"What time is it?" inquired Dame Hansen, shaking the ashes from her pipe, the last curling rings from which were slowly disappearing between the stained rafters overhead.
"Eight o'clock, mother," replied Hulda.
"It isn't likely that any travelers will come to-night. The weather is too stormy."
"I agree with you. At all events, the rooms are in readiness, and if any one comes, I shall be sure to hear them."
"Has your brother returned?"
"Didn't he say he would be back to-night?"
"No, mother. Joel went to take a traveler to Lake Tinn, and as he didn't start until very late, I do not think he can get back to Dal before to-morrow."
"Then he will spend the night at Moel, probably."
"Yes; unless he should take it into his head to go on to Bamble to see Farmer Helmboe."
"And his daughter Siegfrid."
"Yes. Siegfrid, my best friend, whom I love like a sister!" replied the young girl, smiling.
"All, well, Hulda, shut up the house, and let's go to bed."
"You are not ill, are you, mother?"
"No; but I want to be up bright and early to-morrow morning. I must go to Moel."
"Why, we must be laying in our stock of provisions for the coming summer, and—"
"And I suppose the agent from Christiania has come down with his wagon of wines and provisions."
"Yes; Lengling, the foreman at the saw-mill, met him this afternoon, and informed me of the fact as he passed. We have very little left in the way of ham and smoked salmon, and I don't want to run any risk of being caught with an empty larder. Tourists are likely to begin their excursions to the Telemark almost any day now; especially, if the weather should become settled, and our establishment must be in a condition to receive them. Do you realize that this is the fifteenth of April?"
"The fifteenth of April!" repeated the young girl, thoughtfully.
"Yes, so to-morrow I must attend to these matters," continued Dame Hansen. "I can make all my purchases in two hours, and I will return with Joel in the kariol."
"In case you should meet the postman, don't forget to ask him if there is a letter for us—"
"And especially for you. That is quite likely, for it is a month since you heard from Ole."
"Yes, a month—a whole month."
"Still, you should not worry, child. The delay is not at all surprising. Besides, if the Moel postman has nothing for you, that which didn't come by the way of Christiania may come by the way of Bergen, may it not?"
"Yes, mother," replied Hulda. "But how can I help worrying, when I think how far it is from here to the Newfoundland fishing banks. The whole broad Atlantic to cross, while the weather continues so bad. It is almost a year since my poor Ole left me, and who can say when we shall see him again in Dal?"