Imatges de pàgina
PDF
EPUB

his crew, the master did not relish being stationed between the bewitched islet and the head of the fiord, where all the residents were, of course, enemies.

. He thought that it would be wiser to have a foe only on the one hand, and the open sea on the other, even at the sacrifice of the best anchorage. As there was now a light wind, enough to take his vessel down, he gave orders accordingly.

Slowly, and at some distance, the schooner passed the islet, and all on board crowded together to see what they could see. None, not even the master with his glass, saw anything remarkable: but all heard something. There was a faint muffled sound of knocks,-blows such as were never heard in a mere haunt of sea-birds. It was evident that the birds were disturbed by it; they rose and fell, made short flights and came back again, fluttered, and sometimes screamed so as to overpower all other sounds. But if they were quiet for a minute, the knock, knock, was heard again, with great regularity, and every knock went to Hund's heart.

The fact was, that after breakfast, Rolf soon became tired of having nothing to do. The water was so very cold, that he deferred till noon the attempt to swim round the islet. He once more examined his boat, and though the injuries done seemed irreparable, he thought he had better try to mend his little craft than do nothing. After collecting from the wood in the cave all the nails that happened to be sticking in it, and all the pieces that were sound enough to patch a boat with, he made a stone serve him for a hammer, straightened his nails upon another stone, and tried to fasten on a piece of wood over a hole. It was discouraging work enough, but it helped to pass the hours till the restless waters should have reached their highest mark in the cave, when he would know that it was noon, and time for his little expedition.

He sighed as he threw down his awkward new tools and pulled off his jacket, for his heart now began to grow very heavy. It was about the time when Erica would be beginning to look for his return, and when or how he was ever to return he became less able to imagine, the more he thought about it. As he fancied Erica gazing down the fiord from the gallery, or stealing out, hour after hour, to look forth from the beach, and only to be disappointed every time, till she would be obliged to give him quite up, and yield to despair, Rolf shed tears. It was the first time for some years the first time since he had been a man; and when he saw his own tears fall upon the sand, he was ashamed. He blushed, as if he had not been all alone, dashed away the drops, and threw himself into the water.

It was too cold by far for safe swimming. All the snows of Sulitelma could hardly have made the waters more chilly to the swimmer than they felt at the first plunge ; but Rolf would not retreat for this reason: he thought of the sunshine outside and the free open view he should enjoy, dived beneath the almost closed entrance, and came up on the other side The first thing he saw was the schooner, now lying below his island; and the next thing was a small boat between him and it, evidently making towards him. When convinced that Hund was one of the three men in it, he saw that he must go back, or make haste to finish his expedition. He made haste, swam round so close as to touch the warm rocks in many places, and could not discover, any more than before, any trace of a footing by which a man might climb to the summit. There was a crevice or two, however, from which vegetation hung, still left unsearched. He could not search them now, for he must return.

The boat was indeed so near when he had reached the point he had set out from, that he used every effort to conceal himself; and it seemed that he could only have escaped by the eyes of his enemies being fixed on the summit of the rocks. When once more in the cave, he rather enjoyed hearing them come nearer and nearer, so that the bushes which hung down between him and them shook with the wind of their oars, and dipped into the waves. He laughed silently, when he heard one of them swear that he would not leave the spot till he had seen something, upon which another rebuked his presumption. Presently, a voice, which he knew to be Hund's, called upon his name, at first gently, and then more and more loudly, as if taking courage at not being answered.

“I will wait till he rounds the point,” thought Rolf, and then give him such an answer as maya send a guilty man away quicker than he came." He waited till they were on the opposite side, so

nioor.

that his voice might appear to come from the summit of the islet, and then began with the melancholy sound used to lure the plover on the

The men in the boat instantly observed that this was the same sound used when Erlingsen's boat was spirited away from them. It was rather singular that Rolf and Oddo should have used the same sound, but they probably chose it as the most mournful they knew. Rolf, however, did not stop there; he moaned louder and louder, till the sound resembled the bellowing of a tormented spirit enclosed in the rock ; and the consequence was, as he had said, that his enemies retreated faster than they came. Never had they rowed more vigorously than now, fetching a large circuit, to keep at a safe distance from the spot, as they passed westward.

For the next few days Rolf kept a close watch upon the proceeding of the pirates, and saw enougli of their thievery to be able to lay informations against them, if ever he should again make his way to a town or village, and see the face of a magistrate. He was glad of the interest and information thus afforded him,-of even this slight hope of being useful; for he saw no more probability than on the first day, of release from his prison. The worst of it was that the season for boating was nearly at an end. The inhabitants were day by day driving their cattle up the mountains, there to remain for the summer ;

and the heads of families remained in the farm-houses, almost alone, and little likely to put out so far into the fiord, as to pass near him. So poor Rolf could only catch fish for his support, swim round and round his prison, and venture a little further, on days when the water felt rather less cold than usual. To drive off thoughts of his poor distressed Erica, he sometimes hammered a little at his skiff; but it was too plain that no botching that he could perform in the cave would render the broken craft safe to float in.

One sunny day, when the tide was flowing in warmer than usual, Rolf amused himself with more evolutions in bathing than he had hitherto indulged in. He forgot his troubles and his foes in diving, floating, and swimming. As he dashed round a point of the rock, he saw something, and was certain he was seen. Hund appeared at least as much bewitched as the islet itself, for he could not keep away from it. He seemed irresistibly drawn to the scene of his guilt and terror. Here he was now, with one other man, in the schooner's smallest boat. Rolf had to determine in an instant what to do, for they were within a hundred yards, and Hund's starting eyes showed that he saw what he took for the ghost of his fellow-servant. Roli raised himself as high as he could out of the water, throwing his arms up above his head, fixed his eyes on Hund, uttered a shrill cry, and dived, hoping to rise to the surface at some point out of sight. Hund looked no more. After one shriek of terror and remorse had burst from his white lips he sank his head upon his knees, and let his comrade take all the trouble of rowing home again.

Miss Martineau.

« AnteriorContinua »