Since then they had never met, for from that time Elizabeth had scarcely ever been in Arendal.
Gjert was now ten years old; and whilst his father was sitting over his glass in Mother Andersen’s parlour, he used generally to amuse himself out in the harbour with a number of the Arendal boys with whom he had struck up an acquaintanceship, and who understood very little about differences of social position.
The brown-haired, brown-eyed little lad, with his sharp, intelligent face, was the wildest of them all, and enjoyed a certain consideration among them at the same time as his father’s son—an honour which he evidently thought it incumbent upon him to maintain by every kind of break-neck exploit. His proper business, of course, was to look after his father’s boat in his absence; but as it was safely moored, and could be seen just as well from any of the yards in the harbour, he used generally to wait in some such conspicuous position till his friends came streaming down to the quay from school, and throwing their books down, sailed out in some punt or other to join him. Most of the boys had been expressly warned by their mothers against the reckless Kristiansen’s son, but cross-trees and mast-heads became thereby only the more attractive.
Old Beck’s grandson, Frederick, who was going to be a naval cadet, had fancied one day that he would escape observation from the windows at home by climbing up to join his friend at the mast-head, on the other side of the mast; but the slender spar was not sufficient to protect him from the master-pilot’s keen eye, and the latter came himself on board in full grandfatherly indignation against the skipper for allowing such pranks to be played on board his craft, thrashed Gjert for being the cause of his grandson’s disobedience, and told him that it was very clear what he would come to some day—that he came of a bad stock, and took after it. His own little scion, although a couple of years older than Gjert, escaped punishment altogether—the other lads, however, determining among themselves that he should have it the next time they met. And he would have had it, if Gjert, who should have been the one more particularly to desire revenge, had not unexpectedly taken his part.
It was only as they were sailing the cutter home that the pilot heard how Beck had thrashed his son, and cast his horoscope. His smurched face grew white as a sheet. But when Gjert went in to tell him how, all the same, he had taken Frederick Beck’s part, his father looked at him in surprise, and then muttered something about “telling this to his mother.”
Elizabeth had seen the boat pass Merdoe for Arendal the day before, and she was sitting indoors now expecting her husband, having commissioned their youngest and only other son, Henrik, to keep a look-out, and come and tell her when he saw his father coming. Henrik, however, had entirely forgotten her injunctions in the more interesting occupation of catching shrimps in one of the salt-water pools which a recent high tide had left among the rocks; and there, in the bright afternoon, over the blue and gold sea, dotted with sails, was the boat with its stripe and number already close by, standing straight in for the harbour with a flowing sheet.