672 ANNE LISBETH
out a tether-peg. In the spring he knew of three straw≠berry plants that were in blossom, and would certainly bear fruit, and that was his most hopeful thought; but they came to nothing. He sat out in the rain in foul weather, and was wet to the skin, and afterwards the cold wind dried the clothes on his back. When he came to the farm-yard he was hustled and cuffed, for the men and maids declared he was horribly ugly ; but he was used to thatóloved by nobody !
That was how it went with Anne Lisbeth's boy; and how could it go otherwise ? It was, once for all, his fate to be loved by nobody.
From the land he was thrown overboard. He went to sea in a wretched vessel, and sat by the helm, while the skipper drank. He was dirty and ugly, half frozen and half starved : one would have thought he had never had enough ; and that really was the case.
It was late in autumn: rough, wet, windy weather; the wind cut cold through the thickest clothing, especially at sea ; and out to sea went a wretched boat, with only two men on board, or, properly speaking, with only a man and a half, the skipper and his boy. It had only been a kind of twilight all day, and now it became dark, and it was bitterly cold. The skipper drank a dram, which was to warm him from within. The bottle was old, and the glass too ; it was whole at the top, but the foot was broken off, and therefore it stood upon a little carved block of wood painted blue. ' A dram comforts one, and two are better still,' thought the skipper. The boy sat at the helm, which he held fast in his hard tarry hands : he was ugly, and his hair was matted, and he looked crippled and stunted ; he was the field-labourer's boy, though in the church register he was entered as Anne Lisbeth's son.
The wind cut its way through the rigging, and the boat cut through the sea. The sail blew out, filled by the wind, and they drove on in wild career. It was rough and wet around and above, and it might come worse still. Hold ! what was that ? what struck there ? what burst ? what seized the boat ? It heeled, and lay on its beam ends ! Was it a waterspout ? Was it a heavy sea coming suddenly down ? The boy at the helm cried out aloud, * Heaven