Ingmar shook his head. He was like a wilful child.
“I only want to say a few words to you,” said Gertrude.
“I suppose you’ve come to tell me that you have joined the Hellgumists?”
Then Gertrude knelt down beside the bed and lifted his hand from his eyes. “There is something which you don’t know, Ingmar,” she whispered.
He looked inquiringly at her, but did not speak. Gertrude blushed and hesitated. Finally she said:
“Last year, just as you were leaving us, I had begun to care for you in the right way.”
Ingmar coloured to the roots of his hair, and a look of joy came into his eyes; but immediately he became grave and distrustful again.
“I have missed you so, Ingmar!” she murmured.
He smiled doubtingly, but patted her hand a little as thanks for her wanting to be kind to him.
“And you never once came back to see me,” she said reproachfully. “It was as if I no longer existed for you.”
“I didn’t want to see you again until I was a well-to-do man and could propose to you,” said Ingmar, as if this were a self-evident matter.
“But I thought you had forgotten me!” Gertrude’s eyes filled up. “You don’t know what a terrible year it has been. Hellgum has been very kind, and has tried to comfort me. He said my heart would be at rest if I would give it wholly to God.”
Ingmar now looked at her with a newborn hope in his gaze.
“I was so frightened when you came this morning,” she confessed, “I felt that I couldn’t resist you, and that the old struggle would begin anew.”
Ingmar’s face was beaming.
“But this evening, when I heard about your having helped the one man whom you hated, I couldn’t hold out any longer.” Gertrude grew scarlet. “I felt somehow that I had not the strength to do a thing that would part me from you.” Then she bowed her head over Ingmar’s hand, and kissed it.
And it seemed to Ingmar as if great bells were ringing in a holy day. Within reigned Sabbath peace and stillness, while love, honey sweet, rested upon his lips, filling his whole being with a blissful solace.
LOSS OF “L’UNIVERS”
One misty night in the summer of 1880—about two years before the schoolmaster’s mission house was built and Hellgum’s return from America—the great French liner L’Univers was steaming across the Atlantic, from New York and bound for Havre.
It was about four o’clock in the morning and all the passengers, as well as most of the crew, were asleep in their berths. The big decks were entirely empty of people.