This time it was she who was at the helm, and steering a desperate course—to save her love. A solemn look came over her face. The prayer for seamen in danger, which she had so often used when the gusts were shaking the house out there on Merdoe, and she sat waiting for him in her solitary home, came into her head now—the prayer that God might save him from a sudden death.
A sudden death!
If he really had been lost on one of those many occasions when he had parted from her with bitterness and anger in his heart! Would her love then have been a blessing to him?
“No, Salve!” she cried; “you shall not have me to thank for such a life in your last hour!”
In the night she awoke with a scream. She had dreamt that Salve was going to leave her for ever, and she cried frantically after him, “Salve! Salve!”
His two sons were waiting for him when the pilot came up to the jetty next morning. Little Henrik had begun to shout to him gleefully while he was still some way off; but Gjert was quiet. He had seen enough to feel that there must be something serious the matter between his parents, and he was depressed.
“Good morning, boys!” said their father, kindly; “how is your—aunt?”
“Better,” replied Gjert.
“She sleeps in the daytime, too,” added the “bagman,” triumphantly—he had discovered that this was what was required to make her well again. He then threw his cap down on the stones with a great sailor air, and with an eager “hale-hoi—o—ohoi!” began to haul in the shore-rope which his father had thrown, while Gjert, paying no attention whatever to his brother’s efforts, made it fast to the mooring-ring.
“That’s good lads! Stay here now, both of you, by the boat, and look after her till I come back,” said their father. “See, Gjert, that Henrik doesn’t leave the quay.”
He left them then, and went rapidly up the street.
Elizabeth was standing by the hearth expecting him; and something of a Sunday calm seemed to have come over her as she stood there. She heard him out in the passage; and when he entered, a rapid flush passed over her fine features, but it disappeared again immediately, and she stared at him with half-open lips, forgetting to greet him. At the same time, there was a conscious self-possession in her bearing which did not escape him. That was the Elizabeth he loved.
He came to the point at once; and looking her full in the face, began with great earnestness—“Elizabeth, I have a serious accusation to make against you. You have not been frank towards me—you have disguised your real feelings from me for many years, I am afraid during the whole time we have lived together.”
He spoke gently, and as though he had no desire to press the charge, but merely waited to hear her make a full acknowledgment before he forgave her. She stood, however, without raising her eyes from the ground, her face pale, and her bosom heaving.