They shouted the old man’s name and shook him; but he never stirred.
“Run back for the sled, Katrina,” said Jan, “so we can draw him home. I’ll stay here and rub him with snow till he wakes up.”
“Just so you don’t freeze to death yourself!”
“My dear Katrina,” laughed Jan, “I haven’t felt as warm as I feel now in many a day. I’m so happy about the little girl! Wasn’t it dear of her to send us out here to save the life of him who has gone around spreading so many lies about her?”
A week or two later, as Jan was returning from his work one evening, he met Agrippa Praestberg.
“I’m right and fit again,” Agrippa told him. “But I know well enough that if you and Katrina had not come to the rescue there wouldn’t have been much left of Johan Utter Agrippa Praestberg by now. So I’ve wondered what I could do for you in return.”
“Oh, don’t give that a thought my good Agrippa Praestberg!” said Jan, with that upward imperial sweep of the hand.
“Hush now, while I tell you!” spoke Praestberg. “When I said I’d thought of doing you a return service, it wasn’t just empty chatter. I meant it. And now it has already been done. The other day I ran across the travelling salesman who gave that lass of yours the red dress.”
“Who?” cried Jan, so excited he could hardly get his breath.
“That blackguard who gave the girl the red dress and who afterward sent her to the devil in Stockholm. First I gave him, on your account, all the thrashing he could take, and then I told him that the next time he showed his face around here he’d get just as big a dose of the same kind of medicine.”
Jan would not believe he had heard aright. “But what did he say?” he questioned eagerly. “Didn’t you ask him about Glory Goldie? Had he no greetings from her?”
“What could he say? He took his punishment and held his tongue. Now I’ve done you a decent turn, Jan Anderson, and we’re even. Johan Utter Agrippa Praestberg wants no unpaid scores.”
With that he strode on, leaving Jan in the middle of the road, lamenting loudly. The little girl had wanted to send him a message! That merchant had come with greetings from her, but not a thing had he learned because the man had been driven away.
Jan stood wringing his hands. He did not weep, but he ached all over worse than if he were ill. He felt certain in his own mind that Glory Goldie had wanted Praestberg to take a message from her brought by the merchant and convey it to her father. But it was with Praestberg as with the trolls—whether they wanted to help or hinder they only wrought mischief.
The first Sunday after Midsummer Day there was a grand party at the seine-maker’s to which every one in the Ashdales had been invited. The old man and his daughter-in-law were in the habit of entertaining the whole countryside on this day of each year.