Sidebilder
PDF
ePub
[blocks in formation]

WHEN the islanders assembled in front of the church, Teda and Uwen met with Freda again the first time for many months. Engrossed with talking over the events of the day, they unconsciously accompanied Walmot all the way back to her cottage. When they reached her door, she asked Uwen what name he proposed to choose. He had not thought about it, he said. She advised him to consult with his two companions, girls being often much more inventive in such matters than men.

So they all three turned aside on to the downs, and their feet mechanically led them to their old playground. It was a lovely day! The sandy downs lay lone and silent but for the sea-gulls that flitted overhead, their white wings glistening in the light of the setting sun.

Although Teda had returned the book which, a year before, she had tossed into the sea, the girls had never, since that day, resumed their intercourse; they had become almost strangers to one another.

Even the personal appearance of Freda was quite a surprise. The change in her was so great that Teda scarcely knew her old playmate again. Freda's figure was no longer angular, or thin, or defective. Beneath the simple, ordinary stuff dress could now be divined a perfect form of the most delicate moulding. The hands, somewhat bronzed by the sun and everyday work, were exquisitely shaped, so that they could not for a moment be compared with those of the other fishermen's children. The pastor's daughter, with her dark hair, her pale complexion, and the finely-cut features, might appear amid the sandy downs a more distinguished, foreignlooking girl; but the child that had been cast up by the NorthSea waves was assuredly in no way inferior to her in all that constitutes a maiden's real charm. This fact forced itself strongly on Teda's notice. The two girls sat opposite each other, exchanging but few words, for they did not know what to talk about. Uwen also felt embarrassed. He had scarcely seen Freda since that winter night of stormy flood; he no longer went across the isthmus himself, and yet he fancied it

was she who avoided him and desired no further meetings. The early tie of childhood, and the later one, formed through Schiller and the woes of their country, seemed completely broken.

Perhaps they all three wished that they had not followed Walmot's counsel. They had, however, done so, and this stupid silence could not last for ever.

Uwen was the first to speak.

'For you two girls the matter is already settled. You'turning to Teda—'are named from this day forth Teda Osterloo, and you Freda Utsee.' As he said the last words he fixed his eyes upon Freda, but cast them immediately to the ground again, as he continued : 'We have now nothing to do but find some suitable name for me.'

He sat waiting. The girls mentioned name after name, as they occurred to them. Teda thought that for a pastor and a scholar a Greek or Latin name would be most appropriate and sound best, such as she had met with in her father's theological and historical books. She named some that she remembered -Molitor, Sartorius, Xylander, Crucifer. The last pleased her best for a pastor, so she fixed upon it. Freda, on the contrary, wished Uwen's name to have some connection with the island, and she turned her thoughts in that direction. Reviewing in memory their bygone days, she suggested the name of Rafter, because he had helped them to cross the water by making them rafts; Sedgewick, because of the caps and baskets which they used to weave out of the coarse sedge. But Teda shrugged her shoulders at these propositions. The former was too much like that of a mechanic, the latter was too babyish. The sea-gulls' isle, with its three remarkable rocks, occurred next to Freda, and she suggested the names of Stone or Rock, but the pastor's daughter thought everything connected with sea was only suitable for fisher-folk. Freda considered once more, and this time she hit upon something suitable to the student, and also pleasant to the ear, and she exclaimed with positive delight:

Uwen Warner !'

This would be conferring upon him the popular name of a sea-bird that, according to Frisian tradition, few around the houses that were in danger from the high floods, in order to arouse by his cry the sleeping inmates. Teda knew the tradition, but shook her head, saying:

[ocr errors]

6

6

:

6

6

Why, what sense would there be in that?'

'Because he came to wake and give us warning at the time of the great flood last winter.'

She gave this as her reason for the name without the slightest embarrassment, but, having done so, she was startled by receiving a sudden piercing look from the eyes of her companion, who then closely scanned the face of Uwen, which had become strangely pale.

All at once Teda started up and exclaimed :

'How dare you tell such an untruth ! Have you been dreaming that he could have left our home in a time of such danger in order to warn you? If so, it was a fool's dream. Should a flood come again, be wiser in your sleep. Come, it's time we went home.'

She hurried on a few steps, then turned round and said to Uwen :

Are you going to stay any longer with this deceitful girl ?'

Freda stood as if struck by lightning ; with trembling lips she at last stammered forth :

· Yes—I think—it can only have been a dream.'

Collecting all her strength, she turned her feet in the opposite direction. Uwen's hand made an involuntary movement as if to detain her, but she waved him off, and hurried away. The fate that had threatened them on this spot for the last ten years had now befallen them; the old tie between the two girls, which had never been a real friendship, was now abruptly and irreparably severed.

Strangely desolate, almost like haunted ground, did the scene of his boyhood's sports appear to Uwen, as he was left there all alone on the old familiar spot. An overwhelming dread seized him; this barren ground produced nought but sand and sedge, yet it had been to him a paradise which he now felt had vanished from the isle for ever.

· Are you coming, Uwen Crucifer?' called out a voice some twenty steps away; and then the cause of the hasty quarrel suddenly occurred to him, and with it came an overwhelming dread lest he should be questioned as to the circumstances that had suggested the name of Warner.

He set out with Teda on the way towards home without making the slightest allusion to the deadly affront with which she had severed the last link between herself and the playmate of her early days. And Teda avoided putting to him the

question he had feared, whether he had really been to Walmot's cottage on the night of the flood. Her remarks indicated not the slightest doubt of Freda's untruthfulness. She clung to his arm, as was her wont, while she referred to what had taken place in a tone of cheerful satisfaction :

'She was always a silly little thing, not worth our notice. I am sure you have long thought and felt so too, only you have continued to visit her for old acquaintance' sake. Now she proves herself wicked also and tells the most shameful lies to give herself an air of importance. It is what one might have expected, for she and her foster-mother are unbelievers, and care nothing for the commands of the Gospel. I am glad this has happened, so that you will not care to go to the house again at the risk of your immortal soul. She probably heard of your going out on the vns that stormy night, in order to see if we were in any danger, and she boasts in the village that it was their cottage you were anxious about. Shall I tell you something that I have never yet confessed to you?'

Daylight was already fading as she fixed her piercing gaze on the face of her companion. Her words relieved him of his fear, while her look bound him as by a magic spell.

What is it, Teda ?' “You have also cause to be angry with me for having kept a secret from you. I felt a sudden shock on that night, as if the flood were upon us, and I thought the house was going to be washed away. I started up in a fright and hastened to your room, in order to escape with you, but you were not there.'

A strange sensation came over Uwen as with difficulty he uttered the words :

And why-why did you tell me a different tale ?' 'I was ashamed at having been so frightened and silly, and that is why I was so cross with you the next day. It was bitterly cold, and I ran quickly back again for fear of meeting you. What I said was no untruth, for I heard you come in, but through cowardice I kept back part of the truth. Are you angry with me for it ?'

An interrogative glance accompanied the last question. Utterly confused in thought, Uwen asked:

"For what?' She laughed.

* For having been too much ashamed to tell you all. Thank God, such a night is not likely to occur again, so that I need never again hide anything from you.'

6

remorse.

When Uwen lay down on his bed that night he was quite unable to determine whether Teda really considered Freda's explanation as false or not. But however this might be, there could be no doubt that her sudden anger had arisen from jealousy. Had she any cause for this, or was she merely blinded by a foolish fancy? He knew that Freda had been unjustly accused of lying, and that he himself was doubly to blame for the accusation. In the first place, because he really had been over to the cottage, and then, because he ought to have at once acknowledged this to Teda, in order to justify Freda. He did not, however, regret the visit he had paid on that terrible night; he still felt that, under the same circumstances, he would-he must-do the same thing again. But he blamed himself for his present behaviour. In order not to provoke Teda's jealousy still more bitterly, he had acted like a coward : he had kept silent, and inflicted on Freda the deepest of wounds. It was through him that she suffered so cruelly, and this thought filled his heart with deepest grief and bitterest

He could not bear the reflection that, through his own selfish fear, he had left Freda helpless and disgraced, and that she knew this, and must inwardly reproach him for it. He must undo all this; he must free himself from these distracting thoughts; he must in the morning openly confess to Teda the whole truth, and get her to withdraw the disgraceful charge. With this resolution he became calmer, and then he pictured himself trying to induce Teda to go to Walmot's cottage. He could see her eyes fixed upon him, and hear her reply : 'So then, it was not Freda, but you, who deceived me. And this is why your room was empty when danger threatened us, and I relied on your protection. And I admitted your right to blame me, to reproach me, because shame had prevented me from candidly telling you how I came to know of your absence.'

The voice of Teda resounded in his ear, and he seemed to hear her go on and say: ‘Don't be alarmed ; if ever such a night occurred again, never would I be so silly as to come to you for help, to make myself a laughing-stock for you and Freda.'

The blood rushed to Uwen's temples, and its hasty throbbings seemed to say that Teda did not as yet believe that he had been across on that night. The quick, warm beating of his pulse also filled his ears with feverish sounds. The wind seemed to blow from the sea and howl round the house, fore

« ForrigeFortsett »