Don’t be long away
‘I’ve been thinking,’ Carling said, ‘that I might give up the sea.’
She looked at him, brow furrowed, eyes half closed, as though he were a stranger whom she could not be sure of trusting.
‘Give it up?’
‘I might be able to get a shore job, in the docks. Karl Hansen there might be able to get me taken on.’
She said nothing. A faint smile was on her lips.
‘How would you like that?’ Carling asked.
He knew what one could expect of a woman; an ordinary woman would have shown him her delight, pulled his head down to her breast, kissed him and fondled him, in gladness and pride that her husband should sacrifice all that had been important in his life for the single joy of being with her continually. But an ordinary woman would not have been worth the sacrifice.
‘Well,’ he said, ‘do you think I should do it?’
‘We do what we have to do,’ Tove said. The smile faded, and was replaced by graveness, by sadness almost. ‘Come back to me soon, Eiler. Don’t be long away.’
‘Two weeks,’ he said.
She spoke in a childish, wondering tone. In annoyance, he said: ‘You know how long the trip is. It’s no more than usual. I will be here less than half an hour after we dock. I cannot be here sooner.’
He spoke the final sentence with more emphasis. She would never go with him to the ship, or meet him there, as some of the women did. It had been an early disappointment; an affront to the pride with which he had pictured her standing there, for all the world and his shipmates to see. But she was Tove, and her uniqueness enthralled him.
‘Be as quick as you can,’ she said. ‘I don’t want to be alone.’