There were many who thought that Elof Ersson should have found no peace in his grave for the shameful way in which he had dealt with Karin and young Ingmar. He had deliberately made way with all of his and Karin’s money, so she would suffer hardship after his death. And he left the farm so heavily mortgaged, that Karin would have been forced to turn it over to the creditors, had not Halvor been rich enough to buy in the property and pay off the debts. Ingmar Ingmarsson’s twenty thousand kroner, of which Elof had been sole trustee, had entirely disappeared. Some people thought that Elof had buried the money, others that he had given it away; in any case, it was not to be found.
When Ingmar learned that he was penniless, he consulted Karin as to what he should do. Ingmar told his sister that of all things he would prefer to be a teacher, and begged her to let him remain with the Storms until he was old enough to enter college. Down at the village he would always be able to borrow books from the schoolmaster or the pastor, he said, and, moreover, he could help Storm at the school, by reading with the children; that would be excellent practice.
Karin turned this over in her mind before answering. “I suppose you wouldn’t care to remain at home, since you can’t become master here?” she said.
When Storm’s daughter heard that Ingmar was coming back, she pulled a long face. It seemed to her that if they must have a boy living with them, they might better have the judge’s good-looking son, Bertil, or there was jolly Gabriel, the son of Hoek Matts Ericsson.
Gertrude liked both Gabriel and Bertil, but as for Ingmar, she couldn’t exactly tell what her feelings were toward him. She liked him because he helped her with her lessons and minded her like a slave; but she could also become thoroughly put out with him sometimes, because he was clumsy and tiresome and did not know how to play. She had to admire his diligence and his aptitude for learning, yet at times she fairly despised him for not being able to show off what he could do.
Gertrude’s head was always full of droll fancies and dreams, which she confided to Ingmar. If the lad happened to be away for a few days, she grew restless, and felt that she had no one to talk to; but as soon as he got back she hardly knew what she had been longing for.
The girl had never thought of Ingmar as a boy of means and good family connections, but treated him rather as though he were a little beneath her. Yet when she heard that Ingmar had become poor, she wept for him, and when he told her that he would not try to get back his property, but meant to earn his own living as a teacher, she was so indignant she could hardly control herself.
The Lord only knows all she had dreamed that he would be some day!