A Happy Boy
by Björnstjerne Björnson
HE was called Eyvind, and he cried when he was born. But as soon as
he could sit up on his mother's knee he laughed; and when they lighted
the candle at evening, he laughed till the place rang again, but cried
when he could not get to it.
"This boy will be something out of the common," said his mother.
A bare rock frowned over the house where he was born, but it was
not high; fir and birch trees looked down from its brow, and the wild
cherry strewed blossoms on the roof. A little goat which belonged to
Eyvind roamed about the roof; he had to be kept up there lest he should
stray, and Eyvind carried leaves and grass up to him. One fine day the
goat hopped over and away up the rock; he went straight ahead and came
to a place where he had never been before. Eyvind could not see the
goat when he came out after tea, and thought at once of the fox. He got
hot all over, looked about, and called: "Goatie-goatie, and
"Ba-a-a-a!" said the goat up on the hillside, looking down with his
head on one side.
But a little girl was kneeling beside the goat.
'Is he your goat?" she asked.
Eyvind stood with open mouth and eyes, and thrust both hands into
the pockets of his little breeches.
"Who are you?" he asked.
"I am Marit, mother's baby, father's mouse, little fairy in the
house, grand-daughter of Ole Nordistuen of the hill-farms, four years
old in autumn, two days after the first frost-nights, I am!"
"Are you though?" said he, drawing a long breath, for he had not
ventured to breathe whilst she was speaking.
"Is he your goat?" asked the girl again.
"Yes," said he, looking up.
"I've taken such a fancy to the goat. Will you not give him to me?"
"No, indeed, I won't."
She lay kicking her legs about and looking down at him, and then
she said: "If I were to give you a butter-cake for the goat, mightn't I
have him then?"
Eyvind belonged to poor folks; he had eaten butter-cake only once
in his life, that was when grandfather came to see them, and he had
never tasted the like before nor since. He looked up at the girl.
"Let me see the cake first," said he. Without waiting to be asked
twice, she showed him a large cake which she held in her hand.
"Here it is!" said she, and threw it down.
"Oh, it's all gone to pieces," said the boy, and he carefully
gathered up every bit. He couldn't help just tasting the smallest, and
it was so good that he had to taste one bit more; and before the knew
what he was about he had eaten up the whole cake.
"Now the goat is mine," said the girl.
The boy stopped short with the last bit in his mouth, the girl lay
and laughed, the goat with his white breast and dark fleece stood by
her, looking down sideways.
"Couldn't you wait a bit?" begged the boy; his heart began to throb
within him. Then the girl laughed yet more and started up to her knees.
"No, no, the goat is mine," said she, and flung her arms about its
neck; then she loosed a garter and made a halter of it. Eyvind stood
and looked on. She rose and began to drag the goat; it would not go
with her but stretched its neck down towards Eyvind. "Ba-a-a-a!" it
But she caught hold of its fleece with one hand, pulled at the
garter with the other, and said prettily:
"Come goatie dear, you shall come indoors and eat out of mother's
nice dish and out of my apron," and then she sang: Come, goat, to your
sire, Come, calf, from the byre; Come, pussy, that mews In your
snowy-white shoes; Come, ducklings so yellow, Come, chickens so
small, Each soft little fellow That can't run at all; Come, sweet
doves of mine, With your feathers so fine! The turf's wet with dew,
But the sun warms it through.It is early, right early, in summer-time
still,But call on the autumn, and hurry it will.
The boy was left alone. He had played with the goat ever since it
was born in the winter, and it had never occurred to him that it could
be lost; but now it was done all in a moment, and he was never to see
His mother came singing up from the waterside with some vessels she
had been scouring; she saw the boy sitting crying, with his legs under
him in the grass, and went to him.
"What are you crying for?"
"Oh, the goat, the goat!"
"Well, where is the goat?" asked his mother looking up on the roof.
"He'll never come back," said the boy.
"Why, what has happened to him?"
He would not confess at once.
"Has the fox taken him?"
"Oh, I wish it were the fox!"
"Are you out of your senses?" said his mother. "What has become of
"Oh, oh, oh!-I've been so unlucky-I've sold him for a butter-cake!"
Even as he said the words he realised what it was to sell the goat
for a butter-cake; he had not thought of it before. His mother said:
"What do you suppose the little goat thinks of you, since you could
go and sell him for a butter-cake?"
The boy himself thought of it, and realised very clearly that he
could never be happy again in this world, nor even with God in heaven,
he thought afterwards.
He was so heart-broken that he resolved within himself never again
to do anything wrong, neither to cut the thread on the distaff, nor to
let the ewes out of the fold, nor to go down to the lake alone. He fell
asleep there where he lay and dreamt that the goat had gone to heaven.
There sat Our Lord with a long beard, just as He was in the
catechism, and the goat stood eating the leaves of a shining tree; but
Eyvind sat on the roof alone and could not get up to him.
At that moment something wet poked right into his ear; he started
"Ba-a-a-a!" said a voice; and there was the goat come back.
"Oh, you've come back!
He jumped up, took hold of his two forelegs and danced with him
like a brother; he pulled his beard, and he was just going to take him
right in to his mother, when he heard something behind him and saw the
girl sitting on the grass just by his side. Now he understood it all,
and he let go his hold of the goat.
"Is it you that have come with him?" She sat tearing up grass with
her hand and said:
"I wasn't allowed to keep him; grandfather is sitting up there
As the boy stood looking at her he heard a sharp voice up on the
Then she remembered what she had to do. She rose and went up to
Eyvind, laid one earth-stained hand in his and said:
Then her resolution failed her, and she threw her arms round the
goat and wept.
"I think you had better keep the goat," said Eyvind, looking away.
"Be quick now!" said the grandfather up on the slope. And Marit
rose and walked up after him with dragging feet.
"You've forgotten your garter!" Eyvind called after her. She turned
and looked first at the garter and then at him. At last she formed a
great resolution and said with a thick voice:
"You can keep that."
He went up to her and took her hand. "I thank you," said he.
"Oh that's nothing to thank me for," she answered, heaved a
prodigiously deep sigh, and went on her way.
He sat down on the grass again with the goat at his side; but he
somehow did not care for it so much as before.
THE GOAT was tethered near the wall of the house, but Eyvind kept
looking up the hill-side. His mother came out and sat by him; he wanted
to hear tales about what was far away, for the goat was no longer
enough for him. So he came to hear how once upon a time everything
could talk: the mountain talked to the brook, and the brook to the
river, to the sea, and the sea to the sky. Then he wanted to know
whether the sky did not talk to anything; and the sky talked to the
clouds, and the clouds to the trees, and the trees to the grass, the
grass to the flies, the flies to the animals, the animals to the
children, the children to the grown-up people; and so it went on until
it got round in a circle, and no one knew who had begun. Eyvind looked
at the mountain, the trees, the lake, the sky, and had never really
seen them before. Just then the cat came out and laid herself on the
flags in the sunshine.
"What does the cat say?" asked Eyvind, pointing. His mother
sang:The evening sun sinks low in the skiesThe cat lies lazily blinking
her eyes. "Two little mice, Some cream-so nice- Four bits of fish I
stole from a dish; I got all I desired, And I'm lazy and tired,"
Says the cat.
Then came the cock with all the hens.
"What does the cock say?" asked Eyvind, clapping his hands.
His mother sang:Her wings the brood-hen sinks:Stands on one leg the
cock, and thinks: "The grey gander Will soar and wander, But he can
never, heigh, heigh! Be half so clever as I!In, in, ye hens, and get
out of the way!The sun has a holiday turn to-day." Says the cock.
Then two little birds sat and sang upon the ridge of the roof.
"What are the birds saying?" asked Eyvind, laughing."Dear God, how
sweet it is to liveFor those who neither toil nor strive," Say the
Thus she went through what all the animals said, right down to the
ant which crawled through the moss, and the worm that ticked in the
That same summer, his mother began to teach him to read. He had
long possessed books and thought a great deal about how it would be
when they too began to talk. Now the letters turned into beasts, birds,
and everything that existed. Soon they began to group themselves
together two and two; a stood and rested under a tree called b, then c
came and did the same; but when three or four came together it was as
if they were angry with one another; they did not get on well at all.
And the more he learned the more he forgot what they were. He
remembered a the longest because he was fond of it; it was a little
black lamb and was friends with all. But soon he forgot even a; the
book no longer contained fairy tales, but only lessons.
One day his mother came in and said to him:
"To-morrow school begins again, and you are to go with me up to the
Eyvind had heard that school was a place where many boys played
together, and he had no objection. On the contrary, he was much
pleased; he had often been at the school-house, but never when school
was going on, and he walked quicker than his mother up the hills, for
he was eager. They entered the vestibule, and a great hum met them like
that of the mill-house at home. He asked his mother what it was.
"It's the children reading," she answered, and he was very glad to
hear it, for that was how he had read before he knew his letters. When
he went in there were so many children sitting round a table that even
at church there were not more. Others sat on their dinner-boxes along
the wall; some stood in groups around a blackboard; the schoolmaster,
an old grey-haired man, sat on a stool by the fireplace filling his
pipe. When Eyvind and his mother entered, they all looked up and the
mill-hum stopped, as when the water is turned off. They all looked at
the new-comers. Eyvind's mother greeted the schoolmaster, who returned
"Here I come with a little boy who wants to learn to read," said
"What's the young man's name?" asked the schoolmaster, fumbling in
his leather pouch for tobacco.
"Eyvind," said his mother. "He knows his letters and he can put
"Ah, indeed!" said the schoolmaster, "come here, little
Eyvind went to him; the schoolmaster lifted him on his knee and
took off his cap.
"What a pretty little boy," said he, and stroked his hair; Eyvind
looked up into his eyes and laughed.
"Is it at me you're laughing?" he frowned.
"Yes, of course it is," answered Eyvind, and roared with laughter.
Then the schoolmaster laughed too, the mother laughed, the children
perceived that they might laugh as well, and so they all laughed
And that was how Eyvind entered school.
When he was to take his place they all wanted to make room for him;
but he took a good look round first. They whispered and pointed; he
turned around to every side with his cap in his hand, and his book
under his arm.
"Well, have you made up your mind?" asked the schoolmaster, still
working away at his pipe. Just as the boy was turning to the
schoolmaster, he saw close beside him, down by the hearth-stone,
sitting on a little red box, Marit of the many names; she had hidden
her face in her two hands and sat peeping out at him.
"I will sit here," said Eyvind resolutely, and, taking a box, he
seated himself by her side.
Now she lifted the arm that was next to him a little and looked at
him under her elbow; he instantly covered his face too with both hands
and looked at her under his elbow. So they sat behaving in this foolish
way until she laughed, then he laughed, the children saw and laughed
too: thereupon a terribly loud voice struck in, becoming milder by
"Be quiet you young trolls, urchins, imps! be quiet and good, my
It was the schoolmaster, who had a way of flying out, but calmed
down again before he finished. The school became instantly quiet, until
the pepper-mill began to go again and they read aloud each in his book;
the trebles struck up in a high key, the deeper voices got sharper and
sharper to keep in the ascendant, and now and then one or another gave
a great whoop. In all his born days Eyvind had never had such fun.
"Is it always like this, here?" he whispered to Marit.
"Yes, just like this," said she.
By-and-by they had to go to the schoolmaster and read; a little boy
was then set to learn with them, and then they were released and
allowed to go back and sit quietly again.
"I've got a goat too, now," said Marit.
"Yes; but he's not so pretty as yours."
"Why have you never come up on the rock again?"
"Grandfather is afraid I shall fall over."
"But it's not very high."
"Grandfather won't let me, all the same."
"Mother knows such a lot of songs," said Eyvind.
"So does grandfather, I can tell you."
"Yes; but he doesn't know the ones mother knows."
"Grandfather knows one about a dance. Do you want to hear it?"
"Yes, very much."
"Well, then, you must come farther over here that the schoolmaster
He moved along and then she repeated to him a little bit of a song,
four or five times over, so that the boy learned it; and that was the
first thing he learned at school."Dance," shrieked the fiddle,And
squeaked with its string soThat up jumped the bailiff's Son and cried
"Ho!""Stop!" shouted Ola,Stuck out his leg, soIt tripped up the
bailiff, And all the girls laughed. "Hop," murmured Erik,And leaped
to the roof-tree,Till all the beams cracked and The walls gave a
scream."Stop!" shouted Elling,Caught hold of his collar,And lifted him
high-"You're As weak as a cat!" "Hey!" called out Rasmus,Caught Randi
and spun her,"Hurry and give me That kiss, don't you know?""No,"
answered Randi,And boxed his ears soundly,And slipped from his arm with
"Take that for your pains!"
"Up children!" cried the schoolmaster. "As this is our first day
you shall go early; but first we must have prayers and a hymn."
At once a great racket sprang up in the school; they jumped on
forms, ran about the room, and all talked at once.
"Be quiet you young imps, you young scamps, you young ruffians; be
quiet and walk across the room nicely; there's good children!" said the
schoolmaster, and they went quietly to their places and calmed down,
whereupon the schoolmaster stood up before them and said a short
prayer. Then they sang; the schoolmaster led in a strong bass, all the
children standing with folded hands and singing with him. Eyvind stood
lowest by the door with Marit and looked on; they, too, folded their
hands, but they could not sing.
That was his first day at school.
EYVIND grew and became an active boy: at school he was amongst the
first, and he was capable at his work at home. That was because at home
he was fond of his mother and at school he was fond of his master. His
father he saw but little, for he was either away fishing or else he was
looking after their mill, where half the parish had their grinding
The thing which most influenced his mind during these years was the
schoolmaster's history, which his mother told him one evening as they
sat by the fire. It ran through all his books, it underlay every word
the schoolmaster said; he felt it in the air of the schoolroom when all
was quiet. It filled him with obedience and respect, and gave him a
quicker apprehension, as it were, of all that was taught him. This was
Baard was the schoolmaster's name and he had a brother called
Anders. They were very fond of each other; both enlisted, lived in town
together, and were together in the war, when they both became corporals
and served in the same company. When, after the war, they came home
again, everybody thought them two stalwart fellows. Then their father
died. He had a good deal of loose property which was difficult to
divide evenly, so they said to each other that they would not fall out
about it, but would put up the things to auction so that each could buy
what he wished and then they would share the proceeds. So said so done.
But their father possessed a large gold watch which was widely
renowned, for it was the only gold watch people in those parts had ever
seen. When this watch was put up many rich people tried for it, until
the brothers, too, began to bid; then the others gave way. Now Baard
expected Anders to let him get the watch, and Anders expected the same
of Baard; each made his bid in turn to prove the other, and they looked
across at each other whilst they bid. When the watch had got up to
twenty dollars Baard felt it was not nice of his brother to bid against
him, and kept on bidding until it got towards thirty dollars. As Anders
still did not give in, it seemed to Baard that Anders neither
remembered how good he had been to him, nor yet that he was the eldest.
The watch got over thirty dollars, and Anders still kept on. Then Baard
ran the watch up to forty dollars in one bid, and no longer looked at
his brother. It was very quiet in the auction-room; only the bailiff
quietly repeated the figures. Anders thought as he stood there that if
Baard could afford to give forty dollars he could too, and if Baard
grudged him the watch he would have to take it; so out-bid him. This
seemed to Baard the greatest slight that had ever been put upon him; he
bid fifty dollars, quite softly. A great many people were standing
round, and Anders thought he must not let his brother thus put him to
shame in everybody's hearing, so he bid over him. Then Baard laughed:
"A hundred dollars and my brotherhood into the bargain," said he;
turned, and went out of the room. Some one presently came out to him
whilst he was busy saddling the horse he had bought just before.
"The watch is yours," said the man; "Anders gave in."
The moment Baard heard this a sort of remorse fell upon him; he
thought of his brother and not of the watch. The saddle was on, but he
paused with his hand on the horse's back, uncertain whether he should
start. Then a lot of people came out, Anders amongst them; and so soon
as he saw his brother standing there by the saddled horse not knowing
what was in Baard's mind, he called out to him:
"Much good may the watch do you, Baard! It won't be going on the
day when your brother runs after you any more."
"Nor yet on the day when I ride home again," answered Baard, with a
white face, as he mounted his horse. The house in which they had lived
with their father, neither of them entered again.
Soon after, Anders married and settled as a cottar-tenant, but did
not invite Baard to the wedding. Baard was not at church either.
In the first year of Anders' marriage the only cow he possessed was
found dead by the north wall of the house, where it was tethered; and
nobody could make out what it had died of. Several misfortunes
followed, and he went down in the world; but the worst was when in
mid-winter his barn was burnt with all that was in it; nobody knew how
the fire broke out.
"Somebody that hates me has done this," said Anders, and he wept
that night. He became a poor man and lost all heart for work.
Next evening Baard stood in his room, Anders was lying on the bed
when he entered, but he jumped up.
"What do you want here?" he asked, but stopped short and stood
looking fixedly at his brother. Baard waited a little before he
"I want to help you, Anders; the luck's been against you."
"The luck's been as you wished it to be, Baard. Go, or I mayn't be
able to keep my hands off you."
"You are mistaken, Anders; I'm sorry—"
"Go Baard, or God help both you and me!"
Baard drew back a pace or two; with a quivering voice he said:
"If you'll take the watch, you shall have it."
"Go, Baard!" shouted the other, and Baard went.
With Baard things had gone in this wise. So soon as he heard that
his brother was in distress his heart melted towards him, but pride
kept him back. He felt himself much drawn towards the church, and there
he formed good resolutions, but he had not the strength to carry them
out. He often set forth and came within sight of the house, but now
some one came out of the door, now there was a stranger there, or
Anders was out chopping wood; so that there was always something in the
way. One Sunday in midwinter, however, he was once more at church and
Anders was there too. Baard saw him; he had grown pale and thin, he
wore the same clothes as when they were together, but now they were old
and ragged. During the sermon he looked up at the pastor, and it seemed
to Baard that he was kind and gentle. He remembered their childhood and
what a good boy he was. Baard himself took the Sacrament that day, and
he made the solemn promise before his God that, come what might, he
would be reconciled to his brother. This purpose penetrated his soul
just as he drank the wine, and when he rose he intended to go straight
over and sit down beside him, but some one was sitting in the way and
his brother did not look up. After service there were still
difficulties: there were too many people about; his brother's wife was
walking by his side and he did not know her. He thought it would be
best to go to his house and have a serious talk with him. When evening
came he did so. He went right up to the door and listened, but then he
heard his own name mentioned. It was the woman who spoke.
"He took the Sacrament to-day," said she. "I daresay he was
thinking of you."
"No, he wasn't thinking of me," said Anders. "I know him; he thinks
only of himself."
For a long time nothing more was said. Baard perspired as he stood
there, although it was a cold evening. The woman inside was busy over a
pot that bubbled and hissed on the fire, an infant cried now and then,
and Anders rocked the cradle.
Then she said these words:
"I believe you two are always thinking of each other and won't own
"Let us talk of something else," answered Anders. He rose soon
after to go to the door. Baard had to hide himself in the woodshed, and
Anders came to that very place to fetch an armful of wood. Baard stood
in the corner and saw him distinctly; he had taken off his wretched
church-clothes and had on the uniform in which he had come home from
the war, just like Baard's. The brothers had promised each other never
to wear these uniforms, but to leave them as heirlooms in the family.
Anders' was now patched and worn out, his strong, well-developed body
appeared as if wrapped in a bundle of rags, and just then Baard could
hear the gold watch ticking in his own pocket. Anders went to the place
where the faggots lay; instead of immediately stooping to load himself,
he stopped, leaned back against a pile of wood and looked out at the
sky, which was clear and glittering with stars. Then he heaved a sigh
"Well-well-well-my God, my God!" As long as Baard lived he heard
those words. He wanted to step forward and greet him, but just then
Anders coughed and it sounded so harsh. That was enough to check him.
Anders took his armful of wood and brushed by Baard so closely that the
twigs scratched his face and made it smart.
He stood motionless on the same spot for quite ten minutes, and
might have stood much longer had it not been that after so much strong
emotion he was seized with a shivering fit that shook him from head to
foot. Then he went out: he acknowledged frankly to himself that he was
too cowardly to go in, so he now formed another plan. Out of a
cinder-box which stood in the corner he had just left, he took some
pieces of coal, found a splinter of resinous wood, went up into the
barn, closed the door after him and struck a light. When he had got the
wood lighted he looked for the peg upon which Anders hung his lantern
when he came out in the early morning to thresh. Baard took off his
gold watch and hung it on the peg, then extinguished his splinter and
went away. He felt his heart so lightened that he ran over the snow
like a young boy.
The next day he heard that the barn had been burned down in the
night. Sparks had probably fallen from the splinter which he had
lighted that he might see to hang up the watch.
This so overpowered him that all that day he sat like a sick
person, took down his psalm-book and sang, so that the people in the
house thought there must be something wrong with him. But in the
evening he went out; it was bright moonlight. He went to his brother's
farm, poked about on the site of the fire-and found, sure enough, a
little lump of gold. It was the watch, melted down.
With this in his hand he went in to his brother that evening and
besought him to make peace. What came of this attempt has already been
A little girl had seen him scraping among the ashes on the site of
the fire; some boys, on their way to a dance, had noticed him on the
Sunday evening going down towards Anders' farm; the people at home had
told how strangely he had behaved on the Monday; and as everyone knew
that he and his brother were bitter enemies, the matter was reported to
the authorities and an inquiry set on foot. No one could prove anything
against him, but suspicion clung to him. Reconciliation with his
brother was now more impossible than ever.
Anders had thought of Baard when the barn was burnt, but had said
so to no one. When, on the following evening, he saw him in his room,
so white and strange-looking, he immediately thought:
"Remorse has got hold of him now, but for such a horrible crime
against his brother there can be no forgiveness."
Afterwards he heard how people had seen him go down to the
buildings on the evening of the fire, and although nothing was brought
to light by the inquiry, he was firmly convinced that Baard was the
culprit. They met at the inquiry; Baard in his good clothes, Anders in
his rags. As Anders entered, Baard looked over at him with such
beseeching eyes that Anders felt the look in his very marrow.
"He wants me to say nothing," thought Anders, and when he was asked
whether he believed his brother had done the deed he said loudly and
But Anders took to drink from that day, and soon fell into a bad
way. Baard suffered still more, although he did not drink. One would
not have known him for the same man.
At last, late one evening, a poor woman came into the little room
in which Baard lodged, and asked him to come out a little way with her.
He knew it was his brother's wife. Baard at once understood upon what
errand she had come; he turned as white as death, put on his things,
and went with her without speaking a word. A faint glimmer of light
came from Anders' window, and they made for the gleam; for there was no
path over the snow. When Baard stood once more in the passage he was
met by a strange odour, which turned him sick. They went in. A little
child was sitting on the hearth eating coal; its face was black all
over, but it looked up, and laughed with white teeth. It was his
brother's child. In the bed, with all kinds of clothes over him, lay
Anders, wasted, with high, transparent forehead, looking with hollow
eyes at his brother. Baard's knees trembled beneath him; he sat down on
the foot of the bed and burst into a violent fit of weeping. The sick
man looked at him immovably and was silent. At last he told his wife to
go out, but Baard motioned her to stay,-and now the two brothers began
to talk together. They explained themselves from the day of their
bidding for the watch right down to the moment of their present
meeting. Baard concluded by taking out the lump of gold which he always
carried about him, and each now confessed to the other that in all
these years he had not felt happy for a single day. Anders did not say
much for he was not able, but Baard sat at his bedside all through his
"Now I am quite well," said Anders one morning when he woke, "now,
my dear brother, we will live long together and never part, as in the
But that day he died.
Baard took his wife and child home with him, and from that day
forward they wanted for nothing.
What the brothers had said to each other as Baard sat by the bed
made its way out through the walls and the night, and became known to
every one in the village, and no one was more highly esteemed than
Baard. Every one paid respect to him as they would to one who has had
great sorrow and found joy again, or as to one who has been long
absent. Baard was comforted by the friendliness which surrounded him,
and devoted himself to the service of God. He wanted some occupation,
he said, and so the old corporal took to teaching school. What he
instilled into the children first and last was love; and he practised
it himself, so that the little ones were devoted to him as a playfellow
and father, all in one.
This, then, was the story of the old schoolmaster, and it took such
a hold on Eyvind's mind that it became to him at once a religion and an
education. The schoolmaster appeared to him almost a supernatural
being, although he sat there so sociably and pretended to scold them.
Not to know a lesson for him was impossible, and if he got a smile or a
pat on the head after saying it he felt a glow of happiness for a whole
It always made the deepest impression on the children when the
schoolmaster, before singing, would make a little speech; and at least
once every week he used to read them a few verses about brotherly love.
When he read the first of these verses there was always a quiver in his
voice, although he had read it again and again for twenty or thirty
years; it ran thus:Love thy neighbour, Christian leal,Tread him not
with iron heelIf in dust he lies.All things living join to proveThe
creative power of loveWhen a pure heart tries.
But when the whole poem was finished and he had paused a moment
after it, he would look at them with a twinkle in his eyes:
"Up with you, youngsters, and get you home nicely without any
noise-walk nicely so that I may hear nothing but good accounts of you,
And then, while they were making a very Babel in searching for
their books and dinner-boxes, he would cry above the uproar:
"Come back again to-morrow as soon as it's light, or you'll catch
it! Come back in good time little girls and boys, then we'll go to work
with a will!"
OF Eyvind's further development up to a year before his
confirmation there is not much to tell. He read in the morning, worked
in the day, and played in the evening.
As he was of an unusually cheerful disposition, it was not long
before the young people of the neighbourhood, in their playtime, were
glad to be where he was. A long hill ran down to the cove in front of
the farm, skirting the rock on the one side and the wood on the other,
as already related; every fine evening and every Sunday, all the winter
through, this was the chosen toboggan-slope of all the young sledgers
of the village.
Eyvind was lord of the slope and owned two sledges "Spanker" and
"Galloper;" the latter he lent to larger parties, the former he steered
himself with Marit on his lap. At this season, the first thing Eyvind
did when he woke was to look out and see whether it was thawing; and if
he saw a grey veil lying over the bushes on the other side of the cove,
or if he heard the roof dripping, he was as slow over his dressing as
if there was nothing to do that day. But if he awoke, especially on
Sundays, to crackling cold and clear weather, best clothes and no work,
only catechism or church in the forenoon, and then the whole afternoon
and evening free, hurrah! then the boy jumped out of bed with one
bound, dressed as if the house were on fire, and could scarcely eat any
breakfast. The moment it was afternoon and the first boy came on his
snow-shoes along the roadside, swinging his staff over his head and
shouting so that the hills around the lake rang again, and then one
came down the road on his sledge and then another and
another-straightway off shot the boy on his "Spanker" down the whole
length of the slope, landing amongst the late comers with a long,
shrill shout, which was re-echoed from ridge to ridge along the cove,
until it died away in the far distance. He would then look round for
Marit, but when once she had come, he troubled no more about her.
Then one Christmas came when the boy and the girl were both about
sixteen or seventeen and were to be confirmed in the spring. On the
fourth day of Christmas week there was a big party at the Upper Hill
Farm where Marit lived with her grandparents, who had brought her up.
They had promised her this party every year for three years, and at
last, these holidays, they had to fulfil their promise. Eyvind was
It was a cloudy evening, not cold; no stars were to be seen; the
morrow might bring rain. A drowsy breeze blew over the snow, which was
swept clear in patches on the white uplands, while in other places it
had formed deep drifts. Along by the roadside where no snow happened to
lie there was a margin of slippery ice; it lay blue-black between the
snow and the bare ground, and could be seen glimmering here and there
as far as the eye could reach. On the mountainsides there had been
snow-slips; their tracks were black and bare, while on each side of
them the snow lay smooth and white, except where the birch-trees
clustered together in dark patches. There was no water to be seen, but
half-naked moors and bogs stretched up to riven and lowering mountains.
The farms lay in large clusters in the midst of the level ground;
in the dusk of the winter evening they looked like black masses from
which light shot forth over the fields, now from one window, now from
another; to judge by the lights there was a great deal going on inside.
Young people, grown-up and half-grown up, flocked together from various
quarters. Very few kept to the road; almost all, at any rate, left it
when they drew near the farms, and slipped away, one behind the
cowhouse, a pair under the store-house and so forth; while some rushed
away behind the barn and howled like foxes, others answered farther off
like cats. One stood behind the wash-house and barked like an old angry
dog, who had broken his chain, until there was a general chase. The
girls came marching along in large bands; they had a boys, mostly
little boys, with them, who skirmished around them to show off. When
one of the gangs of girls came near the house and one or other of the
big boys caught sight of them, the girls scattered and fled into the
passages or down the garden, and had to be dragged out and into the
rooms one by one. Some were so extremely bashful that Marit had to be
sent for, when she would come out and positively force them in.
Sometimes one would come who had not been invited and whose intention
it was not to go in, but only to look on, until in the end she would be
persuaded just to have one single dance. Those guests whom she really
cared for, Marit invited into a little room where the old people sat
and smoked and grandmother did the honours; there they were kindly
received and treated. Eyvind was not amongst the favoured ones, and he
thought that rather strange.
The best player of the village could not come till late, so they
had meanwhile to manage with the old one, a cottager called Grey Knut.
He knew four dances, two spring-dances, a halling and an old, so-called
Napoleon waltz; but he had been obliged gradually to turn the halling
into a schottische by taking it in different time; and in the same way
a springdance had to do duty as a polka-mazurka. He struck up, and the
dancing began. Eyvind did not dare to join in at first, for there were
too many grown-up people; but the half-grown ones soon banded together,
pushed each other forward, drank a little strong ale to hearten them,
and then Eyvind also joined in. The room grew very hot, the fun and the
ale mounted to their heads.
Marit danced more than any one else that evening, probably because
the party was in her grandparents' house, and so it happened that
Eyvind often caught her eye, but she always danced with some one else.
He wanted to dance with her himself, so he sat out one dance in order
to run to her directly it ended, and this he did; but a tall, swarthy
fellow with bushy hair pushed in front of him.
"Get away, youngster," cried he and gave Eyvind a shove, so that he
nearly fell backwards over Marit. Never had such a thing happened to
him, never had any one been other than kind to him, never had he been
called "youngster" when he wanted to join in anything. He reddened to
the roots of his hair, but said nothing, and drew back to where the new
musician, just arrived, had taken his seat and was tuning up. There was
silence amongst the crowd; they were waiting to hear the first loud
note from "the right man." He tuned and tried for a long time, but at
length he struck up a spring-dance, the boys shouted and hopped, and
pair by pair whirled into the circle. Eyvind looked at Marit dancing
with the bushy-haired man, she laughed over the man's shoulder so that
her white teeth showed, and Eyvind, for the first time in his life, was
aware of a strange, tingling pain in his breast.
He looked at her again and again, and the more he looked the
clearer it seemed to him that Marit was quite grown-up.
"But it can't be so," thought he, "for she still goes sledging with
Grown-up she was though, and the bushy-haired man drew her down
upon his lap after the dance was over; she broke loose from him, but
remained sitting at his side.
Eyvind looked at the man. He had on fine blue Sunday clothes, a
blue-checked shirt and silk cravat. He had a small face, bold, blue
eyes, a laughing, defiant mouth; he was handsome. Eyvind looked again,
and at last he looked also at himself. He had got new trousers at
Christmas, of which he was very proud, but now he saw that they were
only grey frieze; his jacket was of the same stuff, but old and soiled,
the knitted waistcoat of common yarn, lozenge-pattern, also old and
with two bright buttons and one black one. He looked around him and
thought that very few were so poorly dressed as he. Marit had on a
black bodice of fine stuff, a silver brooch in her neckerchief and a
folded silk handkerchief in her hand. On the back of her head she wore
a little silk cap which was fastened under her chin with long ribbons.
She was red and white; she laughed; the man talked with her and laughed
too. Again the music struck up and again they stood up to dance. A
comrade came and sat beside him.
"Why aren't you dancing, Eyvind?" said he, gently.
"Oh, no," said Eyvind, "do I look like it?"
"Look like it," said his comrade, but before he could get further
"Who is that in the blue clothes, dancing with Marit?"
"That's John Hatlen, who's been away so long at the agricultural
college; he's going to take the farm now."
At that moment Marit and John sat down.
"Who is that fair-haired boy sitting there beside the fiddler and
staring at me?" asked John.
Marit laughed and answered:
"That's the cottar's son, down at the croft."
Of course Eyvind had always known he was a cottar's son, but until
now he had never felt it. He had a feeling as though his body had
suddenly shrunk and he was shorter than all the others. To keep himself
in heart, he had to try to think of everything that had hitherto made
him happy and proud, from the sledging-times down to single words that
had pleased him. As he thought, too, of his mother and father sitting
at home and thinking that he was enjoying himself, he could scarcely
help bursting into tears. All around him were laughing and joking, the
fiddle boomed right in his ear. There came a moment when something
black seemed to rise up before him, but then he remembered the school
with all his comrades, and the schoolmaster who patted him on the back,
and the minister who had given him a book at his last examination and
said he was a clever boy; his father himself had sat and looked on and
had smiled at him.
"Be good now, Eyvind," he seemed to hear the schoolmaster saying,
and he felt as though he were a little boy again, sitting on his lap.
"Good heavens, you know, there's nothing to trouble about; at bottom
everybody is good; it only seems as if they were not. We two will be
clever fellows, Eyvind, just as clever as John Hatlen; we shall get
just as good clothes, and dance with Marit in a bright room among
hundreds of people, smiling and talking; then there'll be a bridal pair
standing before the minister, and I in the choir smiling across at you,
and mother in the house, a big farm, twenty cows, three horses, and
Marit good and kind, just as she was at school—"
The dance ended and Eyvind saw Marit before him on a bench, John
still by her side with his face close to hers; once more there came a
great tingling pain in his breast, and he seemed to be saying to
"It's true, after all, I am suffering." At that moment Marit rose
and came straight up to him. She bent down over him.
"You mustn't sit and glower at me like that," said she; "can't you
see that people are noticing it? Take a partner and dance now."
He made no answer but looked at her, and in spite of himself his
eyes filled with tears. She was just turning away when she noticed this
and stopped; she suddenly flushed as red as fire, turned away and went
to her seat, but immediately rose again and seated herself in another
place. John at once followed her.
Eyvind rose from the bench, went out amongst the people in the
yard, seated himself under a pent-house roof, then wondered what he was
doing there, got up and then sat down again, for might he not as well
sit here as anywhere else? He did not care to go home nor yet to go
indoors again; it was all one to him. He was in no state to reflect
upon what had happened; he did not want to think about it. Neither did
he care to think of the future; there was nothing that had any
attraction for him.
"What am I thinking of, after all?" he asked himself half-aloud,
and hearing his own voice he thought:
"So you can still speak-can you laugh?"
He tried: yes, he could laugh; and then he went on laughing, loud,
still louder; and then it seemed to him a great joke that he should be
sitting there laughing all alone, and that made him laugh again. But
his friend Hans, who had been sitting by his side indoors, now followed
"Why, what on earth are you laughing at?" he asked, stopping before
the pent-house. Then Eyvind left off.
Hans stood there as if waiting to see what would happen next;
Eyvind rose, looked cautiously round and then said softly:
"I'll tell you why I always used to be so happy, Hans; it was
because I never really cared for anybody. But from the day we care for
somebody our happiness is over." And he burst into tears.
"Eyvind!" a voice whispered out in the yard, "Eyvind!" He stopped
"Eyvind!" repeated the voice once more, a little louder. It must be
the person he thought.
"Yes," answered he, also in a whisper, drying his eyes quickly and
stepping forward. A girl softly crossed the yard.
"Are you there?" she asked.
"Yes," he answered, and stood still.
"Who is with you?"
"It's Hans." Hans wanted to go.
"No, no!" Eyvind begged of him.
She now came close up to them, but slowly; it was Marit.
"You went away so soon," she said to Eyvind. He did not know what
to answer. Thereupon she too became embarrassed; they were all three
silent. Hans slipped quietly away and left the two standing there, not
looking at each other and not moving. Then she whispered:
"I've been going about all the evening with some Christmas sweeties
in my pocket for you, Eyvind, but I couldn't give them to you before."
She fished up some apples, a slice of town-baked cake and a little
half-pint bottle, which she held out to him saying they were for him.
Eyvind pocketed them.
"Thanks," he said, holding out his hand; hers was warm, and he let
it go at once as if he had burnt himself.
"You have danced a great deal this evening."
"Yes, I have," she answered, "but you haven't danced much," she
"No, I haven't," answered he.
"Why haven't you?"
"Why did you sit and look at me like that?"
"Oh—" A pause.
"Why didn't you like my looking at you?"
"There were such a lot of people there."
"You danced a great deal with John Hatlen this evening."
"He dances well."
"Do you think so?"
"Don't you think so?"
"I don't know how it is, but this evening I can't bear you to dance
with him, Marit." He turned away; it had cost him an effort to say
"I don't understand you, Eyvind."
"I don't understand it myself: it's so stupid of me. Good-bye,
Marit, I'm going now."
He made a step without looking round. Then she said as he moved
"You've been seeing things wrongly to-night, Eyvind." He stopped.
"There's one thing I haven't seen wrongly and that is that you're a
This was not what she expected him to say, so she was silent; and
at that moment she saw the light of a pipe right in front of her. It
was her grandfather who had just come round the corner and was passing
by. He stopped.
"Oh you're here are you, Marit?"
"Who's that you're talking to?"
"Who did you say?"
"Oh, the cottar's boy at Pladsen: come in at once with me."
WHEN Eyvind opened his eyes next morning it was from a long,
refreshing sleep and happy dreams. Marit had lain on the rock and
thrown down leaves at him; he had caught them and thrown them up again;
they went up and down in a thousand colours and figures; the sun shone
on them, and the whole rock sparkled. As he awoke he looked round,
expecting still to see the picture of his dream; then he recollected
the previous day, and immediately the same tingling, bitter pain in his
breast began again.
"I suppose I shall never be quit of it," thought he, and he felt
unstrung, as if his whole future had slipped away from him.
"You've slept a long time," said his mother, who was sitting beside
him spinning. "Up now, and have something to eat; your father is off to
the wood already, felling timber."
His mother's voice seemed to help him, he got up with a little more
courage. No doubt his mother was thinking of her own dancing-days, for
she sat humming to herself as she span, whilst he dressed and ate his
breakfast. To hide his face from her he had to rise from table and go
to the window. The same weariness and oppression had come over him
again, and he had to pull himself together and think of setting to
The weather had changed, the air had turned a little colder, so
that what yesterday threatened to fall as rain, fell to-day as wet
snow. He put on snow-socks, a fur cap, a sailor's jacket and mittens,
said good-bye, and went off with his axe on his shoulder.
The snow fell slowly in large, wet flakes; he struggled up the
sledging slope, and turning to the left at the top, entered the wood.
Never before, winter or summer, had he climbed that hill without
remembering something that made him happy, or that he longed for. Now
it was a dead, heavy tramp; he slipped in the wet snow; his knees were
stiff either from yesterday's dancing or from his general depression.
He felt now that it was all over with sledge-running for that year, and
that meant for ever. He longed for something else as he went in amongst
the tree-trunks where the snow fell silently; a scared ptarmigan
shrieked and flapped its wings a few yards ahead of him; otherwise
everything stood as though waiting for a word that was never spoken.
But what it was that he yearned for he did not distinctly know, only it
was not at home, nor yet abroad, it was not merriment nor yet work; it
was something high up in the air, soaring like a song. Presently it
resolved itself into a definite wish, and that was to be confirmed in
the spring, and to take the first place in the confirmation-class. His
heart beat fast as he thought of it, and even before he could hear his
father's axe in the trembling underwood, this wish had taken a stronger
hold of him than anything since he was born.
His father, as usual, did not say much to him; they hewed each by
himself and collected the wood into heaps. Now and then they would
meet, and on one of these occasions Eyvind remarked gloomily:
"A cottar has a hard time of it."
"Not worse than other people," said his father, spitting in his
hands and taking up his axe. When the tree was felled and his father
dragged it up into the pile, Eyvind said:
"If you had a farm of your own you wouldn't have to toil like
"Oh, then there would be other burdens to bear," and he tugged with
all his strength.
The mother came up with their dinner, and they sat down. The mother
was cheerfull; she sat and hummed, keeping time by tapping one shoe
against the other.
"What are you going to be, now you're getting big, Eyvind?" said
"A cottar's son hasn't much choice," he answered.
"The schoolmaster says you must go to the training-college," said
"Can you go there for nothing?" asked Eyvind.
"The schoolmaster will pay your fees," said his father, as he ate.
"Would you like to go?" asked his mother.
"I should like to learn, but not to be a schoolmaster."
They were all silent for a moment; she began humming again and
looked straight before her. But Eyvind went off and sat down by
"We don't exactly need to borrow from the school-fund," said she
when the boy had gone. Her husband looked at her.
"Poor folks like us?"
"I don't like your constantly giving yourself out for a poor man
when you're not one."
They both glanced at the boy to see whether he was within hearing.
Then the husband looked sharply at his wife.
"You're talking of what you don't understand." She laughed.
"It's like not thanking God that things have gone well with us,"
said she, becoming serious.
"We can surely thank him without putting silver buttons on our
coats," said the father.
"Yes, but not by letting Eyvind go as he did to the dance
"Eyvind is a cottar's son."
"That's right-talk so that he can hear."
"He doesn't hear; but I shouldn't be sorry if he did," said she,
looking boldly at her husband who was frowning, and put down his spoon
to take up his pipe.
"Such a wretched holding as we have," said he.
"I can't help laughing at you, always talking about the holding.
Why do you never say anything about the mills?"
"Oh, you and your mills! I believe you can't bear to hear them
"Oh, I love it, thank goodness! I wish they were going night and
"They've been standing now since before Christmas."
"People don't have their corn ground in Christmas week."
"They have it ground whenever there's water; but since they got a
mill at Nyström, things have been very slack."
"The schoolmaster didn't say so to-day."
"I shall get a closer fellow than the schoolmaster to manage our
"Yes, your own wife is the last person he ought to speak to."
Thore did not answer this, he had just got his pipe lighted; he
leant up against a bundle of faggots and shifted his gaze, first from
his wife, then from his son, until at last he fixed it upon an old
crow's nest which hung all askew on a fir-branch a little way off.
Eyvind sat by himself, with the future stretching before him like a
long, clear sheet of ice, over which, for the first time, he let his
fancy sweep him away from the one shore right to the other. He felt
that poverty barred the way on all sides, but for that very reason all
his thoughts were bent upon overcoming it. From Marit it had no doubt
parted him for ever; he regarded her as almost promised to John Hatlen;
but his whole mind was set upon making life a race with him and her. In
order not to be elbowed aside again as he was yesterday, he would hold
aloof until he had made his way; and that, with God's help, he would
make his way, it never entered his head to doubt. He had a dim feeling
that his best plan was to stick to his books; to what end they should
lead he must find out later.
The snow was fit for sledging in the evening, the children came to
the slope, but not Eyvind. He sat by the fire and read, and had not a
moment to spare. The children waited for a long time; at last some of
them got impatient, came up and put their faces against the
window-panes and called in, but he made as though he did not hear.
Others came, and evening after evening they hung about outside in great
surprise; but he turned his back on them and read, and fought
faithfully to grasp the meaning. He afterwards heard that Marit did not
come either. He studied with such diligence that even his father could
not but think he was overdoing it. He grew very grave; his face, which
had been so round and soft, became thinner, sharper, and his eye
harder. He seldom sang, and never played; he never seemed to have time
enough. When temptation came upon him, it seemed as though some one
whispered: "By-and-by, by-and-by!" and always "by-and-by!" For some
time the children ran on their snow shoes, and shouted and laughed as
before, but as they could not tempt him out to them either by the merry
sounds of their sledging or by calling in to him with their faces
against the window, they gradually kept away; they found other
playgrounds, and soon the slope was deserted.
But the schoolmaster soon noticed that it was not the old Eyvind
who learnt his lessons as a matter of course, and played as a matter of
necessity. He often talked with him and tried to draw him out; but he
could not get at the boy's heart so easily as in the old days. He also
talked to his parents, and, having taken counsel with them, he came
down one Sunday evening late in the winter and said, when he had sat
for some time:
"Come along, Eyvind, let us go out a little; I want to have a talk
Eyvind put on his things and went with him. They happened to take
the direction of the Hill Farms, conversing freely on indifferent
subjects. When they drew near the farms, the schoolmaster turned off
towards one which lay in the middle, and as they advanced they heard
shouts and sounds of merriment proceeding from it.
"What's going on here?" asked Eyvind.
"A dance," said the schoolmaster, "shall we not go in?"
"Won't you join in a dance, my boy?"
"No, not yet."
"Not yet? When, then?"
He did not answer.
"What do you mean by yet?"
As the boy still made no answer the schoolmaster said:
"Come now, no nonsense."
"No, I'm not going in!"
He was very determined and agitated besides.
"Strange that your old schoolmaster should have to stand here and
entreat you to go to a dance!"
There was a long silence.
"Is there some one in there whom you're afraid to see?"
"How should I know who is there?"
"But there might be some one?"
Eyvind was silent.
Then the schoolmaster went close up to him and laid his hand on his
"Are you afraid of seeing Marit?"
Eyvind looked to the ground, and his breathing became heavy and
"Tell me, Eyvind."
Eyvind was silent.
"I daresay you don't like to own it, since you're not confirmed;
but tell me all the same, my dear Eyvind, and you sha'n't repent it."
Eyvind looked up, but could not get out a word, and had to look
"I could see you hadn't been happy lately; does she care more for
others than for you?"
As Eyvind did not answer even now, the schoolmaster felt rather
hurt and turned from him. They walked homewards.
When they had gone a good way, the schoolmaster stopped to let
Eyvind overtake him.
"I suppose you're longing to be confirmed," said he.
"What do you mean to do afterwards?"
"I should like to go to the training-college."
"And be a schoolmaster?"
"You're above that, eh?"
Eyvin was silent
Then the schoolmaster went close up to him and laid his hand on his
"Are you afraid of seeing Marit?"
Eyvind looked to the ground, and his breathing became heavy and
"Tell me, Eyvind."
Eyvind was silent.
"I daresay you don't like to own it, since you're not confirmed;
but tell me all the same, my dear Eyvind, and you sha'n't repent it."
Eyvind looked up, but could not get out a word, and had to look
"I could see you hadn't been happy lately; does she care more for
others than for you?"
As Eyvind did not answer even now, the schoolmaster felt rather
hurt and turned from him. They walked homewards.
When they had gone a good way, the schoolmaster stopped to let
Eyvind overtake him.
"I suppose you're longing to be confirmed," said he.
"What do you mean to do afterwards?"
"I should like to go to the training-college."
"And be a schoolmaster?"
"You're above that, eh?"
Eyvind was silent. They again went on a good way.
"When you've been to the training-college, what then?"
"I haven't really thought about that."
"If you had money I suppose you'd like to buy a farm?"
"Yes, but keep the mills."
"Then it would be better for you to go to the School of
"Do they learn as much there as at the training-college?"
"Oh no, but they learn what's going to be of use to them
"Can you take honours there, too?"
"Why do you ask?"
"I should like to learn things thoroughly."
"That you can do without taking honours."
They walked on again in silence till they saw Pladsen; a light
shone out from the sitting-room, the rock loomed darkly in the winter
night, the lake lay below covered with smooth, sparkling ice, the wood,
with no snow on it, encircled the still cove; the moon shone out and
mirrored the wood in the ice.
"It is beautiful here at Pladsen," said the schoolmaster. Eyvind
could sometimes see it with the same eyes as when his mother told
fairy-tales, or with the vision he had when he raced down the hill on
his sledge: so he saw it now; everything seemed elevated and clear.
"Yes, it is beautiful here," he said, but sighed as he spoke.
"Your father has been contented with the holding; couldn't you be
contented here too?"
The happy vision of the place all at once vanished. The
schoolmaster stood as though waiting for an answer; receiving none, he
shook his head, and they went indoors. He sat there awhile with them,
but had very little to say, so that the others became silent too. When
he said good-bye, both husband and wife went outside the door with him;
they seemed to expect him to say something. Meanwhile they all three
stood looking up at the evening sky.
"It seems so unnaturally quiet here," said the mother at length,
"since the children have gone elsewhere to play."
"And you have no longer a child in the house," said the
The mother understood what he meant.
"Eyvind is not happy of late," said she.
"Oh no, he who is ambitious is not happy."
He looked with an old man's peace up into God's silent sky.
SIX months later, that is to say in the autumn (the confirmation
had been put off till then), the candidates for confirmation sat in the
servants' hall of the minister's house waiting to be called in for
examination, and amongst them Eyvind of Pladsen and Marit of the Hill
Farms. Marit had just come down from the minister's room where she had
received a beautiful book and much commendation. She laughed and
chatted with her girlfriends on all sides, and looked round amongst the
boys. Marit was now a full-grown girl, light and free in all her
movements, and the boys as well as the girls knew that the finest
bachelor of the village, John Hatlen, was paying court to her; she
might well be happy as she sat there. By the door stood some girls and
boys who had not passed; they were crying whilst Marit and her friends
laughed. Amongst them was a little boy in his father's boots and his
mother's Sunday kerchief.
"Oh God, oh God!" he sobbed, "I daren't go home again."
This seized those who had not yet been up, with the force of
fellow-feeling; there was a general silence. Anxiety clouded their eyes
and gripped them by the throat; they could not see distinctly, and
neither could they swallow, though they constantly wanted to. One sat
and went over all he knew, and though he had discovered some hours
before that he knew everything, he now found out with equal certainty
that he knew nothing-could not even read. A second went over his whole
list of sins, from as far back as he could remember, till now, and came
to the conclusion that it would not be in the least wonderful if Our
Lord did not let him pass. A third sat and watched everything in the
room: if the clock, which was on the point of striking, did not begin
until he had counted twenty, he would pass; if the person he heard
coming into the passage was the stableboy, Lars, he would pass; if the
big raindrop that was creeping down the window came right to the frame,
he would pass. The last and decisive proof was to be whether he could
get his right foot twisted round his left, and this he found quite
impossible. A fourth was sure that if he was questioned on Joseph in
history and on baptism in doctrine, or on Saul, or on the Decalogue, or
on Jesus or-he was still going over it all when his turn came. A fifth
had set his heart on the Sermon on the Mount; he had dreamt of the
sermon, he was sure he would be questioned on the sermon; he went over
the sermon to himself, he had to slip out to read the sermon over
again-then his turn came, and he was examined on the major and minor
prophets. A sixth thought of the minister, what a kind man he was, and
how well he knew his father and mother; and of the schoolmaster, who
had such a gentle face; and of God, who was so very gracious and had
helped many before, both Jacob and Joseph; and then he thought how his
mother and sisters were at home praying for him, and that was sure to
help. The seventh sat and knocked down all the castles in the air he
had built. First he had determined to become a king, then a general or
a minister-that stage had long been past: but until he had entered this
room he had still thought of going to sea and becoming a captain,
perhaps a pirate, and amassing enormous wealth: then he gave up the
idea of riches, then the idea of becoming a pirate, then of becoming a
captain, then of becoming a mate; he stopped at common sailor or at
highest boatswain-it was even possible that he would not go to sea at
all, but set to work on his father's farm. The eighth was a little more
confident, yet not quite sure of passing; for not even the cleverest
could be quite sure. He thought of the clothes he had got to be
confirmed in, and what they would be used for if he didn't pass. But if
he passed he was to go to town and get splendid Sunday clothes, and
come home again and dance at Christmas, to the envy of all the boys and
the admiration of all the girls. The ninth reckoned otherwise; he
opened a little account with God in which he placed upon the one side
as Debit: 'He will allow me to pass,' and on the other side as Credit:
'I will never tell any more lies, nor gossip, will always go to church,
let the girls alone, and break myself of swearing.' But the tenth
thought that as Ole Hansen had passed last year, it would be worse than
injustice if he did not pass this year, for he had always been above
him at school, and besides, his parents were not respectable. At his
side sat the eleventh, nursing the most bloodthirsty plans for revenge
in case he did not pass-he was going either to set fire to the school,
or leave the neighbourhood and come back as a fulminating judge to call
the minister and the whole school-commission to account, and then
magnanimously let mercy stand for justice. As a beginning he would go
into service with the minister of the next parish, and there be first
in the examination next year, and answer so that the whole church
should wonder and admire. But the twelfth sat by himself underneath the
clock, with both hands in his pockets, and looked sorrowfully at the
rest. No one knew what a burden he bore and what anxiety was racking
him. But at home there was one who knew it-for he was betrothed. A big,
long-legged spider crept over the floor and came near his foot: he used
always to tread upon the ugly insects, but to-day he lifted his foot
tenderly and let it pass in peace. His voice was as mild as a collect;
his eyes kept on repeating that all men were good; his hand moved
humbly from his pocket to his hair, in order to smooth it down. If he
could only wriggle by hook or by crook through this terrible needle's
eye, he would soon swell out again on the other side, chew tobacco and
make his engagement public. On a low stool, with his legs bent
underneath him, sat the restless thirteenth; his legs bent underneath
him, sat the restless thirteenth; his small sparkling eyes made the
round of the room three times in a second: and inside the strong, rough
head the thoughts of all the other twelve were tossing about in wild
confusion, from the brightest hope to the darkest despair, from the
humblest resolves to the most annihilating plans of vengeance; and
meanwhile he had eaten up all the loose skin from his right thumb and
was now busy with his nails, of which he scattered great fragments on
Eyvind sat over by the window; he had been up and answered
everything he was asked, but the minister had said nothing nor the
schoolmaster either. He had been thinking for more than six months what
both would say when they came to know how he had worked, and he now
felt disappointed, and hurt withal. There sat Marit who, for far less
labour and knowledge, had received both encouragement and reward. It
was precisely for the sake of shining in her eyes that he had toiled,
and now she laughingly enjoyed all that he had worked for with so much
self-renunciation. Her laughter and joking burnt into his soul, the
freedom with which she carried herself hurt him. He had sedulously
avoided speaking to her since that evening; "I won't for years yet," he
thought; but the sight of her sitting there, so gay and at her ease,
crushed him to the earth, and all his proud projects drooped like
leaves in the rain.
Little by little, however, he tried to shake off the depression.
The thing was to know whether he was Number One to-day, and for this he
waited. The schoolmaster generally remained a little while in the
minister's room to arrange the young folks in order, and then came down
to announce the result; not the final order, indeed, but that which the
minister and himself had provisionally agreed upon. Conversation in the
room became livelier by degrees, as more and more were examined and
passed. But now it became easy to distinguish the ambitious from the
contented ones; the latter, so soon as they could get company on the
way, went off to tell their parents of their good luck, or else waited
for others who had not yet been examined; the former, on the contrary,
became quieter and quieter, straining their eyes towards the door.
At length all had been examined, the last had come down, and the
schoolmaster was now consulting with the minister. Eyvind looked at
Marit; she seemed quite indifferent, but remained sitting, whether on
her own or on some one else's account, he did not know. How lovely
Marit had grown! He had never seen such a dazzlingly soft complexion;
her nose turned up a little, her mouth was smiling. Her eyes were
half-closed when she did not just happen to be looking at you, but that
gave her glance an unexpected brilliance when it came-and, as if to
explain that she meant nothing by it, she would half smile at the same
time. Her hair was rather dark than fair, but it curled in little
ringlets and came far forward at the sides-so that together with her
half-closed eyes it gave her face an effect of mystery which it seemed
one could never quite fathom. It was impossible to tell exactly at whom
she was looking when she sat by herself or among others, or what she
was really thinking of when she turned and talked to any one-for she
seemed immediately to take back what she gave.
"No doubt John Hatlen is lurking under all this," thought Eyvind;
but still he kept on looking at her.
Now the schoolmaster came. They all started from their seats and
crowded round him.
"What's my number?"
"And mine, mine?"
"Hush you overgrown children, no noise here; be quiet boys, and you
He looked slowly round.
"You are Number Two," said he to a boy with blue eyes who was
looking beseechingly at him, and the boy danced out of the ring.
"You are Number Three," and he gave a little slap to a red-haired,
active little fellow who stood pulling his coat.
"You are Number Five, you Number Eight," and so on. He caught sight
"You are Number One of the girls." She flushed crimson all over her
face and neck, but tried to smile.
"You, Number Twelve, have been lazy, you rascal, and a great
vagabond; you Number Eleven couldn't expect anything better, my boy;
you, Number Thirteen, must study hard and come to the repetition class,
else you'll come off badly."
Eyvind could bear it no longer; it was true Number One had not been
mentioned, but he was standing the whole time where the schoolmaster
could see him.
"Master!"-he did not hear. "Master!" He had to repeat it three
times before he was heard. At last the schoolmaster looked at him.
"Number Nine or Ten, I don't exactly remember which," said he, and
turned to the others.
"Who is Number One then?" asked Hans, who was Eyvind's great
"Not you, curly pate!" said the schoolmaster, hitting him over the
knuckles with a roll of paper.
"Who is it then?" asked several. "Who is it-yes, who is it?"
"The one who has the number will be told of it," answered the
schoolmaster, severely; he would have no more questions.
"Go home nicely now, children, thank your God and gladden your
parents! Thank your old schoolmaster too; you would have been badly
enough off without him!"
They thanked him and laughed, they dispersed rejoicing, for at this
moment when they were to go home to their parents they were all happy.
But one there was who could not immediately find his books and who,
when he did find them, sat down as if to con them all over again.
The schoolmaster went up to him.
"Well, Eyvind, aren't you going with the others?"
He did not answer.
"What are you looking up in your books?"
"I want to see what I have answered wrong to-day."
"I don't think you answered anything wrong."
Then Eyvind looked at him, the tears in his eyes; he looked fixedly
at him whilst one tear after another ran down, but he said not a word.
The schoolmaster sat down in front of him.
"Are you not glad now that you've passed?"
His mouth quivered but he did not answer.
"Your father and mother will be very much pleased," said the
schoolmaster looking at him.
Eyvind struggled a long time to get a word out, at last he asked
him, speaking low and in broken phrases:
"Is it-because I-am a cottar's son-that I am Number Nine or Ten?"
"No doubt it is," answered the schoolmaster.
"Then it's no good for me to work," said he in a dead voice,
crushed under the wreck of his dreams. Suddenly he raised his head,
lifted his right hand, struck the table with all his might, flung
himself on his face and burst into an agony of weeping.
The schoolmaster let him lie and have his cry right out. It lasted
a long time, but the schoolmaster waited until the weeping became more
like that of a child. Then he took the boy's head between his hands,
lifted it up and looked into the tear-stained face.
"Do you think it is God who has been with you now?" said he,
putting his arm tenderly round his shoulders.
Eyvind was still sobbing, but not so violently; the tears flowed
more slowly, but he did not dare to look at his questioner, nor yet to
"This, Eyvind, has been your just reward. You have not studied for
the love of heaven and your parents; you have studied for vanity's
It was all silent in the room in the intervals of the
schoolmaster's speaking. Eyvind felt his gaze resting on him and he was
melted and humbled by it.
"With such anger in your heart you could not have presented
yourself to make a covenant with your God; could you, Eyvind?"
"No," he stammered as well as he could.
"And if you stood there in vainglorious joy because you were Number
One, would you not be bringing sin to the altar?"
"Yes," whispered he, with trembling lips.
"You still love me, Eyvind?"
"Yes;" and he looked up for the first time.
"Then I will tell you that it was I who got you placed lower; for I
love you so much, Eyvind!"
The other looked at him, blinked several times, and the tears
rained down thickly.
"You don't bear me a grudge for it?"
"No." He looked up fully and clearly although he was nearly choked.
"My dear child! I will take care of you as long as I live."
The schoolmaster waited for him until he had pulled himself
together and arranged his books, and then said he would go home with
him. They walked slowly homewards; at first Eyvind was still silent and
struggling with himself, but gradually he got into a better frame of
mind. He felt quite sure that what had happened was for the best, and
before they reached home his conviction had become so strong that he
thanked God and told the schoolmaster.
"Ah, now we can think about doing something in life," said the
schoolmaster, "and not run after nothings and numbers. What do you say
to the seminary?"
"Yes, I would like to go there."
"You mean the Agricultural College?"
"That's certainly the best; it offers better prospects than
"But how shall I get there? I want so much to go, but I've no
"Be industrious and good and we shall find means."
Eyvind was quite overcome with gratitude. He had that sparkle of
the eye, that lightness of breath, that infinite fire of love which
comes over one when one feels the unexpected goodness of a human
creature. The whole future presents itself for a moment like wandering
in the fresh mountain air; one seems to be wafted forward without
When they got home, both parents were in the room where they had
been sitting in silent expectation, although it was working-time and
they were busy. The schoolmaster went in first, Eyvind followed; both
"Well?" said the father, laying down a hymn book in which he had
just been reading "A Communicant's Prayer." The mother stood by the
fireplace and dared not speak: she laughed, but her hands were
unsteady; she evidently expected good news, but would not betray
"I thought I'd just come with him, for I knew how glad you would be
to hear that he answered every question, and that the minister said
when Eyvind had gone that he has never had a better-prepared
"Oh, did he really!" said his mother, much moved.
"That was good," said his father, clearing his throat undecidedly.
After a long silence the mother asked softly: "What Number will he
"Number Nine or Ten," said the schoolmaster, calmly.
The mother looked at the father, and he looked first at her and
then at Eyvind.
"A cottar's son can expect no more," said he.
Eyvind looked back at him; he felt as if the tears would rise to
his throat again, but he controlled himself by hastily calling to mind
things dear to him, one after another, until the impulse subsided.
"I had better go now," said the schoolmaster, nodding and turning
away. Both parents went out with him as usual to the doorstep; here the
schoolmaster cut a quid of tobacco and said smiling:
"He will be Number One all the same; but had better not hear it
until the day comes."
"No, no," said his father, nodding.
"No, no," said his mother, nodding too; then she took the
schoolmaster's hand: "You must let us thank you for all you have done
for him," said she.
"Yes, we thank you," said the father, and the schoolmaster went
away; but they stood a long time looking after him.
THE SCHOOLMASTER had gone on the right track when he advised the
minister to put Eyvind's fitness to the test. During the three weeks
which elapsed before the confirmation he was with the boy every day. It
is one thing for a young and tender soul to receive an impression, and
another thing to retain it steadfastly. Many dark hours fell upon the
boy before he learnt to take the measure of his future by better
standards than those of vanity and display. Every now and then, in the
very midst of his work, his pleasure in it would slip away from him.
"To what end?" he would think, "what shall I gain?" and then a moment
afterwards he would remember the schoolmaster's words and his kindness;
but he needed this human stand-by to help him up again every time he
fell away from the sense of his higher duty.
During those days preparations were going on at Pladsen not only
for the confirmation, but also for Eyvind's departure to the
Agricultural College, which was to take place the day after. The tailor
and shoemaker were in the house, his mother was baking in the kitchen,
his father was making a chest for him. There was a great deal of talk
about how much he would cost them in two years; about his not being
able to come home the first Christmas, perhaps not even the second;
about the love he must feel for his parents who were willing to make
such an effort for their child's sake. Eyvind sat there like one who
had put out to sea on his own account but had capsized and was now
taken up by kindly people.
Such a feeling conduces to humility, and with that comes much
besides. As the great day drew near, he ventured to call himself
prepared and to look forward with trustful devotion. Every time the
image of Marit tried to mingle in his thoughts he put it resolutely
aside, but felt pain in doing so. He tried to practise doing this, but
never grew stronger; on the contrary, it was the pain that grew. He was
tired, therefore, the last evening when, after a long self-examination,
he prayed that Our Lord might not put him to this test.
The schoolmaster came in as the evening wore on. They gathered in
the sitting-room after they had all washed and tidied themselves,
according to custom the evening before one is to go to communion. The
mother was agitated, the father silent; parting lay beyond to-morrow's
ceremony, and it was uncertain when they would all sit together again.
The schoolmaster took out the psalm-books, they had prayers and sang,
and afterwards he said a little prayer just as the words occurred to
These four persons sat together until the evening grew very late
and thought turned inwards upon itself; then they parted with the best
wishes for the coming day and the compact it was to seal. Eyvind had to
own as he lay down that never had he gone to bed so happy; and by that,
as he now interpreted it, he meant: "Never have I lain down so
submissive to God's will and so happy in it." Marit's face at once came
to haunt him again; and the last thing he was conscious of was lying
there saying to himself: "Not quite happy, not quite," and then
answering: "Yes I am, quite," and then again: "Not quite."-"Yes,
quite."-"No, not quite."
When he awoke, he immediately remembered the day, said his prayers
and felt himself strong, as one does in the morning.
Since the summer, he had slept by himself in the loft; he now got
up and put on his handsome new clothes carefully, for he had never had
the like before. There was, in particular, a short jacket which he had
to touch a great many times before he got used to it. He got a little
mirror when he had put on his collar, and for the fourth time put on
his coat. As he now saw his own delighted face, set in extraordinarily
fair hair, smiling out at him from the glass, it struck him that this,
again, was doubtless vanity. "Well, but people must be well-dressed and
clean," answered he, while he drew back from the mirror as though it
were a sin to look in it. "Certainly, but not quite so happy about it."
"No, but Our Lord must surely be pleased that one should like to look
nice." "That may be, but He would like it better if you did so without
being so much taken up about it."
"That's true, but you see it's because everything is so new."
"Yes, but then by degrees you must leave it off." He found himself
carrying on such self-examining dialogues in his own mind, now on one
subject, now on another, in order that no sin should fall upon the day
and stain it, but he knew, too, that more than that was needed.
When he came down, his parents were sitting full-dressed, waiting
breakfast for him. He went and shook hands with them and thanked them
for the clothes.
"May you have health to wear them."
They seated themselves at table, said a silent grace, and ate. The
mother cleared the table and brought in the provision-box in
preparation for church. The father put on his coat, the mother pinned
her kerchief, they took their hymnbooks, locked up the house and set
off. When they got upon the upper road they found it thronged with
church-going folk, driving and walking, with confirmation candidates
amongst them, and in more than one group white-haired grandparents,
determined to make this one last appearance.
It was an autumn day without sunshine-such as portends a change of
weather. Clouds gathered and parted again, sometimes a great assemblage
would break up into twenty smaller ones which rushed away bearing
orders for a storm; but down on the earth it was as yet still, the
leaves hung lifeless, not even quivering, the air was rather close; the
people carried cloaks but did not use them. An unusually large crowd
had assembled round the high-lying church, but the young people who
were to be confirmed went straight in to be settled in their places
before service began. Then it was that the schoolmaster, in blue
clothes, tail-coat and knee-breeches, high boots, stiff collar, and his
pipe sticking out of his tail-pocket, came down the church, nodded and
smiled, slapped one on the shoulder, spoke a few words to another,
reminding him to answer loud and clear, and so made his way over to the
poor-box, where Eyvind; how stood answering all his friend Hans's
questions with reference to his journey.
"Good morning, Eyvind; how fine we are to-day,"-he took him by the
coat-collar as if he wanted to speak to him. "Listen; I think all's
well with you. I've just been speaking to the minister: you are to take
your place, go up to Number One, and answer distinctly!"
Eyvind looked up at him astonished; the schoolmaster nodded, the
boy moved a few steps, stopped, a few more steps and stopped again.
"Yes, it's really so, he has spoken for me to the minister;" and the
boy went up quickly.
"You're Number One after all, then?" someone whispered to him.
"Yes," answered Eyvind, softly, but he still was not quite sure
whether he dared take his place.
The marshalling was completed, the minister arrived, the bell rang,
and the people came streaming in. Then Eyvind saw Marit of the Hill
Farms standing just opposite him. She looked at him, too, but both were
so impressed by the sacredness of the place that they dared not greet
each other. He saw only that she was dazzlingly beautiful and was
bareheaded; more than that he did not see. Eyvind who, for more than
six months, had been nursing such great designs of standing opposite
her, now that it had come to the point forgot both her and the
place-forgot that he had ever thought of them.
When it was all over, kinsfolk and friends came to offer their
congratulations; then his comrades came to bid him good-bye, as they
had heard that he was to go away next day; and then came a lot of
little ones with whom he had sledged on the hills and whom he had
helped at school, and some even shed a tear or two at leave-taking.
Last came the schoolmaster and shook hands silently with him and his
parents and made a sign to go,-he would come with them. They four were
together again, and this evening was to be the last. On the way there
were many more who bade him good-bye and wished him luck, but they did
not speak amongst themselves until they were sitting indoors at home.
The schoolmaster tried to keep up their courage; it was evident
that now it had come to the point, they were all three dreading the
long two years' separation, seeing that hitherto they had not been
parted for a single day; but none of them would own it. As the hours
went on, the more heart-sick did Eyvind become; he had to go out at
last to calm himself a little.
It was dusk now and there was a strange soughing in the wind; he
stood on the doorstep and looked up. Then, from the edge of the rock he
heard his own name softly called; it was no delusion, for it was twice
repeated. He looked up and made out that a girl was sitting crouched
amongst the trees and looking down.
"Who's that?" he asked.
"I hear you are going away," said she, softly, "so I had to come to
you and say good-bye, as you would not come to me."
"Why, is that you, Marit? I will come up to you."
"No don't do that, I have waited such a long time and that would
make me have to wait still longer. Nobody knows where I am, and I must
hurry home again."
"It was kind of you to come," said he.
"I couldn't bear that you should go away like that, Eyvind; we have
known each other since we were children."
"Yes, we have."
"And now we haven't spoken to each other for six months."
"No, we haven't."
"And we parted so strangely the last time."
"Yes-I must really come up to you."
"No, no, don't do that! But tell me; you're not angry with me, are
"How can you think so, dear?"
"Good-bye then, Eyvind, and thank you for all our life together!"
"Yes, I must go now, they will miss me."
"No, I daren't stop away any longer, Eyvind; good-bye!"
After that he moved as if in a dream, and answered at random when
they spoke to him. They put it down to his going away and thought it
only natural; and indeed that was what was in his mind when the
schoolmaster took leave at night, and put something into his hand which
he afterwards found to be a five-dollar note.
But later on, when he went to bed, it was not of his going away he
was thinking, but of the words which had come down from the edge of the
rock and of those which had gone up again. As a child she had not been
allowed to come to the edge because her grandfather was afraid she
might fall over. Perhaps she would one day come over all the same!
MY DEAR PARENTS,
"WE have got a great deal more work to do now, but now I have
nearly made up to the others so that it is not so hard upon me. And
there is much that I shall alter on the farm when I come home, for
things are very bad there, and the only wonder is that it has held
together at all. But I shall get it all into shape again, for I have
now learned a great deal. I am longing to get to some place where I can
put in practice what I know, so I must seek a good position when my
course is finished. Here they all say that John Hatlen is not so clever
as they think at home; but he has a farm of his own, and it's his own
affair whether he knows much or little. Many who have gone through our
course earn large salaries; that is because ours is the best
agricultural college in the country. Some say that one in the next
county is better, but that is not at all true. Here they teach us two
things: the first is called theory, and the second practice, and it is
good to have them both, and the one is no good without the other, but
still the last is the best. And the first word means to know the cause
and reason for a piece of work, but the other means to be able to do
the work, for instance as it might be with a bog. Many know what ought
to be done with a bog, but do it wrongly all the same, for they haven't
the power. Many have the power and don't know the reasons for things,
and they may go wrong too, for there are many kinds of bogs. But we at
the Agricultural College learn both things. The principal is so clever
that no one can come near him. At the last Agricultural Congress he
managed two questions whilst the other masters of agriculture had only
one each; and when they took time to think things out, they were always
as he said. But at the former Congress, when he was not present, they
only talked nonsense. It is on account of the principal's cleverness
that he has got the lieutenant who teaches land-surveying; for the
other schools have no lieutenant. But he is so clever that they say he
was the very best in the school for lieutenants.
"The schoolmaster asks whether I go to church. Yes, certainly I go
to church, for now the minister has got an assistant, and he preaches
so that all the people in church are frightened, and that is a pleasure
to hear. He is of the new religion that they have in Christiania, and
people think he is too severe, but it does them good all the same.
"At present we are learning a good deal of history which we have
not studied before, and it is strange to see all that has gone on in
the world, and especially in our country. For we have always won except
when we have lost, and that was when we were much fewer than the other
people. Now we have freedom, and no other people have so much of that
as we, except America; but there they are not happy. And we should love
our freedom above everything.
"Now I will close for this time, for I have written a long letter.
I daresay the school-master will read the letter, and when he answers
it for you, let him tell me some news of the neighbours, for that he
"Accept best greetings from"Your affectionate son,"E. THORESEN."
"MY DEAR PARENTS,"I must tell you that there has been an
examination here and I have come out remarkably well in many things,
and very well in writing and surveying, but only pretty well in
composition in the mother tongue. The principal says that is because I
have not read enough, and he has presented me with some books by Ole
Vig which are splendid, for I understand everything in them. The
principal is very kind to me, he tells us so many things. Everything in
this country is on a very small scale compared with what they have in
foreign countries; we understand almost nothing, but learn everything
from the Scotch and Swiss, and from the Dutch we learn gardening. Many
travel to these countries; in Sweden, too, they are much cleverer than
we, and the principal himself has been there. I shall soon have been
here a year, and it seems to me that I have learned a great deal; but
when I hear of all that the pupils know who go out after examination,
and think that even they know nothing in comparison with foreigners, I
get quite discouraged. And then the soil is so poor here in Norway
compared with what it is abroad; nothing we can do with it pays.
Besides, people have no energy. And even if they had, and if the land
were much better, they have no capital to work with. It is wonderful
that things go as well as they do.
"I am now in the highest class, and it will be a year before I have
done with it. But most of my comrades have gone, and I am longing for
home. I seem somehow to stand alone, although of course I do not
really; but it is so strange when one has been away a long time. I
thought at one time that I should become so clever here, but there
seems little enough chance of that.
"What shall I do when I come away from here? First, of course, I
shall come home. Afterwards I suppose I must look out for something to
do, but it must not be far away.
"Good-bye, dear parents. Greet those who ask after me, and tell
them that I am well, but that I am longing to be home again."Your
affectionate son,"EYVIND THORESEN PLADSEN."
"DEAR SCHOOLMASTER,"This is to ask you whether you will forward the
enclosed letter and say nothing about it to anybody. And if you will
not, then you must burn it."EYVIND THORESEN PLADSEN."
"TO THE HIGHLY-HONOURED MARIT KNUT'S-DAUGHTER NORDISTUEN AT THE
UPPER HILL FARMS. "You will be much surprised to receive a letter from
me, but you need not be, for I only want to ask how you are getting on
in every respect. You must let me know as soon as possible. As for
myself, I have to tell you that I shall have finished my course here in
a year."Most respectfully,"EYVIND PLADSEN."
"TO BACHELOR EYVIND PLADSEN, AT THE AGRICULTURAL COLLEGE. "I have
duly received your letter from the schoolmaster, and I will answer
since you ask me to. But I am afraid, because you are so learned, and I
have a letter-writer, but there is nothing in it that will do. So I
must try, and you must take the will for the deed, but you mustn't show
it, or you are not the person I take you for. And you are not to keep
it either, for then it might easily fall into some one's hands, but you
are to burn it, you must promise me that. There are such a lot of
things I should like to write about, but I don't think I dare. We have
had a good harvest, potatoes are a high price, and we have plenty of
them here at the Hill Farms. But the bear has been terrible amongst the
cattle this summer; at Ole Nedregaard's he killed two head, and at our
cottar's he knocked one about so that it had to be killed. I am weaving
a large web of cloth; it is like that Scotch stuff, and it is
difficult. And now I will tell you that I am still at home, and that
others would fain have it otherwise. Now I have no more to write about
this time and so good-bye."MARIT KNUT'S-DAUGHTER. "P.S.-Be sure you
burn this letter."
"TO AGRICULTURAL-STUDENT EYVIND PLADSEN. "I have told you, Eyvind,
that whoso walks with God, he has a portion in the good heritage. But
now you shall hear my counsel, and that is: not to take the world with
yearning and tribulation, but to trust to God and never let your heart
consume you, for then you have another God besides Him. Next, I must
tell you that your father and mother are well, but I have a bad hip;
for now the war makes itself felt again, and all that one has been
through. What youth sows age reaps, and that both in soul and body;
which latter now smarts and aches, and tempts one to continual
complaining. But age must not complain, for wounds instruct us and
aches preach patience, so that a man may have strength for the last
journey. To-day I have taken up my pen for many reasons, and first and
foremost on Marit's account, who has become a God-fearing girl, but is
as light-footed as a reindeer and unsettled in her purposes. She would
like to hold to one, but her nature will not let her. But I have often
seen that with such weak hearts our Lord is lenient and long-suffering,
and never lets them be tempted beyond their strength, so that they are
broken in pieces; for they are very fragile. I duly gave her the
letter, and she hid it from all save her own heart. And if God gives
this matter His countenance, I have nothing against it; for she is a
delight to the eye of youth, as can plainly be seen, and she has plenty
of earthly goods, and heavenly goods as well, for all her instability.
For the fear of God in her mind is like water in a shallow pond: it is
there when it rains, but when the sun shines it is gone.
"My eyes will bear no more now; they see well enough out in the
open, but ache and water over small things. In conclusion, I would say
to you, Eyvind, in all your aspirations and labours take your God with
you; for it is written, Better is an handful with quietness than both
the hands full with travail and vexation of spirit."Your old
schoolmaster,"BAARD ANDERSEN OPDAL."
"TO THE HIGHLY-HONOURED MARIT KNUT'S-DAUGHTER, OF THE HILL FARMS.
"Thank you for your letter, which I have read and burnt as you told
me. You write about many things, but not a word of what I wanted you to
write about. I dare not write about anything certain either, untill I
get to know something of how it is with you in every way. The
schoolmaster's letter says nothing that you can take hold of; but he
praises you, and then he says that you are unstable. You were that
before. I don't know what I am to believe, and therefore you must
write, for I shall not be happy until you write. At present what I most
like to remember is that you came on the rock that last evening, and
what you then said to me. I will say no more this time, and so
good-bye."Most respectfully,"EYVIND PLADSEN."
"TO THE BACHELOR EYVIND THORESEN PLADSEN. "The schoolmaster has
given me another letter from you, and I have now read it. But I don't
understand it at all; I suppose that is because I am not learned. You
want to know how I am in every way; and I am quite well and strong, and
have nothing whatever the matter with me. I eat well, especially when I
get milk-food, and I sleep at night, and sometimes in the day, too. I
have danced a great deal this winter, for there have been lots of
parties and great goings-on. I go to church when there is not too much
snow, but it has been deep this winter. Now I hope you know everything,
and if you don't then I know nothing for it but that you must write to
me again."MARIT KNUT'S-DAUGHTER."
"TO THE HIGHLY-HONOURED MARIT KNUT'S-DAUGHTER. "I have received
your letter, but you seem to want me to be just as wise as I was
before. I dare not write anything of what I want to write about, for I
do not know you. But perhaps you don't know me, either.
"You must not believe that I am any longer the soft cheese out of
which you pressed water when I sat and watched you dance. I have lain
upon many a shelf to dry since that time. Nor yet am I like those
long-haired dogs that for the slightest thing let their ears droop, and
slip away from people, as I used to do; I take my chance now.
"Your letter was playful enough; but it was playful just where it
ought not to have been; for you understand me well; and you could guess
that I did not ask for fun, but because of late I can think of nothing
but what I asked about. I waited in deep anxiety, and then came nothing
but trifling and laughter.
"Good-bye Marit Nordistuen; I shall not look too much at you, as I
did at that dance. I hope you may both eat and sleep well, and finish
your new web of cloth, and especially that you may shovel away the snow
that lies before the church door."Most respectfully,"EYVIND THORESEN
TO EYVIND THORESEN, STUDENT OF AGRICULTURE, AGRICULTURAL COLLEGE.
"In spite of my old age, and weak eyes, and the pain in my right hip,
I must yield to the urgency of youth; for it finds a use for us old
folks when it has stuck fast. It coaxes and weeps until it has its way,
and then it is off again directly, and will not listen to another word.
"Now it is Marit. She comes with many sweet words to get me to
write as follows, for she dares not write alone. I have read your
letter; she thought she had John Hatlen or some other fool to deal
with, and not one whom schoolmaster Baard had brought up, but now she
finds she's mistaken. Yet you have been too hard upon her, for there
are some girls who joke in order not to cry, and both mean the same
thing. But I like to see you take serious things seriously, else you
cannot laugh at nonsense.
"As to the fact of your caring for each other, that is plain enough
from many things. As to her, I have often had my doubts, for she is as
hard to grasp as the wind; but now I know that she has stood out
against John Hatlen, and has thereby made her grandfather very angry.
She was happy when your offer came, and when she joked it was not with
any evil intention, but from joy. She has borne much, and she has done
so in order to wait for him upon whom her heart is set. And now you
will not take her, but throw her aside as a naughty child.
"This was what I had to tell you. And I will add this advice, that
you should come to an understanding with her, for you will probably
have plenty to contend with in any case. I am an old man who has seen
three generations; I know folly and its courses.
"I am to greet you from your father and mother, they are longing
for you. But I would not mention this before for fear of making you
unhappy. You do not know your father; for he is like the tree that
gives no sign before it is hewn down. But if you once get a little
nearer him, then you will learn to know him, and you will marvel as in
a rich place. He has been oppressed and silent in worldly matters, but
your mother has eased his mind from worldly anxiety, and now it grows
clearer towards the evening of his day.
"My eyes are getting dim now, and my hand is weary. Therefore I
commit you to Him whose eye ever watches, and whose hand never
tires."BAARD ANDERSON OPDAL."
"TO EYVIND PLADSEN. "You seem to be angry with me, and that hurts
me very much. For I didn't mean it like that, I meant it well. I
remember that I have often treated you ill, and therefore I will now
write to you, but you must not show it to anybody. At one time I had
everything my own way, and then I was not good; but now nobody cares
for me any more, and now I am unhappy. John Hatlen has made up a song
in mockery of me, and all the boys sing it, and I dare not go to any
dances. Both the old people know about it, and they scold me. But I am
sitting alone, and writing, and you mustn't show it.
"You have learnt much, and can advise me, but you are now far away.
I have often been down to your parents' house, and I have talked with
your mother, and we have become good friends; but I did not dare to say
anything because you wrote so strangely. The schoolmaster only makes
fun of me, and he knows nothing about the song, for no one in the
parish would dare to sing such a thing before him. Now I am alone, and
have no one to talk with. I remember when we were children, and you
were so good to me, and always used to let me sit in your sledge. I
wish I were a child again.
"I dare not ask you to answer me any more; because I dare not. But
if you would answer me, just once more, I would never forget it,
"Dear, burn this letter; I scarcely know whether I dare send it."
"DEAR MARIT, "Thanks for your letter; you wrote it in a good hour.
Now I will tell you, Marit, that I love you so that I can hardly stay
here any longer, and if only you love me too, then John's songs and
other evil words shall be only leaves that the tree bears too many of.
Since I got your letter I am like a new creature; double strength has
come to me, and I fear no one in the wide world. When I had sent my
last letter, I repented it so much that it nearly made me ill. And now
you shall hear what that led to. The principal took me aside and asked
what was the matter with me; he thought I was studying too much. Then
he told me that, when my year was up, I might stay for another and pay
nothing; I might help him with one thing and another, and he would
teach me more. I thought then that work was the only thing left to me
and I thanked him much: and even now I don't regret it although I am
longing for you, for the longer I am here the better right shall I have
to ask for you one day. Now that I am so happy, I work for three, and
never will I be behind in anything! You shall have a book I am reading,
for there is a great deal about love in it. At night I read it when the
others are asleep, and then I read your letter over again too. Have you
thought of when we shall meet? I think of it so often, and you must try
thinking of it too, and see how delightful it is. I am glad that I
managed to write so much, although it was so hard; for now I can tell
you all I want to and smile over it in my heart.
"I will give you many books to read so that you may see how many
crosses they have had who truly loved each other, and how they have
rather died of grief than give each other up. And so shall we do also,
and do it with great joy. It may be nearly two years before we see each
other, and yet longer before we get each other, but with every day that
goes it is one day less; this is what we must think whilst we work.
"In my next letter I will tell you so many things, but tonight I
have no more paper and the others are asleep. So I will go to bed and
think of you and go on thinking of you until I fall asleep."Your
ONE midsummer Saturday Thore Pladsen rowed across the lake to fetch
his son, who was to arrive that afternoon from the Agricultural College
where he had now completed his course. His mother had had women in to
help her for several days beforehand, and everything was clean and
scoured. Eyvind's room had long been in readiness, a stove had been put
in and there he was to live. To-day the mother had strewn fresh sprigs
on the floor, put out clean linen for use and arranged the bed, looking
out now and then to see if any boat were coming across the lake.
Downstairs there was a great table spread, and always some finishing
touch to be given, or flies to be chased away; and in the best room
there was always something that needed dusting. No boat yet; she leant
against the window frame and looked out. Then she heard a step close
beside her on the road and she turned her head; it was the schoolmaster
coming slowly down, leaning on a stick, for his hip was troublesome.
His shrewd eyes looked calmly around; he stopped and rested on his
stick and nodded to her.
"Not come yet?"
"No, I expect them every minute."
"Good weather for the hay."
"But hot walking for old people."
The schoolmaster looked smilingly at her.
"Have young people been out to-day?"
"Yes, they have, but they've gone again."
"Of course, yes; they're to meet this evening somewhere I suppose."
"Yes, no doubt; Thore says they sha'n't meet in his house until
they have the old people's consent."
Presently the mother cried:
"There they come, I really believe!"
The schoolmaster looked far over the lake.
"Yes, that's they!" She left the window and he entered the house.
When he had rested a little and had something to drink, they went down
to the lake whilst the boat scudded swiftly towards them, for both
father and son were rowing. The rowers had thrown off their coats, and
the water foamed under the oars so that the boat was quickly abreast of
them. Eyvind turned his head and looked up, and catching sight of those
two at the landing-place, rested on his oars and called out:
"Good-day, mother; good-day, schoolmaster."
"What a grown-up voice he has got," said the mother, her face
shining. "Oh, look, look, he's just as fair as ever!" she added.
The schoolmaster fended off the boat, the father shipped his oars;
Eyvind sprang past him ashore, and gave his hand first to his mother
and then to the schoolmaster. He laughed and laughed again, and, quite
against the peasants' custom, related at once in a stream of words all
about his examinations, his journey, the principal's certificate and
kind offers. He asked about the year's crops, and all acquaintances,
save one. The father set about unloading the boat, but, wanting to hear
also, thought this could stand over, and went with the others. So they
turned homewards, Eyvind laughing and pouring forth his news, the
mother laughing too, for she did not know what to say. The schoolmaster
limped slowly along beside them, and looked shrewdly at him; his father
walked modestly a little farther off. And so they reached home. He was
delighted with all he saw; first that the house had been painted, then
that the mill had been added to, then that the leaden windows had been
taken out of the downstairs room. and white glass put in instead of
green, and the window-frames enlarged. When he went indoors everything
was strangely smaller than he remembered it, but so cheerful. The clock
clucked like a fat hen; the cut-away chairbacks seemed almost as if
they could speak; he knew every cup upon the table; the fireplace
smiled a whitewashed welcome; branches were stuck all along the walls,
and gave off fragrance; juniper sprigs were strewn on the floor in
token of holiday. They sat down to eat, but there was not much eaten,
for they talked without intermission. Each one now examined him more at
leisure, noticed differences and likenesses, and observed what was
entirely new about him, even to the blue Sunday clothes he was wearing.
Once, when he had told a long story about one of his fine comrades and
had at last finished, there was a little pause, and his father said:
"I can scarcely understand a word of what you say, boy; you talk so
They all burst out laughing, Eyvind as much as any of them. He knew
quite well that it was true, but it was impossible for him to speak
more slowly. All the new things he had seen and learnt in his long
absence had so seized upon his imagination and intelligence, and so
shaken him out of the rut of custom, that powers which had long lain
dormant had, so to speak, started out of their sleep, and his head was
incessantly working. And they noted, too, that he had a trick of
repeating a word or two here and there without any reason, repeating it
over and over again from sheer hurry; it seemed as though he tripped
over himself. Sometimes it was comical, and then he laughed, and it was
forgotten. The father and the schoolmaster sat and watched whether his
thoughtfulness had worn away, but it did not appear so. He remembered
everything; he it was who reminded them that the boat must be unloaded.
He unpacked his things immediately and hung them up, showed them his
books, his watch, and all his new possessions, and they were well taken
care of, his mother said. He was extremely delighted with his little
room; he wanted to remain at home to begin with, he said, to help with
the haymaking, and to study. Where he would go afterwards he did not
know, but it was all the same to him. He had acquired a rapidity and
strength of thought which was refreshing, and a vivacity in expressing
his feelings which was so good to those who, the whole year round, had
been studiously repressing theirs. It made the schoolmaster ten years
"Well, we've got so far with him," said he beaming, as he rose to
When the mother came in after the usual parting word on the
doorstep, she called Eyvind into the best room.
"Some one will be expecting you at nine o'clock," whispered she.
"Up on the rock."
Eyvind looked at the clock; it was getting on for nine. He would
not wait indoors, but went out, climbed up the rock, stopped, and
looked down. The roof of the house lay close underneath; the bushes on
the roof had grown larger; all the young trees round where he stood had
grown, too, and he knew every one. He looked down over the road which
skirted the rock, with the wood on the other side. The road lay grey
and solemn, but the wood was clothed in all sorts of foliage; the trees
were tall and straight. In the little bay lay a vessel with flapping
sails; she was laden with planks, and waiting for a wind. He looked
across the water which had borne him forth and back. It lay still and
shining. A few sea-birds were hovering over, but without cries, for it
was late. His father came out of the mill, stopped at the doorsteps,
looked out like his son, then went down to the water to see after the
boat for the night. His mother came out from a side door leading from
the kitchen. She looked up towards the rock as she crossed the yard
with food for the fowls, and again looked up, humming to herself. He
sat down to wait. The brushwood grew thick so that he could not see far
in, but he listened for the slightest sound. For a long time he heard
nothing but birds, which flew up and disappeared, and now a squirrel
jumping from one tree into another. But at last, a long way off, there
comes a crackling sound; it stops a moment, then crackles again. He
rises; his heart beats, and the blood rushes to his head. Something
comes breaking through the bushes close at hand. But it is a large
shaggy dog that comes and looks up at him, stands still on three legs,
and does not move. It is the dog from Upper Hill Farm; and close behind
him there is a crackling again. The dog turns his head and wags his
tail. And here is Marit.
A bush had caught her dress; she turned to disengage herself, and
so she stood when he first saw her. She was bareheaded and had her hair
rolled up according to the everyday fashion of girls; she had on a
stout, checked bodice without sleeves, nothing on her neck but the
turned down linen collar; she had stolen away from working in the field
and had not dared to make herself fine. Now she looked up sideways and
smiled; her white teeth and half-closed eyes shone; she stood thus a
moment disentangling herself, then she came on, and got redder and
redder at every step. He went to meet her, and took her hand in both
his; she looked down, and so they stood.
"Thanks for all your letters," was the first thing he said, and
when she looked up a little at that, and laughed, he felt that she was
the most roguish fairy he could possibly have met in a wood; but he was
embarrassed, and she no less.
"How tall you have grown!" said she, but she meant something quite
different. She looked at him more and more, and laughed more and more,
and so did he; but they said nothing. The dog had seated himself on the
edge of the rock, and was looking down at the house; Thore noticed the
dog's head from the water below, and could not for the life of him
imagine what it was that showed up on the rock.
But the two had let go each other's hands, and began by degrees to
talk. And when he had once begun, Eyvind soon talked so fast that she
could not but laugh at him.
"Yes, you know, that's when I am happy, really happy you know; and
when it was all right between us two, it was just as if a lock had
burst open inside me, burst open you know."
She laughed. Presently she said:
"I know all the letters you sent me almost by heart." "So do I
yours! But you always wrote such short ones." "Because you always
wanted them long." "And when I wanted you to write more about anything,
you always chopped round and away from it." "I look best when you see
my back," said the witch. "But, by-the-bye, you never told me how you
got rid of John Hatlen." "I laughed." "What?" "Laughed; don't you know
what it is to laugh?" "Oh yes, I can laugh!" "Let me see!" "What an
idea! I must have something to laugh at." "I don't need that when I'm
happy." "Are you happy now, Marit?"
"Am I laughing now?"
"Yes, that you are!" He took both her hands and struck them
together-clap, clap!-whilst he looked at her.
At this moment the dog began to growl, then all his hair bristled
up, then he began to bark at something right below; he got angrier and
angrier until at last he was beside himself with rage. Marit started
back alarmed, but Eyvind stepped forward and looked down. It was at his
father that the dog was barking; he was standing right under the rock
with both hands in his pockets, looking up at the dog.
"Are you up there too? What mad dog is that you've got up there?"
"It's a dog from the Hill Farms," answered Eyvind, somewhat
"How the devil did he get up there?"
But the mother, hearing the horrible noise, had looked out at the
kitchen window, and understood the situation; so she laughed and said:
"That dog comes here every day, so there's nothing to be surprised at."
"It's a ferocious dog."
"He'll be better if he's patted." said Eyvind, and he patted him;
the dog left off barking but continued to growl. The father went
unsuspectingly away, and the two were saved from discovery.
"That was one time," said Marit as they met again.
"Do you mean it'll be worse another time?"
"I know some one who will keep a sharp eye on us."
"But he can't do us any harm."
"Not a bit."
"You promise me that?"
"Yes, I promise you that, Eyvind."
"How lovely you are, Marit!"
"That's what the fox said to the crow, and got the cheese."
"I want the cheese too, I promise you!"
"But you won't get it."
"I shall take it."
She turned her head, and he did not take it.
"I'll tell you something, Eyvind," she looked up sideways.
"How ill-mannered you've grown!"
"You'll give me the cheese all the same."
"No, I won't;" she turned away again. "I must go now, Eyvind."
"I am coming with you."
"But not beyond the wood; grandfather would see you."
"No, not beyond the wood. Why, how you're running, dear."
"We can't walk side by side here."
"But this isn't being together."
"Catch me, then!"
She ran, he ran after her, and her dress was soon caught so that he
"Have I taken you now for always, Marit?" He had his arm round her
"I think so," she said softly, and laughed, but flushed red, and
was instantly serious again. Well, now's the time, thought he, and he
tried to kiss her, but she ducked her head down under his arm, laughed
and ran away. But she stopped at the last trees.
"When shall we meet again?" she whispered.
"To-morrow, to-morrow!" he whispered back.
"Good-bye," and she ran off.
"Wasn't it strange that we met first upon the rock?"
"Yes, wasn't it?" and she ran on again.
He looked long after her; the dog ran on in front, barking up at
her, and she after, hushing him.
He turned round, took off his cap and tossed it in the air, caught
it and tossed it up again.
"Now, I really believe I am beginning to be happy," said the boy;
and he sang as he went homewards.
ONE afternoon later in the summer, as the mother and a maid were
raking up the hay, and the father and Eyvind were carrying it home, a
little barefooted, bareheaded boy came hopping down the hill and across
the field to Eyvind, to whom he handed a note.
"You run well!" said Eyvind.
"I am paid for it," answered the boy. No answer was required, he
said, so he made his way back again over the rock; for there was some
one on the road, he explained, whom he did not want to meet. Eyvind
opened the note with some trouble, for it was first folded in a
strip-then folded again, then sealed and tied up.
Its contents were: "He is on his way; but it is slow work. Run
into the wood and hide yourself."YOU KNOW WHO."
"No, I'll be hanged if I hide," thought Eyvind, looking defiantly
up the hill. It was not long before an old man came in sight at the top
of the hill; he rested, walked a little way, then rested again; both
Thore and his wife stopped to look at him. Thore presently smiled; his
wife, on the contrary, changed colour.
"Do you know him?"
"Yes, one couldn't easily mistake him."
The father and son resumed their hay-carrying, but the latter
managed it so that they were always one behind the other. The old man
on the hill drew slowly nearer, like a heavy sou-wester. He was very
tall and rather stout; his legs were weak, and he walked foot by foot
leaning heavily on a staff. He soon came so near that they could see
him distinctly; he stopped, took off his cap and wiped his head with
his handkerchief. He was bald right to the crown of his head; had a
round, puckered face, small, glistening, blinking eyes and bushy
eyebrows; he had not lost a single tooth. When he spoke it was in a
sharp, barking voice which hopped as if over gravel and stones; but
every now and then it would dwell with great satisfaction upon the
letter "r," rolling it out, as it seemed, for yards, and at the same
time jumping from one key to another. In his younger days he had been
well known as a cheerful but hot-tempered man; in his old age,
contrarieties of many sorts had made him passionate and suspicious.
Thore and his son had crossed and recrossed the meadow several
times before Ole came up with them; they both knew quite well that he
came for no good, therefore it seemed all the funnier that he could not
get at them. They had both to appear quite serious and to speak very
softly; but when this went on and on indefinitely the situation became
irresistibly comic. A mere shred of a phrase that comes in aptly is
enough, under such circumstances, to set people off; especially if
there happens to be some danger in laughing. When at last the old man
was only a few yards away, but seemed unable to get nearer, Eyvind said
drily and softly:
"What a heavy load he must be carrying!" and it needed no more.
"You're surely out of your senses," whispered the father, although
he was himself laughing.
"H'm, h'm!" coughed Ole, on the hillside.
"He's tuning up!" whispered Thore.
Eyvind fell on his knees before the haycock, buried his head in it
and laughed. His father also bent down.
"Let's get into the barn," whispered he, taking an armful of hay
and marching away with it; Eyvind took up a small bundle and ran after
him, bent double with laughter, and threw himself down in a convulsion
as soon as he got into the barn. The father was a serious man, but if
anybody set him off laughing he began with a gurgling, then came longer
but broken trills until they flowed together in one roar, after which
came wave upon wave with an ever-increasing backdraught. Now he was
fairly set off; while the son lay on the floor, the father stood over
him, and they both went into peals of laughter. They were subject every
now and then to such hysterical fits; but "this one came at the wrong
time," said the father. At last they did not know what would come of
it, for the old man must by this time have got to the farm.
"I am not going out," said the father, "I have no business with
"Well, then, I sha'n't go either," answered Eyvind.
"H'm, h'm!" was heard just outside the barn-wall. The father shook
his finger at the boy.
"Will you get out with you?"
"Yes, if you go first."
"No, off with you!"
"You go first!" And they brushed each other down and went solemnly
forth. When they had crossed the bridge they saw Ole standing facing
the kitchen door as if considering; he was holding his cap in the hand
with which he held his staff, wiping the sweat off his bald head with
his handkerchief, and at the same time ruffling up the bristles behind
his ears and on his neck, so that they stuck out like spikes. Eyvind
kept behind his father, who had therefore to bear the first brunt; and
to get it over he said with stupendous solemnity:
"This is a long way for a man of your years to come."
Ole turned round, looked keenly at him, and put his cap on straight
before he answered: "Yes, you're right there!"
"You must be tired; won't you come in?"
"Oh, I can rest where I am; my errand is not a long one."
Some one was peeping from the kitchen door; between her and Thore
stood old Ole with the peak of his cap over his eyes; for the cap was
too large now that his hair was gone. He had thus to throw his head
very far back in order to see clearly; he held his staff pressed
against his side when he was not gesticulating, and his one gesture was
to throw his arm half out from him and hold it motionless as though
guarding his dignity.
"Is that your son standing behind you?" he began, in a resolute
"They say so."
"He is called Eyvind, isn't he?"
"Yes, they call him Eyvind."
"He has been at one of these farming-schools down south?"
"Yes, I don't say he hasn't."
"Well, my girl, my granddaughter Marit, she has gone mad lately."
"I am sorry to hear it."
"She won't have anything to do with any of the farmers' sons who
"They say he's turned her head: yes, that fellow, your son Eyvind."
"The devil he has!"
"Look here, I don't like people running off with horses when I turn
them out to pasture, and I don't like people running off with my
daughters either, when I let them go to a dance; I don't like it at
"No, of course not."
"I can't go after them; I am old, I can't look after them."
"I like things kept in order, you know-the chopping-block to stand
there and the axe to lie there, and the knife there; and here they're
to sweep and here they're to throw out the rubbish, not at the door,
but over in the corner, precisely there and nowhere else. So, when I
say to her: not him, but him! then him it must be and not him!"
"But it isn't so. For three years she has said no, and for three
years things have been amiss between us. This is bad; and it's he
that's to blame for it all; and I tell him before you, his father, that
it's no use, he must put a stop to it."
Ole looked a moment at Thore, then he said, "You answer shortly."
"I've nothing more to say."
Here Eyvind could not help laughing, although he was in no laughing
mood. But with cheerful people fear ever borders on laughter, and now
he felt an impulse to laugh.
"What are you laughing at?" asked Ole, shortly and sharply.
"Are you laughing at me?"
"God forbid!" but his own answer made him want to laugh more.
Ole saw this and became furious. Both Thore and Eyvind tried to
patch it up by putting on serious faces and inviting him to go indoors;
but the accumulated wrath of three years was seeking an outlet, and was
not to be stopped.
"You mustn't think you're going to make a fool of me," he began; "I
am here to do my duty; I am looking to my grandchild's happiness as I
understand it, and the laughter of a young puppy is not going to hinder
me. One doesn't bring up girls to dump them down on the first cottar's
holding that offers, and one doesn't manage a farm for forty years to
hand over everything to the first fellow that makes a fool of a girl.
My daughter went and moped and carried on till she got herself married
to a vagabond, and he drank them both to ruin, and I had to take the
child and pay the piper; but curse me if my granddaughter is to go the
same road! As sure as I am Ole Nordistuen of the Hill Farms, I tell you
the minister shall sooner call the banns for the fairy folk up on the
Nordal forest than he shall speak such names from the pulpit as Marit's
and yours, you jackanapes! Are you to go and scare proper suitors away
from the farm, forsooth? Just you show your face there, my man, and
you'll travel down the hill again in a way you won't relish. You
giggling imp, you! Do you suppose I don't know what you're thinking of,
you and she? You're thinking that old Ole Nordistuen will soon turn up
his toes in the churchyard, and then you'll trip away to the altar
together! No, I've lived sixty-six years now, and I'll show you, boy,
that I'll live till you're both mighty sick of it! And, what's more,
you can hang about the house till all's blue and you won't see so much
as the sole of her foot, for I'll send her out of the district; I'll
send her where she'll be safe, so that you can flutter around like a
laughing joy and marry the rain and the north wind. And now I've
nothing more to say to you; but you, his father, you know my mind, and
if you wish him well you'll make him bend the river in the way it's got
to run; I warn it off my ground."
He turned away with short, quick steps, lifting his right foot a
little more strongly than the left, and muttering to himself.
Complete seriousness had fallen upon those he left behind; a
foreboding of evil had mingled itself with their joking and laughter,
and a blank pause followed as after a shock of terror. The mother, who
had heard all from the kitchen door, looked anxiously at Eyvind with
tears in her eyes; but she would not make things harder for him by
saying a single word.
They all went indoors in silence, and the father, seating himself
by the window, looked after Ole with a very serious countenance. Eyvind
watched intently his slightest change of expression; for did not the
future of the young people almost depend upon his first words? If Thore
added his refusal to that of Ole, they could scarcely hope to get over
it. His thoughts ran apprehensively from obstacle to obstacle; for a
moment he saw only poverty, opposition, misunderstanding and wounded
self-respect, and every resource he could think of seemed destined to
fail him. His uneasiness was increased by his mother's standing there
with her hand on the latch of the kitchen door, uncertain whether she
had courage to stay in and await the upshot, and by her at last losing
heart and slipping out. Eyvind looked steadily at his father, who, it
seemed, was never going to look round; nor did the son venture to
speak, for he understood that the thing must be fully thought out. But
presently his soul had run its course of anxiety and regained its
firmness. "After all," he thought within himself as he looked at his
father's knitted brow, "God alone can part us." And just at this moment
something happened. Thore heaved a long sigh, rose, looked into the
room and met his son's gaze. He stopped and looked long at him.
"I should be best pleased if you gave her up, for one ought not to
beg or bully oneself forward in the world. But if you won't give her
up, tell me when you've made up your mind, and perhaps I may be able to
He went to his work and his son went with him.
By the evening Eyvind had his plan complete: he would try for the
post of District Inspector of Agriculture, and would beg the Principal
of the College and the Schoolmaster to help him. "Then, if she holds
out, with God's help I will win her through my work."
He waited in vain for Marit that evening, but as he waited he sang
his favorite song:Lift thy head, brave lad, for tokenThat, if past-time
hopes be broken,New ones sparkle in an eye,That takes light from God on
high. Lift thy head, and gaze around thee,Something new hath sought
and found thee;Something that with myriad voiceBids the heart in thee
rejoice. Lift thy head; for harps are ringing,Footsteps dancing,
voices singing,And the vault of heaven so blue,Is thine own soul
beaming through. Lift thy head, and sing unchidden!Spring disdains the
winds frost-ridden;When the sap is rich and clearBurgeoning shoots will
greet the year. Lift thy head, baptized for everIn the flood of hope's
bright river,That across the gleaming worldLike a rainbow is unfurled.
IT was the middle of the dinner-hour. The people were sleeping at
the big Hill Farm; the hay lay tossed about the meadows just as they
had left it, and the rakes were stuck in the ground. Down by the
barn-bridge stood the hay-sledges, the harness was heaped on one side,
and the horses were tethered a little way off. Except the horses, and a
few hens which had strayed into the field, there was not a living
creature to be seen on the whole plain.
In the mountain above the farms there was a gap, through which the
road passed to the Hill Farm saters, on the great, grassy mountain
meadows. On this day a man stood in the gap, and looked down over the
plain, as if he were expecting somebody. Behind him lay a little
mountain lake, from which flowed the beck that formed the ravine.
Around this lake, on both sides, cattle-paths led up towards the
saters, which he could see in the far distance. There was a shouting
and barking away beyond him, bells tinkled along the hillsides, for the
cows were hurrying to seek the water, while the dogs and herd-boys
tried to collect them, but in vain.
The cows came tearing along with the most wonderful antics, made
leaps where the ground was rough, and ran, with short and fierce
bellowings and their tails in the air, right down into the water, where
they remained standing. Their bells chimed over the surface of the lake
every time they moved their heads. The dogs drank a little, but
remained on dry land. The herd-boys followed, and seated themselves on
the warm, smooth rock. Here they took out their provisions, exchanged
with each other, bragged about their dogs, their oxen, and their people
at home. They presently undressed, and jumped into the water beside the
cows. The dogs would not come into the water, but poked lazily about
with drooping heads, hot eyes, and tongues hanging out on one side. On
the surrounding leas no bird was to be seen; no sound was heard but the
youngster's chatter and the tinkling of the bells. The heather was
withered and burnt up. The sun shone bakingly on the expanses of the
rock, so that everything was suffocatingly hot.
It was Eyvind who sat up here in the midday sun, and waited. He sat
in his shirt-sleeves close by the beck that flowed out of the lake. No
one was as yet to be seen on the Hill Farm plain, and he was beginning
to be a little afraid, when suddenly a large dog came heavily out of a
door at Nordistuen, and after it a girl with white sleeves. She ran
over the grassy hillocks towards the mountain. He wanted very much to
shout to her, but he dared not. He watched the house attentively to see
whether any one should chance to come out and notice her; but she was
sheltered from view. He, too, lost sight of her, and rose several times
in his impatience to watch for her coming.
At last she came, working her way up along the bed of the stream,
the dog, a little in front, sniffing the air, she holding by the
bushes, and with ever-wearier pace. Eyvind ran down; the dog growled
and was hushed, and directly Marit saw him she sat down on a large
stone, her face all flushed, wearied and overcome by the heat. He swung
himself up on the stone beside her.
"Thank you for coming!"
"What heat, and what a road! Have you been waiting long?"
"No. Since they watch us in the evening we must use the
dinner-hour. But I think that henceforward we oughtn't to be so secret
and take so much trouble: that's just what I wanted to talk to you
"I know things please you best when there's a touch of mystery
about them; but to show courage pleases you too. I have a lot to say to
you to-day, and you must listen."
"Is it true that you are trying for the post of District
"Yes; and I shall get it too. I have a double object in that:
first, to make a position for myself, and after that, and more
especially, to accomplish something that your grandfather can see and
appreciate. It's a lucky thing that most of the owners of the Hill
Farms are young people who want improvements and are seeking help; they
have money, too. So I shall begin there. I will look after everything,
from their cowhouses to their irrigation-channels. I shall give
lectures and keep things going. I shall, so to speak, besiege the old
man with good work."
"That's bravely spoken. Go on, Eyvind."
"Well, the rest concerns us two. You mustn't go away—"
"But if he orders me to?"
"Nor keep anything secret about yourself and me."
"But if he persecutes me?"
"We shall produce more effect and make our position better by
letting everything be open. We should make a point of being so much
under people's eyes that they can't help talking of how we love each
other; they will wish us well all the more. You must not go away. When
people are apart there is always a danger of gossip coming between
them. For the first year we should not believe anything, but in the
second year we might gradually begin to believe a little. We two will
meet once a week, and laugh away all the mischief they will try to make
between us. We shall be able to meet at dances, and foot it so that it
rings again, whilst our backbiters sit around and look on. We shall
meet at the church, and greet each other in the sight of all those who
wish us a hundred miles apart. If any one makes up a song about us, we
will lay our heads together, and try to make up one in answer; we're
sure to manage it if we help each other. No one can hurt us if we hold
together, and let people see that we do. Unhappy lovers are always
either timid people or weak people, or unhealthy people, or calculating
people who wait for a certain opportunity; or crafty people who at last
burn their fingers with their own cunning, or ease-loving people who
don't care enough about each other to forget differences of wealth and
station. They go and hide themselves, and send letters, and tremble at
a word; and this terror, this perpetual unrest and pricking in the
blood they come at last to take for love; they are unhappy and melt
away like sugar. Pooh! If they really loved each other they would not
be afraid, they would laugh; in every smile and every work, people
should see the church-door looming ahead. I've read about it in books,
and I've seen it too: it's a poor sort of love that goes the back way.
It must begin in secrecy because it begins in timidity, but it must
live in openness because it lives in joy. It is like the changing of
the leaves: those that are to grow cannot hide themselves, and you see
how all the dry leaves hanging to the trees fall off the moment the
sprouting begins. He to whom love comes lets drop whatever old, dead
rubbish he may have clung to; when the sap starts and throbs, do you
think no one is to notice it? Ha, girl, they'll be happy at seeing us
happy! Two lovers who hold out against the world do people a positive
service, for they give them a poem which their children learn by heart
to shame the unbelieving parents. I have read of so many such cases,
and some of them live, too, in the mouths of the people hereabouts; and
it's precisely the children of those who once caused all the trouble
that now tell the stories, and are moved by them. Yes, Marit, we two
will shake hands upon it-like that, yes-and promise each other to hold
together, and you'll see all will come right. Hurrah!" He wanted to put
his arm round her neck but she turned her head, and slipped down from
He remained sitting, and she came back, and with her arms upon his
knee she stood and talked to him, looking up in his face.
"Tell me now, Eyvind, if he's determined to send me away, what
"Then you must say no, straight out."
"Is that possible, dear?"
"He can't very well carry you out, and put you in the carriage."
"If he doesn't exactly do that, he can compel me in many other
"I don't think so. Of course you owe him obedience so long as it's
no sin; but you owe it to him also to let him understand how hard it is
for you to be obedient in this matter. I think he'll come to his senses
when he sees that; at present he thinks, like most people, that it's
only child's play. Show him it is something more."
"He isn't easy to manage, I can tell you. He keeps me like a
"But you slip your tether many times a day."
"No. I don't."
"Yes; every time you secretly think of me you slip it."
"Yes, that way. But are you so sure that I think so often of you?"
"You wouldn't be here else."
"My dear, didn't you send me a message to come?"
"But you came because your thoughts drove you."
"Say rather because the weather was so beautiful."
"You said just now that it was too hot."
"To go up hill, yes; but down again!"
"Then why did you come up?"
"So as to run down again."
"Why haven't you run down already?"
"Because I had to rest."
"And talk with me of love."
"There was no reason why I shouldn't give you the pleasure of
listening to you."
"Whilst the birds were singing"-"and the folk slept sound"-"and the
bells were ringing"-"in the woods around."
Here they both saw Marit's grandfather come stumping out into the
yard and go to the bell-rope to ring the people up. The people dragged
themselves out of the barns, sheds and rooms, went sleepily to the
horses and rakes, dispersed over the fields, and in a few minutes all
was life and work once more.
The grandfather, left alone, went from one house into another and
at last up on the highest barn-bridge to look out. A little boy came
running to him, he had probably called him. The boy, as they foresaw,
set off in the direction of Pladsen, the grandfather meanwhile
searching round the farm; and as he often looked upwards he seemed at
least to have some suspicion that the black speck up on the Big Stone
must be Marit and Eyvind. A second time Marit's big dog must needs make
mischief. He saw a strange horse drive into the Hill Farm, and fancying
himself on active service as watchdog, he began to bark with all his
might. They tried to hush him, but he had got angry and would not leave
off, the grandfather meanwhile standing below and staring straight up
into the air. But matters grew worse and worse, for all the herd-boys'
dogs were astonished to hear the strange voice and ran to the spot.
When they saw that it was a great wolf-like giant, all the
straight-haired, Finnish dogs set upon him. Marit was so frightened
that she ran away without any leave-taking; Eyvind rushed into the
thick of the fray and kicked and belaboured, but they only shifted
their battle-ground and then met again with horrible howls. He dashed
after them again, and so it went on until they waltzed themselves down
to the edge of the beck. Then he ran at them, and the consequence was
that they all rolled down into the water just at a place where it was
nice and deep. This parted them at last and they slunk away ashamed;
and so ended the battle. Eyvind went through the wood till he struck
the by-road; but Marit met her grandfather up at the farm fence; and
for this she had her dog to thank.
"Where have you come from?"
"From the wood."
"What were you doing there?"
"That's not true."
"No; it isn't true."
"What were you doing then?"
"I was talking to some one."
"Was it to that Pladsen boy?"
"Look here now, Marit, to-morrow you go away."
"I tell you, Marit, you have just got to make up your mind to
it-you shall go away."
"You can't lift me into the carriage."
"No? can't I?"
"No, because you won't."
"Won't I? Now look here, Marit, just for the fun of the thing, just
for fun I tell you, I'll thrash that beggar-boy of yours within an inch
of his life."
"No, you wouldn't dare to."
"Wouldn't dare to? Do you say I wouldn't dare to? Who would do
anything to me? Who, eh?"
"The schoo-school-schoolmaster? Do you suppose he bothers himself
"Yes; it was he who kept him at the Agricultural College."
"Look here Marit, I won't have these goings-on; you shall go out of
the place. You bring me nothing but trouble and grief; it was the same
with your mother before you, nothing but trouble and grief. I am an old
man; I want to see you well provided for; I won't be the laughing-stock
of the district when I am dead and gone, on your account. I'm only
thinking of your own good; you ought to thank me for that, Marit: It
will soon be all over with me, and then you'll be left alone. What
would have become of your mother if I hadn't been there to help her? Be
sensible now, Marit, and attend to what I say. I'm thinking only of
your own good."
"No, you're not."
"Indeed? What am I thinking of, then?"
"You want simply to have your own way, that's what you want; and
you never trouble about what I want."
"So you're to have a will of your own, are you, madam? Of course
you understand what's best for you, you fool! I'll give you a taste of
my stick; that's what I'll do, for all you're so big and bouncing. Look
here now, Marit, let me talk sense to you. You're not such a fool at
bottom, but you've got a bee in your bonnet. You must listen to me. I
am an old man, and I know what's what. I want you to see reason. I'm
not so well off as people think; a pennyless ne'er-do-well would soon
run through the little I have; your father made a big hole in it, he
did. Let us take care of ourselves in this world; there's nothing else
for it. It's all very well for the schoolmaster to talk, he has money
of his own; so has the minister; they can afford to preach, they can.
But we, who must toil for our living, with us it's another matter. I am
old, I know a great deal, I have seen many things. Love, you know,
love's all very well to talk about, yes, but it's worth mighty little;
it's good enough for ministers and the like; peasants must take things
in another way. First food, you see, then God's Word, and then a little
writing and reckoning, and then a little love if it happens so; but
curse me if it's any use to begin with love and end with food. What do
you answer to that, Marit?"
"I don't know."
"You don't know what you ought to answer?"
"Yes, I know that."
"Shall I say it?"
"Yes, say it, of course."
"My whole heart is in this love."
He stood a moment dismayed, then remembered a hundred similar
conversations with a similar issue, shook his head, turned his back on
her and walked away.
He descended upon the labourers, abused the girls, thrashed the big
dog, and nearly frightened the life out of a little hen which had
strayed into the field, albeit to her he said nothing.
That night when she went up to bed Marit was so happy that she
opened the windows, leant on the window-sill, looked out and sang. She
had got hold of a delicate little love-song and she sang it: Art thou
fond of me? I'll be fond of theeAll the years of life we live
together. Summer may slip away, The grassy fields decay,But memory
holds the sports of sweet spring weather. What you said last year.
Aye murmurs in my ear,Like a caged bird fluttering in my bosom: Sits
and shakes its wings, Twitters there and sings,Waiting till the
sunshine wakes the blossom. Litli-litli-lo! Hearest thou me so,Boy
behind the sheltering hedge of birches? The woods will flicker past,
The dusk is falling fast,Canst find the way for which my blind foot
searches? I shut my window wide, What do you want beside?The sounds
come back through evening's tender gloaming; With laughing, beckoning
notes, Their music towards me floats.What wilt thou? Ah, how sweet a
night for roaming.
SOME years have passed since the last scene.
It is late autumn; the schoolmaster comes up to Nordistuen, opens
the outer door, finds no one at home; opens another, finds no one at
home; goes on and on to the innermost room of the long building, and
there sits Ole Nordistuen alone by the bed, looking at his hands.
They exchange greetings; the schoolmaster takes a stool and seats
himself opposite Ole.
"You sent for me," he says.
"Yes, I did."
The schoolmaster takes a fresh quid, looks around the room, takes
up a book which is lying on the bench and turns over the leaves.
"What was it you wanted to say to me?"
"I am just thinking about it."
The schoolmaster is very leisurely in his movements, takes out his
spectacles to read the title of the book, polishes them, and puts them
"You're getting old now, Ole."
"Yes, it was about that I wanted to speak to you. I am going
downhill; I shall soon be bedridden."
"Then you must see to it that you lie easy, Ole." He shuts the book
and sits looking at the binding.
"That's a good book that you have in your hands."
"It's not bad; have you often got beyond the cover, Ole?"
"Yes, just lately, I've—"
The schoolmaster lays down the book and puts by his spectacles.
"Things are not just as you would wish with you now, Ole?"
"They haven't been for as far back as I can remember."
"Oh, for a long time it was the same with me. I fell out with a
good friend, and waited for him to come to me, and all that time I was
unhappy. Then I contrived to go to him and then it was all right."
Ole looks up and is silent.
The schoolmaster: "How is the farm getting on, Ole?"
"It's going downhill, like myself."
"Who is to take it when you are gone?"
"That's just what I don't know; and that's what's worrying me."
"Your neighbours are getting on well, Ole."
"Yes, they have that Inspector of Agriculture to help them.
The schoolmaster, turning indifferently towards the window: "You
ought to have help too, Ole. You can't get about much, and you're not
up in the new methods."
Ole: "There's no one that would be willing to help me."
"Have you asked any one?"
Ole is silent.
The schoolmaster: "I was like that, too, with our Lord for a long
time. 'Thou art not kind to me,' I said to him. "Have you asked me to
be?' he replied. No, I had not; so then I prayed to him and since then
all has been well with me."
Ole is silent, and the schoolmaster too is silent now.
At last Ole says:
"I have a grandchild; she knows what would make me happy before I
go, but she doesn't do it."
The schoolmaster smiles.
"Perhaps it would not make her happy?"
Ole is silent.
The schoolmaster: "There are many things that are worrying you, but
so far as I can make out they are all in the end connected with the
Ole says quietly: "It has passed from father to son through many
generations and it's good land. All the labour of my fathers, man after
man, lies in the soil; but now it does not bear. And when they drive me
away I don't know who is to drive in. There is no one of the family."
"Your granddaughter will keep up the family."
"But he who takes her, how will he take the farm? That's what I
want to know before I lie down. There's no time to be lost, Baard,
either for me or for the farm."
They are both silent; then the schoolmaster says: "Shall we go out
a bit and have a look at the farm in this fine weather?"
"Yes, let us; I have workpeople upon the slopes, they are gathering
in the leaves; but they don't work except just when I have my eye on
He shambles about to get his big cap and his stick, and says
meanwhile: "They don't seem to like working for me; I don't understand
When they had got out and were turning the corner of the house he
"Here, do you see? No order: the wood scattered all about; the axe
not stuck into the chopping-block;" he stooped with difficulty, lifted
it and struck it firmly in. "There you see a trap that has fallen down,
but no one has picked it up." He did it himself. "And here, the
storehouse. Do you think the steps have been taken away?" He moved them
aside. Then he stopped, looked at the schoolmaster and said: "And
that's how things go every day."
As they went upwards they heard a merry song from the uplands.
"Come now, they're singing at their work," said the schoolmaster.
"That's little Knut Ostistuen who is singing; he's gathering leaves
for his father. My people are working over there; you may be sure
they're not singing."
"That song doesn't belong to these parts, does it?"
"No, so I can hear."
"Eyvind Pladsen has been over at Ostistuen a great deal; perhaps
it's one of the songs he brought into the parish; there's plenty of
singing where he is."
To this there was no answer. The field they were crossing was not
in good order; it had been neglected. The schoolmaster remarked upon it
and Ole stopped.
"I haven't the strength to do more," said he, almost with tears.
"Strange workpeople with no one to look after them come too expensive.
But I can tell you it's hard to go over fields in this state."
As the talk now fell upon the size of the farm and what parts stood
most in need of cultivation, they decided to go up on the slopes and
look over the whole of it. When at last they had reached a high spot
where they had a good view, the old man was moved.
"I am very loth to go and leave it like this. We have worked down
there, I and my fathers, but it doesn't show much sign of it."
A song burst forth right over their heads with the peculiar
piercingness of a boy's voice when he sings with all his might. They
were not far from the tree in whose top little Knut Ostistuen sat
pulling leaves for his father, and they had to listen to the boy:When
you tread the mountain-path With a scrip to tarry,Put no more within
its fold Than you well can carry.Never drag the valley's cares, Up
steep precipices;Hurl them in a joyous song, Down the wild abysses.
Birds shall greet you from the bough The hamlet sounds grow shyer,The
air becomes more pure and sweet Ever as you climb higher.Fill your
happy breast, and sing, And as your old life closes,From every bush
dear childlike thoughts Will nod with cheeks like roses. If you
pause, and listen well, With ear attuned to wonder,The mighty song of
solitude Will fill the void like thunder;Even a rivulet's hurrying
course, Even a stone down stealing,Will bring neglected duty by As
with an organ's pealing. Quake, but plead, thou timorous soul, Amidst
thy memories shield thee;Go on and up, the better part The topmost
peak shall yield thee.There, as of yore, with Jesus Christ, Elias
walks, and Moses:In such a blest ecstatic sight Thy toilsome journey
Ole had sat down and hidden his face in his hands.
"I will talk to you here," said the schoolmaster, and sat down
Down at Pladsen Eyvind had just come home from a longish journey;
the post-chaise was still at the door, whilst the horse rested.
Although Eyvind was now making a good income as District Inspector, he
still lived in his little room down at Pladsen, and gave a helping hand
between whiles. Pladsen was under cultivation from one end to the
other, but it was so small that Eyvind called the whole of it Mother's
Doll Farm; for it was she who specially looked after the farming.
He had just changed his clothes; his father had come in all white
and floury from the mill, and had also changed. They were talking of
going for a little walk before supper, when the mother came in quite
"Here are strange visitors coming. Just look!"
Both men went to the window, and it was Eyvind who first exclaimed:
"That's the schoolmaster, and-why, I declare, yes, it's really he!"
"Yes, it's old Ole Nordistuen," said Thore turning from the window
so as not to be seen, for the two were already coming up to the house.
As he left the window Eyvind caught the schoolmaster's eye. Baard
smiled, and looked back at old Ole, who was plodding along the road
with his stick, taking his usual short steps, and always lifting one
leg a little higher than the other. The schoolmaster was heard to say
"He has just come home."
And Ole said twice: "Well, well!"
They stood a long time silent in the passage. The mother had crept
over to the corner where the milk-shelf was; Eyvind was in his
favourite position, with his back against the large table and his face
towards the door; his father sat beside him. At last there was a knock,
and in walked the schoolmaster and took off his hat; then Ole, and took
off his cap; after which he turned to close the door. He was slow in
turning, and was obviously embarrassed. Thore rose, and asked them to
come in and sit down. They seated themselves side on the bench by the
window. Thore sat down again.
And the wooing went on as follows:
The schoolmaster: "We've got fine weather this autumn after all."
Thore: "It has settled now at last."
"It will be settled for some time, too, since the wind has gone
over to that quarter."
"Have you finished harvesting up yonder?"
"No; Ole Nordistuen here, whom I daresay you know, would be glad of
your help, Eyvind, if it's not inconvenient."
Eyvind: "If it is desired I will do what I can."
"You see it's not mere momentary help he means. He thinks the farm
is not getting on very well, and he thinks that it's method and
supervision that's wanting."
Eyvind: "I'm so much from home."
The schoolmaster looks at Ole. Feeling that he must now put in his
oar, Ole clears his throat a time or two, and begins quickly and
"The idea was-it is-yes-the idea is that you should, in a manner of
speaking-that you should make your home up there with us-be there when
you aren't out."
"Many thanks for the offer, but I prefer to live where I live now."
Ole looks at the schoolmaster, who says: "You see Ole's a little
confused to-day. The thing is that he came here once before, and the
remembrance of that puts his words out of order."
Ole, quickly: "That's it, yes. I behaved like an old fool. I tugged
against the girl so long that our life went to splinters. But let
bygones be bygones; the wind breaks down the grain, but not the breeze;
rain-driblets do not loosen big stones; snow in May does not lie long;
it is not the thunder that strikes people dead."
They all four laughed. The schoolmaster says: "Ole means that you
must not think of it any more; nor you either, Thore."
Ole looks at them, and does not know whether he dares begin again.
Then Thore says: "Briars scratch with many teeth but don't make deep
wounds. There are certainly no thorns left sticking in me."
Ole: "I didn't know the boy then. Now I see that what he sows
grows; autumn answers to spring; he has money in his finger-ends, and I
should like to get hold of him."
Eyvind looks at his father, then at his mother; she looks from them
at the schoolmaster, and then they all look at him.
"Ole means that he has a large farm—"
Ole interrupts: "A large farm, but ill managed. I can do no more. I
am old, and my legs won't run my head's errands. But it would be worth
any one's while to put his shoulder to the wheel up there."
"The largest farm, by far, in the district," the schoolmaster put
"The largest farm in the district, that's just the difficulty;
shoes that are too big fall off; it's well to have a good gun, but you
must be able to lift it." Turning quickly to Eyvind: "You could give us
a hand, couldn't you?"
"You want me to be manager?"
"Exactly, yes; you would have the farm."
"I should have the farm?"
"Exactly, yes; then you would manage it."
"Don't you want to?"
"Of course I do."
"Well, well, then that's settled, as the hen said when she flew
across the lake."
Ole looks in surprise at the schoolmaster.
"Eyvind wants to know if he's to have Marit too?"
Ole quickly: "Marit into the bargain, Marit into the bargain!"
Then Eyvind burst out laughing, and jumped up from his seat, the
other three laughing with him. Eyvind rubbed his hands and went up and
down repeating incessantly: "Marit into the bargain, Marit into the
Thore laughed with a deep chuckle, and the mother up in the corner
kept her eyes fixed on her son until they filled with tears.
Ole, very anxiously: "What do you think of the farm?"
"Splendid land, isn't it?"
"Capital pasturage! It'll do, won't it?"
"It shall be the best farm in the country."
"The best farm in the country! Do you think so? Do you mean it?"
"As sure as I stand here!"
"Now isn't that just what I said?"
They both talked equally fast, and fitted in with each other like a
pair of cog-wheels.
"But money, you see, money? I have no money.
"It goes slowly without money, but still it goes."
"It goes! yes, of course it goes. But if we had money it would go
quicker, wouldn't it?"
"Ever so much quicker."
"Ever so much? If only we had money! Well, well; one can chew even
if one hasn't all one's teeth; though you only drive oxen you get in at
The mother was making signs to Thore, who looked at her sideways,
quickly and often, as he sat rocking his body and stroking his knees
with his hands; the schoolmaster blinked at him. Thore had his mouth
open, cleared his throat a little and tried to speak; but Ole and
Eyvind answered each other so incessantly, and laughed and made such a
noise, that no one could get a word in edgewise.
"Please be quiet a bit; Thore has something he wants to say," the
schoolmaster puts in; they stop and look at Thore.
He begins at last quite softly: "It's been like this: here at
Pladsen we have had a mill; latterly it has been so that we have had
two. These mills have always brought in a trifle in the course of the
year, but neither my father nor I ever used any of the money, except
that time when Eyvind was away. The schoolmaster has invested it for
me, and he says it has thriven well where it is; but now it will be
best for you, Eyvind, to have it for Nordistuen."
The mother stood over in the corner, and made herself quite small
whilst with sparkling joy she gazed at Thore, who was very serious and
looked almost stupid; Ole Nordistuen sat opposite him with his mouth
agape. Eyvind was the first to recover from his astonishment and
exclaiming: "Doesn't luck follow me!" he went across the room to his
father, and slapped him on the shoulder so that it rang again.
"Father!" said he, rubbed his hands and continued to pace the room.
"How much money might there be?" asked Ole at last, but softly, of
"It's not so little."
"A few hundreds?"
"A little more."
"A little more?-a little more, Eyvind! God bless me, what a farm we
shall make of it!" He rose and laughed heartily.
"I must come up with you to Marit," says Eyvind; "we can take the
post-chaise that is standing outside, we shall get there quicker."
"Yes, quick, quick! Do you, too, want to have everything quick?"
"Yes, quick as quick can be!"
"Quick as quick can be! Exactly like me when I was young, exactly!"
"Here's your hat and stick; now I'm going to show you the door!"
"You show me the door, ha, ha! but you're coming too, aren't you?
you're coming? And you others too; we must sit together this evening,
so long as there's a spark in the stove; come along!"
They promised, Eyvind helped him into the chaise and they drove off
up to Nordistuen. Up there the big dog was not the only one to be
astonished when Ole Nordistuen drove into the yard with Eyvind Pladsen.
Whilst Eyvind helped him out of the chaise and servants and hired folk
stood gaping at them, Marit came out into the passage to see why the
dog kept on barking so, but she stopped as if spell-bound, flushed all
red and ran in again. Old Ole, however, shouted so loud for her when he
came into the house, that she had to come forward again.
"Go and tidy yourself, girl: here is he who is to have the farm!"
"Is that true?' said she, in a ringing voice, without knowing what
"Yes, it is true," answered Eyvind and claps his hands; whereupon
she swings round on her toes, throws what she is holding in her hands
far from her, and runs out-but Eyvind runs after her.
Shortly after, the schoolmaster, Thore and his wife arrived; the
old man had candles on the table which was covered with a white cloth;
wine and ale were produced, and he himself went round continually,
lifting his legs higher even than usual, but always lifting the right
foot higher than the left.
Before this little tale ends it may be stated that five weeks later
Eyvind and Marit were married in the parish church. The schoolmaster
himself led the singing that day as his assistant was ill. His voice
was cracked now, for he was old; but Eyvind thought it did one good to
hear him. And when he had given his hand to Marit and led her up to the
altar, the schoolmaster nodded to him from the choir just as Eyvind had
seen him do when he was sorrowfully watching that dance; he nodded
back, whilst tears rose to his eyes.
Those tears at the dance were the prelude to these; and between
them lay his faith and his work.
Here ends the story of a Happy Boy.