His father, as usual, did not have much to say to him; they chopped away together and both dragged the wood into heaps. Now and then they chanced to meet, and on one such occasion Oyvind remarked, in a melancholy tone, “A houseman has to work very hard.”
“He as well as others,” said the father, as he spit in the palm of his hand and took up the axe again.
When the tree was felled and the father had drawn it up to the pile, Oyvind said,—
“If you were a gardman you would not have to work so hard.”
“Oh! then there would doubtless be other things to distress us,” and he grasped his axe with both hands.
The mother came up with dinner for them; they sat down. The mother was in high spirits, she sat humming and beating time with her feet.
“What are you going to make of yourself when you are grown up, Oyvind?” said she, suddenly.
“For a houseman’s son, there are not many openings,” he replied.
“The school-master says you must go to the seminary,” said she.
“Can people go there free?” inquired Oyvind.
“The school-fund pays,” answered the father, who was eating.
“Would you like to go?” asked the mother.
“I should like to learn something, but not to become a school-master.”
They were all silent for a time. The mother hummed again and gazed before her; but Oyvind went off and sat down by himself.
“We do not actually need to borrow of the school-fund,” said the mother, when the boy was gone.
Her husband looked at her.
“Such poor folks as we?”
“It does not please me, Thore, to have you always passing yourself off for poor when you are not so.”
They both stole glances down after the boy to find out if he could hear. The father looked sharply at his wife.
“You talk as though you were very wise.”
“It is just the same as not thanking God that things have prospered with us,” said she, growing serious.
“We can surely thank Him without wearing silver buttons,” observed the father.
“Yes, but to let Oyvind go to the dance, dressed as he was yesterday, is not thanking Him either.”