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Books: Child’s-Eye-View

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A NIGHT OF DEATH—Marie Bregendahl—Knopf ($2).

Anders Gram, Danish farmer, had seven children,, was about to have an eighth. The night he should have been home, business took him to the fair. The children were sent to their grandmother’s nearby; all the dreadful night long till the end they were out of it, but some of them guessed what was happening, all of them felt it. Mother Anne was having a hard time, had known she was going to, but she would not let them send for the doctor because she had dreamed that would be fatal. Her only helpers were the servants and a dirty old midwife whom even the youngest child distrusted.

Late at night the father got home, saw that his wife was dying. He sent for the doctor. The children, hearing their mother’s screams, seeing the lights in the house, could not sleep. No one was bothering to look after them. Gradually they all crept home. Only Lisa, the eldest, had any clear idea of what it would be like to have their mother die, and even she was not sure; she was only a little girl.

When the doctor came he could do nothing. All the household came quietly in, stood about the room while the mother died. The children came too. When she was dead they still did not understand; the littlest ones asked what had happened.

A Night of Death is the first of Marie Bregendahl’s books to be translated into English. She is the 64-year-old onetime wife of the late Poet Jeppe Aakjar. Her other books (part of a series—Billeder Fra Sodalfolkenes Liv): Ahilda, Peter Guldgraver Og Hans Eneste Ven, Tre Gamle Kvinder.

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