IB AND CHRISTINE 511
1 Do you really not know me ? ' she asked ; but even afterwards, when they were left quite by themselves, and he stood there still holding her hand in his, he could only say,
' You look quite like a real lady, and I am so uncouth. How often I have thought of you, Christine, and of the old times ! '
And arm in arm they sauntered up the great ridge, and looked across the stream towards the heath, towards the great heather banks. It was perfectly silent ; but by the time they parted it had grown quite clear to him that Christine must be his wife. Had they not, even in their childhood, been called sweethearts ? To him they seemed to be really engaged to each other, though neither of them had spoken a word on the subject. Only for a few more hours could they remain together, for Christine was obliged to go back into the next village, from whence the carriage was to start early next morning for Herning. Her father and lb escorted her as far as the village. It was a fair moonlight evening, and when they reached their destination, and lb still held Christine's hand in his own, he could not let it go. His ej^es brightened, but still the words came halting over his lips. Yet they came from the depths of his heart, when he said,
' If you have not become too grand, Christine, and if you can make up your mind to live with me in my mother's house as my wife, we must become a wedded pair some day ; but we can wait a while yet.'
' Yes, let us wait for a time, lb,' she replied ; and she pressed his hand, and he kissed her lips. ' I trust in you, lb,' said Christine ; ' and I think that I love you—but I will sleep upon it.'
And with that they parted. And on the way home lb told the boatman that he and Christine were as good as betrothed ; and the boatman declared he had always expected it would turn out so ; and he went home with lb, and remained that night in the young man's house ; but nothing further was said of the betrothal.
A year passed by, in the course of which two letters were exchanged between lb and Christine. The signature was prefaced by the words, ' Faithful till death ! ' One