[chapter 3][p. 20]
It was haying time. And that meant it was time for Ivar to come. Father hired Ivar for the season every year. Ivar had a whiff of pungent blue pipe smoke about him and a fierce expression. Per looked forward to Ivar's coming and dreaded it too.
He was a year older than Father. He was bad-tempered but a good worker, and he was likely to be at Bufast for the season as long as mowing and reaping and potato digging continued. And there was always the worry of finding his wages.
The scythes were bought and polished. The grass hung heavy with dew, for it was tall.
"Ivar's coming tomorrow," said Aunt Anne.
At once Per began to look forward to it, forgetting how sulky Ivar had been last year.
Ivar came and was just as usual: tall and skinny, sharp-eyed, pipe in mouth. Per looked at his shirt and trousers and shoes to see if he recognized them from last year. But some of it was new.
How he longed for friends, for friendship! He studied Ivar again with new hope. Perhaps he would turn out to be a friend this year.
Ivar greeted them curtly and sat down for a while. Then he asked if they were not going to begin. He was a hard worker; that was why Father had searched him out. Father was a hard worker himself.
They started raking and mowing. In the grass round about them the grasshoppers fiddled and scraped in furious time: shirrr. . . . The sound came from the standing grass and from the grass that fell to the scythe and lay in rows. Shirrr. . . .
Auntie came and began spreading the hay. She did not speak to Ivar much; they had a permanent quarrel that neither [p. 21] of them took seriously. The sun shone more warmly. The cat came slinking from under the storehouse and began lazily stalking the green grasshoppers in the hay. Shirrr, they said. But he soon gave up and stretched out on his side.
Botolv was toddling about in the piles of green hay, and Per watched him to see that he did not wander up behind the mowers and into their scythes. The swishing scythe was not to be played with; it whispered slowly down into the grass roots, hissing like a snake. Per had seen snakes and heard the icy hiss before Father's stick put an end to them.
Per was waiting for the midmorning break. Then Ivar would eat his porridge, and afterwards he would go out into the yard and lie in the shade and smoke. Then Per could lie down beside him and look for friendship.
Everything went according to pattern. Ivar came out and lay down on the grass with his pipe between his teeth.
A fragrance came up from the new-mown hay; the sun was beginning to dry it. There was no fragrance like it in the whole world.
Per lay down three paces away from Ivar.
Ivar made no move. He simply went on smoking.
Per could not start the conversation; after all, Ivar had only just come. He would wait to see if Ivar would talk to him first. There was a buzzing of horseflies and shiny bluebottles. They swarmed close to Per, plaguing him. There were none around Ivar.
Ivar said nothing, merely smoked. Ivar had a sister somewhere; he lived with her when he was not at Bufast. They lived alone in a little cottage, he and his sister. Ivar supported her. Per knew all about it. Say something to me, Ivar, he thought.
No. Ivar was staring straight up at the cloudless sky. If he altered his position so much as to take his pipe out of his mouth and spit, that was as far as it went. He did not turn towards Per to show that he had noticed him. Per would have been grateful even for that, but Ivar did not do it.[p. 22]
And what should Ivar say anyway? No, Per did not know—just anything. He had so much longing inside him.
Ivar had been a disappointment as long as he could remember. As long as he could remember that there had been summer he remembered Ivar. It wasn't summer without him.
He remembered other summers vaguely. He himself walked and stood and ran in those summers. He did not remember it as fun. In those summers the sun shone most of the time. It was hot. Up on the road rumbled the carts. Sometimes the rumbling shook the house, and you could not see the cart.
"What sort of a terrible cart was that, do you think?"
"That was thunder," they said, raking the hay out in the meadow. They were raking furiously. Ivar was helping, everyone was helping except himself. He just sat.
All of a sudden it poured rain, and then they did no more raking. They went indoors and sat down. It was dark in the kitchen. Then there were some terrible flashes, and terrible carts rumbled. But it was not carts; it was thunder. Aunt Anne hid her face; Ivar sat with his pipe in his mouth; the others simply sat. Per had a clear picture of that. Other events of those summers floated in a mist. Father sometimes appeared in his memory along with some word or action: he remembered the shock these words and actions had given him. Mother appeared, always linked with the picture of Botolv: Botolv at her breast, Botolv asleep, Botolv sitting naked in his bath, crying softly, Mother smiling at him. Whatever happened, Mother was there. Her face was wider than the sky; it was everywhere. She was the source of all food, of socks and shirts, and of all punishment. At the edges he could glimpse Aunt Anne and Ivar. Sometimes Auntie emerged as the shining central figure. Ivar had never shone; he had only been a stony face with a pipe.
But now Ivar must say something to him. He moved a little nearer. His heavy heart was beating. But Ivar lay as before. Per cringed in disappointment.
He could remember three summers. . . .
When the summers were over, Ivar would disappear. Then [p. 23] winter came, and with it snow and cold. He floundered about in the snow; it was all part of it; But he was alone. Sometimes he managed to have fun in the snow anyway, but there was always something missing, and he did not know what it was.
Father would drive off with Brownie and spend his time in the woods. Carts never rumbled, but there were long, black evenings, and the windowpanes were black. Then calves were born. Calves were more important than people and kinder than people; they came to you and wanted to play and lick your fingers.
Now people were more important than calves. It was more important for Ivar to turn around now and say, I can see you! than for someone to call, A calf has arrived, Per!
Ivar did not turn around.
Mother came out with the baby on her arm and Botolv toddling after.
"Here I am!" called Per to her.
"Yes," she said, and walked on.
It was no use. Ivar lay on his back, smoking. And the midmorning break would soon be over.
"I'm here," he entreated.
"Yes, I know," said Ivar. "I'll be the one too many at Bufast when you grow up."
Per stared. Ivar had not said it in friendship, and it was friendship he was thirsting for.
"You'll get rid of me, you know," said Ivar again. There was a hard, dry sound to his voice, making it seem so very far away from Sunday, the comparison occurred to Per.
"I'll get rid of you?"
"Yes. When you grow up, I'll have to leave Bufast, my boy."
"To save them paying me my wages."
"Yes, they do seem to worry about it," said Per.
Ivar told the cloudless sky he knew that very well.
Per could not make head or tail of it. But he went away. Ivar was no different this year. There he was, getting to his feet and going over to the grindstone.[p. 24]
"Grindstone!" he called toward the open door of the house, swinging the scythe in his hand.
Aunt Anne came out and turned the grindstone for him. Per came and stood by them.
These faces had always been about him, through all these three summers that he could remember, as the house had been about him, and the tree in the farmyard, and the well. Mother, Father, Auntie, Ivar, Brownie—you could not slip past them. The calves changed, and the cows, and the pig—the others could neither change nor be changed.
"I've decided to get married this year," remarked Ivar as he sharpened his scythe.
There! With Auntie, Ivar could open his mouth and talk nonsense and bicker in friendship. Per groaned to himself. It hurt to be small.
"Oh, indeed?" said Auntie. "I won't have you."
Ivar leaned forward and touched the grindstone with his tongue.
"Just wanted to know if the stone was moving," he said.
Per could have hit him. The stone didn't move as slowly as all that when Auntie turned it. Ivar was only being spiteful.
Per left them. This summer would be no different from the others.
Shortly afterwards the scythes were slicing through the grass once more, flashing and swooping.
Father went first.
"Augh-gh!" cried Ivar harshly, as if scared, and shook himself. He had cut into a frog that lay hidden in the grass, cut it in two. Ivar killed it as quickly as he could and put it under a stone. Then he swept farther along the swath.
Augh-gh! The scared, harsh cry still hung in the air.
A shriek so wild that your heart stood still—Ivar's cry brought out the memory of that cry: Auntie had cried out like that once.
"What in the world—?" they had called.
"I almost sat on a horrible snake."[p. 25]
Auntie could do nothing but jump up and down from shock. It was at the edge of the woods; they were there cutting branches.
Father snatched a stick. The snake lay writhing in the heather, writhing and hissing. It sounded like a tiny little wind in the heather. Per stood spellbound, listening to the weak hissing—then Father's stick came down, and the snake began to make rings and figures of eight—Augh-gh! all of it.
"It might have run up inside my dress!" said Auntie, shuddering over and over again.
That too had happened during one of the three summers. . . .
"Are you crazy? Look after Botolv, Per!"
He ran across and dragged Botolv away. Botolv could not resist looking at the flashing scythes in the grass and had toddled up behind the mowers, was dangerously near Ivar's sweep, and Ivar had not seen him.
He could have run the scythe into him just like the frog!
His heart would stand still.
"Sit there!" he screamed at Botolv, and Botolv sat down so suddenly in the windrow that the grasshoppers jumped into the air.
Botolv was too small; he wasn't the person he was looking for.
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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