When the sexton had finished with Jan, the latter turned to him, and said:
“The li’l’ lassie is so still now that maybe you can try it.”
The sexton tried, and this time everything went well. The little girl was as quiet as a mouse the whole time—the same knowing look in her eyes. The sexton also kept silence until he had finished; then he said to the father:
“If you did that only to calm the child, we could just as well have made believe—”
“No, Sexton,” said Jan, “then you would not have succeeded. You never saw the like of that child! So don’t imagine you can get her to believe in something that isn’t what it passes for.”
On the little girl’s first birthday her father was out digging in the field at Falla; he tried to recall to mind how it had been in the old days, when he had no one to think about while at work in the held; when he did not have the beating heart in him, and when he had no longings and was never anxious.
“To think that a man can be like that!” he mused in contempt of his old self. “If I were as rich as Eric of Falla or as strong as Boerje, who digs here beside me, it would be as nothing to having a throbbing heart in your breast. That’s the only thing that counts.”
Glancing over at his comrade, a powerfully built fellow who could do again as much work as himself, he noticed that to-day the man had not gone ahead as rapidly as usual with the digging.
They worked by the job. Boerje always took upon himself more work than did Jan, yet they always finished at about the same time. That day, however, it went slowly for Boerje; he did not even keep up with Jan, but was left far behind.
But then Jan had been working for all he was worth, that he might the sooner get back to his little girl. That day he had longed for her more than usual. She was always drowsy evenings; so unless he hurried home early, he was likely to find her asleep for the night when he got home.
When Jan had completed his work he saw that Boerje was not even half through. Such a thing had never happened before in all the years they had worked together, and Jan was so astonished he went over to him.
Boerje was standing deep down in the ditch, trying to loosen a clump of sod. He had stepped on a piece of glass, and received an ugly gash on the bottom of his foot, so that he could hardly step on it. Imagine the torture of having to stand and push the spade into the soil with an injured foot!
“Aren’t you going to quit soon?” asked Jan.
“I’m obliged to finish this job to-day,” replied the comrade. “I can’t get any grain from Eric of Falia till the work is done, and we’re all out of rye-meal.”
“Then go’-night for to-day,” said Jan.
Boerje did not respond. He was too tired and done up to give even the customary good-night salutation.