Sunday, May 13, 2012

Things are looking well, looking grand with Axel now

"Didn't you get new teeth?" he asks. 
"Ay, so I did." 
"And are they aching, too?" 
"Ah, you with your nonsense!" says Barbro irritably, for all that Axel has asked innocently enough. And in her bitterness she lets out what is the matter. "You can see how 'tis with me, surely?" 
How 'twas with her? Axel looks closer, and fancies she is stouter than need be. 
"Why, you can't be--'tis surely not another child again?" says he.  "Why, you know it is," says she. 
Axel stares foolishly at her. Slow of thought as he is, he sits there counting for a bit: one week, two weeks, getting on the third week....
“Nay, how I should know...." says he. 
But Barbro is losing all patience with this debate, and bursts out, crying aloud, crying like a deeply injured creature: "Nay, you can take and bury me, too, in the ground, and then you'll be rid of me." 
Strange, what odd things a woman can find to cry for! 
Axel had never a thought of, burying her in the ground; he is a thick-skinned fellow, looking mainly to what is useful; a pathway carpeted with flowers is beyond his needs. 
"Then you'll not be fit to work in the fields this summer?" says he. 
"Not work?" says Barbro, all terrified again. And then--strange what odd things a woman can find to smile for! Axel, taking it that way, sent a flow of hysterical joy through Barbro, and she burst out: "I'll work for two! Oh, you wait and see, Axel; I'll do all you set me to, and more beyond. Wear myself to the bone, I will, and be thankful, if only you'll put up with me so!" 
More tears and smiles and tenderness after that. Only the two of them in the wilds, none to disturb them; open doors and a humming of flies in the summer heat. All so tender and willing was Barbro; ay, he might do as he pleased with her, and she was willing. 
After sunset he stands harnessing up to the mowing-machine; there's a bit he can still get done ready for tomorrow. Barbro comes hurrying out, as if she's something important, and says: 
"Axel, how ever could you think of getting one home from America? She couldn't get here before winter, and what use of her then?" And that was something had just come into her head, and she must come running out with it as if 'twas something needful. 
But 'twas no way needful; Axel had seen from the first that taking Barbro would mean getting help for all the year. No swaying and swinging with Axel, no thinking with his head among the stars. Now he's a woman of his own to look after the place, he can keep on the telegraph business for a bit. 'Tis a deal of money in the year, and good to reckon with as long as he's barely enough for his needs from the land, and little to sell. All sound and working well; all good reality. And little to fear from Brede about the telegraph line, seeing he's son-in-law to Brede now. 
Ay, things are looking well, looking grand with Axel now. 

 Knut Hamsun, Growth of the Soil  (1917) (translated by W. W. Worster)

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