Peter Lo was not quite so fortunate. He could not be happy except in the society of the stallion. He lost interest in work. He was in his element only when racing down the county roads behind his crony, or when he and Skobelef together conducted revival services beneath the very walls of the church. The rumor spread that he had taken to sleeping in the stable. Gossip would have it that horse and man were coming to resemble each other. Skobelef smiled out of the corner of his mouth when he met with his affinities, and Peter Lo greeted good friends at church with something like a whinny in his voice.
Peter Lo’s lot was not altogether enviable. He had a fondness for all things pretty, not excepting those that belonged to his neighbors. And when he got into an unusually bad scrape, he made a most pathetic figure. Then he would go to church and take holy communion. Many a time we saw him come driving, not the wild stallion but an old mare. His sour-visaged wife, wrapped in he
At last the wild beast was forced between the shafts. As the reins were loosened he rose on his hind legs, and the lash fell on his neck; he pranced about on all fours with arched neck and flaring nostrils. Then Peter Lo’s wife came up, gathering her shawl around her shoulders, and—believe it or not—stepped calmly into the gig while the earthquake was still going on. Now Peter Lo knew that the victory was his; he put his hand on the dashboard and leaped up besides his wife; the horse reared, his eyes shot fire, the foam flew, the whip cracked, and the next second the whole show dissolved in a cloud of dust rushing along beyond the farmhouses.
We stood rooted to the spot. The other men began bashfully to hitch up their own horses. There was really nothing at all left to look at.
Peter Lo and Skobelef
From that day Skobelef was an influential personality throughout the parish. To tell the truth, Peter Lo and Skobelef took on together a sort of hi
It was a great day for the horses, too. The mares under the ash trees lost their appetites and stood all the while arching their necks and trying to look like two-year-olds. Stallions and geldings had that day caught sight of a rival whose eyes flashed with arrogance. Do you suppose they would put up with that sort of thing! They pawed the ground furiously and shook the air with protests from all sides.
At last the bells rang again. The congregation came out, but the greater number had no thought of hitching up their own horses. The yard was jammed with people wanting to see Peter Lo lead Skobelef out of the stable.
The man himself approached. The eyes of all waiting upon him, he strolled along talking to the sexton as if he were an ordinary mortal.
Yet he had already acquired certain of the gestures that the parson was accustomed to make use of in the pulpit.
The people gradually drew back from the road. One circumspect man dragged his gig aw
He came trotting along before the gig, a broad black hulk, his fetlocks dancing, his mane sweeping in billows down his neck, his eyes shooting fire two red prize ribbons waving at his ears. He raised his head and snuffed the breeze, monarch of all he surveyed; then he lifted up his voice and split the welkin—believe me, that was a trumpet call that fetched the echoes out of the mountains. In the gig sat Peter Lo, holding the reins relaxed, a veiy debonair man not over thirty-five, broad of shoulder, vigorous, smiling out of a.comer of his mouth above his chin-whiskers.
It was certainly too bad that his wife, sitting beside him, was so much older than he; her every feature drooped, her red cheeks drooped, her eyes drooped, the comers of her mouth drooped; she always spoke in whimpering tones. As for Peter Lo himself, he had a weakness for all things pretty, even for such as were not his own. As Skobelef neighed to his affinities, Peter Lo glanced at good friends of his o
The long line of vehicles came rolling in from the valleys. It picked up reinforcements at every crossroad until it was like a regular bridal procession. That day we kept our eyes on the horses and estimated the people in the gigs according to their dumb, driven cattle.
A whole fated universe passed in review, animals fat and lean, jaded and fiery, old big-bellied nags with long necks and prominent backbones and heads sagging with each step toward the ground under the burden of unceasing tribulation; prosperous-looking brutes that gave manifest proof of good crops and bank deposits. Look at that brood-mare; she has weaned many a colt and therefore carries her head high and surveys the world with maternal eyes.
Here and there you can pick out fjord ponies with ragged haunches, stamping against the grade and sweating with the weight of the heavy gig, some of them so small that they make you think of mice. There comes a big old bay with hu
We boys used to stand outside the church and do as our elders did— size up the people that arrived after us. We judged by appearances, and they all knew it. The cripple made himself look smaller than ever so as to hide in the crowd; the dandies ran the gauntlet of both friendly and unfriendly eyes, and pretty women looked down and smiled. We youngsters searched the gathering throng for someone to admire, some heroic figure we should like to resemble when we ourselves one day should be grown up.
There was the new teacher, for instance, stalking along in his homespun with his coat buttoned tight, with a white necktie, top hat, and umbrella. He was at least one stage above the farmer. Not a doubt about it, we too were going to attend the normal school. §0 we thought, at any rate, until a butcher came up from the city, wearing a suit of blue duffle, a white waistcoat with a gold watch-chain, cuffs, a dazzling white collar, and a straw hat. He was a perfect revelation. With
Johan Bojer (1872—1959)
Born at Orkedalsovan, Bojer spent much of his early life in the rural districts of his country. He became interested in politics as a young man, and his first book was a satirical work with a political background. His most significant works (though he also wrote a few plays) are his novels and tales. Among the former the best known are The Great Hunger And The Power of A Lie. He travelled widely.
His short story, Skobelef translated by Sigurd B. Hustvedt, appeared originally in the American-Scandinavian Review, July, 1922, and is here reprinted by permission of the editor.
Skobelef was a horse.
This was in the days when the church bells of a Sunday morning sent out their summons, not over moribund highways and slumberous farmsteads, but over a parish waiting to be wakened into life by the sustained, solemn calling of those brazen tongues. The bells rang, rang, till the welkin rang again: