Father owned timber, but this year he had cut down nothing. Yet he took jobs driving throughout the winter. He drove supplies for the storekeeper and took his pay in food and clothing. Per was too small; he was not allowed to go the long way to fetch the stores. Brownie was tired when he arrived home after these journeys. Later Father drove timber for the neighboring farm. Per was not taken to the woods either. It was dangerous, said his father; logs and snow might fall on him from the piles of timber, so Per had to stay at home. There were snowdrifts at home too, and Per dug tunnels in the drifts and built houses where he sat inside alone, staring out in front of him. Father came home with wet clothes when the weather was bad, the seat of his trousers soaked from sitting on the logs and on icy tree-stumps.
"It's bad for your health," said Mother, wiping the chairs where he had sat. "Couldn't you at least take a sack to sit on, on top of the load?"
"Yes, I suppose so," he answered indifferently.
After a while he said, "Have you ever seen me ill?"
Father was never ill.
"No," said Mother, "but I expect I will one of these days."
Per's heart turned over. Such prophecies were so dreadful— They could just shut up. They stood there saying things like: You are to stay at Bufast to the end of your days; I expect I shall see you ill one of these days. He felt as if it would have to happen once it was said.[p. 44]
Father's clothes smelled of resin now. It was a good smell.
He was afraid of Father. He felt it more and more. He had been afraid of Father since he had taken hold of him on the cleared land and seemed to pronounce his sentence. Father had laid a burden on him. And he had renewed it the day the stranger had come from town.
The stranger had written about Father in a newspaper and praised him to the skies. Father had been sent the paper. Mother had kept it in a safe place, even though it was full of boasting.
In the barn the calves were arriving. They kept one of them a long time, even though he was a bull-calf; he drank milk fit to burst. Then Father slaughtered him one day and bartered him for goods from the storekeeper. Whatever Father got for driving the logs went to the storekeeper. They fattened two pigs: one day they were slaughtered, and one of them was driven to the storekeeper. Mother and Aunt Anne churned butter, and Father took that to the storekeeper. The hens laid eggs, and the storekeeper got most of them. The sheep were sheared, and the wool was sent to the storekeeper to pay off credit.
"Is he going to get everything, that storekeeper?"
"Yes. We're still in debt to him. We had to ask for credit."
Per harbored a grudge against this storekeeper who had given them credit so that they were in his debt.
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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