“It will come, it will come!” the Hellgumists shouted.
“You don’t answer me!” screamed the old woman in a frenzy.
“Dear Eva, we can’t take you along if God doesn’t call you!” the Hellgumists protested. “But the call will come, never fear.”
Then the old dame suddenly rose from her kneeling attitude, straightened her rickety old body, and brought her cane down on the floor with a thud. “You people mean to go away and leave me to perish!” she thundered. “Yes, yes, yes, you mean to go and let me perish!” She had become furiously angry, and once more they saw before them Eva Gunnersdotter as she had been in her younger days— strong and passionate and fiery.
“I want nothing more to do with you!” she shrieked. “I don’t want to be saved by you. Fie upon you! You would abandon wife and children, father and mother, to save yourselves. Fie! You’re a parcel of idiots to be leaving your good farms. You’re a lot of misguided fools running after false prophets, that’s what you are! It’s upon you that fire and brimstone will rain. It is you who must perish. But we who remain at home, we shall live.”
At dusk, on this same beautiful February day, two young lovers stood talking together in the road. The youth had just driven down from the forest with a big log, which was so heavy that the horse could hardly pull it. All the same he had driven in a roundabout way so that the log might be hauled through the village and past the big white schoolhouse.
The horse had been halted in front of the school, and a young woman had come out to have a look at the log. She couldn’t seem to say enough in praise of it—how long and thick it was, and how straight, and what a lovely tan bark it had, and how firm the wood was, and how flawless!
The young man then told her very impressively that it had been grown on a moor far north of Olaf’s Peak, and when he had felled it, and how long it had been lying in the forest to dry out. He told her exactly how many inches it measured, both in circumference and diameter.
“But, Ingmar,” she said, “it is only the first!”
Pleased as she was, the thought that Ingmar had been five years getting down the first bit of timber toward the building of their new home made her feel uneasy. But Ingmar seemed to think that all difficulties had now been met.
“Just you wait, Gertrude!” he said. “If I can only get the timber hauled while the roads are passable, we’ll soon have the house up.”
It was turning bitterly cold. The horse stood there all of a shiver, shaking its head and stamping its hoofs, its mane and forelock white with hoar frost. But the youth and the maid did not feel the cold. They kept themselves warm by building their house, in imagination, from cellar to attic. When they had got the house done, they set about to furnish it.