Children on a Country Road
I HEARD the wagons rumbling past the garden fence, sometimes I even saw them through
Gently swaying gaps in the foliage. How the wood of their spokes and shafts creaked in the summer
Heat! Laborers were coming from the fields and laughing so that it was a scandal.
I was sitting on our little swing, just resting among the trees in my parents’ garden.
On the other side of the fence the traffic never stopped. Children’s running feet were past in a
Moment; harvest wagons with men and women perched on and around the sheaves darkened the
Flower beds; toward evening I saw a gentleman slowly promenading with a walking stick, and a
Couple of girls who met him arm in arm stepped aside into the grass as they greeted him.
Then birds flew up as if in showers, I followed them with my eyes and saw how high they
Soared in one breath, till I felt not that they were rising but that I was falling, and holding fast to the
Ropes began to swing a little out of sheer weakness. Soon I was swinging more strongly as the air
Blew colder and instead of soaring birds trembling stars appeared.
I was given my supper by candlelight. Often both my arms were on the wooden board and I
Was already weary as I bit into my bread and butter. The coarse-mesh window curtains bellied in the
Warm wind and many a time some passer-by outside would stay them with his hands as if he wanted
To see me better and speak to me. Usually the candle soon went out and in the sooty candle smoke
The assembled midges went on circling for a while. If anyone asked me a question from the window
I would gaze at him as if at a distant mountain or into vacancy, nor did he particularly care whether
He got an answer or not. But if one jumped over the window sill and announced that the others were
Already waiting, then I did get to my feet with a sigh.
“What are you sighing for? What’s wrong? Has something dreadful happened that can never
Be made good? Shan’t we ever recover from it? Is everything lost?”
Nothing was lost. We ran to the front of the house. “Thank God, here you are at last!” –
“You’re always late!” – “Why just me?” – “Especially you, why don’t you stay at home if you don’t
Want to come.” – “No quarter!” – “No quarter? What kind of way is that to talk?”
We ran our heads full tilt into the evening. There was no daytime and no nighttime. Now our
Waistcoat buttons would be clacking together like teeth, again we would be keeping a steady
Distance from each other as we ran, breathing fire like wild beasts in the tropics. Like cuirassiers in
Old wars, stamping and springing high, we drove each other down the short alley and with this
Impetus in our legs a farther stretch along the main road. Stray figures went into the ditch, hardly
Had they vanished down the dusky escarpment when they were standing like newcomers on the field
Path above and looking down.
“Come on down!” – “Come on up first!” – “So’s you can push us down, no thanks, we’re not
Such fools.” – “You’re afraid, you mean. Come on up, you cowards!” – “Afraid? Of the likes of
You? You’re going to push us down, are you? That’s a good one.”
We made the attempt and were pushed head over heels into the grass of the roadside ditch,
Tumbling of our own free will. Everything was equably warm to us, we felt neither warmth nor chill
In the grass, only one got tired.
Turning on one’s right side, with a hand under the ear, one could easily have fallen asleep
There. But one wanted to