Oyvind was still silent, and the school-master, feeling slightly hurt, turned away from him. They retraced their steps.
After they had walked a long distance, the school-master paused long enough for Oyvind to come up to his side.
“I presume you are very anxious to be confirmed,” said he.
“What do you think of doing afterwards?”
“I should like to go to the seminary.”
“And then become a school-master?”
“You do not think that is great enough?”
Oyvind made no reply. Again they walked on for some distance.
“When you have been through the seminary, what will you do?”
“I have not fairly considered that.”
“If you had money, I dare say you would like to buy yourself a gard?”
“Yes, but keep the mills.”
“Then you had better enter the agricultural school.”
“Do pupils learn as much there as at the seminary?”
“Oh, no! but they learn what they can make use of later.”
“Do they get numbers there too?”
“Why do you ask?”
“I should like to be a good scholar.”
“That you can surely be without a number.”
They walked on in silence again until they saw Pladsen; a light shone from the house, the cliff hanging over it was black now in the winter evening; the lake below was covered with smooth, glittering ice, but there was no snow on the forest skirting the silent bay; the moon sailed overhead, mirroring the forest trees in the ice.
“It is beautiful here at Pladsen,” said the school-master.
There were times when Oyvind could see these things with the same eyes with which he looked when his mother told him nursery tales, or with the vision he had when he coasted on the hill-side, and this was one of those times,—all lay exalted and purified before him.
“Yes, it is beautiful,” said he, but he sighed.
“Your father has found everything he wanted in this home; you, too, might be contented here.”
The joyous aspect of the spot suddenly disappeared. The school-master stood as if awaiting an answer; receiving none, he shook his head and entered the house with Oyvind. He sat a while with the family, but was rather silent than talkative, whereupon the others too became silent. When he took his leave, both husband and wife followed him outside of the door; it seemed as if both expected him to say something. Meanwhile, they stood gazing up into the night.
“It has grown so unusually quiet here,” finally said the mother, “since the children have gone away with their sports.”
“Nor have you a child in the house any longer, either,” said the school-master.
The mother knew what he meant.
“Oyvind has not been happy of late,” said she.
“Ah, no! he who is ambitious never is happy,”—and he gazed up with an old man’s calmness into God’s peaceful heavens above.