He directed them to Gawein's house, and after dinner they headed there. It was a very small house, with a shed alongside where wooden figureheads and other ship carvings could be seen through the large windows: mermaids, savage crocodiles, and a whole series of statues of the same tall and wiry sailor.
From the house came a plaintive song. They stopped for a moment to listen.

When the horse sees the stable
He'll gallop and snort
But a sailor's heart races
In sight of the port...

Mee knocked at the door.
"Come in!" called a deep voice.
The sailor Gawein was sitting beside a bed upon which a fragile blond woman was lying, with her eyes closed. "She has just passed away," he said, his voice catching in his throat. "Please sit down." He did not stand, but remained sitting beside the bed, his large hand upon the small hand of his departed wife.
"She has been very ill," he said. "Now she is better."
"If you're seeking a singer of sorrows," said Mee, "now that we're here anyway..." He looked at the pale face on the pillow and tears began to roll from his eyes.
"You are Mee, the singer of sorrows," said Gawein. "Your name and fame resound over land and sea, from Trondheim to Lisbon and from Riga to Smyrna. Many a crew that lost a shipmate and surrendered the body to the waves has longed for your consolation."
Already, Mee could no longer hear his words. He was singing a strange and semi-uncomprehensable song in a tune that lay betwixt, beside, and beneath the usual melodies, a tune that nobody would have been able to sing after him.
"Sailor's sweetheart, sailor's sweetheart," came his plaintive voice.
Gawein shivered.

The Sailor's Sweetheart

She was a carpenter's daughter. She had blond hair and blue eyes, and she was small and dainty. Her name was Brettele. Her sister Antinua had brown eyes and black hair, and she was short and sturdy.
Brettele worked in her father's furniture workshop. She carved the lions' heads to decorate the arms of the chairs, and the garlands of roses for the lids of the Langstrand bridal chests.
Antinua helped her mother in the garden and in the yard, churning the milk, taking the honey from the comb, and weeding the vegetable garden.
Every Saturday evening, the sisters would go dancing at the sailors' inn in Langstrand. Antinua would dance with her intended, a farmer's son. Brettele would dance with anyone who wanted to dance. She loved music and her nimble feet could follow any rhythm, but she didn't feel the arms that the sailors and farmers' sons would put around her waist, and she didn't hear the sweet words that they would whisper in her ear.
One evening, when Antinua was whirling around with her farmer's son, a sailor asked Brettele to dance. He was tall and wiry, just as a sailor should be, and when he took her in his arms and swung her around, Brettele felt as though she were in a huge ship surging through the towering waves of the ocean.
"Never marry a sailor," Antinua said as they were walking home that night. "A sailor loves only the sea."
"And your farmer's son loves only his land," teased Brettele.
"At least
he's always nearby," said Antinua. "In the morning you milk the cows together, in the afternoon you both till the land, and in the evening the two of you take care of the animals and the poultry, and you clean the yard together. When you marry a farmer, you're never alone again."
Brettele said nothing. She was thinking about the string arms of the sailor, which had picked her up and whirled her around as though she were a feather, and about his muscular thighs and his large hands. His skin was brown and weather-beaten and his eyes were deep and dark, and when he looked at her they glowed.