The Road Leads On, by Knut Hamsun

Chapter Thirty-Two

The lord from England was a topping fellow. To him it was merely “interesting” that a mountain should drop sheer from the roadside. There he stood on the very edge of a terrifying abyss, some nine hundred feet beneath his bootsoles, and chatted away with the workmen in Norwegian. August replied to him in English.

By all means, August knew English! And now Hendrik and the men should hear him and be properly amazed. But the lord appeared indifferent to August’s English, as he was to everything about August. This irritated the old man; he withdrew to one side and perhaps even began wondering to himself if the man from England, after all, might not even be a “Right Honourable”— at any rate, he acted like one. But August himself was no nonentity — he had seen great captains and presidents in his time, and he decided at once to give this Englishman a taste of what he was like. He bought himself a supply of cigars at the Segelfoss Store and made much of the art of cigar-smoking whenever he happened to meet the lord who himself smoked no more than a stumpy curve-stem pipe. He also took to strolling up the new road with a walking stick in his hand, thus to create the impression that he was no ordinary gang foreman whose place was on the job with his men. And the day came when the lord must have taken pity on him, for he addressed him, asked him certain questions about the fish, explained that he spoke Norwegian while in Norway for the purpose of acquiring the language, that he always made an effort to speak the language of the natives in no matter what part of the world he happened to find himself. He had once spent some time in the Caucasus, but “svarte fan,” if he hadn’t been up against it there, for down there he had had no less than seventy languages to learn!

They got along fairly well together, though, to be sure, they had but very little to do with each other — they would merely meet, exchange greetings, speak a word or two, always in Norwegian, and part when the lord went his way. Hendrik would carry the fish, et cetera, but the lord never failed to carry at least something — as a rule, the provision bag.

The Consul made a practice of driving his guest up or down the mountain road, but the lord was unimpressed by this. “You’ve no time for it,” he would say to the Consul.

A remarkable man, that Englishman, a man of the people, talkative and single, in truth a bit middle-class. His name was Bolingbroke, though he was surely not one of the Bolingbrokes, and God knew whether in the olden days the family name had not been simply Broke. It might well have been, he said, and whether it had been or not was likewise a matter of huge indifference to him! And why should he be driven back and forth in a car? He had freed himself from home ties for the purpose of hunting and fishing, not motoring.

On the other hand, he would occasionally go for a stroll with Frøken Marna. Not because there was anything entertaining about her — she was heavy and indolent in her manner — but merely for the reason that he could thus fish in company with a beautiful lady instead of with simply Hendrik. And what remarkable conversations they would have together! He had learned his Norwegian from a peasant up north and this he used without hesitation. The lady would reply to him in the language of her infancy, and when in a tight place to make themselves understood, they would both take refuge in lusty profanity.

Hendrik would listen to them with unbounded amazement. Whenever the lord remarked that anything was “svarte fan,”3 the lady would simply repeat his statement and lower her eyes with a smile. There she would stand with a sly look on her face, just as though she had thoughts of her own to consider, which undoubtedly was the case. The devil and all if lady Marna wasn’t altogether too fine to be throwing herself away on a life of indolent ease instead of marrying and having ten children! That wild oat she had squandered upon a common day labourer had been so wholly without good sense, but, after all, there had been little enough in her daily life at Segelfoss Manor or at the home of her sister in Helgeland to uncover the true depths of her nature. Nor was the lord anything to tempt her, either; he was really not tempting to any one. Possibly he was not such a bad sort back home amongst his own people, but here at the height of his idiotic sporting fever, he was quite impossible. He was not bad looking, however; sinewy and raw-boned, to be sure, but with a face that was attractive enough, despite his English teeth. He might possibly have been something of an aristocrat, a flirt and a dandy had he tried, but he simply wasn’t trying; the spirit of sport was upon him and he was taken up with nothing save fishing and shooting, how heavy each trout was, how he had been obliged to change flies three times before landing this miserable trout here, this puny little runt! Interesting enough conversation for the other inmates in a lunatic asylum, but quite barren of moonlight and kisses and frantic romance. One day Marna had got herself soaked stepping out of the boat, but do you suppose he had made the slightest effort to dry her with his breath or even to hold her hand?

3 Svarte fan = anything but a parlour expression. — Translator.

Frøken Marna was sincerely bored to death with the lord and one day asked her brother point blank how long they were to have the fellow with them. The Consul quickly answered sh-sh, that she was to keep still, that the longer he stayed the more pleasant it would be. He must at least have time to exercise his dogs and to shoot what ptarmigan there were. And, though he would actually be leaving them soon, he would return to them sometime during the winter to behold the aurora borealis. It might be that he would stay on with them over Easter in order to hear the trumpeting of the swans. Both of these phenomena he yet had to experience personally.

“Then it’s Helgeland for me!” said Frøken Marna.

“What a pity!” her brother replied. “For I’m certain he’ll come seeking your hand.”

“Don’t jest about it! Once he actually went so far as to tell me that he’d never been married.”

“Ah, you see! That remark must surely have had some significance!”

A splendid friendship between sister and brother, but their jesting was always quiet and refined in manner. Never a sign of slapping themselves on the knee when they laughed; Marna was too stiff for such a gesture and her brother too much the gentleman, though they would give way to the spirit of fun sufficiently to smile. Only when their mother was about was there anything like laughter in the house. And, truth to tell, it was always so refreshing to have her with them, for she could laugh from the very depths of her heart and so thoroughly that her eyes would close to narrow slits with tears of mirth at the corners. But dear me, she was no longer there at the Manor, she was down with the druggist, she was Fru Holm now, and all that. What a singular career she had had!

“Well, now you must be going, Marna. You’re wasting my time!” Gordon might say to get rid of her.

But Marna might also carry the jest further by asking him what good there was in having a British consul in Segelfoss when he couldn’t so much as arrange matters between herself and a certain English lord?

“Now, Marna, please leave of your own free will! Don’t make me show my teeth!”

Poor Gordon Tidemand, he had so much to do! Careful and accurate as he was, there was no end of book keeping and correspondence to be got through, and he might well have felt himself in dire need of help. But there was no one in the entire land who could write as neatly and figure as correctly as he, and he therefore continued to toil through his duties alone. Moreover, a lady typist could hardly post figures in those heavy ledgers of his with a typewriter!

Gordon Tidemand was in a splendid humour. A ripping year for salmon, this, representatives covering the territory to both north and south of him, Juliet up home, a new child now and then, things improving for him in every quarter. He saw from his personal account that his salary as head of the bank was clear profit, a sudden addition to his income, and this immediately enabled him to pay off something on his debt of ten thousand to the bank. Had he not been Gordon Tidemand, he might have taken something of a fling. Instead, he telephoned for his mother to come to his office.

When she arrived he threw down his pen in irritation and sharply asked her what she wanted with him.

“You monkey, you almost had me frightened!” she said.

“I’ve barely succeeded in getting rid of Marna and here you come. Sit down!”

“If you’d like to know what I wanted,” said his mother, absorbed in her own affairs, “I just wanted to tell you that they’re already finished with the roof and that they’ve now begun on the floors over at that new place of ours! Isn’t that splendid?”

“Mere vanity!” he jested. “You just wanted to build so that you could lord it over Juliet, I know!”

“Have you seen the house? It’s simply lovely!”

“I can’t for the life of me see what you two solitary people want with all those rooms!” said her son. “That one you call the red room, for example.”

“No, I don’t suppose you’ve any cosy little dens in that castle of yours!”

“Who is paying for all this grandeur?” he asked.

“It’s a wedding present from his family.”

“Not really?”

“Yes. In spite of the fact that he never appeals to them any longer.”

“I suppose that’s some of your work?”

“Yes. I’m responsible for that. We don’t want to be dependent upon anyone.”

“So,” said her son. “Yes, you’re good enough for me, mother! Even so, I don’t think it was very nice of you to go away and leave us the way you did. I don’t know how I’m going to get along without you.”

“You who have become head of the bank and everything else there is to be! What do you get in the way of a salary?”

“Nothing!” he snorted. “A few thousand. Hardly enough to keep Juliet in hairpins!”

“I won’t talk with you when you’re in this mood,” she said, and rose threateningly.

“Tut tut! Stay a bit! Sit down again! Who ever saw such a temper! I called you here to ask if perhaps we hadn’t best send out the seines this autumn.”

“Yes, of course we must.”

“Yes, you went off and got married and left everything for me to do!”

“Have a talk with Altmulig about it,” said his mother.

“And then there was another matter I wanted to ask you about. Isn’t it splendid that we now have a highway leading all the way up to the hunting lodge?”

“Yes, perhaps it is.”

“You wanted a footpath. But now we have a highway, a regular chaussée. Otherwise how could we have driven the lord up the mountain?”

“No.”

“There, you see!”

“But I like to keep my feet on the ground, Gordon. Hadn’t we better be thinking of going out to the downery after down pretty soon?”

Her son fumed: “That little mouse hole! Just wasting our time!”

“One thing plus another, Gordon! Your father bought that downery and made something out of it, and everyone up in that castle of yours sleeps in down to this day, you know.”

“Do you know what,” her son suddenly proposed. “What would you say if we were all to go out there now while the lord is with us?”

“That lord, that lord! I should really like to see him some time. Marna does a good bit of smiling whenever she tells me about him.”

“Yes, they swear together in Norwegian! But otherwise, he’s no one to smile over — he’s an able man.”

“And a lord?”

“Hm —!” said Gordon and hesitated.

“He isn’t a lord?”

“Keep still! Naturally he isn’t a lord. But now you’d just better not go out and spread it all over town!”

“No, I’ll never tell!”

“Not to a soul, do you understand! If you do, everything will be over between us!”

“Haha! Why must it be such a great secret, though?”

“It wasn’t I that spread the report that he was a lord,” said Gordon. “At least not in the beginning. That must have been something our old friend, Altmulig started. But, when it comes to that, I certainly have no objection to having it said that we are entertaining a lord. There’s something in that, you know! And what’s more, Davidsen has already mentioned him in the paper as being a lord, and it would be a pity indeed were we to rob him of his title!”

“Hahaha!” his mother laughed heartily. “What does he say himself about being taken for a lord?”

“He himself? Why, he doesn’t know a thing about it. He just goes about talking that Norwegian of his and is ‘dus’4 with everyone between here and Finmark!”

4 Uses the familiar form of address. — Translator.

His mother laughed until her eyes grew moist.

“But don’t you give away everything you know, Mother! At least not until later,” said her son. “He comes of a fine rich family, and he was so wholly splendid to me when we were at the academy together, invited me home with him many times and put himself out for me no end. His family lives in a gorgeous country house, servants, chauffeur and all that — vast wealth, engaged in some important business or other. He keeps to himself here simply because he doesn’t wish to impose upon us, and that’s why I felt I’d like to show him that he isn’t exactly out of his own world while with us here in Segelfoss. So it occurred to me that we might invite a few people and make something of an excursion out to the downery. What do you think of my idea?”

“All right. Whom will you invite?”

“Sandwiches and beer, a humble feast but delicious, I say, I imagine that we might be able to make something of an exquisite affair of it, eh what?”

“Yes, but whom will you take along?”

“I? Everything is always left to me! Why can’t you and Juliet put your heads together and decide a few things for yourselves!”

“There, there! Forgive me!”

“Yes, but am I not right in what I say? As though I didn’t have enough to do as it is! Now that he has begun hunting, there’s a certain other gentleman I know who would most thoroughly enjoy accompanying him. But no! The bank must be moved down here, and here are two estimates I’ve prepared, one for a frame building and one for a concrete, but do I get the slightest degree of cooperation from you two ladies in helping me to choose!”

“Hahaha!”

“And you laugh at me! But I must really show some enterprise and start up one thing or another, mustn’t I! I can’t afford to be idle and simply live on rent, can I? And now that I think of it, I’m sure we shall have to provide both wine and dessert. Am I right?”

His mother shook her head and flatly said no.

“There, you see! No matter what I propose!”

“Don’t worry, we’ll manage without you.”

“Yes, and now it’s come to that! But there’s one thing at least for which you really must give me credit: the vast amount of energy and enterprise the gardener has shown since you went away and left us. For that you need take no credit to yourself.”

“I?” she asked.

Of course, Gordon was jesting; yes yes, to be sure. But his words were, none the less, based upon a really serious condition. He had been sorely perplexed at the Manor ever since his mother had left; he knew nothing of the operation of an estate himself and the gardener Steffen had suddenly got lead in his heels and had taken up a life of indolent ease. The rain was over and the crops were under cover, but why hadn’t he got at his threshing right then and there instead of leaving the mice time to eat the crops up? He was blaming it on the fact that he didn’t have men enough to help him, but he had certainly not put himself out in the least to get hold of a crew to help him, had he? Were he to start out on his bicycle of an evening these days, it would be simply to go calling on his sweetheart out in the country, and in the morning when he returned he would be slacker than ever in his work. In the past it had been Gordon’s mother who had kept an eye on all such details, but now, as matters stood, she had left him. What about the potatoes? Wasn’t it also time that they were out of the ground?

His mother considered the day of the month. “Yes,” she said.

“There, you see, Mother!” said Gordon. “I’m not so downright stupid, am I? I’ve kept a written record of the time for several years now and I have the ability to compare! You used to laugh at me for writing everything down, but how can one be expected to carry everything in one’s head, now tell me!”

No mistake, Gordon Tidemand would write and write and was handy indeed with a pen, for he could keep nothing in his head or his heart. He had learned nothing of the art of sowing and reaping in those schools he had attended abroad. What he had learned had been simply to keep records. Did he ever glance up at the sky for the sake of his growing things? What were best for field and meadow, sun or rain today? Even though it might be a question of standing ready to save what there was to be saved!

He continued to jest with his mother. “You didn’t say anything to us before you left — you ran away, that’s what you did!” he scolded. “And you didn’t even wait to teach Juliet how to take your place after you had gone. I shan’t say a thing about myself, I’ve said too much already — but Juliet, she might have taken hold far better than she has.”

At this point his mother admitted that he was right. Oddly enough, she had begun to develop a feeling of guilt; her son was at his wits’ end and this touched her. “I shall certainly come up and see you at the Manor now and then!” she said.

“Yes, please do!” he exclaimed and took her up on her promise. “Have a talk with Juliet and urge her to take hold of things. I suppose I could speak to her myself, but you can do it so much more gracefully than I— I’m not much of a hand when it comes to that — I can’t seem to find the right words. But remember, mother, it mustn’t come from me — the idea is all your own!”

True though it was, she had sat there with tears in her eyes, she was at this point obliged to laugh in spite of them. Cowardly and evasive her son was, but not without consideration for the feelings of others. And as for herself, she was proud to learn that she had been missed, that she was indispensable up at the Manor.

“Well, I must be going,” she said.

Gordon glanced at his watch. “No, sit down a bit. I’m expecting Altmulig. He’s as punctual as this watch of mine. He’ll be here in a very few minutes now.”

“What do you want of him?”

“I want to ask him whether it’s time to send out the seines,” he said.

August arrived, removed his hat, bowed to both the Consul and his mother and stood there with body erect. He was himself again now that his romance was over. He could eat and sleep in peace now, and he had actually put on weight.

“I have observed, Altmulig, that you have not been drawing your wages for some months now,” said the Consul.

August was taken by surprise with this remark and hesitantly he replied that well, he had of course lacked the time, so perhaps —

“Here you are!” said the Consul handing him an envelope on which the account had been figured.

“But I haven’t been working for the Herr Consul for some months now,” he mumbled.

“Oh yes, you have, part of the time, at least. That’s been my impression right along.”

“But I’ve had my room and board —”

A slight wrinkle had appeared between the Consul’s eyes and August realized that it would not be his place to dispute. He was merely to express his thanks.

“And now there’s a point on which mother and I should like to consult you: would you advise us to send out the seines at this time?”

“Have you had any news about herring?”

“No.”

August thought about the matter. “Of course, there’s always herring in the sea,” he said. “But right now and in our northern waters — I haven’t heard of any whales or flocks of birds anywhere about —”

“Then I assume you consider it too early?”

“The potatoes are still in the ground and are ready to be taken out.”

“But that’s work for the womenfolk, isn’t it?”

“Ay, it isn’t that, it’s the time of the year. Things have been so arranged for us that one thing must follow with the next.”

“How long would you wait, if you were I?”

“No,” said August and shook his head over such a foolish question. “That all depends upon news and reports, the things folk are talking over Sundays there at the church, and what the telegraph wires say. And then we have our old weather signs and changes of the moon. But as it’s always been said and talked over again and again, the sea will always be loaded with herring from now till the end of time, and in a couple of months it may be that we’ll be hearing of one thing or another.”

“Thank you, Altmulig. There was nothing more. If you are on your way home, we might drive up together?”

In order not to decline the Consul’s invitation, August accompanied them in the car. They first drove the Consul’s mother over to the drugstore and from there they drove straight home. But upon getting out at the Manor, August immediately walked back to town. It seems he had promised the doctor’s wife a secret conference.

“Ay, now I’ve done it,” said Fru Esther.

“Hm,” replied August. “So you’ve done it!”

“I’m carrying it here,” she said, placing her hands on her breast.

“What did he say?”

“Oh dear, I haven’t told him about it yet. But now I must tell him, for if I don’t soon, he’ll find it out for himself. You must come along home with me, August.”

“I wouldn’t think of doing anything else!” he replied.

“And if he becomes angry with me, you must help me.”

“You needn’t think I won’t!” said August.

Poor little Esther, that pretty little lady, if she wasn’t afraid of that husband of hers! A devil of a note! August mused.

Slowly they approached the doctor’s home; they had so much to talk over, she nervous over what might happen, he confident and downright exuberant over the thought of a possible fracas with the doctor. Even now her mind was harassed with doubts, though she had already accomplished her ends and was thus in the hands of fate. You see, it was a little girl she had her heart set on, but suppose it should turn out to be a boy?

Well, said August, no harm done if it were. For having done it once, she could do it again and again until the result was a girl!

“No,” she objected. “That would provoke him too much.”

“I’ll help you out each time!” said August.

Regardless of the fact that this was debatable common sense, his words went far to console her and to restore her courage. His helpfulness knew no bounds.

But everything turned out other than they had anticipated.

After they had entered the house and had sat down, the doctor came into the room and it was immediately apparent to his wife that something was troubling his mind. Had he already discovered her duplicity? She was horribly excited and her mouth was white when she spoke, almost as white as those teeth of hers with which she had chewed charcoal during her youth in order to make them white.

“How talkative you are tonight,” said the doctor.

“Am I? Perhaps I am.”

“You imagine that I am angry, but that I am not!” He pulled from his pocket a piece of paper and handed it to her. “From that lover of yours!” he said with a dry laugh.

“Oh, him!” she cried, delighted that it was nothing else.

“You threw it in the stove, but the fire was out,” he said. “So how could the girl help seeing it there?”

“Yes, it was exactly as though it wasn’t for me,” Fru Lund replied. “What did I want with it when it wasn’t from you?”

The doctor appeared somewhat abashed and said: “You mean that?”

“Yes, I do.”

“Did it come by mail?” he asked.

“I don’t know,” his wife replied. “Malla brought it in to me.” She rang for Malla and asked: “Who was it that came with this letter for me a while ago?”

“The magistrate’s secretary,” Malla replied.

“Thanks.”

“Oh, so he brought it himself!” said the doctor. “Well, if you didn’t even know who brought it, you couldn’t have been very much interested in it.”

“No. I can’t understand what he wants of me. We’ve talked a bit together. He told me where he was from, a pretty town, he said, but I can’t remember the name. And I told him that I was from Polden and that it was prettier there than here. And at that he said: ‘If there are any more such pretty ladies in Polden, that’s the place for me’.”

“Yes, and I suppose you didn’t object to hearing that from his lips?”

“No,” she replied candidly. “I laughed and made a bit of a fuss over him. And I said that I supposed he had a pretty lady of his own back in the town where he came from. That’s absolutely all there was to it. But now he’s made a fool of himself.”

“Well, there isn’t so much in this letter of his, after all.”

“I don’t remember a word,” she said and handed the letter back to him.

He refused to accept it. “No, I guess you’d better burn it, Esther,” he said. “That would be the best thing to do!”

She rose and thrust the letter into the stove. “Never saw anything like it!” she said. “I never talk with anyone and I’ve never talked with him more than twice and both times right there on the street. What could he have found to write me about?”

“Hahaha!” laughed the doctor. “Did you ever hear the like, August?”

“Fru Lund hasn’t read it,” said August. “But from what I should imagine, all it said was that a young and handsome man would like to meet the prettiest lady he knew.”

The doctor laughed again. “Ah, now August is beginning again, Esther! And almost in the same words as those of the magistrate’s secretary!”

All three were highly amused.

But August’s remark had nevertheless sunk into the doctor’s mind. “A young and handsome man, eh? Yes, he is not a one-eyed monstrosity. He isn’t as old as I. He can crisp his curls and make pretty speeches to the ladies.”

Ah, now the opportunity was at hand! Esther said: “You’re to keep still with such nonsense, Karsten! I have something else to think about.”

“You have?”

“Yes. I’m to have a little girl.”

“What!” exclaimed the doctor.

“I’m going to have a baby.”

Silence.

“Well,” he said at length. “Undeniably that’s a piece of news!”

At this August undertook to step in; up to this point, he had been present as a negative quantity, and such was not to his liking. “I don’t know what I can say to that, Doctor,” he blurted. “Is it news when married folk have children?”

The doctor did not reply to his remark; it had quite annihilated him. He hunted about in his mind for an adequate retort, found none and there was no excitement.

“You spoke of curls and pretty speeches, Karsten,” said his wife. “But after I’ve had my little girl, I’ll hear no prettier words than hers.”

The doctor became thoughtful: perhaps it was best so, perhaps it presented a fine solution to the entire problem, for a wife with child surely could not flirt. “Well well, Esther,” he said. “I think you’re splendid! Yes, a splendid person. I really must look up to you! And now I can only beg you to be careful, for this is no light matter, you know — a woman of your years —”

Of that much, at least, he would remind her — that she was no longer so frightfully young!

She was exceedingly happy over the fact that he had so graciously given in to her; she sprang up and hugged him and stroked his hair. In the end, he was obliged to warn her against crushing him too tightly against her breast.

“Why, why!” he exclaimed. “August might even be led to believe that you are in love with me!”

“That’s what I want him to believe!” she retorted.

But the devil and all, if he wasn’t still just a wee bit jealous of that magistrate’s secretary. It was all nonsense what he had said about a wife with child being unable to flirt. Esther could. She could do anything she liked. It had also been nonsense on his part to have mentioned her age. She had no age; she had life!

“Do you think I’d better have a talk with that secretary fellow some day?” he asked.

“No, I don’t,” she replied.

“You wish to spare him?”

“No, my dear, I want to spare you. You mustn’t do anything so unfriendly!”

“Hm!” said August. Here was possibly a chance for him. There had been no chance for him before, and he was sick of insipid inaction in a situation reminiscent of South America. He therefore spoke up and offered personally to settle accounts with the magistrate’s secretary.

“No, that’ll never go!” said the doctor, with a smile.

“Just maybe drop him a hint?” asked August.

“He’d drop you with more than a hint, I’m afraid. Haha!”

“No, for maybe he wouldn’t want to risk it,” said August.

“Ho, what could you do?”

“Take and shoot him, for example.”

“What?”

“With this very hand you see!”

“August, August! You’re always so ready to shoot!” said the doctor, laughing.

“Now how can you say that, Doctor? I’ve never shot a single soul here in Segelfoss.”

The doctor talked him out of it and said: “That’s right, August, you knew that daughter of Tobias down in South Parish who was kicked to death by a horse, didn’t you?”

August replied disagreeably that he knew them all. They had sold him sheep.

“Kicked as dead as a stone by a horse!”

“Ay, that was too bad,” said August. He had it on the tip of his tongue to ask the doctor if he had bled the girl, but he let it go simply to avoid further mention of an unpleasant subject.

The doctor shook his head. “Yes, what a lot of adversity that family has experienced!”

August rose and took his departure. He walked off thoroughly displeased with himself, as anyone might feel who has failed to settle a matter. He had been prepared to go through fire and water, but he had been deprived. What did he have to do with the adversity which had beset Tobias and his family! Wasn’t every human being afflicted with troubles of his own! We go on living; ay, we go on living exactly as long with adversity as without. . . . There was a man they had used to call Rikkie — August might have forgotten him, were it not for the fact that he had had but one hand. But that had made no difference to Rikkie, he was all right even if he had lost one of his hands. Had he ever spoken of adversity? Never! One night in a dance hall he had fallen out with Carabao over a girl, and Carabao had paid but little attention to him, as Rikkie had had but one hand. But after they had talked to each other a bit and used language which was neither pleasant nor melodious, Carabao had grown weary of standing there chewing the rag with a mere cripple, and had hauled off and spit in Rikkie’s ear in order to show his utter contempt for him. But pardon him, Rikkie had refused to stand for that! His first act had been to shoot off his own ear — the one wet with spit — as he no longer had any use for such an ear. And pardon him again, the next thing he did was to make a lunge at Carabao. He had but one hand, but one was enough. In fact his stump was enough, for this was hardly soft and plush-like, as was, for example, a fist with flesh on it. Carabao went down and lay there on the floor for a good long time. After a while they had kicked him out of the place, and outside he had asked where he was. He had likewise asked who he was. In short, he had known very little. And Rikkie, on the other hand, was as healthy as ever. He had had but one hand and had likewise lost one of his ears, but no one ever heard him complaining about adversity. It all depends upon the point of view. . . .

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