There was a fine energetic look of determination in her face, and her eyes were moist with tears as she bent over the child in her lap and whispered—
“If he cannot trust us, we two must teach him—mustn’t we, Gjert?”
Towards dinner-time Salve and Nils Buvaagen were standing for a moment together by the ship’s side.
The storm had perceptibly lulled, but the weather was still dull and hazy, and the sea high. Two or three sea-gulls were circling drearily between them and the coast, where they could now see a long line of yellow foaming breakers like a huge wall, rising and falling on the sandbanks, with here and there a mast-high jet of spray from some reef outside. Although the wind was on shore they could hear the dull thunder of the breakers there, and a kind of dim rumbling in the air. The next three or four hours would obviously decide their fate.
Neither spoke; each was occupied with his own reflections. Nils was thinking of his wife and children at home, and Salve of his future. It was hard to lose the brig; he had worked hard for the money she represented, and he would have now to begin again on the lowest step of the ladder—if he escaped with his life, that was to say.
Less selfish thoughts succeeded then, and he turned to Nils.
“What I feel most in this business, Nils,” he said, earnestly, “is the thought that you or any of the others may perhaps pay the penalty for my mad sailing last night, with your lives. The brig is my own affair.”
“Oh, it will be all right, captain, you’ll see,” replied Nils, cheeringly. “If we can hang on to the old craft while she bumps over the banks, we shall manage somehow or other inside I expect.”
“God grant it!” said Salve, and turned away.
Nils remained standing where he was for a moment, and something like a spasm passed across his heavy features. He believed their situation to be desperate, and the vision of his home again rose before him, and almost choked him.
“Relieve the pumps!” was heard. It was his turn again, and he gave himself unweariedly to the work.
Salve seemed like one conscience-smitten. His face wore an expression of strained uneasiness, and his look more and more, as the moments passed, betokened the consciousness that a struggle for life was before them. Through the glass a knot of people could be seen gathering on the downs which ran along the coast, with their jagged formations showing out in tones of dim violet and blue.
He stood now in the companion with his wife and his child, and sighed heavily as he looked at them.
“I would gladly give the brig, and be reduced to my own two hands once more, to have last night over again, Elizabeth!” he said.
She pressed his hand with an expression of sympathy, which answered him better than words; and the next moment he was again the practical man, showing her how she might tie the child to her breast with a handkerchief.