Under the Autumn Star, by Knut Hamsun

Chapter XIV

Falkenberg was right; the people at the next farm would not be outdone by their neighbours; their piano must be seen to as well. The daughter of the house was away for the moment, but the work could be done in her absence as a little surprise for her when she came home. She had often complained that the piano was so dreadfully out of tune it was impossible to play on it at all. So now I was left to myself again as before, while Falkenberg was busy in the parlour. When it got dark he had lights brought in and went on tuning. He had his supper in there too, and when he had finished, he came out and asked me for his pipe.

“Which pipe?”

“You fool! the one with the clenched fist, of course.”

Somewhat unwillingly I handed him my neatly carved pipe; I had just got it finished; with the nail set in and a gold ring, and a long stem.

“Don’t let the nail get too hot,” I whispered, “or it might curl up.”

Falkenberg lit the pipe and went swaggering up with it indoors. But he put in a word for me too, and got them to give me supper and coffee in the kitchen.

I found a place to sleep in the barn.

I woke up in the night, and there was Falkenberg standing close by, and calling me by name. The full moon shone right in, and I could see his face.

“What’s the matter now?”

“Here’s your pipe. Here you are, man, take it.”

“Pipe?”

“Yes, your pipe. I won’t have the thing about me another minute. Look at it — the nail’s all coming loose.”

I took the pipe, and saw the nail had begun to curl away from the wood. Said Falkenberg:

“The beastly thing was looking at me with a sort of nasty grin in the moonlight. And then when I remembered where you’d got that nail. . . . ”

Happy Falkenberg!

Next morning when we were ready to start off again, the daughter of the house had come home. We heard her thumping out a waltz on the piano, and a little after she came out and said:

“It’s made no end of difference with the piano. Thank you very much.”

“I hope you may find it satisfactory,” said the piano-tuner grandly.

“Yes, indeed. There’s quite a different tone in it now.”

“And is there anywhere else Frøkenen could recommend . . .?”

“Ask the people at Øvrebø; Falkenberg’s the name.”

What name?”

“Falkenberg. Go straight on from here, and you’ll come to a post on the right-hand side about a mile and a half along. Turn off there and that’ll take you to it.”

At that Falkenberg sat down plump at the steps and began asking all sorts of questions about the Falkenbergs at Øvrebø. Only to think he should come across his kinsmen here, and find himself, as it were, at home again. He was profusely grateful for the information. “Thanks most sincerely, Frøken.”

Then we went on our way again, and I carried the things.

Once in the wood we sat down to talk over what was to be done. Was it advisable, after all, for a Falkenberg of the rank of piano-tuner to go walking up to the Captain at Øvrebø and claim relationship? I was the more timid, and ended by making Falkenberg himself a little shy of it. On the other hand, it might be a merry jest.

Hadn’t he any papers with his name on? Certificates of some sort?

“Yes, but for Fan, there’s nothing in them except saying I’m a reliable workman.”

We cast about for some way of altering the papers a little, but finally agreed it could be better to make a new one altogether. We might do one for unsurpassed proficiency in piano-tuning and put in the Christian name as Leopold instead of Lars.3 There was no limit to what we could do in that way.

3 Again substituting an aristocratic for a rustic name.

“Think that you can write out that certificate?” he asked.

“Yes, that I can.”

But now that wretched brain of mine began playing tricks, and making the whole thing ridiculous. A piano-tuner wasn’t enough, I thought; no, make him a mechanical genius, a man who had solved most intricate problems, an inventor with a factory of his own. . . .

“Then I wouldn’t need to go about waving certificates,” said Falkenberg, and refused to listen any more. No, the whole thing looked like coming to nothing after all.

Downcast and discouraged both, we tramped on till we came to the post.

“You’re not going up, are you?” I asked.

“You can go yourself,” said Falkenberg sourly. “Here, take your rags of things.”

But a little way farther on he slackened his pace, and muttered:

“It’s a wicked shame to throw away a chance like that. Why, it’s just cut out for us as it is.”

“Well, then, why don’t you go up and pay them a call? Who knows, you might be some relation after all.”

“I wish I’d thought to ask if he’d a nephew in America.”

“What then? Could you talk English to them if he had?”

“You mind your own business, and don’t talk so much,” said Falkenberg. “I don’t see what you’ve got to brag about, anyway.”

He was nervous and out of temper, and began stepping out. Then suddenly he stopped and said:

“I’ll do it. Lend me that pipe of yours again. I won’t light it.”

We walked up the hill, Falkenberg putting on mighty airs, pointing this way and that with the pipe and criticizing the place. It annoyed me somewhat to see him stalking along in that vainglorious fashion while I carried the load. I said:

“Going to be a piano-tuner this time?”

“I think I’ve shown I can tune a piano,” he said shortly. “I am good for that at any rate.”

“But suppose there’s some one in the house knows all about it — Fruen, for instance — and tries the piano after you’ve done?”

Falkenberg was silent. I could see he was growing doubtful again. Little by little his lordly gait sank to a slouching walk.

“Perhaps we’d better not,” he said. “Here, take your pipe. We’ll just go up and simply ask for work.”

http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/h/hamsun/knut/h23u/chapter14.html

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