And then he wrote his middle name.
“But this,” he thought as he moved the pen for the third time, “why do I write this?” Then, all at once, his hand began to move, as of itself, up and down the page, leaving great black streaks upon the hateful document. “This I do because I’m an old man and must go on tilling the soil—go on plowing and sowing in the place where I have always worked and slaved.”
Hoek Matts Ericsson looked rather sheepish when he turned to the manager and showed him the paper.
“You’ll have to excuse me, sir,” he said. “It really was my intention to part with my property, but when it came to the scratch, I couldn’t do it.”
One day in May there was an auction sale at the Ingmar Farm, and what a perfect day it was!—quite as warm as in the summertime. The men had all discarded their long white sheepskin coats and were wearing their short jackets; the women already went about in the loose-sleeved white blouses which belonged with their summer dress.
The schoolmaster’s wife was getting ready to attend the auction. Gertrude did not care to go, and Storm was too busy with his class work. When Mother Stina was all ready to start, she opened the door to the schoolroom, and nodded a good-bye to her husband. Storm was then telling the children the story of the destruction of the great city of Nineveh, and the look on his face was so stern and threatening that the poor youngsters were almost frightened to death.
Mother Stina, on her way to the Ingmar Farm, stopped whenever she came to a hawthorn in bloom, or a hillock decked with white, sweet-scented lilies of the valley.
“Where could you find anything lovelier than this,” she thought, “even if you were to go as far away as Jerusalem?”
The schoolmaster’s wife, like many others, had come to love the old parish more than ever since the Hellgumists had called it a second Sodom and wanted to abandon it. She plucked a few of the tiny wild flowers that grew by the roadside, and gazed at them almost tenderly. “If we were as bad as they try to make us out,” she mused, “it would be an easy matter for God to destroy us. He need only let the cold continue and keep the ground covered with snow. But when our Lord allows the spring and the flowers to return, He must at least think us fit to live.”
When Mother Stina finally reached the Ingmar Farm she halted and glanced round timidly. “I think I’ll go back,” she said to herself. “I could never standby and see this dear old home broken up.” But all the same she was far too curious to find out what was to be done with the farm to turn back.