At last they came to the riverside, where the houses were less scattered, and then to the village. They were glad to see the old church and everything else. It was comforting to see that everything down here looked natural: the sign-board in front of the shop creaked on its hinges as usual; the post-office horn was in its regular place; and the inn-keeper’s dog lay sleeping, as always, outside his kennel. It was also a gladsome surprise to them to see a little bird-berry bush that had blossomed overnight, and the green seats in the pastor’s garden, which must have been put out late in the evening. All this was decidedly reassuring. But just the same no one ventured to speak until they had reached their several homes.
When Gertrude stood on the steps of the schoolhouse, she said to Ingmar: “I have danced my last dance, Ingmar.”
“And I, too,” Ingmar solemnly declared.
“And you’ll become a clergyman, won’t you, Ingmar? And if you can’t become a preacher, you must at least be a teacher. There is so much evil in the world one has to fight against.”
Ingmar looked straight at Gertrude. “What did those voices say to you?” he asked.
“They said that I had been caught in the toils of sin, and that the devil would come and take me, because I was so fond of dancing.”
“Now I must tell you what I heard,” said Ingmar. “It seemed to me that all the old Ingmarssons were threatening and cursing me because I wanted to be something more than a peasant, and to do something besides just tilling the soil and working in the forest.”
The night of the dance at Strong Ingmar’s, Tims Halvor was away from home, and his wife, Karin, slept alone in the little chamber off the living-room. In the night Karin had a frightful dream. She dreamt that Elof was alive and was holding a big revel. She could hear him in the next room clinking glasses, laughing loudly, and singing ribald songs. She thought, in the dream, that Elof and his boon companions were getting noisier and noisier, and at last it sounded as though they were trying to break up both tables and chairs. Then Karin became so frightened that she awoke. But even after she had awakened the noise continued. The earth shook, the windows rattled, the tiles on the roof were loosened, and the old pear trees at the gables lashed the house with their stout branches. It was as if Judgment Day had come.
Just when the noise was at its height a window pane was sprung, and the shattered glass fell jingling against the floor. A violent gust of wind rushed through the room, and then Karin thought she heard a laugh quite close to her ear—the same kind of laugh that she had heard in the dream. She fancied she was about to die. Never had she felt such a sense of terror; her heart stopped, and her whole body became numb and cold as ice.