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HEY DON’T EAT EIDER DUCKS, either, but then the

eider isn’t a domestic bird, even though they build

small stone houses for it, in order to collect the

down, and for years they have had one nesting under the

porch steps. So the cat has been kept inside for weeks. It

doesn’t like that because it is only allowed to be in Martin’s

room where there are no curtains to be torn to shreds. The

cat is called Bonken, it is a tom because they can’t have a

cat that keeps having kittens, they say, which Hans would

have to kill, but it is the same with cats as it is with all other

animals on an island, how can they have young if there is

only one of them?

In late spring when the weather is so bad that you can’t do

anything outside, Barbro and Maria set to work on cleaning

the down with their carding tools. Down is the most

valuable and mysterious material they handle. You can

touch it and put it to your face and feel a distant, hallowed

warmth. You can compress it in your hand and experience

the intimate sensation it is no more than air, and then open

your palms and watch it swell into a grey cloud once more,

as though nothing had happened.

When it is time to sell the down they stuff it into canvas

sacks, attach a label to a cord and tie up the sack. On the

label they write the year the down was collected, the name

of the island and 1 kilo. A kilo of down is amazingly

voluminous and extremely light. So even the high price it

commands is ridiculously low. That is why they keep most