“Oh, have another wee drop, Jan!” she said. “If you hadn’t been so quick to act we would have lost a cow that’s worth her two hundred rix-dollars.”
This was followed by a dead silence, and now every one’s eyes turned toward the man of the house. All were waiting for some expression of appreciation from him.
Lars cleared his throat two or three times, as if to give added weight to what he was about to say.
“It strikes me there’s something queer about this whole business,” he began. “You all know that Jan owes two hundred rix-dollars and you also know that last spring I was offered just that sum for the cow. It seems to fit in altogether too well with Jan’s case that the cow should have gone down in the marsh to-day and that he should have rescued her.”
Lars paused and again cleared his throat. Jan rose and moved toward him; but neither he nor any of the others had an answer ready.
“I don’t know how Jan happened to be the one who heard the cow bellowing up in the marsh,” pursued Lars. “Perhaps he was nearer the scene when the mishap occurred than he would have us think. Maybe he saw a possibility of getting out of debt and deliberately drove the cow—”
Jan brought his fist down on the table with a crash that made the cups jump in their saucers.
“You judge others by yourself, you!” he said, “That’s the sort of thing you might do, but not I. You must know that I can see through your tricks. One day last winter you—”
But just when Jan was on the point of saying something that could only have ended in an irreparable break between himself and his employer, the old housewife tipped him by the coat sleeve.
“Look out, Jan!” said she.
Jan did so. Then he saw Katrina coming toward the house with a letter in her hand.
That was surely the letter from Glory Goldie which they had been longing for every day since her departure. Katrina, knowing how happy Jan would be to get this, had come straight over with it the moment it arrived.
Jan glanced about him, bewildered. Many ugly words were on the tip of his tongue, but now he had no time to give vent to them. What did he care about being revenged on Lars Gunnarson? Why should he bother to defend himself? The letter drew him away with a power that was irresistible. He was out of the house and with Katrina before the people inside had recovered from their dread of what he might have hurled at his employer in the way of accusation.
0ne evening, when Glory Goldie had been gone about a month, August Daer Nol came down to the Ashdales. August and Glory had been comrades at the Oestanby school and had been confirmed the same summer.
A fine, manly lad was August Daer Nol, and a favourite with every one. His parents were people of means and no one had a brighter or more assured future to look forward to than had he. Having been absent from home for six months, he had only learned on his return that Glory Goldie had gone away in order to earn money to save her old home. It was his mother who told him of this, and before she had finished talking he snatched up his cap and rushed out, never pausing until he had reached the gate at Ruffluck Croft; there he stopped and looked toward the hut.