There were sons of landed proprietors who declared that if this girl had been of less humble origin they would have proposed to her then and there. And there were daughters of landed proprietors—some of them heiresses—who said to themselves that they would have given half of their possessions for a face as rosy and young and radiant with health as hers.
That Sunday the Dean of Bro preached at the Svartsjoe church, instead of the regular pastor. The dean was an austere, old fashioned divine who could not abide extravagance in any form, whether in dress or other things.
Seeing the young girl in the bright red frock he must have thought she was arrayed in silk, for immediately after the service he told the sexton to call the girl and her parents, as he wished to speak with them. Even he noticed that the girl and the dress went well together, but for all that he was none the less displeased.
“My child,” he said, laying his hand on Glory Goldie’s shoulder, “I have something I want to say to you. Nobody could prevent me from wearing the vestments of a bishop, if I so wished; but I never do it because I don’t want to appear to be something more than what I am. For the same reason you should not dress as though you were a young lady of quality, when you are only the daughter of a poor crofter.”
These were cutting words, and poor Glory Goldie was so dismayed she could not answer. But Katrina promptly informed him that the girl had received the cloth as a gift.
“Be that as it may,” spoke the dean. “But parents, can’t you comprehend that if you allow your daughter to array herself once or twice in this fashion she will never again want to put on the kind of clothes you are able to provide for her?”
Now that the dean had spoken his mind in plain words he turned away; but before he was out of earshot Jan was ready with a retort.
“If this little girl could be clothed as befits her, she would be as gorgeous as the sun itself,” said he. “For a sunbeam of joy she has been to us since the day she was born.”
The dean came back and regarded the trio thoughtfully. Both Katrina and Jan looked old and toil worn, but the eyes in their furrowed faces shone when they turned them toward the radiant young being standing between them.
Then the dean felt it would be a shame to mar the happiness of these two old people. Addressing himself to the young girl, he said in a mild voice:
“If it is true that you have been a light and a comfort to your poor parents, then you may well wear your fine dress with a good grace. For a child that can bring happiness to her father and mother is the best sight that our eyes may look upon.”
THE NEW MASTER
When the Ruffluck family came home from church the Sunday the dean had spoken so beautifully to Glory Goldie they found two men perched on their fence, close to the gate. One of the men was Lars Gunnarson, who had become master of Falla after Eric’s death, the other was a clerk from the store down at Broby, where Katrina bought her coffee and sugar.