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The door was opened by a tall woman, with a great head of white hair; she was very old, but by no means frail; she looked at me with blue, lively eyes. She asked who I was, and what I was looking for.

--I am the keeper of the lighthouse at Dyrhólaey --I answered.

--Dyrhólaey... once upon a time a knew that place very well. But why are you here?

--Because I have read Thorstein's diary; it was in the bookshelves at the lighhouse.

Kolfinna remained silent for a moment, looking beyond my shoulders.

--I was not aware that Thorstein had a diary. I do not like to remember those times. I have been happy with Thorstein: I was engaged to him, and then I lost him.

--So, what happened to him?

--He went mad, he did not want to see even me, and he ended up throwing himself down the cliff.

--However, you visited him at the lighthouse. This is the only meaningful note in the last part of the diary, and it is right in the last page.

Kolfinna looked shaken by this challenge, and thought for a while.

--Yes --she said --he had really gone off his head; he only spoke of ghosts coming to torment him.

--According to the stories they tell in Vík, the ghost was looking for you as well; indeed, he is still looking for you, yelling from under the cliff, because you too were responsible for his death.

Kolfinna looked at me with much contempt:

--Are you too afraid of ghosts?

--Ghosts are less dangerous than men...and women.

--How dare you --she replied --to come here after sixty years to disturb my peace? What do you have against me? Leave everyone alone with their ghosts!

I understood I had gone too far; after all I had no firm evidence against the poor old woman. When she had calmed down we spoke again peacefully, without touching that subject any more. She even offered me some tea; in front of a cup of tea, she told me her recollections of Thorstein, and what her life had been like after that. After that night, in the village everybody blamed him, and her, for the shipwreck. Anyway Kolfinna was a woman abandoned and disgraced by her man, and for her there was no place any more in the village. Therefore, after the death of her man, she went north, to Akureyri. In 1941 the Americans arrived, and she was bound to a pilot; with him she went to America at the end of the war. After twenty years she came back and she settled in Reykjavík.

I think I had been listening the story of the old woman for a long time, when slowly I fell unconscious. When I woke up I was in the Poisoning Ward of the Reykjavík University Hospital. I was even visited by my friend Jón, the professor of forensic medicine.

--Dear professor --I said as soon as I was able to speak --may be here there is some work for you.

--I would be glad! --he said --But here they say it was posoning from rotten fish.

--Not even here have I ever seen cod served in tea. Moreover, here in Iceland rotten fish is really rare, because there are too few germs in the air, at least according to the tourist guide-books.

--So many things happen in Iceland, which the guide-books do not mention...

Of this I was convinced myself, at last. But Thorstein's diary had disappeared from my bag, and I had no way to prove that in Iceland in the last 60 years there had been four murders, not three. Four and a half...

next up previous
Next: The return journey Up: No Title Previous: The end of

Andrea Milani
Fri May 5 08:45:48 MET DST 1995