660 THE GIRL WHO TROD ON THE LOAF
But she had to bear it, and it lasted on and on.
Then a hot tear fell down upon her head, rolled over her face and neck, down on to the loaf on which she stood ; and then another tear rolled down, followed by many more. Who might be weeping for Inger ? Had she not still a mother in the world ? The tears of sorrow which a mother weeps for her child always make their way to the child ; but they do not relieve it, they only increase its torment. And now to bear this unendurable hunger, and yet not to be able to touch the loaf on which she stood ! She felt as if she had been feeding on herself, and had become like a thin hollow reed that takes in every sound, for she heard everything that was said of her up in the world, and all that she heard was hard and evil. Her mother, indeed, wept much and sorrowed for her, but for all that she said, ' A haughty spirit goes before a fall. That was thy ruin, Inger. Thou hast sorely grieved thy mother.'
Her mother and all on earth knew of the sin she had committed ; knew that she had trodden upon the loaf, and had sunk and disappeared ; for the cowherd had seen it from the hill beside the marsh.
1 Greatly hast thou grieved thy mother, Inger,' said the mother ; ' yes, yes, I thought it would be thus.'
* Oh that I had never been born !' thought Inger ; ' it would have been far better. But what use is my mother's weeping now ? '
And she heard how her master and mistress, who had kept and cherished her like kind parents, now said she was a sinful child, and did not value the gifts of God, but trampled them under her feet, and that the gates of mercy would only open slowly to her.
' They should have punished me,' thought Inger, ' and have driven out the whims I had in my head.'
She heard how a complete song was made about her, a song of the proud girl who trod upon the loaf to keep her shoes clean, and she heard how the song was sung everywhere.
* That I should have to bear so much evil for that! ' thought Inger ; ' the others ought to be punished, too, for their sins. Yes, then there would be plenty of punishing to do. Ah, how I'm being tortured ! '