“Good-day, mother! Good-day, school-master!”
“What a manly voice he has,” said the mother, her face sparkling. “O dear, O dear! he is as fair as ever,” she added.
The school-master drew in the boat. The father laid down his oars, Oyvind sprang past him and out of the boat, shook hands first with his mother, then with the school-master. He laughed and laughed again; and, quite contrary to the custom of peasants, immediately began to pour out a flood of words about the examination, the journey, the superintendent’s certificate, and good offers; he inquired about the crops and his acquaintances, all save one. The father had paused to carry things up from the boat, but, wanting to hear, too, thought they might remain there for the present, and joined the others. And so they walked up toward the house, Oyvind laughing and talking, the mother laughing, too, for she was utterly at a loss to know what to say. The school-master moved slowly along at Oyvind’s side, watching his old pupil closely; the father walked at a respectful distance. And thus they reached home. Oyvind was delighted with everything he saw: first because the house was painted, then because the mill was enlarged, then because the leaden windows had been taken out in the family-room and in the bed-chamber, and white glass had taken the place of green, and the window frames had been made larger. When he entered everything seemed astonishingly small, and not at all as he remembered it, but very cheerful. The clock cackled like a fat hen, the carved chairs almost seemed as if they would speak; he knew every dish on the table spread before him, the freshly white-washed hearth smiled welcome; the greens, decorating the walls, scattered about them their fragrance, the juniper, strewn over the floor, gave evidence of the festival.
They all sat down to the meal; but there was not much eaten, for Oyvind rattled away without ceasing. The others viewed him now more composedly, and observed in what respect he had altered, in what he remained unchanged; looked at what was entirely new about him, even to the blue broadcloth suit he wore. Once when he had been telling a long story about one of his companions and finally concluded, as there was a little pause, the father said,—
“I scarcely understand a word that you say, boy; you talk so very fast.”
They all laughed heartily, and Oyvind not the least. He knew very well this was true, but it was not possible for him to speak more slowly. Everything new he had seen and learned, during his long absence from home, had so affected his imagination and understanding, and had so driven him out of his accustomed demeanor, that faculties which long had lain dormant were roused up, as it were, and his brain was in a state of constant activity. Moreover, they observed that he had a habit of arbitrarily taking up two or three words here and there, and repeating them again and again