On a cold, bleak day, in the latter part of March, we find Maurice once more in the valley. He had played a hazardous game, but so far fortune had favored him. In that supreme self-trust which a great and generous passion inspires, he had determined to force Tharald Ormgrass to save himself and his children from the imminent destruction. The court had recognized his right to the farm upon the payment of five hundred dollars to its present nominal owner. The money had already been paid, and the farm lay now desolate and forlorn, shivering in the cold gusts from the glacier. The family had just boarded a large English brig which lay at anchor out in the fjord, and was about to set sail for the new world beyond the sea. In the prow of the vessel stood Tharald, gazing with sullen defiance toward the unknown west, while Elsie, her eyes red with weeping, and her piquant little face somewhat pinched with cold, was clinging close to him, and now and then glancing back toward the dear, deserted homestead.
It had been a sad winter for poor little Elsie. As the lawsuit had progressed, she had had to hear many a harsh word against her lover, which seemed all the harder because she did not know how to defend him. His doings, she admitted, did seem incomprehensible, and her father certainly had some show of justice on his side when he upbraided him as cruel, cold, and ungrateful; but, with the sweet, obstinate loyalty of a Norse maiden, she still persisted in believing him good and upright and generous. Some day it would all be cleared up, she thought, and then her triumph and her happiness would be the greater. A man who knew so many strange things, she argued in her simplicity (for her pride in his accomplishments was in direct proportion to her own inability to comprehend them), could not possibly be mean and selfish as other men.
The day had, somehow, a discontented, dubious look. Now its sombre veil was partially lifted, and something like the shadow of a smile cheered you by its promise, if not by its presence; then a great rush of light from some unexpected quarter of the heavens, and then again a sudden closing of all the sunny paths—a dismal, gray monotony everywhere. Now and then tremendous groans and long-drawn thunderous rumblings were heard issuing from the glaciers, and the ice-choked river, whose voice seldom rose above an even baritone, now boomed and brawled with the most capricious interludes of crashing, grinding, and rushing sounds.
On the pier down at the fjord stood Maurice, dressed from head to foot in flannel, and with a jaunty sailor’s hat, secured with an elastic cord under his chin. He was gazing with an air of preoccupation up toward the farm, above which the white edge of the glacier hung gleaming against the dim horizon. Above it the fog rose like a dense gray wall, hiding the destructive purpose which was even at this moment laboring within. Some minutes elapsed. Maurice grew impatient, then anxious. He pulled his note-book from his pocket, examined some pages covered with calculations, dotted a neglected i, crossed a t, and at last closed the book with a desperate air. Presently some dark figure was seen striding down the hill-side, and the black satellite, Jake, appeared, streaming with mud and perspiration.