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days. Teda's expressed a clearer consciousness, knowledge, and will; though the younger in age, she was by temperament quite the elder of the two.
The three companions sat thus on the rocks, consecrated by childhood's memories, until at last the voice of Uwen broke through the silence :
'It is time that we returned home; if we don't, we shall be having the ebb leave our boat astrand, as in former time the flood plunged us into the water.'
He assisted the girls from their seat into the boat, and seized the oars to row towards home. Both he and Teda were still more excited than after their mid-day glass of wine; every now and then she would take up water in the hollow of her hand and throw it, a glittering shower, into his face.
It was as if some sudden overflow of animal spirits must have vent—a violent impulse, as it were, not assuredly of divine, scarcely of rational, but rather of sensual origin, which presented a strange contradiction to her idea of aiming solely at the attainment of life eternal.
Freda, on the other hand, had lost all her former cheerfulness; she sat, quite contrary to her usual custom, with her head turned away, gazing silently over the watery expanse, until Uwen, looking towards her by chance, asked in surprise :
• Whatever have you been crying for ?'
‘But indeed you have,' he returned, as he gave her a somewhat anxious look. 'Your eyes are quite wet.
She hastily replied :
• Then it must be from some of the drops that Teda has been throwing at you—see, like this;' and she hastily dipped her hand in the water, and moistened her eyelids, till they were covered with the pearly drops.
She made an effort at the same time to join in the play and jests of the two others; the boat flew faster; the danger of which Uwen had spoken was indeed imminent. If life was not in danger, still, it was desirable to get ashore before the boat ran aground in the sands, for the ebb-waves were already rolling violently back from the isle. Uwen said with a laugh:
It would be funny, if we were to be left sitting on the spot where we were once in such need of a boat. It must have been somewhere about here.'
Freda looked down on the sand shimmering beneath the waters; memory recalled once more the waves that had rolled over her head, and she said :
'I thought I was going to be drowned that day, and I still see your hand, as it drew me upwards, and I was once more able to breathe.'
“Yes, I too can see it still, how Roeluf all at once took Teda in his arms, and I knew that she was safe. Then I had the courage to bring you ashore as well.'
His words were addressed to Freda, but his eyes remained fixed on Teda's face; he plied his oar vigorously, but it was no longer possible to get the boat close to land. It ran aground at a distance of some dozen steps, which were left still moist by the retreating tide.
Turning to Teda, Uwen said: * You will sink in ever so deep and spoil your new shoes. May I carry you across ?'
She answered, half laughing, as if she doubted his strength : "You may,
you can.' He quickly proved his strength, as he lifted her lightly in his arms and carried her ashore. It seemed for a moment as if Freda meant to wait for him to fetch her too; but then, with a hasty movement, she stepped over the side of the boat and followed them through the wet sands.
The April day was early closing in, and the setting sun was tinting the downs with a ruddy glow. Nature, changeless on this isle, recalled everything just as it was when the children had been happily rescued from the flood, only now it was the dark-haired Teda, instead of Freda with her golden tresses, that Uwen carried in his arms to shore.
As the latter came up close behind, he said with some embarrassment :
• Why didn't you wait? Of course I could have fetched you too.'
‘My shoes are of no consequence, and you would have found me too heavy. Teda is much lighter than I am.'
“That is very true. I believe I could easily carry her all the way home without feeling it.'
Imagination vividly recalled to Freda all that had formerly occurred, and at the same time she could not help feeling how
different things were now. Teda's eyes had then flashed with anger and she had been ready to use violence, but now she looked gentle, loving, and kind, as she had never done before. She remarked that it was quite time she and Uwen went home. They had had a delightful day and thanked Walmot and Freda most heartily for it. Her face betrayed an eager wish to set off. She gave her hand to Freda as she said 'Good-bye.' The latter clasped it, as she stood for a moment silent and still ; then she suddenly threw her arms round Teda's neck, kissed her for the first time since they had known each other, and exclaimed:
'Yes, we have had a pleasant day, for I see it has made you happy.'
She held out her hand to Uwen too.
'Thank you very much for having taken me again to the sea-gulls' isle. It has always been on my mind. Now I have seen it, and shall not need to go again.'
The two dwellers at the parsonage set off for home. Twilight had begun to fall, and soon enveloped them in a gray haze. Freda stood gazing after them, her eyes fixed upon the white robe of Teda as it shimmered for awhile in the dusk, like that of a bride.
The lonely girl turned away at last, but not towards home; she stepped a little way aside, and sat down upon a ridge. After a time Walmot came up; she had seen the girl afar off, and had been vainly awaiting her return. She sat down beside her on the well-warmed sand, as she inquired :
Was it pleasant on the water ?' Freda merely whispered, “Yes,' repeating the same answer several times, until at last Walmot asked :
• What makes my Datya so quiet ?' "I'm not quiet.'
She tried to give the words a cheerful tone, but it was evidently forced, and Walmot asked:
* Has anyone been vexing you?'
But as she said so, she laid her head on her mother's bosom without adding another word. It was now dark, and after a few moments the latter felt, as it were, a drop of dew fall upon her hand, only it was warm.
"What is my Datya crying for, if no one has vexed her ?'
The girl, for answer, only pressed her face more closely to the sheltering bosom, and Walmot inquired no further. She did not keep silent, however, but began to talk of indifferent things, then of the morning's service at church and the pastor's address. She referred also to Teda's white dress, and how she had heard Yora Pawel say that it made her look like a 'bride of heaven.' On uttering the last words, the speaker felt a slight quiver pass through the form that lay clasped in her arms, and she continued :
'I might have got one like it for Datya, only Datya does not think so much about heaven. Or would she have liked one?'
The girl made a negative motion with her head. Walmot could not see it, but she felt it. 'Did you not like Teda in hers ?' Oh yes, very much.' Why would you not have liked to wear one then ?? It would not have suited me.' * And why not?' * Because I am so ugly.' At these words Walmot gave a merry laugh.
• You had not found that out this morning, and the eyes that discovered it must have been very dull.'
With a kind of anxious quickness Freda answered :
' It was only my own eyes. I saw it to-day myself in the water.'
Then they, too, must be dull, for mine are very clear, and in my eyes Datya is the sweetest creature they have ever seen, and she always will be, whether she is so in Teda's eyes or not.'
Indeed, Teda has never said that I was ugly-most certainly she has not. It is unjust to her to say so.
'Then my Datya must have been dreaming it; and I think we shall both fall asleep soon, if we sit any longer here in the dark.'
Saying these words in a cheerful tone, Walmot raised herself
and Freda from the ground, and then, with her arm round the maiden's neck, she drew her homewards.
Having lighted the lamp, she related all sorts of merry jokes and the little tales she could recall of the girl's childhood, and, in answer to her questions, Roeluf had to remember and describe how Datya with her little fairy feet used to fit about like a sunbeam; nothing so beautiful had ever before been seen on the isle.
And then Walmot thought of a nice surprise that she might very well receive on her confirmation day. So she went to her chest, and, bringing out a purse filled with gold coins, which Freda now saw for the first time, explained to the girl that this was her heritage and fortune-in fact, her dowry—if at any time a true, good man should love her and want to
The girl gazed with wonder at the glittering coins. The history attached to them not only excited her fancy, but drove away her recent gloomy thoughts. Unperceived, Walmot cast a hasty glance at the face of her child. It sufficed to reveal to the mother's eye a silent sorrow, unconsciously buried in the maiden's heart. A deep, anxious, but scarcely audible sigh escaped from Walmot as she hastily turned away. She thrust her hand, however, into the pile of gold, and, clinking the bright pieces through her fingers, said with a smile :
'How rich Datya is! She never thought it, I'm sure !'