[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

He responded :
'I never will. Nothing shall induce me !

The words proceeded from his own inward conviction, but his heart beat all the more wildly as he felt that, if he did help the French, he would lose the greatest blessing of his life, for she would never then let him claim her as his own. "But will


if I don't ?' he asked, his heart beating with a strangely quiet rapture in his breast; and the voice replied:

'I will.'

Hereupon Uwen opened his eyes, and for some time he scarcely knew whether he had been dreaming, or was dreaming still All around him was just as he had seen it in his dream : he was lying on the downs, the wind was whistling round him, sea-gulls were flying about, beneath his neck was an arm that had half slipped away-only the night had nearly passed, and a cold, pale, early streak of light was glimmering in the eastern sky

Was he, or was he not, Ferdinand von Schill ? As to this, he could not feel quite sure, but he knew perfectly well who it was that lay beside him with her arm around his neck. He had suddenly recognised the voice as it had said, 'I will,' and with the exultant feeling of joy still in his heart, he raised his head a little, in order to gaze upon the face from which that voice had come.

His eyelids quivered, and he gave a sudden convulsive start as he gazed. In the pale gray light it was the face of Teda that he saw beside him. But yet it was not her voice that he had heard—the voice that still re-echoed in his ear, in his heart.

He was now fully aroused from his dream. He knew that it had been a mere illusion. He recalled how and why he had come hither with Teda. They must have been sleeping here for several hours, for it was the early dawn that now threw a dim light around. As often happens after a night thus spent in the open air, he felt a cold shiver run through all his limbs. Obeying an irresistible impulse, he rose up, and took a few quick steps to and fro, then stood and gazed motionless out into the distance before him.

Teda slept on. At last he called to her by name. She awoke, and looked about her in surprise, as she sought to make out where she was.

She quickly bethought herself, however, and asked : 'Is the night so soon over?'

[ocr errors]


Uwen answered :

'Yes; it is morning now. We must make haste into the house, so that we may not be seen.'

At this reminder she, too, sprang up at once. In spite of her more delicate frame, she seemed to feel no chill, but said, seizing his hand as she walked on with him :

Are you cold? I am as warm as if I had been in bed all night; and I thought I was there when I first awoke. I have seldom slept so well.'

Her features, however, showed signs of weariness, and Uwen replied:

You had better lie down on your own bed for a little while; I will sit before the door until it is quite daylight.'

As they approached the parsonage, the young French officer drew back his head from the window of Uwen's room, without being noticed by them. He had retired early on the previous evening, and, not having had his usual quantity of wine, he was perhaps, in consequence, disposed to get up early. He looked annoyed ; and from his dark eyes shot some keen, fiery glances at the two who were approaching in the faint morning light.

They entered the house very quietly; Teda went at once to her own room, while Uwen fetched a chair, on which he sat down before her door. But he, too, felt tired, and leaned his head against the wall. He was but half awake, and as he thought of his interrupted dream a longing came over him to pick up once more the broken thread. So consciousness again slumbered. After a time, aroused by a slight noise, he mechanically raised his head and opened his eyes for a moment; but he did not perceive that the Walloon, who had just opened his bedroom door, had instantly retreated as he saw the athletic figure on guard in front of Teda's chamber.



ACCORDING to the order given by the recruiting-officer, all the men of the island assembled in the morning at the appointed hour in front of the parsonage; Roeluf Utsee was amongst them. With the assistance of the two soldiers who had been quartered in the village, the French Lieutenant wrote down the general particulars respecting height and age of such as were suitable for the service. Then he copied out their names from the pastor's list, and seemed to have completed his work. But, with his eyes fixed once more in the direction where Uwen was standing, Egide de Walcourt suddenly said he had admitted yesterday somewhat too hastily that the pastor's adopted son was exempt from the conscription. Of course, all theological students who had actually entered a university were free from the obligation; but such was not the present case. He could not, therefore, assent to it on his own responsibility, but must submit the decision of the question to the appointed authorities at Aurich. For this purpose, he found himself compelled to impose on the young man the slight inconvenience of accompanying one of his soldiers to the mainland, whence, he had no doubt, he would be able shortly to return furnished with the official certificate of exemption.

The officer said this very courteously, and in a tone of regret, but at the same time with a polite decision that left not the slightest room for opposing his arrangement. Pastor Remmert did not so much as make the attempt, but, turning to Uwen, said in a tone of indifference :

"Well, then, you will have to conform to the regulations, and obtain for yourself the final decision.'

De Walcourt obligingly continued that Uwen could please himself whether he went over at once or deferred his departure until the afternoon. Other considerations had occurred to himself which would compel him to remain a little longer on the island than he had at first intended.

The small number of recruits, he continued, in comparison with the present population, might easily arouse some doubts among the officials at Aurich. In order to meet these doubts,

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

he must make a more thorough examination of the church register, and also visit the different houses, in order to draw up a list of any of the young men who might at the present time be away from home. This would undoubtedly mean delay and trouble; still, it was indispensable in the interest of the islanders themselves, and he hoped to get through the work so as to be able, with his recruits, to follow Uwen next day across the water.

The latter stood in silent amazement; a confused notion whirled through his brain as to what was the real motive which led the Walloon to send him over to the mainland. But objections were as useless as resistance. Even if he had uttered his suspicion, he would have found from the pastor no approval of his disobedience to an official command, and no encouragement to remain on the island.

At the same time, the possibility of being detained at Aurich and compelled to assume the French uniform, filled him with the utmost horror. His last night's dream on the downs, which still lingered in his mind, now came vividly before him, and he could hear himself again uttering the fervent assertion : 'Never !—not for the whole world !'

Teda was not present on this occasion. In his uncertainty, Uwen went up to Roeluf and begged him to tell Walmot of the fate that threatened him, and to bring him word again what she advised. He dared not go over to the other side of the island himself, lest he should be suspected of an attempt at flight. Outwardly cool, but raging inwardly, in confused uncertainty he re-entered the house in search of Teda.

The villagers leisurely sought their homes. Roeluf alone ran back as fast as he could across the isle. But he did not find Walınot ; she had. put out to sea, and Freda was all alone in the cottage. He briefly imparted to her Uwen's message and what else he had heard, and then hastened to the beach, in order to signal for Walmot's return home. Freda's eyes remained fixed upon

the closed door. She had a scared look, like one who has received a sudden shock; her whole frame trembled; her feet gave way beneath her; she had to clutch at something for support. Sinking upon the nearest chair, and pale as death, she bowed down her face to her very knees; all the blood had been driven from her brain, and she sought instinctively thus to force it back, that she might be enabled to think. She remained in this posture for a few moments perfectly still ; then she sprang to her feet. Her look


showed that some sudden thought had struck her, and restored all her strength and resolution. She went to the chest which stood in a corner of the room, searched it hastily, and then left the house. She cast one look towards the sea, where her practised eye enabled her to distinguish the dark spot in the distance which marked the position of Walmot's boat. It being impossible to make her any signal of explanation, Freda hastened on towards the little neck of land that joined the two halves of the island.

Egide de Walcourt had visited some of the cottages, in order to make out the list which he had declared to be necessary. His face, however, expressed no interest in the details that were given him by the inmates; it rather wore the look of one who was performing a duty solely for the sake of appear

At last, disgusted with his task, he gave up all pretence, and lounged idly about, gazing over the wide expanse of the ocean, but without the slightest sign of interest. It was easy to see that he was merely trying to get through an idle, wearisome time of expectation ; he yawned every now and then, as though he had not had enough rest during the night.

All at once he looked up in surprise. A tall, golden-haired maiden stood unexpectedly before him and was speaking to him. She was simply dressed, like the other fishermen's daughters whom he had seen ; but she was quite different in her look, in her manner, and in her speech, and although she might be inwardly excited, she neither looked frightened nor bashful, but explained with calm confidence the purpose of her visit. She had heard, she said, that the pastor's adopted son had to go with the other recruits to Aurich ; but she had also been told that it was possible to purchase exemption from military service, and she had therefore brought the money for this purpose. Having said this, she placed a knitted purse, well filled with golden coins, in the hand of the officer, whose astonished look did not conceal his readiness to grasp the brilliant pieces that shone through the meshes, and his satisfaction with their amount.

But another thought also plainly surprised him, and led him to exclaim :

"What, isn't he then—so he is your admirer-your lover ?'

At this last word a deep flush overspread the maiden's face, and she cast down her eyes in shy embarrassment. But De Walcourt continued with a laughing quiver of his lips, as he slipped the money into his pocket:

« ForrigeFortsett »