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A Happy Boy by Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson

But the priest had not said anything


down on a low stool with his legs drawn up under him, sat the anxious thirteenth; his little flashing eyes sped round the room three times each second, and through the passionate, obstinate head stormed in motley confusion the combined thoughts of the other twelve: from the mightiest hope to the most crushing doubt, from the most humble resolves to the most devastating plans of revenge; and, meanwhile, he had eaten up all the loose flesh on his right thumb, and was busied now with his nails, sending large pieces across the floor.

Oyvind sat by the window, he had been upstairs and had answered everything that had been asked him; but the priest had not said anything, neither had the school-master. For more than half a year he had been considering what they both would say when they came to know how hard he had toiled, and he felt now deeply disappointed as well as wounded. There sat Marit, who for far less exertion and knowledge had received both encouragement and reward; it was just in order to stand high in her eyes that he had striven, and now she smilingly won what he had labored with so much self-denial to attain. Her laughter and joking burned into his soul, the freedom with which she moved about pained him. He had carefully avoided speaking with her since that evening, it would take years, he thought; but the sight of her sitting there so happy and superior, weighed him to the ground, and all his proud determinations drooped like leaves

after a rain.

He strove gradually to shake off his depression. Everything depended on whether he became number one to-day, and for this he was waiting. It was the school-master's wont to linger a little after the rest with the priest to arrange about the order of the young people, and afterwards to go down and report the result; it was, to be sure, not the final decision, merely what the priest and he had for the present agreed upon. The conversation became livelier after a considerable number had been examined and passed; but now the ambitious ones plainly distinguished themselves from the happy ones; the latter left as soon as they found company, in order to announce their good fortune to their parents, or they waited for the sake of others who were not yet ready; the former, on the contrary, grew more and more silent and their eyes were fixed in suspense on the door.

At length the children were all through, the last had come down, and so the school-master must now be talking with the priest. Oyvind glanced at Marit; she was just as happy as before, but she remained in her seat, whether waiting for her own pleasure or for some one else, he knew not. How pretty Marit had become! He had never seen so dazzlingly lovely a complexion; her nose was slightly turned up, and a dainty smile played about the mouth. She kept her eyes partially closed when not looking directly at any one, but for that reason her gaze always had unsuspected power when it did come; and, as though she wished herself to add that she meant nothing by this, she half smiled at the same moment. Her hair was rather dark than light, but it was wavy and crept far over the brow on either side, so that, together with the half closed eyes, it gave the face a hidden expression that one could never weary of studying. It never seemed quite sure whom it was she was looking for when she was sitting alone and among others, nor what she really had in mind when she turned to speak to any one, for she took back immediately, as it were, what she gave. "Under all this Jon Hatlen is hidden, I suppose," thought Oyvind, but still stared constantly at her.

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