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that he had taken Halle, disarmed the Westphalian troops which he had found there, and afterwards successfully routed the garrison of Magdeburg that had been despatched against him. Volunteers poured in from all sides and increased his strength; his name as the long-hoped-for deliverer of Germany was on every tongue, and even in Emden the faces of those who spoke of him plainly betrayed to the Dutch authorities a secret hope that the enterprise would succeed, and East Friesland become once more a part of the Prussian dominions.
Freda recounted all this to Uwen, and as she did so the eyes, which just before had been averted in strange embarrassment, now gazed steadfastly at each other, kindled by a like ardour. After a long season of depression, this came as the first piece of good news for their nation, and it made their hearts beat in joyful unison, for fancy had already transformed their hope into assurance. The wind was blowing from the south-east, from the land where Major Schill was fighting for the freedom of Germany, and they seemed to inhale with every breath a sense of the heroic and the sublime. They were almost beside themselves and, for the moment, children once again. Uwen's delight must find some outward vent. He seized Freda by the waist, and whirled her over the sands in a wild, joyous dance, such as they used to have on this very spot. Just as the arid island produced here and there some lovely floweret, almost an exotic, so had Walmot, amidst the apathetic dwellers on these isolated North-Sea mounds, kindled in two young hearts an ardent patriotism which they mutually fanned. Twilight came on, but they never thought of parting. With their scant knowledge of political affairs they tried to sketch for themselves the future course of events. Should Germany declare war, Uwen considered the defeat of France as certain in face of the united arms of Austria, England, Spain, and Sweden. Freda was the first to notice the similarity of the names, Schill and Schiller. The thought struck her: Could the brave leader of the hussars be the same person as the author of William Tell,' the name being perhaps printed differently on the title-page of the book, or else mispronounced by the people? In any case, the two similar names indicated the highest point of heroism which their thoughts, their feelings, or their hopes were able to conceive.
It was almost dark before they thought of separating.
Good-night, Freda ; we'll talk over again to-morrow what we think is likely to happen,' said Uwen, as he held out his hand. For years he had only done so on rare and special occasions. Freda felt she stood nearer to him than she had done for a very long time. Instead of the playmates' bond of early days, they felt that a new tie was knitting them together —a tie arising from mutual apprehension of the beauty and sublimity of Schiller's works, and mutual grief for the misfortunes of their country.
Circumstances drew them thus together, for there was no one on Uwen's side of the island who had the slightest sympathy with him in either of these respects. This made Freda very happy. She rejoiced to feel that their long estrangement was over, and that a friendly feeling was again springing up between them. In spite of all, however, her bosom heaved with a deep, ill-repressed sigh as she bent her way homewards in the dusk.
OFTEN had Uwen and Freda heard, in their history-lessons from Pastor Remmert, of heroes who, in the very face of death, had delivered their country from misery and shame.
Here now was a living hero, whom the wretchedness of their land had spurred on to attempt a like noble deed. Schill was fighting even for them, the dwellers on this distant isle ; somewhere or other his pulse was beating in sympathy with theirs. Uwen and Freda were in a state of continual excitement, as their fancy pictured what might even then be taking place. They would stand, straining their eyes to catch, as it were, a glimpse of the gallant leader in the distant land, where they imagined him to be performing his glorious deeds, and for this purpose they removed their place of meeting to the south shore of the island, because from thence they could perceive the faint outline of the mainland. Together here they wove a crown of glory for their hero, and endowed him with all the noblest human attributes of mind and soul.
Once Uwen asked:
What sort of a man do you imagine him to be ?'
Freda naturally thought that he must be tall, slender, and very strong.
"And his features ?'
'Should you think him to be like anyone you have ever seen on our island ?'
She gave a slight laugh:
'Any of the fishermen? No, certainly not!' And she looked inquiringly at the speaker to see if she had understood him aright. Then she added with a strange impetuosity : 'No, I can't at all imagine what his features can be like.'
And her eyes glanced away over the sea.
When they had thus exhausted their ideas and conceptions about the object of their admiration, they resumed the reading which had first been the means of bringing them again together on the downs. Freda always brought one of her books with her, out of which they read by turns. The reading connected itself with their previous conversation almost as if it were a part of it; the names of Schill and Schiller became blended in their minds, and produced one and the same feeling.
But the fair dream was brief, and had, in fact, ended long before the winds had wafted a word about Schill's fate to the shores of the distant isle. One stormy day in June, Roeluf Hemmen had gone over to Norden. Walmot had been anxious, and had entreated Datya not to go with him on this occasion. He came back quite early in the afternoon, in full sail, like a chased sea-gull, and bearer of grievous news. The armies of Austria had been defeated, and, in consequence of this new victory of the French, Major Schill had not only been abandoned by the thoroughly disheartened Prussian monarch, but he and his followers were declared rebels and outlaws. Forsaken by his King, he had fled to the Baltic in the hope of finding refuge on one of the English cruisers. Pursued by a band of Dutch and Danish troops twenty times more numerous than his own, and besieged in the city of Stralsund, he had, after a brave defence, been overpowered by the besiegers, and, with most of his followers, had fallen sword in hand. The few wounded men who were taken alive were made captive, and ordered by Napoleon to be shot at Wesel.
Such was the terrible news which Freda, in the midst of her sobs, reported to Uwen, who had again waited for her a long time upon the downs. Her trembling lips could scarcely pronounce the cruel words. The hero-idol of their mutual dreams lay dead and trampled under foot in the muddy street of the distant Baltic town, had breathed out his last, weeks before, even while they, on the wings of Hope, were picturing him borne from victory to victory. Rising from the very depths of his soul, there fell, almost unconsciously, from the lips of Uwen the cry, bitter as that of death :
"How could God suffer such things to happen?
Then tears flowed from his eyes, as they had before done from those of Freda ; in the bitter grief that had so suddenly overtaken them, they were like two forlorn children, drawn irresistibly together for comfort. The girl laid her head upon his shoulder, and his arm clasped her waist, as they mourned over the sad fate of Ferdinand von Schill.
A minute later, however, they were no longer alone in the quiet twilight, for the head of Teda peered suddenly above the hill of sand. She had for some time felt very angry at Uwen's regular disappearance in the afternoon, and had been looking for him in vain on the old playground, where she knew that he and Freda met to read. Perceiving them here, she called out in a somewhat jeering tone:
And, pray, why do you now hold your reading here ?'
On hearing her voice, the two who were addressed started up in some confusion; the sound awoke them from their complete forgetfulness of surrounding things. Uwen's arm, however, still encircled Freda, and she, with a sudden start, raised her head from his shoulder. Thus they gazed for a moment doubtfully at the figure standing above them, while Teda, for some seconds, looked silently down on the eyes that were glistening with tears. Then Teda's rage boiled over; her features plainly showed that she was irresistibly carried away by some intense excitement. She hurried up to them, seized the volume of Schiller's poems, which Uwen had brought with him, and flung it as far as ever she could, from the top of the downs into the waters that were coming in below.
Then, with a short, bitter laugh, she turned round, and, without another word, hurried away down the sandhill.
It had all taken place so quickly that Uwen as yet scarcely grasped its meaning. Starting to his feet, and looking in the
direction where the book had disappeared in the water, he exclaimed:
What does this mean? If it is intended for a joke, it is a very shameful one.'
His tone indicated irrepressible anger, while Freda, pale with suppressed emotion, stood for some moments gazing in silence at the figure rapidly retreating over the distant shore. Then, turning towards Uwen, she said in a low voice, which she strove to keep calm :
*Teda is angry, because you have left her so much alone; she thinks you won't do so, if
you have not got the book. You never thought about it, but it was very wrong of me. We will leave it off from to-day. Besides, Schill is dead; we should have had nothing more to tell about him, and the book is of no consequence. Good-bye, Uwen, and thank you very much for all you have taught me here.'
She held out her hand, which he took, but not to bid goodbye. He grasped it tightly, as he said, in a tone of deep conviction :
"You in the wrong? In what way? It is Teda who has vexed you and destroyed one of your
dearest treasures. Stay and sit down. Let us go on with our talk.' Freda shook her head.
No; go to her ; she thinks she has reason to be angry. If you care at all for me, go to her and make it up. I know she cannot help it, when she is in one of these passions.'
The girl drew her hand from his and hastened towards her home. Uwen stood irresolute ; he was angry that Freda should have been so unjustly treated by Teda, who attracted him, nevertheless, in spite of this violent outburst. He followed her, as might have been foreseen; he wanted to point out to her how very wrong she had been, and to ask what had led her to behave in such a way. By the time he had descended to the beach, she was nowhere to be seen ; but as he bent his steps a little way along the coast, he discovered her sitting in a little cove, which could only be noticed from the water. She pretended not to observe his approach. He advanced with some hesitation, and took a seat by her side, and then he put his intended question, Why had she thrown Freda's book into the sea ? Fixing her star-like eyes upon him, she replied, with a forced laugh:
‘Oh, I did it for your good, and to put out of the way what had called forth your tears.'