“How can I go to church and how can I be seen among people when I’m so poor I haven’t even a hut to live in?”
Jan was thinking of something else. He called to mind all the beautiful memories associated with the hut. It was here, near the table, the midwife had laid the child in his arms. It was over there, in the doorway, he had stood when the sun peeped out through the clouds to name the little girl. The hut was one with himself; with Katrina; with Glory Goldie. It could never be lost to them.
He saw Glory Goldie clench her fist, and felt that she would come to their aid very soon.
Presently Lars Gunnarson and the shopkeeper’s clerk got up and moved toward the door. When they left they said “good-bye,” but not one of the three who remained in the hut rose or returned the salutation.
The moment the men were gone the young girl, with a proud toss of her head, sprang to her feet.
“If you would only let me go out in the world!” she said.
Katrina suddenly ceased mumbling and wringing her hands. Glory Goldie’s words had awakened in her a faint hope.
“It shouldn’t be so very difficult to earn a couple of hundred rix-dollars between now and the first of October,” said the girl. “This is only midsummer, so it’s three whole months till then. If you will let me go to Stockholm and take service there, I promise you the house shall remain in your keeping.”
When Jan of Ruffluck heard these words he grew ashen. His head sank back as if he were about to swoon. How dear of the little girl! he thought. It was for this he had waited the whole time—yet how, how could he ever bear to let her go away from him?
Jan of Ruffluck walked along the forest road where he and his womenfolk, happy and content, had passed on the way home from church a few hours earlier.
He and Katrina, after long deliberation, had decided that before sending their daughter away or doing anything else in this matter that Jan had better see Senator Carl Carlson of Storvik and ask him whether Lars Gunnarson had the right to take the hut from them.
There was no one in the whole of Svartsjoe Parish who was so well versed in the law and the statutes as was the senator from Storvik, and those who had the good sense to seek his advice in matters of purchase and sale, in making appraisals, or setting up an auction, or drawing up a will, could rest assured that everything would be done in a correct and legal manner and that afterward there was no fear of their becoming involved in lawsuits or other entanglements.
The senator was a stern and masterful man, brusque of manner and harsh of voice, and Jan was none too pleased at the thought of having to talk with him.
“The first thing he’ll do when I come to him will be to read me a lecture because I’ve got no papers,” thought Jan. “He has scared some folks so badly at the very start that they never dared tell him what they had come to consult him about.”