“At last they had succeeded in finding the crofter. Big Ingmar glanced away from the children with a sigh of relief when he heard Strong Ingmar’s heavy step in the hallway. And when his friend came over to the bedside, he took his hand and patted it gently, saying: ’Do you remember the time when you and I stood on the bridge and saw heaven open?’ ’As if I could ever forget that night when we two had a vision of Paradise!’ Strong Ingmar responded. Then Big Ingmar turned toward him, his face beaming as if he had the most glorious news to impart. ‘Now I’m going there,’ he said. Then the crofter bent over him and looked straight into his eyes. ’I shall come after,’ he said. Big Ingmar nodded. ’But you know I cannot come before your son returns from the pilgrimage.’ ‘Yes, yes, I know,’ Big Ingmar whispered. Then he drew in a few deep breaths and, before we knew it, he was gone.”
The schoolmaster and his wife thought, with the pastor, that it was a beautiful death. All three of them sat profoundly silent for a long while.
“But what could Strong Ingmar have meant,” asked Mother Stina abruptly, “when he spoke of the pilgrimage?”
The pastor looked up, somewhat perplexed. “I don’t know,” he replied. “Big Ingmar died just after that was said, and I have not had time to ponder it.” He fell to thinking, then he spoke kind of half to himself: “It was a strange sort of thing to say, you’re right about that, Mother Stina.”
“You know, of course, that it has been said of Strong Ingmar that he can see into the future?” she said reflectively.
The pastor sat stroking his forehead in an effort to collect his thoughts. “The ways of Providence cannot be reasoned out by the finite mind,” he mused. “I cannot fathom them, yet seeking to know them is the most satisfying thing in all the world.”
Autumn had come and school was again open. One morning, when the children were having their recess, the schoolmaster and Gertrude went into the kitchen and sat down at the table, where Mother Stina served them with coffee. Before they had finished their cups a visitor arrived.
The caller was a young peasant named Halvor Halvorsson, who had lately opened a shop in the village. He came from Tims Farm, and was familiarly known as Tims Halvor. He was a tall, good-looking chap who appeared to be somewhat dejected. Mother Stina asked him also to have some coffee; so he sat down at the table, helped himself, and began to talk to the schoolmaster.
Mother Stina sat by the window knitting; from where she was seated she could look down the road. All at once she grew red in the face and leaned forward to get a better view. Trying to appear unconcerned, she said with feigned indifference: “The grand folk seem to be out walking to-day.”
Tims Halvor thought he detected a certain something in her tone that sounded a bit peculiar, and he got up and looked out. He saw a tall, stoop-shouldered woman and a half-grown boy coming toward the schoolhouse.