FROM THE DANISH OF CARIT ETLAR.
Between Fredericia and Snogh÷i the sandy and stony shore forms a
tolerably broad tongue of land, which is called Lyngspoint. The coast
stretches out long and flat, without any defence against the sea except
a stone wall, and the fishermen who dwell here seem to have thought of
nothing but the safe little bays that, on either side of the
promontory, afford shelter to their small skiffs and protect them from
the wild waves, and the blocks of ice which during winter the
north-west winds drive in from the Kattegat.
Farther up on the land, the bare, desolate-looking plain of sand
disappears by degrees under high banks which are overgrown by a thick,
low copse of brushwood, with some stunted oak and beech-trees showing
themselves as sad mementoes of an extensive wood, that formerly joined
the forest of Eriz÷, and in the midst of which the village of Hannerup
was situated. The village and the wood have both disappeared long
Far in among the bushes people sometimes stumble upon pieces of broken
stones with their mouldering cement of lime, the last fragments of the
work and walls of ages gone by: in a few years the copse itself will
have vanished, and the blackbird and the thrush, whose blithe carols on
the summer evenings were heard even by those sailing near in the Belt,
will seek other leafy homes.
At a little distance from the sea-shore at Lyngspoint stand ten or
twelve small cottages, built in the irregular style which is always
observable in the houses of the peasantry of ancient days, and composed
of hard clay framework and thatched roofs. To each cottage there
belongs a small garden enclosed by a low earthen dyke, or a hedge of
elderberries and the blackthorn. Behind several of them are to be seen
boats turned upside down, lying in the sand with their keels exposed,
and each furnished with a little gate in the stern. These boats serve
as a shelter for sheep, or geese, after having become too frail any
longer to carry their owners out to sea. The inhabitants of Lyngspoint
are fishermen, a reserved and silent race, rough and stern like the
element on which they pass so much of their time. Among them the
struggles of life have no cessation--labour has no reward--time affords
no day of rest, except when storms forbid them to launch their boats,
or the sea is covered with ice; but such dreaded and unwelcome repose
is always associated with distress and want. The women employ
themselves in their household affairs, and not unfrequently share the
labour of the men, as they always share their privations. Even the
ocean's tempests are felt in common here, since every squall in which
the boats are exposed to danger on the water, causes gloom and anxiety
to those in the huts, who dread to lose their relatives and their means
In one of these fishermen's cottages one evening there were two
persons--an old man, tall and athletic, his grey hair thin and
sunburnt, his countenance decided and daring, and a woman, very
youthful-looking, pale, and apparently unhappy, but nevertheless of
rare beauty. He sat at a table, which was lighted by a lamp suspended
by a chain from a beam in the roof, and the glare from which fell upon
two long Spanish cavalry pistols which he was busy loading. She was
standing at the window gazing through the dark window-panes.
It was a gloomy November evening. The storm from the seaward swept
wildly along, howling dismally, while the rain beat heavily against the
windows, and the flame in the lamp fluttered and flickered in the gusts
of wind that rushed into the room through the open chimney. There had
been a long and unbroken silence between the two occupants of the
apartment; the man, while continuing his work, cast several glances
towards the young woman, but always looked quickly away when she turned
At length he asked, 'At what are you looking?'
'At the weather,' she replied. 'It will be a bad night to go to sea
'The weather is good enough,' he muttered, gruffly. 'It is all the
better for being dark; the darkness will be of use to us.'
So saying, he started up, buckled on a cutlass, and stuck the pistols
in his belt.
'Give me something to eat.'
The woman spread the table for supper, and taking a pot off the fire,
poured its contents into a dish, which she placed before the man.
There was again complete silence; he ate his supper without saying a
word, while the young woman sat leaning back in her chair near the
table, and fixed her eye on him with a sad, yet scrutinizing look.
'I am done,' he exclaimed, after a little while, 'and now, good-by.'
'Are you going already?' she asked, sorrowfully.
'To be sure I am--it is the time agreed on, and they will be waiting
for me on the shore down yonder.'
He drew on a thick sailor's jacket over his other clothes, and went
towards the door.
'Farewell, Christine!' he said, without even turning to look at her.
Christine stretched both her hands towards him, and her trembling lips
moved, but the words she would have spoken died away in a deep sigh.
The man turned round and walked back a step or two. For a few moments
he stood in silent surprise, and then exclaimed, 'What are you weeping
'Oh, Jan Steffens!' she whispered, half aloud, as she again stretched
her hands towards him, 'I am so afraid lest any evil should happen to
The man did not take her proffered hand, and his thick eyebrows were
knitted together, as he said, 'How childish you are, Christine! What is
there for you to be afraid of? I am going on a lawful errand, and
things must take their course. Take care to put the fire out, and don't
forget to feed the watch-dog in the morning. I have locked him up in
the wash-house, that he might not make a noise to-night.'
So saying he turned to go, but when he had reached the door he came
back once again, and exclaimed, with solemnity, 'May the Lord's
protecting hand be over you, Christine!' In another moment he was gone.
The young woman laid her head on the table, covered her face with her
hands, and wept bitterly. She had sat there for some time absorbed in
grief, when suddenly she raised her head, for she had heard steps on
the outside of the cottage. She got up and went to the window.
Presently she saw a figure in the doorway. It was that of a young man
in a sailor's dress, and armed in the same manner as Jan was.
'Good evening, dear Christine!' he exclaimed. 'Has Jan gone?'
'Yes,' she answered; 'you will find him down yonder with the other
The fisherman seemed to be reflecting on something, while he fixed his
eyes intently upon the young woman's face. He observed that there were
tears in her eyes, and approaching her, he seized her hand.
'Christine!' he exclaimed, in a soft and sympathizing voice, 'you have
been weeping? Has there been any quarrel between you and your husband?'
'No,' she replied, 'there never has been any.' And as she spoke she
tried to draw her hand away, but he grasped it more firmly.
'Would to Heaven you had never seen that old Jan Steffens,' he
whispered; 'you would have been much happier--oh, what misery we would
both have escaped!'
'Would to Heaven I had never seen you, Kjeld,' she answered; 'then,
perhaps, Jan and I might have been comfortable together.'
The young fisherman's eyes sparkled at this imprudent confession, which
admitted so much more than Christine had any intention of doing.
'But what harm have I done?' he asked, gently. 'We loved each other
from our childish days, when we used to go to school together. Ah!
then we looked forward to living together, to working together,
to trying our luck together--and--being so happy! Then came Jan
'And now I am Jan Steffens's wife,' cried Christine, interrupting him
impetuously. 'Never speak to me more of the past, therefore, Kjeld--it
is gone! It is forgotten,' she added, in a lower and sadder tone.
At that moment the light from the lamp fell upon a face, which, on the
outside of the house, was intently looking in through the window. Those
in the room did not observe it, and had no suspicion that prying eyes
were upon them. Kjeld asked, with warmth, 'Why should we not speak of
the past? We have always been only like brother and sister to each
'Brother and sister!' said Christine, trying to smile, 'what else could
we have been? But I am a married woman, Kjeld, and you, like every one
else, are only a stranger to me. Therefore you must not come here so
often--people remark the frequency of your visits, and talk of them.'
'But Jan himself has allowed them,' said the fisherman. 'Only
yesterday, when we were coming from church, he asked me where I had
been all last week, and why I had never once entered his house. He said
that you had been speaking of me.' Christine raised her head, and cast
a surprised and inquiring look at Kjeld. He went on: 'Jan said that you
were longing to see me again.'
'I cannot understand his conduct,' murmured Christine, musingly.
'When your husband spoke thus,' said Kjeld, tenderly, 'why will you be
harsher than he? Answer me, Christine--why may I not come here as
hitherto? I ask for nothing more.'
The young woman's lips quivered, and her whole frame trembled with
emotion, which she seemed struggling to overcome, as she replied, in a
broken voice, 'Oh, Kjeld, leave off such questions. It is a sin on your
part to speak in this manner to me. Go--go, I beseech you. Jan will
expect to meet you down yonder with the other boatmen.'
Kjeld seemed lost in thought for a few moments; he then came close to
Christine, laid his hand on her head, and tried to speak--but words
failed him, and turning suddenly away, he rushed from the cottage. At
the same moment the face vanished, which, from the outside of the
window, had been watching the scene within.
The storm appeared to be increasing. The lamp swung, and its light
fluttered in the draughts of air from the ill-secured window-frames.
When Christine found that she was alone, she crouched down close to the
door, as if she wished to catch the last expiring echo of the footsteps
of him who had just gone. She listened, but nothing was to be heard
save the roaring of the tempest, and the sound of the rain pattering
against the windows.
This is a tale of the year 1808, at the commencement of that
unfortunate period when Denmark, without a fleet, without an army, and
almost without finances, entered into war both with Sweden and England.
Down at the shore, in one of the little bays before mentioned, the
water from which was conveyed a good way inland by a broad channel that
had been dug for the purpose, there lay that evening two gunboats,
which a number of men were getting out into the open sea. They worked
hurriedly and silently, and the little noise that they unavoidably made
was drowned in the roaring of the waves, which were dashing furiously
on the beach of the narrow tongue of land. The men were all armed in
the same way as Jan Steffens, and seemed to obey his orders.
Jan was the principal pilot of the place, and well known as an
excellent seaman. The two gunboats had been built and rigged at
Fredericia, and afterwards placed under his command. They were the
masters of the whole Belt, so to speak, and the previous summer they
had taken several valuable prizes from the English.
At the moment in question the pilot was standing on a rock on the
beach, and dividing his attention between the men's work and the black
clouds above, from which the rain was pouring down in torrents. All the
preparations, so energetically carried on that evening, were made for
the purpose of taking by surprise an English corvette, which, for want
of a pilot, had anchored in a bay near Fyen shortly before the darkness
and the storm had commenced.
Just about the time that the gunboats had been hauled out to the
extremity of the point, two persons approached the shore, both coming
from the direction of the cottages. One was a half-grown lad, the other
was Kjeld. The boy looked about for the pilot, and when he perceived
him standing on the rock he hastened towards him.
Jan stooped and whispered in the boy's ear,
'Was he in yonder?'
'You are sure you saw him--you have not made any mistake?'
'I saw him as plainly as I now see you, Jan Steffens.'
'Very well, Jens; you can go home. Let the sails alone!' he cried,
shortly after, turning towards the group of men near; 'the storm is
increasing, the wind is right against us, and we must row the boats
out. How late may it be, I wonder?'
'It is not yet midnight,' replied Kjeld, who had just approached the
pilot. 'As I was coming along I heard the clock at Eriz÷ church strike
'Mongens Dal, at Fyensland, promised to place a light in his window at
twelve o'clock,' observed another. 'His farm lies close by the bay
where the English ship has anchored; we have only, then, to look out
for that light, and there will be no mistake.'
'Ay, ay--all right,' replied Jan, gruffly. 'Mind your own business,
Vextel, and leave me to determine how we shall steer.'
A few minutes afterwards he announced that it was time for them to put
'Take your places,' cried Jan, 'and see that you make as little noise
with the oars as possible. Ebbe, take the helm of the other boat, and
follow close to the one I steer. We shall be a tolerable number this
time, I think.'
'You promised to take the porpoise-hunters from Middlefart with us.'
'To be sure I did, and we shall find room for them; they are fine brave
fellows, these porpoise-hunters. Has Kjeld come on board?'
'Yes, pilot,' answered the young man from the first gunboat.
'A word with you, Kjeld. Come a little way on shore.'
Kjeld sprang out of the boat, the pilot went up to him, and they walked
together from the beach towards the sandhills.
'You will see that Kjeld will be half-mad this evening,' said one of
the seamen in the first boat. 'Jan Steffens looks as sulky and savage
as can be; very likely he has found out the love affair at home in his
house up yonder.'
'Poor man!' said another, 'why did he take so young a wife. He is much
too old for her.'
In the meantime, after Jan and Kjeld had walked to some distance in
silence side by side, Jan asked suddenly,--
'Where were you this evening, Kjeld? It was very late before you joined
Kjeld stammered some almost unintelligible words, while he seemed to be
framing an answer.
'You are thinking what you can say,' exclaimed the old pilot, in a
voice unsteady with suppressed anger, 'for you dare not speak it out.
You were with Christine. You ought not to conceal this from me. You
were there also yesterday, and on Sunday, and last Friday; and, in
short, whenever I am absent, at sea in my boat, or elsewhere, you find
some pretext to visit her.'
'I admit it is true,' replied Kjeld, who was startled by the stern
coldness of Jan's looks and words.
'But did it never occur to you that you were wrong in visiting her so
often? Christine is a married woman, and you will bring discredit upon
her with your frequent visits.'
'I am a man of honour, Jan Steffens,' replied Kjeld, in a voice that
trembled somewhat with anxiety at what might be the result of this
conversation, 'and I have never behaved in your house in any way that
you or the whole world might not have witnessed.'
'That is, perhaps, a misfortune, sir.'
'A misfortune!' exclaimed Kjeld, in amazement; 'what can you mean?'
'If it had been otherwise,' replied Jan, quietly, 'I should have put a
pistol to your head, and shot you--that's all. It would have been
better both for you and her, maybe.'
'But you yourself gave me permission to visit at your house; you said
that Christine longed to have some news of me.'
'Well, if I said that, of course you knew on whose account I asked you
to come. You need not take the matter so much to heart, my lad; let us
speak reasonably now. I know that you are a well-principled young man,
Kjeld; I have watched you narrowly ever since Christine and I were
married. I am aware how things stand between you two; I know all,
'Ah, yes! I know that she loves you, and that she has never in her life
cared for anyone else.'
'Then you know, also, that I am the most unfortunate man on earth,'
'You!' exclaimed Jan, shrugging up his shoulders mockingly--'you! No,
my lad, there is one who beats you in misfortune.'
'I. If you had acted towards me as you ought to have done, you would
have come to me when I was courting Christine, and have told me how
things were between you and her.'
'We thought of doing that, Jan Steffens, but we did not dare to risk
'Nonsense--nonsense! one should dare everything to fulfil one's duty.
But you kept silence at that time, so did she, and matters were allowed
to take their course.'
'Oh, Jan Steffens!' replied the young fisherman, in a voice trembling
with emotion, 'what could I have said to you? I was a poor fellow,
working hard to obtain food enough for my own support. You were well
off, and had been kind to Christine's father, therefore they were glad
to let you have the girl.'
'A very good reason, truly. What! because I had been kind to the old
people, had I a claim to make their daughter unhappy? No; the blame was
your own. You both kept silence, and yourselves are answerable for the
evil that followed. Hearken, Kjeld! from this evening forward we must
understand each other. I loved Christine from the first moment I beheld
her; she was so amiable, so dutiful, and so full of affectionate
feeling for the old people, her parents, and so attentive to them, that
I thought she would make an excellent wife. I knew that she would have
many more comforts in my house than she had at home. I reflected on
everything, except upon the difference between our ages. She was
silent--she wept; but she married me. Since that time, Kjeld, I have
done all that a man could do to make myself liked. I was kind and
indulgent to her. I allowed her to rule in all things, and to do
whatever she pleased. I brought her home the most beautiful dresses and
presents when I went on voyages. But all was of no avail. I was too
'I bought a new boat for her father, I took her mother into our house,
I clothed her little sisters and sent them to school, I prayed to the
Lord every morning and evening of my life in mercy to inspire her with
kindly feelings towards me--but in vain, in vain! She went through her
duties, and was civil and good-tempered; but love me she never could.
When I was young, like you, Kjeld, I dared not attach myself to any
woman, because I was too poor; now that I have become rich, none will
attach herself to me, because I am too old. You look sad. Ah, so goes
the world, my boy! It was not long before I found out that you loved
Christine; and, alas! still worse--I too soon perceived how much she
cared for you. While you both thought the secret was buried in your own
hearts, I read it as if in an open book. Then I was seized with the
most furious jealousy. I resolved to murder you, and more than once, at
that period, there was but a hair-breadth between you and death. I
watched you closely--my eyes were often on you, and never were you out
of my thoughts.'
Jan stopped; he seemed to be nerving himself to go on with his
narration. Kjeld observed that he was shaking, as if in an ague fit.
'You were an honourable man, Kjeld, as you declared a little while
ago,' continued Jan, 'yet that which ought to have made my unhappiness
less, absolutely added to it. I have nothing to complain of--nothing to
reproach you with--all falls back upon myself--upon that disastrous,
that wretched union of hands, in which the soul took no part; and when
one has come to the full knowledge that such was the case, the painful
truth fastens itself upon the mind, and impels one to seek some remedy
to the misfortune.'
'You are right, Jan Steffens,' replied Kjeld, earnestly. 'I, too, have
been reflecting upon a remedy since I left Christine a little while
ago, when she wished to Heaven she had never known me--never even
'Did Christine really say that?' exclaimed the pilot with surprise,
but, it must be owned, not without feeling somewhat pleased and
flattered. 'Well, that was rather a cruel wish to bestow on you this
evening, when she thought that you were going on an expedition from
whence many of us will, perhaps, never return.'
'Christine is a better wife than you fancy; she discards every thought
that is not in accordance with her duty; I shall not be wanting in mine
either, and I have hit upon a plan to set all to rights.'
'So have I,' said the pilot.
'I shall go away and engage myself on board some ship trading with a
foreign country, and neither she nor you shall see me often again, if
it shall please God to spare my life in our enterprise to-night.'
'That he certainly will do, my lad, for a good reason--that you shall
not go with us.'
'Not go with you! What do you mean by that?' asked Kjeld, in the utmost
'Listen!' replied Jan, with cold, quiet decision of manner. 'I have not
much time to spare, and my resolution is taken. Because you have
behaved honourably, and because you have both felt so kindly disposed
towards an old man who, without knowing or intending it, brought upon
you the greatest disappointment that can befall anyone, I will ensure
you both a reward. Go back to Christine, and tell her, that from this
evening henceforth I will bestow on her all the liberty she can desire;
she shall no longer have cause to grieve and to weep, as she has so
often done when she supposed no one saw her, or at night, when she
thought I was asleep: you can say that since it was impossible for me
to win her affection, and be happy myself, I will not hinder her from
being so. On this account, it is not you, young man, but I, who
must go away to a distant land, never more to return.'
It would be difficult to describe the young seaman's amazement as he
listened to these words.
'I do not at all understand you, Jan Steffens,' he said. 'What do you
mean by speaking in this manner?'
'They are calling to me from the boats!' cried Jan. 'Do you not hear
their shouts? I must away. What do I mean?' he added, in a lower tone.
'It is easily understood; if I die to-night, I cannot stand in your way
'Die!' cried Kjeld. 'Are you going to kill yourself?'
'No,' replied the pilot, calmly. 'But I feel pretty sure that the
Englishmen will take the trouble of despatching me upon themselves.'
'No, no! that shall not be! You must let me go with you, Jan Steffens,
and share your danger; you promised that you would. Besides, according
to the lots that we drew in the dark, I have a right to accompany you.
And if you were to die--if you were to put yourself forward to be
killed--I should be still more miserable than I am now. Christine
would never be mine, if that happiness were purchased by your death
'Oh, as to that, you will change your tune when the time comes,'
replied the pilot, turning to go; but Kjeld stopped him, and placing
himself before him, while he seized his arms, exclaimed,
'Oh, Jan Steffens! take me with you; I entreat you, as the greatest
favour, to do so. You shall not forsake Christine; you are a far better
husband to her than I should be. Let me go with the boats!'
Jan shook himself free from the young man's grasp, and in answer to his
earnest appeal, he said,
'It shall be as I have determined, Kjeld, so there is no use for
another word on the subject. But you must not go to Christine till
to-morrow, for you may well believe that I must have ceased to live
before I cease to love her. Farewell, Kjeld--be kind to her, and make
her as happy as you can. She is very mild, and is easily intimidated.
When she is yours, and you speak of me in future years, remember that I
wished to do good to you both--that I atoned for my fault as well as I
could--and that my greatest misfortune was--that she was so young, or
rather, that I was too old.'
The pilot wrung Kjeld's hand as he said these words, and before the
young fisherman had time to conquer his emotion so as to be able to
make any reply, the old man had left him, and was crossing the sand
with rapid strides towards the shore where the boats' crews were
assembled. Kjeld followed him, crying, 'Jan Steffens, let me go with
you only this once; do not thus turn a deaf ear to me. You will rob me
of my honour, my share in your glory, if I alone am to be left behind.'
'Push off!' shouted the pilot, as he jumped into the leading gunboat,
and took his place at the helm.
The oars sank, and both the boats began to move towards the sea. Kjeld
uttered a despairing cry, and sprang after them, but he could not reach
them, and the waves cast him back on the shore.
'Things shall be as I have said,' he heard in the pilot's deep voice
from the foremost boat. 'But do not go up yonder before to-morrow, and
may the Lord be with you both!'
The men in the boats had been astonished witnesses of this scene. Those
who sat nearest to him cast looks of inquiry towards the pilot; but his
eye gave no responsive glance, his sunburnt face only expressed
inflexible resolution, and his countenance was, perhaps, a little
sterner even than usual.
From the beach Kjeld saw the boats rising and sinking amidst the
foaming waves, while his passionate entreaties and his wild shouts were
lost in the roaring of the wind and the thunder of the sea. The rain
was pouring in torrents, and the skies were obscured by heavy black
clouds. Soon after the two boats appeared only as dark specks upon the
water, and presently even these vanished amidst the thick fog which
rested over the sea at a little distance.
Fortunately the current was running northwards that night--that is to
say, in a direction which favoured the progress of the gunboats, so
that their crews were not obliged to fatigue themselves with rowing
hard. The raging sea broke repeatedly over the boats, but no one seemed
to mind this; they placed complete confidence in the pilot, whose tall
figure, apparently immovable, stood upright at the helm: and perhaps
the thoughts of all were directed to the object of their expedition,
which they were rapidly approaching. The rain had somewhat abated in
that particular place, and when a gust of wind partially dispelled the
fog for a moment, they saw on the opposite high coast of Fyen the
signal-light, which, though it was but faint and flickering, pointed
out to them where they should seek the enemy. Amidst the profound
silence that reigned in the boats, the pilot addressed the men in low
but distinct tones.
'Row more quietly still, Gutter! Make no noise with your oars; you may
be certain that they have their eyes and ears open yonder. They know
right well where they are. Have the guns clear in front there, Nikolai;
you must show us to-night that you understand your work like an old
artilleryman. The wind will fall off the nearer we come under the
shelter of the hilly land. If I see aright, we have our man there in
the lee of the boats.'
All eyes were instantly turned in the direction he had named; a dark
object became soon after perceptible amidst the thick gloom around, it
gradually grew in size and developed its outline, until the hull of a
ship was to be discerned, sharp and black, reposing on the waters like
In pursuance of the plan which Jan Steffens had arranged, the
shaped their course so as to come between the land and the corvette.
They could hear the wind whistling amidst the cordage, could see the
light in the captain's cabin, and the heads of the officers of the
watch as they paced up and down the quarter-deck. The silence which had
reigned on board was broken the moment the pilot's boat was perceived
from the ship. Immediately afterwards Jan's sonorous voice was heard
commanding his men to fire. Both the gunboats fired at the same moment,
and with terrible effect.
It would be in vain to try to describe the commotion which now took
place on board the enemy's ship. The attack had been made as suddenly
as it had been planned; it was also favoured in the highest degree by
the darkness and the tempest, which embarrassed many of the movements
of the ship at anchor, whilst the gunboats, on the contrary, were able
to move easily towards the places where their fire would operate most
effectively, and be most destructive. Under these fortunate
circumstances the fishermen continued to load and to discharge their
guns. Splinters and pieces of broken planks evinced the accuracy of
their gunners. On board the corvette they were not able to point their
cannon so low that they could sweep the boats, whose flat hulls,
besides, were only visible during the flashes of fire from the guns,
and in an instant after seemed to have been swallowed up by the lofty
Meanwhile the drums beat on board the ship; the boatswain's whistle
mingled with the officer's words of command--disorder was at an end.
Everything was done that circumstances permitted to oppose the enemy,
and their fire was returned whenever their position could be
ascertained. Soon after the rain ceased, and faint rays of pale
moonlight struggled through the dark masses of clouds that were driving
across the skies. The gunboats came close under the man-of-war, and
after another discharge of their guns, the crews boarded the ship,
climbing in by every possible opening, amidst cries of joyous triumph;
and then commenced a scene in which were mingled the sounds of oaths,
shouts, and pistol-shots, while everything was shrouded in the thick
veil of mist and dark clouds of smoke.
At Lyngspoint every shot was heard, and caused the deepest anxiety for
the absent. As usual upon similar occasions, lights appeared in all the
fishermen's huts. None of the females thought of sleep while their
husbands and their brothers were fighting upon the stormy sea. The
tempest roared around the cottages, the watch-dogs howled as if
lamenting their masters' danger, and the crowing of the cocks announced
the approach of morning. Pale countenances, expressive of fear and
anxiety, appeared one after the other at the half-open doors; presently
the women began to go over to each other's houses to communicate their
forebodings, or to seek for the comfort so much needed. In the little
porch of one of the houses nearest to the shore stood a group of three
females muffled up in woollen shawls and gazing upon the sea. Every
shot was noticed by them with a sigh or a speaking glance.
'There is warm work going on over yonder,' groaned one woman.
'Ah, yes!' replied another; 'I was just thinking that every one of
these shots may cost a man's life--the lives of our men, perhaps.'
'Nonsense! there is nothing to make such a fuss about,' exclaimed a
rough voice. 'Our people's lives are in God's hands, even though they
may stand before the barrel of a gun, or ride on a plank over the
ocean. I have put up a prayer to the Lord for my boy. "Do your duty," I
said to him when he went away, "and our Almighty Father will order the
rest as seems good to Him!"'
She who spoke thus was an extraordinary-looking woman. Her face was
entirely covered with wrinkles and marks of the small-pox, which made
her harsh features look still coarser than they really were. Some years
before the date of the night in question, her husband had been lost at
sea, and she and her little son had been left in the utmost poverty.
From that time Ellen went out with the men to fish: she worked as hard
as the best of them, managed her boat like an experienced seaman, and
never seemed to feel fatigue. Equipped in a short dress, a pair of
large fisherman's boots, and a dark, low hat, which in nautical
language is called 'a sou'-wester,' she was to be seen in the worst
weather carrying her fish about to the neighbouring farms for sale; in
the autumn months she hired the old right of ferryman at Snogh÷i, and
carried fruit over from Ăro to Zealand--she took travellers across to
Strib--mended her own boat when it needed repairs; in short, she worked
hard, for she worked to maintain her son.
Doubtless some local readers of this slight sketch will recognize in
Ellen an old acquaintance, who was always welcome wherever she showed
herself; an honest, upright, self-sacrificing character, whose whole
life was one scene of unflinching devotion to her duties, until she
suddenly disappeared from her home, and was never seen again.
Ellen was standing with a short clay-pipe in her mouth, her rough grey
locks confined by a handkerchief tied under her chin.
'I'll tell you what, Ellen,' said one of the other women, 'let us run
over to Stine Steffens, as none of us have any mind to go to sleep
to-night. She has a warm, comfortable room, and can give us a good cup
Her proposition was readily agreed to by the group of women who had now
assembled, and, tying handkerchiefs over their heads like hoods, they
all repaired to Jan Steffens's house, with the exception of 'Skipper
Ellen,' as she was generally called, who remained behind.
Christine was still sitting in the same corner of the room where she
had placed herself after Kjeld had left her. Her beautiful, expressive
eyes were swimming in tears.
'Good evening, little Stine!' cried one of the fisherwomen. 'How goes
it with you?'
'Oh, as with the rest of you,' she replied. 'I am full of anxiety and
terror. It was kind of you to come here. Pray sit down.'
'You had better come to one of our houses, and we shall make some good
strong coffee; that will help to kill the time.'
'We can make the coffee as well here,' said Christine.
'Oh, certainly,' said the other, joyfully, 'and I will help to blow up
The fire was rekindled, the coffee made, and the conversation was then
'Would to Heaven our people were safe at home again!' exclaimed
Christine. 'I am so terrified at the risk they are running to-night.'
'And with good reason too,' said one of the women. 'There is sure to be
sorrow among some of us to-morrow, for the firing has been going on at
least half-an-hour. But we must comfort ourselves by remembering that
storm and sunshine come from the same hand; and if some are sufferers
others will be gainers, for no doubt there will be a good deal of
prize-money from so large a ship. You, at any rate, can take things
easily, my good Stine, for if anything should happen to your old man,
your fate won't be very hard--you will soon have another and a younger
husband. Besides, Jan Steffens always gets a double portion of any
prize-money, or any treasure that is found, though all the other men
risk their lives as much as he does his.'
'Oh, come now,' cried another, 'Christine has twice as much cause of
anxiety as we have. We have only one to think of--she has two.'
'Two!' exclaimed Christine. 'What do you mean?'
'Why, have you not first your old husband, and then a young sweetheart
in the background? I mean Kjeld Olsen.'
While Christine was reflecting what answer to make to this sudden
attack, another woman said,
'There is no fear of anything happening to Kjeld Olsen to-night; he was
wiser than to put himself into jeopardy, so he remained at home, and
let them go without him. Of course he had good reasons for determining
to spare his own life--old Jan Steffens may lose his.'
Up to this moment Christine had not made any reply to their rude jests,
hut her patience was now exhausted, her pale cheeks turned crimson, and
rising up she said firmly,
'You have not been speaking the truth. Kjeld is to-night where he
always delights to be, in the midst of danger, the boldest among the
'Who is speaking of Kjeld?' asked Skipper Ellen, who had entered the
room at that moment. 'He is standing down yonder on the shore, and
trying hard to persuade Poul Mikkelsen, at any price, to take him over
in his boat to the English ship.'
'There now, you hear he is at home,' cried the woman, who had first
mentioned the fact. 'It is well you came, Ellen, for Christine would
not believe our word.'
'Will you come down to the shore?' asked Ellen; 'the rain is over, the
wind has lulled, and the moon is shining clearly.'
'Yes, let us go,' said Christine, laying aside the empty coffee-cups.
'Ah! now we shall see what is the matter with poor Kjeld.'
'Of course old Jan Steffens did not care to have his company,' said the
most ill-natured woman. 'No doubt he knew pretty well where Kjeld's
thoughts would be wandering to.'
'And I say you are quite mistaken,' replied Ellen, casting a look of
angry scorn on the woman. 'It would be a happy thing for you, Birthe,
if you had a son, or anyone belonging to you, that resembled Kjeld.'
So saying, she took Christine by the arm and went towards the shore,
followed by the rest of the women. It had ceased raining, and the wind
had abated, but the sea was still much agitated, and the noise of
firing was yet to be heard. Kjeld was standing in earnest conversation
with an old man, who was leaning on a staff, and who shook his head
occasionally as if refusing something.
'What is the matter, Kjeld?' asked Skipper Ellen. 'And why have you not
gone with the rest of them?'
'Jan Steffens said there were too many in the boats,' he answered
'Ay--and now he insists upon following them,' said the old man, 'and
offers me everything he has to help him to row over yonder. But the
weather is too bad. I won't trust my boat out in such a wild sea.'
'What nonsense!' cried Ellen, jeeringly. 'Are you afraid of risking
your life, Poul?'
'You know better, Ellen,' replied the old man. 'I have no fear for my
life, but if I lose my boat my children will starve.'
'That is a serious consideration, to be sure,' said Ellen, 'but the
young man shall go, notwithstanding, and if you won't accompany him,
I will. Come here, Kjeld--when you and I put our strength together I
think we shall manage to reach the other side.'
Kjeld uttered a cry of joy, shook Ellen's hand warmly, and exclaimed,
'May God bless and reward you, dear good Ellen; I shall never forget
'As to your boat, Poul, you must not be alarmed if we borrow it,' said
Ellen. 'If we are unlucky, and the sea takes us, my boat lies drawn up
on the land, newly painted and just put to rights; and in the village
yonder I have a small house--you can take both as payment if your boat
be lost. But Kjeld shall go as he wishes.'
'Don't attempt to go, Ellen,' cried one of the women, 'you will only
get into trouble.'
'With God's help I have no fear of that. The lad shall go, if we should
cross in one of my fishing-boats.'
She forced herself through the circle of women who had gathered around
her, and hastened to the shore, where Kjeld had already placed himself
in the frail boat. Ellen got into it, and, standing up, seized an oar.
Soon after the boat glided out to sea, and the somewhat hazardous
voyage was begun.
'She is a wonderful woman, that Ellen!' exclaimed one of those who were
looking on. 'A lucky fellow he was who got her for a wife; there's
nothing she can't turn her hand to; and she can work as well as the
best man among them.'
As long as it was possible to perceive the boat, it was observed to be
making straight for its destination; rowed by vigorous arms, and
managed by experienced persons, it seemed sometimes to be swallowed up
by the waves, and then it would be seen as if riding over them, and
defying them, while it never swerved from its appointed course.
'Come now, Kjeld,' cried Ellen, after they had got some distance from
the land, 'let us two have a little rational conversation. It was
partly to find an opportunity for this that I was so willing to go to
sea with you to-night. What really is the matter with you, my lad? Why
have you been going about latterly with your head drooping in such a
melancholy way, and loitering about in idleness, instead of following
your occupations cheerfully and diligently?'
'The matter with me!' exclaimed Kjeld, in well-feigned astonishment;
'why, nothing, Ellen--you are quite mistaken in supposing that anything
is the matter with me.'
'Oh, there is no use in your denying that something ails you; I am too
old to be easily humbugged. You must speak the honest truth to me,
Kjeld; you must be as frank with me as I am with you. You need not
fear to speak freely, for no one can overhear you out thus far on the
sea--no one, my boy--except myself and He who rules the ocean. You are
still silent, Kjeld--then I will speak out. You are sighing and
grieving because you love Christine Steffens, and because you think
that she loves you; that's the short and the long of the matter. But
have you forgotten that Christine is a married woman? and are you aware
that your conduct is bringing her name into people's mouths--that every
creature in the village is talking of you and her, and that the walls
of her own house cannot protect her against jeering and insult? I have
myself been a witness of this to-night.'
'What was said to her, Ellen?' asked Kjeld, in consternation. 'Who
could speak a syllable in disparagement of Christine?'
'Say, rather, who can prevent it, Kjeld, since you yourself afford such
ample room for tittle-tattle.'
'Ah, Ellen! if you only knew how much I love Christine! She has been my
thought by day, and my dream by night; and when I have been away on
long voyages, I denied myself everything to save all I got for her. I
always expected that she would certainly one day be mine--but when I
came home this autumn, she was married!'
'It was a pity. There is nothing left for you, therefore, now, but to
'Forget her! I shall never, never forget her.'
'Oh, I have heard such vows before; young folks have always these
ideas, but they smile at them when they become older. An honourable man
loves a girl when he marries her, or when he intends to marry her.'
'And when he cannot marry her?'
'Then he lets her alone, my good lad, and turns his attention to some
'More easily said than done, Ellen.'
'You think I do not know what I am speaking about because I am old, and
grey, and wrinkled. Is it not so, Kjeld? But remember that old people
have been young themselves once, and let me tell you that the misery
which you find it so impossible to bear, I have borne, though I am only
a woman. Long ago, when I was a little better-looking than I am now,
there was one who was always uppermost in my thoughts--one whom I
cherished in my secret soul; in short, to whom I was as much attached
as you are to Christine. He wooed me, too; he begged me to be his wife,
and swore by Him who made yon heavens above that he loved only me.'
'And what answer did you give him?'
'I told him that we could not be so imprudent as to marry, for he had
little, and I had still less; that I would marry the man who was the
landlord of the house in which we resided, to provide a comfortable
home for my mother as long as she lived. And I did marry that man. He
whom I had refused never knew how much I cared for him; he did not
think that I had been really attached to him. But I grieved when he
went away. There never was a squall at sea that I did not think with
anxiety about him; and many a night have I soaked my pillow with my
tears, when I could not go to sleep because the tempest raged so
'Do I know the person of whom you are speaking, Ellen?'
'Yes, you do, Kjeld: he is your own father.'
'Can you now comprehend why I have always taken such an interest in
you, and why I have some right to advise you to let Christine alone? I
do not say that you must forget her.'
'No, because you are convinced it is impossible for me to do so.'
'Not at all--because I know forgetfulness will come of itself. I only
desire to impress on you the necessity of leaving this place, and no
longer loitering about the sea-shore here. To-morrow I am going to sail
to Ăro, or Ăbler, and if you will come with me, Kjeld, we will go on to
Copenhagen. You had better engage yourself on board some ship going to
the south, and stay away a few years. When you come back again, if our
Lord has spared my life till then, you will thank me for the advice I
have given you this night. But see! here are our boats. For God's sake,
Kjeld, do your duty! I will fasten our little skiff to one of the
Christine in the meantime remained standing on the beach at a little
distance from the other women. She had been a silent but much
interested spectator of all that had occurred previous to Kjeld's and
Ellen's departure, and she stood watching the frail little boat as long
as it was visible. At length the fisherwomen rejoined her, and were
loud in the expression of their fears and forebodings. Christine said
'Of course you have no reason to be afraid, Christine,' said the same
woman who had before commenced jeering at her in Jan Steffens's house.
'Kjeld cannot arrive yonder until all the dangerous work is over, but
he can always boast of being one of the party, and perhaps he may get a
share of the prize-money. And if any accident should happen to old Jan
Steffens, you will have a new protector ready at hand.'
'What do you mean by all the insinuations you have been throwing out
to-night?' asked Christine.
'Well, this is too good!' cried the woman, laughing, and turning
towards the other females. 'She pretends to be so ignorant, the little
'But speak out--explain yourself! I do not understand a word you have
been saying, and cannot imagine what you have been all driving at
'I mean that you and Kjeld will marry as soon as Jan's eyes are closed
for ever, and that it is no fault of yours or Kjeld's that this has
been so long of taking place.'
'And will you listen to my answer?' said Christine, in a peremptory
tone, and speaking with such pointed distinctness that her words were
perfectly heard by every one near. 'If such a misfortune should befall
me that any accident shall occur to Jan Steffens to-night, I swear that
I will never marry either Kjeld Olsen, or any other man upon this
'Oh, you would think better of it--you would change your mind,' cried
the other, laughing scornfully.
'No!' said Christine. 'By my hopes of salvation and eternal happiness
in the world to come, I speak the truth. And I beseech you to believe
me, and leave me in peace.'
Shortly after the firing ceased, and many eyes were turned anxiously
towards the place where it was known the ship lay.
'It is over now,' said a solemn voice. 'They will be coming back
presently. God have mercy on us all, but especially on those who have
lost any near and dear to them!'
There was a deep and unbroken silence among the crowd. Terror and
anxiety had closed all their lips, and every eye was strained looking
out for the boats. Old Poul Mikkelsen, who had clambered up to the top
of a pile of rocks, was sitting without his hat, and singing the first
verses of a psalm in a weak and tremulous voice. Suddenly there burst
forth a bright light in the direction of the ship; it increased in
width until by degrees it became a broad sheet of dark flame, the
glowing reflection of which streamed over the waves and tinged the
hills that skirted the adjacent coast. Such was the glare of light that
the shore at Fyensland could be seen crowded with people, and several
boats were discerned apparently rowing in great haste to and from the
'The ship is on fire!' cried Poul. 'Our people have been victorious.'
The fire seemed to increase until at length it appeared to become
concentrated, when it shot up in one high pillar of flame, from which
jets of sparks were thrown up into the air around. While the group
on the shore at Lyngspoint were standing in breathless silence, the
church clock at Eriz÷ was heard to strike three, and the grey dawn of
morning began to give place to the clear light of day. In the glare
from the fire the corvette--with its slender masts, its yards, and
cordage--became distinctly and fearfully visible, and people could be
perceived hurrying up and down the deck. Shortly after, the guns went
off, the fire having then reached them, and one cannon-ball struck the
bank at no great distance from where the wives and families of the
fishermen were assembled. No one seemed to notice it, for the thoughts
of all were earnestly bent upon the terrible drama which was being
enacted out upon the sea; each person present had a deep interest in
it, and not one of them but waited for its dÚnoűment with dread and
'Here come our boats!' cried Poul, pointing with his staff towards two
dark specks which were to be seen tossing on the waves at a little
distance from the corvette. Soon after a third boat was observed, towed
by one of the gun-boats. Christine had been the first to perceive it;
she folded her hands, and cast a grateful look of thanksgiving up
At length the gunboats reached the shore. In the deeply-affecting
scene that followed were mingled joyous exclamations and groans of
despair--smiles and tears--as those so dear and so anxiously looked for
were found to be safe, or, alas! to be among the wounded and the dead.
Christine's eyes sought Jan everywhere--but in vain--she did not see
him. She covered her face, and burst into tears.
In a few minutes Kjeld approached her, and laid his hand gently on her
'Where is my husband?' she asked, impatiently.
'He is dead,' replied Kjeld.
'Dead! dead!' exclaimed Christine, in a voice faint and trembling from
'Yes! He fell at the very moment that he ordered us to return to our
boats, when the Englishmen had set fire to the corvette. I did all I
could to save him, dear Christine; I posted myself at his side, and
defended him to the last. But it was all in vain; it was impossible to
rescue him from death.'
'Why did you not go with him at first?' asked Christine abruptly.
'Because he insisted that I should not. He knew all that we, too, have
felt and thought; he desired me to remain behind, and carry a message
to you, but I was not to deliver it until to-morrow.'
'It will be needless,' said Christine. 'To-morrow I shall be gone to my
aunt at KjŠrup.'
She stretched out both her hands to him, and struggling with her tears,
she added, in a tone of deep emotion.
'God be with you, Kjeld! my dear, my only friend!'
'You are not going away, Christine?' exclaimed Kjeld.
'Yes,' she replied. 'I made a vow to the Almighty that I would do so
when I offered up my prayers to Him to bring you back unhurt.'
'But still why must you go away?' he asked, in a voice of alarm and
'Because we two must forget our hopes and our dreams; because we must
separate from each other, never more to meet again!'