The woodshed was attached to the house itself. As he listened, he heard one peep after the other from within, and knew, of course, what that meant. Then, for a long while he sat very still, feeling neither glad nor sorry. Finally he said, with a little shrug:
“So it’s here at last! And now, for the love of God, they might let me slip in to warm myself!”
But that comfort was not to be his so soon! There were more hours of waiting ahead of him.
The rain still came down in sheets and the wind increased. Though only the latter part of August, it was as disagreeable as a November day. To cap the climax, he fell to brooding over something that made him even more wretched. He felt that he was being slighted and set aside.
“There are three womenfolk, beside the midwife, in there with Katrina,” he murmured. “One of them, at least, might have taken the trouble to come and tell me whether it’s a boy or a girl.”
He could hear them bustling about, as they made up a fire, and saw them run out to the well to fetch water, but of his existence no one seemed to be aware.
Of a sudden he clapped his hands to his eyes and began to rock himself backward and forward. “My dear Jan Anderson,” he said in his mind, “what’s wrong with you? Why does everything go against you? Why must you always have such a dull time of it? And why couldn’t you have married some good-looking young girl, instead of that ugly old Katrina from Falla?”
He was so unspeakably wretched! Even a few tears trickled down between his fingers. “Why are you made so little of in the parish, my good Jan Anderson? Why should you always be pushed back for others? You know there are those who are just as poor as yourself and whose work is no better than yours; but no one gets put down the way you do. What can be the matter with you, my dear Jan Anderson?”
These were queries he had often put to himself, though in vain, and he had no hope of finding the answer to them now, either. After all, perhaps there was nothing wrong with him? Perhaps the only explanation was that both God and his fellowmen were unfair to him?
When that thought came to him, he took his hands from before his eyes and tried to put on a bold face.
“If you’re ever again allowed inside your own house, my good Jan Anderson, you mustn’t so much as glance toward the young one, but march yourself straight over to the fireplace and sit down, without saying a word. Or, suppose you get right up and walk away! You don’t have to sit here any longer now that you know it’s over with. Suppose you show Katrina and the rest of the womenfolk that you’re not a man to be trifled with. ... "
He was just on the point of rising, when the mistress of Falla appeared in the doorway of the woodshed, and, with a charming curtsy, bade him come inside to have a peep at the infant.
Had it been any one else than the mistress of Falla herself that had invited him in, it is doubtful whether he would have gone at all, angry as he was. Her he had to follow, of course, but he took his own time about it. He tried to assume the air and bearing of Eric of Falla, when the latter strode across the floor of the town hall to deposit his vote in the ballot-box, and succeeded remarkably well in looking quite as solemn and important.