65° - 01.09.1967, Blaðsíða 29

65° - 01.09.1967, Blaðsíða 29
know the English say that you shouldn’t look a gift horse in the mouth.” “I don’t see what looking in its mouth has to do with it,” she snapped. “It’s feeding its mouth that’s going to be the trouble.” But it was clear that she soon reconciled herself to the idea, for she wasted no time in ringing the number. She was told that if she presented the ticket at the Riding Club, the horse would be handed over at once. On the other hand, the charge for keep- ing it at the club would be so much a day. “It’s too much,” she told Jon. “If we can’t find something cheaper than that, we shall just have to sell the creature.” But when the children came home and heard about the horse, they were highly indignant even at the suggestion of selling it. “We’ve always wanted one, and you said we couldn’t afford it,” cried Jona. “Now we’ve been given one ... You can’t sell it. Why, it’d ... it’d be a crime!” Johann did not take the threat seriously, but wanted to know when they were going to fetch it. “When Father’s better, we’ll go into the matter,” said their mother firmly. “Now we won’t talk any more about it.” But of course they did. Indeed, they talked about little else for the next few days, and Jon found their intense interest in his health and rate of recovery embarrassing rather than flattering. In fact, there was even a hint that he might be malingering just to plague them. Meanwhile, Sigga made enquiries through her friends who had relations in the country not too far away; telephone calls were made, secretively, when the children were not at home. And at last a place was found for the horse at a reasonable price and a place not too far away from town. It was arranged that it should be collected and ridden over the following weekend — provided, of course, that Jon was up and about then and fit to make the journey. “Fit? Of course I’m fit.” he replied to Sigga’s anxious enquiry when the great day —- “H-day”, they called it -— finally dawned. It was bright and cloudless with only the gentlest of breezes ruffling the clear waters of the lake, and everyone seemed to look happier and walk more lightly in the sun- shine on his or her way to work. Jon did not go to the office on Saturday morn- ings and generally allowed himself the luxury of an extra half-hour in bed before getting up to wash, drink his coffee and read the paper. After that, he would sometimes go out and wash the car at one of the petrol stations where taps and hoses were provided for the purpose — be- fore running Sigga into town for the rush of last- minute Saturday shopping. This time, though, he was up and dressed long before coffee was ready or the morning paper arrived — even before the early morning news on the radio -— and was pacing up and down in the hall like a caged lion when the children emerged, drowsy-eyed from last night’s television. Down by the stables, near the race course, a small, bowlegged individual received them with the surliness traditional to grooms, ostlers and stablemen all the world over. He regarded Jon with disfavour, took snuff liberally from a horn, making it clear that his time was his own and he was not to be hurried by any amateurs or ordinary pedestrian mortals, however large and shiny their cars and bank balances. His was the age-old aristocracy of horsemanship that makes a mount- ed man the equal of a king. “Can you ride?” he asked, looking at Jon’s polished boots. “Of course,” replied Jon, nettled. He would liked to have added, “I’m not one of your weekend cavaliers, my man. I was born and bred up north, in Hunavatnssysla, in the days when a horse was a part of everyday life, and not just a hobby for children and tired business men” — but for some reason thought better of it. There was just the tiniest hint of a doubt, deep-rooted in his con- sciousness like a small worm gnawing at the base of a tree, that made him hesitate. After all, it was a long time since he was last in the saddle, and who could tell what kind of a beast he might find himself having to deal with? Maybe some iron-mouthed, spoiled reject of the hiring-stables that was being unloaded on him; some vicious, biting, bucking old hack that would do its level best to unseat him at the first opportunity. But he would prove himself its match. He squared his shoulders and gripped his silver- mounted whip and asked brusquely where the horse was kept, as he must be on his way. 65 27



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