662 THE GIRL WHO TROD ON THE LOAF
Occasionally she heard her name spoken by her former employers, and they were pleasant words when the woman said, ' Shall I ever see thee again, Inger ? One knows not what may happen.'
But Inger knew right well that her good mistress would never come to the place where she was.
And again time went on—a long, bitter time. Then Inger heard her name pronounced once more, and saw two bright stars that seemed gleaming above her. They were two gentle eyes closing upon earth. So many years had gone by since the little girl had been inconsolable and wept about * poor Inger ', that the child had become an old woman, who was now to be called home to heaven ; and in the last hour of existence, when the events of the whole life stand at once before us, the old woman remembered how as a child she had cried heartily at the story of Inger. That time and that impression came so clearly before the old woman in her last hour, that she called out quite loud : ' Have not I also, like Inger, often trod upon the gifts of heaven without thinking ? have not I also gone about with pride at my heart ? Yet Thou in Thy mercy hast not let me sink, but hast held me up. Leave me not in my last hour ! '
And the eyes of the old woman closed, and the eye of her soul was opened to look upon the hidden things. She, in whose last thoughts Inger had been present so vividly, saw how deeply the poor girl had sunk, and burst into tears at the sight; in heaven she stood like a child, and wept for poor Inger. And her tears and prayers sounded like an echo in the dark empty space that surrounded the tormented captive soul, and the unhoped-for love from above conquered her, for an angel was weeping for her. Why was this vouchsafed to her ? The tormented soul seemed to gather in her thoughts every deed she had done on earth, and she, Inger, trembled and wept such tears as she had never yet wept. She was filled with sorrow about herself : it seemed as though the gate of mercy could never open to her ; and while in deep penitence she acknowledged this, a beam of light shot radiantly down into the depths to her, with a greater force than that of the sunbeam which melts the snow man the boys have built up ;