Here sat the only person in the world, save Jan himself, who believed in the wonders of Portugallia, yet she was denied the pleasure of a trip there. The poor old soul knew that in that kingdom there was no poverty and no hunger, neither were there any rude people who made fun of unfortunates, nor any children who pursued lone, helpless wanderers and cast stones at them. In that land reigned only peace, and all years were good years. So thither she longed to be taken—away from the anguish and misery of her wretched existence. She wept and pleaded, employing every argument she could think of, but “No,” and again “No” was the only answer she got.
And he who turned a deaf ear to her prayers was one who had sorrowed and yearned for a whole year. A few months ago, when his heart was still athrob with life, perhaps he would not have said no to her pleadings; but now at a time when everything seemed to be prospering with him, his heart had become hardened. Even the outward appearance of the man showed that a great change had taken place within. He had acquired plump cheeks, a double chin, and a heavy black moustache. His eyes bulged from their sockets, and there was a cold fixed stare about them. His nose, too, looked more prominent than of yore and had taken on a more patrician mold. His hair seemed to be entirely gone; not one hair stuck out from under the leather cap.
The engineer had kept an eye on the man from the day of their first talk in the summer. It was no longer an intense yearning that made Jan haunt the pier. Now he hardly glanced toward the boat. He came only to meet people who humoured his mania, who called him “Emperor” just for the sport of hearing him sing and narrate his wild fancies.
But why be annoyed at that? thought the engineer. The man was a lunatic of course. But perhaps the madness need never have become so firmly fixed as it was then. If some one had ruthlessly yanked Jan of Ruffluck down off his imperial throne in the beginning possibly he could have been saved.
The engineer flashed the man a challenging glance. Jan looked condescendingly regretful, but remained adamant as before.
In that fine land of Portugallia there were only princes and generals, to be sure—only richly dressed people. Mad Ingeborg in her old cotton headshawl and her knit jacket would naturally be out of place there. But Heavenly Father! the engineer actually thought—
Engineer Boraeus looked just then as if he would have liked to give Jan a needed lesson, but he only shrugged his shoulders. He knew he was not the right person for that, and would simply make bad worse. Quietly withdrawing from the crowd, he walked down to the end of the pier just as the boat hove into view from behind the nearest point.
Long before his marriage to Anna Ericsdotter of Falla, Lars Gunnarson happened one day to be present at an auction sale.