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He lay with his head in her lap and she stroked the hair

back from his forehead, his eyes, those pure eyes, from that

strong, beautiful face, stroked the lips that knew so well

how to kiss, knew how to speak words that were good to

hear. I know, she said. You could love me, he said, he asked,

he begged. A woman in love is defenceless, she said, and I

can’t take that chance, and besides, you’re married, you

love your wife; continue to do so. Are you cruel, perhaps?

No, but life can easily be so. And then he was sad, a bit like

a child, this big foreigner, captain of a substantial sailing

ship that Lúlli and Oddur worked on emptying while its

captain lay with Geirþrúður among tussocks, beneath the

blue sky. Did you get to put your arms around her?,

repeated Lúlli, having to press his friend hard to get an

answer, and finally Oddur answered; he smiled.

Can a man love two women?, asked the captain. I expect so,

she said, her long fingers in his thick hair, and perhaps even

more if there’s an ocean between them. But you don’t know

me, John, I’m just a diversion in your life, a little adventure

on a long sea-voyage, a little dusky adventure that awaits

you here at the end of the world, in among such steep, high

mountains that no one can see us. You couldn’t love me,

not if you knew me, were with me every day, my heart is an

organ that beats because it can do no other. I’m a sea, John,

and as the sea grants you freedom for a little while, I offer

you adventure, a touch of sin, yet those who venture too far

out onto such oceans, and for too long, find little but

loneliness and death.