“You cur!” cried August. “You knew well enough that he couldn’t stand hearing the truth. You can’t have any heart in your body!”
This much Jan heard, but as anything in the way of fighting or quarrelling was contrary to his nature, he went on up the hill, without mixing in the fray.
But strangely enough, when he was out of every one’s sight an uncontrollable spell of weeping came over him. He did not know why he wept, but probably his tears were of joy at having cleared up the mystery. He felt now as if his little girl had come back to him.
The first Sunday in September the worshippers at Svartsjoe church had a surprise in store for them.
There was a wide gallery in the church extending clear across the nave. The first row of pews in this gallery had always been occupied by the gentry—the gentlemen on the right side and the ladies on the left—as far back as can be remembered. All the seats in the church were free, so that other folk were not debarred from sitting there, if they so wished; but of course it would never have occurred to any poor cotter to ensconce himself in that row of pews.
In the old days Jan had thought the occupants of this particular bench a delight to the eye. Even now he was willing to concede that the superintendent from Doveness, the lieutenant from Loevdala, and the engineer from Borg were fine men who made a good appearance. But they were as nothing to the grandeur which folks beheld that day. For anything like a real emperor had never before been seen in the gentry’s bench.
But now there sat at the head of this bench just such a great personage, his hands resting on a long silver-mounted stick, his head crowned with a high, green leather cap, while on his waistcoat glittered two large stars, one like gold, the other like silver.
When the organ began to play the processional hymn the Emperor lifted up his voice in song. For an emperor is obliged to sing out, loud and clear, when at church, even if he cannot follow the melody or sing in tune. Folks are glad to hear him in any case.
The gentlemen at his left now and then turned and stared at him. Who could wonder at that? It was probably the first time they had had so exalted a personage among them.
He had to remove his hat, of course, for that is something which even an emperor must do when attending divine service; but he kept it on as long as possible, that all might feast their eyes on it.
And many of the worshippers who sat in the body of the church had their eyes turned up toward the gallery that Sunday. Their thoughts seemed to be on him more than on the sermon. They were perhaps a little surprised that he had become so exalted. But surely they could understand that one who was father to an empress must himself be an emperor. Anything else was impossible.