And room was made, too, though the table seemed to be crowded enough already.
Jan was placed at the centre of the horseshoe, directly opposite the pastor. He could not have wished for anything better. At first he seemed a little dazed. He could not comprehend why they should make such fuss over him just because he had run a few miles into the woods with a message for Linnart Hindrickson, Suddenly he understood, and all became clear to him: it was the Emperor they wished to honour; they had gone about it in this way so that no one should feel slighted or put out. It couldn’t be explained in any other way. For he had always been kind and good-natured and helpful, yet never before had he been honoured or feted in the least degree for that.
Engineer Boraeus on his daily stroll to the pier could not fail to notice the crowds that always gathered nowadays around the little old man from Ruffluck Croft. Jan did not have to sit all by himself any more and while away the long, dreary hours in silent musings, as he had done during the summer. Instead, all who waited for the boat went up to him to hear him tell what would happen on the homecoming of the Empress, more especially when she stepped ashore here, at the Borg landing. Every time Engineer Boraeus went by he heard about the crown of gold the Empress would wear on her hair and the gold flowers that would spring into bloom on tree and bush the instant she set foot on land.
One day, late in October, about three months after Jan of Ruffluck had first proclaimed the tidings of Glory Goldie’s rise to royal honours, the engineer saw an uncommonly large gathering of people around the little old man. He intended to pass by with a curt greeting, as usual, but changed his mind and stopped to see what was going on.
At first glance he found nothing out of the ordinary, Jan was seated upon one of the waiting stones, as usual, looking very solemn and important. Beside him sat a tall, thin woman, who was talking so fast and excitedly that the words fairly spurted out of her mouth; she shook her head and snapped her eyes, her body bending forward all the while so that by the time she had finished speaking her face was on a level with the ground.
Engineer Boraeus immediately recognized the woman as Mad Ingeborg. At first he could not make out what she was saying, so he turned to a man in the crowd and asked him what all this was about.
“She’s begging him to arrange for her to accompany the Empress to Portgallia, when Her Royal Highness returns thither,” the man explained. “She has been talking to him about this for a good while now, but he won’t make her any promises.”
Then the engineer had no difficulty in following the colloquy. But what he heard did not please him, and, as he listened, the wrinkle between his eyebrows deepened and reddened.