Carina had just completed her simple toilet when Guro, the chamber-maid, entered, and announced that there were some sick folk below who wished to see the wonder child.
"Tell them I cannot see them," answered Carina, with a tremulous voice; "papa does not permit me."
"But this man, Atle Pilot, has come from so far away in this dreadful cold," pleaded Guro, "and his son is so very bad, poor thing; he's lying down in the boat, and he sighs and groans fit to move a stone."
"Don't! Don't tell her that," interposed Agnes, motioning to the girl to begone. "Don't you see it is hard enough for her already?"
There was something in the air, as the two sisters descended the stairs hand in hand, which foreboded calamity. The pastor had given out from the pulpit last Sunday that he would positively receive no invalids at his house; and he had solemnly charged every one to refrain from bringing their sick to his daughter. He had repeated this announcement again and again, and he was now very much annoyed at his apparent powerlessness to protect his child from further imposition. Loud and angry speech was heard in his office, and a noise as if the furniture were being knocked about. The two little girls remained standing on the stairs, each gazing at the other's frightened face. Then there was a great bang, and a stalwart, elderly sailor came tumbling head foremost out into the hall. His cap was flung after him through the crack of the door. Agnes saw for an instant her father's face, red and excited; and in his bearing there was something wild and strange, which was so different from his usual gentle and dignified appearance. The sailor stood for a while bewildered, leaning against the wall; then he stooped slowly and picked up his cap. But the moment he caught sight of Carina his embarrassment vanished, and his rough features were illuminated with an intense emotion.
"Come, little miss, and help me," he cried, in a hoarse, imploring whisper. "Halvor, my son--he is the only one God gave me--he is sick; he is going to die, miss, unless you take pity on him."
"He's down in the boat, miss, at the pier. But I'll carry him up to you, if you like. We have been rowing half the night in the cold, and he is very low."
"No, no; you mustn't bring him here," said Agnes, seeing by Carina's face that she was on the point of yielding. "Father would be so angry."