Wolf and the Watchman (9781501196799) by Dag Niklas Natt Och

Wolf and the Watchman (9781501196799) by Dag Niklas Natt Och

Author:Dag, Niklas Natt Och
Language: eng
Format: epub
Publisher: Simon & Schuster

– 32 –

“Two men are asking for you!”

Anna Stina knows the girl only as Ulla. Her surname is unknown to everyone, possibly even to herself. It takes Anna Stina a couple of moments to react to the lisped words. Ulla is not completely right in the head and it is easy to disregard her random words without paying any attention to their meaning. Like Anna Stina, she sells wares from a basket, but farther south in Maria parish. Grocer Efraim Jansson has a system for his girls where each and every one follows a certain route, and these become well-guarded territories. God help anyone who tries to poach—the one who gets caught red-handed can expect to be chased into a corner, have her hair pulled, be beaten and scratched.

Nonetheless they sometimes meet where their routes intersect, as is the case now. Anna Stina walks from the shores of Gilded Bay to Ropemaker’s Street in the west and to Katarina Street in the south, Ulla around the Larder where no one else willingly sets foot. They meet at the top of Postmaster’s Hill with a view down to the Lock and the City-between-the-Bridges. Anna Stina’s basket is almost empty. With luck, she’ll be able to sell the rest on her way back to Jansson, just down the hill, in the hope that he will have more to give her. And if she hurries, she can do one more round before the sun goes down.

Ulla squints at Anna Stina, her mouth hanging open. Anna Stina doesn’t know much about her. She has been working a basket since spring, and the weeks spent outdoors have left their traces. Her skin has been tanned by sun and dirt, her back bent under the heavy, lopsided burden. She barely sells enough to keep her route and is always reprimanded at day’s end when all is tallied and the wares left unsold have to be reduced in price before they are spoiled. Anna Stina has seen her come limping out of sheds and barns where men have taken advantage of her, her dress soiled and with her brightly colored cap askew. Anna Stina’s thoughts turn back to Walpurgis Night, to the field and Anders Petter, and she shivers at the thought of how many such memories Ulla’s mind must host. That she is not yet with child is nothing but a divine mercy.

During the long, slow hours of the night, Anna Stina has had time to reflect on Lysander’s words and tried to imagine the parts of the story that she cannot know for certain. How Anders Petter must have come home that evening, upset at his rejection, and how his parents must have fretted at their son’s agitation. She knows enough about Natanael and Klara Sofia Lundström to be able to guess the rest. The mother in particular has regarded Anna Stina with growing suspicion over the years as her friendship with Anders Petter has ripened, probably with fear that her son will be tempted into a


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