“You are growing old, now, Ole.”
“Yes, it was about that I wanted to talk with you. I am tottering downward; I will soon rest in the grave.”
“You must see to it that you rest well there, Ole.”
He closes the book and sits looking at the binding.
“That is a good book you are holding in your hands.”
“It is not bad. How often have you gone beyond the cover, Ole?”
“Why, of late, I”—
The school-master lays aside the book and puts away his spectacles.
“Things are not going as you wish to have them, Ole?”
“They have not done so as far back as I can remember.”
“Ah, so it was with me for a long time. I lived at variance with a good friend, and wanted him to come to me, and all the while I was unhappy. At last I took it into my head to go to him, and since then all has been well with me.”
Ole looks up and says nothing.
The school-master: “How do you think the gard is doing, Ole?”
“Failing, like myself.”
“Who shall have it when you are gone?”
“That is what I do not know, and it is that, too, which troubles me.”
“Your neighbors are doing well now, Ole.”
“Yes, they have that agriculturist to help them.”
The school-master turned unconcernedly toward the window: “You should have help,—you, too, Ole. You cannot walk much, and you know very little of the new ways of management.”
Ole: “I do not suppose there is any one who would help me.”
“Have you asked for it?”
Ole is silent.
The school-master: “I myself dealt just so with the Lord for a long time. ‘You are not kind to me,’ I said to Him. ’Have you prayed me to be so?’ asked He. No; I had not done so. Then I prayed, and since then all has been truly well with me.”
Ole is silent; but now the school-master, too, is silent.
Finally Ole says:—
“I have a grandchild; she knows what would please me before I am taken away, but she does not do it.”
The school-master smiles.
“Possibly it would not please her?”
Ole makes no reply.
The school-master: “There are many things which trouble you; but as far as I can understand they all concern the gard.”
Ole says, quietly,—
“It has been handed down for many generations, and the soil is good. All that father after father has toiled for lies in it; but now it does not thrive. Nor do I know who shall drive in when I am driven out. It will not be one of the family.”
“Your granddaughter will preserve the family.”
“But how can he who takes her take the gard? That is what I want to know before I die. You have no time to lose, Baard, either for me or for the gard.”
They were both silent; at last the school-master says,—