It was an autumn day without sunshine, as when the weather is about to change. Clouds gathered together and dispersed again; sometimes out of one great mass were formed twenty smaller ones, which sped across the sky with orders for a storm; but below, on the earth, it was still calm, the foliage hung lifeless, not a leaf stirring; the air was a trifle sultry; people carried their outer wraps with them but did not use them. An unusually large multitude had assembled round the church, which stood in an open space; but the confirmation children immediately went into the church in order to be arranged in their places before service began. Then it was that the school-master, in a blue broadcloth suit, frock coat, and knee-breeches, high shoes, stiff cravat, and a pipe protruding from his back coat pocket, came down towards them, nodded and smiled, tapped one on the shoulder, spoke a few words to another about answering loudly and distinctly, and meanwhile worked his way along to the poor-box, where Oyvind stood answering all the questions of his friend Hans in reference to his journey.
“Good-day, Oyvind. How fine you look to-day!” He took him by the jacket collar as if he wished to speak to him. “Listen. I believe everything good of you. I have been talking with the priest; you will be allowed to keep your place; go up to number one and answer distinctly!”
Oyvind looked up at him amazed; the school-master nodded; the boy took a few steps, stopped, a few steps more, stopped again: “Yes, it surely is so; he has spoken to the priest for me,”—and the boy walked swiftly up to his place.
“You are to be number one, after all,” some one whispered to him.
“Yes,” answered Oyvind, in a low voice, but did not feel quite sure yet whether he dared think so.
The assignment of places was over, the priest had come, the bells were ringing, and the people pouring into church. Then Oyvind saw Marit Heidegards just in front of him; she saw him too; but they were both so awed by the sacredness of the place that they dared not greet each other. He only noticed that she was dazzlingly beautiful and that her hair was uncovered; more he did not see. Oyvind, who for more than half a year had been building such great plans about standing opposite her, forgot, now that it had come to the point, both the place and her, and that he had in any way thought of them.
After all was ended the relatives and acquaintances came up to offer their congratulations; next came Oyvind’s comrades to take leave of him, as they had heard that he was to depart the next day; then there came many little ones with whom he had coasted on the hill-sides and whom he had assisted at school, and who now could not help whimpering a little at parting. Last came the school-master, silently took Oyvind and his parents by the hands, and made a sign to start for home; he wanted to accompany them. The four were together once more, and this was to be the last evening. On the way home they met many others who took leave of Oyvind and wished him good luck; but they had no other conversation until they sat down together in the family-room.