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After waiting some time, the pastor himself conducted the officer to his chamber, and then sought his own room.
Teda at last returned to the empty parlour. Uwen still kept out of the way.
She guessed it was through his hatred of the French uniform, and, without his protection in the house, she felt she dared not lie down in her own room to sleep, so she repaired to her mother's chamber.
She had never done such a thing before, and Deena, who was just about to fall asleep, asked angrily what she wanted. Teda then related the scene with the Walloon, said she was afraid of him, and begged that she might be allowed to spend the night seated on the chair in her mother's room. But Deena morosely replied :
'And not let me have a wink of sleep all night. Go where you please, but don't stay here. Do you think he wants to harm you? If you think he's got money, you had better go along with him.
Thus repulsed, Teda left the room without another word. Her whole frame shook, as if she had received a blow; her mind was in vague confusion. Creeping along on tiptoe, she went outside to the front of the house to wait for Uwen's return. The night was warm, and a crescent-moon, surrounded by a broad halo, shed a faint light around. A thick haze lay over the sea, and now and then a hollow rumbling filled the air. Evidently the weather was about to break up; the long, bright days of autumn were coming to an end.
Over there, in Walmot Utsee's cottage, Uwen still sat in consultation with some half-dozen of the fishermen. The latter were not very eloquent of speech, and they repeated, for the most part, the same words over and over again, but their eyes betrayed an inward emotion. The question they had to decide was; should they, and could they, resist the enlistment of their sons ?
On hearing of their errand, Walmot had at first advised them to resist, but, after a moment's reflection, she had dissuaded them from doing so. It would be of no use–French troops would come over from the mainland and punish the islanders as rebels, and also carry off by force the recruits, who would be able neither to fly nor to hide themselves. Another thought struck her forcibly. War must be breaking out again, since the French Emperor required more soldiers, and could even send so far for them, and she anxiously considered with Roeluf and Uwen against what people an attack could have been planned.
Freda sat quietly listening. Only, on the first report of the news that all the young men were to be taken for the French army, she had sprung up and, with a face as colourless as the sandy downs, had exclaimed : 'All ? and you too ?'
With a shake of his head, Uwen had replied that he, as a future pastor, was exempt from the conscription, whereupon Freda had cried out: Thank God that you are to be a pastor !'
This was the first time the two had met since the violent quarrel between the girls. During the rest of the evening Uwen and Freda exchanged no further words, nor did their eyes so much as meet. He had come hither to-day solely to seek Walmot's advice; in his excitement he had not so much as thought of meeting Freda too. But this time he would be able, without hesitation, to confess his visit to Teda.
At last they all came to the decision that no one should make a fruitless attempt at resistance while on the island itself, but should accompany the escort voluntarily to the mainland. Having arrived there, each one should seize a favourable opportunity, during the course of their further march, to escape, and then, avoiding the towns, make his way back across the East Frisian moors. The French would not be likely to seek for them again on the island, or, if they did, the fugitives must be hidden, and the islanders must pretend to know nothing about them. Walmot's judicious and practical mind, weighing all things, had at last hit upon this as the best and only expedient, and she further added, in case anyone was unable to slip away before, he must then, at the first onset of battle, risk all and go over to the enemy, who would undoubtedly be a friend to their country.
DREAMS ON THE DOWNS.
The night was already far advanced when the fishermen wended their way home, each one seeking his own cottage, while Uwen proceeded alone towards the parsonage. He was still some hundred steps away, when he gave an involuntary start. A tall, dark figure suddenly sprang forward from behind a heap of wood and advanced towards him. It seized him by the arm—and then he recognised Teda, who had been in wait for him here. She asked why he had not been in to supper, and where he had been staying so long? He told her the truth, but his answer called forth no displeasure. She seemed wholly indifferent both to that and to the fate that awaited the young fishermen on the morrow.
Hastily interrupting him, she told him why she had been staying out of doors until now. Uwen stood in speechless amazement as he threw his arms around her; at last he got out the words:
• What did the scoundrel want with you?'
What none may have but you,' she said, clasping his neck as she offered him her lips. When they once more parted from his, she continued : 'I can venture back into the house now, under your protection ; you are stronger than he is, and by your side I don't fear him one bit. She paused a moment, then she said : “But where are you going to sleep; you know he has got your bed ?'
'No; even with you there, I dare not pass the night alone in my own room.'
She had poured forth the words in haste; then she paused, and he, too, was silent. Thus they stood for a few moments speechless; in the stillness of the night the agitated breathing of both could be distinctly heard. With an effort, Uwen at last broke the silence :
'So, then, we have neither of us a bed to-night.' A sudden thought struck him, and he hurriedly continued: “The air is as warm as if it were July ; I know what we can do. Wait a moment; I will be back directly.'
He ran quickly into the parsonage, from which he returned in a few minutes with a large, thick woollen rug. Teda asked :
What are you going to do? what is that for?'
'A covering for you; the sand still retains the heat of the sun, and is as warm as a bed. Come, we will make us a couch for the night on the downs.'
The house being so near, Teda stifled with her hand the words that were ready to burst from her lips, then she softly whispered :
'Your idea is capital; you are much cleverer than I am. Come along !
They bent their steps towards the downs, sought and found a little hollow that was sheltered from the wind. It answered every requirement. Teda chose for herself the most comfortable spot, lay down, and allowed Uwen to wrap her up in the rug. The moon was by this time covered with a veil of mist; only a somewhat brighter spot indicated its position. The figure of the recumbent maiden stood out in relief against the lighter-coloured ground like a dark shrine, on which her face shone as a faint gleam. She went on chattering ; she now told, with fuller details, how the Walloon had thrown his arm round her, and tried to snatch a kiss; then she wound up with saying :
"After all, I am glad now that he came.' Uwen asked, with some hesitation :
Why are you glad ?' She at once replied :
"Oh! because it is such a good joke to have cheated him so nicely. Perhaps at this very moment he is- She did not finish her speech, but interrupting herself, she asked: Don't
feel cold ?' 'No.'
‘Oh, you must be cold, you've no wrap.' As he made no answer, she continued : ‘Come, I'm not selfish ; I'll share mine
: with you. The Scripture says that man and wife must have all things in common, and so will we, too.'
It was the first time that such a word had ever fallen from her lips. She half raised herself and cleverly threw part of the woollen rug over Uwen, who, breathless with amazement, offered no opposition as she drew him nearer to her side.
'If not, we shall both be cold. I will have no one but you; the French officer may, indeed, be handsomer than you, but I will have no one for my husband but you.' Uwen was unable to utter a word; he trembled all over. Then Teda said, with a laugh : 'It is not so in our house, but I believe it is generally the custom for man and wife to give each other a kiss when they say good-night.'
She put one of her arms under his neck, playfully drawing his face towards hers, and kissed him till he was quite breathless. Then she let him go, but only for a few moments, during which a strange convulsive laugh escaped her lips, that were once more eagerly pressed to his. Though years had singularly developed him both in size and strength, he was as completely in her power as in the days of boyhood. She it was who willed -he must perforce obey.
Sleep at last overpowered them both, and with it came fantastic dreams. Strangely curious things were mixed up with the actual circumstances—at least, in Uwen's fancy.
He saw himself seated upon one of the rocks near the edge of the sea-gulls' isle. He was Ferdinand von Schill, and had to become a French soldier and fight against Germany. But a voice from the waves that murmured at his feet came and told him there was still a way of escape, if only he betook himself to a house that stood somewhere on the neighbouring isle. He obeyed, and for a long time wandered about over the wet sands. Everywhere he felt two forms close beside him. He could not see them, only at each step he took, he perceived the little footprints which they left on the moist sand. At last he had reached the house, where he sat in consultation with a number of very reserved and taciturn people. They could arrive at no conclusion, until the same voice from the sea spoke again, but this time from the lips of a woman. It said he would get no help in this way; he must go with someone on to the downs in order to learn what course to adopt. He did so, and went out with a young girl; but she also was invisible, only he could feel her hand in his. Now they sank down side by side on the soft sands; the wind murmured around them, driving some screaming gulls hither and thither. They now consulted together. She who lay beside him put her arm round his neck, and said : 'Schill must never allow himself to become a tool in the hands of the French against his own country. If he did, never would she be his wife.'