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The Pilot and his Wife By Jonas Lie Characters: 7043

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:05

It was an afternoon in the following winter in the pilot's home. His wife was expecting him, and kept looking uneasily out of the window. He was to have been home by noon, and it was now beginning to get dark; and the weather had been stormy the whole of the previous day.

She gave up sewing, and sat thinking in the twilight, with the light playing over the floor from the door of the stove, where a little kettle was boiling, that she might have something warm ready for him at once when he came. It was too early to light a candle.

Gjert was at school in Arendal, living at his aunt's; and Henrik was sitting by the light from the stove, cutting up a piece of wood into shavings.

"It is beginning to blow again, Henrik," she said, and put a handkerchief round her head to look out.

"It is no use, mother," he pronounced, without stirring, and splitting a long peg into two against his chest; "it's pitch-dark, isn't it?" So she gave it up again before she got to the door, but stood and listened; she thought she had heard a shout outside.

"He is coming!" she cried, suddenly, and darted out; and when Salvé entered the porch from the sleet squall that had just come up, with his sou'wester and oilskin coat all dripping, he found himself, all wet as he was, suddenly encircled in the dark by a pair of loving arms.

"How long you have been!" she cried, taking from him what he had in his hands, and preceding him into the house, where she lit a candle. "What has kept you? I heard that you had taken a galliot up to Arendal yesterday, and thought you would have been here this morning. It was dreadful weather yesterday, Salvé; so I was a little anxious," she continued, as she helped him off with his wet oilskin coverings.

"I have done well, Elizabeth," he said, looking pleased.

"On the galliot?"

"Yes, and I had a little matter to arrange in Arendal, which kept me there till after midday."

"You saw Gjert, then?"

"I did." He looked a little impatiently towards the door.

"And he is well?"

"He can tell you now, himself," was the reply, as the door at the moment opened and Gjert entered with a loud "Good evening, mother!"

She sprang towards him in astonishment, and threw her arms round him. "And not a dry stitch on the whole boy!" she cried, with motherly concern.

"But, Salvé dear, what is the meaning of this? How can the boy come away from school?"

"When we have changed our clothes and warmed ourselves a little, I'll tell you, mother," answered the pilot, slily. "He will be at home with you the whole week."

Gjert was evidently ready to burst with some news or other, but he had to restrain himself until his father had taken his seat by the fire that was crackling brightly on the hearth in the kitchen, and had leisurely filled his pipe, and taken two or three pulls at it.

"Now then, Gjert," he said, "you may tell it. I see you can't keep it in any longer."

"Well, mother!" he exclaimed, "father says that I shall be an officer in the navy; and so he has taken me from school and is going with me to Frederiksvoern next week."

Henrik's mouth opened slowly, while Elizabeth, who was stirring the porridge, suspended that operation, and looked in something like alarm at her husband.

"What do you mean, Salvé?"

"Wouldn't it be a fine thing, don't you think, to see the boy come home to you some day in a smart uniform, Elizabeth? You have always had a turn for that sort of thing," he added, jokingly. "And since you couldn't go in for i

t yourself,-as they don't take womenfolk in the navy-and it was not much in my line either,-why, I thought we could make the experiment with Gjert."

"Are you really in earnest, Salvé?" she asked, looking at him still in suspense.

He nodded in confirmation.

"Well, if it is your father's wish, may-may God prosper you in it, my boy!" she said, going over to Gjert and stroking his forehead.

"So-now you may take your joiner's bench into the room again, Henrik; you can talk with Gjert in there-that is to say, if he will condescend now to answer a common man like you-tell him you will be a merchant captain, and earn as much as two such fellows in uniform. Mother and I can then enjoy a little peace from you here in the kitchen."

When they were alone, Elizabeth asked-

"But how has it all happened, Salvé?"

"Well, you see, I had taken the idea into my head about Gjert that he should become something a little better than his father had been, and so I went up to the Master, to Beck, and asked what I must do to push the thing. Yes; and I spoke to young Fru Beck too."

"Salvé! did you go to Beck?"

"Yes, I did-the boy must be pushed; and into the bargain, I half begged his pardon for the way I used to turn the rough edge of my tongue on him-and so we were reconciled. He is a fine old fellow in reality, and I have wronged him. He said he had never forgotten that I had saved the Juno for him, and that he had intended to put me one day in command of her. While we were talking, young Fru Beck came in, and when she heard what we were speaking about, she showed the greatest interest at once. You were an old friend of hers, she said; and she thought we might get Gjert into the Institute there free, when he had been up for an examination in the summer. She knew some of the officials who would be able to get it done; and if the Master wrote," he continued, a little consciously, "that I was neither more nor less than a remarkable pilot who ought to be salaried by the State, the thing would be as good as done. So the Master wrote the application for me there and then."

"See that!" cried Elizabeth.

"Ay, and he wrote a testimonial from himself underneath. I hadn't an idea that I was such a fine fellow," he laughed.

"You see," she cried, looking at him proudly, "it comes at last. He acknowledges it now."

"Well, if we don't manage the thing that way, Salvé Kristiansen will be able nevertheless to work it out of his own pocket-for worked it shall be, mind you. It won't be done for nothing; but we have something in the savings bank, and the rest will come right enough.

"It will be just as well that I should have something to drive me out of the house occasionally, for otherwise I should get too fond both of it and of you, Elizabeth," he said, and drew her towards him. "I must have a little rain and storm now and again-it's my nature, you know. And the Master must not be made to have written lies about me."

His wife looked at him. A glow of deep feeling overspread her handsome features.

"How happy we have become, Salvé!" she exclaimed. "If it could only have been like this from the very beginning!"

"I have thought over that, Elizabeth," he said, seriously. "There has been One at the helm who is cleverer than I, for there was a deal of bad stuff to be knocked out of me after I returned from that foreign life. You, poor woman, were the chief sufferer by it, I am afraid."

"And it was I, Salvé, who was the chief cause of it all," she replied.

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