“I verily believe the old man is keeping close watch of me in this matter,” he thought. “He must have sent Brita’s father here to show me how mean it is to try to shift everything on to her, poor girl! I guess he must have noticed that I haven’t had any great desire to take that journey these last few days.”
Ingmar got up, poured some brandy into his coffee, and raised the cup.
“Here’s a thank you to the senator for coming here to-day,” he said, and clinked cups with him.
Ingmar had been busy all the morning, working around the birches down by the gate. First he had put up a scaffolding, then he had bent the tops of the trees toward each other so that they formed an arch.
“What’s all that for?” asked Mother Martha.
“Oh, it suits my fancy to have them grow that way for a change,” said Ingmar.
Along came the noon hour, and the men folks stopped their work; after the midday meal the farm hands went out into the yard and lay down in the grass to sleep. Ingmar Ingmarsson slept, too, but he was lying in a broad bed in the chamber off the living-room. The only person not asleep was the old mistress, who sat in the big room, knitting.
The door to the entrance hall was cautiously opened, and in came an old woman carrying two large baskets on a yoke. After passing the time of day, she sat down on a chair by the door and took the lids off the baskets, one of which was filled with rusks and buns, the other with newly baked loaves of spiced bread. The housewife at once went over to the old woman and began to bargain. Ordinarily she kept a tight fist on the pennies, but she never could resist a temptation to indulge her weakness for sweets to dip in her coffee.
While selecting her cakes she began to chat with the old woman, who, like most persons that go from place to place and know many people, was a ready talker. “Kaisa, you’re a sensible person,” said Mother Martha, “and one can rely on you.”
“Yes, indeed,” said the other. “If I didn’t know enough to keep mum about most of the things I hear, there’d be some fine hair-pulling matches, I’m thinking!”
“But sometimes you are altogether too close-mouthed, Kaisa.”
The old woman looked up; the inference was quite plain to her.
“May the Lord forgive me!” she said tearfully, “but I talked to the senator’s wife at Bergskog when I should have come straight to you.”
“So you have been talking to the senator’s wife!” And the emphasis given to the last two words spoke volumes.
Ingmar had been startled from his sleep by the opening of the outside door. No one had come in, apparently; still the door stood ajar. He did not know whether it had sprung open or whether some one had opened it. Too sleepy to get up, he settled back in bed. And then he heard talking in the outer room.