The visit at the big house was not a long one. In less than an hour after their arrival, Jan and the little girl were crossing the house-yard toward the gate. But at the gate Jan stopped and glanced back, as if half-minded to go in again.
He certainly had no reason to regret his call. Both he and the child had been well received. Bjoern Hindrickson’s wife had taken the little girl over to the blue cupboard, and given her a cookie and a lump of sugar, and Bjoern Hindrickson himself had asked her name and her age; whereupon he had opened his big leather purse and presented her with a bright new sixpence.
Jan had been served with coffee, and his aunt had asked after Katrina and had wondered whether they kept a cow or a pig, and if their hut was cold in winter and if the wages Jan received from Eric of Falla were sufficient for their needs.
No, there was nothing about the visit itself that troubled Jan. When he had chatted a while with the Hindricksons they had excused themselves—which was quite proper—saying they were invited to a tea that afternoon and would be leaving in half an hour. Jan had risen at once and said good-bye, knowing they must allow themselves time to dress. Then his aunt had gone into the pantry and had brought out butter and bacon, had filled a little bag with barley, and another with flour, and had tied them all into a single parcel, which she had put into Jan’s hand at parting. It was just a little something for Katrina, she had said. She should have some recompense for staying at home to look after the house.
It was this parcel Jan stood there pondering over. He knew that in the bundle were all sorts of good things to eat, the very things they longed for at every meal at Ruffluck, still he felt it would be unfair to the little girl to keep it.
He had not come to the Hindricksons as a beggar, but simply to see his kinsfolk. He did not wish them to entertain any false notions as to that. This thought had come to him instantly the parcel was handed to him, but his regard for the Hindricksons was so great that he would not have dared refuse it.
Now, turning back from the gate, he walked over to the barn and put the parcel down near the door, where the housefolk constantly passed and would be sure to see it.
He was sorry to have to leave it. But his little girl was no beggar! Nobody must think that she and her father went about asking alms.
When the little girl was six years old Jan went along with her to the Oestanby school one day, to listen to the examinations.
This being the first and only schoolhouse the parish boasted, naturally every one was glad that at last a long-felt want had been met. In the old days Sexton Blackie had no choice but to go about from farmhouse to farmhouse with his pupils.
Up until the year 1860, when the Oestanby school was built, the sexton had been compelled to change classrooms every other week, and many a time he and his little pupils had sat in a room where the housewife prepared meals and the man of the house worked at a carpenter’s bench; where the old folk lay abed all day and the chickens were cooped under the sofa.