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ran through the little runnel of water that lay before the isle ; close behind her came the French officer and his two men.
The words flew from Uwen's lips : "What does this mean?'
He could not comprehend it; he thought it must be some deception of his senses. But the wild beating of his heart told him otherwise ; it revealed to him the truth that instant danger was threatening Freda.
He could not reach the boat in which he had himself come across; it lay in the shallows in the direct path of their approaching assailants. He saw it all, seized Freda by the hand and pulled her, quick as thought, along with him towards the other side beyond the sand-hills, on the northern shore of the islet.
No one had as yet perceived them; the Frenchmen ran all over the southern downs, and gave a shout of triumph as they discovered the chests and bales, the prize for their hasty nightmarch.
Forgetting all else, Egide de Walcourt surveyed his rich booty with a greedy eye; Teda alone heeded it not ; glared swiftly round, and she rushed onward. Her voice resounded :
“They must be here—the boat lies on the beach-look for them !
She flew to the further side of the downs, while the others eagerly continued their examination of the goods. But now she had gained the top of the sand-hills, and, breathless, she shouted :
‘Here they are! This way !
De Walcourt now bethought himself and hastened forward. Teda seized his arm convulsively and burst out:
“There—there is the reward I demanded—that you let him go free; but seize the shameless girl who has defied you, who ran after him here by night to lead him astray.'
On the north side of the island the sea was too deep to allow of further progress; Uwen and Freda stood helpless there in front of the three dark rocks, which arose out of the water as they had done from time immemorial. Staring as if unable to believe his senses, Uwen gazed speechless at the face of Teda ; then, dragging his companion with him into the water, and placing her for protection behind one of the rocks, his lips at last found words for reply:
*You? It is you who have betrayed us to the Frenchmen? I will never owe my liberty to your false tongue.'
His eyes expressed a still more withering contempt than even
The whole scene had passed in a few seconds, while hearts were wildly throbbing in a frenzy of passion, fear, or triumph.
The Walloon shouted to his soldiers, who came running after him :
*Take the fellow alive that I may treat him as he deservesthen the girl is yours !
At the same moment, turning his head towards his companion, Uwen hastily said :
‘Datya, will you rather perish with me, than fall alive into their hands ?'
For the first time her eyes met his with a lustrous gleam of love.
“Yes !' was all she said.
For a moment Uwen stood transfixed-awestruck-only from his lips came the words:
It was she ! It was the voice that had uttered the same word in his dream the morning before, and the same tone re-echoed in his own heart.
Then he exclaimed joyously, ‘Come on, then !' and he threw his arm around her.
A fearful cry of passion now burst from the lips of Teda as she stood on the hill above them.
‘God forgive me !' she exclaimed. 'I could not help it !'
Then she threw herself full length upon the ground and convulsively buried her face in the sands.
It was just such a paroxysm, after an outburst of unbridled passion, as had made the child throw herself on the ground years ago and utter the self-same words. The cry as for help against herself was borne onwards by the hollow moaning wind.
And one more act yet did the old rocks witness, like unto that which they had seen of yore.
Uwen had shouted something to Freda. Without a moment's hesitation the girl obeyed --tore off her heavy seaman's clothes, and, supported by his arm, ran swiftly with him down into the water.
They had gone about a hundred steps, when they found themselves beyond their depth.
Follow them! Shoot them dead like a shark ! cried the officer.
But turning his head to give this command, he saw that his soldiers hesitated and pointed with their fingers to the right.
A hasty curse escaped the Walloon; from the east the seamen were approaching with utmost speed, and were already close upon the islet. In face of the enemy's superior numbers, the Frenchman had no choice ; grinding his teeth with rage, De Walcourt gave the word ‘Back!
They then left the island as fast as they could in the opposite direction, wading through the shallows, and once more in retreat, as they had been during the night in front of the church.
The seamen were also sheering off ; they no longer thought of a struggle, but only of their own safety. The morning light had betrayed their position to the excise officers, who were now clearly in pursuit, though still at some considerable distance. They could not think of re-shipping their cargo; their very lives were at stake. Thus on the bare sea-sands was here again strangely renewed the event that had occurred on the other side the night before; but the seamen had good reasons for seeking the sea-gulls' isle.
As they were straying doubtfully about, Walmot had come upon them and told them where her boat lay, and that it gave them their sole chance of escape. They fortunately reached it. Walmot, on the contrary, ran rapidly across the downs, calling on Datya and Uwen. It was in vain. No answer was returned ; they were no longer on the island. Perceiving the danger that threatened them, they must either have retraced their way across the sodden sands, or, more probable still, sought refuge in the boat that had landed the last cargo. There was no time for reflection ; Tyalka, shouting imperatively, half pulled Walmot back to the beach.
It was her last chance. The heavy-laden boat moved slowly forwards as it floated down the narrow runnel. On reaching the deeper water, they found themselves within gunshot of their pursuers ; the bullets whizzed, but fell to the right or to the left of the boat, which pursued its course towards the brig.
Uwen and Freda were making for the same goal, or rather for the boat which was coming from thence, without those in charge having the slightest suspicion of what was taking place on the island. Freda was unable to swim, and Uwen had to help her along with him. He had managed to free himself from his coat, but his other clothes and his boots were a great and cumbrous weight. He strained every nerve, but often, as he raised his head to look around, he lost all hope of reaching the boat on which their rescue hung. And yet he was neither faint-hearted nor desperate, but filled with a sense of ineffable joy. His past life lay behind him like a dream, out of which he had but this very moment awoke. And so the conviction flashed fully upon him, filling each recess of his soul, thrilling every nerve of his frame; not Teda, but Freda, had he always loved!
And yet it was also like a dream, to see beside him in the cold, pale dawn the bright golden hair streaming over the fair neck like sunbeams on the water. Just so it had once before twined round him, when, as a boy, he had borne her home after snatching her from the flood-tide, with the cry of mortal anguish on his lips : ‘Datya-oh, Datya !—where art thou ?'
At this moment he recognised, and that for the first time, how it was he had not then called her Freda, as he usually did. Walmot had once told him that she called the child Datya because she loved her so dearly, more than anyone else in the world. After that day he had, indeed, continued to call her Freda as before, but in his heart she was Datya, and when his heart spoke he could call her by no other nanie.
Borne onwards as with wings, his soul soared aloft unconscious of time or space, but his physical strength began to fail. Freda felt that he was completely exhausted.
"You have done your utmost,' she said ; 'loose me and let me go.'
He still struggled on. Then she hastily threw her arm half round his neck, her lips sought his for a momentary kiss, but before his head was bowed she had freed herself from his grasp. The words reached his ear but half distinctly :
'I am happy—'tis enough. Good-bye !'
A gleaming form was sinking silently beside him into the deep water; only the ends of the fair locks still floated on its surface. An overwhelming desire for life and a mighty stream of love poured forth from his soul through all his limbs, and endowed them with superhuman force. His hands groped down, seized the sinking girl, and brought her once more to the surface. From his heaving breast came forth the words:
"Where thou art, there will I be—with thee
Then, with the last effort of despair, he drew her face to his. But now consciousness failed, and he did not hear a voice that was calling close beside him. His arms mechanically made a few last strokes, his hand struck against something hard, which he clutched with an instinctive struggle for life.
It was an oar of the boat that was making for the island ; the rower had been surprised at the sight of these figures struggling in the water, and had hastened to their help. A moment later they were rescued and safely settled in the boat. They scarcely yet understood it themselves — the world lay before them like a fairy-tale of their childhood.
The wind howled around in the gray dawn of the cold October morning; the drops of water still trickled like lustrous pearls from the bare arms and shoulders of Freda. But she did not feel the cold; she thought not of herself. In perfect maiden innocence she sat; one glistening arm still encircled Uwen as she fixed her eyes, beaming with happiness, on his.
'I would have died for thee any day ever since we were friends in childhood;' and as she uttered the confession she hid her face upon his breast.
Meanwhile the boatman had changed his direction, and was making once more for the brig; on their left the boatful of seamen was advancing across the water. The occupants of the two boats soon recognised each other. They now came alongside and exchanged glad shouts; then Walmot dexterously swung herself out of the boat she was in into the other, hastily pulled off her own overcoat, and threw it over Freda's shoulders as she said, ' Datya must be frozen to death.' And thus she hid the lovely figure of the maiden from the sailors' gaze.
On the sea-gulls' isle the excisemen were busied in the examination of the rich booty that had fallen into their hands. Egide de Walcourt had also returned to it, and laid his claim to have been the first to land and take possession of it in the Emperor's name. Then a thought struck him, and he strode once more towards the northern declivity of the downs. Opposite and close beside the three singular rocks, that stood up out of the water, another dark form lay stretched upon the ground. At a distance it seemed perfectly lifeless, but on approaching nearer the Walloon saw that a convulsive quiver shook the body every now and then, while from the lips a piteous, plaintive moan fluttered the white sands.