PART V. Alexandra
1. CHAPTER I
Ivar was sitting at a cobbler's bench in the barn, mending harness
by the light of a lantern and repeating to himself the 101st Psalm.
It was only five o'clock of a mid-October day, but a storm had
come up in the afternoon, bringing black clouds, a cold wind and
torrents of rain. The old man wore his buffalo-skin coat, and
occasionally stopped to warm his fingers at the lantern. Suddenly
a woman burst into the shed, as if she had been blown in, accompanied by
a shower of rain-drops. It was Signa, wrapped in a man's overcoat
and wearing a pair of boots over her shoes. In time of trouble
Signa had come back to stay with her mistress, for she was the only
one of the maids from whom Alexandra would accept much personal
service. It was three months now since the news of the terrible
thing that had happened in Frank Shabata's orchard had first run
like a fire over the Divide. Signa and Nelse were staying on with
Alexandra until winter.
"Ivar," Signa exclaimed as she wiped the rain from her face, "do
you know where she is?"
The old man put down his cobbler's knife. "Who, the mistress?"
"Yes. She went away about three o'clock. I happened to look out
of the window and saw her going across the fields in her thin dress
and sun-hat. And now this storm has come on. I thought she was
going to Mrs. Hiller's, and I telephoned as soon as the thunder
stopped, but she had not been there. I'm afraid she is out somewhere
and will get her death of cold."
Ivar put on his cap and took up the lantern. "JA, JA, we will see.
I will hitch the boy's mare to the cart and go."
Signa followed him across the wagon-shed to the horses' stable.
She was shivering with cold and excitement. "Where do you suppose
she can be, Ivar?"
The old man lifted a set of single harness carefully from its peg.
"How should I know?"