Chapter II - THE SPINNING-WHEELS
THE tall old grandfather's clock which stood in the kitchen bedroom at Lovdala struck six with a rattle, as though the heavy weights were crashing into the nethermost depths, and woke Little-Maid, as she lay sleeping on three chairs, the insecure bed that had been hastily arranged for her late the night before.
She sprang out of bed with a scream, and rushed into the middle of the room. She had been dreaming that she was in her coffin, and was just going to be buried with the church bells tolling above her. But as her feet touched the cold floor she became at once fully awake. Supposing there was anyone in the room to hear how she had screamed ? How the Parsonage maids would laugh if they found out she had been afraid of the clock. She did not understand why she had been frightened, for, although they had no clocks at Koltorp, yet in Nugord there were striking clocks both in the large sitting-room and in the little bedroom, so that it was no new sound to her.
It was not quite dark in the bedroom. A couple of small logs of wood were burning in the stove in the far corner, so that she could see a little. No, there was no one else in the room. The narrow wooden couch where Mam-sell Maia Lisa, the Pastor's daughter, had been lying when she came the night before, was not only empty, but made up for the day.
But if Mamsell Maia Lisa was up, it was high time she dressed too.
She put a piece of wood on the fire ; if it would only burn up brightly enough to let her find her shoes, stockings, and other garments, she would soon be ready.
How strange it was to be here, dressing herself in the kitchen bedroom of the Parsonage, the very same Lovdala where her Mother had been nursemaid before she married Father. She wondered if she would ever love it as much as Mother had done.
There was no one in the world -except, of course, Little-Lad - whom Mother loved so dearly as the Pastor's daughter. She spoke of her as if she were a princess.
The Pastor's daughter was so beautiful that when she went out riding or driving people left their work and stood near the garden just to look at her.
The Pastor was a person of great importance in the parish, but he used to say that no one thought much of him in comparison with his daughter. He was an outsider, but she was one of the family who had been Pastors there for a hundred years, and it was she alone who would inherit Lovdala and the parish as well.
It had almost irritated Little-Maid to hear so much about the Pastor's daughter. It had almost seemed as though no one else was of any account where she was concerned. At any rate, it would be nice to have the chance of seeing her now.
If only she knew what the humming was that she heard as she dressed. Could it be yesterday's tempest still in her ears ? or had the storm begun to rage again ? Yet what she heard was not so much like wind as the steady hum of a mill.
At last she was dressed and opened the kitchen door.
No wonder it had hummed!
The whole kitchen was full of spinning-wheels and spinners- wheels and spinners, one behind the other until she could see no end to them.
She turned so dizzy that she had to stop a moment on the threshold. Three spinning-wheels going at once in a room were the most she had ever seen before. But however many were there here ? She wondered if she would be able to count them.
It was so dark, too, in the kitchen that it was no easy matter to make things out. A few resinous, knotty pieces of juniper root were burning in an iron basket hanging from a tall iron pole rising from the hearth, and that was all. And not only the bad light made it difficult to see, but spinners and wheels alike were half hidden in the cloud of dust rising from their work.
Never, however, had she seen such a sight. As she stood looking upon the spinning-wheels wi