Thore and his son came and went many times before Ole could make his way to them; they both knew that he did not come for any good purpose, therefore it was all the more comical that he never got there. Both had to walk very serious, and talk in a whisper; but as this did not come to an end it became ludicrous. Only half a word that is to the point can kindle laughter under such circumstances, and especially when it is dangerous to laugh. When at last Ole was only a few rods distant, but which seemed never to grow less, Oyvind said, dryly, in a low tone,—
“He must carry a heavy load, that man,”—and more was not required.
“I think you are not very wise,” whispered the father, although he was laughing himself.
“Hem, hem!” said Ole, coughing on the hill.
“He is getting his throat ready,” whispered Thore.
Oyvind fell on his knees in front of the haycock, buried his head in the hay, and laughed. His father also bowed down.
“Suppose we go into the barn,” whispered he, and taking an armful of hay he trotted off. Oyvind picked up a little tuft, rushed after him, bent crooked with laughter, and dropped down as soon as he was inside the barn. His father was a grave man, but if he once got to laughing, there first began within him a low chuckling, with an occasional ha-ha-ha, gradually growing longer and longer, until all blended in a single loud peal, after which came wave after wave with a longer gasp between each. Now he was under way. The son lay on the floor, the father stood beside him, both laughing with all their might. Occasionally they had such fits of laughter.
“But this is inconvenient,” said the father.
Finally they were at a loss to know how this would end, for the old man must surely have reached the gard.
“I will not go out,” said the father; “I have no business with him.”
“Well, then, I will not go out either,” replied Oyvind.
“Hem, hem!” was heard just outside of the barn wall.
The father held up a threatening finger to his boy.
“Come, out with you!”
“Yes; you go first!”
“No, you be off at once.”
“Well, go you first.”
And they brushed the dust off each other, and advanced very seriously. When they came below the barn-bridge they saw Ole standing with his face towards the kitchen door, as if he were reflecting. He held his cap in the same hand as his staff, and with his handkerchief was wiping the sweat from his bald head, at the same time pulling at the bushy tufts behind his ears and about his neck until they stuck out like spikes. Oyvind hung behind his father, so the latter was obliged to stand still, and in order to put an end to this he said with excessive gravity,—
“Is the old gentleman out for a walk?”
Ole turned, looked sharply at him, and put on his cap before he replied,—