De Hunger, Knut Hamsun
“Do you sail tonight, Captain?”
“Yes; in a short time,” answered the man. He spoke Swedish.
“Hem, I suppose you wouldn’t happen to need a man?”
I was at this instant utterly indifferent as to whether I was met by a refusal or not; it was all the same to me what reply the man gave me, so I stood and waited for it.
“Well, no,” he replied; “unless it chanced to be a young fellow.”
“A young fellow!” I pulled myself together, took off my glasses furtively and thrust them into my pocket, stepped up the gangway, and strode on deck.
“I have no experience,” said I; “but I can do anything I am put to. Where are you bound for?”
“We are in ballast for Leith, to fetch coal for Cadiz.”
“All right,” said I, forcing myself upon the man; “it’s all the same to me where I go; I am prepared to do my work.”
“Have you never sailed before?” he asked.
“No; but as I tell you, put me to a task, and I’ll do it. I am used to a little of all sorts.”
He bethought himself again.
I had already taken keenly into my head that I was to sail this voyage, and I began to dread being hounded on shore again.
“What do you think about it, Captain?” I asked at last. “I can really do anything that turns up. What am I saying? I would be a poor sort of chap if I couldn’t do a little more than just what I was put to. I can take two watches at a stretch, if it comes to that. It would only do me good, and I could hold out all the same.”
“All right, have a try at it. If it doesn’t work, well, we can part in England.”
“Of course,” I reply in my delight, and I repeated over again that we could part in England if it didn’t work.
And he set me to work....
Out in the fjord I dragged myself up once, wet with fever and exhaustion, and gazed landwards, and bade farewell for the present to the town—to Christiania, where the windows gleamed so brightly in all the homes.