65° - 01.09.1967, Blaðsíða 30

65° - 01.09.1967, Blaðsíða 30
The other raised his eyebrows a little and said all in good time but first he must have the papers and a formal receipt, and there was some hunting about in drawers accompanied by the sort of whistling through the teeth that goes with the grooming of horses, until finally that matter was sealed and Jon’s signature appended to a snuff- sprinkled paper, and he was led off to a loose- box with a saddle and bridle slung across the half-door. A thud of hoofs and the white flash of an eye from the darkness inside, and he was looking at the Gift Horse — the horse that was now theirs, and the horse was looking at him. Jon could have sworn that this exchanged look of appraisal — and it was no less than that — between animal and master was the moment of truth, the decisive turning-point in their respect- ive lives, the basis on which all their future rela- tionship was to be founded. The horse was of somewhat nondescript colour and appearance -—- a kind of mousey bay, rather pot-bellied through too much grass-eating, but with a sturdy build and a head held high in spite of the scraggy mane. But the eye — it was the eye that held him, with its clear, intelligent, questioning look, and the mobile ears that under- lined and supplemented its expression. The eye seemed to say, ‘Who do you suppose you are, that are to be my lord and master?’ And as it gazed into Jon’s own eye, exchanging look for look, it was as though the answer it found there was not much to its liking. ‘You ride me at your peril,’ it seemed to say. ‘I was reared of a proud breed, to be ridden by proud men.” And involuntarily Jon found himself thinking of Hrafnkel’s Freyfaxi, the horse dedicated to the god Frey and one that no base-born man might ride with impunity. “Come on over, there, Bleikur,” said the riding- club man, and he saddled and bridled the horse. Faxi, said Jon in his mind — not Bleikur. A proud name for a proud stallion. But his heart was uneasy when he swung himself into the saddle and got ready to ride away. He need not have worried, though. Faxi-Bleikur behaved like a perfect gentleman, moving off at an easy amble before he had even touched the rounded sides with his heels. “I’ll see you down there,” he called to his wife and children. “Give me a couple of hours. Better take it easy until I’ve tried him out a bit.” He touched the brim of his hat with the handle of his whip in a lordly gesture of leave-taking, a knightly salute. “Goodbye in the meanwhile!” “Goodbye!” A few minutes later the car passed him, turning back along the main road, and they all waved; but for some reason that he could not have de- fined himself, he did not reply. He was no longer of their world — the world of vulgar metal and glass monsters that made noises and threw up clouds of dust as they drove by, the world of commonplace people who took transistor radios with them and picknicked near the shining mon- sters that were their life-line to the safety of their insulated homes. When he reached the road and turned south along it, and the cars began to pass him, forcing him into the narrow gravel margin, he cursed them freely, feeling all the contempt of one who is firmly based on the old values in face of the rootless generation ... How could any man he a true Icelander who had not experienced this older, slower rhythm, with the sense of the saddle be- tween your knees, and the smell of horse and leather, and the road before you, seen from be- hind your horse’s ears, and all about you the mountains and rivers and windswept wastes of this wild, wonderful country? He passed some road-workers. They were drink- ing their coffee by the roadside and waved at him as he went by. He acknowledged, graciously, with the whip, and rode on. Then they reached the road-j unction where he was to take the left fork, to continue along the coast-road to Mosfellssveit; but it now transpired that Faxi-Bleikur had ideas of his own about their destination. Ignoring all indications of his rider’s wishes and all attempts to hold him to the intended course, he swung sharply to the right and set off at a brisk trot along the road that led to the South. It was a simple conflict of wills. No amount of tugging on the rein or application of the heel produced the slightest effect on the horse. Jon’s feeling of helpless frustration turned to one of helpless wrath. He used his whip — and was Continued on page 34. 65° 28



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