[ocr errors]


The moon was about to set. The masts of the vessel had quite disappeared; the last struggle was evidently over. On returning to his home, Remmert found Deena lying unconscious, pale as death, but her attendant held out to him a baby-girl, wrapped in swaddling clothes.

'A new life,' he said, 'entrusted to my care in the place of those summoned by the Lord this day to render their account. I bid it welcome. He then cast a look towards the bed where his wife lay. Has God helped her safely through ?' he asked.

The sound of his voice recalled her to consciousness ; she unclosed her eyes; there was no expression in them. But suddenly they shot forth a look of terror. Her husband had waved his hand towards the living mite, as he was wont when he

gave the blessing from the altar. With a mighty effort she lifted her arm and stammered out with trembling lips :

“No-mine the child—mine

Remmert went to take off his wet garments; the attendant gave the babe to its mother as she had desired, and Deena clasped her arm around it in protection as tightly as her strength allowed. Weakness closed her eyes, and she lay once more in a half-fainting state. But her constitution was vigorous, so that she soon regained her strength. At the end of the fortnight baby was to be baptized, and the young mother wished it to bear her own mother's name of Teda. But the pastor wished to choose a name which might ever put the child in mind of her election unto life eternal. It was the first time that Deena had ever opposed her husband's wish; but now her nerves were unusually excited, and she persisted with an obstinacy as if not merely a name were in question, but the whole futureindeed, as if the very life of her child were at stake. At last Remmert thought of a compromise. The child should be named Theodora, or 'God's gift'; then in the family circle they might use the Frisian contraction of Teda. They did

This was the first and last occasion for any similar difference of opinion and ultimate agreement in the pastor's house, for Teda never had either brother or sister.

[ocr errors]
[blocks in formation]

The night of the shipwreck had drifted many things ashore, but certainly the most singular of all had fallen into the hands of Walmot Tyamen. Walmot possessed a little cottage situated on the lonely shore of the western half of the island, which contained in all only three or four other small dwellings. As she seldom came on to the eastern coast, she had very little to do with the people of the village. There she was very rarely spoken of by her proper name. As long as anyone could remember, she had always been called Frau Utsee. This was doubtless a Frisian appellation, though scarcely a Christian name; the whole was intended to designate her as 'the old lady out of the sea.'

People spoke of her with gratitude and with respect for her judgment, whilst at the same time they seemed to think she was not quite right in her mind. Then, too, as she very rarely attended church on the Sunday, a belief sprang up that she carried on secret arts that shunned the eye of the pastor in the pulpit and at the altar; and it was a fact that she nearly always had a much greater haul of fish than her comrades. Walmot might at this time be about forty years

She was not a native of the island, but the only daughter of Cobber Tyamen, a small freeholder on the mainland, in the neighbourhood of Leer. When only eighteen years of age, she became, by the death of her father, sole possessor of house and land.

About the same time, she made the acquaintance of a certain Roeluf Hemmen, a thriftless seaman out of work. She loved him very dearly, and promised to marry him, in spite of the warnings of her friends. To their suggestions that he would be sure to desert her, she shook her head; for her, life was not worth living, if she might not believe in Roeluf's fidelity and love. In vain did people warn her that her lover was a dissolute scamp who had betrayed other girls; her confidence in him was all-sufficient. Roeluf had gone on a voyage to South America ; his betrothed waited at home in sure expectation of his return. She sold her

of age.

[ocr errors]


house and farm, and, with the proceeds, had a handsome schooner brig built and duly fitted out. She said nothing about it in her letters to her lover, as she meant it to be a surprise. A long time passed by without bringing her any

Then one day the man turned up, in very shabby clothes, and expressed the utmost astonishment at her not having received the answers to her letters, which he declared he had regularly despatched. She believed him, and, full of joy, clasped him in her arms. A voice, it is true, warned her that he had only come back because he had hcard by chance of the ship she had bought for him ; but she heeded not the caution, and exulted in his surprise and vows of love, when she conducted him on board the handsome brig.

The wedding took place, and immediately afterwards she set sail with her husband, fearless amidst the raging storm, braving every danger at his side, and making herself acquainted with the foreign towns and people, tongues and customs, of the other side of the Atlantic.

And so it happened that towards the end of the first year they came to the harbour of Bahia. Here they lingered several weeks to take on board a cargo, and in the meantime they made friendly acquaintance with other Germans living in the town.

On the morning of the day fixed for setting sail again, Walmot woke at a late hour with a severe headache, and, on casting a glance around her, she found herself all alone in the chamber of the inn where she and her husband had passed the night, instead of in their cabin as usual.

Hurrying down to the harbour, lo! the ship, too, had disappeared, and she was informed that Roeluf Hemmen had put to sea at the very break of day, and had taken a young creole girl on board with him. They told her, moreover, the girl's name; she remembered to have heard it—indeed, she had once seen this companion of her husband's flight. She was one of the frail sisterhood, but possessed the bewitching charms of great Southern beauties; and Walmot gazed long and silently on the smooth surface of the water, which reflected as a mirror her own image in all its homely, faithful, Frisian simplicity. She shook her head again and again; she no longer saw her own image; hot scalding tears gushed from her eyelids and hid it from her view. With tottering step she walked away, until she reached a lonely nook upon the beach. There she



sat down, and remained until nightfall, her eyes fixed upon the distant sea. Neither hatred nor revenge shot from those blue eyes towards the fast-fading sails ; only with an expression of the deepest grief did they follow the betrayer of her peace.

She was left in this foreign land quite penniless, and only through the aid of some compassionate fellow-countrymen, who made a collection on her behalf, was she able to procure a passage home. She landed quite destitute, but, by a happy

, stroke of fate, during her absence a small legacy had become due to her, so that it was no longer necessary to enter into service as she had purposed, but she could contrive to live independently on her own means, though only in a very frugal way. She rented for herself a small garret in the town of Leer; on the same floor dwelt a young seamstress in the greatest poverty. She had been deserted by her lover, and, with an infant not yet six months old, was evidently pining away. Consumption had made such ravages upon her that she was no longer able to turn out sufficient work for the scant maintenance of herself and her little Datya. She felt that her end was nigh.

It was in these conditions that Walmot came across her; and on the very first visit she stayed for some hours, because she would not leave until she had helped to finish all the orders that had to be sent in that night. She did the same the next day, and so on for weeks; then the seamstress became too feeble to ply the needle herself, and so Walmot, without other help, stitched for her from morn till eve. She would receive no thanks; she was only too happy to have found some work instead of having to sit idle; and she tried to amuse the poor invalid with tales of the foreign lands she had visited, and other cheerful chat. The girl, with some anxiety, once asked Walmot whether she did not in her heart despise her for having this child. The friendly woman looked at her with compassionate interest as she answered:

'How could I possibly feel for you anything but pity? Are we not sent into the world to be happy, and to make others happy? and we have, after all, but a little time to do it in.'

At this the sick woman took courage, and said she knew that her last hour was near at hand, but that she only feared death on her child's account; she would have to leave it behind ; it would have to be sent to the workhouse. Weakness over


powered her; she could say no more. To leave her at rest, Walmot stepped aside and began to arrange things on the shelf. As she did so, her eye caught sight of a written paper that had slipped out of a corner.

She knew the handwriting, and so began unconsciously to read. All at once the blood rushed up to her face, and she hastily left the room.

She sought the open air ; her heart beat too wildly for her to remain indoors. It was a letter of her husband's that she had seen; it was he who had been the young girl's betrayer-ay, even at the very time when he was about to lead her to the altar. With a beating heart Walmot reckoned the days, and they agreed all too well.

But she did not follow her first impulse, which had been to rush downstairs ; she stopped on the landing. For some moments she lingered there, then, pressing her hand again tight to her throbbing bosom, she returned to the sick-room. The poor girl's faintness had passed away. Walmot went up to her, took her by the hand, and cheeringly said:

'Oh, we must hope you will get better ; but in any case your child shall never go to the workhouse. Make yourself quite easy. I will adopt it for my own; I promise you that.'

The promise seemed for a time to breathe fresh life into the sick girl ; she chattered away with the feverish excitement of the dying, and asked, for the first time, the name of the wretched man who, for the sake of a worthless girl, had shamefully deserted his wife, stealing her property, and leaving her penniless in a foreign land. Without a moment's hesitation, Walmot mentioned some totally strange name, the first that came into her mind.

Shortly after this Datya's mother passed away, and Walmot, taking up the baby in her arms, carried it to her own home. For many years she strove with loving care to bring up the delicate little creature, but it was always ailing, and the doctor said the only chance for the child's life depended on its removal from the low marsh air of the town into a more bracing climate, the most suitable place being the sandy downs of the sea-shore. When sailing from the harbour of Emden, Walmot had noticed these islands of East Friesland. She was not long in making up her mind.

Inquiring of the sailors, she heard that on one of them there was a cottage for sale, and at once she struck the bargain. Her little property just sufficed for this, and for the purchase of a boat with fishing-tackle of a new description,

« ForrigeFortsett »