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FRIENDS IN COUNCIL.
ABOUT a quarter of an hour later they both sat gasping for breath and taking counsel in Walmot's parlour. Fortune had thrown into Tyalka's way the best aid that could be found upon the island. They all decided at once on seizing the Frenchmen. Walmot’s burning hatred of the nation made her readily assent to this step. But she felt uncertain whether the villagers would give them any support in the business, although they had been much embittered by the levying of recruits. There was also another consideration that weighed strongly with Walmot. If the affair should become known on the mainland, it was necessary that the islanders should not be involved in the offence, but that the capture should have been effected by the crew of an English vessel. They came at last to the conclusion that the best course would be for half a dozen of the English seamen to come ashore and surprise the Frenchmen in their sleep, bind them, and carry them away on board. There would be nothing brutishly inhuman in such an act, as England was at war with France. And to Walmot's patriotic mind there could be no question of treachery. Not a human tie existed between her and the savage slaughterers of her countrymen. The consideration of the ruthless revenge which the French would be sure to take made it, however, desirable that the islanders should have nothing to do with the affair.
Freda and Teda sat at the table listening to the consultation. The eyes of the former shone this evening with a singular lustre, a dreamy look as of one but half conscious, and recalling almost the appearance of a person walking in her sleep. Still
, she heard all that was said, and expressed now and then her own opinion, evidently with the deepest, liveliest concern, for her cheeks fushed and paled from time to time with strong emotion.
Teda's face, on the contrary, never once changed its marble hue, although at times a sudden quiver shook her frame, showing that she, too, was under the influence of feverish excitement. She also listened with eager attention, but proffered not a single word.
Under the influence of these all-absorbing events Walmot had forgotten her dislike of the pastor's daughter, and said to her :
‘So you, too, will receive satisfaction to-night for the insult which the Frenchman offered you, and will be safe from his persecution in future.'
But Teda only looked at the speaker with her great steadfast, star-like eyes, that flashed so strangely, and, like one whose thoughts are far away, she answered not a word.
It was now decided to seek the assistance of the seamen ; Tyalka's light boat lay ashore below the downs at no great distance, but a fresh suggestion from Walmot again prevented him from setting out. Some hours, at least, must elapse before the seamen could arrive, and during this interval the presence both of Tyalka and Roeluf on the island was not only most desirable, but almost indispensable, in order to watch the proceedings of the Frenchmen, and, at need, repel with manly force any attack on the cottage. The fear had suddenly occurred to Walmot that the officer might have recognised Datya at the church-door, and would seek for revenge upon her. She pondered a moment, then she said :
• I would go myself, if I were not afraid of missing the seagulls' isle in the dark.'
Starting from her seat, Freda exclaimed : 'I know the way quite well.'
She hurried from the room and returned in a few moments with a sailor's leathern cap on her head ; her feet were encased in waterproof boots that reached above her knee, and into the tops of which her skirt was closely confined—just as Walmot attired herself when she went out fishing. The latter asked :
What is Datya going to do?'
'I am going with you, that you may not miss your way; and we shall row faster together.'
Teda sprang up from the table ; from her lips the words seemed almost to hiss : 'You? To the sea-gulls' isle?' Pale as death, and fixing her eyes on Freda, she continued : 'A storm is coming on-you must not go.'
Freda could scarcely stand the flashing glance of the speaker's eyes, and answered, somewhat diffidently :
'I cannot hesitate when it is a question of helping our countrymen against the French.'
Walmot quite agreed : for Datya to accompany her seemed,
indeed, the best solution of the difficulty; in this way the girl would doubtless be secured from every danger, and they neither of them had the slightest fear of the sea by night. So they proceeded, without further delay, to carry out their design ; the night was already far advanced, and it was desirable to take all possible advantage of the darkness.
Guided by Tyalka, they all repaired to the spot where he had drawn up his boat; Teda, who was to remain behind under the protection of the two men, of course went with them. She was silent, as she had been throughout the consultation, except the brief remark she had made when Freda announced her intention to take part in the enterprise. In the moment, too, when the latter was about to enter the boat, the hand of Teda was suddenly and mechanically extended towards Freda's arm, as if she were about to try once more to dissuade her old playmate from her present apparently dangerous enterprise. But a simultaneous movement forward on the part of Freda left her arm free, without her having felt even a touch, and the outstretched hand of Teda sank down like a dead weight. The oars moved quickly under the skilful handling of the two women, and the boat glided away under the veil of night in the same direction in which Uwen had disappeared scarcely half an hour before.
The events that had since occurred had temporarily effaced his departure from Walmot's memory, and only now, as the waves surged around them, did it suddenly occur to her :
"Why, Uwen has also gone to the sea-gulls'isle, and will find the ship's crew and cargo there. How strange!
'Yes,' Freda responded, as she plied her oars still faster, but the tone of her brief reply gave no indication of surprise, or that she was being reminded of some forgotten fact.
The passage, indeed, offered little danger for people accustomed to the sea, only they had to fear its duration, as the waves beat high, and the wind was directly against them. But while it impeded their progress, it favoured that of another boat, which, at the same time, was hastening, full sail, from the eastern side of the island southwards towards the mainland.
At the parsonage the two lamps were still burning, and Deena was again sitting alone, as before, in her parlour. The pastor's study was, however, empty. After the departure of his brother, he had stood for awhile motionless, gazing fixedly before him. Suddenly he seated himself at the table and wrote a few hasty lines. With these he hurried out of the house and passed very near a group of men without noticing them. They were the French officer and his two soldiers, who had been for some time holding a doubtful consultation. In the fiery temperament of the Walloon, the thought of Teda had given way to a raging thirst for revenge on those who had saved her from his designs. But he did not know their place of retreat and could not seek it in the dark on this strange island without the aid and guidance of one of the inhabitants. But these he mistrusted, in spite of the silent submission to his orders which they had so far displayed. His first impulse had been to send at once to Emden for a small additional force. But then the message must either be entrusted to one of the fishermen, or he must deprive himself of one of his soldiers; the former course seemed very uncertain, and the latter very risky, apart from the men's inexperience at sea. So Egide de Walcourt came to the conclusion that his best plan would be to obtain the help of the pastor. His own steadfast belief in the doctrines of his Church had quickened his perception and enabled him to recognise in Pastor Remmert a heretical Huguenot indeed, but at the same time a man who, in some respects, closely resembled himself. The island pastor was a teacher of false doctrine, but De Walcourt knew he would be as faithful to his erroneous creed as the most devoted Catholic to the true faith ; when the commands of religion and its eternal promises were in question, Pastor Remmert knew no worldly distinctions and was influenced by no earthly consideration. He had shown that, in accordance with the precepts of his Church, he rendered unconditional obedience to the Government, even to the present French rulers, and that he enjoined similar submission on his parishioners. From him alone, therefore, could they hope to gain the help needful for the accomplishment of De Walcourt's purpose, so the officer and his men now bent their steps towards the parsonage.
But the pastor was no longer in his study; he was at that moment looking about in the village for the officer, and thus they mutually missed each other. Deena alone was sitting in the parlour, and when asked by De Walcourt where her husband was, she shook her head with an air of unconcern, to intimate that she knew nothing of his whereabouts. But almost the instant after a gleam appeared in her eyes, as a thought arose in her brain and caused her to open her lips with a question in return :
"Would anyone receive a good reward for informing the Government how to capture a band of smugglers ?'
The Walloon gave little heed to the inquiry; it was a matter of no concern to him-at all events, it did not excite his interest at the present moment. He merely shrugged his shoulders in token of his inability to supply information ; but the dislike of the pastor's wife for Uwen, and her wish to rid the house of him, he had noticed more than once since his arrival. He therefore answered that anyone might count upon a handsome reward who could inform him where a refractory recruit was likely to be found. De Walcourt was sorry to have to apply such a term to the pastor's adopted son, but the latter had just before violently assaulted him-his commanding officer-so that his capture and removal to Aurich was unavoidable. A passing expression of pleasure and greed crossed the inanimate features of Deena as she told him that, if Uwen was not in the parsonage, he was most likely at the cottage of Walmot Utsee, which from a child he had been in the habit of visiting daily. At the officer's eager request, she described exactly the position of the dwelling and informed him that its only male occupant was already advanced in years. There was besides a girl, whom the village boys regarded as the loveliest of all the fishermen's daughters.
De Walcourt now hastily quitted the room, without waiting for the pastor's return, and Deena was once more left to loll undisturbed in her easy arm-chair. Her lips were curled with a lazy, unfeeling, spiteful grin. The hope of gain which the Walloon had aroused within her on his first entrance was indeed disappointed, but she was probably freed for ever from the cost of maintaining Uwen. At the same time, Teda's