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   Chapter 5 No.5

The Pilot and his Wife By Jonas Lie Characters: 6813

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:05


The party, meanwhile, that had left the ship, were passing the night with old Jacob on Torungen. They had tried first to beat out to the larger island, but the sea had risen, darkness had set in, and it had soon become evident that it was no longer pleasure-sailing for a boat with ladies in it. They had determined, therefore, rather than go about for home, and lose the whole sporting expedition, which was to have lasted for two or three days, to spend the night on Little Torungen and see what the morning would do for them.

Great was old Jacob's astonishment, it may readily be supposed, when there came in the late evening a knocking at the door, and he saw by the light from the hearth no less than six grand folk come streaming in, with two ladies amongst them. He shaded his eyes with his hand, and looked at them in mute amazement.

As for Elizabeth, if it had been a train of fairies that had suddenly appeared, they could not have occasioned her more terror and curiosity. It was getting near bedtime, and she had been sitting half-asleep over the fire, and perhaps her suddenly awakened excitement lent a more than usual animation and attraction to a pair of eyes and a face that would nowhere have passed unnoticed; for Carl Beck, who was at the head of the party, seemed positively fascinated, and could not take his eyes off her, until, reddening with confusion, she instinctively stretched out her hand for her bodice, that lay beside her on the bench.

"Good evening, Jacob, old boy," cried Carl, in the frank, off-hand manner that became him so well, going up to the old fellow, and laying his hand cordially on his shoulder. "I'm afraid we shall be very troublesome to you, such a large party; but we want you to let us stay here till morning, till we see if the weather moderates a bit. We daren't go driving out in the dark to Great Torungen, on account of these women folk that we have on board,"-and he pointed, jokingly, to his sister and her friend.

"I see you have to deal with womankind too, so you know what it is."

The old man was apparently not insensible to this genial way of dealing with him. He rose from his seat and made room at the fire, begging that they would put up with what accommodation he had to offer, and telling Elizabeth at the same time to go out for more wood.

While the party gathered round the fire, and made themselves as comfortable as they could, Carl Beck was outside with the boatmen, seeing about having the provisions brought up. He came in again with Elizabeth, also with an armful of wood. Throwing it down, laughing, he cried-

"Now for a 'bowl,' as our friends the Swedes have it. But first, out with the food."

There was no scarcity of eatables, which were discussed amid a running fire of conversation upon every kind of topic; and then came the "bowl," a composition of various strong and spicy ingredients, of which Carl had the secret, and which finally was lighted, and ladled into the glasses whilst the blue flame was burning.

Carl Beck was the life of the party; and very well he looked as he sat there astride over the bench, with his glass in his hand, and his officer's jacket with its anchor-buttons thrown open, and sang first one and then another of the rollicking drinking-songs that were then in vogue, the others joining in the chorus. He gave them, then, a cheery sailor-song, which brought in its t

rain a series of anecdotes from the recent war.

Old Jacob, under the influence of the prevailing good-fellowship and the good cheer, had become uncommonly lively for him, and would even put in a word now and then. But every attempt to make him tell a story himself failed. Only when the action at the Heather Islands came up for discussion for a while did he come out with a bit of a yarn, as he called it.

"Yes," he said, putting carefully down the glass that was handed to him, "it was a great battle, was that. The country lost a fine ship there, and many a brave lad to boot. But God's curse hangs over the man that piloted the Englishman in to the Sand Islands-although none here, while he was alive, knew his name. It was said he soon after made an end of himself through remorse, like Judas Iscariot. However that may be, at the mouth of the channel there is a flat sunk rock that a man in his sea-boots can stand on at low water, and there they see him on moonlight nights making piteous signs for help, until the water at last comes over his head, and he disappears. God help the man that'll row out to him-it's always foul weather when he is to be seen."

"Have you ever seen him yourself, Jacob?" asked Carl Beck.

"I'll not say that I have, and I'll not say that I haven't. But I know that the last time I was off those islands, we had such tremendous weather that we thought ourselves lucky in making any port at all."

For a while every one was busied with the thoughts which Jacob's recital had suggested, and there was a solemn pause, which was broken by Carl Beck's striking up another song to keep off sleep:-

"Before the wind and a flowing sail,

Vessels for every port!

In letters of gold a dear girl's name

On every stern inwrought!

The vessel may sail the world around,

But with her the girls will still be found!

Hurrah! then, boys, for the one of your mind,

That never, oh, never, you'll leave behind."

He repeated the last couplet with a gay inclination of his glass to the ladies, who were sitting now tired and huddled together on the bench, and over their heads to Elizabeth, who was standing in the background, awake enough for both of them. The light from the fire fell upon his handsome brown face, with the raven black curly hair, and the dark eyes that it was said he had inherited from his recently deceased mother, who was from Brest; and with his flow of animal spirits, that sufficed for the whole party almost, he certainly was as manly and handsome a lad as you would wish to meet.

The wind by this time had gone down considerably; and, as day was breaking, the whole party were in the boat once more and enjoying a quiet sleep as they sailed. It was long, though, before Elizabeth could get out of her thoughts the handsome young officer who had sat there by the fire. And many a time would she conjure up his form on the bench again-particularly as he looked when he held up his glass and glanced over to her while he sang-

"Hurrah! then, boys, for the one of your mind,

That never, oh, never, you'll leave behind."

Subsequently to this, Carl Beck made repeated excursions out to Torungen to shoot sea-birds, and, by preference, alone in his sailing-boat. But, whether it was an instinct or not on her side, it happened somehow that he never had any further conversation with her without the old man being with them.

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