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It is well for him that he has such a liberal bonne amiesuch a charming sweetheart. Certainly you can purchase at Aurich his release for this sum, and I will manage the business
But you must, en revanche, mind that he spends tonight happily by your side, and not at the parsonage. You understand? So long as I remain on the island he must keep away from the parsonage, that mes solilats, my companions, may not catch sight of him. You understand, ma petite? If not, he will have to go with us to-morrow to Aurich, and your money will have been of little service to him. But it will be easy enough for you to keep him safe away.'
The Walloon ended his speech with a light jest, clearly intended to afford him the amusement of bringing back again the crimson flush to the cheeks of the girl ; but, to his surprise, she returned his look without the least embarrassment, and answered quite simply that she would follow his advice at once.
He burst into a laugh : * Diable ! you seem
to grow wise betimes among your fishes, but without having their cold blood !
She did not comprehend him, and paid little heed to his words; her whole thoughts were bent on devising how to inform Uwen of the danger that hung over him and the only means he had of escape.
At first she thought of asking the officer to repeat to Uwen what he had just told her. But she did not want Uwen to know by what means he was gaining release from the conscription, and the blood rushed once more to her face at the mere thought that the Frenchman might repeat to him the terms by which he had so erroneously described their mutual relation. To go herself to the parsonage at the risk of meeting with Teda was a course too repugnant to her feelings. To seek once more the help of Roeluf appeared to her the wisest plan, so, taking an abrupt leave of the officer, she hastened home as fast as she could.
De Walcourt stood gazing after her. On his features might be read a slow perception that the inconceivable naïveté displayed in her answer arose from her being inwardly absorbed by other thoughts, and a peculiar gleam of wild passion shone in the eyes he fixed upon her retreating form.
It was mid-day. Not that the hour could be told from the position of the sun, for the whole sky was covered with a veil of leaden gray; from the west came a wind, not as yet very violent, but ever increasing in force. Egide de Walcourt began to feel hungry and turned his steps to the parsonage to get his craving appeased.
It was in a most singular state of mind that Uwen partook of the mid-day repast. He was quite incapable of pursuing any clear, connected train of thought. He did not want to leave the island, but could think of no way in which to avoid this necessity. It seemed to him very strange that his reflections were all so confusedly intermingled with his dream on the downs the night before—a remembrance that he found it impossible to drive away. He had been under its spell during the whole morning, and the impression, instead of growing gradually fainter, produced continually the same vivid effect upon his mind. At last a very unexpected remark made by the French officer released him from having thus uselessly to rack his brain.
In the most obliging manner De Walcourt said he had satisfied himself that the personal attendance of Uwen at Aurich would not be necessary; the affair could be settled by letter. The Walloon dismissed the subject with these few words; he gave no further explanation.
When Uwen afterwards joined Teda in her room, the two found it impossible to account for the present behaviour of the officer, so different from what it had been in the morning. It would seem as if they had been mistaken in thinking he wanted to remove Teda's powerful protector from the house. During their consultation, Roeluf arrived with the somewhat mysterious warning that Uwen must on no account pass the night in the parsonage—if he did, he would be in certain danger of being carried off; he must slip out of sight of the French soldiers as soon as ever he could, and remain for a time in concealment at the cottage of Walmot, whose advice Roeluf thus delivered. How Walmot had come to this conclusion he was unable to explain, nor could his hearers understand the connection and meaning of it all. But if Walmot had despatched to Uwen a warning like this, it was not, assuredly, without the most urgent cause, and there could be no question as to Uwen's taking heed to her words.
With this assurance, Roeluf took his leave, while Uwen and Teda still remained together vainly discussing his singular message. It suddenly struck them that if Uwen quitted the parsonage for the night, the same end would be gained as if he went over to the mainland.
This threw a little light over the dark mystery ; it led them to infer that the French officer was still seeking Uwen's removal for the night, only by a different plan. Why in this way, rather than in the former, was a question they were unable to answer. For the present, this was a matter of indifference in comparison with the chief point-that it would also be impossible for Teda, under such circumstances, to remain in the house. She was the first to suggest an expedient :
•We must spend the night, then, once more on the downs.'
Uwen recoiled from the proposal and remained for a few moments silent; then he urged the greater coldness of the night, and the probability of rain. Another expedient occurred to him—the church might serve them for shelter ; no one would thi of their being there, and, with some rugs, they might very well pass the night on the benches in the choir. The plan met with Teda's approval ; she did not show the slightest annoyance at the strange course they were forced to adopt, but rather the contrary. She answered :
That will do capitally; we shall be there then both together, under the protection of God.'
They decided that Uwen should repair at once to the beach and hide himself upon the downs until the evening, just as if he had already left the house for the night. Teda was to appear at the supper-table and then hurry across to the church, where Uwen was to be waiting for her. Thus the officer might be led to suppose that she had retired to rest in some remote corner of the parsonage, and exercise his ingenuity in trying to discover where.
She gave a quiet laugh:
'I read in his eyes that he is even more in love than he was yesterday. Are you? We are told to love our neighbour as ourselves. So I do; he is not my neighbour, however, but
Instead of finishing the sentence, she threw her arms round Uwen's neck, who now suddenly remembered that he must attend to Walmot's warning, and so, freeing himself from her embrace, he hastily quitted the house. On passing the church, a strange thrill shook his frame, as though some mysterious evil awaited him there. He wished he had never thought of spending the night in it with Teda. But as he must be at hand for her protection, they would have to be together somewhere or other. For the present, he hastened past the church, and disappeared behind the downs.
The October afternoon passed slowly by, and its pale gloomy light indicated that the shades of evening might be expected at an earlier hour than usual. The wind seemed uncertain which way to blow; sometimes a gust came from the west, then it shifted to the north, then for a few minutes there was a complete lull.
In front of the downs lay the sea-gray, gloomy, overhung with mist, through which shimmered here and there a white flake of foam.
No ships were to be seen; since the beginning of the Continental Blockade, they had almost disappeared from this part of the German Ocean. To the north-west a shadowy prominence might be descried, but the thick haze made it impossible to say what the object really was. The tide began to flow in, surging on the beach with a heavy, monotonous sound. The island lay there just the same as usual, and was being gradually overspread by the coming darkness.
It was quite an unusual event, but it happened on this day that some eyes were looking eagerly forward to the return of night. Those of Egide de Walcourt were amongst the number, for he was bored with the length of the day, during which he could do nothing but wander listlessly about.
Since the morning, his behaviour towards the pastor's daughter had been full of respect and designedly reserved, calculated to inspire a comforting reassurance that he would not again repeat his audacious attempt of the previous evening. A very different tale, however, was to be inferred from the look in his eyes as they roved about in the hope of catching a chance glimpse of her. These said plainly enough that the first spark of an amorous feeling which had been kindled yesterday had, in his inflammable nature, mounted to a passionate resolve, that would not let him leave the place until he had gained his end.
On the other side of the island Freda awaited, with still more restless impatience, the approach of dusk. Roeluf had brought back Uwen's answer that he would attend to Walmot's warning, and Freda was expecting his arrival every nioment. Unaware that Teda needed his protection, she could not at all account for his delay. Teda could not be pressed into military service, and the thought of danger threatening anyone but Uwen never occurred to Freda. But her anxiety at his non-appearance drew her to the door. A Frenchman was closely associated in her mind with the notion of deceit and treachery. She had found no satisfactory explanation of the change in De Walcourt's face when he conceived the false notion that she was the sweetheart of the man he wanted out
of his way.
It was getting darker and darker. Freda's anxiety, increasing with the darkness, drew her at length towards the little neck of land. She was forming a resolution to arouse the villagers and, in case the officer should break his word, induce them to oppose by force the removal of Uwen.
A FRIEND IN NEED.
AMIDST the various feelings with which the coming night was anticipated, those of Teda were the most peculiar. They far more closely resembled the passionate excitement of the Walloon than the anxious dread of Freda. She could think, indeed, of nothing else. The idea of spending the night alone with Uwen in the church filled her mind and senses with a strange spiritual fervour and a passionate feeling that savoured of earth alone.
But to sleep on the hard stalls of the choir, was not quite an agreeable prospect; her fancy improved on this plan by the notion of arranging as commodious a couch as possible in the little sacristy behind the altar. She made preparations for carrying out her design by collecting a couple of warm rugs, which she wrapped round her pillow. She longed, too, very much for her soft down quilt to lay over the hard pavement, but felt it would be scarcely possible to carry all away with her at once. Two journeys would be necessary, and this would make detection more likely. It was provoking not to have Uwen's assistance, but he could not venture back again, and, besides, she wished to surprise him with her arrangements. She stood gazing out into the ever-deepening gloom, and turning over in her mind the best means of accomplishing her plans.