“It’s my opinion that Gjert is not too good for his father’s station, and that we are not going to make interest with anybody to hoist him up into the company of his betters, as they call themselves.”
Gjert’s previous animation had been very much heightened by the picture which such a glittering prospect presented to his fancy, and he cried now, without taking warning by his father’s changed tone—
“Mother was saying, though, the other day, that if I were to be a cadet I should cut a better figure in the world than as an ordinary common sailor.”
It was as if a match had been thrown into a gunpowder-magazine. His father’s hard face flushed up wildly, and he threw over at his wife a look of inexpressible, cold scorn. Turning savagely away, he said in a cutting tone, that seemed to go through her—
“Do you also despise your father’s station, my boy?”
When Gjert blundered out then in his eagerness—
“Frederick Beck is going to be a cadet,” it was followed simply by—
“Come here, Gjert!”—and he received a blow that sent him staggering against the table. A second was about to follow, when his father happened to look up at his wife. She had sprung a couple of steps forward, as if to take Gjert from him, and was standing now before him with crimson face and flashing eyes, and with a bearing that made him, at all events, lower his hand. She then turned away at once, and went out into the kitchen.
Salve stood for a moment uncertain how to act. Then he went to the kitchen door, and announced, shortly and sharply, that he and Gjert were going to sea that evening—they would want provisions.
The wind and rain beat wildly against the black window-panes while Elizabeth was carrying out his orders; but when she presently came in with the ale-jar and what else they were to take with them, not a trace of anxiety, or of her former emotion, was to be detected. Her face was pale, and stony-calm; and there was something almost humble in her bearing towards her husband. But when, for a moment, she and Gjert were left alone together in the house, drawing him hastily towards her, she whispered, in a voice choked with repressed emotion—
“Never let your father see that you are afraid, my boy.”
She bade her husband farewell at the door; and there was foul weather both within and without the pilot as he put to sea that evening.
Elizabeth was more agitated even than usual after a scene of this kind. When he had struck her son, her indignation had almost mastered her; and it frightened her now to think how near she had been to an explosion. This time the so-often-repeated excuses which she had accustomed herself to make for him would not suggest themselves; and as she lay awake in the stillness of the night, and looked back through the years that were gone, it seemed as if she was struggling and labouring on for ever without any prospect of getting nearer to the goal, and that her patience was wellnigh exhausted. Had she no claim at all to consideration? or must she be for ever silent like this, till one of them should at last be laid in Tromoe churchyard?