I am truly glad to see you; this meeting has warmed my heart. It is one of life's pleasantest experiences to shake the hand of an old friend, and to learn from his own lips that he has not forgotten you in his wanderings. I am sorely grieved to hear that you have lost your faithful mate, the dear woman who was your companion for so many years. Be comforted; we shall meet them again, these beloved ones. Resignation, friend, resignation. There are griefs which all mortals have to bear. Happy the man in whose heart shines the bright star of Hope, and who derives consolation from it. It is a solace born of Faith the comforter, and it is beyond price.
You are anxious to know what has become of my people? Name them, friend. Gideon Wolf, my apprentice? And pretty Katrine Loebeg, too--you are curious about her? Strange that you should bring their names into association, for when you last visited me, twelve years ago, there was nothing between those two; I may say that with confidence. Indeed, it is scarcely possible there could have been, for Katrine was but thirteen. A beautiful maiden, truly, but her heart was not then ripe enough for love; she was a mere child. Twelve years ago! Ah me, ah me! How time flies! The three best seasons have passed over my head, and I am in the winter of my life. But I feel young sometimes even now--yes, indeed, I am good for many a year, I hope. I am fond of life, and I have much to be grateful for, though I stand alone in the world, without wife or child.
Gideon Wolf and Katrine Loebeg! Gracious heavens, the contrast! Truly a wolf and a lamb; a hawk and a dove; a poisonous weed and a pure white lily. But you were as much a stranger to those two when you were here last as you are at the present moment. Old Anna was my house-keeper then. You remember Anna; you had good jokes with her, and she liked you; she said you were a proper man. Where is she now, you ask? In her grave. She served me faithfully, and lived till she was nearly eighty. Ah, she was a treasure--you don't often meet with such. Everything went on in the house from hour to hour, from day to day, from week to week, like a well regulated clock. And what beautiful stews she made! Never, never shall I taste the like again. I have another house-keeper now. Hush! She is here.