Jan of Ruffluck walked to the edge of the field; but there he halted.
“What does it matter to the little girl whether or not you come home for her birthday?” he thought. “She’s just as well off without you. But Boerje has seven kiddies at home, and no food for them. Shall you let them starve so that you can go home and play with Glory Goldie?”
Then he wheeled round, walked back to Boerje, and got down into the ditch to help him. Jan was rather tired after his day’s toil and could not work very fast. It was almost dark when they got through.
“Glory Goldie must be asleep this long while,” thought Jan, when he finally put in the spade for the last bit of earth.
“Go’-night for to-day,” he called back to Boerje for the second time.
“Go’-night,” returned Boerje, “and thanks to you for the help. Now I must hurry along and get my rye. Another time I’ll give you a lift, be sure of that!”
“I don’t want any pay ... Go’-night!”
“Don’t you want anything for helping me?” asked Boerje. “What’s come over you, that you’re so stuck-up all at once?”
“Well, you see, it’s—it’s the lassie’s birthday to-day.”
“And for that I got help with my digging?”
“Yes, for that and for something else, too! Well—good bye to you!”
Jan hurried away so as not to be tempted to explain what that something else was. It had been on the tip of his tongue to say: “To-day is not only Glory Goldie’s birthday, but it’s also the birthday of my heart.”
It was as well, perhaps, that he did not say it, for Boerje would surely have thought Jan had gone out of his mind.
Christmas morning Jan took the little girl along with him to church; she was then just one year and four months old.
Katrina thought the girl rather young to attend church and feared she would set up a howl, as she had dime at the vaccination bee; but inasmuch as it was the custom to take the little ones along to Christmas Matins, Jan had his own way.
So at five o’clock on Christmas Morn they all set out. It was pitch dark and cloudy, but not cold; in fact the air was almost balmy, and quite still, as it usually is toward the end of December.
Before coming to an open highway, they had to walk along a narrow winding path, through fields and groves in the Ashdales, then take the steep winter-road across Snipa Ridge.
The big farmhouse at Falla, with lighted candles at every window, stood out as a beacon to the Ruffluck folk, so that they were able to find their way to Boerje’s hut; there they met some of their neighbours, bearing torches they had prepared on Christmas Eve. Each torch-bearer led a small group of people most of whom followed in silence; but all were happy; they felt that they, too, like the Wise Men of old, were following a star, in quest of the new-born King.