“It is much that is being intrusted this night to two young shoulders,” said he; “and see you think twice, young man, both for your own life’s sake and ours.”
They kept away then, and stood in under land with the least sail they could carry in the tremendous sea that was now breaking in their wake, and soon the thunder of the breakers became audible.
Salve was pale, but perfectly calm, as he stood there with the speaking-trumpet, after having taken over the command, and with the captain and mate by his side. But all of a sudden great beads of perspiration came out on his forehead. There was something curiously irregular about the light. It had become dim and red, and then seemed to go out altogether. Had he by any possibility made a mistake? and was he now sailing the Juno with all on board straight for the rocks?
The uncertainty lasted for a quarter of an hour, and never in his life had Salve seen so heavy a countenance as that with which Beck, whose expression discovered a trace of doubt, looked at him, evidently hesitating whether he should not take the command again himself.
But in the mean time the gleam of light shone forth again—whatever might have been the cause of its obscuration—and that night Salve Kristiansen brought the Juno safely into Merdoe.
Out on Little Torungen meanwhile noteworthy events had occurred, which were now the talk of the town.
Old Jacob had had a stroke the week before, and had died the same night the Juno had had her wrestle for life. In the preceding two days of fog and storm they had heard many signal-guns of distress, and his granddaughter had during that time kept up the fire alone at night. It was only as he was drawing his last breath, and she sat by his side and bent over him, forgetful of aught else, that it was for a while neglected; and it was this little moment that had caused Salve such a mauvais quart d’heure on board the Juno. On the following day, in her despair, she had attempted a perilous journey over the drift ice to bring people out to her assistance, and had been taken up by a boat and brought in by it to Arendal.
The poor girl was far too much occupied with her grief for the loss of her grandfather to think in the remotest degree of making her story interesting. But Carl Beck, in his enthusiasm, knew very well how to give the incident a colouring of romance, and she was very soon exalted into the heroine of the hour. It was talked of at the Amtmand’s—a house with two handsome daughters, where Lieutenant Beck was a daily visitor—and it was in everybody’s mouth how, all alone out on Torungen with her dying grandfather, she had been the means of saving the Juno, and had since risked her life on the ice. Every one could see by a glance at her that she must have a remarkable character; but as to her uncommon beauty there prevailed different opinions in feminine circles. It was, at all events, a pity that she was so forlorn; and the Becks, it was thought, were now morally bound to look after her.