Ingmar heard what she said, and he saw the bank notes—but he saw and heard as in a daze. Gertrude placed the money in his hand, but his fingers would not close over it, and it fell to the ground. Then Gertrude picked it up and stuffed it into his pocket. Ingmar stood there, reeling like a drunken man. Suddenly he raised his arm, clenched his fist tight, and shook it, just as a drunken man might have done. “My God! My God!” he groaned.
Indeed, he wished that he could have had a word with our Lord, could have asked Him why this money had not been found sooner, and why it should have turned up now when it was not needed, and when Gertrude was already lost to him. The next moment his hand dropped heavily on Gertrude’s shoulder.
“You certainly know how to take your revenge!”
“Do you call this revenge, Ingmar?” asked Gertrude, in dismay.
“What else should I call it? Why didn’t you bring me this money at once?”
“I wanted to wait until the day of your wedding.”
“If you had only come before, I’m sure I could have bought back the farm from Berger Sven Persson, and then I would have married you.”
“Yes, I knew that.”
“And yet you come on my wedding day, when it’s too late!”
“It would have been too late in any case, Ingmar. It was too late a week ago, it is too late now, and it will be too late forever.”
Ingmar had again sunk down on the stone. He covered his face with his hands and wailed:
“And I thought there was no help for it! I believed that no power on earth could have altered this; but now I find that there was a way out, that we might all have been happy.”
“Understand one thing, Ingmar: when I found the money, I knew at once that it would be the kind of help to us that you say. But it was no temptation to me—no, not for a second; for I belong to another.”
“You should have kept it yourself!” cried Ingmar. “I feel as if a wolf were gnawing at my heart. So long as I believed there was no other course open to me, it wasn’t so bad; but now that I know you could have been mine, I can’t—”
“Why Ingmar! I came here to bring you happiness.”
Meanwhile, the folks at the house had become impatient, and had gone out on the porch, where they were calling: “Ingmar! Ingmar!”
“Yes, and there’s the bride, too, waiting for me!” he said mournfully. “And to think that you, Gertrude, should have brought all this about! When I had to give you up, circumstances forced me to do so, while you have spoiled everything simply to make me unhappy. Now I know how my father felt when my mother killed the child!”
Then he broke into violent sobs. “Never have I felt toward you as I do now!” he cried passionately. “I’ve never loved you half so much as I do now. Little did I think that love could be so cruelly bitter!”
Gertrude gently placed her hand on his head. “Ingmar,” she said very quietly, “it was never, never my meaning to take revenge on you. But so long as your heart is wedded to the things of this earth, it is wedded to sorrow.”