One summer afternoon, two young fishermen were together before the door of one of the last cottages which are situated between the sandhills near Stadil Fiord, in the district of Ringkjöhing. The one was painting a pair of oars, the other had stretched himself at full length along the bench near the well, and was resting his head idly on both his hands, while he watched his comrade's work. In this attitude his countenance expressed a sort of quiet contentment, which seemed never to have been disturbed by the storms of passion. He had a low forehead, prominent eyes, a round face, smooth hair, combed straight down, and colossal limbs. His companion was of more slender proportions, and evidently possessed less bodily strength; but he seemed active, and there was an expression of benevolence and honesty in his features that could not fail to inspire confidence in him.

The sun was shining that afternoon from a cloudless sky; the larks were singing, gulls and other sea-birds were flying about in circles in the air; and the monotonous sound of the waves of the German Ocean, rolling lazily on the Jutland coast, as, borne across the sandhills, was like the audible breathing of a sleeping giant. The church bell at Vædersö was ringing for the afternoon service. All was quiet and repose in that sandy desert, where the eye in vain sought a tree, a bush, a single blade of fresh green. Only the lymegrass amidst the hillocks, and here and there a little yellow patch of rough, half-withered grass in the hollows, varied the dismally uniform colour of the sand.

'Come, now,' said the young man who was doing nothing, after he had remained a long time silently contemplating the other, 'put away that paint-pot, and give up work for to-day. Wash your hands, Jörgen, and come with me to Vædersö; we will have a game at skittles. This is a holiday, and one can't be always labouring.'

The young man thus addressed looked up and smiled, and after having for a minute glanced at his handiwork with apparent pleasure, he exclaimed:

'I am ready now, Ebbe. But only look! I have painted two hearts, with a wreath round them, inside of our names, which are to signify that you and I will hold together in friendship and good companionship all our days.'

'Yes, that we will, Jörgen.'

'I don't see why one should be idle all Sunday, any more than on other days,' said Jörgen. 'In spring, you know, we two bought a boat together; it was a very ugly one, and in a sadly dilapidated state, you may remember; but in consequence of devoting our spare time to repairing and beautifying it, we have now got as smart a little craft as there is on the whole coast. I am never so happy as when I am at work.'

'And I am never so happy as when I can lie quietly and comfortably on my back in the sunshine, and look up at the heavens, as I am doing now. I don't see the least use in a man's working harder than he absolutely need do. You and I, Jörgen, have been obliged to work since we were quite little fellows. Our parents sent us away among strangers, because they had no longer the means of maintaining us; we toiled and slaved for the benefit of others, and for the same reward that they gave their beasts--for mere food. From those days to this, we have never been able, with our united efforts, to make more than the fifteen dollars we paid for the boat. And now we must begin to labour afresh; and so we shall be forced to go on through the whole of our lives, until we are too old to work any more, and then we shall be thrust into the poor-house, as our parents before us were, and get leave to hobble about with a stick and a clay pot, to beg for food from those whom we helped to enrich when we were young. You may laugh, Jörgen, but what I am saying is the plain truth nevertheless. If a poor lad such as I am could only earn enough in his youth to enable him to take it easy in his old age, he would be labouring to some purpose; if our gains could amount to so much as the gains of the person who owns that large ship out yonder; or if we could make as much as the lord of the manor at Aabjerg possesses, who has nothing to do but to drive in summer round his fields, with his hands behind his back, and his German pipe in his mouth, and in winter to sit at home in his warm chimney-corner, and play at cards with all the strangers that visit him, it would be another thing. Ah, Jörgen, Jörgen! if one could only get so far as to be able to take the reins in one's own hands, instead of carrying the bit in one's mouth.'

Jörgen shrugged his shoulders and smiled. Shortly afterwards, the two young fishermen were to be seen strolling arm in arm to the village of Vædersö.

Towards evening the weather changed; the skies became cloudy, and before the sun had set the whole coast wore an aspect very different from the peaceful calm that had reigned around in the earlier part of the afternoon. A cold north-west wind blew in sharply from the sea, whose waves, rising higher and higher every moment, sent a thick rain of spray and foam over the adjacent sandhills, whilst the breakers dashed loudly on the reefs along the shore. The sand began to whirl about among the hills, and flocks of sea-gulls and other birds flew in towards the beach, their hoarse and mournful cries predicting bad weather.

The peasants at Vædersö had finished their games of skittles, and were about to return to their homes, when a fisherman brought to the little town the tidings that a foreign ship was in distress at sea, outside of Husby Sandhills. This intelligence, which seemed to interest all who heard it, drew particular attention from those who were standing in groups. A number of men and women set off immediately on the way to the sandhills, without heeding the rain and the coming storm.

Amidst the crowd who sought as speedily as possible to witness the calamitous spectacle might be observed a person of a very peculiar appearance. He was a tall, heavy-limbed man, with a blood-red complexion, the natural hue of which became deeper and deeper every moment, in consequence of the haste with which he was making his way through the heavy sandy road. His face was encircled by a forest of coal-black hair and beard, and shaded by a dark calf-skin cap. The deep-set eyes were nearly hidden beneath a pair of dark eyebrows that almost met over a nose which looked unnaturally broad, as chance had not bestowed much length upon it. This was the village blacksmith. He was by birth a Pole, and had served for some time in the army, under the reign of Frederick VI.

The road from Vædersö to the sandhills, as has been said, was entirely through sand. On both sides might be seen fields of rye, whose slender pale blades were beaten down by the tempest. The smith had taken as a companion along this fatiguing path a favourite and faithful friend, who lived at free quarters in his house, and carried on in this comfortable abode his trade, which was that of the village tailor. These two persons were almost always to be seen together--the lesser man, indeed, seemed to be quite a necessary appendage to the taller one, who looked as if nature had appointed him the tailor's protector. The merits of the latter, however, were not to be questioned; he was an untiring listener, and so submissive and dependent that, if the smith had pushed him out by the door, he would have crept back through a window; so complaisant, that if the smith had chosen to tell a falsehood, the tailor would have sworn to its truth.

These two individuals formed, for the moment, the centre of a group of peasants who had gathered on the sandhills. Below, upon the sea-shore, were to be seen several fishermen hard at work, drawing up their boats farther on the beach, and when that was done, standing in silence, anxiously contemplating the sea, on which a large ship was struggling with the furious wind, and heavy waves that were every moment driving it nearer to the land, notwithstanding all the efforts those on board seemed making to escape the threatened danger.

The groups among the sandhills were less silent. The smith had just declared, in decisive tones, to what nation the unfortunate ship belonged.

'Yes, as I have this moment told you,' he continued, in the sort of barbarous Danish in which he usually spoke. 'It is an English vessel, and I thank God it is not Swedish.'

'Why?' asked the tailor.

'Because they build their ships with such bad timber--only fir and pine--not an inch of good strong oak among it. I wish no evil to anyone, or anything; but if it be our Lord's will that a ship is to be run aground to-night, I am glad it should be an Englishman: those English know how to build ships.'

'You are right, there, Master Harfiz!' said the tailor. 'What capital iron bolts we got from the last wreck, and what excellent oak timber to boot! When the wreck that is going to be is brought to auction, I shall look out for a share of it.'

'And I also,' said the smith. 'I dare say, now, that craft out there will furnish me with some good strong posts for my new smithy; it does not look to be built of tinder or matches.'

'We can discern the goodness of the Almighty towards all mankind,' remarked the tailor. 'No cotton grows here--no silk, no iron is to be found; nothing, so to speak, but salt fish can be got on these bare coasts, and He is good enough every year to let one or two vessels be lost here that we may obtain what we require at a reasonable rate.'

'Yes, and He mercifully ordains this to happen generally in the fall of the year,' added an old woman, 'because he knows that the winter is approaching, and that poor folks want a little wood for firing to warm themselves.'

'There is no dishonesty in taking what is cast in to us by the sea,' said the tailor. 'They did much worse in old times down yonder at Nymindegab.'

'At Nymindegab?' echoed the smith. 'I know nothing about it. What did they do down there?'

'Don't you remember that true tale we heard last Candlemas at Thimgaard about the rich nobleman Espen? He lived at a castle which was called Ahner, and he used every stormy evening, and during the dark nights of winter, to ride over the sandhills with a lighted lantern bound underneath his horse, in order that the seafaring people who were driven out of their course should fancy that the light came from a ship sailing in deep water, and thus get stranded on the reefs while they steered for the light. This went on well for a long time, and Espen of Ahner became a very rich man, for all the wrecks on that part of the coast belonged to him. But at length, just when he was celebrating his daughter's wedding, a poor half-witted creature found his way into the castle, and disclosed their lord's evil deeds to all his vassals.'

During this conversation the ship, which had excited the attention of so many, had tried several times to tack about, so as to get away from the shore, but the attempt had always failed. In the terrible storm, which seemed to be increasing every moment, it was no longer possible to carry such a press of sail as was required to take the ship out. Its fate could not, therefore, long be doubtful, as every swell of the sea brought it nearer and nearer to the dangerous reefs which stretched along the coast.

It is about half a century since the events here related took place. At that period the German Ocean had dashed many a wreck over the outer reef, and many a cry for help or death-groan had been wafted away by the stormy wind, or smothered by the sea, before anyone thought of taking effective measures to give help to the drowning mariners. On the occasion of the shipwreck in question, however, the unfortunate crew were often so close to the land that their despairing cries and earnest prayers were distinctly heard on shore, and the tempest had driven them within the outer reef, their vessel almost smashed to pieces indeed, but so near that, but for the fury of the waves, the fishermen could have got out to them even in their frail boats, and have saved them.

In the meantime daylight had gone, but in the summer evening even distant objects were still visible; and when the moon struggled forth from the heavy clouds, in the pale and tremulous light it cast over the sea, the ill-fated ship could be seen driving, with two or three small sails up, nearer to the coast. Presently one of the masts went overboard, was caught in the cordage, and hung on one side of the hull. From time to time, between the more furious gusts of wind, the gale bore heartrending cries of distress to the land. All exercise of authority on board seemed to have been long given up, everyone apparently thinking only of saving himself. A boat was with difficulty lowered, but it filled the moment it reached the water.

The crowd on the beach was now increased by two persons--the lord of the manor from Aabjerg and his son. The first-named was a very stout man, muffled up in a thick great-coat and a fur-cap, with wings that came close down over his ears, and were tied under his chin. He had a tobacco-pouch well fastened to a button-hole in his overcoat, and was smoking a large German pipe. His son was a lieutenant in the Lancers at Kolding, on a visit for a few days at his father's country-house. He wore that evening a blue uniform, and carried an umbrella, which was every minute almost turned inside out by the wind.

'Hark ye, good people!' cried the great man, stretching his chin over the enormous handkerchief that enveloped his throat; 'we must try and do something for them out yonder. It would be a sin to let all these poor fellows perish, would it not--eh? What say you?'

'God have mercy on them!' muttered an old fisherman. 'It is too heavy a sea for any boat to live in; we can do nothing for them, Herr Krigsraad.'

'Not if I promise a ten-dollar note to anyone who will take a rope out to them? What! Is there not one of you who will try it?'

The fishermen looked at each other, and shrugged their shoulders; but no one spoke.

'I shall add five dollars to my father's ten,' cried the lieutenant.

'Well, I think this is a very good offer,' said the Krigsraad.

'But you must not take too long to consider about it,' added his son. 'Courage, my lads! It only wants hearty good will and a pair of strong arms, and you will soon reach them out yonder.'

'Since the noble Herr lieutenant thinks so, he had better make the attempt himself,' said one of the fishermen. 'Your honour seems to have a pair of strong enough arms; I will lend you my boat for this venturesome deed, but I won't sell my life for any money.'

'The impertinent scoundrel!' muttered the young officer, turning towards his father. 'I wish I had him on the drill-ground at Kolding.'

'For Heaven's sake be quiet, lieutenant,' whispered his father, 'and don't draw me into a quarrel with my fishermen. That man is no coward; I have myself seen him and another rescue sailors from a wreck in the most frightful weather, when there seemed no more chance of his getting safely back than there would be for me were I to try to wade out yonder in my great-coat.'

While this short colloquy was going on, a piercing cry was heard from the wreck--a gigantic billow had raised the ship aloft and cast it in over the reef; when the waves rolled back the vessel lay on its side, having been raised and dashed down again several times in the raging surf, and left lying partially buried in the sand. After this, every wave washed over it with a force that must have been seen to have been believed possible, and which, in the course of a few minutes, swept the deck clean of every object that had hitherto been securely fastened on it.

In the confusion which followed, another cry of distress arose, and those of the fishermen who stood nearest to the water, thought in the dusk that they perceived many of the sailors carried away by the sea, which, unchecked, was rolling over the deck. As the swelling waves dashed forward, these unfortunate victims stretched out their arms. When they retired, nothing more was to be seen: the men were gone.

Three sailors had crept up the shrouds, and had lashed themselves to the only remaining mast, and every now and then the wind carried to the land their agonized appeals to the people on shore to save them. Shortly after a boat was seen to be shoved off from the beach with four men in it; they bowed their heads, took off their hats, and held them for a few moments before their faces, while they seemed to be offering up a short prayer, then they let the boat glide out into deep water. The four men stood up, and appeared to be working hard to get over the inner reefs. For a short time the boat went bravely on, the oars were plied by experienced hands, and every effort was made to reach the stranded ship, but the raging sea cast them back, and filled the boat, and the fishermen were obliged to return without having effected their object.

At length, the next morning, about dawn of day, the storm seemed to be abating. In the interim those who still remained on the wreck had made another effort to reach the land in one of the boats which had not been carried away from the ship, but had continued fastened to its side. But this attempt also failed; the waves broke over the unfortunate boat, and relentlessly swept it out to sea. When the sun came forth only one man was to be seen, and he was lashed to the mast.

The Krigsraad returned to the beach at an early hour, and renewed his appeals to the fishermen. Ebbe and Jörgen were both there; they had not left the sea-shore the whole night.

'The weather is not so wild as it was,' whispered Jörgen to Ebbe, 'and the sea is not so terribly rough. What do you say to our making the attempt? Our boat floats lightly, and will stand the waves better than any of the others.'

'It can't be done,' replied Ebbe; 'we should be risking too much--our beautiful newly-painted boat, that we spent everything we had to buy! You don't remember all that.'

'I remember that once when my father was shipwrecked up near Skagen, he was fastened to a mast like that poor man out yonder; let us do as the natives of Skagen did, and save him.'

'Let us wait a little longer, at least,' whispered Ebbe, eagerly. 'Perhaps the Krigsraad may offer a larger reward presently.'

Jörgen cast a reproachful look at his comrade, and said,

'God forgive you for the sin of thinking of money and reward at such a moment as this. I won't wait; and if you do not choose to go, I will get some one else to accompany me; for, happen what may, I am resolved to attempt the rescue of that poor man.'

'Have a little patience,' cried Ebbe, holding Jörgen back by his arm. 'Just wait till I take off my new waistcoat and my nice cravat; it would be a shame to spoil them with salt water.'

'What are you two consulting about?' asked the Krigsraad, going up to them. 'Have you determined to go out yonder, my lad?'

'We shall attempt to do so,' replied the young fisherman.

'That's right, Jörgen! you are a brave fellow, and have more courage than all your comrades put together. Well done.'

'I am younger than any of them,' replied Jörgen, blushing at the great man's praise, 'and I have neither wife nor child to grieve for me if any accident happens to me.'

'I also am going,' said Ebbe, in a doleful voice. 'I also will risk my health and my life to save a suffering fellow-creature. And though your honour was so good as to promise a reward, I must beg you not to think that I am going for the sake of the money. Nevertheless, I shall accept it, for I am betrothed to a little girl here in the neighbourhood, and the money might be useful to her if I am lost.'

'Go, then, in Heaven's name!' cried the Krigsraad. 'What! Do you think I am the man to withhold the ten dollars I promised?'

'It was fifteen, sir,' observed Ebbe.

'Well, well, fifteen then! Make yourself easy, I shall be as good as my word; but be off now!'

'I shall trust to your word, sir--and there are witnesses,' mumbled Ebbe.

Ebbe then divested himself of his new green-and-red-striped vest and gay-coloured necktie, which he put away carefully together under one of the boats that were drawn up on the beach. He then went down to Jörgen, who was busy launching a small, newly-painted boat into the sea.

'The weather is moderating,' cried the Krigsraad, filling his pipe comfortably. 'I think the sun is going to shine briskly.'

'Our Lord is pleased that we are so humane as to risk our all in order to save a human being who is a stranger to us,' whined Ebbe, as he took his place in the boat with Jörgen.

It was a moment full of anxiety and sympathy when the frail little boat was caught in the first heavy sea, was thrown up aloft, and then hidden among the engulphing waves! The crowd on the beach stood silent and breathless, and even the Krigsraad forgot his newly-lighted pipe. He mounted on a fragment of rock, holding his hand over his eyes, and standing with his head bowed forward, intently watching the treacherous sea; and he was the first to break the silence with a loud oath, when Jörgen's boat glided safely over the reef, and up to the side of the shipwrecked vessel. A thrilling shout burst forth at that moment from the spectators on shore--a shout full of triumph and joy; it rang over the waters as far off as the wreck, and Jörgen was seen to turn towards the land and wave his hat in the air, after which he made his boat fast to the shattered ship by the end of a rope that was hanging loosely from the fallen mast, and crept up by the side of the wreck.

The one man still clinging to it had fastened himself on the bowl of the mast. At the extreme end of the ship stood a black, shaggy-haired dog, who, with a weak, suppressed whine, was gazing out on the open sea, without taking the slightest notice of the strangers. When Jörgen reached the deck the man turned his head towards him, made a sign with his hand, and murmured repeatedly one word--'Water!'

'I am sorry you will have to wait till we reach the land,' said Jörgen, 'but, with God's help, that shall not be long.'

'I am afraid I have got my chest very much injured,' said the man, in the mixture of low German and Danish which he spoke. 'The same accursed wave which carried off our captain with it during the night dashed me down from the bowl of the mast, where I had lashed myself with the end of a rope, to prevent my being washed overboard. Whilst I was hanging there a heavy sea came rolling over the wreck, and it drove me with such force against the mast, that I lost all sense and consciousness. Since then it has been almost impossible for me to hold out against the weather, and I was on the point of loosening the rope, and letting myself go down to Davy's locker with the rest, when I saw your boat put off from the shore. In the name of Heaven, why were you so long of coming to our assistance?'

'We dared not venture out sooner,' replied Jörgen, 'on account of the awful storm.'

'Do you call this bit of a puff of wind a storm?' cried the man, scornfully. 'It is more likely that you were afraid of a wet jacket, or of catching cold. Ah well! I must not complain; you have done what you could, and I'm thinking that you yourself will profit the most by having saved me.'

'I don't know what you mean by profit.'

'Oh, that's not the question just now. Help me to get free of this rope; my hands are so cramped that I can scarcely use them, and let us be off.'

Whilst Jörgen was assisting the man, who at every movement that he made uttered a sigh or groan of pain, a voice was heard from the boat.

'Make haste to come, Jörgen, or Ebbe will lose the boat.'

'What do you say?' cried Jörgen, much surprised. 'I say that our boat will be thumped to pieces--to splinters--lying here and knocking against the wreck. Already the edge of the gunwale has started, and we have sprung a leak on one side; so come down, Jörgen--it is too unreasonable for anyone to expect that we should risk ourselves and our all to save other people.'

'A brave comrade you have got!' muttered the stranger, as Jörgen carried rather than helped him down out of the shrouds. 'Call out to him, and tell him that I have with me that which would make him cry his eyes out to lose if he does not take me safely from this wreck.'

Jörgen full well knew what effect this intelligence would have upon Ebbe, and instantly repeated to him the stranger's words. The object was attained, for Ebbe immediately came creeping up the side of the wreck, to assist in bringing the shipwrecked man down to the boat. The suffering seaman groaned repeatedly, and the exertion of moving seemed almost too much for him; bloody froth issued from his lips, and when he reached the boat he sank down exhausted at the bottom of it. The poor dog, meanwhile, had never stirred from its place, although Jörgen had done his best to coax it to come to him; the animal had turned his head for once towards him, and then sprang to a higher part of the wreck, with a dismal and heart-rending howl.

'There is no use in your calling that beast,' murmured the stranger. 'He has stood in one place and done nothing but howl since his master, the captain, was washed overboard. He will not quit the ship as long as a plank of it is left. Cast loose the rope, and push out with the oars, you there in the flannel waistcoat, who were afraid of scratching your smart little craft.'

After this petulant speech, the stranger laid himself back in the boat, and closed his eyes. Jörgen loosened the rope; as he did so, a wave carried the boat at once far away from the wreck. The dog was the only living creature left on board of it, and he did not seem to perceive that the boat was speeding fast away.

As they were rowing towards the land, Jörgen and Ebbe had a good opportunity of observing the stranger. He was a man apparently about fifty, partially bald, with a round forehead, high nose, pointed chin, and a shrewd and cunning expression of countenance, which was strongly marked, even though the eyes were closed. Ebbe surveyed his prostrate figure with a degree of veneration, and much would he have given to have known where the treasure could be deposited in safety, to which the unknown had so recently referred, and with the possession of which his humble attire so ill accorded.

The passage from the wreck back to the land was made speedily, and in silence, until they had got over the innermost reef, which the receding tide had left almost bare of water; then suddenly arose a cry of exultation from the fishermen on shore. At that sound the stranger opened his eyes, raised his head, and exclaimed:

'What are they shouting for in there? Oh! I suppose it is in honour of the great feat you have accomplished. Nonsense! How far is it from this place to Hjerting?'

'About nine miles,' replied Jörgen.

'North or south?'


'Ah, I thought sure enough that we had made a mistake in our reckoning; but it must be forgiven, since it was the last piece of stupidity our blessed captain has been allowed to commit. Are you quite sure that it is not more than nine miles to Hjerting?' he asked again a little after, as if the matter were of great consequence to him.

The two fishermen repeated the assertion.

'Are you going on to Hjerting?' asked Ebbe.

'Certainly; my sympathizing friend, it is easy to travel nine miles with a severe wound in one's chest. Find me a hut to lie down in and a doctor to put plaster on me, and I shall want nothing more just at present. I have the means to pay you for everything you do for me. And now not another question or another word, for I feel the greatest pain whenever I open my mouth to speak.'

In the course of another hour the stranger was lying comfortably in Jörgen and Ebbe's hut. He had reported himself to the Krigsraad as the first mate, Fourness, from Amrom. Jörgen had gone to Vædersö to ask assistance from the smith, who, in addition to his other accomplishments, also carried on secretly the profession of a medical man among the peasantry in the neighbourhood. Jörgen found the learned gentleman sitting in his smithy, surrounded by some countrymen, to whom he was reading aloud the political intelligence from a soiled provincial newspaper that was lying, spread open, upon his knees. In the furthest corner of the workshop an apprentice was busy shoeing two horses.

When Jörgen mentioned his errand, the smith put away his newspaper with alacrity, and instantly gave all his attention to the report of the case.

'Do you think you will be able to cure him, master,' added the young fisherman, 'or shall I go on to Ringkjöbing, though it is so much farther off, for the doctor of the district?'

'I'll tell you what, Jörgen,' replied the smith, in a raised voice, and with a look that betokened the utmost self-confidence, 'I will undertake to cure any creature who is not already dead, and even then sometimes they may be called back, as the worthy priest can testify, who knows that about Easter, last year, I brought back to life his brown filly, after it had been dead for nearly half-an-hour. If that can be done with a filly, I should think it can be done with a human being. Why not? But where is he wounded? In the head?'

'No; in the breast.'

'So much the better. We must give him something. I shall take my pills with me; if they don't set him to rights, you can order his grave to be dug. Come over the way, Jörgen, and let us have a dram together before we set off to cure the man.'

The smith then left his workshop accompanied by Jörgen. His secret--the preparation of these wonderful pills--it may be mentioned here, was found out some years later, during an investigation which took place before the magistrates of Ringkjöbing, on the occasion of the worthy smith being charged with culpable quackery. They were only made of rye bread and the juice of walnut leaves!

While Jörgen had gone to summon the smith, Ebbe had remained with the sufferer, who seemed to have become worse since he had landed, for he moaned repeatedly, and tossed about as if in pain on his bed. Ebbe sat by the window in silence, reflecting deeply upon the words of promise the stranger had let fall before he had left the wreck.

'What are you sitting there and waiting for?' asked the seaman, when he observed Ebbe.

'I am sitting here to see if you want any help before the doctor comes.'

'Yes, I want something. Get me another glass of grog, and let it be warm and strong. Do you hear?'

'It is not good for you, mate. When Jörgen went away he said you were not to have more than one glass of grog, and you have already drunk three.'

'You blackguard! mix me a glass directly. Don't you think I am the best judge of what is good for me?'

Ebbe arose and went towards the fireplace, where a kettle of water was boiling. A bottle, half full, stood upon the table.

'It is too bad, when rum is so dear with us in these parts,' muttered the fisherman, while he mixed the grog. The stranger took no notice of him. 'I had to give three marks for the pint I bought for you.'

The mate still remained silent.

'Please to remember, mate, that the money spent for your rum was mine,' said Ebbe, in a surly tone.

'Oh yes, I shall remember it. Make yourself easy; you shall have your money back. What are three marks to me? I could cover you with gold, if it were not a useless expense.'

Ebbe's eyes sparkled, and he looked with reverence at the unknown, as he approached the bed with the desired grog. The mate raised himself, seized the glass, and emptied it at one draught.

'Ah!' he exclaimed, while his face was distorted with pain, 'that was warm! It burned me more than the confounded wound, but it will do me good for all that.'

'No doubt you have made many long voyages, sir?' said the fisherman, after a short silence.

'Yes, I have,' replied the stranger; 'you may swear to that.'

'And is that how you have gathered so much money?'

'What money?' asked the mate.

'That which might cover me with gold, if you liked.'

'Oh, to be sure--no, indeed! That would have been impossible. The money I own I could not have made myself if I had been as old as the German Ocean.'

'Mercy on us! How can you carry so much money about with you?'

'Who said that I carried it about with me? Blockhead! I have disposed of it better than that. The earth keeps it safely for me; I can take it when I want it; and I intend to take it up as soon as I am well. Then we shall have a jolly life. It has been long enough of commencing. But don't talk any more to me now; the pain is increasing.'

Shortly after Jörgen, accompanied by the smith, entered the hut. The shipwrecked guest turned his face towards the wall as they approached, but on Jörgen's informing him that the doctor had come, he muttered a few unintelligible words, and then stretched forth his hand, without altering his position. The smith evidently misunderstood the meaning of the action, for he laid hold of the outstretched hand and shook it heartily, while he said in a cheerful tone, 'Good morning.'

'The mischief take you!' cried the sailor, as he raised himself quickly. 'What sort of a doctor is that you have brought me, young man? I put out my hand that he might feel my pulse, as they always used to do at the hospitals, and he wrings it so furiously that I feel the shock through my whole body. Confound it!'

When the smith heard these words, which were spoken in the Low-German dialect, his scarlet face assumed a very benignant expression.

'So you are a German!' he exclaimed, in the same dialect; 'then we are almost countrymen. So much the better. I have nothing to do with your pulse, my good friend, and I should like to ask any sensible man, what use there would be in feeling the arm when the wound is in the breast. Turn over a little bit towards the window, and let us see what the injury is. If you are not able to move yourself, let me get hold of you, and I will turn you in the twinkling of an eye.'

There was something in the smith's sharp and determined way of speaking that seemed to please the stranger; he turned towards the light, and opened his vest and his under-garment. However rough and unsusceptible the three spectators might have been, they all started back at the sight of the frightful wound which they beheld before them.

'Well, what do you say to this?' asked the sufferer.

'Heavens and earth!' cried the smith, grasping his own hair tightly in his dismay. 'This really does look dangerous! I would rather have to deal with a horse in the worst case of staggers, than to cure such an awful hurt. The person who expects to set you to rights must indeed look sharp.'

'Of course you must look sharp; but only standing staring at me won't be of any use,' said Fourness. 'What do you think of doing with it?'

'You must have a good large plaster on it; and you must take some medicine. I have brought my pills with me.'

'The plaster with all my heart; get it ready at once; but I'll have none of your pills. I once swallowed a whole boxful of pills, and they did not do me the least good.'

'But you must take the pills,' replied the smith, decidedly. 'There is no use in jabbering about your past experience, my good man; you have got a nasty wound in your chest, as you see yourself, but you also feel ill internally, don't you?'

'To be sure I do.'

'Now listen. I know what I am about. A breast like yours resembles a watch that has been smashed almost to pieces. What would be the use of putting in a new glass if the works inside were not repaired also? So you must take the pills; and if you make any fuss about it, we shall have to hold you fast, stick the handle of a hammer in your mouth to keep it open, and so pop them down your throat. I know how to manage you.'

The mate felt himself too weak to struggle with his powerful medical attendant, and he made no further objections. The smith cast a significant glance towards the two young fishermen as he betook himself to the table, where he set about spreading an enormous pitch plaster.

'Come, this will do you good!' he said, when he returned to the bed to put the plaster on the wound. 'And see, here is a packet of pills. I shall give you some of these at once; and if you should be worse before I come back, you must take half-a-dozen more; they will certainly relieve you. I shall call again early in the evening.'

The wound was bandaged; and, after giving a few directions, the smith left the hut. Towards the afternoon the invalid became much worse, in spite of the remedies which had been applied. The wound burned under the pitch plaster; he tore it off; and, cursing and swearing, he refused to take any more of the prescribed pills. In this state the smith found him in the evening.

'How do you really think that he is?' asked Ebbe, who had called the learned man aside.

'Well, I think it is a very doubtful case,' replied the smith. 'Since my pills have done him no good, not to speak of the plaster, I am inclined to believe he is pretty near his last gasp.'

'Do you mean that he is actually in danger?' inquired Ebbe, with a degree of interest which was inspired by the thoughts of the mate's gold and the unpaid rum.

'When a person is ill there is always danger,' said the smith; 'and as he will not use the means for his recovery which I advise, I think the best thing either you or Jörgen could do would be to go and call the parish doctor.'

'You are right,' said Ebbe; 'I will go for him.'

'When you see him, you need not say anything about my having been here. These folks with diplomas are so very jealous. And I think you had better lose no time before you set off. And--by-the-by, Ebbe, you can keep the rest of my pills, lest you should be ill yourself some day. They won't spoil by keeping.'

The smith took his departure, and Ebbe soon after also left the hut, and set off for Ringkjöbing to call the doctor. Jörgen remained alone with the patient.


'How long will it probably be before he brings the doctor?' asked the stranger, after a considerable silence.

'He will be here soon. There is a man who lives down at Vædersö, to whom we have sometimes been of service, he will lend Ebbe his gig, and if the doctor be at home they may be here before nightfall.'

'I hardly think I shall hold out so long; the wound in my chest burns like a glowing coal, Jörgen, and my breath is failing me. Lord help me! Must I lie down and die now--now that I am just close upon the realization of all my wishes? For eleven long years I have been speculating on coming to this coast. I wanted to set up my rest here. I have plenty of means--plenty of means, and could live like a king; but first came that accursed shipwreck, and then, after I was so fortunate as to reach the land, to be obliged to creep into a dog-hole like this! There is no luck with the money--it is mixed up with blood and injustice!'

'What money?' asked Jörgen, in amazement.

'What, the devil! why that of which I am speaking, to be sure. But I will do some good with it. Do you need an hospital here, among these sandhills? If so, I shall have one built, so large that a man-of-war might tack about in it. I will build a tower, too, with a lighthouse at the top of it, to warn my comrades not to approach too near the coast. And I will go to church every Sunday, and listen to the preacher, who tells us that we are never too old to repent.'

'How will you find the means to build these places?' asked Jörgen, simply. 'Bricks and timber are so expensive up hereabouts.'

'But do you not hear that I know where a large treasure is buried, that it belongs to me--me alone, and that I have only to dig it up in order to make use of it? I believe I am able to pay for anything I please.'

Jörgen shook his head incredulously. 'He is delirious, and does not know what he is saying,' he thought. 'I wish Ebbe would come with the doctor.' Then, turning to the invalid, he said,

'So you have been on this coast before, mate?'

'Yes, lad, that I have. Eleven years ago I landed down yonder, near Hjerting, pretty much in the same way as I did here this morning. I am only afraid I shan't come off so well here as I did there.'

The sick man was interrupted by the opening of the cottage door, and the entrance of the smith, who said,

'I have come to tell you that Ebbe might have saved himself the journey to town, for the doctor drove a little while ago into Aabjerg. I went up there, and he has promised to call here as soon as he leaves the Krigsraad's.'

'Coming at last!' exclaimed the sufferer. 'Then I shall soon be well again. Tell him, from me, that he will be the cause of a great calamity if he does not come soon.'

'That I will,' replied the smith, shrugging his shoulders, and glancing towards Jörgen. 'Do me a favour, Jörgen, my boy. Just put my pills out of sight, and say nothing about my having been here.'

Shortly after a carriage was heard making its way through the sandy road, and the physician entered the hut. He only needed a quick glance at his patient to perceive how hopeless was his condition.

'Poor man!' he exclaimed, as he prepared to bleed him, 'you have been sadly hurt.'

'Oh, not so badly, after all,' replied the mate. 'Last year, about this time, the whole of the upper part of my arm was torn to pieces by the chain of the anchor--that was worse. You will be able to cure me. It is very strange that I feel such difficulty in speaking; my voice seems to be so husky, too! How long do you think it will be till I get on my legs again?'

'Why it is hardly possible to name a time.'

'The doctors here are good for nothing. In England they charge higher, but they know their business better.'

'Have you taken anything since you came ashore?'

'Nothing whatsoever. I have only wet my lips with three or four small glasses of grog; but it is very odd, I don't feel the least inclination for any more.'

After the doctor had done all that he possibly could to alleviate the sufferings of the poor stranger, he was turning to go, but the sick man grasped his hand, endeavoured to raise himself in his bed, and exclaimed, with impetuosity,

'You won't leave me, doctor? Are you angry at what I said about physicians? Pray think nothing of that; it is a habit I have got of amusing myself by teazing people. You must stay with me to-night--all night. Do you hear, sir? You need not be afraid that you will be giving your time for nothing.'

'I have not asked, and I do not expect, any fee,' said the doctor; 'but I have other patients who require my help as well as you. I shall see you again early to-morrow morning. God be with you till we meet again, mate!

He left the room, and Jörgen followed him out.

'And will you really be so kind as to return early to-morrow morning, Herr Doctor?'

'Yes, my friend, I shall most certainly come; but, to say the truth, I fear that my visit will be of no use, for to-morrow your guest will no longer need my assistance.

'What do you mean, sir?'

'I mean that he will be dead before to-morrow, and that no human skill can save him. If you should find an opportunity, you had better prepare him for this. Good night.'

The physician drove away; Jörgen returned to the invalid. He found him sitting on the side of the bed, the light of the lamp falling full upon his face, which, during the last hour, had become of a pale bluish hue. He was pressing his hand on his chest, as if to lessen the pain, while with a thick and trembling voice he whispered,

'Hark ye, Jörgen! Yonder, in the breast-pocket of my pea-jacket there is a small leather purse with nine Prussian thalers in it. Will you earn one of them?'

'I don't understand you, mate,' said Jörgen, much surprised.

'What did the doctor say of me outside of the door there?'

Jörgen considered for a moment or two what he should answer. 'Oh!' he came out with at length, 'he said--'

'In the devil's name, let me have no evasive answer,' cried the mate, raising his voice. 'I will know what he said, word for word; and if I give you a Prussian thaler to speak the truth, I think you are pretty well paid to open your mouth. So, out with it!'

'Do you wish to know the whole truth?' asked Jörgen, seizing his hand.


'All that he said?'

'Ah! it was nothing very cheering, I perceive,' remarked the sufferer, in a low tone, and with trembling lips. 'But speak out, my lad--speak out! Whatever that withered old stick could say, I can bear to hear.'

'Well, then,' stammered Jörgen, in considerable agitation, 'he said--he said--that you had not long to live.'

'Did he, indeed! Well, well, one must put up with that. A few years of comfort and pleasure are probably worth a long life of care and want.'

'Ah! God help you, and send you better thoughts, mate: you cannot look forward to years.'

'May I not? How long can I count upon, Jörgen? Speak, my son. Why do you hang your head so? I have seen death too often close under my eyes to be afraid of it. When did he hint that I might be called away?'

'He said that you would die to-night, and that no human skill could save you.'

There was a deep and prolonged silence in the room after these words had been uttered.

'To-night!' at length exclaimed the mate, in thick and trembling accents. 'I am to die to-night!' And as he repeated this dreadful sentence he burst into tears, and into loud, convulsive sobs.

Jörgen was much affected; he wrung the sick man's hand, but did not venture to speak for fear of betraying his emotion. At length he said, in a subdued and sad voice,

'Take comfort, mate! If you will allow me, I will read a hymn to you.'

'A hymn!' exclaimed the stranger, starting. 'Ah, well--read it.

The young fisherman took a hymn-book from a shelf, and began to read in a low and trembling voice,

'Teach me, like autumn leaves, to fade

With joy, oh yellow forest glade!

A brighter spring is nigh.

The summer of eternity

Reigns where, an ever-verdant tree,

My roots shall never die.


'Teach me--oh, wandering bird! like thee

To wing my way, undaunted, free,

To distant unknown lands;

When here, 'tis winter, storm and ice,

Yonder, an endless paradise,

Open, before me stands!'

The dying man had apparently been listening to the hymn with earnest attention, even devotion, while his clasped hands lay on the coverlet; suddenly he turned towards the light, and exclaimed:

'Hark ye, Jörgen! If you will swear to me not to reveal what I am now going to tell you, I will confide a secret to you.'

'Certainly,' replied Jörgen, who, shocked at this sudden interruption of the hymn, laid the book aside.

'Come closer to my bed--my voice is growing weaker, and pay particular attention to what I say:

'Eleven years ago I went as a sailor in a Neustader merchantman; we came from England, where we had sold a cargo of dye-woods, silk, and spices from Canton, and on which the firm, in whose employment I was, had made a considerable sum of money. Well, we were driven ashore near Hjerting, and forced to try and save ourselves in boats. It happened then like last night---the long boat was overcrowded; it capsized and sank! The captain had brought up his papers and a little box from the cabin, and was standing ready to go in the second boat, when an enormous wave washed him overboard. There were then but two men left; the one was myself, the other was the cook. We took the box, which contained all the cash for which the cargo had been sold, got into the boat, and reached the land in safety. This was at night, pitch dark, and in a pouring rain. Our first care was to bury the box--after that--'

'Go on, mate. I am listening to you, and I have promised secresy; you may depend upon me.'

'Well, then,' continued the man, apparently with a strong effort overcoming his repugnance to say more, and in a lower and more unsteady tone of voice, 'after that something happened--which I have regretted and repented deeply--something which I can never forget: after that I killed the cook, that I might be the sole possessor of the contents of the case.'

'You murdered him!' whispered Jörgen. 'God forgive you!'

'I did! But it was not such a sin after all. He was a bad, malicious fellow; he cooked shockingly, and was always making mischief between us and the mates. The next morning I was sent to my native home, and I left the case, well knowing that it was safe enough where it was deposited. Time passed on, and I went to sea again. First I went to Brazil, and then I went to the South Sea for the whale fishery, and so on, until full eleven years had elapsed before I had a chance of returning to the place where my treasure was. At length, luck favoured me, and I had determined to begin a new life, and to enjoy my money--and now, I am lying here in the agonies of death! But no, no--it is a fabrication of the cursed doctor's! I will not die! I once lay ill for fourteen months in the hospital at Boston, and became quite well again. Remember, you have sworn never to disclose a syllable of what I have told you. May God punish you if you betray me! Come closer to my bed. How cold it is this evening! Below the wall of Oxby church, at the corner facing the north, lies the buried case, among three hard stones. If I should not recover, you can dig up the box, and keep what you find. Have you understood me?'

'Yes, I have, perfectly well; but it is not worth talking more about, mate. I shall not meddle with your money--there could be no luck with it. Will you listen if I read another hymn to you?'

'Yes, read a psalm, Jörgen; it is long since I have heard of our Lord.'

Jörgen began to read slowly, and with much feeling; he was often stopped by his own agitation, and at these times he heard the dying man's breathing becoming thicker, and a rattling occasionally in his throat. He also heard now and then a sigh and a low murmur, which he supposed to be the invalid repeating what he had read. Suddenly, the mate laid his hand upon his arm, and exclaimed,

'I am counting about how much money there may be in that case, my lad. You will find much more than you can possibly make use of. When I was last at home, my brother lived at Amrom; you must send him fifty guineas. I know that they won't be particularly well spent, for he has taken to the bottle, poor creature! But that cannot be helped, it is his only gratification now.'

Jörgen nodded his head, and began to read aloud again.

'Oh, put away that book,' said the mate; 'what is the use of your sitting there, and reading that I shall go to heaven, and that I am tired of being in this world, when it is not true? I will live, and live merrily with all my money.'

A long and uncomfortable silence prevailed for some time in the room, which was only broken by the monotonous and uniform ticking of an old clock that hung against the wall. The moonbeams were streaming in brightly at the window, the storm had ceased, and the sky was clear and cloudless.

'If it should go hard with me, see that you have a large three-masted ship made with full rigging. It must be painted black and green, with a red water-line, and my name, in large gold letters, must be put on the stern. I make a present of this to Vædersö church, and it shall hang there from the roof.'

One hour later, and the stranger was dead!

Whilst this scene was taking place in Jörgen's hut, Ebbe was on his way back from Ringkjöbing, deeply buried in reflecting on the unusual gains the last day or two had brought him.

'It is too bad that I am obliged to share all this money with Jörgen,' he said to himself; 'this stupid partnership won't do. I will see about getting rid of it, and carrying on the business on my own account. The foreign mate shall help me to manage this; he must have money, for he has several times alluded to it; he is too ill to leave our house for some time to come, and before he is able to go I shall have made something out of him. Besides, he owes me some recompense, for I helped to bring him off from the wreck.'

Thus far he had proceeded in his cogitations, when the conveyance stopped at the door of his cottage. The light was extinguished in the room; Jörgen was lying, fast asleep, upon a mattress stuffed with sea-weed, on the floor. He awoke as Ebbe opened the door.

'I have had bad luck,' said Ebbe, in a whisper, 'and have gone my errand for nothing. The doctor had driven out of the town an hour before my arrival.'

'I know that very well,' replied Jörgen. 'He has been here.'

'How is the sick man?' asked Ebbe, striking a light.

'He is dead!' said Jörgen.

'Dead!' cried Ebbe, in a tone that sufficiently evinced how many hopes and expectations that one word had overthrown. 'Dead! Good Lord! Poor man! Did he pay you the three marks I laid out for him in rum?'


'Then it was a disgraceful imposition on his part, setting forth to me that he was able to repay us tenfold for all our trouble. Did you look to see how much money he had with him? I am quite convinced that he possessed nothing, and that he only wanted to make fools of us.'

'Now, be done with all this, Ebbe,' said Jörgen, almost out of patience. 'He did not intend to deceive you; and he was in the right when he said that he had the means of repaying us tenfold for what we did for him.'

'Really!' exclaimed Ebbe, with a smile, and a glance strangely expressive of covetousness. 'Then he had a good deal of money?'

'No; but he knew where to find a good deal of money. He had been shipwrecked once before on this coast, and then he buried a box, which, according to his representation, contains much more than we two could ever dream of possessing. He described to me the place where it is concealed.'

'To you!' exclaimed Ebbe. 'Indeed! Did he not say that you and I were to divide the treasure between us?'


Ebbe seemed lost in thought; he remained silent for some minutes, while his countenance underwent an unpleasant change.

'Then it is you who have become rich--you alone; and I have helped to bring this about. Well, well, it was to be so. What quantity of money is hidden away in the box?'

'Oh! how should I know? Judging by what he said, there may be several thousand dollars. But do not let us talk any more about it now. The cocks are crowing, it will soon be morning, and I am so sleepy. Come, lie down near me, and put out the light.'

'Several thousand dollars!' continued Ebbe. 'Good Lord! And all this money is yours! If I had not gone to fetch a doctor for him he would surely have said that we were to divide it. Are you quite certain that he absolutely said nothing about that, Jörgen?'

'No, he did not; but that is no reason why we should not divide it.'

'Oh, of course! You would be a fool if you did that. Dear me! Several thousand dollars! You will be able to buy a new boat, with an English compass in it. Oh, yes! you will be able to buy a house for yourself, and, moreover, to put some of the money out at a good interest. It is enough to make one mad. Will you spare me five dollars for a watch, eh, Jörgen? Jörgen! Are you asleep? Good Heavens! he can sleep! Several thousands!--and I have got nothing!'

Ebbe burst into a passionate fit of tears. The morning, which was then dawning, found him awake and ruminating on his disappointment, on the bed by the side of Jörgen.

The next day the body of the mate, Fourness, was removed to the hospital at Vædersö, to be buried from thence in the village churchyard. Jörgen and Ebbe pursued their accustomed occupations. The hull of the foreign vessel was carried out to sea at night, and apparently knocked to pieces by the waves, for many portions of the wreck were cast ashore along the adjacent coast.

Ebbe did not leave Jörgen's side that day; all his thoughts were devoted to the mysterious casket, and to the painful reflection that Jörgen alone was aware of the spot where it was concealed, consequently was master of its valuable contents. He had no inclination to work, but was continually recurring to the one vexatious fancy, which represented Jörgen surrounded with wealth and all the prosperity which he had so often wished for himself.

Thus passed the week. It had been settled between the two friends that on Saturday they would set off to Oxby church, so early that they might reach the place that evening, before it began to get dark. Ebbe had two or three days beforehand arranged everything for this journey, secretly and eagerly. Jörgen could not help observing the striking change which in a few days had come over him. He saw how his energies were quite paralyzed beneath the dreamy state into which he had fallen. Ebbe had become silent and irritable; he avoided his comrade's society, and sought solitude, where it was not necessary for him to conceal his feelings.

When he was alone, his mind always dwelt upon the hidden treasure, and picture after picture arose from the depths of his imagination of wealth, prosperity, and triumph over those who now looked down upon him. At other times he was tormented by a bitter, gnawing doubt if the mate had spoken the truth, and there existed any treasure at all. Then, again, he would make himself miserable about the portion of it that he might obtain. He would sometimes fancy himself set aside by Jörgen; then he would work himself up to believe that it was no freewill offer to share with him, but a right which belonged to himself; and to this oft-recurring thought succeeded, little by little, another, dark and dreadful, which, nourished by envy and covetousness, assumed by degrees a more distinct and decided form.

When Saturday arrived, Ebbe rose in the grey of the morning, and was ready for the journey long before Jörgen; his whole bearing betrayed a degree of feverish impatience, an eagerness and impetuosity which he had never evinced before. Jörgen carried a saddle-bag with provisions, Ebbe a spade, and furnished with these necessaries, they left their hut, and passed through the village even before the peasants had left their beds.

The road from Aale parsonage down to Oxby traverses a long and wide tract of boggy land, which, at that time, was overgrown with a sort of close rough glass and a layer of moss, that in summer concealed many a cavity and break in the ground, and which was the resort of frogs and of various moor fowls, that took wing in large flocks when anyone approached their places of shelter.

The two fishermen trudged on with unwearying patience towards their goal, which already they could perceive far in the distance. It was late in the day; the sun had sunk behind the line of sandhills which hid the German Ocean, and a deep stillness reigned around. The church stood in a naked, sandy plain, surrounded by a stone wall that was partially sunk in the sand. One side of the edifice was, at that moment, illuminated by a bright reflexion from the red evening sky. Swallows were flying about under its roof. As far as the eye could reach, there was no sign or appearance of the inhabitants of the neighbourhood.

'At last we have reached our destination!' exclaimed Ebbe, as, tired and gasping for breath, he threw himself down on a heap of gravel at a little distance from the wall of the churchyard.

'Yes, at last,' replied Jogen, with a smile; 'and it will soon be seen if we have not had our trouble for nothing.'

'Oh, don't say so, Jörgen,' cried Ebbe. 'How could such an idea enter your head? You have surely not forgotten the place where we were to dig?'

'Oh, no!' replied Jörgen. 'The direction was not so difficult to remember. It was towards the north, he said, and among three stones which had fallen there from the wall. If you will remain here to rest yourself, I will go at once and try and find the place.'

'No!' said Ebbe, rising quickly from his recumbent position. 'I will go with you. Why should I stay behind, and not help you to look for it?'

Jörgen then led the way, proceeding along the wall of the churchyard, while Ebbe followed him with the spade over his shoulder; but it was some time before they found the place indicated. The grass grew so high near the churchyard wall, that, in the increasing dusk of the evening, it would have been impossible to have discovered the stones described until close upon them. In the time, too, which had elapsed since the treasure was buried, the stones might have sunk into the ground, or become hidden by moss. At length, however, Jörgen found the spot. The three stones lay exactly in the position the mate had described; a young elder-tree had shot up its straight branches just before them.

'It must be here,' said Ebbe; 'you have good luck with you in everything. Let us begin to dig at once. But, hush! be still! I'll be sworn I heard a horse panting on the other side of the churchyard wall. We will wait a little before we begin.'

'Let us rather go round, and see if anyone is there,' said Jörgen, about to go.

'No, by no means; stay with me, I don't fancy being alone in such a place as this. They say the Evil One goes riding about at night on a white horse. Have you never heard that?'

'Yes; but what have we to do with him? We are here on a lawful errand, and have no reason to be afraid of anything.'

So saying, Jörgen walked on by the churchyard wall until he came to the next corner. 'There is nothing to be seen,' he said, when he returned. 'Let us commence the digging. Lend me the spade.'

'No; let us dig by turns, and I will go to work first,' replied Ebbe, as he took off his jacket, and put the spade into the ground.

The uppermost layer of earth among the stones was hard and stiff, and moreover, the roots of the elder-tree formed a sort of tough piece of network among the stones, so that it was not possible to proceed otherwise than slowly with the work. Ebbe groaned; his impatience was increased by the strong spirit of covetousness which had taken possession of him. Jörgen sat down quietly on a stone near him. In the deep stillness which reigned around the spot, the bats might be heard flapping their wings as they fluttered about the walls of the church, and in the distance a hollow, rushing sound, which came from the German Ocean, away behind the sandhills. Ebbe continued to dig, and had made a tolerably deep hole, when he suddenly stopped, pushed the spade well into the ground, and bowed his head down as if he were listening to something.

'Do you think you have come to anything?' asked Jörgen.

'No, it is only a stone which lies in the way; but I am tired now.'

'Then let me take my turn of digging,' said Jörgen.

'Let us rather rest a little while, and take a mouthful of our provisions and a drop from our flask. What have you done with the wallet?'

'I left it at the gravel pit yonder, where we rested first.'

'Then let us go there, Jörgen. After we have had something to eat we shall set to work again. It will be long before it is daylight; we have time enough.'

Jörgen made no opposition to this arrangement; he was accustomed to give way to Ebbe's wishes, and he went back to where they had left their provender.

Ebbe cast a longing look back at the hole; then took the spade under his arm and followed Jörgen.

At a little distance from the walls of the churchyard the path lay near the edge of a pit, from which the peasants dug up gravel for the repairs that were annually made in the high road. The pit was tolerably deep, and sloped from the brink, along which the two fishermen directed their steps until they came to a kind of gap, or narrow defile, from whence the gravel was carted away.

When Ebbe reached this place, he took up the flask, drank off its contents, and let it drop quietly into the grass. Jörgen, in the meantime, had sat down, and began to eat. Ebbe remained standing, and leaned upon the spade.

'Why don't you sit down?' asked Jörgen.

'Because the grass is wet.'

'Where is the flask? I don't see it.'

'You will find it on the grass.'

Jörgen stooped down to look for it, and at that moment Ebbe lifted the spade, and, exerting all his strength, struck Jörgen with it on his head!

The attack was made so unexpectedly and so hurriedly, that it was not possible for Jörgen to avoid the blow or to defend himself. He uttered a low cry, stretched out his arms, and sank backwards to the ground. Ebbe bent over him, and listened. The blow must have been a very severe one, for he did not hear the faintest breathing from Jörgen.

'You have got this because you tried to cheat me, and packed me off to the town, that you alone might benefit by the stranger's treasure.' And, as if his bitter feelings were increased by this remembrance, he added, triumphantly, 'You asserted that it was to you alone the stranger had bequeathed his money. You would only have given me a small portion of it; I shall take it all now. And you did not know that I have already got it. I heard the ground reverberate under the spade--I heard the sound of the gold--it is mine--all--all mine!'

As he said this, he took up his comrade's body in his arms, and flung it over the edge into the pit.

'And now to go back to the churchyard!' he exclaimed. 'I must have the money up, and be off before the dawn of day.'

He threw the spade across his shoulders, took up the wallet, and turned to leave the place.

At that moment he fancied that he heard footsteps near: he looked round, and perceived in the twilight a tall figure in a flowing mantle, which stopped at a little distance from the place where he was standing. In the extreme terror which seized him, it seemed to him that this figure gradually grew taller and larger, and that it gazed at him with a dark and threatening aspect; it seemed to approach nearer. It was no longer a phantom of the imagination; he heard the heavy steps ringing on the ground--he beheld a hand stretched out towards him--and then fell, in accusing accents on his ear, the dreadful word 'Murderer!'

Ebbe uttered a loud cry, he dropped the spade, sprang to one side, and fled in a direction quite opposite to that where he had so recently sought for the unlucky treasure. He constantly thought that his unknown pursuer was still following him, that he was gaining upon him, and even that he felt his breath close behind him; but he dared not turn his head, he only continued to run swiftly, and without stopping, until at length he stumbled, and fell into one of the many hollows that were to be met with in that neighbourhood. There he lay for several hours exhausted and insensible, unwitting of the storm from the German Ocean that was raging among the sandhills near its shores. When at last he re-recovered to consciousness, the morning sun was shining on the sandhills, and he heard the bells of Oxby church ringing for the early service.

Eight days later, the inhabitants of Vædersö were thronging round a carriage which was passing through the little town. The front seat was occupied by a tall man, under whose overcoat was to be seen the stiff embroidered collar of a uniform. His self-important air, also the condescending nod with which he acknowledged the respectful obeisances of the peasantry, betokened a person of no small consequence. Nor was there any mistake in this, for he was the judge of the district, who was proceeding on official duty to the sandhills.

In the back seat of the carriage sat two men, one of whom was the smith of the village, the other a pale, emaciated, shrunken figure, in whose features it would have been difficult to have recognized Ebbe, so great was the change that the last eight days had wrought in him.

The smith's plump round face evinced, on the contrary, a great degree of self-complacency; he smiled to everyone he knew, and stretched out by turns his hand or his head from the carriage, either for a friendly salutation, or to explain the reason of his appearance in the carriage on that particular occasion.

The carriage passed through the village, and did not stop until it reached the cottage which Jörgen and Ebbe had occupied conjointly. Here the judge got out, and after saying a few words to the smith, he entered the house.

'Now, Ebbe,' said the smith, 'you must get out too; you are at home here. We shall have a legal examination, as his honour has just very properly declared.'

Ebbe made no reply; he seemed to have fallen into a state of speechless apathy. He descended from the carriage, and followed the smith into the first of the two rooms into which the hut was divided.

On entering the cottage, they found the judge, and two fishermen who had been summoned as witnesses, already seated near the table. Ebbe cast a rapid and reconnoitring look around him; he perceived that everything was in its usual place; it was not the room that had changed in these eight days.

'Place yourself at the end of the table,' said the judge. 'Listen to what will be said, and answer minutely and truthfully the questions we shall put to you. Speak first, smith. Let us hear what you have to say.'

Not to fatigue the reader with the smith's long-winded story, we shall as briefly as possible relate the substance of his communication.

However important it was to Ebbe to maintain inviolable secresy relative to the mate's hidden treasure, he had let fall some words which had been caught up by the smith, and which, giving rise to some conjectures and suspicions, caused the clear-sighted man to watch narrowly the movements of the two young fishermen. On the same day that Jörgen and Ebbe had left their home at such an early hour, the smith had borrowed a horse from one of his neighbours, and set out in pursuit of them, although he took all possible pains to avoid being seen by them. Jörgen had previously given out that he was going to take a holiday to visit his aunt at Oxby.

When the smith had followed the two wayfarers as far as Aale church, and assured himself that they were really going to the place mentioned, he quitted the footpath, which, leading through the open heath, would have made him run the risk of being observed, and rode another way until he reached the cross road near Oxby church, and the shades of evening began to fall. The fishermen had evidently taken a considerable time to cross the wide heath. The smith had waited long, and had ridden around the church before he saw Ebbe and Jörgen looking for the spot with the three stones.

It was his horse that Ebbe had heard neigh, but, as we have seen, he had not sufficiently followed up the circumstance. In consequence of this neglect on his part, the smith became acquainted with all that was going on; for when it grew darker he ventured nearer, got over the wall, and crept on his hands and knees close to the place where Ebbe was digging. Arrived there, he could hear every word that was spoken while the work proceeded. When they left the wall of the churchyard, he followed them at some distance along the path that led to the gravel-pits, and he had seen Jörgen fall. Ebbe had not recognized the voice of the smith in that which called after him, nor had he observed that Harfiz was carrying Jörgen in his arms to the nearest dwelling.

'Thus it all happened,' said the plaintiff, in the corrupt language in which he spoke. 'Ebbe cannot deny a word that I have said. I know all that passed; I saw and heard all. I took up the spade with which he had struck Jörgen, and, to wind up, your honour has only to make inquiry here to be convinced of the truth of what I assert. Here you behold the man who can corroborate my statement.'

As he said these words he drew aside a curtain that had concealed an alcove, and Jörgen, with his head bound up, pale and suffering, was seen raising himself with difficulty on one arm, and gazing at those assembled in the hut. This last action of the smith, so sudden and unexpected, caused a great sensation and much surprise among those present.

Ebbe, who up to this moment had stood silent and immovable, with his hands folded and his eyes cast down, raised his head quickly, and when his glance fell on Jörgen, he stretched out his arms towards him, and, bursting into tears, exclaimed:

'Oh, my God! Jörgen--dear Jörgen!'

'Yes, there you see a competent witness. I have cured him--I may safely declare--and now he will confirm what I have said.'

'Well, what have you to say to what the smith has just been telling us?'

'I say that he is quite mistaken,' replied Jörgen. 'Ebbe had no wish to kill me; he had no evil intention against me; I absolve him of anything of the kind.'

Everyone was taken by surprise, and exclamations of astonishment followed these words, which were uttered in a mild, quiet, but at the same time decisive tone. Ebbe's eyes sparkled. The smith jumped up.

'Jörgen,' he cried, 'are you out of your mind? You cannot be in your right senses if you speak in this way. Did he not attempt to murder you? Did I not see and hear it all myself? Did I not take you up in my strong arms, when he cast you down into the gravel-pit?'

'You did, indeed, behave most kindly and humanely to me,' replied Jörgen, with a grateful smile. 'Without your help, I should most probably have been dead now; but, I repeat that it was not Ebbe who threw me into the pit. I fell in, sir, and in my fall I hurt myself with the spade. I have now told all I have to tell--I entirely acquit my old comrade, and I must beg you to withdraw the accusation against him.'

After having thus spoken, Jörgen laid himself down in his bed, closed his eyes, and seemed to take no further notice of what was going on around him. Neither did he seem to notice Ebbe, who stole softly towards his bed, seized his hand, and carried it to his lips.

The smith was very angry, and repeated and maintained his version of the affair, with gesticulations, oaths, and asseverations, in his strange lingo. He could not understand why Jörgen exercised such generous forbearance: the judge, on the contrary, comprehended it all; he called Ebbe into the other room, and had a long communication with him; after which he broke up the meeting, dismissed the witnesses, and left the cottage himself. Jörgen and Ebbe were the only persons who remained in it.

Some time elapsed, during which both remained perfectly silent. At length Jörgen raised himself in his bed, and asked,

'Are they gone?'


'Every one of them?'

'Yes, we are alone.'

'Sit down by my bed, Ebbe; I have something to say to you.'

Ebbe obeyed. At that moment his whole appearance evinced the utmost humility; he did not dare to raise his eyes before Jörgen, who contemplated him calmly, but with a penetrating look.

'What I said a little while ago,' began Jörgen, 'was to save you, and because I could not live under the idea that I had another man's misfortune on my conscience. You are now free--acquitted--and no one can do anything to you. With God's blessing, I may also become well again, and recover my strength so as to be able to work as formerly; but you must yourself perceive, Ebbe, that we two can never more live and labour together. That Saturday night has rendered it necessary for us to separate for ever. I can never banish it from my memory. You shed tears now, indeed, and are deeply afflicted. I also have shed many tears when I reflected that it was you, my only companion and comrade, that had the heart to deal with me as you did. In Heaven's name, then, let each of us go his own way. The world is surely large enough for us both. When I am stronger, and able to work, I will pay you for the part you own in this cottage and in the boat; for I hardly think you will like to remain longer here. In fact, I think it would be better for you to seek some other place to settle yourself, where people could not say anything against you. You cannot fail to perceive that the smith does not believe the declaration I made to the judge. He will tell the story his way in the town yonder, and that won't be in your favour. As I have said, when I am better you shall receive the share that belongs to you of what we have hitherto held in partnership, and we must separate.'

'Then you have found the treasure?' asked Ebbe, hurriedly.

'No,' said Jörgen, gravely. 'But the smith has promised to let me marry his daughter, and he will advance me the money to pay you.'

'I do not care about the money,' replied Ebbe; 'you are welcome to keep it all.'

'Oh yes--so you say now,' answered Jörgen; 'but you would repent that offer to-morrow. No, let the arrangement I have proposed stand. And you had better go, Ebbe, before the smith returns. You know that he is very passionate, and you might get into a quarrel with him. Besides, I am weak and weary, and must get some sleep. Farewell, and may the Almighty bestow on you kinder feelings towards those among whom you may henceforth seek to win your bread, than you have shown to me. Shake hands with me, Ebbe, and then go.'

Jörgen sank back on his bed, and Ebbe left the cottage.

The following five years brought about a striking difference between the fates of the two fishermen. Jörgen had married the smith's daughter. He gave up fishing, sold his boat and established himself in the little town of Vædersö. There he betook himself to husbandry: he tilled the ground, ploughed, sowed, planted; in short he laboured with all the indefatigable activity, energy, and diligence, for which the inhabitants of the west country are so celebrated. At the end of two years he sold his house to buy a larger one on a thriving farm; field after field was added, and all prospered with him. Success seemed to smile on everything he undertook from the period that he relinquished his partnership with Ebbe.

'You have got an excellent son-in-law, smith,' said the peasants to Harfiz, often when they came to his smithy.

'He gets on very well,' the learned smith would reply, with a cheerful nod, indicative of content. 'But let me tell you, and you may believe what I say, that it was my medicine which has made him what he is. He has been quite another sort of man since I cured him, and restored him, I may say, to life, after Ebbe had killed him. He will be a greater man still.'

The prophecy was fulfilled as time passed on; for every year that went over his head brought some addition to Jörgen's prosperity. He was a happy man in his own family, and in all his transactions he was clever, prudent, and far-seeing.

The same space of time that seemed to have had wings for Jörgen, had crawled on slowly, unprofitably, and wearily for Ebbe. A portion of the sum he had received for his share of the cottage and the boat was appropriated to the purchase of the little plot of ground near Oxby church, where the mate had said his treasure was buried. The acquisition was not an expensive one certainly, for at that period a large quantity of waste land could be bought for about two dollars; so that after Ebbe had become the proprietor of the place, he had sufficient money left to build a house for himself on a corner of the ground he had bought.

Then commenced a course of labour which, in exertion, perseverance, and endurance, was far beyond anything Jörgen ever attempted, and yet was productive of no good results. The three stones were taken up and thrown aside, in order not to obstruct the work; then the elder-tree was removed; and after every obstacle had disappeared, Ebbe dug down, and down, until he came to the stratum of iron-hard, solid rock, which is to be found in that part of the country.

His labours were carried on by night, and with the utmost secresy, not to attract attention. During the day he rested, and either spent the hours lounging by the sea-side, or he slept. But, whether waking or sleeping, he was haunted by the thoughts of the hidden treasure, and of the wealth he would acquire, and the consequence he would attain, when he discovered and enjoyed it. It was shocking to see that pale and meagre creature, when the moon shone upon the scene of his labours, working away eagerly, bending over the spade, and listening anxiously when every fresh heap of earth was cast up: by turns cheating himself with hopes of success, then groaning at his disappointment, yet still persevering in the search for a prize which continued to evade his grasp.

In winter the ground was frozen, and as Ebbe was obliged to cease his digging, he left his hut, and went to Hjerting, where he hired himself out among the peasantry as a day-labourer. His history soon oozed out, and his very shy, reserved manners prevented him from making acquaintances, while his fellow-labourers jeered him. 'There goes the gold-digger!' the children would cry after him when he showed himself in the streets. These scoffers, who beheld him now in so humble a position, by-and-by, when he had found the treasure, should witness his triumph. 'Wait a little!' he thought; 'success will come at last, and the day cannot be very far distant!'

When spring succeeded to winter, Ebbe left the service he had taken, and returned to his hut, where he recommenced his labours with as much assiduity as before, and with the same result. The small space in which his operations were carried on soon resembled a deep pit, wherein gravel and sand, stone and clay, were gathered together in large heaps. But the treasure was nowhere visible.

When at length the ground had been entirely turned up, every inch examined, and he could dig no lower down, Ebbe fell into the deepest despair; his last hope had vanished, and with it all the strength and energy which hope alone had sustained. He was found one day sitting on the outside of the door of his hut, gazing on vacancy straight before him, lost in a reverie from which nothing seemed to have the power of rousing him.

At this very time a report was spread in the neighbourhood that Jörgen and his father-in-law had found the shipwrecked mariner's treasure--for this appeared the easiest mode of accounting for the increasing prosperity of the heretofore young fisherman. Ebbe heard this rumour; he believed it, and this belief added greatly to the bitterness of his disappointment, and was as poison to his mind.

Three years afterwards, a wan, wasted, spectral-looking figure might be seen wandering about in the vicinity of Hjerting; it was the unfortunate Ebbe, who had become deranged. The harmless lunatic was received into the poor-house at Hjerting, but spent most of his days in a remote and secluded valley, away among the sand hills. There he might be heard singing and talking to himself, whilst he occupied himself diligently in digging deep holes in the sand. One winter evening he did not return, as usual, to the poor-house. The next morning he was found, frozen to death, in a grave--it might be called--which he had dug in the sand the day before.