FROM THE DANISH OF CARIT ETLAR.
One summer afternoon, two young fishermen were together before
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
'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
'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
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
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
'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
'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
'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
'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
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
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 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
'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
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
When Jörgen mentioned his errand, the smith put away his newspaper with
alacrity, and instantly gave all his attention to the report of the
'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
'I am sitting here to see if you want any help before the doctor
'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
'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
'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
'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
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
'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?'
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
'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
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
'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
'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
'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,
He left the room, and Jörgen followed him out.
'And will you really be so kind as to return early to-morrow morning,
'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
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
'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
'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
'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
'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
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
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
'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
'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
'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
'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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
'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
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
'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
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
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
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.