Scanned, proofed and corrected from the original hardcover edition for enjoyable reading.
an excerpt from the beginning of of the first story:
FAIR HAVEN AND FOUL STRAND
The quarantine doctor was a man of five-and-sixty, well-preserved, short, slim and elastic, with a military bearing which recalled the fact that he had served in the Army Medical Corps. From birth he belonged to the eccentrics who feel uncomfortable in life and are never at home in it. Born in a mining district, of well-to-do but stern parents, he had no pleasant recollections of his childhood. His father and mother never spoke kindly, even when there was occasion to do so, but always harshly, with or without cause. His mother was one of those strange characters who get angry about nothing. Her anger arose without visible cause, so that her son sometimes thought she was not right in her head, and sometimes that she was deaf and could not hear properly, for occasionally her response to an act of kindness was a box on the ears. Therefore the boy became mistrustful towards people in general, for the only natural bond which should have united him to humanity with tenderness, was broken, and everything in life assumed a hostile appearance. Accordingly, though he did not show it, he was always in a posture of defence.
At school he had friends, but since he did not know how sincerely he wished them well, he became submissive, and made all kinds of concessions in order to preserve his faith in real friendship. By so doing he let his friends encroach so much that they oppressed him and began to tyrannise over him. When matters came to this point, he went his own way without giving any explanations. But he soon found a new friend with whom the same story was repeated from beginning to end. The result was that later in life he only sought for acquaintances, and grew accustomed to rely only upon himself. When he was confirmed, and felt mature and responsible through being declared ecclesiastically of age, an event happened which proved a turning-point in his life. He came home too late for a meal and his mother received him with a shower of blows from a stick. Without thinking, the young man raised his hand, and gave her a box on the ear. For a moment mother and son confronted each other, he expecting the roof to fall in or that he would be struck dead in Borne miraculous way. But nothing happened. His mother went out as though nothing had occurred, and behaved afterwards as though nothing unusual had taken place between them.
Later on in life when this affair recurred to his memory, he wondered what must have passed through her mind. She had cast one look to the ceiling as though she sought there for something —an invisible hand perhaps, or had she resigned herself to it, because she had at last seen that it was a well-deserved retribution, and therefore not called him to account? It was strange, that in spite of desperate efforts to produce pangs of conscience, he never felt any self-reproach on the subject. It seemed to have happened without his will, and as though it must happen.
Nevertheless, it marked a boundary-line in his life. The cord was cut and he fell out in life alone, away from his mother and domesticity. He felt as though he had been born without father and mother. Both seemed to him strangers whom he would have found it most natural to call Mr. and Mrs. So-and-so. At the University he at once noticed the difference between his lot and that of his companions. They had parents, brothers, and sisters; there was an order and succession in their life. They had relations to their fellow-men and obeyed secret social laws. They felt instinctively that he did not belong to their fold.
When as a young doctor he acted on behalf of an army medical officer for some time, he felt at once that he was not in his proper place, and so did the officers. The silent resistance which he offered from the first to their imperiousness and arbitrary ways marked him out as a dissatisfied critic, and he was left to himself.
In the hospital it was the same. Here he perceived at once the fateful predestination of social election, those who were called and those who were not called. It seemed as though the authorities could discern by scent those who were congenial to them. And so it was everywhere. He started a practice as a ladies' doctor, but had no luck, for he demanded straightforward answers to his questions, and those he never received. Then he became impatient, and was considered brutal. He became a Government sanitary officer in a remote part of the country, and since he was now independent of his patients' favour, he troubled himself still less about pleasing them. Presently he was transferred to the quarantine service, and was finally stationed at Skamsund.