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The year 1806 had begun with a beautiful, calm, sunny spring, but in the autumn, towards its close, a wild thunderstorm burst forth, if not over the entire Northern lands, still over the empire to which North Friesland belonged, so that the tremendous convulsions on German soil reverberated now and again, even in this little isle which had been so long sundered from all share in political concerns.
A new declaration of war against Prussia by the Emperor Napoleon, aimed at removing the last check on his supremacy over the whole of what was once the German Empire, and like a raging flood, the French troops burst through the mouldering hulwarks once raised by Frederick the Great for the protection of his kingdom, and quickly overran the land, to which they dictated like haughty conquerors. In the month of October the military strength of Prussia was completely broken by the battles of Jena and Auerstadt; a small remnant, which had joined some Russian auxiliaries in the extreme east, was being pursued by the enemy, while those who ought to have been friends, the military commanders of the Confederacy of the Rhine, were actually besieging with German troops the fortresses of Prussia. The few weeks in autumn had sufficed to destroy the very foundations of the proud bulwark which the great King had reared and succeeded in defending for seven long years against the united strength of Europe.
East Friesland itself had not suffered during these warlike events. With its marshes, moors, and heaths, it still lay apart and undisturbed. There was, however, no doubt that sooner or later it must be affected by the fate of the Prussian kingdom, and the islanders, usually so cool and deliberate, received, with
no little anxiety and excitement, the tardy reports of these momentous events. News arrived more slowly than ever. The people in general waited for it patiently enough. No political feeling disturbed the minds of men so long accustomed to loneliness, oblivion, and self-dependence.
Whatever could or might take place on the Continent was no concern of theirs, they thought, and could make no difference in their relations or in their pursuits and interests. Whoever might finally come forth as the conqueror in the field would have to leave the fish in the sea just as before, and wind and waves, high tide and low, would assuredly defy his power.
Among the most unconcerned and indifferent about the great events then occurring on the mainland were these islanders to whom Pastor Remmert preached and explained the Gospel Sunday after Sunday. His sermons were by no means adapted to remove their ignorance of the world, or to arouse their slow intellects to take some interest in its affairs ; they rather tended to instil in the minds of his hearers his own contempt for all earthly concerns. They accepted his assertion that the things of this life, compared with the things of eternity, were for them of as little import as the furrows on the sands in a gale of wind. They perceived that his countenance never changed, whatever news might reach them from the unknown world without; and as they wended their way home after the service and looked across the downs, everything on the island remained just the same as before. The history of the world itself was nothing more than the drifting sand, blown to and fro by the wind, which fell, as Pastor Remmert observed, impotent and worthless to the ground, when drifting against the strong wall of God's house.
To such narrow-minded views and limited interests, Walmot's household formed the only exception. It was a natural result of her character that she should lament the war and hear with deepest concern reports of the unspeakable horrors, sufferings, and ruin which it had brought upon mankind. And the fact that her countrymen were the sufferers, rendered Walmot's sympathy all the deeper. In her heart existed, not only a love for the island on which she now lived, but also for the whole of her native land. Whence it sprang she scarcely herself knew, nor did she care to inquire. Perhaps her early wanderings in foreign lands had tended to nourish the germ. It was there, and certainly it glowed the more, since the invasion, subjection,