“We’ll put the sofa over against the long wall here in the living-room,” Ingmar decided.
“But I don’t know that we’ve got any sofa,” said Gertrude.
The young man bit his lip. He had not meant to tell her, until some time later, that he had a sofa in readiness at the cabinetmaker’s shop; but now he had unwittingly let out the secret.
Then Gertrude, too, came out with something which she had kept from him for five years. She told him that she had made up hair into ornaments and had woven fancy ribbons for sale, and with the money she had earned in this way she had bought all sorts of household things—pots and pans, platters and dishes, sheets and pillow slips, table covers and rugs.
Ingmar was so pleased over what Gertrude had accomplished that he could not seem to commend her enough. In the middle of his praises he broke off abruptly and gazed at her in speechless adoration. He thought it was too good to be true that anything so sweet and so beautiful would some day be his very own.
“Why do you look at me so strangely?” asked the girl.
“I’m just thinking that the best of it all is that you will be mine.”
Gertrude could not say anything, but she ran her hand caressingly over the big log which was to form a portion of the wall of that house in which she and Ingmar were to live. She felt that protection and love were in store for her, for the man she was going to marry was good and wise, noble and faithful.
Just then an old woman passed by. She walked rapidly, muttering to herself, as if terribly incensed over something: “Aye, aye, their happiness shall last no longer than from daybreak to rosy dawn. When the trial comes, their faith will be broken as though it were a rope spun from moss, and their lives shall be as a long darkness.”
“Surely she can’t mean us!” said the young girl.
“How could that apply to us?” laughed the young man.
It was the day after the meeting of the Hellgumists, and a Saturday. A blizzard was raging. The pastor, who had been called to the bedside of a sick person who lived way up at the north end of the great forest, was driving homeward late in the evening under great difficulties. His horse sank deep in the snowdrifts, and the sledge was time after time on the point of being upset. Both the pastor and his hired man were continually getting out to kick away the snow for a path. Happily it was not very dark. The moon came rolling out from behind the snow clouds, big and full, shedding its silvery light upon the ground. Glancing upward, the pastor noticed that the air was thick with whirling and flying snowflakes.
In some places they made their way quite easily. There were short stretches of road where the flying snow had not settled, and others where the snow was deep, but loose and even. The really troublesome thing was trying to get over the ground where the drifts were piled so high that one could not even look over them, and where they were obliged to turn from the road, and to drive across fields and hedges, at the risk of being dumped into a ditch or having the horse spiked on a fence rail.