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the others smile at the word, as if Tove were speaking

through him, but then the door opens and a maid enters

with more coffee, refills their cups, adds to their cognac

glasses; she’s young, moves lithely, like a herb in water,

never looks up, they don’t get to see her eyes properly,

those blue stones, and she doesn’t let it perturb her though

they all look, watch her as the fire works its way up their

stiff cigars, with a low hiss, but she’s glad to get out of

there. A fine piece of work, mutters Lárus; to say the least,

agrees Sigurður, while Þorvaldur says nothing, having

simply watched like the others, that was his praise, and

then Friðrik says, at first waving his hand as if to brush the

girl aside, her youth, the agitation that they all felt, dogs

have to be allowed to bark, then there’s less chance they’ll

bite. But Skúli hit the nail precisely on the head, albeit in

reverse; most people spend more than they have, as

witnessed clearly in the trading companies’ ledgers, far too

many die in debt, which is why we must keep a firm hand

on things, otherwise all of society will resemble the ledgers

of its people— full of nothing but debt. But never mind

Skúli, he’s no threat; it’s Geirþrúður we need to worry

about. Skúli hides nothing, is plain for all to see, but she’s

underhanded, shrewder, causes a stir, and is corruptive to

good morals, no less. You remember how she got her hands

on Kolbeinn’s share when he lost his vision, acquired a

substantial majority in one of the Village’s best ships by

inviting him to live with her? It doesn’t cost much to feed

blind wretches, wretches who also have plenty of their own

money; where’s it supposed to go when they breathe their