Jan did not appear to be specially anxious to obey; whereupon Lars again raised the stick, and nothing more was needed to make Emperor Johannes of Portugallia turn and flee.
No one made a move to follow him or offered him a word of sympathy. No one called to him to come back. Indeed folks only laughed when they saw how pitilessly and unceremoniously he had been stripped of all his grandeur.
But this did not suit Lars, either. He wanted to have it as solemn at his auctions as at a church service.
“I think it’s better to talk sense to Jan than to laugh at him,” he said, reprovingly. “There are many who encourage him in his foolishness and who even call him Emperor. But that is hardly the right way to treat him. It would be far better to make him understand who and what he is, even though he doesn’t like it. I have been his employer for some little time, therefore it is my bounden duty to see that he goes back to his work; otherwise he’ll soon be a charge on the parish.”
After that Lars held a good auction, with close and high bids. The satisfaction which he now felt was not lessened when on his homecoming the next day, he learned that Jan of Ruffluck had again put on his working clothes, and gone back to his digging.
“We must never remind him of his madness,” Lars Gunnarson warned his people, “then perhaps his reason will be spared to him. Anyhow, he has never had more than he needs.”
THE CATECHETICAL MEETING
Lars Gunnarson was decidedly pleased with himself for having taken the cap and stick away from Jan; it looked as if he had at the same time relieved the peasant of his mania.
A fortnight after the auction at Bergvik a catechetical meeting was held at Falla. People had gathered there from the whole district round about Dove Lake, the Ruffluck folk being among them. There was nothing in Jan’s manner or bearing now that would lead one to think he was not in his right mind.
All the benches and chairs in the house had been moved into the large room on the ground floor and arranged in close rows, and there sat every one who was to be catechized, including Jan; for to-day he had not pushed his way up to a better seat than he was entitled to. Lars kept his eyes on Jan. He had to admit to himself that the man’s insanity had apparently been checked. Jan behaved now like any rational being; he was very quiet and all who greeted him received only a stiff nod in response, which may have been due to a desire on his part not to disturb the spirit of the meeting.
The regular meeting was preceded by a roll call, and when the pastor called out “Jan Anderson of Ruffluck Croft,” the latter answered “here” without the slightest hesitation—as if Emperor Johannes of Portugallia had never existed.
The clergyman sat at a table at the far end of the room, with the big church registry in front of him. Beside him sat Lars Gunnarson, enlightening him as to who had moved away from the district within the year, and who had married.