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Boyhood in Norway(16)

2006-09-07 22:16

  BONNYBOY I Bonnyboy

  Oh, you never will amount to anything, Bonnyboy!" said Bonnyboy's father, when he had vainly tried to show him how to use a gouge; for Bonnyboy had just succeeded in gouging a piece out of his hand, and was standing helplessly, letting his blood drop on an engraving of Napoleon at Austerlitz, which had been sent to his father for framing. The trouble with Bonnyboy was that he was not only awkward——left-handed in everything he undertook, as his father put it——but he was so very good-natured that it was impossible to get angry with him. His large blue innocent eyes had a childlike wonder in them, when he had done anything particularly stupid, and he was so willing and anxious to learn, that his ill-success seemed a reason for pity rather than for wrath. Grim Norvold, Bonnyboy's father, was by trade a carpenter, and handy as he was at all kinds of tinkering, he found it particularly exasperating to have a son who was so left-handed. There was scarcely anything Grim could not do. He could take a watch apart and put it together again; he could mend a harness if necessary; he could make a wagon; nay, he could even doctor a horse when it got spavin or glanders. He was a sort of jack-of-all-trades, and a very useful man in a valley where mechanics were few and transportation difficult. He loved work for its own sake, and was ill at ease when he had not a tool in his hand. The exercise of his skill gave him a pleasure akin to that which the fish feels in swimming, the eagle in soaring, and the lark in singing. A finless fish, a wingless eagle, or a dumb lark could not have been more miserable than Grim was when a succession of holidays, like Easter or Christmas, compelled him to be idle.

  When his son was born his chief delight was to think of the time when he should be old enough to handle a tool, and learn the secrets of his father's trade. Therefore, from the time the boy was old enough to sit or to crawl in the shavings without getting his mouth and eyes full of sawdust, he gave him a place under the turning bench, and talked or sang to him while he worked. And Bonnyboy, in the meanwhile amused himself by getting into all sorts of mischief. If it had not been for the belief that a good workman must grow up in the atmosphere of the shop, Grim would have lost patience with his son and sent him back to his mother, who had better facilities for taking care of him. But the fact was he was too fond of the boy to be able to dispense with him, and he would rather bear the loss resulting from his mischief than miss his prattle and his pretty dimpled face.

  It was when the child was eighteen or nineteen months old that he acquired the name Bonnyboy. A woman of the neighborhood, who had called at the shop with some article of furniture which she wanted to have mended, discovered the infant in the act of investigating a pot of blue paint, with a part of which he had accidentally decorated his face.

  "Good gracious! what is that ugly thing you have got under your turning bench?" she cried, staring at the child in amazement.

  "No, he is not an ugly thing," replied the father, with resentment; "he is a bonny boy, that's what he is."

  The woman, in order to mollify Grim, turned to the boy, and asked, with her sweetest manner, "What is your name, child?"

  "Bonny boy," murmured the child, with a vaguely offended air——"bonny boy."

  And from that day the name Bonnyboy clung to him.

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