« PreviousContinue »
steering—already in full pursuit of him. He knew, by the general air and native dress of the man at the helm, that it was Hund, and he fancied he heard Hund's malicious voice in the shout which came rushing over the water from their boat to his. How fast they seemed to be coming! How the spray from their oars glittered in the sun, and how their wake lengthened with every stroke! No spectator from the shore (if there had been any), could have doubted that the boat was in pursuit of the skiff, and would snap it up presently. Rolf saw that he had five determined foes, gaining upon him
every instant; and yet he was not alarmed. He had his reasons for thinking himself safe near Vogel Islet; and, calculating for a moment the time of the tide, he was quite at his
As he took his oars, he smiled at the hot haste of his pursuers, and at the thought of the amazement they would feel when he slipped through their fingers, and then he began to row.
Rolf did not overheat himself with too much exertion; he permitted his foes to gain a little upon him, though he might have preserved the distance for as long as his strength could have held out against that of the men in the other boat. They ceased their shouting when they saw how quietly he took his danger. They really believed that he was not aware of being their object, and hoped to seize him suddenly before he had time to resist.
When very near the islet, however, Rolf became more active, and his skiff disappeared behind its southern point, while the enemy's boat was still two furlongs off. The steersman looked for the reappearance of the canoe beyond the islet; but he looked in vain. He thought, and his companions agreed with him, that it was foolish of Rolf to land upon the islet, where they could lay
hands on him in a moment, but they could only suppose that he had done this, and prepared to do the
They rowed quite round the islet, but, to their amazement, they could not only perceive no place to land at, but there was no trace of the canoe. It seemed to them as if those calm and clear waters had swallowed up the skiff and Rolf, in a few minutes after they had lost sight of him. Hund thought the case was accounted for when he recalled Nipen's displeasure. A thrill ran through him as he said to himself that the spirits of the region had joined with him against Rolf, and swallowed up, almost before his eyes, the man he hated. IIe put his hands before his face for a moment, while his comrades stared at him; then thinking he must be under a delusion, he gazed earnestly over the waters as far as he could see.
They lay calm and bright, and there was certainly no kind of vessel on their surface for miles round. The rowers wondered, questioned, uttered shouts, spoke all together, and then looked at Hund in silence, struck by his countenance, and finished by rowing two or three times round the islet, slowly, and looking up its bare rocky sides, which rose like walls from the water, but nothing could they see or hear. When tired of their fruitless search they returned to the schooner, ready to report to the master that the fiord was enchanted.
Meantime, Rolf had heard every splash of their oars, and every tone of their voices, as they rowed round his place of refuge. He was not on the island, but in it. This was such an island as Sweēn, the Sea-king of former days, took refuge in; and Rolf was only following his example. Long before, he had discovered a curious cleft in the rock, very narrow, and all but invisible at high water, even if a bush of dwarf-ash and birch had not
hung down over it. At high water, nothing larger than a bird could go in and out beneath the low arch; but there was a cavern within, whose sandy floor sloped up to some distance above high-water mark. In this cavern was Rolf.
He had thrust his little skiff between the walls of the rock, crushing in its sides as he did so. The bushes drooped, hanging naturally over the entrance, as before. Rolf pulled up his broken vessel upon the little sandy beach within the cave; saved a pile of his fish, and returned a good many to the water; and then sat down upon the sea-weeds to listen. There was no light but a little which found its way through the bushy screen and up from the green water; and the sounds—the tones of pirates' voices, and the splash of the waters against the rocky walls of his singular prison-came deadened and changed to his ear. Yet he heard enough to be aware how long his enemies remained, and when they were really gone.
It was a prison indeed, as Rolf reflected when he looked upon his broken skiff. He could not imagine how he was to get away; for his friends would certainly never think of coming to look for him here; but he put off the consideration of this point for the present, and turned away from the image of Erica's distress when he should fail to return. He amused himself now with imagining Hund's disappointment, and the reports which would arise from it; and he found this so very entertaining, that he laughed aloud, and then the echo of his laughter sounded so very merry, that it set him laughing again. This, in its turn, seemed to rouse the eider-ducks that thronged the island; and their clatter and commotion was so great overhead, that any spectator might have been excused for believing that Vogel Islet was indeed bewitched.
THE WRECK OF THE · ORPHEUS.'
The Orpheus, a fine new war-ship, with a crew of 256 souls, was lost off the coast of New Zealand on the 7th February 1863. The entrance to the harbour, for which she was bound, was a very dangerous one, and in a few minutes she was a wreck. Only seventy-one of the crew were saved by a steamer, that sent its boats to her aid ; the rest, including the officers, who refused to leave the ship before their men, were lost when it broke up. * All remained at their posts, and did their duty to the last, giving three cheers when the masts went," as if taking farewell of life.” When daylight broke once more, a stump of a mast and a few ribs were all that could be seen of the Orpheus.'
They hung above the wave;
And dark beneath, their grave.
Breaking with heavy crash,
They fell with dull, low splash.
The boats went to and fro;
Each saw his brother go.
As night came swiftly on,
Night fell, and hope was gone.
Straining their eyes to see
Upon that surging sea.
Till, on their startled ears,
A sound of gallant cheers.
Then silence round them fell-
It was a last farewell.
of anguish, no wild shriek
Weary and glad to die;
Cheers of immortal fame;
For them a glorious name.
Can live and die like these,
Thou’rt mistress of the seas !