For a long while Ingmar sat motionless, his head bowed. When he at last looked up, Gertrude was gone. People now came running from the farm to find him. He struck his clenched fist against the stone upon which he sat, and a look of determination came into his face.
“Gertrude and I will surely meet again,” he said. “Then maybe it will be altogether different. We Ingmarssons are known to win what we yearn for.”
Everybody tried to dissuade the Hellgumists from going to Jerusalem. And toward the last, it seemed as though the very hills and vales echoed the plea, “Do not go! Do not go!”
Even the country gentlemen did their best to get the peasants to abandon the idea. The bailiff, the judge, and the councilmen gave them no peace; they asked them how they could feel sure that these Americans were not imposters; for they had no way of knowing what sort of folk they would be getting in with. In that far Eastern country there was neither law nor order; there one was always in danger of falling into the hands of brigands. Besides, there were no decent roads in that land—all their goods would have to be transported by means of pack-horses, as in the wild forests up North.
The doctor told them they would never be able to stand the climate; that Jerusalem was full of smallpox and malignant fevers; they were going away only to die.
The Hellgumists answered that they knew all this, and it was for that very reason they were going. They were going there in order to fight the smallpox and the fevers, to build roads and to till the soil. God’s country should no longer lie waste; they would transform it into a paradise. And no one was able to turn them from their purpose.
Down in the village lived an old lady, the widow of the Dean. She was very, very old! She occupied a large chamber above the post office, just across the street from the church, where she had lived since the death of her husband.
Some of the more well-to-do peasant women had always made it a rule to drop in to see the old lady on Sundays, before the service, and bring her some freshly baked bread, a pat of butter, or a can of milk. On these occasions she would always have the coffee pot put on the fire the moment they came in, and the one who could shout the loudest always talked with her, for she was frightfully deaf. Of course they would try to tell her about everything that had happened during the week, but they could never be certain as to how much she heard of what was told her.
She never left her room, and there were times when it seemed as if people had forgotten her entirely. Then some one, in passing, would see her old face back of the draped white curtains at the window, and think: “I must not forget her in her loneliness; to-morrow when we have killed the calf, I’ll run in to see her, and take her a bit of fresh meat.”