Henrik wrote often to Rachel, and the letters which he received in reply he usually handed to Selma, and Marie, if she was present. They pronounced them fine letters. “She must be a jolly girl,” they said.
“She is,” he affirmed; “the most religious and yet the merriest girl I have ever met. That seems a contradiction, but it isn’t.” Then he went on explaining, and they could not help listening. Henrik studied the two young women to see what impression he might be making. On Selma there was very little, but he believed Marie was overcoming some of her prejudice. Selma told him that Marie loved him as much as ever, and that if he deserted her, it would break her heart.
“But Selma,” he exclaimed, “I have never deserted her. It was she who broke the engagement.”
“How could she do otherwise;—but she has been waiting, and will still wait in hope.”
“I, too, shall do that,” he said.
* * * * *
That fall Henrik again sailed for America. Going westward by way of Minnesota, he called for Rachel and took her with him. In one of the Temple cities they found lodgings with some of his friends, and then they entered upon their work for their ancestors. Henrik had a long list of them, and so they were kept busy nearly all the winter. At the end of three months, Henrik asked Rachel if she was tired and wanted a rest.
“Oh, no,” she said; “I believe I can do this work all my life. It isn’t always easy, but there is so much joy and peace in it. I believe the angels are with us, and I don’t want better company.”
And so these two were very much contented. They sent letters home telling of the “glorious” time they were having, and the work they were doing. At the opening of spring, Henrik left Rachel to continue the work, he having to go back to Norway. He asked her if she desired to return to her folks in Minnesota, but she said no, not yet.
The early spring months found Henrik in Christiania. He made a trip to Denmark on genealogical research which proved quite successful. The first of June found him back to Nordal.
Midsummer Night came clear and cool. Henrik was in Christiania, and was to be one of a party to spend the night on the hills above the city. Marie was not with them, and Henrik enquired the reason.
“She is ill,” said Selma.
“Ill? Where is she?”
“At home. I think you should go and see her.”
“Does she want me?”
Henrik excused himself from the party and went immediately to Marie. He found her on the veranda, reclining on a couch. The lamp-light from an open window fell on a pale face, startling in its changed expression. He silently took her hand, her fingers tightening in his grasp. She looked him steadily in the face, her swimming eyes not wavering. Then Henrik knew that he loved this girl yet. For a long time he had tried to forget her, tried to root out his love for her, tried to think that she was not for him. “I’ll not try again,” he had thought, “for twice now have I been disappointed;” but now a flood of compassionate love engulfed him, and he, too, clung to the fingers in his grasp.