In December I was once more at home, where I found everything outwardly the same as of old, only, possibly by reason of what had passed, still quieter and sadder. My father was restlessly active, but not very communicative. He probably did not consider me fitted to share his anxieties.
Susanna, who, like myself, was now over nineteen years of age, was on a visit at a house some miles away and was to come home at Christmas. My longing for her was indescribable.
It was during the last dark, stormy week before Christmas, that the Spanish brig Sancta Maria was driven by the weather in to our station, in a rather damaged condition, which, with the poor labour we could command, resulted in her having to lie under repair for nearly six weeks.
The captain, who owned both ship and cargo, was a tall, sallow, becomingly-dressed Spaniard, with iron-grey hair, black eyes, and large features. With him was his son, Antonio Martinez, a handsome young man with an olive-brown face and fiery eyes like his father’s.
My father, who had done Senor Martinez considerable service in the getting in the cargo, now invited him, with Nordland hospitality, to put up at our house.
Although the intercourse between us could not be very lively, as the foreigners only understood a few Norwegian words and were often obliged to have recourse to a phrase-book, it was soon evident that they were both very agreeable men. Their principal occupation consisted in making and smoking cigarettes the whole day, and in superintending the work on the brig.
The dark season has a depressing effect upon the spirits of many in the North, especially on those days when there is very little to do. Thus, during Christmas, and especially on Christmas Eve, my father used to be excessively melancholy. While gaiety filled the whole house, and the smartly-dressed servants kept Christmas round the kitchen table, which was adorned with treble-branched candlesticks, he generally sat shut up in the office with his own thoughts, and would not be disturbed by any one.
This Christmas Eve, however, he was in the parlour for a while, on Senor Martinez’s account; but he was silent and dejected the whole time, as if he were only longing for his solitary office, to which, moreover, he retired directly after supper.
THE CHRISTMAS VISIT
About Christmas-time that winter in our part of Lofoten there were a number of foreigners, mostly ships’ captains, who, on account of bad weather or damage to their vessels, were staying at different places on shore, as Martinez was with us. There were also notabilities from the south on public business. One result of this was a number of social gatherings, in which the hosts vied with one another in open hospitality.
On the third New Year’s day [The 3rd of January.] we were invited to dinner and a ball at the house of the wealthy magistrate, Roest, where some of the gentlemen from the south were staying for the time. It was only a journey of a mile and a half [Between ten and eleven English miles.] for us, but many had six or eight miles to go, and the greater part of that by sea.