“I’ll gladly give you all the fish I catch,” she told him, “if I’m only allowed to do the fishing myself.” So saying, she went up to the seine-maker and emptied the contents of her basket on the ground, expecting of course that he would be pleased and would praise her, just as her father—who was always pleased with everything she said or did—had always done. But the seine maker took this attention with his usual calm indifference.
“You keep what’s yours,” he said. “We’re so used to going hungry here that we can get on without your few little fishes.”
There was something out of the common about this poor old man and Glory Goldie was anxious to win his approval.
“You may take the fish of and stick the worms on the hooks, if you like,” said she, “and you can have all the tackle and everything.”
“Thanks,” returned the old man. “But I’ll not deprive you of your pleasure.”
Glory Goldie was determined not to go until she had thought out a way of satisfying him.
“Would you like me to come and call for you every morning,” she asked him, “so that we could draw up the lines together and divide the catch—you to get half, and I half?”
Then the old man stopped chopping and rested on his axe. He turned his strange, half-dead eyes toward the child, and the shadow of a smile crossed his face.
“Ah, now you put out the right bait!” he said. “That proposition I’ll not say no to.”
The little girl was certainly a marvel! When she was only ten years old she could manage even Agrippa Praestberg, the sight of whom was enough to scare almost any one out of his wits.
Agrippa had yellow red-lidded eyes, topped with bushy eyebrows, a frightful nose, and a wiry beard that stood out from his face like raised bristles. His forehead was covered with deep wrinkles and his figure was tall and ungainly. He always wore a ragged military cap.
One day when the little girl sat all by herself on the flat stone in front of the hut, eating her evening meal of buttered bread, she espied a tall man coming down the lane whom she soon recognized as Agrippa Praestberg. However, she kept her wits about her, and at once broke and doubled her slice of bread buttered side in—then slipped it under her apron.
She did not attempt to run away or to lock up the house, knowing that that would be useless with a man of his sort; but kept her seat. All she did was to pick up an unfinished stocking Katrina had left lying on the stone when starting out with Jan’s supper a while ago, and go to knitting for dear life.
She sat there as if quite calm and content, but with one eye on the gate. No, indeed, there was not a doubt about it—Agrippa intended to pay them a visit, for just then he lifted the gate latch.
The little girl moved farther back on the stone and spread out her skirt. She saw now that she would have to guard the house.