But Signe was very quiet, and Henrik said but little. He had come to the conclusion that he truly loved this girl whose parents were among the poorest of his tenants. None other of his acquaintances, even among the higher class, charmed him as did Signe. He was old enough to marry, and she was not too young. He knew full well that if he did marry her, many of his friends would criticise; but Henrik had some of the Norseman spirit of liberty, and he did not think that a girl’s humble position barred her from him. True, he had received very little encouragement from her, though her parents had looked with favor upon him. And now he was thinking of her cold indifference.
They sat down on a rocky bank, carpeted with gray reindeer moss.
They had been talking of his experiences at school. He knew her desire to finish the college education cut short by a lack of means.
“Signe, I wish you would let me do you a favor.”
She thought for a moment before she asked what it was.
“Let me help you attend college. You know I am able to, besides—besides, some day you may learn to think as much of me as I do of you, and then, dear Signe—”
Signe arose. “Hr. Bogstad,” she said, “I wish you would not talk like that. If you do, I shall go back to Hansine.”
“Why, Signe, don’t be offended. I am not jesting.” He stood before her in the path, and would have taken her hand, but she drew back.
“Signe, I have thought a great deal of you for a long time. You know we have been boy and girl together. My absence at school has made no difference in me. I wish you could think a little of me, Signe.”
“Hr. Bogstad, I don’t believe in deceiving anyone. I am sorry that you have been thinking like that about me, because I cannot think of you other than as a friend. Let us not talk about it.”
If Henrik could not talk about that nearest his heart, he would remain silent, which he did.
Signe was gathering some rare ferns and mosses when Hansine’s lur sounded through the hills. That was the signal for them, as well as the cows, to come home.
Early the next morning Hansine’s brother came up to the saeter to take home the week’s accumulation of butter and cheese. Signe, perched on the top of the two-wheeled cart, was also going home. Hr. Bogstad, mounted on his horse, accompanied them a short distance, then rode off in another direction.
“Can two walk together, except they be agreed?”—Amos 3:3
It was nearly noon when Signe Dahl sprang from the cart, and with her bundle under her arm, ran down the hillside into the woods, following a well-beaten trail. That was the short cut home. Hans had found her poor company during the ride, and even now, alone in the woods, the serious countenance was loth to relax. A ten minutes’ walk brought her to the brow of a hill, and she sauntered down its sloping side. Signe had nearly reached home, and being doubtful of her reception there, she lingered. Then, too, she could usually amuse herself alone, for she always found some new wonder in the exhaustless beauty of her surroundings.