The Father – Bjornstjerne Bjornson (1832-1910)
Bjornson was one of the founders of modern Norwegian literature and as dramatist, poet, novelist, moralist and politician he was a leader of his people. His novel, Synnove Solbakken, one of his earliest works, appeared in 1857. Among his numerous and varied later writings his short tales are not the least interesting. The Father is a masterpiece in brief.
The present version was translated by R. B. Anderson and published in the volume The Bridal March, Boston, 1881.
The man whose story is here to be told was the wealthiest and most influential person in his parish; his name was Thord Overaas. He appeared in the priest’s study one day, tall and earnest.
“I have gotten a son,” said he, “and I wish to present him for baptism.”
“What shall his name be?”
“Finn—after my father.”
“And the sponsors?”
They were mentioned, and proved to be the best men and women of Thord’s relations in the parish.
“Is there anything else?” inquired the priest, and looked up.
The peasant hesitated a little.
“I should like very much to have him baptized by himself,” said he, finally.
“That is to say on a week-day?”
“Next Saturday, at twelve o’clock noon.”
“Is there anything else?” inquired the priest.
“There is nothing else;” and the peasant twirled his cap, as though he were about to go.
The Father – Then the priest rose. “There is yet this, however,” said he, and walking toward Thord, he took him by the hand and looked gravely into his eyes: “God grant that the child may become a blessing to you!” One day sixteen years later, Thord stood once more in the priest’s study.
“Really, you carry your age astonishingly well, Thord,” said the priest; for he saw no change whatever in the man.
“That is because I have no troubles,” replied Thord.
To this the priest said nothing, but after a while he asked: “What is jrour pleasure this evening?”
“I have come this evening about that son of mine who is to be confirmed to-morrow.”
“He is a bright boy.”
“I did not wish to pay the priest until I heard what number the boy would have when he takes his place in church to-morrow.”