Look Back on Happiness, by Knut Hamsun

Chapter XIV

Since the departure of the great caravan, there have been no other visitors. Some of us cannot understand it; others have in a manner of speaking got a whiff of what is wrong; but all of us still believe there will be more visitors, because after all we’re the only ones that have the Tore peaks!

But no one appears.

The women of the house do their daily work for the inmates and do not complain, but they are not happy. Paul still takes things quietly; he sleeps a great deal in his room behind the kitchen, but once or twice I have seen him walking away from the house at night, walking in deep thought toward the woods.

From the neighboring valley comes the rumor that the motor traffic has started there now. So this is the explanation of the quiet in our valley! Then one day a Dane came down to us from the fjeld. He had climbed the Tore peaks from the other side, something that had been thought impossible till now. He had simply driven in a car to the foot of the mountains and walked across!

So we no longer had the Tore peaks to ourselves, either.

I wonder whether, after all, Paul is not going to try to sow green-fodder in the long strip of land down by the river. That, at any rate, had been his original intention, but then came the great caravan, and he neglected it. Now, of course, the season is too far advanced for sowing, and there will be nothing but docks and chickweed. Could not the field be turfed, at least, and sown? Why didn’t Paul think of such things instead of walking the woods at night?

But Paul has many thoughts. At an early age, his interest in farming was diverted to the tourist traffic, and there it has remained. He hears that our lawyer is also an architect and asks him to draw a plan for the big new house with the six rooms, the hall and the bathroom. Paul has already ordered the log chairs and the reindeer horns for the hall.

“If you weren’t alone up here, you might have got some of the cars coming here too,” said the lawyer.

“I’ve thought of that,” Paul replied. “It’s not impossible I can do something about it. But I must have the house first. And I must have a road.”

The lawyer promised to draw a plan of the house, and went round to look at the site. The house was to cost such and such a sum. Paul was already quite convinced that three or four good tourist summers would pay it off.

Paul was not worrying. As we looked over the site together, I discovered that he smelled of brandy.

Finally a small party of Norwegians and foreigners arrived, travelers who were out to walk, and not to drive in cars. Everyone’s spirits rose; the strangers stayed a few days and nights, and were guided across the fjeld by Solem, who earned a fair penny. Paul, too, was visibly cheered, and strolled about the farm in his Sunday clothes. He had a few things to discuss with the lawyer about the house.

“If there’s anything to consult about, we had better do it now,” he said. “I shall be away for a couple of days.”

So they attended to a few minor matters.

“Are you going to town?” asked the lawyer.

“No,” Paul replied; “only down to the village. I want to see if I can get the people there to co-operate on a few ideas of mine: a telephone and automobile service and so on.”

“Good luck!” said the lawyer.

So the lawyer sat drafting plans while the rest of us went about our own affairs. Josephine went to Solem and said:

“Will you go and sow the field by the river?”

“Has Paul said so?” he asked.

“Yes,” she replied.

Solem went very unwillingly. While he was drawing the harrow, Josephine went down to him and said:

“Harrow it once more.”

What a brisk little thing she was, with far more forethought than the men! She looked bewitching, for all her hard work. I have seen her many times with her hair tumbled, but it didn’t matter. And when she pretended that none but the maids milked the goats and did outside work, it was for the good name of the house. She had learned to play the piano for the same reason. The mistress of the house helped her nobly, for both women were thoughtful and industrious, but Josephine was everywhere, for she was light as a feather. And the chaste little hands she had!

“Josephine, Joséfriendly!” I called her wittily.

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Last updated Saturday, March 1, 2014 at 20:38