“But this is not going together?”
“Catch me, then!”
She ran; he after her; and soon she was fast in the bushes, so that he overtook her.
“Have I caught you forever, Merit?” His hand was on her waist.
“I think so,” said she, and laughed; but she was both flushed and serious.
“Well, now is the time,” thought he, and he made a movement to kiss her; but she bent her head down under his arm, laughed, and ran away. She paused, though, by the last trees.
“And when shall we meet again?” whispered she.
“To-morrow, to-morrow!” he whispered in return.
“Good-by,” and she ran on.
“Marit!” She stopped. “Say, was it not strange that we met first on the cliff?”
“Yes, it was.” She ran on again.
Oyvind gazed long after her. The dog ran on before her, barking; Marit followed, quieting him. Oyvind turned, took off his cap and tossed it into the air, caught it, and threw it up again.
“Now I really think I am beginning to be happy,” said the boy, and went singing homeward.
One afternoon later in the summer, as his mother and a girl were raking hay, while Oyvind and his father were carrying it in, there came a little barefooted and bareheaded boy, skipping down the hill-side and across the meadows to Oyvind, and gave him a note.
“You run well, my boy,” said Oyvind.
“I am paid for it,” answered the boy.
On being asked if he was to have an answer, the reply was No; and the boy took his way home over the cliff, for some one was coming after him up on the road, he said. Oyvind opened the note with some difficulty, for it was folded in a strip, then tied in a knot, then sealed and stamped; and the note ran thus:—
“He is now on the march; but he moves slowly. Run into the woods and hide yourself! THE ONE YOU KNOW.”
“I will do no such thing,” thought Oyvind; and gazed defiantly up the hills. Nor did he wait long before an old man appeared on the hill-top, paused to rest, walked on a little, rested again. Both Thore and his wife stopped to look. Thore soon smiled, however; his wife, on the other hand, changed color.
“Do you know him?”
“Yes, it is not very easy to make a mistake here.”
Father and son again began to carry hay; but the latter took care that they were always together. The old man on the hill slowly drew near, like a heavy western storm. He was very tall and rather corpulent; he was lame and walked with a labored gait, leaning on a staff. Soon he came so near that they could see him distinctly; he paused, removed his cap and wiped away the perspiration with a handkerchief. He was quite bald far back on the head; he had a round, wrinkled face, small, glittering, blinking eyes, bushy eyebrows, and had lost none of his teeth. When he spoke it was in a sharp, shrill voice, that seemed to be hopping over gravel and stones; but it lingered on an “r” here and there with great satisfaction, rolling it over for several yards, and at the same time making a tremendous leap in pitch. He had been known in his younger days as a lively but quick-tempered man; in his old age, through much adversity, he had become irritable and suspicious.