The children at Storm’s school were given very rigid training. They were held strictly to their tasks, and only on rare occasions were they allowed any amusements. However, all this was changed the spring Storm gave up his preaching. Then Mother Stina said to him: “Now, Storm, we must let the young folks be young. Remember that you and I were young once. Why, when we were seventeen, we danced many a night from sundown to sunup.”
So, one Saturday night, when young Gabriel and Gunhild, the councilman’s daughter, paid a visit to the Storms, they actually had a dance at the schoolhouse.
Gertrude was wild with delight at being allowed to dance, but Ingmar would not join in. Instead, he took up a book, and went and sat down on the sofa by the window. Time and again Gertrude tried to make him lay down his book, but Ingmar, sulky and shy, refused to budge. Mother Stina looked at him and shook her head. “It’s plain he comes of an old, old stock,” she thought. “That kind can never be really young.”
The three who did dance had such a good time! They talked of going to a regular dance the next Saturday evening, and asked the schoolmaster and Mother Stina what they thought about it.
“If you will do your dancing at Strong Ingmar’s, I give my consent,” said Mother Stina; “for there you will meet only respectable folk.”
Then Storm also made it conditional. “I can’t allow Gertrude to go to a dance unless Ingmar goes along to look after her,” he said.
Whereupon all three rushed up to Ingmar and begged him to accompany them.
“No!” he growled, without even glancing up from his book.
“It’s no good asking him!” said Gertrude in a tone that made Ingmar raise his eyes. Gertrude looked radiantly beautiful after the dance. She smiled scornfully, and her eyes flashed as she turned away. It was plainly to be seen how much she despised him for sitting there so ugly and sulky, like some crotchety old man. Ingmar had to alter his mind and say “yes”—there was no way out of it.
A few evenings later while Gertrude and Mother Stina sat spinning in the kitchen, the girl suddenly noticed that her mother was getting uneasy. Every little while she would stop her spinning-wheel and listen. “I can’t imagine what that noise is,” she said. “Do you hear anything, Gertrude?”
“Yes, I do,” replied the girl. “There must be some one upstairs in the classroom.”
“Who could be there at this hour?” Mother Stina flouted. “Only listen to the rustling and the pattering from one end of the room to the other!”
And there certainly was a rustling and a pattering and a bumping about over their heads, that made both Gertrude and her mother feel creepy.
“There must surely be some one up there,” insisted Gertrude.
“There can’t be,” Mother Stina declared. “Let me tell you that this thing has been going on every night since you danced here.”