Having played this last trump, he was going in again, but was stopped by her eager question—
“Do they use a glass there on board?” And when he said they did, she slipped quickly by him through the door, and kept cautiously within as long as the vessel was to be seen through the window-pane on the horizon.
The moods of the two were for once reversed. The old man looked very sly over his work, whilst she was quiet and cowed. Once only she broke out angrily—
“But why doesn’t the king get rid of them? If I was captain of a man-of-war, I’d—”
“Yes, Elizabeth, if you were captain of a man-of-war!—what then?”
The child’s conceptions apparently reached no further than such matters as these as yet. She had seen few human beings as she grew up, and in recent years, after her grandmother’s death, she and her grandfather had been the only regular inhabitants of the island. Every now and then there might perhaps come a boat on one errand or another, and a couple of times she had paid a visit to her maternal aunt on land, at Arendal. Her grandfather had taught her to read and write, and with what she found in the Bible and psalm-book, and in ’Exploits of Danish and Norwegian Naval Heroes,’ a book in their possession, she had in a manner lived pretty much upon the anecdotes which in leisure moments she could extract from that grandfather, so chary of his speech, about his sailor life in his youth.
They had besides, in the little inner room, a small print, without a frame, of the action near the Heather Islands, in which he had taken part. It represented the frigate Naiad, with the brigs Samso, Kiel, and Lolland, in furious conflict with the English ship of the line Dictator, which lay across the narrow harbour with the brig Calypso, and was pounding the Naiad to pieces. The names of the ships were printed underneath.
On the print there was little to be seen but mast-heads and cannon-mouths, and a confusion of smoke, but in this had the child lived whole years of her life; and many a time in fancy had she stood there and fought the Englishman. Men-of-war and their officers had become the highest conception of her fancy, and the dearest wish of her heart was that a man-of-war might some day pass so near to Torungen that she would be able to see distinctly everything on board.
After old Jacob had fallen into ill health, lighterman Kristiansen used to come out oftener to Torungen with provisions and other necessaries; and his visits now became periodical.