[chapter 5][p. 33]
His mind was full of Åsne; she belonged among his possessions now. Father and Aunt Anne and Ivar were busy with the haying. Father and Ivar scythed so that the grass leaped. They mowed at a great pace. Aunt Anne spread the hay to dry. They cut only the home meadow; there were so many fields that they had no time for more.
Auntie's arms tanned quickly.
Mother prepared the meals and bent over the baby. When he slept and the weather was fine, she came out on to the meadow and helped with the raking. The cows were in the home pasture all day long. The big bull was back in the barn; now and then he would bellow. In the evening the cows lowed at the fence. Then Auntie would go and fetch them home. Brownie was grazing there too and had to be fetched to bring in the hay. In the evenings tramps would sometimes come and ask if they might sleep in the barn. They were allowed to, after they had given up their pipes and matches.
Along the road rumbled carriages full of tourists. It looked as if the whole world was travelling from place to place. But at Bufast nobody travelled, and Father sweated so that his shirt stuck to his back and he drank milk and water like a calf. Mother and Auntie were very quiet and reticent some evenings after a long stint of haying. This was the mowing season: it was hard, demanding work and had to be done in a rush when time and weather permitted. It was like that on the other farms too, the ones behind the hill that you couldn't see.
Now and then hallooing and shouting would come up from the river. Someone was bathing there, rinsing away the sweat.
"Do people who just have houses do mowing?" asked Per.
Ivar answered grumpily, "No, what should they mow?"[p. 34]
Per went away, almost angry. Why did Ivar say things like that? And in that tone of voice? People shouldn't say anything about people who live in houses.
Later he remembered that Ivar and his sister had only a house themselves.
A stranger came down to the farmyard and met Per and Aunt Anne.
"Good day. Is this where the farmer lives?"
"Yes," replied Auntie without thinking twice about it. "He's down there on the meadow."
"I'd like to talk to him a little," said the man.
"All right, just go down to him."
The man went down to Father. He was a well-dressed man with a collar around his neck. Per stood thinking.
The farmer, the stranger had said, seriously and with approval. He had not smiled. The man had asked as if it were something important.
Per left Auntie and went down to Father and Ivar and the stranger. The farmer, the stranger had called Father. Per looked about him and saw that the meadows were large. And at the edge of the meadows there was always the cleared land, and it was never in the same place. It was here Father dug, saying nothing, simply digging so that Mother and Auntie said he was crazy—
He seemed to hear Father's rusty voice: Stay at Bufast to the end of your days.
All Per felt was anxiety and a weight on his breast. He looked at the meadows and growing crops. The meadow was almost mown. The fields were green, the shimmering heads of grain not yet bent over. Beyond lay the cleared land, black and red, with upturned stones and tree-stumps, looking as if something tremendously powerful had struck down there, tearing and goring.
Love earth, said Father.
Per stood still and tried to find out whether he had come to love earth.[p. 35]
No. He felt nothing as he looked at it; he simply saw it. He came down to Father. The stranger was standing with a book in his hand, writing in the book as hard as he could. He was writing down what Father was saying!
Father was asked about number of years, so-and-so many acres of cleared land, and many other questions that Per did not understand in the least. Father replied abruptly and almost unwillingly. He stood with his scythe ready, prepared to carry on mowing again, but let it go and answered. The questions came rapidly.
Up from the earth came Father's voice, as usual. You seemed to feel it under your feet.
Ivar went on mowing. Now and then he looked at the stranger crossly, ready to grumble. Ivar was like that: any delay in the work irritated him. When he was toiling and straining, everyone around him was expected to do the same.
But Father stood still. The stranger asked questions, and Father replied. His words were written down as if they were curiosities.
All of a sudden the stranger turned to Per. "And what about you?" he said.
Per gave a start of surprise and turned pale. He had a few things to feel guilty about: various small bits of mischief. But surely this man couldn't know about them?
The stranger asked, "Are you going to grow up like your father? You must try to, my boy."
Per did not reply. Stay at Bufast to the end of your days, he heard inside him. He looked anxiously at the two grownups. Grow up like Father? He did not know what kind of a man Father was. The stranger could shut up.
Then came the earthy voice: "Yes, I expect Per will stay at Bufast to the end of his days."
Per stepped back involuntarily.
The stranger said: "Yes, I expect you'll stay at Bufast to the end of your days."
Per stared at them in fear. They seemed to flow together into one giant force.[p. 36]
He felt as if a wall were being lowered around him. No, it was as if an enormous mouth had opened and said crushing words and then snapped shut, and would never open again. No, it wasn't like that either, but there were those big grown-ups standing there: Father in just his shirt and trousers and shoes, with his shirt hanging loose, and the stranger well-dressed and ironed like those other townsfolk who passed by, and with a collar around his neck as if he were going to a Christmas party in the middle of the haying. They stood there saying something that Per did not understand but which made him terribly anxious. Why couldn't they shut up? They floored him with mysterious threats that burned into him so that he seemed forced to become what they said.
He ran away from them.
Indoors, Mother was sitting with the baby. The baby was sucking so hard that the milk was running out of the corners of his mouth again. Mother was full of milk. Botolv was sitting on his stool. Mother smiled at the baby and told him he was a greedy little creature. Then she smiled at Botolv. Nobody smiled the way Mother did when she made up her mind to it.
Per came in to them.
"Help Anne bring the cows home, will you, Per? You ought to make yourself useful now, big as you are."
"Yes," he said.
Stay at Bufast to the end of his days. Make himself useful. He perched on the end of the stool beside Botolv. Botolv looked at him inquiringly. Botolv was going barefoot today. Per laid his left hand on Botolv's bare, grimy knee, not knowing why he did so or why it was so good, but it was good.
"Per! Did you hear me? You're not usually so unwilling to be with Anne."
Per ran off. Mother's voice had sounded a bit cold. Was it because he liked being with Auntie best? But Mother saw [p. 37] only Botolv and the baby; they needed help and not he. So she thought.
He ran in anger, and understood nothing.
Copyright © 1934 by Olaf Norlis Forlag, Oslo, Norway. Used by permission. English translation copyright © 1967 The Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System. All rights reserved. Use of this material falling outside the purview of "fair use" requires the permission of the University of Wisconsin Press.
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