped for speeding."

"Suppose we smash into another car?"

"It makes no difference if it's just an ordinary car. But if it's one of our own . . ."

"Then what?"

"Then we'll have to be very careful. Didn't you notice that we passed the Bat Mobile."

"No."

"It was parked somewhere up in Vestfold."

"This tourist bus won't be easy to pass. There are dense woods on each side of the road."

"It makes no difference, Sophie. Can't you get it into your head?"

So saying, he swung the car into the woods and drove straight through the trees.

Sophie breathed a sigh of relief.

"You scared me."

"We wouldn't feel it if we drove into a brick wall."

"That only means we're spirits of the air compared to our surroundings."

"No, now you're putting the cart before the horse. It is the reality around us that's an airy adventure to us."

"I don't get it."

"Listen carefully, then. It is a widespread misunderstanding that spirit is a thing that is more 'airy' than vapor. On the contrary. Spirit is more solid than ice."

"That never occurred to me."

"And now I'll tell you a story. Once upon a time there was a man who didn't believe in angels. One day, while he was out working in the woods, he was visited by an angel."

"And?"

"They walked together for a while. Then the man turned to the angel and said, 'All right, now I have to admit that angels exist. But you don't exist in reality, like us."What do you mean by that?' asked the angel. So the man answered, 'When we came to that big rock, I had to go around it, but I noticed that you just glided through it. And when we came to that huge log that lay across the path, I had to climb over it while you walked straight through it.' The angel was very surprised, and said 'Didn't you also notice that we took a path that led through a marsh? We both walked right through the mist. That was because we were more solid than the mist.'

"Ah."

"It's the same with us, Sophie. Spirit can pass through steel doors. No tanks or bombers can crush anything that is of spirit."

"That's a comfort."

"We'll soon be passing Ris0r, and it's no more than an hour since we left the major's cabin. I could really use a cup of coffee."

When they got to Fiane, just before S0ndeled, they passed a cafeteria on the lefthand side of the road. It was called Cinderella. Alberto swung the car around and parked on the grass in front of it.

Inside, Sophie tried to take a bottle of Coke from the cooler, but she couldn't lift it. It seemed to be stuck. Further down the counter, Alberto was trying to tap coffee into a paper cup he had found in the car. He only had to press a lever, but even by exerting all his strength he could not press it down.

This made him so mad that he turned to the cafeteria guests and asked for help. When no one reacted, he shouted so loudly that Sophie had to cover her ears: "I want some coffee!"

His anger soon evaporated, and he doubled up with laughter. They were about to turn around and leave when an old woman got up from her chair and came toward them.

She was wearing a garish red skirt, an ice-blue cardigan, and a white kerchief round her head. She seemed more sharply defined than anything else in the little cafeteria.

She went up to Alberto and said, "My my, how you do yell, my boy!"

"Excuse me."

"You want some coffee, you said?"

"Yes, but. . ."

"We have a small establishment close by."

They followed the old woman out of the cafeteria and down a path behind it. While they walked, she said, "You are new in these parts?"

"We might as well admit it," answered Alberto.

"That's all right. Welcome to eternity then, children."

"And you?"

"I'm out of one of Grimm's fairy tales. That was nearly two hundred years ago. And where are you from?"

"We're out of a book on philosophy. I am the philosophy teacher and this is my student, Sophie."

"Hee hee! That's a new one!"

They came through the trees to a small clearing where there were several cozy-looking brown cottages. A large Midsummer bonfire was burning in a yard between the cottages, and around the bonfire danced a crowd of colorful figures. Sophie recognized many of them. There were Snow White and some of the seven dwarfs, Mary Poppins and Sherlock Holmes, Peter Pan and Pippi Longstocking, Little Red Ridinghood and Cinderella. A lot of familiar figures without names had also gathered around the bonfire--there were gnomes and elves, fauns and witches, angels and imps. Sophie also caught sight of a real live troll.

"What a lot of noise!" exclaimed Alberto.

"That's because it's Midsummer," said the old woman. "We haven't had a gathering like this since Valborg's Eve. That was when we were in Germany. I'm only here on a short visit. Was it coffee you wanted?"

"Yes, please."

Not until now did Sophie notice that all the buildings were made out of gingerbread, candy, and sugar icing. Several of the figures were eating directly off the facades. A baker was going around repairing the damage as it occurred. Sophie ventured to take a little bite off one corner. It tasted sweeter and better than anything she had ever tasted before.

Presently the old woman returned with a cup of coffee.

"Thank you very much indeed."

"And what are the visitors going to pay for the coffee?"

"To pay?"

"We usually pay with a story. For coffee, an old wives' tale will suffice."

"We could tell the whole incredible story of humanity," said Alberto, "but unfortunately we are in a hurry. Can we come back and pay some other day?"

"Of course. And why are you in a hurry?"

Alberto explained their errand, and the old woman commented:

 "I must say, you certainly are a pair of greenhorns. You'd better hurry up and cut the umbilical cord to your mortal progenitor. We no longer need their world. We belong to the invisible people."

Alberto and Sophie hurried back to the Cinderella cafeteria and the red convertible. Right next to the car a busy mother was helping her little boy to pee.

Racing along and taking shortcuts, they soon arrived in Lillesand.

SK 876 from Copenhagen touched down at Kjevik on schedule at 9:35 p.m. While the plane was taxied out to the runway in Copenhagen, the.major had opened the envelope hanging from the check-in desk. The note inside read:

To Major Knag, as he hands over his boarding pass at Kastrup on Midsummer Eve, 1990. Dear Dad, You probably thought I would turn up in Copenhagen. But my control over your movements is more ingenious than that. I can see you wherever you are, Dad. The fact is, I have been to visit a well-known Gypsy family which many, many years ago sold a magic brass mirror to Great-grandmother. I have also gotten myself a crystal ball. At this very moment, I can see that you have just sat down in your seat. May I remind you to fasten your seat belt and keep the back of your seat raised to an upright position until the Fasten Seat Belt sign has been switched off. As soon as the plane is in flight, you can lower the seat back and give yourself a well-earned rest. You will need to be rested when you get home. The weather in Lillesand is perfect, but the temperature is a few degrees lower than in Lebanon. I wish you a pleasant flight. Love, your own witch-daughter, Queen of the Mirror and the Highest Protector of Irony.

Albert could not quite make out whether he was angry or merely tired and resigned. Then he started laughing. He laughed so loudly that his fellow passengers turned to stare at him. Then the plane took off.

He had been given a taste of his own medicine. But with a significant difference, surely. His medicine had first and foremost affected Sophie and Alberto. And they--well, they were only imaginary.

He did what Hilde had suggested. He lowered the back of his seat and nodded off. He was not fully awake again until he had gone through passport control and was standing in the arrival hall at Kjevik Airport. A demonstration was there to greet him.

There were eight or ten young people of about Hilde's age. They were holding signs saying: 

WELCOME HOME, DAD -- HILDE IS WAITING IN THE GARDEN -- IRONY LIVES.

The worst thing was that he could not just jump into a taxi. He had to wait for his baggage. And all the while, Hilde's classmates were swarming around him, forcing him to read the signs again and again. Then one of the girls came up and gave him a bunch of roses and he melted. He dug down into one of his shopping bags and gave each demonstrator a marzipan bar. Now there were only two left for Hilde. When he had reclaimed his baggage, a young man stepped forward and explained that he was under the command of the Queen of the Mirror, and that he had orders to drive him to Bjerkely. The other demonstrators dispersed into the crowd.

They drove out onto the E 18. Every bridge and tunnel they passed was draped with banners saying: "Welcome home!", "The turkey is ready," "I can see you, Dad!"

When he was dropped off outside the gate at Bjerkely, Albert Knag heaved a sigh of relief, and thanked the driver with a hundred crown note and three cans of Carlsberg Elephant beer.

His wife was waiting for him outside the house. After a long embrace, he asked: "Where is she?"

"She's sitting on the dock, Albert."

Alberto and Sophie stopped the red convertible on the square in Lillesand outside the Hotel Norge. It was a quarter past ten. They could see a large bonfire out in the archipelago.

 "How do we find Bjerkely?" asked Sophie.

"We'll just have to hunt around for it. You remember the painting in the major's cabin."

"We'll have to hurry. I want to get there before he arrives."

They started to drive around the minor roads and then over rocky mounds and slopes. A useful clue was that Bjerkely lay by the water.

Suddenly Sophie shouted, "There it is! We've found it!"

"I do believe you're right, but don't shout so loud."

"Why? There's no one to hear us."

"My dear Sophie--after a whole course in philosophy, I'm very disappointed to find you still jumping to conclusions."

"Yes, but. . ."

"Surely you don't believe this place is entirely devoid of trolls, pixies, wood nymphs, and good fairies?"

"Oh, excuse me."

They drove through the gate and up the gravel path to the house. Alberto parked the car on the lawn beside the glider. A little way down the garden a table was set for three.

"I can see her!" whispered Sophie. "She's sitting down on the dock, just like in my dream."

"Have you noticed how much the garden looks like your own garden in Clover Close?"

"Yes, it does. With the glider and everything. Can I go down to her?"

"Naturally. I'll stay here."

Sophie ran down to the dock. She almost stumbled and fell over Hilde. But she sat down politely beside her.

Hilde sat idly playing with the line that the rowboat was made fast with. In her left hand she held a slip of paper. She was clearly waiting. She glanced at her watch several times.

Sophie thought she was very pretty. She had fair, curly hair and bright green eyes. She was wearing a yellow summer dress. She was not unlike Joanna.

Sophie tried to talk to her even though she knew it was useless.

"Hilde--it's Sophie!"

Hilde gave no sign that she had heard.

Sophie got onto her knees and tried to shout in her ear:

"Can you hear me, Hilde? Or are you both deaf and blind?"

Did she, or didn't she, open her eyes a little wider? Wasn't there a very slight sign that she had heard something--however faintly?

She looked around. Then she turned her head sharply and stared right into Sophie's eyes. She did not focus on her properly; it was as if she was looking right through her.

"Not so loud, Sophie," said Alberto from up in the car. "I don't want the garden filled with mermaids."

Sophie sat still now. It felt good just to be close to Hilde.

Then she heard the deep voice of a man: "Hilde!"

It was the major--in uniform, with a blue beret. He stood at the top of the garden.

Hilde jumped up and ran toward him. They met between the glider and the red convertible. He lifted her up in the air and swung her around and around.

Hilde had been sitting on the dock waiting for her father. Since he had landed at Kastrup, she had thought of him every fifteen minutes, trying to imagine where he was now, and how he was taking it. She had noted all the times down on a slip of paper and kept it with her all day.

What if it made him angry? But surely he couldn't expect that he would write a mysterious book for her-- and then everything would remain as before?

She looked at her watch again. Now it was a quarter past ten. He could be arriving any minute.

But what was that? She thought she heard a faint breath of something, exactly as in her dream about Sophie.

She turned around quickly. There was something, she was sure of it. But what?

Maybe it was only the summer night.

For a few seconds she was afraid she was hearing things.

"Hilde!"

Now she turned the other way. It was Dad! He was standing at the top of the garden.

Hilde jumped up and ran toward him. They met by the glider. He lifted her up in the air and swung her around and around.

Hilde was crying, and her father had to hold back his tears as well.

"You've become a grown woman, Hilde!"

"And you've become a real writer."

Hilde wiped away her tears.

"Shall we say we're quits?" she asked.

"We're quits."

They sat down at the table. First of all Hilde had to have an exact description of everything that had happened at Kastrup and on the way home. They kept bursting out laughing.

"Didn't you see the envelope in the cafeteria?"

"I didn't get a chance to sit down and eat anything, you villain. Now I'm ravenous."

"Poor Dad."

"The stuff about the turkey was all bluff, then?"

"It certainly was not! I have prepared everything. Mom's doing the serving."

Then they had to go over the ring binder and the story of Sophie and Alberto from one end to the other and backwards and forwards.

Mom brought out the turkey and the Waldorf salad, the rose wine and Hilde's homemade bread.

Her father was just saying something about Plato when Hilde suddenly interrupted him: "Shh!"

"What is it?"

"Didn't you hear it? Something squeaking?"

"No."

"I'm sure I heard something. I guess it was just a field mouse."

While her mother went to get another bottle of wine, her father said: "But the philosophy course isn't quite over."

"It isn't?"

"Tonight I'm going to tell you about the universe."

Before they began to eat, he said to his wife, "Hilde is too big to sit on my knee any more. But you're not!" With that he caught Marit round the waist and drew her onto his lap. It was quite a while before she got anything to eat.

"To think you'll soon be forty ..."

When Hilde jumped up and ran toward her father, Sophie felt her tears welling up. She would never be able to reach her . . .

Sophie was deeply envious of Hilde because she had been created a real person of flesh and blood.

When Hilde and the major had sat down at the table, Alberto honked the car horn.

Sophie looked up. Didn't Hilde do exactly the same?

She ran up to Alberto and jumped into the seat next to him.

"We'll sit for a while and watch what happens," he said.

Sophie nodded.

"Have you been crying?"

She nodded again.

"What is it?"

"She's so lucky to be a real person. Now she'll grow up and be a real woman. I'm sure she'll have real children too . . ."

"And grandchildren, Sophie. But there are two sides to everything. That was what I tried to teach you at the beginning of our course."

"How do you mean?"

"She is lucky, I agree. But she who wins the lot of life must also draw the lot of death, since the lot of life is death."

"But still, isn't it better to have had a life than never to have really lived?"

"We cannot live a life like Hilde--or like the major for that matter. On the other hand, we'll never die. Don't you remember what the old woman said back there in the woods? We are the invisible people. She was two hundred years old, she said. And at their Midsummer party I saw some creatures who were more than three thousand years old . . ."

 "Perhaps what I envy most about Hilde is all this ... her family life."

"But you have a family yourself. And you have a cat, two birds, and a tortoise."

"But we left all that behind, didn't we?"

"By no means. It's only the major who left it behind. He has written the final word of his book, my dear, and he will never find us again."

"Does that mean we can go back?"

"Anytime we want. But we're also going to make new friends in the woods behind Cinderella's cafeteria."

The Knag family began their meal. For a moment Sophie was afraid it would turn out like the philosophical garden party in Clover Close. At one point it looked as though the major intended to lay Marit across the table. But then he drew her on to his knee instead.

The car was parked a good way away from where the family sat eating. Their conversation was only audible now and then. Sophie and Alberto sat gazing down over the garden. They had plenty of time to mull over all the details and the sorry ending of the garden party.

The family did not get up from the table until almost midnight. Hilde and the major strolled toward the glider. They waved to Marit as she walked up to the white-painted house.

"You might as well go to bed, Mom. We have so much to talk about."