“Everything shall be ready,” answered Dame Hersebom.
“Vanda,” she added, with Norwegian hospitality, “the doctor is still standing.”
The little girl hurriedly pushed a large arm-chair toward him.
“I can not stay,” said the doctor. “I promised my friend Malarius to dine with him, and he is waiting for me. Little girl,” he said, laying his hand gently upon Vanda’s blonde head, “I hope you do not wish me any harm because I am taking your brother away from you?”
“No, doctor,” she answered gravely. “Erik will be happier with you—he was not intended to live in a village.”
“And you, little one, will you be very unhappy without him?”
“The shore will seem deserted,” she answered; “the seagulls will look for him without finding him, the little waves will be astonished because they no longer see him, and the house will seem empty, but Erik will be contented, because he will have plenty of books, and he will become a learned man.”
“And his little sister will rejoice in his happiness—is it not so, my child?” said the doctor, kissing the forehead of the little girl. “And she will be proud of him when he returns—see we have arranged the whole matter—but I must hurry away. Good-bye until to-morrow.”
“Doctor,” murmured Vanda, timidly, “I wish to ask a favor of you!”
“You are going in a sleigh, you said. I wish with my papa’s and mamma’s permission to drive you to the first relay.”
“Ah, ah! but I have already arranged that. Reguild, the daughter of my overseer, should do this.”
“Yes, I know it, but she is willing that I should take her place, if you will authorize me to do so.”
“Well, in that case you have only to obtain the permission of your father and mother.”
“I have done so.”
“Then you have mine also, dear child,” said the doctor, and he took his departure.
The next morning when the sleigh stopped before the door of Mr. Hersebom little Vanda held the reins according to her desire, seated upon the front seat.
She was going to drive them to the next village, where the doctor would procure another horse and sleigh, and thus procure relays until he reached Bergen. This new kind of coachman always astonishes a stranger, but it is the custom in Norway and Sweden. The men would think it a loss of time to pursue such a calling, and it is not rare to see children of ten or twelve years of age managing heavy equipages with perfect ease.
The doctor was already installed in the back of the sleigh, nearly hidden by his furs. Erik took his seat beside Vanda, after having tenderly embraced his father and brother, who contented themselves by showing by their mute sadness the sorrow which his departure caused them; but the good Katrina was more open in the expression of her feelings.
“Adieu, my son!” she said, in the midst of her tears. “Never forget what you have learned from your poor parents—be honest, and brave, and never tell a lie. Work as hard as you can—always protect those who are weaker than yourself—and if you do not find the happiness you merit come back and seek it with us.”