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Far off to the east, like a dark streak, lay their own island home, with its dwarf church tower; above them went on an incessant flapping and screaming of the scared birds. Freda at last noticed this, and said :
'They are frightened at us, and their eggs are getting cold; let us go away, that they may come down again.'
But Teda thought the birds were very stupid to be afraid, and therefore it served them right. Freda, however, ran off, over the sand-wall towards the northern strand of the islet, where they had not yet been. Then she called back to them with delight; she had found something quite new and strange. The two others now followed her, and stood enchanted before the wondrous scene. Enormous blocks of ice had, in the first ages of the world, torn from their bed, and transported hither, some giant rocks; then, melting, had left them on their soft bed. Half immersed the black rocks lay, separated from the islet by a narrow channel, whose waters caressed their rugged sides with a scarcely audible ripple.
Recalling one of Walmot's old fairy-tales, Uwen joyously shouted:
'The mermaid has placed those seats for us. See ! there are just three of them—one for each. Which will you have, Teda ?'
The girl pointed to the rock that lay nearest to her, and the lad continued :
'Come, then, let us climb up, and each sit upon a throne.'
They willingly agreed, for they were tired with their long ramble; so, splashing through the shallow strip of water, each took possession of a rock, Uwen on the central one between the two girls. They presented a singular picture, the three children seated there on the black rocks, surrounded by the barren sands and the boundless ocean, like little water-sprites come forth from the deep to sun themselves awhile. The little pinky bodies looked pretty much alike, but the contrast in the heads of the two girls was singularly striking. In the brightness all around, Teda's dark hair looked darker than ever; its long tight plaits stood out in strong relief against her neck and shoulders, looking almost black. Her eyes shone with an unwonted light, glittering like those of the silver gull, as she gazed into the far-off distance. Freda's locks, on the contrary, had become untwisted as she ran about, and now floated around her head and shoulders, making them look as though they were encompassed by a sunny halo. From beneath her eyelids shone reflected the blue of heaven, as sweet, as sunny, as gladsome, as that of the summer day around her. She sat gazing down upon the merry swarm of tiny fishes that darted about her little feet as she dangled them in the water. Uwen Folmar, seated between the two, was, in eyes and hair, far more like Freda than Teda, but it was the latter who evidently engrossed the most of his attention and thoughts. His face was turned towards her, his eyes were fixed upon her beautiful, fair marble features, and his look seemed silently to ask her what she was thinking about.
They had left behind them the scared flock of gulls, and these had once more settled down peacefully upon their nests; only here and there a stray snow-breasted bird hovered over their heads, and shrieked at them from time to time as they sat below. The gentle soughing of the wind arose from over the
The three children had shouted and talked so much that they were glad to rest their tongues as well as their legs, and so they sat for some time in silence. Then Uwen suddenly inquired:
“What are you looking at, Teda ?'
She pointed to the white sail of a ship just shimmering in the far-off horizon, and replied:
"See ! there it is, sailing right into heaven.' Freda from her seat corrected her. 'No; it only looks like it. The ship keeps still on earth.'
Teda was well aware of this, only she was picturing to herself that the ship was sailing to heaven. Should
you like, then, to be on it ?' asked the boy. 'Yes ; for I should be happy in heaven.' 'How do you know ?' 'Father says so, because I have faith.' Freda here exclaimed :
'I don't want to go away; it is much nicer here in the sun, with the water, the sands, and the birds. What do you say, Uwen ?'
The latter looked doubtful, and hesitated a bit before he answered.
'I should like to be on the ship, too; but I should also like to remain with it on the earth.'
The girls on either side of him laughed as they said, “You want to have both, then ?'
The little tongues rattled on once more with the whistling wind. Fancy led them hither and thither until at last they were in the Garden of Eden. One of them had said it was just like Paradise, but Teda shook her head :
'No, we are too many; there were only two in Paradise.' Freda merrily responded :
· Well, then, one of us must go away. We will draw straws which it shall be.'
• Yes, we two, and see which is Eve,' answered Teda.
They had jumped down from their rocks, and had run to the strand in order to pluck the rushes. The boy laughed, and said :
“Then, the two who are left behind must make themselves coats of feathers, like Adam and Eve did before they were driven from Paradise.'
As he said this he cast a look at Teda which seemed to express the hope that she might be Eve. She made him no reply, but her face flushed—it might have been from stooping -and she turned hastily away, bending her steps further along the downs. A few moments after, when the two others looked round for her, she was nowhere to be seen. They called to her; no answer came, only on the inner side of the sand-wall thousands of gulls started up again, like a snow-storm, shrieking wildly in the air. Freda asked with surprise :
‘Have we offended Teda, either of us, that she won't play any longer?' But joy shone in her eyes and played around her lips as she added: “Then, you and I must be Adam and Eve. But Uwen shook his head, as if he were vexed.
No. Come along, we must look for her.' He ran on, and the little one followed ; but on the level space within the islet there was still no trace to be seen of their truant playmate. Not till they had climbed over the further ridge of
sand did they again perceive Teda ; she was then wading through the little channel, with her clothes held high above her head, taking her way home. The two others now followed her example, and as they once more reached the land, Teda was already dressed. The boy asked:
What made you run away? Have we offended you ?' She shook her head. • Make haste and get dressed; it is quite time; or else we
; shall have the tide overtaking us.
Her face showed that she was not angry, and yet that fear of the tide had not been the real cause of her strange disappearance. Slowly she went on before, while the two others hurriedly put on their clothes.
The danger which Teda had only pretended to fear was, however, close at hand. The children thought that they had been but a short time on the little isle, whereas, in fact, hours had slipped rapidly away. The sun was low down in the west ; their island home lay like a thin gray streak before them. If the distance deceived the eye, and was really less than it looked, it was still considerable, and the wind, herald of the returning tide, began to blow with increased violence. Uwen looked behind him. Yes, there it came, in little currents furrowing the soft flat sands.
• We must run ! he shouted.
The girls did run with all their might, and the safe downs appeared reassuringly nearer and nearer. But other well-known messengers of the rapidly-rising tide pressed on still faster after them, and overtook them. These were the various gulls—the silver, the black, and the herring-gull; the red-footed and white-bearded sea-swallows, the rarer raven-swallow, with its pinkish beak, the diver, and the sea-mew. Wildly shrieking, they flew tumultuously landwards; the salmon-gull hovered over the heads of the children, flapping its wings, and uttering its shrill discordant · Kerrikiri-kiri !' and before them flitted and
tripped, piped and twittered and screamed, the plover, the peewit, the stone-martin, and the oyster-dredger.
These were small harmless creatures, but all were swarming in greedy excitement, like wild beasts howling in a menagerie when they see the keeper approaching with their food. The instinct given by Nature roused their blood, and the universal Mother came, bringing them the evening meal they so greedily desired.
The children still ran hurriedly onward ; another thousand feet and they would be safe on the firm dry shore. A first gentle wave came playing between their feet; the long-legged birds flew up a few steps forward, then alighted again. The little human beings, however, had no wings: they must proceed more slowly, in spite of all the need for haste. It looked like a frolicsome game with the swift waves as they leaped nearer and nearer, but these were the children of a mighty, ravenous monster. Their soft paws clutched first the knees, then the hips, of their prey, and each successive wave leapt a little higher.
Uwen had seized a hand of each of the girls, dragging them along with him. Their clothes, soaked with water, impeded
, their progress. He shouted to Teda :
* Throw off your things, you will run faster !'
She heeded him not, but still struggled on, while Freda followed his advice. For a moment she held in her arms the clothes hastily torn off, but they were too heavy for her, and she let the things go. Without troubling himself further, the lad exerted all his strength to pull Teda along with him ; she was the weaker and more encumbered. Then he turned his head mechanically in search of Freda, but she was now nowhere to be seen. A heavy wave had struck her on the back, thrown her to the ground, and she lay immersed in the water. moment Uwen freed himself from Teda, and shrieked in anguish, * Datya ! Datya! Where are you?' He caught a gleam of her golden hair; his hands hurriedly grasped at it; he drew up the little creature, who was vainly struggling to raise herself, and he carried her in his arms through the waves.
He now looked round in quest of Teda. Help had come to her in time of need. Her head was far higher above the water than Freda's. Roeluf Hemmen bore her in his arms. He had come to the beach in search of mussels, had seen far off the danger in which the children stood, and had run to rescue