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A Happy Boy by Bjornstjerne Bjornson

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the attic; now he rose, and put on his handsome new clothes, very
carefully, for he had never owned such before. There was especially a
round broadcloth jacket, which he had to examine over and over again
before he became accustomed to it. He hung up a little looking-glass
when he had adjusted his collar, and for the fourth time drew on his
jacket. At sight of his own contented face, with the unusually light
hair surrounding it, reflected and smiling in the glass, it occurred to
him that this must certainly be vanity again. "Yes, but people must be
well-dressed and tidy," he reasoned, drawing his face away from the
glass, as if it were a sin to look in it. "To be sure, but not quite
so delighted with themselves, for the sake of the matter." "No,
certainly not, but the Lord must also like to have one care to look
well." "That may be; but He would surely like it better to have you do
so without taking so much notice of it yourself." "That is true; but
it happens now because everything is so new." "Yes, but you must
gradually lay the habit aside."--He caught himself carrying on such a
self-examining conversation, now upon one theme, now upon another, so
that not a sin should fall on the day and stain it; but at the same
time he knew that he had other struggles to meet.

When he came down-stairs, his parents sat all dressed, waiting
breakfast for him. He went up to them and taking their hands thanked
them for the clothes, and received in return a
"wear-them-out-with-good-health."[1] They sat down to table, prayed
silently, and ate. The mother cleared the table, and carried in the
lunch-box for the journey to church. The father put on his jacket, the
mother fastened her kerchief; they took their hymn-books, locked up the
house, and started. As soon as they had reached the upper road they
met the church-faring people, driving and walking, the confirmation
candidates scattered among them, and in one group and another
white-haired grand-parents, who had felt moved to come out on this
great occasion.

[Footnote 1: A common expression among the peasantry of Norway,
meaning: "You are welcome."]

It was an autumn day without sunshine, as when the weather is about to
change. Clouds gathered together and dispersed again; sometimes out of
one great mass were formed twenty smaller ones, which sped across the
sky with orders for a storm; but below, on the earth, it was still
calm, the foliage hung lifeless, not a leaf stirring; the air was a
trifle sultry; people carried their outer wraps with them but did not
use them. An unusually large multitude had assembled round the church,
which stood in an open space; but the confirmation children immediately
went into the church in order to be arranged in their places before
service began. Then it was that the school-master, in a blue
broadcloth suit, frock coat, and knee-breeches, high shoes, stiff
cravat, and a pipe protruding from his back coat pocket, came down
towards them, nodded and smiled, tapped one on the shoulder, spoke a
few words to another about answering loudly and distinctly, and
meanwhile worked his way along to the poor-box, where Oyvind stood
answering all the questions of his friend Hans in reference to his
journey.

"Good-day, Oyvind. How fine you look to-day!" He took him by the
jacket collar as if he wished to speak to him. "Listen. I believe
everything good of you. I have been talking with the priest; you will
be allowed to keep your place; go up to number one and answer
distinctly!"

Oyvind looked up at him amazed; the school-master nodded; the boy took
a few steps, stopped, a few steps more, stopped again: "Yes, it surely
is so; he has spoken to the priest for me,"--and the boy walked swiftly
up to his place.

"You are to be number one, after all," some one whispered to him.

"Yes," answered Oyvind, in a low voice, but did not feel quite sure yet
whether he dared think so.

The assignment of places was over, the priest had come, the bells were
ringing, and the people pouring into church. Then Oyvind saw Marit
Heidegards just in front of him; she saw him too; but they were both so
awed by the sacredness of the place that they dared not greet each
other. He only noticed that she was dazzlingly beautiful and that her
hair was uncovered; more he did not see. Oyvind, who for more than
half a year had been building such great plans about standing opposite
her, forgot, now that it had come to the point, both the place and her,
and that he had in any way thought of them.

After all was ended the relatives and acquaintances came up to offer
their congratulations; next came Oyvind's comrades to take leave of
him, as they had heard that he was to depart the next day; then there
came many little ones with whom he had coasted on the hill-sides and
whom he had assisted at school, and who now could not help whimpering a
little at parting. Last came the school-master, silently took Oyvind
and his parents by the hands, and made a sign to start for home; he
wanted to accompany them. The four were together once more, and this
was to be the last evening. On the way home they met many others who
took leave of Oyvind and wished him good luck; but they had no other
conversation until they sat down together in the family-room.

The school-master tried to keep them in good spirits; the fact was now
that the time had come they all shrank from the two long years of
separation, for up to this time they had never been parted a single
day; but none of them would acknowledge it. The later it grew the more
dejected Oyvind became; he was forced to go out to recover his
composure a little.

It was dusk now and there were strange sounds in the air. Oyvind
remained standing on the door-step gazing upward. From the brow of the
cliff he then heard his own name called, quite softly; it was no
delusion, for it was repeated twice. He looked up and faintly
distinguished a female form crouching between the trees and looking
down.

"Who is it?" asked he.

"I hear you are going away," said a low voice, "so I had to come to you
and say good-by, as you would not come to me."

"Dear me! Is that you, Marit? I shall come up to you."

"No, pray do not. I have waited so long, and if you come I should have
to wait still longer; no one knows where I am and I must hurry home."

"It was kind of you to come," said he.

"I could not bear to have you leave so, Oyvind; we have known each
other since we were children."

"Yes; we have."

"And now we have not spoken to each other for half a year."

"No; we have not."

"We parted so strangely, too, that time."

"We did. I think I must come up to you!"

"Oh, no! do not come! But tell me: you are not angry with me?"

"Goodness! how could you think so?"

"Good-by, then, Oyvind, and my thanks for all the happy times we have
had together!"

"Wait, Marit!"

"Indeed I must go; they will miss me."

"Marit! Marit!"

"No, I dare not stay away any longer, Oyvind. Good-by."

"Good-by!"

Afterwards he moved about as in a dream, and answered very absently
when he was addressed. This was ascribed to his journey, as was quite
natural; and indeed it occupied his whole mind at the moment when the
school-master took leave of him in the evening and put something into
his hand, which he afterwards found to be a five-dollar bill. But
later, when he went to bed, he thought not of the journey, but of the
words which had come down from the brow of the cliff, and those that
had been sent up again. As a child Marit was not allowed to come on
the cliff, because her grandfather feared she might fall down. Perhaps
she will come down some day, any way.

CHAPTER VIII.

DEAR PARENTS,--We have to study much more now than at first, but
as I am less behind the others than I was, it is not so hard. I shall
change many things in father's place when I come home; for there is
much that is wrong there, and it is wonderful that it has prospered as
well as it has. But I shall make everything right, for I have learned
a great deal. I want to go to some place where I can put into practice
all I now know, and so I must look for a high position when I get
through here.
No one here considers Jon Hatlen as clever as he is thought to be
at home with us; but as he has a gard of his own, this does not concern
any one but himself.
Many who go from here get very high salaries, but they are paid so
well because ours is the best agricultural school in the country. Some
say the one in the next district is better, but this is by no means
true. There are two words here: one is called Theory, the other
Practice. It is well to have them both, for one is nothing without the
other; but still the latter is the better. Now the former means, to
understand the cause and principle of a work; the latter, to be able to
perform it: as, for instance, in regard to a quagmire; for there are
many who know what should be done with a quagmire and yet do it wrong,
because they are not able to put their knowledge into practice. Many,
on the other hand, are skillful in doing, but do not know what ought to
be done; and thus they too may make bad work of it, for there are many
kinds of quagmires. But we at the agricultural school learn both
words. The superintendent is so skillful that he has no equal. At the
last agricultural meeting for the whole country, he led in two
discussions, and the other superintendents had only one each, and upon
careful consideration his statements were always sustained. At the
meeting before the last, where he was not present, there was nothing
but idle talk. The lieutenant who teaches surveying was chosen by the
superintendent only on account of his ability, for the other schools
have no lieutenant. He is so clever that he was the best scholar at
the military academy.
The school-master asks if I go to church. Yes, of course I go to
church, for now the priest has an assistant, and his sermons fill all
the congregation with terror, and it is a pleasure to listen to him.
He belongs to the new religion they have in Christiania, and people
think him too strict, but it is good for them that he is so.
Just now we are studying much history, which we have not done
before, and it is curious to observe all that has happened in the
world, but especially in our country, for we have always won, except
when we have lost, and then we always had the smaller number. We now
have liberty; and no other nation has so much of it as we, except
America; but there they are not happy. Our freedom should be loved by
us above everything.
Now I will close for this time, for I have written a very long
letter. The school-master will read it, I suppose, and when he answers
for you, get him to tell me some news about one thing or another, for
he never does so of himself. But now accept hearty greetings from your
affectionate son,
O. THORESEN.

DEAR PARENTS,--Now I must tell you that we have had examinations,
and that I stood 'excellent' in many things, and 'very good' in writing
and surveying, but 'good' in Norwegian composition. This comes, the
superintendent says, from my not having read enough, and he has made me
a present of some of Ole Vig's books, which are matchless, for I
understand everything in them. The superintendent is very kind to me,
and he tells us many things. Everything here is very inferior compared
with what they have abroad; we understand almost nothing, but learn
everything from the Scotch and Swiss, although horticulture we learn
from the Dutch. Many visit these countries. In Sweden, too, they are
much more clever than we, and there the superintendent himself has
been. I have been here now nearly a year, and I thought that I had
learned a great deal; but when I heard what those who passed the
examination knew, and considered that they would not amount to anything
either when they came into contact with foreigners, I became very
despondent. And then the soil here in Norway is so poor compared with
what it is abroad; it does not at all repay us for what we do with it.
Moreover, people will not learn from the experience of others; and even
if they would, and if the soil was much better, they really have not
the money to cultivate it. It is remarkable that things have prospered
as well as they have.
I am now in the highest class, and am to remain there a year
before I get through. But most of my companions have left and I long
for home. I feel alone, although I am not so by any means, but one has
such a strange feeling when one has been long absent. I once thought I
should become so much of a scholar here; but I am not making the
progress I anticipated.
What shall I do with myself when I leave here? First, of course,
I will come home; afterwards, I suppose, I will have to seek something
to do, but it must not be far away.
Farewell, now, dear parents! Give greetings to all who inquire
for me, and tell them that I have everything pleasant here but that now
I long to be at home again.
Your affectionate son,
OYVIND THORESEN PLADSEN.

DEAR SCHOOL-MASTER,--With this I ask if you will deliver the inclosed
letter and not speak of it to any one. And if you will not, then you
must burn it.
OYVIND THORESEN PLADSEN.

TO THE MOST HONORED MAIDEN, MARIT KNUDSDATTER NORDISTUEN AT THE UPPER
HEIDEGARDS:--
You will no doubt be much surprised at receiving a letter from me;
but you need not be for I only wish to ask how you are. You must send
me a few words as soon as possible, giving me all particulars.
Regarding myself, I have to say that I shall be through here in a year.
Most respectfully,
OYVIND PLADSEN.

TO OYVIND PLADSEN, AT THE AGRICULTURAL SCHOOL:--
Your letter was duly received by me from the school-master, and I
will answer since you request it. But I am afraid to do so, now that
you are so learned; and I have a letter-writer, but it does not help
me. So I will have to try what I can do, and you must take the will
for the deed; but do not show this, for if you do you are not the one I
think you are. Nor must you keep it, for then some one might see it,
but you must burn it, and this you will have to promise me to do.
There were so many things I wanted to write about, but I do not quite
dare. We have had a good harvest; potatoes bring a high price, and
here at the Heidegards we have plenty of them. But the bear has done
much mischief among the cattle this summer: he killed two of Ole
Nedregard's cattle and injured one belonging to our houseman so badly
that it had to be killed for beef. I am weaving a large piece of
cloth, something like a Scotch plaid, and it is difficult. And now I
will tell you that I am still at home, and that there are those who
would like to have it otherwise. Now I have no more to write about for
this time, and so I must bid you farewell.
MARIT KNUDSDATTER.
P.S.--Be sure and burn this letter.

TO THE AGRICULTURIST, OYVIND THORESEN PLADSEN:--
As I have told you before, Oyvind, he who walks with God has come
into the good inheritance. But now you must listen to my advice, and
that is not to take the world with yearning and tribulation, but to
trust in God and not allow your heart to consume you, for if you do you
will have another god besides Him. Next I must inform you that your
father and your mother are well, but I am troubled with one of my hips;
for now the war breaks out afresh with all that was suffered in it.
What youth sows age must reap; and this is true both in regard to the
mind and the body, which now throbs and pains, and tempts one to make
any number of lamentations. But old age should not complain; for
wisdom flows from wounds, and pain preaches patience, that man may grow
strong enough for the last journey. To-day I have taken up my pen for
many reasons, and first and above all for the sake of Marit, who has
become a God-fearing maiden, but who is as light of foot as a reindeer,
and of rather a fickle disposition. She would be glad to abide by one
thing, but is prevented from so doing by her nature; but I have often
before seen that with hearts of such weak stuff the Lord is indulgent
and long-suffering, and does not allow them to be tempted beyond their
strength, lest they break to pieces, for she is very fragile. I duly
gave her your letter, and she hid it from all save her own heart. If
God will lend His aid in this matter, I have nothing against it, for
Marit is most charming to young men, as plainly can be seen, and she
has abundance of earthly goods, and the heavenly ones she has too, with
all her fickleness. For the fear of God in her mind is like water in a
shallow pond: it is there when it rains, but it is gone when the sun
shines.
My eyes can endure no more at present, for they see well at a
distance, but pain me and fill with tears when I look at small objects.
In conclusion, I will advise you, Oyvind, to have your God with you in
all your desires and undertakings, for it is written: "Better is an
handful with quietness, than both the hands full with travail and
vexation of spirit." Ecclesiastes, iv. 6. Your old school-master,
BAARD ANDERSEN OPDAL.

TO THE MOST HONORED MAIDEN, MARIT KNUDSDATTER HEIDEGARDS:--
You have my thanks for your letter, which I have read and burned,
as you requested. You write of many things, but not at all concerning
that of which I wanted you to write. Nor do I dare write anything
definite before I know how you are in _every respect_. The
school-master's letter says nothing that one can depend on, but he
praises you and he says you are fickle. That, indeed, you were before.
Now I do not know what to think, and so you must write, for it will not
be well with me until you do. Just now I remember best about your
coming to the cliff that last evening and what you said then. I will
say no more this time, and so farewell.
Most respectfully,
OYVIND PLADSEN.

TO OYVIND THORESEN PLADSEN:--
The school-master has given me another letter from you, and I have
just read it, but I do not understand it in the least, and that, I dare
say, is because I am not learned. You want to know how it is with me
in every respect; and I am healthy and well, and there is nothing at
all the matter with me. I eat heartily, especially when I get milk
porridge. I sleep at night, and occasionally in the day-time too. I
have danced a great deal this winter, for there have been many parties
here, and that has been very pleasant. I go to church when the snow is
not too deep; but we have had a great deal of snow this winter. Now, I
presume, you know everything, and if you do not, I can think of nothing
better than for you to write to me once more.
MARIT KNUDSDATTER.

TO THE MOST HONORED MAIDEN, MARIT KNUDSDATTER HEIDEGARDS:--
I have received your letter, but you seem inclined to leave me no
wiser than I was before. Perhaps this may be meant for an answer. I
do not know. I dare not write anything that I wish to write, for I do
not know you. But possibly you do not know me either.
You must not think that I am any longer the soft cheese you
squeezed the water away from when I sat watching you dance. I have
laid on many shelves to dry since that time. Neither am I like those
long-haired dogs who drop their ears at the least provocation and take
flight from people, as in former days. I can stand fire now.
Your letter was very playful, but it jested where it should not
have jested at all, for you understood me very well, and you could see
that I did not ask in sport, but because of late I can think of nothing
else than the subject I questioned you about. I was waiting in deep
anxiety, and there came to me only foolery and laughter.
Farewell, Marit Heidegards, I shall not look at you too much, as I
did at that dance. May you both eat well, and sleep well, and get your
new web finished, and above all, may you be able to shovel away the
snow which lies in front of the church-door.
Most respectfully,
OYVIND THORESEN PLADSEN.

TO THE AGRICULTURIST, OYVIND THORESEN, AT THE AGRICULTURAL SCHOOL:--
Notwithstanding my advanced years, and the weakness of my eyes,
and the pain in my right hip, I must yield to the importunity of the
young, for we old people are needed by them when they have caught
themselves in some snare. They entice us and weep until they are set
free, but then at once run away from us again, and will take no further
advice.
Now it is Marit; she coaxes me with many sweet words to write at
the same time she does, for she takes comfort in not writing alone. I
have read your letter; she thought that she had Jon Hatlen or some
other fool to deal with, and not one whom school-master Baard had
trained; but now she is in a dilemma. However, you have been too
severe, for there are certain women who take to jesting in order to
avoid weeping, and who make no difference between the two. But it
pleases me to have you take serious things seriously, for otherwise you
could not laugh at nonsense.
Concerning the feelings of both, it is now apparent from many
things that you are bent on having each other. About Marit I have
often been in doubt, for she is like the wind's course; but I have now
learned that notwithstanding this she has resisted Jon Hatlen's
advances, at which her grandfather's wrath is sorely kindled. She was
happy when your offer came, and if she jested it was from joy, not from
any harm. She has endured much, and has done so in order to wait for
him on whom her mind was fixed. And now you will not have her, but
cast her away as you would a naughty child.
This was what I wanted to tell you. And this counsel I must add,
that you should come to an understanding with her, for you can find
enough else to be at variance with. I am like the old man who has
lived through three generations; I have seen folly and its course.
Your mother and father send love by me. They are expecting you
home; but I would not write of this before, lest you should become
homesick. You do not know your father; he is like a tree which makes
no moan until it is hewn down. But if ever any mischance should befall
you, then you will learn to know him, and you will wonder at the
richness of his nature. He has had heavy burdens to bear, and is
silent in worldly matters; but your mother has relieved his mind from
earthly anxiety, and now daylight is beginning to break through the
gloom.
Now my eyes grow dim, my hand refuses to do more. Therefore I
commend you to Him whose eye ever watches, and whose hand is never
weary.
BAARD ANDERSEN OPDAL.

TO OYVIND PLADSEN:--
You seem to be displeased with me, and this greatly grieves me.
For I did not mean to make you angry. I meant well. I know I have
often failed to do rightly by you, and that is why I write to you now;
but you must not show the letter to any one. Once I had everything
just as I desired, and then I was not kind; but now there is no one who
cares for me, and I am very wretched. Jon Hatlen has made a lampoon
about me, and all the boys sing it, and I no longer dare go to the
dances. Both the old people know about it, and I have to listen to
many harsh words. Now I am sitting alone writing, and you must not
show my letter.
You have learned much and are able to advise me, but you are now
far away. I have often been down to see your parents, and have talked
with your mother, and we have become good friends; but I did not like
to say anything about it, for you wrote so strangely. The
school-master only makes fun of me, and he knows nothing about the
lampoon, for no one in the parish would presume to sing such a thing to
him. I stand alone now, and have no one to speak with. I remember
when we were children, and you were so kind to me; and I always sat on
your sled, and I could wish that I were a child again.
I cannot ask you to answer me, for I dare not do so. But if you
will answer just once more I will never forget it in you, Oyvind.
MARIT KNUDSDATTER.

Please burn this letter; I scarcely know whether I dare send it.

DEAR MARIT,--Thank you for your letter; you wrote it in a lucky hour.
I will tell you now, Marit, that I love you so much that I can scarcely
wait here any longer; and if you love me as truly in return all the
lampoons of Jon and harsh words of others shall be like leaves which
grow too plentifully on the tree. Since I received your letter I feel
like a new being, for double my former strength has come to me, and I
fear no one in the whole world. After I had sent my last letter I
regretted it so that I almost became ill. And now you shall hear what
the result of this was. The superintendent took me aside and asked
what was the matter with me; he fancied I was studying too hard. Then
he told me that when my year was out I might remain here one more,
without expense. I could help him with sundry things, and he would
teach me more. Then I thought that work was the only thing I had to
rely on, and I thanked him very much; and I do not yet repent it,
although now I long for you, for the longer I stay here the better
right I shall have to ask for you one day. How happy I am now! I work
like three people, and never will I be behind-hand in any work! But
you must have a book that I am reading, for there is much in it about
love. I read in it in the evening when the others are sleeping, and
then I read your letter over again. Have you thought about our
meeting? I think of it so often, and you, too, must try and find out
how delightful it will be. I am truly happy that I have toiled and
studied so much, although it was hard before; for now I can say what I
please to you, and smile over it in my heart.
I shall give you many books to read, that you may see how much
tribulation they have borne who have truly loved each other, and that
they would rather die of grief than forsake each other. And that is
what we would do, and do it with the greatest joy. True, it will be
nearly two years before we see each other, and still longer before we
get each other; but with every day that passes there is one day less to
wait; we must think of this while we are working.
My next letter shall be about many things; but this evening I have
no more paper, and the others are asleep. Now I will go to bed and
think of you, and I will do so until I fall asleep.
Your friend,
OYVIND PLADSEN.

CHAPTER IX.

One Saturday, in midsummer, Thore Pladsen rowed across the lake to meet
his son, who was expected to arrive that afternoon from the
agricultural school, where he had finished his course. The mother had
hired women several days beforehand, and everything was scoured and
clean. The bedroom had been put in order some time before, a stove had
been set up, and there Oyvind was to be. To-day the mother carried in
fresh greens, laid out clean linen, made up the bed, and all the while
kept looking out to see if, perchance, any boat were coming across the
lake. A plentiful table was spread in the house, and there was always
something wanting, or flies to chase away, and the bedroom was
dusty,--continually dusty. Still no boat came. The mother leaned
against the window and looked across the waters; then she heard a step
near at hand on the road, and turned her head. It was the school-
master, who was coming slowly down the hill, supporting himself on a
staff, for his hip troubled him. His intelligent eyes looked calm. He
paused to rest, and nodded to her:--

"Not come yet?"

"No; I expect them every moment."

"Fine weather for haymaking, to-day."

"But warm for old folks to be walking."

The school-master looked at her, smiling,--

"Have any young folks been out to-day?"

"Yes; but are gone again."

"Yes, yes, to be sure; there will most likely be a meeting somewhere
this evening."

"I presume there will be. Thore says they shall not meet in his house
until they have the old man's consent."

"Right, quite right."

Presently the mother cried,--

"There! I think they are coming."

The school-master looked long in the distance.

"Yes, indeed! it is they."

The mother left the window, and he went into the house. After he had
rested a little and taken something to drink, they proceeded down to
the shore, while the boat darted toward them, making rapid headway, for
both father and son were rowing. The oarsmen had thrown off their
jackets, the waters whitened beneath their strokes; and so the boat
soon drew near those who were waiting. Oyvind turned his head and
looked up; he saw the two at the landing-place, and resting his oars,
he shouted,--

"Good-day, mother! Good-day, school-master!"

"What a manly voice he has," said the mother, her face sparkling. "O
dear, O dear! he is as fair as ever," she added.

The school-master drew in the boat. The father laid down his oars,
Oyvind sprang past him and out of the boat, shook hands first with his
mother, then with the school-master. He laughed and laughed again;
and, quite contrary to the custom of peasants, immediately began to
pour out a flood of words about the examination, the journey, the
superintendent's certificate, and good offers; he inquired about the
crops and his acquaintances, all save one. The father had paused to
carry things up from the boat, but, wanting to hear, too, thought they
might remain there for the present, and joined the others. And so they
walked up toward the house, Oyvind laughing and talking, the mother
laughing, too, for she was utterly at a loss to know what to say. The
school-master moved slowly along at Oyvind's side, watching his old
pupil closely; the father walked at a respectful distance. And thus
they reached home. Oyvind was delighted with everything he saw: first
because the house was painted, then because the mill was enlarged, then
because the leaden windows had been taken out in the family-room and in
the bed-chamber, and white glass had taken the place of green, and the
window frames had been made larger. When he entered everything seemed
astonishingly small, and not at all as he remembered it, but very
cheerful. The clock cackled like a fat hen, the carved chairs almost
seemed as if they would speak; he knew every dish on the table spread
before him, the freshly white-washed hearth smiled welcome; the greens,
decorating the walls, scattered about them their fragrance, the
juniper, strewn over the floor, gave evidence of the festival.

They all sat down to the meal; but there was not much eaten, for Oyvind
rattled away without ceasing. The others viewed him now more
composedly, and observed in what respect he had altered, in what he
remained unchanged; looked at what was entirely new about him, even to
the blue broadcloth suit he wore. Once when he had been telling a long
story about one of his companions and finally concluded, as there was a
little pause, the father said,--

"I scarcely understand a word that you say, boy; you talk so very
fast."

They all laughed heartily, and Oyvind not the least. He knew very well
this was true, but it was not possible for him to speak more slowly.
Everything new he had seen and learned, during his long absence from
home, had so affected his imagination and understanding, and had so
driven him out of his accustomed demeanor, that faculties which long
had lain dormant were roused up, as it were, and his brain was in a
state of constant activity. Moreover, they observed that he had a
habit of arbitrarily taking up two or three words here and there, and
repeating them again and again from sheer haste. He seemed to be
stumbling over himself. Sometimes this appeared absurd, but then he
laughed and it was forgotten. The school-master and the father sat
watching to see if any of the old thoughtfulness was gone; but it did
not seem so. Oyvind remembered everything, and was even the one to
remind the others that the boat should be unloaded. He unpacked his
clothes at once and hung them up, displayed his books, his watch,
everything new, and all was well cared for, his mother said. He was
exceedingly pleased with his little room. He would remain at home for
the present, he said,--help with the hay-making, and study. Where he
should go later he did not know; but it made not the least difference
to him. He had acquired a briskness and vigor of thought which it did
one good to see, and an animation in the expression of his feelings
which is so refreshing to a person who the whole year through strives
to repress his own. The school-master grew ten years younger.

"Now we have come _so far_ with him," said he, beaming with
satisfaction as he rose to go.

When the mother returned from waiting on him, as usual, to the
door-step, she called Oyvind into the bedroom.

"Some one will be waiting for you at nine o'clock," whispered she.

"Where?"

"On the cliff."

Oyvind glanced at the clock; it was nearly nine. He could not wait in
the house, but went out, clambered up the side of the cliff, paused on
the top, and looked around. The house lay directly below; the bushes
on the roof had grown large, all the young trees round about him had
also grown, and he recognized every one of them. His eyes wandered
down the road, which ran along the cliff, and was bordered by the
forest on the other side. The road lay there, gray and solemn, but the
forest was enlivened with varied foliage; the trees were tall and well
grown. In the little bay lay a boat with unfurled sail; it was laden
with planks and awaiting a breeze. Oyvind gazed across the water which
had borne him away and home again. There it stretched before him,
calm and smooth; some sea-birds flew over it, but made no noise, for it
was late. His father came walking up from the mill, paused on the
door-step, took a survey of all about him, as his son had done, then
went down to the water to take the boat in for the night. The mother
appeared at the side of the house, for she had been in the kitchen.
She raised her eyes toward the cliff as she crossed the farm-yard with
something for the hens, looked up again and began to hum. Oyvind sat
down to wait. The underbrush was so dense that he could not see very
far into the forest, but he listened to the slightest sound. For a
long time he heard nothing but the birds that flew up and cheated
him,--after a while a squirrel that was leaping from tree to tree. But
at length there was a rustling farther off; it ceased a moment, and
then began again. He rises, his heart throbs, the blood rushes to his
head; then something breaks through the brushes close by him; but it is
a large, shaggy dog, which, on seeing him, pauses on three legs without
stirring. It is the dog from the Upper Heidegards, and close behind
him another rustling is heard. The dog turns his head and wags his
tail; now Marit appears.

A bush caught her dress; she turned to free it, and so she was standing
when Oyvind saw her first. Her head was bare, her hair twisted up as
girls usually wear it in every-day attire; she had on a thick plaid
dress without sleeves, and nothing about the neck except a turned-down
linen collar. She had just stolen away from work in the fields, and
had not ventured on any change of dress. Now she looked up askance and
smiled; her white teeth shone, her eyes sparkled beneath the
half-closed lids. Thus she stood for a moment working with her
fingers, and then she came forward, growing rosier and rosier with each
step. He advanced to meet her, and took her hand between both of his.
Her eyes were fixed on the ground, and so they stood.

"Thank you for all your letters," was the first thing he said; and when
she looked up a little and laughed, he felt that she was the most
roguish troll he could meet in a wood; but he was captured, and she,
too, was evidently caught.

"How tall you have grown," said she, meaning something quite different.

She looked at him more and more, laughed more and more, and he laughed,
too; but they said nothing. The dog had seated himself on the slope,
and was surveying the gard. Thore observed the dog's head from the
water, but could not for his life understand what it could be that was
showing itself on the cliff above.

But the two had now let go of each other's hands and were beginning to
talk a little. And when Oyvind was once under way he burst into such a
rapid stream of words that Marit had to laugh at him.

"Yes, you see, this is the way it is when I am happy--truly happy, you
see; and as soon as it was settled between us two, it seemed as if
there burst open a lock within me--wide open, you see."

She laughed. Presently she said,--

"I know almost by heart all the letters you sent me."

"And I yours! But you always wrote such short ones."

"Because you always wanted them to be so long."

"And when I desired that we should write more about something, then you
changed the subject."

"'I show to the best advantage when you see my tail,'[1] said the
hulder."

[Footnote 1: The hulder in the Norse folk-lore appears like a beautiful
woman, and usually wears a blue petticoat and a white sword; but she
unfortunately has a long tail, like a cow's, which she anxiously
strives to conceal when she is among people. She is fond of cattle,
particularly brindled, of which she possesses a beautiful and thriving
stock. They are without horns. She was once at a merry-making, where
every one was desirous of dancing with the handsome, strange damsel;
but in the midst of the mirth a young man, who had just begun a dance
with her, happened to cast his eye on her tail. Immediately guessing
whom he had gotten for a partner, he was not a little terrified; but,
collecting himself, and unwilling to betray her, he merely said to her
when the dance was over: "Fair maid, you will lose your garter." She
instantly vanished, but afterwards rewarded the silent and considerate
youth with beautiful presents and a good breed of cattle. FAYE'S
_Traditions_.--NOTE BY TRANSLATOR.]

"Ah! that is so. You have never told me how you got rid of Jon
Hatlen."

"I laughed."

"How?"

"Laughed. Do not you know what it is to laugh?"

"Yes; I can laugh."

"Let me see!"

"Whoever beard of such a thing! Surely, I must have something to laugh
at."

"I do not need that when I am happy."

"Are you happy now, Marit?"

"Pray, am I laughing now?"

"Yes; you are, indeed."

He took both her hands in his and clapped them together over and over
again, gazing into her face. Here the dog began to growl, then his
hair bristled and he fell to barking at something below, growing more
and more savage, and finally quite furious. Marit sprang back in
alarm; but Oyvind went forward and looked down. It was his father the
dog was barking at. He was standing at the foot of the cliff with both
hands in his pockets, gazing at the dog.

"Are you there, you two? What mad dog is that you have up there?"

"It is the dog from the Heidegards," answered Oyvind, somewhat
embarrassed.

"How the deuce did it get up there?"

Now the mother had put her head out of the kitchen door, for she had
heard the dreadful noise, and at once knew what it meant; and laughing,
she said,--

"That dog is roaming about there every day, so there is nothing
remarkable in it."

"Well, I must say it is a fierce dog."

"It will behave better if I stroke it," thought Oyvind, and he did so.

The dog stopped barking, but growled. The father walked away as though
he knew nothing, and the two on the cliff were saved from discovery.

"It was all right this time," said Marit, as they drew near to each
other again.

"Do you expect it to be worse hereafter?"

"I know one who will keep a close watch on us--that I do."

"Your grandfather?"

"Yes, indeed."

"But he shall do us no harm."

"Not the least."

"And you promise that?"

"Yes, I promise it, Oyvind."

"How beautiful you are, Marit!"

"So the fox said to the raven and got the cheese."

"I mean to have the cheese, too, I can assure you."

"You shall not have it."

"But I will take it."

She turned her head, but he did not take it.

"I can tell you one thing, Oyvind, though." She looked up sideways as
she spoke.

"Well?"

"How homely you have grown!"

"Ah! you are going to give me the cheese, anyway; are you?"

"No, I am not," and she turned away again.

"Now I must go, Oyvind."

"I will go with you."

"But not beyond the woods; grandfather might see you."

"No, not beyond the woods. Dear me! are you running?"

"Why, we cannot walk side by side here."

"But this is not going together?"

"Catch me, then!"

She ran; he after her; and soon she was fast in the bushes, so that he
overtook her.

"Have I caught you forever, Merit?" His hand was on her waist.

"I think so," said she, and laughed; but she was both flushed and
serious.

"Well, now is the time," thought he, and he made a movement to kiss
her; but she bent her head down under his arm, laughed, and ran away.
She paused, though, by the last trees.

"And when shall we meet again?" whispered she.

"To-morrow, to-morrow!" he whispered in return.

"Yes; to-morrow."

"Good-by," and she ran on.

"Marit!" She stopped. "Say, was it not strange that we met first on
the cliff?"

"Yes, it was." She ran on again.

Oyvind gazed long after her. The dog ran on before her, barking; Marit
followed, quieting him. Oyvind turned, took off his cap and tossed it
into the air, caught it, and threw it up again.

"Now I really think I am beginning to be happy," said the boy, and went
singing homeward.

CHAPTER X.

One afternoon later in the summer, as his mother and a girl were raking
hay, while Oyvind and his father were carrying it in, there came a
little barefooted and bareheaded boy, skipping down the hill-side and
across the meadows to Oyvind, and gave him a note.

"You run well, my boy," said Oyvind.

"I am paid for it," answered the boy.

On being asked if he was to have an answer, the reply was No; and the
boy took his way home over the cliff, for some one was coming after him
up on the road, he said. Oyvind opened the note with some difficulty,
for it was folded in a strip, then tied in a knot, then sealed and
stamped; and the note ran thus:--

"He is now on the march; but he moves slowly. Run into the woods
and hide yourself! THE ONE YOU KNOW."

"I will do no such thing," thought Oyvind; and gazed defiantly up the
hills. Nor did he wait long before an old man appeared on the
hill-top, paused to rest, walked on a little, rested again. Both Thore
and his wife stopped to look. Thore soon smiled, however; his wife, on
the other hand, changed color.

"Do you know him?"

"Yes, it is not very easy to make a mistake here."

Father and son again began to carry hay; but the latter took care that
they were always together. The old man on the hill slowly drew near,
like a heavy western storm. He was very tall and rather corpulent; he
was lame and walked with a labored gait, leaning on a staff. Soon he
came so near that they could see him distinctly; he paused, removed his
cap and wiped away the perspiration with a handkerchief. He was quite
bald far back on the head; he had a round, wrinkled face, small,
glittering, blinking eyes, bushy eyebrows, and had lost none of his
teeth. When he spoke it was in a sharp, shrill voice, that seemed to
be hopping over gravel and stones; but it lingered on an "r" here and
there with great satisfaction, rolling it over for several yards, and
at the same time making a tremendous leap in pitch. He had been known
in his younger days as a lively but quick-tempered man; in his old age,
through much adversity, he had become irritable and suspicious.

Thore and his son came and went many times before Ole could make his
way to them; they both knew that he did not come for any good purpose,
therefore it was all the more comical that he never got there. Both
had to walk very serious, and talk in a whisper; but as this did not
come to an end it became ludicrous. Only half a word that is to the
point can kindle laughter under such circumstances, and especially when
it is dangerous to laugh. When at last Ole was only a few rods
distant, but which seemed never to grow less, Oyvind said, dryly, in a
low tone,--

"He must carry a heavy load, that man,"--and more was not required.

"I think you are not very wise," whispered the father, although he was
laughing himself.

"Hem, hem!" said Ole, coughing on the hill.

"He is getting his throat ready," whispered Thore.

Oyvind fell on his knees in front of the haycock, buried his head in
the hay, and laughed. His father also bowed down.

"Suppose we go into the barn," whispered he, and taking an armful of
hay he trotted off. Oyvind picked up a little tuft, rushed after him,
bent crooked with laughter, and dropped down as soon as he was inside
the barn. His father was a grave man, but if he once got to laughing,
there first began within him a low chuckling, with an occasional
ha-ha-ha, gradually growing longer and longer, until all blended in a
single loud peal, after which came wave after wave with a longer gasp
between each. Now he was under way. The son lay on the floor, the
father stood beside him, both laughing with all their might.
Occasionally they had such fits of laughter.

"But this is inconvenient," said the father.

Finally they were at a loss to know how this would end, for the old man
must surely have reached the gard.

"I will not go out," said the father; "I have no business with him."

"Well, then, I will not go out either," replied Oyvind.

"Hem, hem!" was heard just outside of the barn wall.

The father held up a threatening finger to his boy.

"Come, out with you!"

"Yes; you go first!"

"No, you be off at once."

"Well, go you first."

And they brushed the dust off each other, and advanced very seriously.
When they came below the barn-bridge they saw Ole standing with his
face towards the kitchen door, as if he were reflecting. He held his
cap in the same hand as his staff, and with his handkerchief was wiping
the sweat from his bald head, at the same time pulling at the bushy
tufts behind his ears and about his neck until they stuck out like
spikes. Oyvind hung behind his father, so the latter was obliged to
stand still, and in order to put an end to this he said with excessive
gravity,--

"Is the old gentleman out for a walk?"

Ole turned, looked sharply at him, and put on his cap before he
replied,--

"Yes, so it seems."

"Perhaps you are tired; will you not walk in?"

"Oh! I can rest very well here; my errand will not take long."

Some one set the kitchen door ajar and looked out; between it and Thore
stood old Ole, with his cap-visor down over his eyes, for the cap was
too large now that he had lost his hair. In order to be able to see he
threw his head pretty far back; he held his staff in his right hand,
while the left was firmly pressed against his side when he was not
gesticulating; and this he never did more vigorously than by stretching
the hand half way out and holding it passive a moment, as a guard for
his dignity.

"Is that your son who is standing behind you?" he began, abruptly.

"So they say."

"Oyvind is his name, is it not?"

"Yes; they call him Oyvind."

"He has been at one of those agricultural schools down south, I
believe?"

"There was something of the kind; yes."

"Well, my girl--she--my granddaughter--Marit, you know--she has gone
mad of late."

"That is too bad."

"She refuses to marry."

"Well, really?"

"She will not have any of the gard boys who offer themselves."

"Ah, indeed."

"But people say he is to blame; he who is standing there."

"Is that so?"

"He is said to have turned her head--yes; he there, your son Oyvind."

"The deuce he has!"

"See you, I do not like to have any one take my horses when I let them
loose on the mountains, neither do I choose to have any one take my
daughters when I allow them to go to a dance. I will not have it."

"No, of course not."

"I cannot go with them; I am old, I cannot be forever on the lookout."

"No, no! no, no!"

"Yes, you see, I will have order and propriety; there the block must
stand, and there the axe must lie, and there the knife, and there they
must sweep, and there throw rubbish out,--not outside the door, but
yonder in the corner, just there--yes; and nowhere else. So, when I
say to her: 'not this one but that one!' I expect it to be that one,
and not this one!"

"Certainly."

"But it is not so. For three years she has persisted in thwarting me,
and for three years we have not been happy together. This is bad; and
if he is at the bottom of it, I will tell him so that you may hear it,
you, his father, that it will not do him any good. He may as well give
it up."

"Yes, yes."

Ole looked a moment at Thore, then he said,--

"Your answers are short."

"A sausage is no longer."

Here Oyvind had to laugh, although he was in no mood to do so. But
with daring persons fear always borders on laughter, and now it
inclined to the latter.

"What are you laughing at?" asked Ole, shortly and sharply.

"I?"

"Are you laughing at me?"

"The Lord forbid!" but his own answer increased his desire to laugh.

Ole saw this, and grew absolutely furious. Both Thore and Oyvind tried
to make amends with serious faces and entreaties to walk in; but it was
the pent-up wrath of three years that was now seeking vent, and there
was no checking it.

"You need not think you can make a fool of me," he began; "I am on a
lawful errand: I am protecting my grandchild's happiness, as I
understand it, and puppy laughter shall not hinder me. One does not
bring up girls to toss them down into the first houseman's place that
opens its doors, and one does not manage an estate for forty years only
to hand the whole over to the first one who makes a fool of the girl.
My daughter made herself ridiculous until she was allowed to marry a
vagabond. He drank them both into the grave, and I had to take the
child and pay for the fun; but, by my troth! it shall not be the same
with my granddaughter, and now you know _that_! I tell you, as sure as
my name is Ole Nordistuen of the Heidegards, the priest shall sooner
publish the bans of the hulder-folks up in the Nordal forest than give
out such names from the pulpit as Marit's and yours, you Christmas
clown! Do you think you are going to drive respectable suitors away
from the gard, forsooth? Well; you just try to come there, and you
shall have such a journey down the hills that your shoes will come
after you like smoke. You snickering fox! I suppose you have a notion
that I do not know what you are thinking of, both you and she. Yes,
you think that old Ole Nordistuen will turn his nose to the skies
yonder, in the churchyard, and then you will trip forward to the altar.
No; I have lived now sixty-six years, and I will prove to you, boy,
that I shall live until you waste away over it, both of you! I can
tell you this, too, that you may cling to the house like new-fallen
snow, yet not so much as see the soles of her feet; for I mean to send
her from the parish. I am going to send her where she will be safe; so
you may flutter about here like a chattering jay all you please, and
marry the rain and the north wind. This is all I have to say to you;
but now you, who are his father, know my sentiments, and if you desire
the welfare of him whom this concerns, you had better advise him to
lead the stream where it can find its course; across my possessions it
is forbidden."

He turned away with short, hasty steps, lifting his right foot rather
higher than the left, and grumbling to himself.

Those left behind were completely sobered; a foreboding of evil had
become blended with their jesting and laughter, and the house seemed,
for a while, as empty as after a great fright. The mother who, from
the kitchen door had heard everything, anxiously sought Oyvind's eyes,
scarcely able to keep back her tears, but she would not make it harder
for him by saying a single word. After they had all silently entered
the house, the father sat down by the window, and gazed out after Ole,
with much earnestness in his face; Oyvind's eyes hung on the slightest
change of countenance; for on his father's first words almost depended
the future of the two young people. If Thore united his refusal with
Ole's, it could scarcely be overcome. Oyvind's thoughts flew,
terrified, from obstacle to obstacle; for a time he saw only poverty,
opposition, misunderstanding, and a sense of wounded honor, and every
prop he tried to grasp seemed to glide away from him. It increased his
uneasiness that his mother was standing with her hand on the latch of
the kitchen-door, uncertain whether she had the courage to remain
inside and await the issue, and that she at last lost heart entirely
and stole out. Oyvind gazed fixedly at his father, who never took his
eyes from the window; the son did not dare speak, for the other must
have time to think the matter over fully. But at the same moment his
soul had fully run its course of anxiety, and regained its poise once
more. "No one but God can part us in the end," he thought to himself,
as he looked at his father's wrinkled brow. Soon after this something
occurred. Thore drew a long sigh, rose, glanced round the room, and
met his son's gaze. He paused, and looked long at him.

"It was my will that you should give her up, for one should hesitate
about succeeding through entreaties or threats. But if you are
determined not to give her up, you may let me know when the opportunity
comes, and perhaps I can help you."

He started off to his work, and the son followed.

But that evening Oyvind had his plan formed: he would endeavor to
become agriculturist for the district, and ask the inspector and the
school-master to aid him. "If she only remains firm, with God's help,
I shall win her through my work."

He waited in vain for Marit that evening, but as he walked about he
sang his favorite song:--

"Hold thy head up, thou eager boy!
Time a hope or two may destroy,
Soon in thy eye though is beaming,
Light that above thee is beaming!

"Hold thy head up, and gaze about!
Something thou'lt find that "Come!" does shout;
Thousands of tongues it has bringing
Tidings of peace with their singing.

"Hold thy head up; within thee, too,
Rises a mighty vault of blue,
Wherein are harp tones sounding,
Swinging, exulting, rebounding.

"Hold thy head up, and loudly sing!
Keep not back what would sprout in spring;
Powers fermenting, glowing,
Must find a time for growing.

"Hold thy head up; baptism take,
From the hope that on high does break,
Arches of light o'er us throwing,
And in each life-spark glowing."[1]

[Footnote 1: Auber Forestier's translation.]

CHAPTER XI.

It was during the noonday rest; the people at the great Heidegards were
sleeping, the hay was scattered over the meadows, the rakes were staked
in the ground. Below the barn-bridge stood the hay sleds, the harness
lay, taken off, beside them, and the horses were tethered at a little
distance. With the exception of the latter and some hens that had
strayed across the fields, not a living creature was visible on the
whole plain.

There was a notch in the mountains above the gards, and through it the
road led to the Heidegard saeters,--large, fertile mountain plains. A
man was standing in this notch, taking a survey of the plain below,
just as if he were watching for some one. Behind him lay a little
mountain lake, from which flowed the brook which made this mountain
pass; on either side of this lake ran cattle-paths, leading to the
saeters, which could be seen in the distance. There floated toward him
a shouting and a barking, cattle-bells tinkled among the mountain
ridges; for the cows had straggled apart in search of water, and the
dogs and herd-boys were vainly striving to drive them together. The
cows came galloping along with the most absurd antics and involuntary
plunges, and with short, mad bellowing, their tails held aloft, they
rushed down into the water, where they came to a stand; every time they
moved their heads the tinkling of their bells was heard across the
lake. The dogs drank a little, but stayed behind on firm land; the
herd-boys followed, and seated themselves on the warm, smooth
hill-side. Here they drew forth their lunch boxes, exchanged with one
another, bragged about their dogs, oxen, and the family they lived
with, then undressed, and sprang into the water with the cows. The
dogs persisted in not going in; but loitered lazily around, their heads
hanging, with hot eyes and lolling tongues. Round about on the slopes
not a bird was to be seen, not a sound was heard, save the prattling of
children and the tinkling of bells; the heather was parched and dry,
the sun blazed on the hill-sides, so that everything was scorched by
its heat.

It was Oyvind who was sitting up there in the mid-day sun, waiting. He
sat in his shirt-sleeves, close by the brook which flowed from the
lake. No one yet appeared on the Heidegard plain, and he was gradually
beginning to grow anxious when suddenly a large dog came walking with
heavy steps out of a door in Nordistuen, followed by a girl in white
sleeves. She tripped across the meadow toward the cliff; he felt a
strong desire to shout down to her, but dared not. He took a careful
survey of the gard to see if any one might come out and notice her, but
there seemed to be no danger of detection, and several times he rose
from impatience.

She arrived at last, following a path by the side of the brook, the dog
a little in advance of her, snuffing the air, she catching hold of the
low shrubs, and walking with more and more weary gait. Oyvind sprang
downward; the dog growled and was hushed; but as soon as Marit saw
Oyvind coming she sat down on a large stone, as red as blood, tired and
overcome by the heat. He flung himself down on the stone by her side.

"Thank you for coming."

"What heat and what a distance! Have you been here long?"

"No. Since we are watched in the evening, we must make use of the
noon. But after this I think we will not act so secretly, nor take so
much trouble; it was just about this I wanted to speak to you."

"Not so secretly?"

"I know very well that all that is done secretly pleases you best; but
to show courage pleases you also. To-day I have come to have a long
talk with you, and now you must listen."

"Is it true that you are trying to be agriculturist for the district?"

"Yes, and I expect to succeed. In this I have a double purpose: first,
to win a position for myself; but secondly, and chiefly, to accomplish
something which your grandfather can see and understand. Luckily it
chances that most of the Heidegard freeholders are young people who
wish for improvements and desire help; they have money, too. So I
shall begin among them. I shall regulate everything from their stables
to their water-pipes; I shall give lectures and work; I shall fairly
besiege the old man with good deeds."

"Those are brave words. What more, Oyvind?"

"Why, the rest simply concerns us two. You must not go away."

"Not if he orders it?"

"And keep nothing secret that concerns us two."

"Even if he torments me?"

"We gain more and defend ourselves better by allowing everything to be
open. We must manage to be so constantly before the eyes of people,
that they are constantly forced to talk about how fond we are of each
other; so much the sooner will they wish that all may go well with us.
You must not leave home. There is danger of gossip forcing its way
between those who are parted. We pay no heed to any idle talk the
first year, but we begin by degrees to believe in it the second. We
two will meet once a week and laugh away the mischief people would like
to make between us; we shall be able to meet occasionally at a dance,
and keep step together until everything sings about us, while those who
backbite us are sitting around. We shall meet at church and greet each
other so that it may attract the attention of all those who wish us a
hundred miles apart. If any one makes a song about us we will sit down
together and try to get up one in answer to it; we must succeed if we
assist each other. No one can harm us if we keep together, and thus
_show_ people that we keep together. All unhappy love belongs either
to timid people, or weak people, or sick people, or calculating people,
who keep waiting for some special opportunity, or cunning people, who,
in the end, smart for their own cunning; or to sensuous people that do
not care enough for each other to forget rank and distinction; they go
and hide from sight, they send letters, they tremble at a word, and
finally they mistake fear, that constant uneasiness and irritation in
the blood, for love, become wretched and dissolve like sugar. Oh
pshaw! if they truly loved each other they would have no fear; they
would laugh, and would openly march to the church door, in the face of
every smile and every word. I have read about it in books, and I have
seen it for myself. That is a pitiful love which chooses a secret
course. Love naturally begins in secresy because it begins in shyness;
but it must live openly because it lives in joy. It is as when the
leaves are changing; that which is to grow cannot conceal itself, and
in every instance you see that all which is dry falls from the tree the
moment the new leaves begin to sprout. He who gains love casts off all
the old, dead rubbish he formerly clung to, the sap wells up and rushes
onward; and should no one notice it then? Hey, my girl! they shall
become happy at seeing us happy; two who are betrothed and remain true
to each other confer a benefit on people, for they give them a poem
which their children learn by heart to the shame of their unbelieving
parents. I have read of many such cases; and some still live in the
memory of the people of this parish, and those who relate these
stories, and are moved by them, are the children of the very persons
who once caused all the mischief. Yes, Marit, now we two will join
hands, so; yes, and we will promise each other to cling together, so;
yes, and now it will all come right. Hurrah!"

He was about to take hold of her head, but she turned it away and
glided down off the stone.

He kept his seat; she came back, and leaning her arms on his knee,
stood talking with him, looking up into his face.

"Listen, Oyvind; what if he is determined I shall leave home, how
then?"

"Then you must say No, right out."

"Oh, dear! how would that be possible?"

"He cannot carry you out to the carriage."

"If he does not quite do that, he can force me in many other ways."

"That I do not believe; you owe obedience, to be sure, as long as it is
not a sin; but it is also your duty to let him fully understand how
hard it is for you to be obedient this time. I am sure he will change
his mind when he sees this; now he thinks, like most people, that it is
only childish nonsense. Prove to him that it is something more."

"He is not to be trifled with, I can assure you. He watches me like a
tethered goat."

"But you tug at the tether several times a day."

"That is not true."

"Yes, you do; every time you think of me in secret you tug at it."

"Yes, in that way. But are you so very sure that I think often of
you?"

"You would not be sitting here if you did not."

"Why, dear me! did you not send word for me to come?"

"But you came because your thoughts drove you here."

"Rather because the weather was so fine."

"You said a while ago that it was too warm."

"To go _up_ hill, yes; but _down_ again?"

"Why did you come up, then?"

"That I might run down again."

"Why did you not run down before this?"

"Because I had to rest."

"And talk with me about love?"

"It was an easy matter to give you the pleasure of listening."

"While the birds sang."

"And the others were sleeping."

"And the bells rang."

"In the shady grove."

Here they both saw Marit's grandfather come sauntering out into the
yard, and go to the bell-rope to ring the farm people up. The people
came slowly forth from the barns, sheds, and houses, moved sleepily
toward their horses and rakes, scattered themselves over the meadow,
and presently all was life and work again. Only the grandfather went
in and out of the houses, and finally up on the highest barn-bridge and
looked out. There came running up to him a little boy, whom he must
have called. The boy, sure enough, started off in the direction of
Pladsen. The grandfather, meanwhile, moved about the gard, often
looking upward and having a suspicion, at least, that the black spot on
the "giant rock" was Marit and Oyvind. Now for the second time Marit's
great dog was the cause of trouble. He saw a strange horse drive in to
the Heidegards, and believing himself to be only doing his duty, began
to bark with all his might. They hushed the dog, but he had grown
angry and would not be quiet; the grandfather stood below staring up.
But matters grew still worse, for all the herd-boys' dogs heard with
surprise the strange voice and came running up. When they saw that it
was a large, wolf-like giant, all the stiff-haired Lapp-dogs gathered
about him. Marit became so terrified that she ran away without saying
farewell. Oyvind rushed into the midst of the fray, kicked and fought;
but the dogs merely changed the field of battle, and then flew at one
another again, with hideous howls and kicks; Oyvind after them again,
and so it kept on until they had rolled over to the edge of the brook,
when he once more came running up. The result of this was that they
all tumbled together into the water, just at a place where it was quite
deep, and there they parted, shame-faced. Thus ended this forest
battle. Oyvind walked through the forest until he reached the parish
road; but Marit met her grandfather up by the fence. This was the
dog's fault.

"Where do you come from?"

"From the wood."

"What were you doing there?"

"Plucking berries."

"That is not true."

"No; neither is it."

"What were you doing, then?"

"I was talking with some one."

"Was it with the Pladsen boy?"

"Yes."

"Hear me now, Marit; to-morrow you leave home."

"No."

"Listen to me, Marit; I have but one single thing to say, only one: you
_shall_ go."

"You cannot lift me into the carriage."

"Indeed? Can I not?"

"No; because you will not."

"Will I not? Listen now, Marit, just for sport, you see, just for
sport. I am going to tell you that I will crush the backbone of that
worthless fellow of yours."

"No; you would not dare do so."

"I would not dare? Do you say I would not dare? Who should interfere?
Who?"

"The school-master."

"School--school--school-master. Does he trouble his head about that
fellow, do you think?"

"Yes; it is he who has kept him at the agricultural school."

"The school-master?"

"The school-master."

"Hearken now, Marit; I will have no more of this nonsense; you shall
leave the parish. You only cause me sorrow and trouble; that was the
way with your mother, too, only sorrow and trouble. I am an old man.
I want to see you well provided for. I will not live in people's talk
as a fool just for this matter. I only wish your own good; you should
understand this, Marit. Soon I will be gone, and then you will be left
alone. What would have become of your mother if it had not been for
me? Listen, Marit; be sensible, pay heed to what I have to say. I
only desire your own good."

"No, you do not."

"Indeed? What do I want, then?"

"To carry out your own will, that is what you want; but you do not ask
about mine."

"And have you a will, you young sea-gull, you? Do you suppose you know
what is for your good, you fool? I will give you a taste of the rod, I
will, for all you are so big and tall. Listen now, Marit; let me talk
kindly with you. You are not so bad at heart, but you have lost your
senses. You must listen to me. I am an old and sensible man. We will
talk kindly together a little; I have not done so remarkably well in
the world as folks think; a poor bird on the wing could easily fly away
with the little I have; your father handled it roughly, indeed he did.
Let us care for ourselves in this world, it is the best thing we can
do. It is all very well for the school-master to talk, for he has
money himself; so has the priest;--let them preach. But with us who
must slave for our daily bread, it is quite different. I am old. I
know much. I have seen many things; love, you see, may do very well to
talk about; yes, but it is not worth much. It may answer for priests
and such folks, peasants must look at it in a different light. First
food, you see, then God's Word, and then a little writing and
arithmetic, and then a little love, if it happens to come in the way;
but, by the Eternals! there is no use in beginning with love and ending
with food. What can you say, now, Marit?"

"I do not know."

"You do not know what you ought to answer?"

"Yes, indeed, I know that."

"Well, then?"

"May I say it?"

"Yes; of course you may say it."

"I care a great deal for that love of mine."

He stood aghast for a moment, recalling a hundred similar conversations
with similar results, then he shook his head, turned his back, and
walked away.

He picked a quarrel with the housemen, abused the girls, beat the large
dog, and almost frightened the life out of a little hen that had
strayed into the field; but to Marit he said nothing.

That evening Marit was so happy when she went up-stairs to bed, that
she opened the window, lay in the window-frame, looked out and sang.
She had found a pretty little love-song, and it was that she sang.

"Lovest thou but me,
I will e'er love thee,
All my days on earth, so fondly;
Short were summer's days,
Now the flower decays,--
Comes again with spring, so kindly.

"What you said last year
Still rings in my ear,
As I all alone am sitting,
And your thoughts do try
In my heart to fly,--
Picture life in sunshine flitting.

"Litli--litli--loy,
Well I hear the boy,
Sighs behind the birches heaving.
I am in dismay,
Thou must show the way,
For the night her shroud is weaving.

"Flomma, lomma, hys,
Sang I of a kiss,
No, thou surely art mistaken.
Didst thou hear it, say?
Cast the thought away;
Look on me as one forsaken.

"Oh, good-night! good-night!
Dreams of eyes so bright,
Hold me now in soft embraces,
But that wily word,
Which thou thought'st unheard,
Leaves in me of love no traces.

"I my window close,
But in sweet repose
Songs from thee I hear returning;
Calling me they smile,
And my thoughts beguile,--
Must I e'er for thee be yearning?"

CHAPTER XII.

Several years have passed since the last scene.

It is well on in the autumn. The school-master comes walking up to
Nordistuen, opens the outer door, finds no one at home, opens another,
finds no one at home; and thus he keeps on until he reaches the
innermost room in the long building. There Ole Nordistuen is sitting
alone, by the side of his bed, his eyes fixed on his hands.

The school-master salutes him, and receives a greeting in return; he
finds a stool, and seats himself in front of Ole.

"You have sent for me," he says.

"I have."

The school-master takes a fresh quid of tobacco, glances around the
room, picks up a book that is lying on the bench, and turns over the
leaves.

"What did you want of me?"

"I was just sitting here thinking it over."

The school-master gives himself plenty of time, searches for his
spectacles in order to read the title of the book, wipes them and puts
them on.

"You are growing old, now, Ole."

"Yes, it was about that I wanted to talk with you. I am tottering
downward; I will soon rest in the grave."

"You must see to it that you rest well there, Ole."

He closes the book and sits looking at the binding.

"That is a good book you are holding in your hands."

"It is not bad. How often have you gone beyond the cover, Ole?"

"Why, of late, I"--

The school-master lays aside the book and puts away his spectacles.

"Things are not going as you wish to have them, Ole?"

"They have not done so as far back as I can remember."

"Ah, so it was with me for a long time. I lived at variance with a
good friend, and wanted _him_ to come to _me_, and all the while I was
unhappy. At last I took it into my head to go to _him_, and since then
all has been well with me."

Ole looks up and says nothing.

The school-master: "How do you think the gard is doing, Ole?"

"Failing, like myself."

"Who shall have it when you are gone?"

"That is what I do not know, and it is that, too, which troubles me."

"Your neighbors are doing well now, Ole."

"Yes, they have that agriculturist to help them."

The school-master turned unconcernedly toward the window: "You should
have help,--you, too, Ole. You cannot walk much, and you know very
little of the new ways of management."

Ole: "I do not suppose there is any one who would help me."

"Have you asked for it?"

Ole is silent.

The school-master: "I myself dealt just so with the Lord for a long
time. 'You are not kind to me,' I said to Him. 'Have you prayed me to
be so?' asked He. No; I had not done so. Then I prayed, and since
then all has been truly well with me."

Ole is silent; but now the school-master, too, is silent.

Finally Ole says:--

"I have a grandchild; she knows what would please me before I am taken
away, but she does not do it."

The school-master smiles.

"Possibly it would not please her?"

Ole makes no reply.

The school-master: "There are many things which trouble you; but as far
as I can understand they all concern the gard."

Ole says, quietly,--

"It has been handed down for many generations, and the soil is good.
All that father after father has toiled for lies in it; but now it does
not thrive. Nor do I know who shall drive in when I am driven out. It
will not be one of the family."

"Your granddaughter will preserve the family."

"But how can he who takes her take the gard? That is what I want to
know before I die. You have no time to lose, Baard, either for me or
for the gard."

They were both silent; at last the school-master says,--

"Shall we walk out and take a look at the gard in this fine weather?"

"Yes; let us do so. I have work-people on the slope; they are
gathering leaves, but they do not work except when I am watching them."

He totters off after his large cap and staff, and says, meanwhile,--

"They do not seem to like to work for me; I cannot understand it."

When they were once out and turning the corner of the house, he paused.

"Just look here. No order: the wood flung about, the axe not even
stuck in the block."

He stooped with difficulty, picked up the axe, and drove it in fast.

"Here you see a skin that has fallen down; but has any one hung it up
again?"

He did it himself.

"And the store-house; do you think the ladder is carried away?"

He set it aside. He paused, and looking at the school-master, said,--

"This is the way it is every single day."

As they proceeded upward they heard a merry song from the slopes.

"Why, they are singing over their work," said the school-master.

"That is little Knut Ostistuen who is singing; he is helping his father
gather leaves. Over yonder _my_ people are working; you will not find
them singing."

"That is not one of the parish songs, is it?"

"No, it is not."

"Oyvind Pladsen has been much in Ostistuen; perhaps that is one of the
songs he has introduced into the parish, for there is always singing
where he is."

There was no reply to this.

The field they were crossing was not in good condition; it required
attention. The school-master commented on this, and then Ole stopped.

"It is not in my power to do more," said he, quite pathetically.
"Hired work-people without attention cost too much. But it is hard to
walk over such a field, I can assure you."

As their conversation now turned on the size of the gard, and what
portion of it most needed cultivation, they decided to go up the slope
that they might have a view of the whole. When they at length had
reached a high elevation, and could take it all in, the old man became
moved.

"Indeed, I should not like to leave it so. We have labored hard down
there, both I and those who went before me, but there is nothing to
show for it."

A song rang out directly over their heads, but with the peculiar
shrilling of a boy's voice when it is poured out with all its might.
They were not far from the tree in whose top was perched little Knut
Ostistuen, gathering leaves for his father, and they were compelled to
listen to the boy:--

"When on mountain peaks you hie,
'Mid green slopes to tarry,
In your scrip pray no more tie,
Than you well can carry.
Take no hindrances along
To the crystal fountains;
Drown them in a cheerful song,
Send them down the mountains.

"Birds there greet you from the trees,
Gossip seeks the valley;
Purer, sweeter grows the breeze,
As you upward sally.
Fill your lungs, and onward rove,
Ever gayly singing,
Childhood's memories, heath and grove,
Rosy-hued, are bringing.

"Pause the shady groves among,
Hear yon mighty roaring,
Solitude's majestic song
Upward far is soaring.
All the world's distraction comes
When there rolls a pebble;
Each forgotten duty hums
In the brooklet's treble.

"Pray, while overhead, dear heart,
Anxious mem'ries hover;
Then go on: the better part
You'll above discover.
Who hath chosen Christ as guide,
Daniel and Moses,
Finds contentment far and wide,
And in peace reposes."[1]

[Footnote 1: Auber Forestier's translation.]

Ole had sat down and covered his face with his hands.

"Here I will talk with you," said the school-master, and seated himself
by his side.

Down at Pladsen, Oyvind had just returned home from a somewhat long
journey, the post-boy was still at the door, as the horse was resting.
Although Oyvind now had a good income as agriculturist of the district,
he still lived in his little room down at Pladsen, and helped his
parents every spare moment. Pladsen was cultivated from one end to the
other, but it was so small that Oyvind called it "mother's toy-farm,"
for it was she, in particular, who saw to the farming.

He had changed his clothes, his father had come in from the mill, white
with meal, and had also dressed. They just stood talking about taking
a short walk before supper, when the mother came in quite pale.

"Here are singular strangers coming up to the house; oh dear! look
out!"

Both men turned to the window, and Oyvind was the first to exclaim:--

"It is the school-master, and--yes, I almost believe--why, certainly it
is he!"

"Yes, it is old Ole Nordistuen," said Thore, moving away from the
window that he might not be seen; for the two were already near the
door.

Just as Oyvind was leaving the window he caught the school-master's
eye, Baard smiled, and cast a glance back at old Ole, who was laboring
along with his staff in small, short steps, one foot being constantly
raised higher than the other. Outside the school-master was heard to
say, "He has recently returned home, I suppose," and Ole to exclaim
twice over, "Well, well!"

They remained a long time quiet in the passage. The mother had crept
up to the corner where the milk-shelf was; Oyvind had assumed his
favorite position, that is, he leaned with his back against the large
table, with his face toward the door; his father was sitting near him.
At length there came a knock at the door, and in stepped the
school-master, who drew off his hat, afterward Ole, who pulled off his
cap, and then turned to shut the door. It took him a long time to do
so; he was evidently embarrassed. Thore rising, asked them to be
seated; they sat down, side by side, on the bench in front of the
window. Thore took his seat again.

And the wooing proceeded as shall now be told.

The school-master: "We are having fine weather this autumn, after all."

Thore: "It has been mending of late."

"It is likely to remain pleasant, now that the wind is over in that
quarter."

"Are you through with your harvesting up yonder?"

"Not yet; Ole Nordistuen here, whom, perhaps, you know, would like very
much to have help from you, Oyvind, if there is nothing else in the
way."

Oyvind: "If help is desired, I shall do what I can."

"Well, there is no great hurry. The gard is not doing well, he thinks,
and he believes what is wanting is the right kind of tillage and
superintendence."

Oyvind: "I am so little at home."

The school-master looks at Ole. The latter feels that he must now rush
into the fire; he clears his throat a couple of times, and begins
hastily and shortly,--

"It was--it is--yes. What I meant was that you should be in a certain
way established--that you should--yes--be the same as at home up yonder
with us,--be there, when you were not away."

"Many thanks for the offer, but I should rather remain where I now
live."

Ole looks at the school-master, who says,--

"Ole's brain seems to be in a whirl to-day. The fact is he has been
here once before, and the recollection of that makes his words get all
confused."

Ole, quickly: "That is it, yes; I ran a madman's race. I strove
against the girl until the tree split. But let by-gones be by-gones;
the wind, not the snow, beats down the grain; the rain-brook does not
tear up large stones; snow does not lie long on the ground in May; it
is not the thunder that kills people."

They all four laugh; the school-master says:

"Ole means that he does not want you to remember that time any longer;
nor you, either, Thore."

Ole looks at them, uncertain whether he dare begin again.

Then Thore says,--

"The briar takes hold with many teeth, but causes no wound. In me
there are certainly no thorns left."

Ole: "I did not know the boy then. Now I see that what he sows
thrives; the harvest answers to the promise of the spring; there is
money in his finger-tips, and I should like to get hold of him."

Oyvind looks at the father, he at the mother, she from them to the
school-master, and then all three at the latter.

"Ole thinks that he has a large gard"--

Ole breaks in: "A large gard, but badly managed. I can do no more. I
am old, and my legs refuse to run the errands of my head. But it will
pay to take hold up yonder."

"The largest gard in the parish, and that by a great deal," interrupts
the school-master.

"The largest gard in the parish; that is just the misfortune; shoes
that are too large fall off; it is a fine thing to have a good gun, but
one should be able to lift it." Then turning quickly towards Oyvind,
"Would you be willing to lend a hand to it?"

"Do you mean for me to be gard overseer?"

"Precisely--yes; you should have the gard."

"I should _have_ the gard?"

"Just so--yes: then you could manage it."

"But"--

"You will not?"

"Why, of course, I will."

"Yes, yes, yes, yes; then it is decided, as the hen said when she flew
into the water."

"But"--

Ole looks puzzled at the school-master.

"Oyvind is asking, I suppose, whether he shall have Marit, to."

Ole, abruptly: "Marit in the bargain; Marit in the bargain!"

Then Oyvind burst out laughing, and jumped right up; all three laughed
with him. Oyvind rubbed his hands, paced the floor, and kept repeating
again and again: "Marit in the bargain! Marit in the bargain!" Thore
gave a deep chuckle, the mother in the corner kept her eyes fastened on
her son until they filled with tears.

Ole, in great excitement: "What do you think of the gard?"

"Magnificent land!"

"Magnificent land; is it not?"

"No pasture equal to it!"

"No pasture equal to it! Something can be done with it?"

"It will become the best gard in the district!"

"It will become the best gard in the district! Do you think so? Do
you mean that?"

"As surely as I am standing here!"

"There, is not that just what I have said?"

They both talked equally fast, and fitted together like the cogs of two
wheels.

"But money, you see, money? I have no money."

"We will get on slowly without money; but get on we shall!"

"We shall get on! Of course we will! But if we _had_ money, it would
go faster you say?"

"Many times faster."

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