“Be this as it may, after having questioned successively all the proprietors of the vessels bearing the name of ‘Cynthia,’ without obtaining any information, and after exhausting all known means of pursuing my investigations, I have been compelled to conclude that there is no hope of discovering Erik’s family.
that arises for us to decide, my dear Hersebom, and
particularly for you, is what we ought to say to the boy, and what
we ought to do for him.
“If I were in your place, I should now tell him all the facts about himself which affect him so nearly, and leave him free to choose his own path in life. You know we agreed to adopt this course if my efforts should prove unsuccessful. The time has come for you to keep your word. I have wished to leave it to you to relate all this to Erik. He is returning to Noroe still ignorant that he is not your son, and he does not know whether he is to return to Stockholm or remain with you. It is for you to tell him.
“Remember, if you refuse to fulfill this duty, Erik would have the right some day, perhaps, to be astonished at you. Recall to mind also that he is a boy of too remarkable abilities to be condemned to an obscure and illiterate life. Such a sentence would have been unmerited two years ago, and now, after his brilliant career at Stockholm, it would be positively unjustifiable.
“I therefore renew my offer: let him return to me and finish his studies, and take at Upsal the degree of Doctor of Medicine. I will continue to provide for him as if he were my own son, and he has only to go on and win honors and a fortune.
“I know that,
in addressing you and the excellent adopted mother
Erik, I leave his future in good hands. No personal consideration,
I am sure, will prevent you from accepting my offer. Take Mr.
Malarius’ advice in this matter.
your reply, Mr. Hersebom, I greet you
affectionately, and I beg you to remember me most kindly to your
worthy wife and children.
“R.W. Schwaryencrona, M.D.”
When the fisherman had finished reading this letter, Dame Katrina, who had been silently weeping while she listened to it, asked him what he intended to do.
“My duty is very clear,” he said. “I shall tell the boy everything.”
“That is my opinion also; it must be done, or we should never have another peaceful moment,” she murmured, as she dried her eyes.
Then they both relapsed into silence.
It was past midnight when the three children returned from their expedition. Their cheeks were rosy, and their eyes shone with pleasure from their walk in the fresh air. They seated themselves around the fire to finish gayly their Christmas-eve by eating a last cake before the enormous log which looked like a burning cavern.