Page:Hunger (Hamsun).djvu/49

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33
Hunger

"May I offer you a cigarette?"

"Thank you!" The man did not smoke; he had to give it up to spare his eyes; he was nearly blind. Thank you very much all the same. Was it long since his eyes got bad? In that case, perhaps, he could not read either, not even a paper?

No, not even the newspaper, more's the pity. The man looked at me; his weak eyes were each covered with a film which gave them a glassy appearance; his gaze grew bleary, and made a disgusting impression on me.

"You are a stranger here?" he said.

"Yes." Could he not even read the name of the paper he held in his hand?

"Barely." For that matter, he could hear directly that I was a stranger. There was something in my accent which told him. It did not need much; he could hear so well. At night, when everyone slept, he could hear people in the next room breathing. . . .

"What I was going to say was, 'where do you live?'"

On the spur of the moment a lie stood, ready-made, in my head. I lied involuntarily, without any object, without any arrière pensée, and I answered—