My father himself at that time was anything but cheerful. The steamboat dispute lay heavy on his heart, and he now wanted to try, as a last resort, to have the matter thoroughly aired in the newspapers, and it was about this that he now wanted to apply personally to a solicitor at Tromsoe.
These circumstances, however, did not come to my knowledge at that time.
While matters were in this state between our parents, the time came for Susanna and me to be confirmed. As I was not entered until some time after the confirmation course had begun, it was arranged that, besides the class in the church every Monday, I was to read alone with the minister on Fridays.
In his abrupt way my father made me a little private speech, in which he expressed a hope that I would not disgrace him before the minister.
The lesson up in the minister’s study was an entirely new mental development for me. The big, grey-haired man, with his broad, powerful face, and massive silver spectacles, generally pushed up on to his forehead above the heavy eyebrows, sat on the sofa with his big meerschaum pipe in his mouth, and expounded, while I, smart and attentive, listened in the chair on the opposite side of the table.
I became more and more convinced that the minister must be an honourable and thoroughly sincere man, but at the same time hard and severe; for he always talked about our duties, and that we must not think that pardon would be given us if we tried to escape from them. Sometimes, too, he would be in the humour for reflections which were not quite intended for me; there were all kinds of attempts to reason away doubts that might possibly arise in matters of belief, especially about miracles, which he generally wanted to explain in a natural way. He could be exceedingly clever in his comparisons, and I used then to think in this, as in much of the strong-willed expression of his face when he talked, that I recognised Susanna’s nature. The small, well-shaped hands and the well-proportioned though not tall figure, she had evidently inherited from her father, as also a certain quick movement of the head when her words were to be made more impressive than usual. But Susanna had in addition a warmth and impulsiveness, almost volcanic in their nature, which struck me as foreign to the expression that lay in the minister’s cold, clear, intelligent eyes.
The minister praised me for my thoughtfulness, but repeated several times, to my secret humiliation, that I had a way of furtively looking down that I must try to get rid of. He doubtless thought that I was excessively embarrassed, perhaps, too, that I suffered under the consciousness of my father’s position with regard to him.