Petter Nord sat up in bed. He looked all of a sudden pitifully weak and small. His tears were streaming. He wailed aloud.
“Uncle,” said Edith, “he is weeping.”
“Let him weep,” said Halfvorson, “let him weep!” And he walked forward and looked at the boy. “You can weep all you like,” he said, “but that does not take me in.”
“Oh, oh,” cried Petter Nord, “I am no thief. I hid the note as a joke—to make you angry. I wanted to pay you back for the mice. I am not a thief. Will no one listen to me. I am not a thief.”
“Uncle,” said Edith, “if you have tortured him enough now, perhaps we may go back to bed?”
“I know, of course, that it sounds terrible,” said Halfvorson, “but it cannot be helped.” He was gay, in very high spirits. “I have had my eye on you for a long time,” he said to the boy. “You have always something you are tucking away when I come into the shop. But now I have caught you. Now I leave witnesses, and now I am going for the police.”
The boy gave a piercing scream. “Will no one help me, will no one help me?” he cried. Halfvorson was gone, and the old woman who managed his house came up to him.
“Get up and dress yourself, Petter Nord! Halforson has gone for the police, and while he is away you can escape. The young lady can go out into the kitchen and get you a little food. I will pack your things.”
The terrible weeping instantly ceased. After a short tine of hurry the boy was ready. He kissed both the women on the hand, humbly, like a whipped dog. And then off he ran.
They stood in the door and looked after him. When he was gone, they drew a sigh of relief.
“What will Halfvorson say?” said Edith.
“He will be glad,” answered the housekeeper.
“He put the money there for the boy, I think. I guess that he wanted to be rid of him.”
“But why? The boy was the best one we have had in the shop for many years.”
“He probably did not want him to give testimony in the affair with the brandy.”
Edith stood silent and breathed quickly. “It is so base, so base,” she murmured. She clenched her fist towards the office and towards the little pane in the door, through which Halfvorson could see into the shop. She would have liked, she too, to have fled out into the world, away from all this meanness. She heard a sound far in, in the shop. She listened, went nearer, followed the noise, and at last found behind a keg of herring the cage of Petter Nord’s white mice.
She took it up, put it on the counter, and opened the cage door. Mouse after mouse scampered out and disappeared behind boxes and barrels.
“May you flourish and increase,” said Edith. “May you do injury and revenge your master!”
The little town lay friendly and contented under its red hill. It was so embedded in green that the church tower only just stuck up out of it. Garden after garden crowded one another on narrow terraces up the slope, and when they could go no further in that direction, they leaped with their bushes and trees across the street and spread themselves out between the scattered farmhouses and on the narrow strips of earth about them, until they were stopped by the broad river.