“I asked the folks down at Falla to let me take these to you,” she explained. “I told them that come what might it was better for you to have them again than to have you lose all interest in life.”
“The dear little girl, the great Empress, isn’t she wonderful!” Jan said to himself. No sooner had he come to a realization of his sin and promised to atone for it, than she again granted him her grace and her favour.
He had such a marvellous feeling of lightness, as if a great weight had been lifted from him. The firmament had raised itself and let in air, at the same time drawing away the excessive heat. He was able to sit up now and fumble for the imperial regalia.
“Now you can have them for good and all,” said Katrina. “There’ll be no one to come and take them away from you, for Lars Gunnarson is dead.”
THE EMPEROR’S CONSORT
Katrina of Ruffluck Croft came into the kitchen at Loevdala Manor with some spun wool. Lady Liljecrona herself received the yarn, weighed it, paid for it, and commended the old woman for her excellent work.
“It’s fortunate for you, Katrina, that you are such a good worker,” said Lady Liljecrona. “I dare say you have to earn the living for both yourself and the husband nowadays.”
Katrina drew herself up a bit and two pink spots came into her face, just over the sharp cheekbones.
“Jan does his best,” she retorted, “but he has never had the strength of a common labourer.”
“At any rate, he doesn’t seem to be working now,” said Lady Liljecrona. “I have heard that he only runs about from place to place, showing his stars and singing.”
Lady Liljecrona was a serious-minded and dutiful woman who liked industrious and capable folk like Katrina of Ruffluck. She had sympathy for her and wanted to show it. But Katrina continued to stand up for her husband.
“He is old and has had much sorrow these last years. He has need of a little freedom, after a lifetime of hard toil.”
“It’s well you can take your misfortune so calmly,” observed Lady Liljecrona somewhat sharply. “But I really think that you, with your good sense, should try to take out of Jan the ridiculous nonsense that has got into his head. You see, if this is allowed to go on it will end in his being shut up in a madhouse.”
Now Katrina squared her shoulders and looked highly indignant.
“Jan is not crazy,” she said. “But Our Lord has placed a shade before his eyes so he’ll not have to see what he couldn’t bear seeing. And for that one can only feel thankful.”
Lady Liljecrona did not wish to appear contentious. She thought it only right and proper for a wife to stand by her husband.
“Then, Katrina, everything is all right as it is,” she said pleasantly. “And don’t forget that here you will find work enough to keep you going the year around.”