After a bit Storm remarked to himself: “The tempest of the children must have spent itself by this. Now is the time to show them who is master here.” Whereupon he rose up, pounded the table with his fist, and thundered: “Stop! What’s the meaning of all this racketing? I’m going now, and you must go, too, so that I may put out the lights and lock up.”
Some of them actually did get up, for they had all gone to Storm’s school, and knew that when their teacher rapped on the table it meant that everybody had to mind. Yet the majority stoically kept their seats.
“The schoolmaster forgets that now we are grown men,” said one; “but he still seems to think we should run just because he happens to rap on the table!” said another.
They went right on talking about their wanting to hear some new speakers, and which ones they should call in. They were already quarrelling among themselves as to whether it should be the Waldenstromites or colporteurs from the National Evangelical Union.
The schoolmaster stood staring at the assemblage as if he were looking at some weird monstrosity. For up to that time he had seen only the child in each individual face. But now all the round baby cheeks, the soft baby curls, and the mild baby eyes had vanished, and he saw only a gathering of adults, with hard, set faces; he felt that over such as these he had no control. He did not even know what to say to them.
The tumult continued, growing louder and louder. The schoolmaster kept still and let them rage. Bullet Gunner, Ljung Bjoern, and Krister Larsson led the attack. Hoek Matts, who was the innocent cause of all the trouble, rose to his feet time and again and begged them to be quiet, but no one listened to him.
Once again the schoolmaster glanced down at the parson, who was still quietly musing, the same gleam in his eyes, which were fixed on the schoolmaster.
“He’s probably thinking of that evening four years ago when I told him I would build a mission,” thought Storm. “He was right, too. Everything has turned out just as he said it would: heresy, revolt, and division. Perhaps we might have escaped all this if I hadn’t been so bent upon building my Zion.”
The instant this became clear to the schoolmaster, his head went up and his backbone straightened. He drew from his pocket a small key of polished steel. It was the key to Zion! He held it toward the light so that it could be seen from all parts of the hall.
“Now I’m going to lay this key upon the table,” he said, “and I shall never touch it again, for I see now that it has unlocked the door to everything which I had hoped to shut out.”
Whereupon the schoolmaster put the key down, took up his hat, and walked straight over to the pastor.
“I want to thank you, Parson, for coming to hear me to-day,” he said; “for if you hadn’t come to-day you never could have heard me.”