THE GIRL WHO TROD ON THE LOAF 661
And her heart became harder than her outward form.
' Here in this company one can't even become better,' she said, * and I don't want to become* better! Look, how they're all staring at me !' And her heart was full of anger and malice against all men. ' Now they've something to talk about at last up yonder. Ah, how I'm being tortured ! '
And then she heard how her story was told to the little children, and the little ones called her the godless Inger, and said she was so naughty and ugly that she must be well punished
Thus even the children's mouths spoke hard words of her.
But one day, while grief and hunger gnawed her hollow frame, and she heard her name mentioned and her story told to an innocent child, a little girl, she became aware that the little one burst into tears at the tale of the haughty, vain Inger.
' But will Inger never come up here again ? ' asked the little girl.
And the reply was, ' She will never come up again.'
' But if she were to beg for forgiveness, and say she would never do so again ? '
' But she will not beg for forgiveness,' was the reply.
* I should be so glad if she would,' said the little girl ; and she was quite inconsolable. * I'll give my doll and all my playthings if she may only come up. It's too dreadful —poor Inger ! '
And these words penetrated to Inger's heart, and seemed to do her good. It was the first time any one had said, ' Poor Inger,' without adding anything about her faults : a little innocent child was weeping and praying for her. It made her feel quite strangely, and she herself would gladly have wept, but she could not weep, and that was a torment in itself.
While years were passing above her, for where she was there was no change, she heard herself spoken of more and more seldom. At last one day a sigh struck on her ear : ' Inger, Inger, how you have grieved me ! I said how it would be ! ' It was the last sigh of her dying mother.