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There was still another heart that awaited anxiously the coming night. Its owner was not upon the island, but approaching it now for the first time. From the direction where the dark shadow, standing up out of the sea, had now faded away sounded the stroke of an oar across the still rising tide; and a sailor, already past the prime of life, but broad-shouldered and muscular, was guiding a light boat towards the beach. He was not an islander, and he was evidently in no haste; or else he was using caution, as he seemed waiting for it to be quite dark before he landed. Apparently a stranger to the coast, he profited by the last gleam of daylight to direct his course towards the low, hooded church-tower.
Darkness at last well-nigh concealed everything, or, at all events, objects could only be distinguished at a very short distance. It was not likely to become any darker, for the faint light that still prevailed came from the crescent moon, which was hidden behind thick gray layers of the misty sky.
It was at this moment that a female figure glided noiselessly from the parsonage, and went towards the church. Teda had come to the conclusion that it would be best to prepare her couch at once, so as to be quite free when night arrived ; she was therefore carrying the rugs across beforehand. She looked carefully around before she slipped out, but she was mistaken in thinking herself unseen; for she was watched by the very person whose eye she most wished to escape. Egide de Walcourt happened to be near the spot, and not altogether by chance. The thought had occurred to him that Teda might possibly leave the house again secretly, as she had done before, in order to pass the night somewhere else, and so he was on the watch to discover her plans. Teda did not perceive him, but a streak of light from the parlour where Deena sat dozing fell upon the girl, and enabled De Walcourt to recognise her. The wind howled around as she hurried with her burden into the church, the door of which she left open that she might quickly return.
But scarcely had she groped her way some few steps, when she was startled by a voice close behind her:
'Is the little dove going to prepare a nest for her night's lodging beside the Madonna ?'
Uneasiness at Uwen's delay had drawn Freda onward step by step until the thick mantle of night had gathered completely around her. Concealed by this, she ventured across the neck
of land, and at last drew near the parsonage. She did not dare to enter within ; at a little distance she recognised the well-known streak of light in the pastor's study, then the lamp in the parlour ; her keen eye discerned, even a good way off, that Deena was sitting at the table alone. Nothing more could she see or hear; the question, where was Uwen? made Freda's heart beat with ever-growing, unbearable anxiety. Everything produced the impression that he was not in the house, perhaps no longer on the island. All at once she perceived Teda leave the house with a load in her arms and advance towards the church. Her first impulse was to follow her and inquire about Uwen; then it occurred to her that she must not do so, she had no right to be anxious on his account. Meanwhile Teda disappeared in the darkness, but in her place stood forth the outline of a man's figure that followed in the same direction. This must be Uwen, and Freda's heart beat more calmly at the thought. He was safe then. That was all she cared for. She paused, for she did not wish even him to know of her presence there. But now a sudden thought flashed through her mind and stung her to the quick. What could they both be doing there together? And she drew involuntarily nearer to the shadow of the gloomy tower, that stood out in the darkness of the night.
Then suddenly she was startled. A half - stifled cry for help, in which Uwen's name was mingled, came from the open church-door. It was the voice of Teda, and that of the French officer which Freda had heard in the morning, who hastily said:
"The Madonna's lips must be closed, lest she should be silly and scream.'
Then could be heard the sound of a struggle, and over the flagstones of the pavement the clatter of footsteps trying to gain the church-door. Freda had no notion of what might be passing there; but she felt that Teda stood in danger from the French officer, and that it was not Uwen whom she had seen.
Without a monient's reflection she darted forwards. Teda had succeeded in reaching the porch, but here her strength failed, and her tormentor was on the point of dragging her back within the building. The outline of the two figures thus struggling together could only just be distinguished. Instinctively Freda raised her hands, and pressed them with all her might against the breast of the Walloon. Confounded by the
unexpected thrust, he stumbled backwards a little. Teda was able to free herself, and her helper called out :
"Run over to us !'
At the same time Freda pulled to the church-door and kept it closed with a convulsive clutch, in spite of all efforts to open it from within.
She could not, however, hold out long against the superior strength of De Walcourt; her arm gave way. A quarter of a minute may have elapsed, when she was forced to let go the handle. She fled; the officer pursued. Teda had gained a
. start and might have been concealed by the darkness, but in her agitation she betrayed herself by the loud call of :
• Uwen! Uwen !'
Upon this her pursuer, who had caught up Freda, discovered his mistake. He at once let the latter go and hastened after Teda, whom he also overtook. But the cry for help had not been in vain. By a happy coincidence, it had followed the direction where Uwen was hiding on the downs, while waiting for the hour agreed upon for meeting in the church. The sound of a voice had already faintly reached his ear and drawn him somewhat nearer. Now, just at the very moment of Teda's renewed danger, he was at hand and able to render help.
What has happened ?' he asked.
A hasty explanation ensued. De Walcourt recognised the unexpected champion, stopped short, stammered out furiously, · Béte allemande !' and in blind rage snatched his sword from its sheath.
But Uwen grasped in a moment the true state of affairs. Without hesitation, he seized the officer, and, with irresistible strength, throwing him to the ground, snatched from him his sword and broke it in two. The whole scene had passed quick as thought
Freda shouted :
And the next moment all three had vanished from the sight of the Walloon, who had already sprung up from the ground and stood half bewildered, gnashing his teeth in impotent rage. The connection of the whole affair was anything but clear to him ; especially was he unable to understand by whose aid the pastor's daughter had been rescued at the church-door from his grasp. He felt as if he had been drawn into a trap, a thought
that made his very blood boil. He turned his steps mechanically towards the house where his two soldiers were billeted, although he was obliged to admit to himself that, even with their help, he would be unable to get Teda into his power, as she would appeal to the fisher-folk for protection. But through his official authority he could revenge himself on Uwen, whom he might search for, arrest, and despatch to the mainland as a military offender.
HIDE AND SEEK.
The three fugitives ran in breathless haste through the darkness towards the cottage of Walmot. They scarcely exchanged a word until they had gained its shelter. Roeluf and Walmot were sitting together in their little room. The latter heard with surprise and terror the account of what had taken place. She had supposed Freda to be in her bedroom.
It was years since Teda had been in the cottage_indeed, she had never so much as spoken to Freda since their consultation on the downs about Uwen's new name. Now she turned towards her, trembling with emotion, and said, as she grasped her hand :
"You saved me. I did not deserve it from you.' Some inward power seemed to force the words from her lips as she continued: Why have you repaid me thus for what I did to you ?'
A blush mounted into Freda's face as she hastily stammered forth the answer :
• When I heard you were in danger, my heart would not let me do otherwise'-she hesitated a moment, then hastily continued for old friendship's sake.'
Only by degrees did Walmot gain a complete notion of the danger to which, since the day before, Teda had been exposed. Now she asked, why had Teda visited the church at so late an hour and given the Walloon the opportunity of surprising her there? Teda concealed the truth and hastily answered instead, that she had been to fetch something her father had forgotten. Uwen noticed her confusion, and he, too, felt a
sudden reluctance to let the real circumstances come to light. He sought to divert the conversation, and in doing this a thought for the first time occurred to him, which in the prevailing excitement had been hitherto overlooked by them all. He now, in much surprise, asked Freda :
' And how came you to be near the church at such an hour?'
Walmot's eye had also been fixed at this moment upon her darling ; she saw her turn pale, and unable to give any answer. Quickly she replied for her that she herself had sent Datya to the parsonage, in order to ascertain how matters stood, and whether, in spite of the promised release, Uwen was still in danger of being enlisted.
This reminded Uwen of the message he had received through Roeluf, as he supposed from Walmot, and he asked the latter how she came to know about the doubtful designs of the officer. The question was to her quite enigmatical, and she knew not what to reply. She had known nothing and had sent no warning of any kind to Uwen, for she had only heard of the fresh state of affairs on her return from fishing at a somewhat late hour in the afternoon. She looked in surprise at Roeluf, who was said to have taken the message from her. Roeluf, on his side, looked doubtfully at Freda, who, taking up the part just before played by her mother, hastily explained that it was she who had sent the message of warning by Roeluf, and that he had probably delivered it in mistake as coming from Walmot.
The latter now asked in surprise :
Freda replied that she had been in the village that morning and heard by chance a remark made by the Frenchman, had spoken to him, and had come to the conclusion that Uwen was in danger, and therefore she had sent him the advice.
It was all very mysterious, very contradictory. She spoke with much hesitation, and concluded hastily by saying that it was not the time for discussing the past; they must consider what steps to take now. Uwen could not possibly remain on the islandindeed, he had better leave it at once. The officer, with his soldiers, would doubtless search for him everywhere, and, on stating that he seized Uwen as a recruit, no help could be expected from the villagers. On the other hand, he would not dare to carry Teda off by force, so that she could safely remain in the cottage until the Frenchmen had taken their departure.