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Title: The Rider on the White Horse
Author: Theodor Storm
* A Project Gutenberg of Australia eBook *
eBook No.: 0606591.txt
Language: English
Date first posted: August 2006
Date most recently updated: August 2006

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The Rider on the White Horse
Theodor Storm



WHAT I am about to tell I learned nearly half a century ago in the
house of my great-grand-mother, old Madame Fedderson, widow of the
senator, while I was sitting beside her armchair, busy reading a
magazine bound in blue pasteboard-I don't remember whether it was a
copy of the "Leipzig" or of "Pappes Hamburger Lesefruchte." I still
remember with a shudder how meanwhile the light hand of the past
eighty-year-old woman glided tenderly over the hair of her great-
grandson. She herself and her time are buried long ago. In vain have I
searched for that magazine, and therefore I am even less able to vouch
for the truth of the statements in it than I am to defend them if
anyone should question them; but of so much I can assure anyone, that
since that time they have never been forgotten, even though no outer
incident has revived them in my memory.

It was in the third decade of our century, on an October afternoon-
thus began the story-teller of that time-that I rode through a mighty
storm along a North Frisian dike. For over an hour I had on my left
the dreary marshland, already deserted by all the cattle; on my right,
unpleasantly near me, the swamping waters of the North Sea. I saw
nothing, however, but the yellowish-grey waves that beat against the
dike unceasingly, as if they were roaring with rage, and that now and
then bespattered me and my horse with dirty foam; behind them I could
see only chaotic dusk which did not let me tell sky and earth apart,
for even the half moon which now stood in the sky was most of the time
covered by wandering clouds. It was ice cold; my clammy hands could
scarcely hold the reins, and I did not wonder that the croaking and
cackling crows and gulls were always letting themselves be swept
inland by the storm. Nightfall had begun, and already I could no
longer discern the hoof of my horse with any certainty. I had met no
human soul, heard nothing but the screaming of the birds when they
almost grazed me and my faithful mare with their long wings, and the
raging of the wind and water. I cannot deny that now and then I wished
that I were in safe quarters.

It was the third day that this weather had lasted, and I had already
allowed an especially dear relative to keep me longer than I should
have done on his estate in one of the more northern districts. But to-
day I could not stay longer. I had business in the city which was even
now a few hours' ride to the south, and in spite of all the
persuasions of my cousin and his kind wife, in spite of the Perinette
and Grand Richard apples still to be tried, I had ridden away.

"Wait till you get to the sea," he had called after me from his house
door. "You will turn back. Your room shall be kept for you."

And really, for a moment, when a black layer of clouds spread pitch-
darkness round me and at the same time the howling squalls were trying
to force me and my horse down from the dike, the thought shot through
my head: "Don't be a fool! Turn back and stay with your friends in
their warm nest." But then it occurred to me that the way back would
be longer than the way to my destination; and so I trotted on, pulling
the collar of my coat up over my ears.

But now something came toward me upon the dike; I heard nothing, but
when the half moon shed its spare light, I believed that I could
discern more and more clearly a dark figure, and soon, as it drew
nearer, I saw that it sat on a horse, on a long-legged, haggard, white
horse; a dark cloak was waving round its shoulders, and as it flew
past me, two glowing eyes stared at me out of a pale face.

Who was that? What did that man want? And now it came to my mind that
I had not heard the beating of hoofs or any panting of the horse; and
yet horse and rider had ridden close by me!

Deep in thought over this I rode on, but I did not have much time to
think, for straightway it flew past me again from behind; it seemed as
if the flying cloak had grazed me, as if the apparition, just as it
had done the first time, had rushed by me without a sound. Then I saw
it farther and farther away from me, and suddenly it seemed as if a
shadow were gliding down at the inland side of the dike.

Somewhat hesitating, I rode on behind. When I had reached that place,
hard by the "Koog," the land won from the sea by damming it in, I saw
water gleam from a great "Wehl," as they call the breaks made into the
land by the storm floods which remain as small but deep pools.

In spite of the protecting dike, the water was remarkably calm; hence
the rider could not have troubled it. Besides, I saw nothing more of
him. Something else I saw now, however, which I greeted with pleasure:
before me, from out of the "Koog," a multitude of little scattered
lights were glimmering up to me; they seemed to come from some of the
rambling Frisian houses that lay isolated on more or less high mounds.
But close in front of me, half way up the inland side of the dike lay
a great house of this kind. On the south side, to the right of the
house door, I saw all the windows illumined, and beyond, I perceived
people and imagined that I could hear them in spite of the storm. My
horse had of himself walked down to the road along the dike which led
me up to the door of the house. I could easily see that it was a
tavern, for in front of the windows I spied the so-called "ricks,"
beams resting on two posts with great iron rings for hitching the
cattle and horses that stopped there.

I tied my horse to one of these and left him to the servant who met me
as I entered the hall.

"Is a meeting going on here?" I asked him, for now a noise of voices
and clicking glasses rose clearly from the room beyond the door.

"Aye, something of the sort," the servant replied in Plattdeutsch, and
later I learned that this dialect had been in full swing here, as well
as the Frisian, for over a hundred years; "the dikemaster and the
overseers and the other landholders! That's on account of the high
water!"

When I entered, I saw about a dozen men sitting round a table that
extended beneath the windows; a punch bowl stood upon it; and a
particularly stately man seemed to dominate the party.

I bowed and asked if I might sit down with them, a favor which was
readily granted.

"You had better keep watch here!" I said, turning to this man; "the
weather outside is bad; there will be hard times for the dikes!"

"Surely," he replied, "but we here on the east side believe we are out
of danger. Only over there on the other side it isn't safe; the dikes
there are mostly made more after old patterns; our chief dike was made
in the last century. We got chilly outside a while ago; and you," he
added, "probably had the same experience. But we have to hold out a
few hours longer here; we have reliable people outside, who report to
us." And before I could give my order to the host, a steaming glass
was pushed in front of me.

I soon found out that my pleasant neighbour was the dikemaster; we
entered into conversation, and I began to tell him about my strange
encounter on the dike. He grew attentive, and I noticed suddenly that
all talk round about was silenced.

"The rider on the white horse," cried one of the company and a
movement of fright stirred the others.

The dikemaster had risen.

"You don't need to be afraid," he spoke across the table, "that isn't
meant for us only; in the year '17 it was meant for them too; may they
be ready for the worst!"

Now a horror came over me.

"Pardon me!" I said. "What about this rider on the white horse?"

Apart from the others, behind the stove, a small, haggard man in a
little worn black coat sat somewhat bent over; one of his shoulders
seemed a little deformed. He had not taken part with a single word in
the conversation of the others, but his eyes, fringed as they were
with dark lashes, although the scanty hair on his head was grey,
showed clearly that he was not sitting there to sleep.

Toward him the dikemaster pointed:

"Our schoolmaster," he said, raising his voice, "will be the one among
us who can tell you that best-to be sure, only in his way, and not
quite as accurately as my old house-keeper at home, Antje Vollmans,
would manage to tell it."

"You are joking, dikemaster!" the somewhat feeble voice of the
schoolmaster rose from behind the stove, "if you want to compare me to
your silly dragon!"

"Yes, that's all right, schoolmaster!" replied the other, "but stories
of that kind are supposed to be kept safest with dragons."

"Indeed!" said the little man, "in this we are not quite of the same
opinion." And a superior smile flitted over his delicate face.

"You see," the dikemaster whispered in my ear, "he is still a little
proud; in his youth he once studied theology and it was only because
of an unhappy courtship that he stayed hanging about his home as
schoolmaster."

The schoolmaster had meanwhile come forward from his corner by the
stove and had sat down beside me at the long table.

"Come on! Tell the story, schoolmaster," cried some of the younger
members of the party.

"Yes, indeed," said the old man, turning toward me. "I will gladly
oblige you; but there is a good deal of superstition mixed in with it,
and it is quite a feat to tell the story without it."

"I must beg you not to leave the superstition out," I replied. "You
can trust me to sift the chaff from the wheat by myself!"

The old man looked at me with an appreciative smile.

Well, he said, in the middle of the last century, or rather, to be
more exact, before and after the middle of that century, there was a
dikemaster here who knew more about dikes and sluices than peasants
and landowners usually do. But I suppose it was nevertheless not quite
enough, for he had read little of what learned specialists had written
about it; his knowledge, though he began in childhood, he had thought
out all by himself. I dare say you have heard, sir, that the Frisians
are good at arithmetic, and perhaps you have heard tell of our Hans
Mommsen from Fahntoft, who was a peasant and yet could make
chronometers, telescopes, and organs. Well, the father of this man who
later became dikemaster was made out of this same stuff-to be sure,
only a little. He had a few fens, where he planted turnips and beans
and kept a cow grazing; once in a while in the fall and spring he also
surveyed land, and in winter, when the northwest wind blew outside and
shook his shutters, he sat in his room to scratch and prick with his
instruments. The boy usually would sit by and look away from his
primer or Bible to watch his father measure and calculate, and would
thrust his hand into his blond hair. And one evening he asked the old
man why something that he had written down had to be just so and could
not be something different, and stated his own opinion about it. But
his father, who did not know how to answer this, shook his head and
said:

"That I cannot tell you; anyway it is so, and you are mistaken. If you
want to know more, search for a book to-morrow in a box in our attic;
someone whose name is Euclid has written it; that will tell you."

The next day the boy had run up to the attic and soon had found the
book, for there were not many books in the house anyway, but his
father laughed when he laid it in front of him on the table. It was a
Dutch Euclid, and Dutch, although it was half German, neither of them
understood.

"Yes, yes," he said, "this book belonged to my father; he understood
it; is there no German Euclid up there?"

The boy, who spoke little, looked at his father quietly and said only:
"May I keep it? There isn't any German one."

And when the old man nodded, he showed him a second half-torn little
book.

"That too?" he asked again.

"Take them both!" said Tede Haien; "they won't be of much use of you."

But the second book was a little Dutch grammar, and as the winter was
not over for a long while, by the time the gooseberries bloomed again
in the garden it had helped the boy so far that he could almost
entirely understand his Euclid, which at that time was much in vogue.

I know perfectly well, sir, the story teller interrupted himself, that
this same incident is also told of Hans Mommsen, but before his birth
our people here have told the same of Hauke Haien-that was the name of
the boy. You know well enough that as soon as a greater man has come,
everything is heaped on him that his predecessor has done before him,
either seriously or in fun.

When the old man saw that the boy had no sense for cows or sheep and
scarcely noticed when the beans were in bloom, which is the joy of
every marshman, and when he considered that his little place might be
kept up by a farmer and a boy, but not by a half-scholar and a hired
man, inasmuch as he himself had not been over-prosperous, he sent his
big boy to the dike, where he had to cart earth from Easter until
Martinmas. "That will cure him of his Euclid," he said to himself.

And the boy carted; but his Euclid he always had with him in his
pocket, and when the workmen ate their breakfast or lunch, he sat on
his upturned wheelbarrow with the book in his hand. In autumn, when
the tide rose higher and sometimes work had to be stopped, he did not
go home with the others, but stayed and sat with his hands clasped
over his knees on the seaward slope of the dike, and for hours watched
the sombre waves of the North Sea beat always higher and higher
against the grass-grown scar of the dike. Not until the water washed
over his feet and the foam sprayed his face did he move a few feet
higher, only to stay and sit on. He did not hear the splash of the
water, or the scream of the gulls or strand birds that flew round him
and almost grazed him with their wings, flashing their black eyes at
his own; nor did he see how night spread over the wide wilderness of
water. The only thing he saw was the edge of the surf, which at high
tide was again and again hitting the same place with hard blows and
before his very eyes washing away the grassy scar of the steep dike.

After staring a long time, he would nod his head slowly and, without
looking up, draw a curved line in the air, as if he could in this way
give the dike a gentler slope. When it grew so dark that all earthly
things vanished from his sight and only the surf roared in his ears,
then he got up and marched home half drenched.

One night when he came in this state into the room where his father
was polishing his surveying instruments, the latter started. "What
have you been doing out there?" he cried. "You might have drowned; the
waters are biting into the dike to-day."

Hauke looked at him stubbornly.

"Don't you hear me? I say, you might have drowned!"

"Yes," said Hauke, "but I'm not drowned!"

"No," the old man answered after a while and looked into his face
absently-"not this time."

"But," Hauke returned, "our dikes aren't worth anything."

"What's that, boy?"

"The dikes, I say."

"What about the dikes?"

"They're no good, father," replied Hauke.

The old man laughed in his face. "What's the matter with you, boy? I
suppose you are the prodigy from Lbeck."

But the boy would not be put down. "The waterside is too steep," he
said; "if it happens some day as it has happened before, we can drown
here behind the dike too."

The old man pulled his tobacco out of his pocket, twisted off a piece
and pushed it behind his teeth. "And how many loads have you pushed
to-day?" he asked angrily, for he saw that the boy's work on the dike
had not been able to chase away his brainwork.

"I don't know, father," said the boy; "about as many as the others
did, or perhaps half a dozen more; but-the dikes have got to be
changed!"

"Well," said the old man with a short laugh, "perhaps you can manage
to be made dikemaster; then you can change them."

"Yes, father," replied the boy.

The old man looked at him and swallowed a few times, then he walked
out of the door. He did not know what to say to the boy.

Even when, at the end of October, the work on the dike was over, his
walk northward to the farm was the best entertainment for Hauke Haien.
He looked forward to All Saints' Day, the time when the equinoctial
storms were wont to rage-a day on which we say that Friesland has a
good right to mourn-just as children nowadays look forward to
Christmas. When an early flood was coming, one could be sure that in
spite of storm and bad weather, he would be lying all alone far out on
the dike; and when the gulls chattered, when the waters pounded
against the dike and as they rolled back swept big pieces of the grass
cover with them into the sea, then one could have heard Hauke's
furious laughter.

"You aren't good for anything!" he cried out into the noise. "Just as
the people are no good!" And at last, often in darkness, he trotted
home from the wide water along the dike, until his tall figure had
reached the low door under his father's thatch roof and slipped into
the little room.

Sometimes he had brought home a handful of clay; then he sat down
beside the old man, who now humoured him, and by the light of the thin
tallow candle he kneaded all sorts of dike models, laid them in a flat
dish with water and tried to imitate the washing away by the waves; or
he took his slate and drew the profiles of the dikes toward the
waterside as he thought they ought to be.

He had no idea of keeping up intercourse with his schoolmates; it
seemed, too, as if they did not care for this dreamer. When winter had
come again and the frost had appeared, he wandered still farther out
on the dike to points he had never reached before, until the boundless
ice-covered sand flats lay before him.

During the continuous frost in February, dead bodies were found washed
ashore; they had lain on the frozen sand flats by the open sea. A
young woman who had been present when they had taken the bodies into
the village, stood talking fluently with old Haien.

"Don't you believe that they looked like people!" she cried; "no, like
sea devils! Heads as big as this," and she touched together the tips
of her outspread and outstretched hands, "coal-black and shiny, like
newly baked bread! And the crabs had nibbled them, and the children
screamed when they saw them." For old Haien this was nothing new.

"I suppose they have floated in the water since November!" he said
indifferently.

Hauke stood by in silence, but as soon as he could, he sneaked out on
the dike; nobody knew whether he wanted to look for more dead, or if
he was drawn to the places now deserted by the horror that still clung
to them. He ran on and on, until he stood alone in the solitary waste,
where only the winds blew over the dike where there was nothing but
the wailing voices of the great birds that shot by swiftly. To his
left was the wide empty marshland, on the other side the endless beach
with its sand flats now glistening with ice; it seemed as if the whole
world lay in a white death.

Hauke remained standing on the dike, and his sharp eyes gazed far
away. There was no sign of the dead; but when the invisible streams on
the sand flats found their way beneath the ice, it rose and sank in
streamlike lines.

He ran home, but on one of the next nights he was out there again. In
places the ice had now split; smoke-clouds seemed to rise out of the
cracks, and over the whole sand-stretch a net of steam and mist seemed
to be spun, which at evening mingled strangely with the twilight.
Hauke stared at it with fixed eyes, for in the mist dark figures were
walking up and down that seemed to him as big as human beings. Far off
he saw them promenade back and forth by the steaming fissures,
dignified, but with strange, frightening gestures, with long necks and
noses. All at once, they began to jump up and down like fools,
uncannily, the big ones over the little ones, the little ones over the
big ones-then they spread out and lost all shape.

"What do they want? Are they ghosts of the drowned?" thought Hauke.
"Hallo!" he screamed out aloud into the night; but they did not heed
his cry and kept on with their strange antics.

Then the terrible Norwegian sea spectres came to his mind, that an old
captain had once told him about, who bore stubby bunches of sea grass
on their necks instead of heads. He did not run away, however, but dug
the heels of his boots faster into the clay of the dike and rigidly
watched the farcical riot that was kept up before his eyes in the
falling dusk. "Are you here in our parts too?" he said in a hard
voice. "You shall not chase me away!"

Not until darkness covered all things did he walk home with stiff,
slow steps. But behind him he seemed to hear the rustling of wings and
resounding screams. He did not look round, neither did he walk faster,
and it was late when he came home. Yet he is said to have told neither
his father nor anyone else about it. But many years after he took his
feeble-minded little girl, with whom the Lord later had burdened him,
out on the dike with him at the same time of day and year, and the
same riot is said to have appeared then out on the sand flats. But he
told her not to be afraid, that these things were only the herons and
crows, that seemed so big and horrible, and that they were getting
fish out of the open cracks.

God knows, the schoolmaster interrupted himself, there are all sorts
of things on earth that could confuse a Christian heart, but Hauke was
neither a fool nor a blockhead.

As I made no response, he wanted to go on. But among the other guests,
who till now had listened without making a sound, only filling the low
room more and more thickly with tobacco smoke, there arose a sudden
stir. First one, then another, then all turned toward the window.
Outside, as one could see through the uncurtained glass, the storm was
driving the clouds, and light and dark were chasing one another; but
it seemed to me too as if I had seen the haggard rider whiz by on his
white horse.

"Wait a little, schoolmaster," said the dikemaster in a low voice.

"You don't need to be afraid, dikemaster," laughed the little
narrator. "I have not slandered him and have no reason to do so"-and
he looked up at him with his small clever eyes.

"All right," said the other. "Let your glass be filled again!" And
when that had been done and the listeners, most of them with rather
anxious faces, had turned to him again, he went on with his story:

Living thus by himself and liking best to associate only with sand and
water and with scenes of solitude, Hauke grew into a long lean fellow.
It was a year after his confirmation that his life was suddenly
changed, and this came about through the old white Angora cat which
old Trin Jans's son, who later perished at sea, had brought her on his
return from a voyage to Spain. Trin lived a good way out on the dike
in a little hut, and when the old woman did her chores in the house,
this monster of a cat used to sit in front of the house door and blink
into the summer day and at the peewits that flew past. When Hauke went
by, the cat mewed at him and Hauke nodded; both knew how each felt
toward the other.

Now it was spring and Hauke, as he was accustomed to do, often lay out
on the dike, already farther out near the water, between beach pinks
and the fragrant sea-wormwood, and let the strong sun shine on him. He
had gathered his pockets full of pebbles up on the higher land the day
before, and when at low tide the sand flats were laid bare and the
little gay strand snipes whisked across them screaming, he quickly
pulled out a stone and threw it after the birds. He had practiced this
from earliest childhood on, and usually one of the birds remained
lying on the ground; but often it was impossible to get at it. Hauke
had sometimes thought of taking the cat with him and training him as a
retriever. But there were hard places here and there on the sand; in
that case he ran and got his prey himself. On his way back, if the cat
was still sitting in front of the house door, the animal would utter
piercing cries of uncontrollable greed until Hauke threw him one of
the birds he had killed.

To-day when he walked home, carrying his jacket on his shoulder, he
was taking home only one unknown bird, but that seemed to have wings
of gay silk and metal; and the cat mewed as usual when he saw him
coming. But this time Hauke did not want to give up his prey-it may
have been an ice bird-and he paid no attention to the greed of the
animal. "Wait your turn!" he called to him. "To-day for me, to-morrow
for you; this is no food for a cat!"

As the cat came carefully sneaking along, Hauke stood and looked at
it: the bird was hanging from his hand, and the cat stood still with
its paw raised. But it seemed that the young man did not know his cat
friend too well, for, while he had turned his back on it and was just
going on his way, he felt that with a sudden jerk his booty was torn
from him, and at the same time a sharp claw cut into his flesh. A rage
like that of a beast of prey shot into the young man's blood; wildly
he stretched out his arm and in a flash had clutched the robber by his
neck. With his fist he held the powerful animal high up and choked it
until its eyes bulged out among its rough hairs, not heeding that the
strong hind paws were tearing his flesh. "Hello!" he shouted, and
clutched him still more tightly; "let's see which of us two can stand
it the longest!"

Suddenly the hind legs of the big cat fell languidly down, and Hauke
walked back a few steps and threw it against the hut of the old woman.
As it did not stir, he turned round and continued his way home.

But the Angora cat was the only treasure of her mistress; he was her
companion and the only thing that her son, the sailor, had left her
after he had met with sudden death here on the coast when he had
wanted to help his mother by fishing in the storm. Hauke had scarcely
walked on a hundred steps, while he caught the blood from his wounds
on a cloth, when he heard a shrill howling and screaming from the hut.
He turned round and, in front of it, saw the old woman lying on the
ground; her grey hair was flying in the wind round her red head scarf.

"Dead!" she cried; "dead!" and raised her lean arm threateningly
against him: "A curse on you! You have killed her, you good for
nothing vagabond; you weren't good enough to brush her tail!" She
threw herself upon the animal and with her apron she tenderly wiped
off the blood that was still running from its nose and mouth; then she
began her screaming again.

"When will you be done?" Hauke cried to her. "Then let me tell you,
I'll get you a cat that will be satisfied with the blood of mice and
rats!"

Then he went on his way, apparently no longer concerned with anything.
But the dead cat must have caused some confusion in his head, for when
he came to the village, he passed by his father's house and the others
and walked on a good distance toward the south on the dike toward the
city.

Meanwhile Trin Jans, too, wandered on the dike in the same direction.
In her arms she bore a burden wrapped in an old blue checkered
pillowcase, and clasped it carefully as if it were a child; her grey
hair fluttered in the light spring wind. "What are you lugging there,
Trina?" asked a peasant who met her. "More than your house and farm,"
replied the old woman, and walked on eagerly. When she came near the
house of old Haien, which lay below, she walked down to the houses
along the "akt," as we call the cattle and foot paths that lead
slantingly up and down the side of the dike.

Old Tede Haien was just standing in front of his door, looking at the
weather. "Well, Trin!" he said, when she stood panting in front of him
and dug her crutch into the ground, "What are you bringing us in your
bag?"

"First let me into the room, Tede Haien! Then you shall see!" and her
eyes looked at him with a strange gleam.

"Well, come along!" said the old man. What did he care about the eyes
of the stupid woman!

When both had entered, she went on: "Take that old tobacco box and
those writing things from the table. What do you always have to write
for, anyway? All right; and now wipe it clean!"

And the old man, who was almost growing curious, did everything just
as she said. Then she took the blue pillow-case at both ends and
emptied the carcass of the big cat out on the table. "There she is!"
she cried; "your Hauke has killed her!" Thereupon she began to cry
bitterly; she stroked the thick fur of the dead animal, laid its paws
together, bent her long nose over its head and whispered
incomprehensible words of tenderness into its ears.

Tede Haien watched this. "Is that so," he said; "Hauke has killed
her?"

He did not know what to do with the howling woman.

She nodded at him grimly. "Yes, yes, God knows, that's what he has
done," and she wiped the tears from her eyes with her hand, crippled
by rheumatism. "No child, no live thing any more!" she complained.
"And you know yourself how it is after All Saints' Day, when we old
people feel our legs shiver at night in bed, and instead of sleeping
we hear the northwest wind rattle against the shutters. I don't like
to hear it. Tede Haien, it comes from where my boy sank to death in
the quicksand!"

Tede Haien nodded, and the old woman stroked the fur of her dead cat.
"But this one here," she began again, "when I would sit by my
spinning-wheel, there she would sit with me and spin too and look at
me with her green eyes! And when I grew cold and crept into my bed-
then it wasn't long before she jumped up to me and lay down on my
chilly legs, and we both slept as warmly together as if I still had my
young sweetheart in bed!"

The old woman, as if she were waiting for his assent to this
remembrance, looked with her gleaming eyes at the old man standing
beside her at the table. Tede Haien, however, said thoughtfully: "I
know a way out for you, Trin Jans," and he went to his strong box and
took a silver coin out of the drawer. "You say that Hauke has robbed
your animal of life, and I know you don't lie; but here is a crown
piece from the time of Christian IV; go and buy a tanned lamb-skin
with it for your cold legs! And when our cat has kittens, you may pick
out the biggest of them; both together, I suppose, will make up for an
Angora cat feeble from old age! Take your beast and, if you want to,
take it to the tanner in town, but keep your mouth shut and don't tell
that it has lain on my honest table."

During this speech the woman had already snatched the crown and stowed
it away in a little bag that she carried under her skirts, then she
tucked the cat back into the pillowcase, wiped the bloodstains from
the table with her apron, and stalked out of the door. "Don't you
forget the young cat!" she called back.

After a while, when old Haien was walking up and down in the narrow
little room, Hauke stepped in and tossed his bright bird on to the
table. But when he saw the still recognizable bloodstain on the clean
white top, he asked as if by the way: "What's that?"

His father stood still. "That's blood that you have spilled!"

The young man flushed hotly. "Why, has Trin Jans been here with her
cat?"

The old man nodded: "Why did you kill it?"

Hauke uncovered his bleeding arm. "That's why," he said. "She had torn
my bird away from me!"

Thereupon the old man said nothing. For a time he began to walk up and
down, then he stood still in front of the young man and looked at him
for a while almost absently.

"This affair with the cat I have made all right," he said, "but look,
Hauke, this place is too small; two people can't stay on it-it is time
you got a job!"

"Yes, father," replied Hauke; "I have been thinking something of the
sort myself."

"Why?" asked the old man.

"Well, one gets wild inside unless one can let it out on a decent
piece of work!"

"Is that so?" said the old man, "and that's why you have killed the
Angora cat? That might easily lead to something worse!"

"You may be right, father, but the dikemaster has discharged his
farmhand; I could do that work all right!"

The old man began to walk up and down, and meanwhile spat out the
black tobacco. "The dikemaster is a blockhead, as stupid as a goose!
He is dikemaster only because his father and grandfather have been the
same, and on account of his twenty-nine fens. Round Martinmas, when
the dike and sluice bills have to be settled, then he feeds the
schoolmaster on roast goose and mead and wheat buns, and sits by and
nods while the other man runs down the columns of figures with his
pen, and says: 'Yes, yes, schoolmaster, God reward you! How finely you
calculate!' But when the schoolmaster can't or won't, then he has to
go at it himself and sits scribbling and striking out again, his big
stupid head growing red and hot, his eyes bulging out like glass
balls, as if his little bit of sense wanted to get out that way."

The young man stood up straight in front of his father and marveled at
his talking; he had never heard him speak like that. "Yes, God knows,"
he said, "no doubt he is stupid, but his daughter Elke, she can
calculate!"

The old man looked at him sharply.

"Hallo, Hauke," he exclaimed "what do you know about Elke Volkerts?"

"Nothing, father; only the schoolmaster has told me?"

The old man made no reply; he only pushed his piece of tobacco
thoughtfully from one cheek into the other. "And you think," he said,
"that you can help in the counting there too."

"Oh, yes, father, that would work all right," the son replied, and
there was a serious twitching about his mouth.

The old man shook his head: "Well, go if you like; go and try your
luck!"

"Thanks, father!" said Hauke, and climbed up to his sleeping place in
the garret. There he sat down on the edge of the bed and pondered why
his father had shouted at him so when he had mentioned Elke Volkerts.
To be sure, he knew the slender, eighteen-year-old girl with the
tanned, narrow face and the dark eyebrows that ran into each other
over the stubborn eyes and the slender nose; but he had scarcely
spoken a word to her. Now, if he should go to old Tede Volkerts, he
would look at her more and see what there was about the girl. Right
off he wanted to go, so that no one else could snatch the position
away from him-it was now scarcely evening. And so he put on his Sunday
coat and his best boots and started out in good spirits.

The long rambling house of the dikemaster was visible from afar
because of the high mound on which it stood, and especially because of
the highest tree in the village, a mighty ash. The grandfather of the
present dikemaster, the first of the line, had in his youth planted an
ash to the east of the house door; but the first two had died, and so
he had planted a third on his wedding morning, which was still
murmuring as if of old times in the increasing wind with its crown of
foliage that was growing mightier and mightier.

When, after a while, tall, lank Hauke climbed up the hill which was
planted on both sides with beets and cabbage, he saw the daughter of
the owner standing beside the low house door. One of her somewhat thin
arms was hanging down languidly, the other seemed to be grasping
behind her back at one of the iron rings which were fastened to the
wall on either side of the door, so that anyone who rode to the house
could use them to hitch his horse. From there the young girl seemed to
be gazing over the dike at the sea, where on this calm evening the sun
was just sinking into the water and at the same time gilding the dark-
skinned maiden with its last golden glow.

Hauke climbed up the hill a little more slowly, and thought to
himself: "She doesn't look so dull this way!" Then he was at the top.
"Good evening to you!" he said, stepping up to her. "What are you
looking at with your big eyes, Miss Elke?"

"I'm looking," she replied, "at something that goes on here every
night, but can't be seen here every night." She let the ring drop from
her hand, so that it fell against the wall with a clang. "What do you
want, Hauke Haien?" she asked.

"Something that I hope you don't mind," he said. "Your father has just
discharged his hired man; so I thought I would take a job with you."

She glanced at him, up and down: "You are still rather lanky, Hauke!"
she said, "but two steady eyes serve us better than two steady arms!"
At the same time she looked at him almost sombrely, but Hauke bravely
withstood her gaze. "Come on, then," she continued. "The master is in
his room; let's go inside."

The next day Tede Haien stepped with his son into the spacious room of
the dikemaster. The walls were covered with glazed tiles on which the
visitor could enjoy her a ship with sails unfurled or an angler on the
shore, there a cow that lay chewing in front of a peasant's house.
This durable wall-covering was interrupted by an alcove-bed with doors
now closed, and a cupboard which showed all kinds of china and silver
dishes through glass doors. Beside the door to the "best room" a Dutch
clock was set into the wall behind a pane of glass.

The stout, somewhat apoplectic master of the house sat at the end of
the well-scrubbed, shining table in an armchair with a bright-coloured
cushion. He had folded his hands across his stomach, and was staring
contentedly with his round eyes at the skeleton of a fat duck; knife
and fork were resting in front of him on his plate.

"Good day, dikemaster!" said Haien, and the gentleman thus addressed
slowly turned his head and eyes toward him.

"You here, Tede?" he replied, and the devoured fat duck had left its
mark on his voice. "Sit down; it is quite a walk from your place over
here!"

"I have come, dikemaster," said Tede Haien, while he sat down opposite
the other in a corner on the bench that ran along the wall. "You have
had trouble with your hired man and have agreed with my boy to put him
in his place!"

The dikemaster nodded: "Yes, yes, Tede; but-what do you mean by
trouble? We people of the marshes, thank goodness, have something to
take against troubles!"-and he took the knife before him and patted
the skeleton of the poor duck almost affectionately. "This was my pet
bird," he added laughing smugly; "he fed out of my hand!"

"I thought," said old Haien, not hearing the last remark, "the boy had
done harm in your stable."

"Harm? Yes, Tede; surely harm enough! That fat clown hadn't watered
the calves; but he lay drunk on the hayloft, and the beasts bellowed
all night with thirst, so that I had to make up my lost sleep till
noon; that's not the way a farm can go on!"

"No, dikemaster; but there is no danger of that happening with my
boy."

Hauke stood, his hands in his pockets, by the door-post, and had
thrown back his head and was studying the window frames opposite him.

The dikemaster had raised his eyes and nodded toward him: "No, no,
Tede,"-and now he nodded at the old man too; "your Hauke won't disturb
my night's rest; the schoolmaster has told me before that he would
rather sit with his slate and do arithmetic than with a glass of
whiskey."

Hauke did not hear this encouragement, for Elke had stepped into the
room and with her light hand took out the remnants from the table,
meanwhile glancing at him carelessly with her dark eyes. Then his
glances fell on her too. "By my faith," he said to himself, "she
doesn't look so dull now either!"

The girl had left the room. "You know, Tede," the dikemaster began
again, "the Lord has not granted me a son!"

"Yes, dikemaster, but don't let that worry you," replied the other,
"for they say that in the third generation the brains of a family run
out; your grandfather, we all remember, was a man who protected the
land!"

The dikemaster, after some pondering, looked quite puzzled: "How do
you mean, Tede Haien?" he said and sat up in his armchair; "I am in
the third generation myself!"

"Oh, indeed! Never mind, dikemaster; that's just what people say!" And
the lean Tede Haien looked at the old dignitary with rather
mischievous eyes.

The latter, however, spoke unconcerned: "You mustn't let old women get
nonsense like that into your head, Tede Haien; you don't know my
daughter yet-she can calculate three times better than I can! I only
wanted to say, your Hauke will be able to make some profit outside of
his field work in my room with pen and pencil, and that will do him no
harm."

"Yes, yes, dikemaster, he can do that; there you are perfectly right;"
said old Haien and then began to demand some privileges with the
contract which his son had not thought of the night before. For
instance, the latter should receive, besides his linen shirts, eight
pair of woollen stockings in addition to his wages; also he wanted to
have his son's help at his own work for eight days in spring-and more
of the sort. But the dikemaster agreed to everything; Hauke Haien
appeared to him just the right servant.

"Well, God help you, my boy," said the old man, when they had just
left the house, "if that man is to make the world clear to you!"

But Hauke replied calmly: "Never mind, father; everything will turn
out all right."

Hauke had not been wrong in his judgment. The world, or what the world
meant to him, grew clearer to his mind, the longer he stayed in this
house-perhaps all the more, the less he was helped by a wiser insight
and the more, he had to depend on his own powers with which he had
from the beginning helped himself. There was someone in the house,
however, whom he did not seem to suit; that was Ole Peters, the head
man, a good worker and a great talker. The former lazy and stupid but
stocky hired man had been more to his liking, whose back he could load
calmly with a barrel of oats and whom he could knock about to his
heart's content. Hauke, who was still more silent, but who surpassed
him mentally, he could not treat in the same way; Hauke had too
strange a way of looking at him. Nevertheless he managed to pick out
tasks which might have been dangerous for the young man's yet
undeveloped body; and when the head man would say: "You ought to have
seen fat Nick, he could do it without any trouble at all," then Hauke
would work with all his might and finish the task, although with
difficulty. It was lucky for him that Elke usually could hinder this,
either by herself or through her father. One may ask what it is that
binds people who are complete strangers to each other; perhaps-well,
they were both born arithmeticians, and the girl could not bear to see
her comrade ruined by rough work.

The conflict between head man and second man did not grow less when
after Martinmas the different dike bills came in for revision.

It happened on a May evening, but the weather was like November;
inside the house one could hear the surf roar outside from behind the
dike.

"Hey, Hauke," said the master of the house, "come in; now is your
chance to show if you can do arithmetic!"

"Master," Hauke replied; "I'm supposed to feed the young cattle
first."

"Elke!" called the dikemaster; "where are you, Elke? Go and tell Ole
to feed the young cattle; I want Hauke to calculate!"

So Elke hurried into the stable and gave the order to the head man who
was just busy hanging the harness used during the day back in place.

Ole Peters whipped the post beside which he had been busying himself
with a bridle, as if he wanted to beat it to pieces: "The devil take
that cursed scribbler!"

She heard these words even before she had closed the stable door
again.

"Well?" asked the old man, as she stepped into the room.

"Ole was willing to do it," said his daughter, biting her lips a
little, and sat down opposite Hauke on one of the roughly carved
chairs which in those days were still made at home on winter evenings.
Out of a drawer she had taken a white stocking with a red bird pattern
on it, which she was now knitting; the long-legged creatures might
have represented herons or storks. Hauke sat opposite her, deep in his
arithmetic; the dikemaster himself rested in his armchair and blinked
sleepily at Hauke's pen. On the table, as always in the house of the
dikemaster, two tallow candles were burning, and behind the windows
with their leaden frames the shutters were closed and fastened from
within; now the wind could bang against them as hard as it liked. Once
in a while Hauke raised his head and glanced for a moment at the bird
stockings or at the narrow, calm face of the girl.

Suddenly from the armchair there rose a loud snore, and a glance and
smile flew back and forth between the two young people; gradually the
breathing grew more quiet, and one could easily talk a little-only
Hauke did not know about what.

But when she raised her knitting and the birds appeared in their whole
length, he whispered across the table: "Where have you learned that,
Elke?"

"Learned what?" the girl returned.

"This bird knitting?" said Hauke.

"This? From Trin Jans out there on the dike; she can do all sorts of
things. She was servant here to my grandfather a long time ago."

"At that time I don't suppose you were born?" said Hauke.

"I think not; but she has often come to the house since then."

"Does she like birds?" asked Hauke; "I thought only cats were for
her."

Elke shook her head: "Why, she raises ducks and sells them; but last
spring, when you had killed her Angora cat, the rats got into the pen
at the back of the house and made mischief; now she wants to build
herself another in front of the house."

"Is that so?" said Hauke and whistled low through his teeth, "that's
why she dragged mud and stones from the upper land. But then she will
get on to the inland road; has she a grant?"

"I don't know," said Elke. But he had spoken the last word so loud
that the dikemaster started out of his slumber.

"What grant?" he asked and looked almost wildly from one to the other.
"What about the grant?"

But when Hauke had explained the matter to him, he slapped the young
man's shoulder, laughing: "Oh, well, the inland road is broad enough;
God help the dikemaster if he has to worry about duck pens!"

It weighed on Hauke's heart that he should have delivered the old
woman and her ducks over to the rats, but he allowed himself to be
quieted by this objection. "But, master," he began again, "it might be
good for some people to be prodded a little, and if you don't want to
go after them yourself, why don't you prod the overseers who ought to
look out for order on the dike?"

"How-what is the boy saying?" and the dikemaster sat up straight, and
Elke let her fancy stocking sink down and turned an ear toward Hauke.

"Yes, master," Hauke went on, "you have already gone round on your
spring inspection; but just the same Peter Jansen hasn't weeded his
lot to this day; and in summer the goldfinches will play round the red
thistles as gaily as ever. And near by-I don't know to whom it
belongs-there is a hole like a cradle on the outer side of the dike;
when the weather is good it is always full of little children that
roll in it; but-God save us from high water!"

The eyes of the old dikemaster had grown bigger and bigger.

"And then-" said Hauke again.

"Then what more, boy?" asked the dikemaster; "haven't you finished
yet?" and it seemed as if he had already had too much of his second
man's speech.

"Yes; then, master," Hauke went on; "you know that fat Vollina, the
daughter of the overseer Harder, who always fetches her father's horse
from the fen-well, as soon as she sits with her round legs on the old
yellow mare-Get up!-why, then every time she goes diagonally up the
slope of the dike!"

Hauke did not notice until now that Elke had fixed her intelligent
eyes on him and was gently shaking her head.

He was silent, but a bang on the table from the old man's fist
thundered in his ears. "Confound it!" he cried, and Hauke was almost
frightened by the bear's voice that suddenly broke out: "to the fens!
Note down that fat creature in the fens, Hauke! That girl caught three
of my young ducks last summer! Yes, yes, put it down," he repeated,
when Hauke hesitated; "I even believe there were four!"

"Oh, father," said Elke, "wasn't it an otter that took the ducks?"

"A big otter!" cried the old man, panting; "I guess I can tell the fat
Vollina and an otter apart! No, no, four ducks, Hauke-but as for the
rest of what you have been chattering-last spring the dikemaster
general and I, after we had breakfasted together at my house, drove by
your weeds and your cradle-hole and yet couldn't see anything. But you
two," and he nodded a few times significantly at Hauke and his
daughter, "you can thank God that you are no dikemaster! Two eyes are
all one has, and one is supposed to look with a hundred. Take the
bills for the straw coverings, Hauke, and look them over; those
rascals do keep their accounts in such a shiftless way!"

Then he leaned back in his chair again, moved his heavy body a few
times and soon gave himself over to care-free slumber.

The same thing was repeated on many an evening. Hauke had sharp eyes,
and when they sat together, he did not neglect to call the old man's
attention to one or the other violation or omission in dike matters,
and as the latter could not always keep his eyes closed, unawares the
management acquired a greater efficiency and those who in other times
had gone on sinning in their old, careless ways and now, as it were,
unexpectedly felt their mischievous or lazy fingers slapped, looked
round indignantly and with astonishment to see whence these slaps had
come. And Ole, the head man, did not hesitate to spread the
information and in this way to rouse indignation among these people
against Hauke and his father, who had to bear part of the guilt. The
others, however, who were not affected or who were not concerned with
the matter, laughed and rejoiced to see that the young man had at last
got the old man going a bit. "It's only too bad," they said, "that the
young fellow hasn't enough ground under his feet; else he might make a
dikemaster of the kind we used to have-but those few acres of his old
man wouldn't do, after all!"

Next autumn, when the inspector and the dikemaster general came for
the inspection, he looked at old Tede Volkerts from top to toe, while
the latter was urging him to sit down to lunch.

"I tell you, dikemaster," he said, "I was thinking-you have actually
grown ten years younger. You have set my blood coursing with all your
proposals; if only we can get down with all that to-day!"

"Oh, we shall, we shall, your Honor," replied the old man with a
smirk; "the roast goose over there will give us strength! Yes, thank
God, I am still always well and brisk!" He looked round the room to
make sure that Hauke was not about; then he added with calm dignity:
"And so I hope I may fulfill the duties of my office a few more
blessed years."

"And to this, my dear dikemaster," returned his superior, "we want to
drink this glass together."

Elke who had looked after the lunch laughed to herself as she left the
room just when the glasses were clicking. Then she took a dish of
scraps from the kitchen and walked through the stable to give them to
the poultry in front of the outside door. In the stable stood Hauke
Haien and with his pitch-fork put hay into the racks of the cows that
had to be brought up here so early because of the bad weather. But
when he saw the girl come, he stuck the pitchfork into the ground.
"Well, Elke!" he said.

She stood still and nodded at him: "All right, Hauke-but you should
have been in there!"

"Do you think so? Why, Elke?"

"The dikemaster general has praised the master!"

"The master? What has that to do with me?"

"No, I mean, he has praised the dikemaster!"

The young man's face was flushed crimson: "I know very well," he said,
"what you are driving at."

"Don't blush, Hauke; it was really you whom the dikemaster general
praised!"

Hauke looked at her with a half smile. "You too, Elke!" he said.

But she shook her head: "No, Hauke; when I was helper alone, we got no
praise. And then, I can only do arithmetic; but you see everything
outdoors that the dikemaster is supposed to see for himself. You have
cut me out!"

"That isn't what I intended-least of all you!" said Hauke timidly, and
he pushed aside the head of a cow. "Come, Redskin, don't swallow my
pitchfork, you'll get all you want!"

"Don't think that I'm sorry, Hauke;" said the girl after thinking a
little while; "that really is a man's business."

Then Hauke stretched out his arm toward her. "Elke, give me your hand,
so that I can be sure."

Beneath her dark brows a deep crimson flushed the girl's face. "Why?
I'm not lying!" she cried.

Hauke wanted to reply; but she had already left the stable, and he
stood with his pitchfork in his hand and heard only the cackling and
crowing of the ducks and the hens round her outside.

In the January of Hauke's third year of service a winter festival was
to be held-"Eisboseln" they call it here. The winds had been calm on
the coast and steady frost had covered all the ditches between the
fens with a solid, even, crystal surface, so that the marked-off
strips of land offered a wide field for the throwing at a goal of
little wooden balls filled with lead. Day in, day out, a light
northeast wind was blowing: everything had been prepared. The people
from the higher land, inhabitants of the village that lay eastward
above the marshes, who had won last year, had been challenged to a
match and had accepted. From either side nine players had been picked.
The umpire and the score-keepers had been chosen. The latter, who had
to discuss a doubtful throw whenever a difference of opinion came up,
were always chosen from among people who knew how to place their own
case in the best possible light, preferably young fellows who not only
had good common sense but also a ready tongue. Among these was, above
all, Ole Peters, the head man of the dikemaster. "Throw away like
devils!" he said; "I'll do the talking for nothing!"

Toward evening on the day before the holiday a number of throwers had
appeared in the side room of the parish inn up on the higher land, in
order to decide about accepting some men who had applied in the last
moment. Hauke Haien was among these. At first he had not wanted to
take part, although he was well aware of having arms skilled in
throwing; but he was afraid that he might be rejected by Ole Peters
who had a post of honor in the game, and he wanted to spare himself
this defeat. But Elke had made him change his mind at the eleventh
hour. "He won't dare, Hauke," she had said; "he is the son of a day
laborer; your father has his cow and horse and is the cleverest man in
the village."

"But if he should manage to, after all?"

Half smiling she looked at him with her dark eyes. "Then he'll get
left," she said, "in the evening, when he wants to dance with his
master's daughter." Then Hauke had nodded to her with spirit.

Now the young men who still hoped to be taken into the game stood
shivering and stamping outside the parish inn and looked up at the top
of the stone church tower which stood beside the tavern. The pastor's
pigeons which during the summer found their food on the fields of the
village were just returning from the farmyards and barns of the
peasants, where they had pecked their grain, and were disappearing
into their nests underneath the shingles of the tower. In the west,
over the sea, there was a glowing sunset.

"We'll have good weather to-morrow," said one of the young fellows,
and began to wander up and down excitedly; "but cold-cold." Another
man, when he saw no more pigeons flying, walked into the house and
stood listening beside the door of the room in which a lively babble
was now sounding. The second man of the dikemaster, too, had stepped
up beside him. "Listen, Hauke," he said to the latter; "now they are
making all this noise about you." And clearly one could hear from
inside Ole Peters's grating voice: "Underlings and boys don't belong
here!"

"Come," whispered the other man and tried to pull Hauke by his sleeve
to the door of the room, "here you can learn how high they value you."

But Hauke tore himself away and went to the front of the house again:
"They haven't barred us out so that we should hear," he called back.

Before the house stood the third of the applicants. "I'm afraid
there's a hitch in this business for me," he called to Hauke; "I'm
barely eighteen years old; if they only won't ask for my birth
certificate! Your head man, Hauke, will get you out of your fix, all
right!"

"Yes, out!" growled Hauke and kicked a stone across the road; "but not
in!"

The noise in the room was growing louder; then gradually there was
calm. Those outside could again hear the gentle northeast wind that
broke against the point of the church steeple. The man who listened
joined them. "Whom did they take in there?" asked the eighteen-year-
old one.

"Him!" said the other, and pointed to Hauke; "Ole Peters wanted to
make him out as a boy; but the others shouted against it.-'And his
father has cattle and land,' said Jess Hansen.-'Yes, land,' cried Ole
Peters, 'land that one can cart away on thirteen wheelbarrows!' Last
came Ole Hensen: 'Keep still!' he cried; 'I'll make things clear: tell
me, who is the first man in the village?'-Then all kept mum and seemed
to be thinking. Then a voice said: 'I should say it was the
dikemaster!'-'And who is the dikemaster?' cried Ole Hensen again; 'but
now think twice!'-Then somebody began to laugh quietly, and then
someone else too, and so on till there was nothing but loud laughter
in the room.-'Well, then call him,' said Ole Hensen; 'you don't want
to keep the dikemaster out in the cold!'-I believe they're still
laughing; but Ole Peters's voice could not be heard any more!" Thus
the young fellow ended his account.

Almost in the same instant the door of the room inside the house was
opened suddenly and out into the cold night sounded loud and merry
cries of "Hauke! Hauke Haien!"

Then Hauke marched into the house and never could hear the rest of the
story of who was the dikemaster; meanwhile no one has found out what
was going on in his head.

After a while, when he approached the house of his employers, he saw
Elke standing by the fence below, where the ascent began; the
moonlight was shimmering over the measureless white frosted pasture.

"You are standing here, Elke?" he asked.

She only nodded: "What happened?" she said; "has he dared?"

"What wouldn't he-?"

"Well, and-?"

"Yes, Elke; I'm allowed to try it to-morrow!"

"Good night, Hauke!" And she fled up the slope and vanished into the
house.

Slowly he followed her.

Next afternoon on the wide pasture that extended in the east along the
land side of the dike, one could see a dark crowd. Now it would stand
motionless, now move gradually on, down from the long and low houses
lying behind it, as soon as a wooden ball had twice shot forth from it
over the ground now freed by the bright sun from frost. The teams of
the "Eisbosler" were in the middle, surrounded by old and young, by
all who lived with them in these houses or up in those of the higher
land-the older men in long coats, pensively smoking their short pipes,
the women in shawls or jackets, some leading children by the hand or
carrying them on their arms. From the frozen ditches, which were being
crossed gradually, the pale light of the afternoon sun was gleaming
through the sharp points of the sedges. It was keen frost, but the
game went on uninterruptedly, and the eyes of all were again and again
following the flying ball, for upon it depended the honor of the whole
village for the day. The score-keepers of the two sides carried a
white stick with an iron point for the home team, a black one of the
same kind for the team of the people from the upper land. Where the
ball ended its flight, the stick was driven into the frozen ground,
accompanied, as it happened, either by silent approval or the derisive
laughter of the opposing side; and he whose ball had first reached the
goal, had won the game for his team.

Little was said by all these people; only when a capital throw had
been made, a cry from the young men or women could be heard;
sometimes, too, one of the old men would take his pipe out of his
mouth and knock with it on the shoulder of the thrower with a few
cheering words: "That was a good throw, said Zacharias, and threw his
wife out of the door!" or: "That's the way your father threw, too; God
bless him in eternity!" or some other friendly saying.

Hauke had no luck with his first throw: just as he was swinging his
arm backward in order to hurl off the ball, a cloud sailed away which
had covered the sun so that now its bright beams shot into his eyes;
the throw was too short, the ball fell on a ditch and remained stuck
in the ice.

"That doesn't count! That doesn't count! Hauke, once more!" called his
partners.

But the score-keeper of the people from the high land protested
against this: "It'll have to count; a throw is a throw!"

"Ole! Ole Peters!" cried the young folks of the marshes. "Where is
Ole? Where the devil is he?"

But there he was: "Don't scream so! Does Hauke have to be patched up
somewhere? I thought as much."

"Never mind! Hauke has to throw again; now show that your tongue is
good for something!"

"Oh, it is all right!" cried Ole and stepped up to the scorekeeper of
the other side and talked a lot of bosh. But the pointedness and
sharpness of his usually so scintillating words were absent this time.
Beside him stood the girl with the enigmatic eyebrows and looked at
him sharply with angry glances; but she was not allowed to talk, for
women had no say in the game.

"You are babbling nonsense," cried the other scorekeeper, "because you
can't use any sense for this! Sun, moon and stars are alike for us all
and always in the sky; the throw was awkward, and all awkward throws
have to count!"

Thus they talked back and forth a little while, but the end of it was
that, according to the decision of the umpire, Hauke was not allowed
to repeat his throw.

"Come on!" called the people from the upper land, and their score-
keeper pulled the black stick out of the ground, and the thrower came
forward when his number was called and hurled the ball ahead. When the
head man of the dikemaster wanted to watch the throw, he had to pass
Elke Volkerts: "For whose sake have you left your brains at home to-
day?" she whispered to him.

Then he looked at her almost grimly, and all joking was gone from his
broad face. "For your sake," he said, "for you have forgotten yours
too!"

"Go, go-I know you, Ole Peters!" the girl replied, drawing herself up
straight. But he turned his head away and pretended not to have heard.

And the game and the black and white stick went on. When Hauke's turn
to throw came again, his ball flew so far, that the goal, the great
whitewashed barrel, came clearly in sight. He was now a solidly built
young fellow, and mathematics and the art of throwing he had practised
daily in his boyhood. "Why, Hauke!" there were cries from the crowd;
"that was just as if the archangel Michael himself had thrown the
ball!" An old woman with cake and brandy pushed her way through the
crowd toward him; she poured out a glass for him and offered it to
him: "Come," she said, "we want to be friends: this to-day is better
than when you killed my cat!" When he looked at her, he recognised her
as Trin Jans. "Thank you, old lady," he said; "but I don't drink
that." He put his hand into his pocket and pressed a newly minted mark
piece into her hand: "Take that and empty your glass yourself, Trin;
and so we are friends!"

"You're right, Hauke!" replied the old woman, while she obeyed his
instructions; "you're right; that's better for an old woman like me!"

"How are your ducks getting on" he called after her, when she had
already started on her way with her basket; but she only shook her
head, without turning round, and struck the air with her old hands.
"Nothing, nothing, Hauke; there are too many rats in your ditches; God
help me, but I've got to support myself some other way!" And so she
pushed her way into the crowd and again offered her brandy and honey
cake.

The sun had at last gone down behind the dike; in his stead rose a red
violet glimmer; now and then black crows flew by and for moments
looked gilded: evening had come. But on the fens the dark mass of
people were moving still farther away from the already distant houses
toward the barrel; an especially good throw would have to reach it
now. The people of the marshes were having their turn: Hauke was to
throw.

The chalky barrel showed white against the broad evening shadow that
now fell from the dike across the plain.

"I guess you'll leave it to us this time," called one of the people of
the upper land, for it was very close; they had the advantage of at
least ten feet.

Hauke's lean figure was just stepping out of the crowd; the grey eyes
in his long Frisian face were looking ahead at the barrel; in his hand
which hung down he held the ball.

"I suppose the bird is too big for you," he heard Ole Peters's grating
voice in this instant behind his ears; "shall we exchange it for a
grey pot?"

Hauke turned round and looked at him with steady eyes: "I'm throwing
for the marshes," he said. "Where do you belong?"

"I think, I belong there too; I suppose you're throwing for Elke
Volkerts!"

"Go!" shouted Hauke and stood in position again. But Ole pushed his
head still nearer to him. Then suddenly, before Hauke could do
anything against it himself, a hand clutched the intruder and pulled
him back, so that the fellow reeled against his comrades. It was not a
large hand that had done it; for when Hauke turned his head round for
a moment he saw Elke Volkerts putting her sleeve to rights, and her
dark brows looked angry in her heated face.

Now something like steely strength shot into Hauke's arm; he bent
forward a little, rocked the ball a few times in his hand; then he
made the throw, and there was dead silence on both sides. All eyes
followed the flying ball, one could hear it whizz as it cut the air;
suddenly, already far from the starting point, it was covered by the
wings of a silver gull that came flying from the dike with a scream.
At the same time, however, one could hear something bang from a
distance against the barrel.

"Hurrah for Hauke!" called the people from the marshes, and cries went
through the crowd: "Hauke! Hauke Haien has won the game!"

He, however, when all were crowding round him, had thrust his hand to
one side to seize another; and even when they called again: "Why are
you still standing there, Hauke? The ball is in the barrel!"-he only
nodded and did not budge from his place. Only when he felt that the
little hand lay fast in his, he said: "You may be right; I think
myself I have won."

Then the whole company streamed back and Elke and Hauke were separated
and pushed on by the crowd along the road to the inn which ascended
from the hill of the dikemaster to the upper land. At this point both
escaped the crowd, and while Elke went up to her room, Hauke stood in
front of the stable door on the hill and saw how the dark mass of
people was gradually wandering up to the parish tavern where a hall
was ready for the dancers. Darkness was slowly spreading over the wide
land; it was growing calmer and calmer round about, only in the stable
behind him the cattle were stirring; from up on the high land he
believed that he could already hear the piping of the clarinets in the
tavern. Then round the corner of the house he heard the rustling of a
dress, and with small steady steps someone was walking along the path
that led through the fens up to the high land. Now he discerned the
figure walking along in the twilight, and saw that it was Elke; she,
too, was going to the dance at the inn. The blood shot up to his neck;
shouldn't he run after her and go with her? But Hauke was no hero with
women; pondering over this problem, he remained standing still until
she had vanished from his sight in the dark.

Then, when the danger of catching up with her was over, he walked
along the same way until he had reached the inn by the church, where
the chattering and shouting of the crowds in front of the house and in
the hall and the shrill sounds of the violins and clarinets surged
round him and bewildered his senses. Unobserved he made his way into
the Guildhall; but it was not large and so crowded that he could not
look a step ahead of him. Silently he stood by the doorpost and looked
into the restless swarm. These people seemed to him like fools; he did
not have to worry that anyone was still thinking of the match of this
afternoon and about who had won the game only an hour ago; everybody
thought only of his girl and spun round with her in a circle. His eyes
sought only the one, and at last-there! She was dancing with her
cousin, the young dike overseer; but soon he saw her no longer, only
other girls from the marshes or the high land who did not concern him.
Then suddenly the violins and clarinets broke off, and the dance was
over; but immediately another one began. An idea shot through Hauke's
head-he wondered if Elke would keep her word and if she would not
dance by him with Ole Peters. He had almost uttered a scream at this
thought; then-yes, what should he do then? But she did not seem to be
joining in this dance, and at last it was over. Another one followed,
however, a two-step which had just come into vogue here. The music
started up madly, the young fellows rushed to their girls, the lights
flickered along the walls. Hauke strained his neck to recognise the
dancers; and there in the third couple, was Ole Peters-but who was his
partner? A broad fellow from the marshes stood in front of her and
covered her face! But the dance was raging on, and Ole and his partner
were turning out of the crowd. "Vollina! Vollina Harders!" cried Hauke
almost aloud, and drew a sigh of relief. But where was Elke? Did she
have no partner or had she rejected all because she did not want to
dance with Ole? And the music broke off again, and a new dance began;
but she was not in sight! There came Ole, still with fat Vollina in
his arms! "Well, well," said Hauke; "Jess Harders with his twenty-five
acres will soon have to retire too! But where is Elke?"

He left the doorpost and crowded farther into the hall; suddenly he
was standing in front of her, as she sat with an older girl friend in
a corner. "Hauke!" she called, looking up to him with her narrow face;
"are you here? I didn't see you dance."

"I didn't dance," he replied.

"Why not, Hauke?" and half rising she added: "Do you want to dance
with me? I didn't let Ole Peters do it; he won't come again!"

But Hauke made no move in this direction: "Thank you, Elke," he said;
"I don't know how to dance well enough; they might laugh at you; and
then-" he stopped short and looked at her with his whole heart in his
grey eyes, as if he had to leave it to them to say the rest.

"What do you mean, Hauke?" she said in a low voice.

"I mean, Elke, the day can't turn out any better for me than it has
done already."

"Yes," she said, "you have won the game."

"Elke!" he reproached her almost inaudibly.

Then her face flushed crimson: "Go!" she said; "what do you want?" and
she cast down her eyes.

But when Elke's friend was being drawn away to the dance by a young
man, Hauke said louder: "I thought Elke, I had won something better!"

A few seconds longer her eyes searched the floor; then she raised them
slowly, and a glance met his so full of the quiet power of her nature
that it streamed through him like summer air. "Do as your heart tells
you to, Hauke!" she said; "we ought to know each other!"

Elke did not dance any more that evening, and then, when both went
home, they walked hand in hand. Stars were gleaming in the sky above
the silent marshes; a light east wind was blowing and bringing severe
cold with it; but the two walked on, without many shawls or coverings,
as if it had suddenly turned spring.

Hauke had set his mind on something the fit use for which lay in the
uncertain future; but he had thought of celebrating with it quietly by
himself. So the next Sunday he went into the city to the old goldsmith
Andersen and ordered a strong gold ring. "Stretch out your finger for
me to measure!" said the old man and seized his ring-finger. "Well,"
he said; "yours isn't quite so big as they usually are with you
people!" But Hauke said: "You had better measure the little finger,"
and held that one toward him.

The goldsmith looked at him puzzled; but what did he care about the
notions of the young peasant fellows. "I guess we can find one among
the girls' rings" he said, and the blood shot into both of Hauke's
cheeks. But the little gold ring fitted his little finger, and he took
it hastily and paid for it with shining silver; then he put it into
his waistcoat pocket while his heart beat loudly as if he were
performing a ceremony. There he kept it thenceforth every day with
restlessness and yet with pride, as if the waistcoat pocket had no
other purpose than to carry a ring.

Thus he carried it for over a year-indeed, the ring even had to wander
into a new waistcoat pocket; the occasion for its liberation had not
yet presented itself. To be sure, it had occurred to him that he might
go straight to his master; his own father was, after all, a landholder
too. But when he was calmer, he knew very well that the old dikemaster
would have laughed at his second man. And so he and the dikemaster's
daughter lived on side by side-she, too, in maidenly silence, and yet
both as if they were walking hand in hand.

A year after that winter holiday Ole Peters had left his position and
married Vollina Harders. Hauke had been right: the old man had
retired, and instead of his fat daughter his brisk son-in-law was
riding the brown mare over the fens and, as people said, on his way
back always up the dike. Hauke was head man now, and a younger one in
his place. To be sure, the dikemaster at first did not want to let him
move up. "It's better he stays what he is," he had growled; "I need
him here with my books." But Elke had told him: "Then Hauke will go
too, father." So the old man had been scared, and Hauke had been made
head man, although he had nevertheless kept on helping the dikemaster
with his administration.

But after another year he began to talk with Elke about how his own
father's health was failing and told her that the few days in summer
that his master allowed him to help on his father's farm were not
enough; the old man was having a hard time, and he could not see that
any more. It was on a summer evening; both stood in the twilight under
the great ash tree in front of the house door. For a while the girl
looked up silently into the boughs of the tree; then she replied: "I
didn't want to say it, Hauke; I thought you would find the right thing
to do for yourself."

"Then I will have to leave your house," he said, "and can't come
again."

They were silent for a while and looked at the sunset light which
vanished behind the dike in the sea.

"You must know," she said; "only this morning I went to see your
father and found him asleep in his armchair; his drawing pen was in
his hand and the drawing board with a half-finished drawing lay before
him on the table. And when he had waked up and talked to me with
effort for a quarter of an hour, and I wanted to go, then he held me
back by the hand so full of fear, as if he were afraid it was for the
last time; but-"

"But what, Elke?" asked Hauke, when she hesitated to go on.

A few tears ran down the girl's cheeks. "I was only thinking of my
father," she said; "believe me, it will be hard for him to get on
without you." And then added, as if she had to summon her strength for
these words: "It often seems to me as if he too were getting ready for
death."

Hauke said nothing; it seemed to him suddenly, as if the ring were
stirring in his pocket. But even before he had suppressed his
indignation over this involuntary impulse, Elke went on: "No, don't be
angry, Hauke; I trust you won't leave us anyway."

Then he eagerly took her hand, and she did not draw it away. For a
while the young people stood together in the falling darkness, until
their hands slipped apart and each went his way. A gust of wind
started and rustled through the leaves of the ash tree and made the
shutters rattle on the front of the house; but gradually the night
sank down, and quiet lay over the gigantic plain.

Through Elke's persuasion, the old dikemaster had relieved Hauke of
his services, although he had not given notice at the right time, and
two new hired men were in the house. A few months later Tede Haien
died; but before he died, he called his son to his bedside: "Sit by
me, my child;" said the old man with his faint voice, "close by me!
You don't need to be afraid; he who is near me now is only the dark
angel of the Lord who comes to call me."

And his son, deeply affected, sat down close by the dark bed fixed to
the wall: "Tell me, father, what you still have to say."

"Yes, my son, there is still something," said the old man and
stretched out his hands across the quilt. "When, as a half-grown boy,
you went to serve the dikemaster, then you had the idea in your head
that you wanted to be one yourself some day. That idea I caught from
you, and gradually I came to think that you were the right man for it.
But your inheritance was too small for such an office. I have lived
frugally during your time of service-I planned to increase it.
"
Passionately Hauke seized his father's hands, and the old man tried to
sit up, so that he could see him. "Yes, yes, my son," he said; "there
in the uppermost drawer of the chest is a document. You know old Antje
Wohlers has a fen of five and a half acres; but she could not get on
with the rent alone in her crippled old age; so I have always round
Martinmas given the poor soul a certain sum, or more when I could; and
for that she gave her fen over to me; it is all legally settled. Now
she too is on her deathbed; the disease of our marshes, cancer, has
seized her; you won't have to pay her any more."

For a while he closed his eyes; then he spoke once more: "It isn't
much; but you'll have more then than you were accustomed to with me.
May it serve you well in your life on earth!"

With his son's words of thanks in his ears, the old man fell asleep.
He had no more cares: and after a few days the dark angel of the Lord
had closed his eyes forever, and Hauke received his inheritance.

The day after the funeral Elke came into his house. "Thanks for
looking in, Elke," Hauke greeted her.

But she replied: "I'm not looking in; I want to put things in order a
little, so that you can live decently in your house. Your father with
all his figures and drawings didn't look round much, and the death too
makes confusion. I want to make things a little livable for you."

His grey eyes looked full of confidence upon her. "All right, put
things in order!" he said; "I like it better that way too."

And then she began to clear up: the drawing board, which was still
lying there, was dusted and carried up to the attic, drawing pens and
pencil and chalk were locked away carefully in a drawer of the chest;
then the young servant girl was called in to help and the furniture
was put into different and better positions in the room, so that it
seemed as if it now had grown lighter and bigger. Smiling, Elke said:
"Only we women can do that," and Hauke in spite of his mourning for
his father, had watched her with happy eyes, and, where there was need
for it, had helped too.

And when toward dusk-it was in the beginning of September-everything
was just as she wanted it for him, she took his hand and nodded to him
with her dark eyes: "Now come and have supper with us; for I had to
promise my father to bring you; then when you go home, you can enter
your house in peace."

Then when they came into the spacious living-room of the dikemaster,
where the shutters were already closed and the two candles burning on
the table, the latter wanted to rise from his armchair, but his heavy
body sank back and he only called to his former man: "That's right,
that's right, Hauke, that you've come to see your old friends. Come
nearer, still nearer." And when Hauke had stepped up to his chair, he
took his hand into both of his own: "Now, now, my boy," he said, "be
calm now, for we all must die, and your father was none of the worst.
But Elke, now see that the roast gets on to the table; we have to get
strength. There's a great deal of work for us, Hauke! The fall
inspection is coming; there's a pile of dike and sluice bills as high
as the house; the damage to the dike of the western enclosure the
other day-I don't know where my head is, but yours, thank God, is a
good bit younger; you're a good boy, Hauke."

And after this long speech, with which the old man had laid bare his
whole heart, he let himself drop back into his chair and blinked
longingly toward the door, through which Elke was just coming in with
the roast on the platter. Hauke stood smiling beside him. "Now sit
down," said the dikemaster, "so that we won't lose time for nothing;
that doesn't taste well cold."

And Hauke sat down; it seemed to be taken for granted that he should
help to do the work of Elke's father. And when the fall inspection had
come and a few more months of the year were gone, he had indeed done
the greatest part of the work.

The story-teller stopped and looked round. The scream of a gull had
knocked against the window, and out in the hall one could hear a
stamping of feet, as if someone were taking the clay off his heavy
boots.

The dikemaster and the overseers turned their heads toward the door of
the room. "What is it?" called the first.

A strong man with a southwester on his head had stepped in.

"Sir," he said, "we both have seen it-Hans Nickels and I: the rider on
the white horse has thrown himself into the breach."

"Where did you see that?" asked the dikemaster.

"There is only the one break; in Jansen's fen, where the Hauke-
Haienland begins."

"Did you see it only once?"

"Only once; it was only like a shadow, but that doesn't mean that this
was the first time it happened."

The dikemaster had risen. "You must excuse me," he said, turning to
me, "we have to go out and see what this calamity is leading to." Then
he left the room with the messenger; the rest of the company too rose
and followed him.

I stayed alone with the schoolmaster in the large deserted room;
through the curtainless windows, which were now no longer covered by
the backs of the guests sitting in front of them, one could have a
free view and see how the wind was chasing the dark clouds across the
sky.

The old man remained on his seat, with a superior, almost pitying
smile on his lips. "It is too empty here now," he said; "may I invite
you to my room? I live in this house; and believe me, I know every
kind of weather here by the dike-there is nothing for us to fear."

This invitation I accepted with thanks, for I too began to feel
chilly, and so we took a light and climbed up the stairs to a room
under the gables; there the windows also looked toward the west, but
they were covered by woollen rugs. In a bookcase I saw a small
library, beside it portraits of two old professors; before a table
stood a great high armchair. "Make yourself comfortable," said my
pleasant host and threw some pieces of peat into the still faintly
glowing stove, which was crowned by a tin kettle on top. "Only wait a
little while! The fire will soon roar; then I'll mix you a little
glass of grog-that'll keep you awake!"

"I don't need that," I said; "I won't grow sleepy, when I accompany
your Hauke upon his life-journey!"

"Do you think so?" and he nodded toward me with his keen eyes, after I
had been comfortably settled in his armchair.

Well, where did we leave off? Yes, yes; I know. Well, Hauke had
received his inheritance, and as old Antje Wohlers, too, had died of
her ailment, his property was increased by her fen. But since the
death, or rather, since the last words of his father, something had
sprung up within him, the seed of which he had carried in his heart
since his boy-hood; he repeated to himself more often than enough that
he was the right man for the post if there had to be a new dikemaster.
That was it; his father, who had to know, who was the cleverest man in
the village, had added his word, like a last gift to his heritage. The
fen of the Wohlers woman, for which he had to thank his father too,
should be the first stepping-stone to this height. For, to be sure,
even with this-a dikemaster had to be able to show more real estate!
But his father had got on frugally through his lonely years; and with
what he had saved he had made himself owner of new property. This
Hauke could do too, and even more; for his father's strength had
already been spent, but he could do the hardest work for years. To be
sure, even if he should succeed along this line-on account of the
sharp methods he had brought into the administration of his old
employer, he had made no friends in the village, and Ole Peters, his
old antagonist, had just inherited property and was beginning to be a
well-to-do man. A row of faces passed before his inner vision, and
they all looked at him with hostile eyes. Then a rage against these
people seized him: he stretched out his arms as if he would clutch
them, for they wanted to push him from the office for which he alone,
of all, was destined. These thoughts did not leave him; they were
always there again, and so in his young heart there grew beside honor
and love, also ambition and hate. But these two he locked up deep
within him; even Elke surmised nothing of them.

When the new year had come, there was a wedding; the bride was a
relative of the Haiens, and Hauke and Elke were both invited. Indeed,
at the wedding dinner it happened that, because a nearer relative was
absent, they found themselves seated side by side. Their joy about
this was betrayed only by a smile that flitted over the face of each.
But Elke to-day sat with indifference in the midst of the noise of
chattering and the click of the glasses.

"Is something ailing you?" asked Hauke.

"Oh, really nothing; only there are too many people here for me."

"But you look so sad!"

She shook her head; then again she said nothing.

Then something like jealousy rose within him on account of her
silence, and secretly, under the overhanging table-cloth, he seized
her hand. She did not draw it away, but clasped it, as if full of
confidence, round his. Had a feeling of loneliness come over her, as
she had to watch the failing body of her father every day? Hauke did
not think of asking her this; but his breathing stopped, as he pulled
the gold ring from his pocket. "Will you let it stay?" he asked
trembling, while he pushed the ring on the ring-finger of the slender
hand.

Opposite them at the table sat the pastor's wife; she suddenly laid
down her fork and turned to her neighbor: "My faith, look at that
girl!" she cried; "she is turning deadly pale!"

But the blood was returning into Elke's face. "Can you wait, Hauke?"
she asked in a low voice.

Clever Frisian though he was, he nevertheless had to stop and think a
few seconds. "For what?" he asked then.

"You know perfectly well; I don't need to tell you."

"You are right," he said; "yes, Elke, I can wait-if it's within a
human limit."

"Oh, God, I'm afraid, a very near one! Don't talk like that, Hauke;
you are speaking of my father's death!" She laid her other hand on her
breast; "Till then," she said, "I shall wear the gold ring here; you
shan't be afraid of getting it back in my lifetime!"

Then both smiled, and their hands pressed each other so tightly that
on other occasions the girl would have cried out aloud.

The pastor's wife meanwhile had looked incessantly at Elke's eyes,
which were now glowing like dark fire under the lace fringe of her
little gold brocade cap. But in the growing noise at the table she had
not understood a word; neither did she turn to her partner again, for
she was accustomed not to disturb budding marriages-and this seemed to
be such a case-if only for the sake of the promise of the wedding-fee
for her husband, who did the marrying.

Elke's presentiment had come true; one morning after Easter the
dikemaster Tede Volkerts had been found dead in his bed. When one
looked at his face, one could see written upon it that his end had
been calm. In the last months he had often expressed a weariness of
life; his favorite roast, even his ducks, wouldn't please him any
more.

And now there was a great funeral in the village. Up on the high land
in the burying-ground round the church there was on the western side a
burial-place surrounded by a wrought-iron fence. Upright against a
weeping willow stood a broad blue tombstone upon which was hewn the
image of death with many teeth in the skeleton jaws; beneath it one
could read in large letters: "Ah, death all earthly things devours,
Takes art and knowledge that was ours; The mortal man at rest here
lies-God give, that blessd he may rise."

It was the burial-place of the former dikemaster Volkert Tedsen; now a
new grave had been dug in which his son, Tede Volkerts, was to be
buried. And now the funeral procession was coming up from the marshes,
a multitude of carriages from all parish villages. Upon the first one
stood the heavy coffin, and the two shining black horses of the
dikemaster's stable drew it up the sandy hill to the high land; their
tails and manes were waving in the sharp spring breeze. The graveyard
round the church was filled with people up to the ramparts; even on
the walled gate boys were perching with little children in their arms;
all wanted to see the burying.

In the house down in the marshes Elke had prepared the funeral meal in
the best parlour and the living-room. Old wine was set on the table in
front of the plates; by the plate of the dikemaster general-for he,
too, was not missing to-day-and of the pastor there was a bottle of
"Langkork" for each. When everything was ready, she went through the
stable in front of the yard door; she met no one on the way, for the
hired men were at the funeral with two carriages. Here she stood still
and while her mourning clothes were waving in the spring wind, she
watched the last carriages down in the village drive up to the church.
There after a while a great turmoil appeared, which seemed to be
followed by a deadly silence. Elke folded her hands; now they must be
letting the coffin into the grave: "And to dust thou shalt return!"
Inevitably, in a low voice, as if she could have heard them from up
here, she repeated the words. Then her eyes filled with tears, her
hands folded across her breast sank into her lap. "Our Father, who art
in heaven!" she prayed ardently. And when the Lord's prayer was
finished, she stood a long time motionless-she, now the mistress of
this great marsh farm; and thoughts of death and of life began to
struggle within her.

A distant rumbling waked her. When she opened her eyes, she again saw
one carriage after another drive rapidly down from the marshes and up
to her farm. She straightened herself, looked ahead sharply once more
and then went back, as she had come, through the stable into the
solemnly ordered living-rooms. Here too there was nobody; only through
the wall could she hear the bustle of the maids in the kitchen. The
festive board looked so quiet and deserted; the mirror between the
windows had been covered with white scarfs, and likewise the brass
knobs of the stove; there was nothing bright any more in the room.
Elke saw that the doors of the alcove-bed, in which her father had
slept his last sleep were open and she went up and closed them fast.
Almost absently she read the proverb that was written on them in
golden letters between roses and carnations: "If thou thy day's work
dost aright, Then sleep comes by itself at night."

That was from her grandfather! She cast a glance at the sideboard; it
was almost empty. But through the glass doors she could still see the
cut-glass goblet which her father, as he used to tell with relish, had
once won as a prize when riding the ring in his youth. She took it out
and set it in front of the dikemaster general's plate. Then she went
to the window, for already she heard the carriages drive up the hill;
one after the other they stopped in front of her house, and, more
briskly than they had come, the guests leaped from their seats to the
ground. Rubbing their hands and chattering, all crowded into the room;
it was not long before they sat down at the festive board, where the
well-prepared dishes were steaming-in the best parlor the dikemaster
general and the pastor. And noise and loud talking ran along the
table, as if death had never spread its awful stillness here. Silent,
with her eyes upon her guests, Elke walked round the tables with her
maids, to see that nothing was missing at the funeral meal. Hauke
Haien, too, sat in the living-room with Ole Peters and other small
landowners.

When the meal was over, the white pipes were taken out of the corner
and lighted, and Elke was again busy offering the filled coffee cups
to her guests; for there was no economy in coffee, either, on this
day. In the living-room, at the desk of the man just buried, the
dikemaster general stood talking with the pastor and the white-haired
dike overseer Jewe Manners.

"Well, gentlemen," said the former; "we have buried the old dikemaster
with honor; but where shall we get the new one? I think, Manners, you
will have to make up your mind to accept this dignity."

Old Manners smiled and lifted his little black velvet cap from his
white hair: "Mr. Dikemaster General," he said, "the game would be too
short then; when the deceased Tede Volkers was made dikemaster I was
made overseer and have been now for forty years."

"That is no defect, Manners; then you know the affairs all the better
and won't have any trouble with them."

But the old man shook his head: "No, no, your Honor, leave me where I
am, then I can run along with the rest for a few years longer."

The pastor agreed with him: "Why not give the office," he said, "to
the man who has actually managed the affairs in the last years?"

The dikemaster general looked at him: "I don't understand you,
pastor!"

But the pastor pointed with his finger to the best parlor, where Hauke
in a slow serious manner seemed to be explaining something to two
older people. "There he stands," he said; "the long Frisian over there
with the keen grey eyes, the bony nose and the high, projecting
forehead. He was the old man's hired man and now has his own little
place; to be sure, he is rather young."

"He seems to be about thirty," said the dikemaster general, inspecting
the man thus presented to him.

"He is scarcely twenty-four," remarked the overseer Manners; "but the
pastor is right: all the good work that has been done with dikes and
sluices and the like in the last years through the office of
dikemaster has been due to him; the old man couldn't do much toward
the end."

"Indeed?" said the dikemaster general; "and you think, he would be the
right man to move up into the office of his old master?"

"He would be absolutely the right man," replied Jewe Manners; "but he
lacks what they call here 'clay under one's feet;' his father had
about fifteen, he may well have twenty acres; but with that nobody has
yet been made dikemaster."

The pastor had already opened his mouth, as if he wanted to object,
when Elke Volkers, who had been in the room for a while, spoke to them
suddenly: "Will your Honor allow me a word?" she said to the
dikemaster general; "I am speaking only to prevent a mistake from
turning into a wrong."

"Then speak, Miss Elke," he replied; "wisdom always sounds well from
the lips of pretty girls."

"It isn't wisdom, your Honor; I only want to tell the truth."

"That too one must be able to hear, Miss Elke."

The girl let her dark eyes glance sideways, as if she wanted to make
sure that there were no superfluous ears about: "Your Honor," she
began then, and her breast heaved with a stronger motion, "my
godfather, Jewe Manners, told you that Hauke Haien owned only about
twenty acres; that is quite true in this moment, but as soon as it
will be necessary, Hauke will call his own just so many more acres as
my father's, now my own farm, contains. All that together ought to be
enough for a dikemaster."

Old Manners stretched his white head toward her, as if he had to see
who was talking there: "What is that?" he said; "child, what are you
talking about?"

But Elke pulled a gleaming gold ring on a black ribbon out of her
bodice: "I am engaged, godfather Manners," she said; "here is my ring,
and Hauke Haien is my betrothed."

"And when-I think I may ask that, as I held you at your baptism, Elke
Volkerts-when did that happen?"

"That happened some time ago; but I was of age, godfather Manners,"
she said; "my father's health had already fallen off, and as I knew
him, I thought I had better not get him excited over this; now that he
is with God, he will see that his child is in safekeeping with this
man. I should have kept still about it through the year of mourning;
but for the sake of Hauke and of the diked-in land, I had to speak."
And turning to the dikemaster general, she added: "Your Honor will
please forgive me."

The three men looked at one another; the pastor laughed, the old
overseer limited himself to a "hm, hm!" while the dikemaster general
rubbed his forehead as if he were about to make an important decision.
"Yes, dear miss," he said at last, "but how about marriage property
rights here in this district? I must confess I am not very well versed
in these things at this moment in all this confusion."

"You don't need to be, your Honor," replied the daughter of the
dikemaster, "before my wedding I shall make my goods over to my
betrothed. I have my little pride too," she added smiling; "I want to
marry the richest man in the village."

"Well, Manners," said the pastor, "I think you, as godfather, won't
mind if I join the young dikemaster with the old one's daughter!"

The old man shook his head gently: "Our Lord give His blessing!" he
said devoutly.

But the dikemaster general gave the girl his hand: "You have spoken
truly and wisely, Elke Volkerts; I thank you for your firm
explanations and hope to be a guest in your house in the future, too,
on happier occasions than today. But that a dikemaster should have
been made by such a young lady-that is the wonderful part of this
story!"

"Your Honor," replied Elke and looked at the kindly high official with
her serious eyes, "a true man ought to be allowed the help of his
wife!" Then she went into the adjoining parlor and laid her hand
silently in that of Hauke Haien.

Several years had gone by: in the little house of Tede Haien now lived
a vigorous workman with his wife and child; the young dikemaster Hauke
Haien lived with his wife Elke Volkerts on the farm of her father. In
summer the mighty ash tree murmured as before in front of the house;
but on the bench that now stood beneath it, the young wife was usually
seen alone in the evening, sitting with some sewing in her hands;
there was no child yet from this marriage. The husband had other
things to do than to sit in front of his house door, for, in spite of
his having helped in the old man's management before, there was still
a multitude of labors to be done which, in those other times, he had
not found it wise to touch upon; but now everything had to be cleared
up gradually, and he swept with a stiff broom. Besides that, there was
the management of the farm, enlarged by his own land, especially as he
was trying to save a second hired man. So it came about that, except
on Sundays, when they went to church, the two married people saw each
other usually only during dinner, which Hauke ate with great haste,
and at the rise and close of day; it was a life of continuous work,
although one of content.

Then a troublesome rumor started. When one Sunday, after church, a
somewhat noisy company of young land-owners from the marshes and the
higher land had stayed over their cups at the inn, they talked, when
it came to the fourth and fifth glass, not about the king and the
government, to be sure-they did not soar so high in those days-but
about communal and higher officials, specially about the taxes
demanded of the community. And the longer they talked, the less there
was that found mercy in their eyes, particularly not the new dike
taxes. All the sluices and locks had always held out before, and now
they have to be repaired; always new places were found on the dike
that required hundreds of cartloads of earth-the devil take the whole
affair!

"That's all on account of your clever dikemaster," cried one of the
people of the higher land, "who always goes round pondering and sticks
his finger into every pie!"

"Yes, he is tricky and wants to win the favor of the dikemaster
general; but we have caught him!"

"Why did you let him be thrust on you?" said the other; "now you have
to pay in cash."

Ole Peters laughed. "Yes, Marten Fedders, that's the way it is here,
and it can't be helped: the old one was made dikemaster on account of
his father, the new one on account of his wife." The laughter which
ran round the table showed how this sally was appreciated.

But as it had been spoken at the public table of an inn, it did not
stay there, and it was circulated in the village of the high land as
well as that of the marshes below; and so it reached Hauke. Again the
row of ill-meaning faces passed by his inner eye, and he heard the
laughter round the tavern table more jeering than it really was.
"Dogs!" he shouted, and his eyes looked grimly to the side, as if he
wanted to have these people whipped.

Then Elke laid her hand upon his arm: "Let them be; they all would
like to be what you are."

"That's just it," he replied angrily.

"And," she went on, "didn't Ole Peters better himself by marriage?"

"He did, Elke; but what he married with Vollina wasn't enough to be
dikemaster on."

"Say rather: he wasn't enough," and Elke turned her husband round so
that he had to look into the mirror, for they stood between the
windows in their room. "There is the dikemaster!" she said; "now look
at him; only he who can manage an office has it."

"You're not wrong," he replied pensively, "and yet-Well, Elke, I have
to go to the eastern lock; the gates won't close again."

He went; but he was not gone long, before the repairing of the lock
was forgotten. Another idea, which he had only half thought out and
carried round with him for years, which, however, had been pushed back
by the urgent affairs of his office, now took hold of him again and
more powerfully than before, as if he had suddenly grown wings.

Before he was really aware of it himself, he found himself on the sea-
dike a good way south toward the city; the village that lay on this
side had some time ago vanished to the left. He was still walking on,
fixing his eyes constantly on the seaward side of the broad foreland.
If some one had walked beside him, he must have seen what concentrated
mental work was going on behind those eyes. At last he stood still:
the foreland here dwindled into a narrow strip along the dike. "It
will have to work!" he said to himself. "Seven years in the office-
they shan't say any more that I am dikemaster only because of my
wife."

He was still standing there, and his eyes swept sharply and
thoughtfully on all sides over the green foreland. Then he walked back
until, here too, the broad plain that lay before him ended in a narrow
strip of green pastureland. Through this, close by the dike, shot a
strong arm of the sea which divided almost the whole foreland from the
mainland and made it an island; a crude wooden bridge led to it, so
that one could go back and forth with cattle or teams of hay or grain.
It was low tide now, and the golden September sun was glistening on
the strip of wet clay, about a hundred feet broad, and on the deep
channel in the middle of it through which the sea was even now driving
its waters. "That can be damned!" said Hauke to himself, after he had
watched this playing of the water for a while. Then he looked up, and
on from the dike upon which he stood, past the channel, he drew an
imaginary line along the edge of the isolated land, round toward the
south and back again to the east over the eastern continuation of the
channel, up to the dike. But the line which he had drawn invisibly was
a new dike, new also in the construction of its outline, which as yet
existed only in his head.

"That would make dammed-in land of about a thousand acres," he said
smiling to himself; "not so large; but-"

Another calculation came into his mind: the foreland here belonged to
the community, or rather, a number of shares to the single members,
according to the size of their property in the municipality or other
legal income. He began to count up how many shares he had received
from his father and how many from Elke's father, and how many he had
already bought during his marriage, partly with a dim foreboding of
future gain, partly because of his increased sheep stock. It was a
considerable lot; for he had also bought all of Ole Peter's shares
when the latter had been disgusted because his best ram had been
drowned, once when the foreland had been partly flooded. What
excellent pasture and farm land that must make and how valuable it
would be if it were all surrounded by his new dike! Like intoxication
this idea rose into his brain; but he pressed his nails into the
hollows of his hands and forced his eyes to see clearly and soberly
what lay there before him: a great plain without a dike exposed to who
knew what storms and floods in the next years, and at its outermost
edge a herd of dirty sheep now wandering and grazing slowly. That
meant a heap of work, struggle, and annoyance for him! In spite of all
that, as he was walking on the footpath down from the dike across the
fens toward his hill, he felt as if he were carrying home a great
treasure.

In the hall Elke came to meet him: "How about the lock?" she asked.

He looked down at her with a mysterious smile: "We shall soon need
another lock," he said; "and sluices and a new dike."

"I don't understand," returned Elke, as they walked into the room;
"what do you want to do, Hauke?"

"I want," he began slowly and then stopped for a second, "I want the
big foreland that begins opposite our place and stretches on westward
to be diked in and made into a solid enclosure. The high floods have
left us in peace for almost a generation now; but when one of the bad
ones comes again and destroys the growth down there-then all at once
there'll be an end to all this glory. Only the old slackway has let
things stay like this till to-day."

She looked at him with astonishment: "Why, you are scolding yourself!"
she said.

"I am, Elke; but till now there were so many other things to do."

"Yes, Hauke; surely, you have done enough."

He had sat down in the armchair of the old dikemaster, and his hands
were clutching both arms fast.

"Have you the courage for it?" his wife asked him.

"I have that, Elke," he spoke hastily.

"Don't be too hasty, Hauke; that work is a matter of life and death;
and almost all the people will be against you, they won't thank you
for your labor and trouble."

He nodded. "I know that!" he said.

"And if it will only succeed," she cried again, "ever since I was a
child I heard that the channel can't be stopped up, and that therefore
one shouldn't touch it."

"That was an excuse for the lazy ones!" said Hauke; "why shouldn't one
be able to stop up the channel?"

"That I have not heard; perhaps because it goes right through; the
rush of the water is too strong." A remembrance came over her and an
almost mischievous smile gleamed out of her serious eyes: "When I was
a child," she told, "I heard our hired men talk about it once; they
said, if a dam was to hold there, some live thing would have to be
thrown into the hold and diked up with the rest; when they were
building a dike on the other side, about a hundred years ago, a gipsy
child was dammed in that they had bought from its mother for a lot of
money. But now I suppose no one would sell her child."

Hauke shook his head: "Then it is just as well that we have none; else
they would do nothing less than demand it of us."

"They shouldn't get it!" said Elke and folded her arms across her body
as if in fear.

And Hauke smiled; but she asked again: "And the huge cost? Have you
thought of that?"

"I have, Elke; what we will get out of it will far surpass the cost;
even the cost of keeping up the old dike will be covered a good bit by
the new one. We do our own work and there are over eight teams of
horses in the community, and there is no lack of young strong arms. At
least you shan't have made me dikemaster for nothing, Elke; I want to
show them that I am one!"

She had been crouching in front of him and looking at him full of
care; now she rose with a sigh. "I have to go back to my day's work,"
she said, and gently stroked his cheek; "you do yours, Hauke."

"Amen, Elke!" he said with a serious smile; "there is work enough for
us both."

There was truly work enough for both, but the heaviest burden was now
on the man's shoulder. On Sunday afternoons, often too in the
evenings, Hauke sat together with a good surveyor, deep in
calculations, drawings and plans; when he was alone, he did the same
and often did not stop till long after midnight. Then he would slip
into their common sleeping-room-for the stuffy beds fixed to the wall
in the living-room were no longer used in Hauke's household-and his
wife would lie with her eyes closed, pretending to sleep, so that he
would get his rest at last, although she was really waiting for him
with a beating heart. Then he would sometimes kiss her forehead and
say a low word of love, and then lie down to sleep, though sleep often
did not come to him before the first crowing of the cock. In the
winter storms he ran out on the dike with pencil and paper in his
hand, and stood and made drawings and took notes while a gust of wind
would tear his cap from his head and make his long, light hair fly
round his heated face. Soon, as long as the ice did not bar his way,
he rowed with a servant out into the sea and with plumb line and rods
measured the depths of the currents about which he was not yet sure.
Often enough Elke trembled for his life, but when he was safely back,
he could hardly have noticed anything, except by the tight clasp of
her hand or by the bright lightning that gleamed from her usually so
quiet eyes. "Have patience, Elke," he said once when it seemed to him
as if his wife would not let him alone; "I have to have the whole
thing clear to myself before I propose it." Then she nodded and let
him be. There were no less rides into the city, either, to see the
dikemaster general, and all these and the labors for house and farm
were always followed by work late into the night. His intercourse with
other people outside of his work and business vanished almost
entirely; even with his wife it grew less and less. "These are bad
times, and they will last long yet," said Elke to herself and went to
her work.

At last, when sun and spring winds had broken the ice everywhere, the
last work in preparation had been done. The petition to the dikemaster
general, to be seconded by a higher official, contained the proposal
that the foreland should be diked for the promoting of the general
weal, particularly of the diked-in district, as well as the ruler's
treasury, as this would receive in a few years the taxes from about a
thousand acres. This was neatly copied and put into a firm envelope
together with the corresponding drafts and plans of all the positions,
present and future, of the locks and sluices and everything else that
belonged to the project; and this was sealed with the official seal of
the dikemaster.

"Here it is, Elke," said the young dikemaster; "now give it your
blessing."

Elke laid her hand into his: "We want to stand by each other," she
said.

"Yes, we do."

Then the petition was sent into the city by a messenger on horseback.

I must call your attention to the fact, dear sir, the school-master
interrupted his account, fixing his eyes pleasantly upon me, that what
I have told you up to this point I have gathered during my activity of
almost forty years in this district from the traditions of intelligent
people or from the tales of their grandchildren and great-
grandchildren. What I am about to tell you now, so that you may find
the right connection between what has gone before and the final
outcome of my story, used to be and is still the talk of the whole
marsh village, as soon as the spinning-wheels begin to whir round All
Saints' Day.

If one stood on the dike, about five or six hundred feet to the north
of the dikemaster's farm, one could, at that time, look a few thousand
feet out over the sea, and somewhat farther from the opposite shore
one could see a little island, which they called "Jeverssand," or
"Jevers Island." Our forefathers of that generation had used it as a
pasture for sheep, for at that time grass was still growing on it; but
even that had stopped, because the low island had several times been
flooded by the sea, and in midsummer too, so that the growth of grass
was stunted and made useless as a sheep pasture. So it happened that
the island had no more visitors except gulls and other birds and
occasionally a sea eagle; and on moonlight nights from the dike one
could only see the light or heavy mists pass over it. And people
believed that, when the moon shone upon the island from the east, they
could recognise a few bleached skeletons of drowned sheep and that of
a horse, although, to be sure, no one could understand how it had come
there.

It was at the end of March that the day laborer from the house of Tede
Haien and Iven Johns, the hired man of the young dikemaster, stood
beside each other at that place and without stirring stared at the
island which could scarcely be recognised in the dim moonshine; but
something out of the ordinary seemed to hold them there. The laborer
put his hands into his pockets and shuddered: "Come, Iven," he said;
"there's nothing good in that; let us go home."

The other laughed, even though horror sounded through his laughter:
"Oh, bosh, it's a live creature, a big one! Who the devil has chased
it on to the clay out there? Look, now it's stretching its neck our
way! No, it's drooping its head; it is feeding. I'd have thought,
there was nothing to feed on there! What can it be?"

"That's not our business!" replied the other. "Good night, Iven, if
you don't want to go with me; I'm going home!"

"Oh, yes; you've got a wife, you can go into your warm bed! But I've
got a lot of March air in my room!"

"Good night, then," the laborer called back, as he marched home on the
dike. The hired man looked round a few times after his fleeing
companion; but the desire to see something gruesome held him fast.
Then a dark, stocky figure came toward him on the dike from the
village; it was the servant boy of the dikemaster. "What do you want,
Carsten?" the hired man called to him.

"I?-nothing," said the boy; but our master wants to speak to you, Iven
Johns."

The man's eyes were drawn back to the island again. "All right, I'm
coming right off," he said.

"What are you looking at so?" asked the boy.

The man raised his arm and pointed silently to the island. "Oh, look!"
whispered the boy; "there goes a horse-a white horse-the devil must be
riding that-how can a horse get to Jevers Island?"

"Don't know, Carsten; if it's only a real horse!"

"Yes, yes, Iven; look, now it's feeding just like a horse! But who has
brought it there-we have no boats in the village big enough! Perhaps
it's only a sheep; Peter Ohm says by moonlight ten circles of peat
look like a whole village. No, look! Now it's jumping around-it must
be a horse after all!"

Both stood silent for a while, their eyes fixed on what they saw
indistinctly going on upon yonder island. The moon stood high in the
heavens and shone upon the wide sea what was just beginning, as the
tide rose, to wash with its waters over the glistening flats of clay.
Only the low murmur of the water, not the sound of a single animal was
heard here in the vast open; on the marshes behind the dike, too, all
was deserted, and cows and oxen were still in their stalls. Nothing
stirred; only the thing that they took for a horse-a white horse-
seemed to be moving on Jevers Island. "It is growing lighter," the
hired man broke into the silence; "I can see the white sheeps'
skeletons shimmer distinctly!"

"I too," said the boy and stretched his neck; but then, as if it came
over him suddenly, he pulled the man by the sleeve. "Iven," he gasped,
"the horse skeleton, that used to lie there too-where is that? I can't
see it!"

"I don't see it either. Strange!" said the man.

"Not so strange, Iven! Sometimes, I don't know in what nights, the
bones are supposed to rise and act as if they were alive!"

"Is that so?" said the man; "that's an old wives' story!"

"May be, Iven," said the boy.

"But I thought you were sent to get me. Come, we have to go home. It
always stays the same, anyway."

The man could not get the boy away until he had turned him round by
force and pushed him on to the way. "Listen, Carsten," said the
former, when the ghostly island lay a good way behind him, "you are
supposed to be a good sport; I believe you would like to inspect these
doings yourself."

"Yes," replied Carsten, still shuddering a little. "Yes, I'd like to
do that, Iven."

"Do you really mean that? Then," said the man after he had given his
hand to the boy emphatically, "we'll take our boat to-morrow evening;
you row to Jeverssand; I'll stay on the dike in the meantime."

"Yes," replied the boy, "that'll work! I'll take my whip with me."

"Do that."

Silently they came near the house of their employers, to which they
slowly climbed up the high hill.

At the same hour on the following night the hired man sat on the big
stone in front of the stable door, when the boy came to him, snapping
his whip. "What a strange sound!" said the former.

"I should say-take care!" returned the boy; "I have stuck nails into
the string, too."

"Then come," said the other.

As on the night before, the moon stood in the eastern sky and looked
down with a clear light. Soon both were not on the dike again and
looked over to Jevers Island, that looked like a strip of mist in the
water. "There it goes again," said the man; "I was here in the
afternoon, and then it wasn't there; but I saw the white horse
skeleton lying there distinctly!"

The boy stretched his neck: "That isn't there now, Iven," he
whispered.

"Well, Carsten, how is it?" said the man. "Are you still keen on
rowing over?"

Carsten stopped to think a moment; then he struck the air with his
whip: "Go ahead and slip the mooring, Iven."

But over yonder it seemed as if the creature moving there were
stretching its neck and raising its head toward the mainland. They
were not seeing it any more; they were already walking down the dike
to the place where the boat was moored. "Now get in," said the man,
after he had slipped the mooring. "I'll wait till you are back. You'll
have to land on the eastern side; that's where one always could land."
And the boy nodded silently and rowed away into the moonlit night with
his whip; the man wandered back to the foot of the dike and climbed on
to it again at the place where they had stood before. Soon he saw how
the boat was moored at a steep, dark place, where a broad creek flowed
out, and how a stocky figure leaped ashore. Didn't it seem as if the
boy were snapping his whip? But then, too, it might be the sound of
the rising flood. Several hundred feet to the north he saw what they
had taken for a white horse; and how-yes, the figure of the boy came
marching straight up to it. Now it raised its head as if it were
startled; and the boy-now one could hear it plainly-snapped his whip.
But-what was he doing? He was turning round, he was going back the
same way he had come. The creature over there seemed to graze on
unceasingly; no sound of neighing could be heard; sometimes it seemed
as if strips of water were drawn across the apparition. The man gazed
as if spellbound.

Then he heard the arrival of the boat at the shore he was on, and soon
in the dusk he saw the boy climb toward him up the dike. "Well,
Carsten," he asked, "what was it?"

The boy shook his head. "It was nothing!" he said. "From the boat I
saw it a short way off; but then, when I was on the island-the devil
knows where that animal has hid himself! The moonlight was bright
enough; but when I came to that place there was nothing there but the
pale bones of a half dozen sheep, and a little farther away lay the
horse skeleton, too, with its white, long skull and let the moon shine
into its empty sockets."

"Hm!" replied the man; "are you sure you saw right?"

"Yes, Iven, I stood in the place; a forlorn bird that had cowered
behind the skeleton for the night flew up screaming so that I was
startled and snapped my whip after it a few times."

"And that was all?"

"Yes, Iven; I don't know any more."

"It is enough, too," said the man, then he pulled the boy toward him
by the arm and pointed over to the island. "Do you see something over
there, Carsten?"

"It's true, there it goes again."

"Again?" said the man; "I've been looking over there all the time, and
it hasn't been away at all; you went right up to the monster."

The boy stared at him; all at once horror was in his usually so pert
face, and this did not escape the man. "Come," said the latter "let's
go home: from here it looks alive and over there is nothing but bones-
that's more than you and I can grasp. But keep quiet about it, one
mustn't talk of these things."

They turned round and the boy trotted beside him; they did not speak,
and by their side the marshes lay in perfect silence.

But when the moon had vanished and the nights were black, something
else happened.

At the time when the horse market was going on Hauke Haien had ridden
into the city, although he had had nothing to do with the market.
Nevertheless, when the came home toward evening, he brought home a
second horse. It had rough hair, however, and was lean, so that one
could count every rib and its eyes looked tired and sunken deep into
the sockets. Elke had stepped out in front of the house door to meet
her husband: "Heaven help us!" she cried, "what shall we do with that
old white horse?" For when Hauke had ridden up to the house with it
and stopped under the ash tree, she had seen that the poor creature
was lame, too.

The young dikemaster, however, jumped laughing down from his brown
horse: "Never mind, Elke; it didn't cost much, anyway."

The clever woman replied: "You know, the greatest bargain turns out to
be the most expensive."

"But not always, Elke; this animal is at most four years old; look at
it more carefully. It is starved and has been abused; our oats shall
do it good. I'll take care of it myself, so that they won't overfeed
it."

Meanwhile the animal stood with bowed head; its long mane hung down
its neck. Elke, while her husband was calling the hired men, walked
round it with curious eyes; but she shook her head: "A horse like this
has never yet been in our stable."

When the servant boy came round the corner, he suddenly stood still
with frightened eyes. "Well, Carsten," called the dikemaster, "what
has struck you? Don't you like my white horse?"

"Yes-oh, yes, master, why not?"

"Then take the animal into the stable; don't feet it. I'll come myself
right off."

The boy took hold of the halter of the white horse carefully and then
hastily, as if for protection, seized the bridle of the brown horse
also put into his trust. Hauke then went into the room with his wife.
She had warm beer ready for him, and bread and butter were there, too.

He had soon finished; then he got up and walked up and down the room
with his wife. "Let me tell you, Elke," he said, while the evening
glow played on the tiles of the wall, "how I came to get the animal. I
spent about an hour at the dikemaster general's; he has good news for
me-there will be some departures, here and there, from my drawings;
but the main thing, my outline, has been accepted, and the next days
may bring the command to begin the new dike."

Elke sighed involuntarily. "After all?" she said, anxiously.

"Yes, wife," returned Hauke; "it will be hard work; but for that, I
think, the Lord has brought us together! Our farm is in such good
order now, you can take a good part of it on your own shoulders. Think
ahead ten years-then we'll own quite a different property."

During his first words she had pressed her husband's hand into hers as
a sign of assurance; but his last words could give her no pleasure.
"For whom all the property?" she said. "You would have to take another
wife then; I shall bring you no children."

Tears shot into her eyes; but he drew her close into his arms. "We'll
leave that to the Lord," he said; "but now and at that time too, we
are young enough to have joy for ourselves in the fruits of our
labors."

She looked at him a long time with her dark eyes while he held her.
"Forgive me, Hauke," she said; "sometimes I am a woman in despair."

He bent down to her face and kissed her: "You are my wife and I am
your husband, Elke. And nothing can alter that."

Then she clasped her arms tightly round his neck: "You are right,
Hauke, and what comes, will come for us both." Then she freed him,
blushing. "You wanted to tell me about the white horse," she said in a
low voice.

"So I did, Elke, I told you, my head and heart were full of joy over
the good news that the dikemaster general had given me. So I was
riding back again out of the city, when on the dam, behind the harbor,
I met a shabby fellow-I couldn't tell if he was a vagabond, a tinker,
or what. This fellow was pulling the white horse after him by the
halter; but the animal raised his head and looked at me with dull
eyes. It seemed to me as if he wanted to beg me for something-and,
indeed, at that moment I was rich enough. 'Hallo, good sir,' I hailed
him, 'where do you want to go with your jade?'

"The fellow stopped, and the white horse, too. 'Sell him,' he said,
and nodded to me slyly.

"'But spare me!' I called cheerfully.

"'I think I shall!' he said; 'it's a good horse and worth no less than
a hundred dollars.'

"I laughed into his face.

"'Well,' he said, 'don't laugh so hard; you don't need to pay it. But
I have no use for it, it'll perish with me; with you it would soon
look different.'

"Then I jumped down from my brown horse and looked into the white
horse's mouth and saw that it was still a young animal. 'How much do
you want for it?' I cried, for again the horse seemed to look at me
beseechingly.

"'Sir, take it for thirty dollars,' said the fellow, and I'll give you
the halter to the bargain.'

"And then, wife, I took the fellow's stretched-out brown hand, which
looked almost like a claw. And so we have the white horse, and I think
a good enough bargain. The only strange thing was that, when I rode
away with the horses, I soon heard laughter behind me, and when I
turned round my head, saw the Slovak standing with his legs apart, his
arms on his back, and laughing after me like a devil.

"Oh, horror," cried Elke; "I hope that white horse will bring you
nothing from his old master. May he thrive for your good, Hauke!"

"Thrive he shall, at least as far as I can make him!" And the
dikemaster went into the stable, as he had told the boy a while ago.

But not only on the first night did he feed the white horse-from that
time on he always did it himself and did not leave the animal out of
sight. He wanted to show that he had mad a first-rate bargain; anyway,
he did not want to allow any mistake. And already after a few weeks
the animal's condition improved: gradually the rough hair vanished; a
smooth, blue-spotted skin appeared, and one day when he led it round
on the place, it walked nimbly on its steady legs. Hauke thought of
the adventurous seller. "That fellow was a fool, or a knave who had
stolen it," he murmured to himself. Then soon, when the horse merely
heard his footsteps, it threw back its head and neighed to greet him;
and now he saw too that it had, what the Arabs demand of a good horse,
a spare face, out of which two fiery brown eyes were gleaming. He
would lead it into its stable and put a light saddle on it; and
scarcely did he sit on the saddle, when the animal uttered a neigh
like a shout of delight. It sped away with him, down the hill to the
road and then to the dike; but the rider sat securely, and when they
had reached the top, it went more quietly, easily, as if dancing, and
thrust its head to the side of the sea. He patted and stroked its
smooth neck, but it no longer needed these endearments, the horse
seemed altogether to be one with the rider, and after he had ridden a
distance northwards out on the dike, he turned it easily and reached
the farm again.

The men stood at the foot of the hill and waited for the return of
their master. "Now, John," he cried, as he leaped down from his horse.
"you ride it to the fens where the others are; it'll carry you like a
cradle."

The white horse shook its head and neighed aloud over the sunny
marshes, while the hired man was taking off the saddle and the boy ran
with it to the harness-room; then it laid its head on its master's
shoulder and suffered him to caress it. But when the hired man wanted
to swing himself on its back, it leaped to the side with a sudden
bound and then stood motionless, turning its beautiful eyes on its
master. "Hallo, Iven," cried Hauke, "has he hurt you?" and he tried to
help his man up from the ground.

The latter was busily rubbing his hip: "No, sir, I can manage still;
but let the devil ride that white horse!"

"And me!" Hauke added, laughing. "Then bring him to the fens by the
bridle."

"And when the man obeyed, somewhat humiliated, the white horse meekly
let itself be led.

A few evenings later the man and the boy stood together in front of
the stable door. The sunset gleam had vanished behind the dike, the
land it enclosed was already wrapped in twilight; only at rare
intervals from far off one could hear the lowing of a startled bull or
the scream of a lark whose life was ending through the assault of a
weasel or a water rat. The man was leaning against the doorpost and
smoking his short pipe, from which he could no longer see the smoke;
he and the boy had not yet talked together. Something weighed on the
boy's soul, however, but he did not know how to begin with the silent
man. "Iven," he said finally, "you know that horse skeleton on
Jeverssand."

"What about it?" asked the man.

"Yes, Iven, what about it? It isn't there any more-neither by day nor
by moonlight; I've run up to the dike about twenty times."

"The old bones have tumbled to pieces, I suppose," said Iven and
calmly smoked on.

"But I was out there by moonlight, too; nothing is moving over there
on Jeverssand, either!"

"Why, yes!" said the man, "if the bones have fallen apart, it won't be
able to get up any more."

"Don't joke, Iven! I know now; I can tell you where it is."

The man turned to him suddenly: "Well, where is it, then?"

"Where?" repeated the boy emphatically. "It is standing in our stable;
there it has been standing, ever since it was no more on the island.
It isn't for nothing that our master always feeds it himself; I know
about it, Iven."

For a while the man puffed away violently into the night. "You're not
right in your mind, Carsten," he said then; "our white horse? If ever
a horse was alive, that one is. How can a wide-awake youngster like
you get mixed up with such an old wives' belief!"

But the boy could not be converted: if the devil was inside the white
horse, why shouldn't it be alive? On the contrary, it was all the
worse. He started, frightened, every time that he stepped into the
stable toward night, where the creature was sometimes kept in summer
and it turned its fiery head toward him so violently. "The devil take
you!" he would mutter; "we won't stay together much longer!"

So he secretly looked round for a new place, gave notice and, about
All Saints' Day, went to Ole Peters as hired man. Here he found
attentive listeners for his story of the dikemaster's devil's horse.
Fat Mrs. Vollina and her dull-witted father, the former dike overseer,
Jess Harders, listened in smug horror and afterwards told it to all
who had a grudge against the dikemaster in their hearts or who took
pleasure in that kind of thing.

In the mean time already at the end of March the order to begin on the
new dike had arrived from the dikemaster general. Hauke first called
the dike overseers together, and in the inn up by the church they had
all appeared one day and listened while he read to them the main
points from the documents that had been drawn up so far: points from
his petition from the report of the dikemaster general, and lastly the
final order in which, above all, the outline which he had proposed was
accepted, so that the new dike should not be steep like the old ones,
but slant gradually toward the sea. But they did not listen with
cheerful or even satisfied faces.

"Well, yes," said an old dike overseer, "here we have the whole
business now, and protests won't do any good, because the dikemaster
general patronises our dikemaster."

"You're right, Detlev Wiens," added a second; "our spring work is
waiting, and now a dike miles long is to be made-then everything will
have to be left undone."

"You can finish all that this year," said Hauke; "things don't move as
fast as that."

Few wanted to admit that. "But your profile," said a third, bringing
up something new; "the dike will be as broad on the outside toward the
water as other things are long. Where shall we get the material? When
shall the work be done?"

"If not this year, then next year; that will depend chiefly on
ourselves," said Hauke.

Angry laughter passed along the whole company. "But what is all that
useless labor for? The dike isn't supposed to be any bigger than the
old one;" cried a new voice; "and I'm sure that's stood for over
thirty years."

"You are right," said Hauke, "thirty years ago the old dike broke;
then backwards thirty-five years ago, and again forty-five years ago;
but since then, although it is still standing steep and senseless, the
highest floods have spared us. But the new dike is to stand in spite
of such floods for hundreds of years; for it will not be broken
through; because the gentle slope toward the sea gives the waves no
point of attack, and so you will gain safe land for yourselves and
your children, and that is why the government and the dikemaster
general support me-and, besides, that is what you ought to be aware of
for your own profit."

When the assembled were not ready on the spot to answer these words,
an old white-haired man rose with difficulty from his chair. It was
Elke's godfather, Jewe Manners, who, in response to Hauke's
beseeching, had kept his office as dike overseer.

"Dikemaster Hauke Haien," he said, "you give us much commotion and
expense, and I wish you had waited with all this until the Lord had
called me to rest; but-you are right, and only unreason can deny that.
We ought to thank God every day that He has kept us our precious piece
of foreland against storms and the force of the tide, in spite of our
idleness; now, I believe, is the eleventh hour, in which we must lend
a hand and try to save it for ourselves to the best of our knowledge
and powers, and not defy God's patience any longer. I, my friends, am
an old man; I have seen dikes built and broken; but the dike that
Hauke Haien has proposed according to his God-given insight and has
carried through with the government-that dike none of you living men
will see broken. And if you don't want to thank him yourselves, your
grandchildren some day will not deny him his laurel wreath."

Jewe Manners sat down again; he took his blue handkerchief from his
pocket and wiped a few drops from his forehead. The old man was still
known as a man of efficiency and irreproachable integrity, and as the
assembly was not inclined to agree with him, it remained silent. But
Hauke Haien took the floor, though all saw that he had grown pale.

"I thank you, Jewe Manners," he said, "for staying here and for what
you have said. You other gentlemen, have the goodness at least to
consider the building of the new dike, which indeed will be my burden,
as something that cannot be helped any more, and let us decide
accordingly what needs to be done."

"Speak!" said one of the overseers. And Hauke spread the map of the
new dike out on the table.

"A while ago someone has asked," he began, "from where we shall get
the soil? You see, as far as the foreland stretches out into the
flooded district, a strip of land is left free outside of the dike
line; from this we can take our soil and from the foreland which runs
north and south along the dike from the new enclosed land. If we have
a good layer of clay at the water side, at the inside and the middle
we can take sand. Now first we have to get a surveyor to mark off the
line of the new dike on the foreland. The one who helped me work out
my plan will be best suited for the work. Furthermore we have to order
some one-horse tip-carts at a cartwright's for the purpose of getting
our clay and other material. For damming the channel and also for the
inside, where we may have to use sand, we shall need-I cannot tell now
how many cartloads of straw for the dike, perhaps more than can be
spared in the marshes. Let us discuss then now how all this is to be
acquired and arranged. The new lock here, too, on the west side toward
the water will have to be given over to an efficient carpenter later
for repairs."

The assembly gathered round the table, looked at the map with half
attention and gradually began to talk; but it seemed as if they did it
merely so that there might be some talking. When it came to the choice
of a surveyor, one of the younger ones remarked: "You have thought it
out, dikemaster; you must know best yourself who is fit for it."

But Hauke replied: "As you are sworn men, you have to speak your own
opinion, Jacob Meyen; and if you think of something better, I'll let
my proposal fall."

"Oh, I guess it'll be all right," said Jacob Meyen.

But one of the older ones did not think it would be so perfectly all
right. He had a nephew, a surveyor, the like of whom had never been in
the marshes, who was said to surpass the dikemaster's father, the late
Tede Haien.

So there was a discussion about the two surveyors and it was finally
decided to let both do the work together. There was similar disputing
over the carts, the furnishing of the straw and everything else, and
Hauke came home late and almost exhausted on his brown horse which he
was still riding at that time. But when he sat in the old armchair,
handed down from his self-important but more easy-going predecessor,
his wife was quickly at his side: "You look tired, Hauke, she said,
and with her slender hand pushed his hair out of his forehead.

"A little, I suppose," he replied.

"And is it getting on?"

"It'll get on;" he said with a bitter smile; "but I myself have to
push the wheels and have to be glad if they aren't kept back."

"But not by all?"

"No, Elke; your godfather, Jewe Manners, is a good man; I wish he were
thirty years younger."

When after a few weeks the dike line had been marked off and most of
the carts had been furnished, the dikemaster had gathered together in
the inn by the church all the shareholders of the land to be diked in
and also the owners of the land behind the old dike. He wanted to
present to them a plan for the distribution of the work and the cost
and to hear their possible objections; for the owners of the old land
had to bear their part of the labor land the cost because the new dike
and the new sluices would lessen the running expenses of the older
ones. This plan had been a hard piece of work for Hauke and if he had
not been given a dike messenger and a dike clerk through the mediation
of the dikemaster general, he could not have accomplished it so soon,
although again he was working well into the night. When he went to
bed, tired to death, his wife no longer waited for him with feigned
sleep; she, too, had such a full share of daily work that she lay, as
if at the bottom of a deep well, in a sleep that could not be
disturbed.

Now Hauke read his plan and again spread his papers out on the table-
papers which, to be sure, had already lain for three days in the inn
for inspection. Some serious men were present, who regarded this
conscientious diligence with awe, and who, after quiet consideration,
submitted to the low charge of the dikemaster. But others, whose
shares in the new land had been sold either by themselves or their
fathers or someone else who had bought them, complained because they
had to pay part of the expenses of the new diked-in land which no
longer concerned them, not thinking that through the new work the old
lands would be less costly to keep up. Again there were others who
were blessed with shares for the new land who clamoured that one
should buy these of them for very little, because they wanted to be
rid of shares that burdened them with such unreasonable labor. Old
Peters who was leaning against the doorpost with a grim face, shouted
into the midst: "Think first and then trust in our dikemaster! He
knows how to calculate; he already had most of the shares, then he was
clever enough to get mine at a bargain, and when he had them, he
decided to dike in the new land."

After these words for a moment a deadly silence fell upon the
assembly. The dikemaster stood by the table where he had spread out
his papers before; he raised his head and looked over to Old Peters:
"You know very well, Ole Peters," he said, "that you are libeling me;
you are doing it just the same, because you know that, nevertheless, a
good part of the dirt you are throwing at me will cling to me. The
truth is that you wanted to be rid of your shares, and that at that
time I needed them for my sheep raising. And if you want to know more
I will tell you that the dirty words which escaped your lips here at
the inn, namely that I was made dikemaster only on account of my wife-
that they have stirred me up and I wanted to show you all that I could
be dikemaster on my own account. And so, Ole Peters, I have done what
the dikemaster before me ought to have done. If you are angry, though,
because at that time your shares were made mine-you hear now, there
are enough who want to sell theirs cheaply, because the work connected
with them is too much."

There was applause from a small part of the assembled men, and old
Jewe Manners, who stood among them, cried aloud: "Bravo, Hauke Haien!
The Lord will let your work succeed!"

But they did not finish after all, although Ole Peters was silent, and
the people did not disperse till supper time. Not until they had a
second meeting was everything settled, and then only after Hauke had
agreed to furnish four teams in the next month instead of the three
that were his share.

At last, when the Whitsuntide bells were ringing through the land, the
work had begun: unceasingly the dumpcarts were driven from the
foreland to the dike line, there to dump the clay, and in the same way
an equal number was driven back to get new clay from the foreland. At
the line of the dike itself men stood with shovels and spades in order
to put the dumped clay into its right place and to smooth it. Huge
loads of straw were driven up and taken down. This straw was not only
used to cover the lighter material, like sand and loose earth, which
was used for the inside; gradually single pieces of the dike were
finished, and the sod with which they were covered was in places
securely overlaid with straw as a protection against the gnawing
waves. Inspectors engaged for the purpose walked back and forth, and
when it was stormy, they stood with wide open mouths and shouted their
orders through wind and storm. In and out among them rode the
dikemaster on his white horse, which he now used exclusively, and the
animal flew back and forth with its rider, while he have his orders
quickly and drily, praised the workmen, or, as it happened sometimes,
dismissed a lazy or clumsy man without mercy. "That can't be helped!"
he would cry; "we can't have the dike spoiled on account of your
laziness!" From far, when he came up from the enclosed land below,
they heard the snorting of his horse, and all hands went to work more
briskly. "Come on, get to work! There's the rider on the white horse!"

During breakfast time, when the workmen sat together in masses on the
ground, with their morning bread, Hauke rode along the deserted works,
and his eyes were sharp to spy where slovenly hands had used the
spade. Then when he rode up to the men and explained to them how the
work ought to be done, they would look up at him and keep on chewing
their bread patiently; but he never heard a word of assent or even any
remark. Once at this time of day, though rather late, when he had
found the work on a part of the dike particularly well done, he rode
to the nearest assembly of breakfasting men, jumped down from his
white horse and asked cheerfully who had done such a neat day's work.
But they only looked at him shyly and sombrely and only slowly, as if
against their will, a few names were given. The man to whom he had
given his horse, which stood as meekly as a lamb, held it with both
hands and looked as if he were frightened at the animal's beautiful
eyes fixed, as usual, upon its master.

"Well, Marten," Hauke called to him: "why do you stand there as if you
had been thunderstruck?"

"Sir, your horse is so calm, as if it were planning something bad!"

Hauke laughed and took the horse by the reins himself, when
immediately it rubbed its head caressingly against his shoulder. Some
of the workmen looked shyly at horse and rider, others ate their
morning meal silently, as if all this were no concern of theirs, and
now and then threw a crumb to the gulls who had remembered this
feeding place and with their slender wings almost descended on the
heads of the men. For a while the dikemaster gazed absently at the
begging birds as they chased with their bills the bits thrown at them;
then he leaped to his saddle and rode away, without turning round to
look at the men. Some of the words that now were being spoken among
them sounded to him like derision. "What can that mean?" he spoke to
himself. "Was Elke right when she said that all were against me? These
laborers and poorer people, too, many of whom will be well off through
my new dike?"

He spurred on his horse, which flew down into the enclosed land as if
it were mad. To be sure, he himself knew nothing of the uncanny
glamour with which the rider of the white horse had been clothed by
his former servant boy; but now the people should have seen him, with
his eyes staring out of his haggard face, his coat fluttering on his
fiery white horse.

Thus summer and autumn had passed and until toward the end of November
the work had been continued; then frost and snow had put a stop to the
labors and it was decided to leave the land that was to be diked in,
open. Eight feet the dike rose above the level of the land. Only where
the lock was to be made on the west side toward the water, a gap had
been left; the channel up in front of the old dike had not yet been
touched. So the flood could make its way into the enclosed land
without doing it or the new dike either any great damage. And this
work of human hands was entrusted to the great God and put under His
protection until the spring sun should make possible its completion.

In the mean time a happy event had been expected in the house of the
dikemaster: in the ninth year of his marriage a child had been born.
It was red and shrivelled and weighed seven pounds, as new-born
children should when they belong, as this one did, to the female sex;
only its crying was strangely muffled and did not please the wise
woman. The worst of all was that on the third day Elke was seized with
high childbed fever, was delirious and recognised neither her husband
nor her old helper. The unbounded joy that had come over Hauke at the
sight of his child had turned to sorrow. The doctor from the city was
called, he sat at her bedside and felt her pulse and looked about
helplessly. Hauke shook his head: "He won't help; only God can help!"
He had thought out a Christianity of his own, but there was something
that kept back his prayer. When the old doctor had driven away, Hauke
stood by the window, staring out into the wintry day, and while the
patient was screaming in her delirium, he folded his hands-he did not
know whether he did so in devotion or so as not to lose himself in his
terrible fear.

"The sea! The sea!" wailed the patient. "Hold me!" she screamed; "hold
me, Hauke!" Then her voice sank; it sounded, as if she were crying:
"Out on the sea, on the wide sea. Oh, God, I'll never see him again!"

Then he turned round and pushed the nurse from the bed; he fell on his
knees, clasped his wife and drew her to his heart: "Elke, Elke, don't
you know me? I am with you!"

But she only opened wide her eyes glowing with fever and looked about,
as if hopelessly lost.

He laid her back on her pillows; then he pressed his hands together
convulsively: "Lord, my God," he cried; "don't take her from me! Thou
knowest, I cannot live without her!" Then it seemed as if a thought
came to him, and he added in a lower voice: "I know well Thou canst
not always do as Thou wouldst-not even Thou; Thou art all-wise; Thou
must act according to Thy wisdom. Oh Lord, speak to me through a
breath!"

It seemed as if there were a sudden calm. He only heard low breathing;
when he turned to the bed, he saw his wife lying in a quiet sleep and
the nurse looking at him with horrified eyes. He heard the door move.

"Who was that?" he asked.

"Sir, the maid Ann Grethe went out; she had brought in the warming-
pan."

"Why do you look at me so in such confusion, Madame Levke?"

"I? I was frightened by your prayer; with that you can't pray death
away from anybody!"

Hauke looked at her with his penetrating eyes: "Do you, too, like our
Ann Grethe, go to the conventicle at the Dutch tailor Jantje's?"

"Yes, sir; we both have the living faith!"

Hauke made no reply. The practise of holding seceding conventicles,
which at that time was in full swing, had also blossomed out among the
Frisians. "Down-and-out" artisans and schoolmasters dismissed as
drunkards played the leading parts, and girls, young and old women,
lazy and lonely people went eagerly to the secret meetings at which
anybody could play the priest. Of the dikemaster's household Ann
Gerthe and the servant boy in love with her spent their free evenings
there. To be sure, Elke had not concealed her doubtful opinion of this
from Hauke, but he had said that in matters of faith one ought not to
interfere with anyone: this could not hurt anybody, and it was better
to have them go there than to the inn for whiskey.

So he had let it be, and so he had kept silent even now. But, to be
sure, people were not silent about him; the words of his prayer were
spread from house to house. He had denied the omnipotence of God; what
was a God without omnipotence? He was a denier of God; that affair
with the devil's horse may have something in it after all!

Hauke heard nothing of all this; his ears and eyes were open only for
his wife in these days, even his child did not exist for him any more.

The old doctor came again, came every day, sometimes twice, then
stayed a whole night, again wrote a prescription and Iven Johns
swiftly rode with it to the apothecary. But finally the doctor's face
grew more cheerful, and he nodded confidentially to the dikemaster:
"She'll pull through. She'll pull through, with God's help!" And one
day-whether it was because his skill had conquered her illness or
because in answer to Hauke's prayer God had been able after all to
find a way out of his trouble-when the doctor was alone with the
patient, he spoke to her, while his old eyes smiled: "Lady, now I can
safely say to you: to-day the doctor has his gala-day; things looked
very darkly for you, but now you belong to us again, to the living!"

Then a flood of light streamed out of her dark eyes; "Hauke, Hauke,
where are you?" she cried, and when, in response to her loud cry, he
rushed into the room and to her bed, she flung her arms round his
neck: "Hauke, my husband-saved! I can stay with you!" then the old
doctor pulled his silk handkerchief out of his pocket, wiped his
forehead and cheeks with it and nodding left the room.

On the third evening after this day a pious speaker-it was a
slippermaker who had once been dismissed by the dikemaster-spoke at
the conventicle held at the Dutch tailor's, where he explained to his
audience the attributes of God: "But he who denies the omnipotence of
God, who says: "I know Thou canst not as Thou wouldst"-we all know the
unhappy man; he weighs like a stone on the community-he has fallen off
from God and seeks the enemy of God, the friend of sin, as his
comforter; for the hand of man has to lean upon some staff. But you-
beware of him who prays thus; his prayer is a curse!"

This too was spread from house to house. What is not spread in a small
community? And it reached Hauke's ears. He said no word about it, not
even to his wife; but sometimes he would embrace her violently and
draw her to himself: "Stay faithful, Elke! Stay faithful to me!" Then
her eyes would look up at him full of wonder. "Faithful to you? To
whom else should I be faithful?" After a short while, however, she had
understood his words. "Yes, Hauke, we are faithful to each other; not
only because we need each other." Then each went his and her way to
work.

So far all would have been well. But in spite of all the lively work,
a loneliness had spread round him, and in his heart nestled a
stubbornness and a reserved manner toward other people. Only toward
his wife he was always the same, and every evening and every morning
he knelt at the cradle of his child as if there he could find the
place of his eternal salvation. Towards servants and workmen, however,
he grew more severe; the clumsy and careless ones whom he used to
instruct with quiet reproaches were now startled by his harsh address,
and sometimes Elke had to make things right quietly where he had
offended.

When spring came, work on the dike began again. The gap in the western
dike line was closed by a temporary dike half-moon shaped on the
inside and the same toward the outside, for the protection of the new
lock about to be made. And as the lock grew, so the chief dike
gradually acquired its height, which could be more and more quickly
attained. The work of directing was not any easier for the dikemaster,
as in place of Jewe Manners, Ole Peters had stepped in as dike
overseer. Hauke had not cared to attempt preventing this, but now in
place of the encouraging word and the corresponding friendly slap on
the shoulder that he had earned form his wife's old godfather, he had
to cope with the successor's secret hostility and unnecessary
objections which had to be thwarted with equally unnecessary reasons.
For Ole belonged to the important people, to be sure, but not to the
clever ones in dike matters; besides, the "scribbling hired man" of
former days was still in his way.

The brightest sky again spread over sea and marshes, and the enclosed
land was once more gay with strong cattle, the bellowing of which from
time to time interrupted the widespread calm. Larks sang continually
high in the air, but one was not aware of it until for the time of
heartbeat the singing had ceased. No bad weather disturbed the work,
and the lock was ready with its unpainted structure of beams before it
needed the protection of the temporary dike for even one night; the
Lord seemed to favor the new work. Then Elke's eyes would laugh to
greet her husband when he came home from the dike on his white horse.
"You did turn into a good animal!" he said, and then patted the
horse's smooth neck. But when he saw the child clinging round her
neck, Hauke leaped down and let the tiny thing dance in his arms.
Then, when the white horse would fix its brown eyes on the child, he
would say: "Come here, you shall have the honor." And he would place
little Wienke-for that was her Christian name-on the saddle and lead
the white horse round in a circle on the hill. The old ash tree, too,
sometimes had the honor; he would set the child on a swinging bough
and let it rock. The mother stood in the house door with laughing
eyes. But the child did not laugh; her eyes, between which there was a
delicate little nose, looked a little dully into the void, and her
little hands did not try to seize the small stick that her father was
holding for her to take. Hauke did not pay attention to this,
especially as he knew nothing about such little children. Only Elke,
when she saw the bright-eyed girl on the arm of her charwoman, who had
been confined at the same time with her, sometimes said with regret:
"Mine isn't as far on as yours yet, Trina." And the woman, as she
shook the chubby boy she held by the hand with brusque love, would
cry: "Yes, madam, children are different; this one here, he stole
apples out of my room before he was more than two years old." And Elke
pushed the chubby boy's curls from his eyes, and then secretly pressed
her quiet child to her heart.

At the beginning of October, the new lock stood solidly at the west
side in the main dike, now closed on both sides. Except for the gaps
by the channel, the new dike now sloped all the way round with a
gentle profile toward the water and rose above the ordinary high tide
by fifteen feet. From the northwestern corner one could look
unhindered past Jevers Island out over the sea. But, to be sure, the
winds blew more sharply here; one's hair fluttered, and he who wanted
a view from this point had to have his cap securely on his head.

Toward the end of November, when storm and rain had set in, there
remained only one gap to close, the one hard by the old dike, at the
bottom of which the sea water shot through the channel into the new
enclosure. At both sides stood the walls of the dike; now the cleft
between them had to vanish. Dry summer weather would have made the
work easier; but it had to be done anyway, for a rising storm might
endanger the whole work. And Hauke staked everything on accomplishing
the end. Rain poured down, the wind whistled; but his lean figure on
the fiery white horse rose now here, now there out of the black masses
of people who were busy by the gap, above and below, on the north side
of the dike. Now he was seen below beside the dump-carts that already
had to go far on the foreland to get the clay; a crowded lot of these
had just reached the channel in order to cast off their loads. Through
the splashing of the rain and the roaring of the wind, from time to
time sounded the sharp orders of the dikemaster, who wanted to rule
here alone to-day. He called the carts according to their numbers and
ordered back those that were crowding up. When his "Stop" sounded,
then all work ceased. "Straw!" Send down a load of straw! he called to
those above, and the straw from one of their loads came tumbling down
on to the wet clay. Below men jumped about in it and tore it apart and
called up to the others that they did not want to be buried. Again new
carts came, and Hauke was up on top once more, and looked down from
his white horse into the cleft below and watched them shovel and dump
their loads. Then he glanced out over the sea. The wind was sharp and
he saw how the edge of the water was climbing higher up the dike and
that the waves rose still higher. He saw, too, that the men were
drenched and could scarcely breathe during their hard work because of
the wind which cut off the air right before their mouths and because
of the cold rain that was pouring down on them. "Hold out, men! Hold
out!" he shouted down to them. "Only one foot higher; then it'll be
enough for this flood." And through all the raging of the storm one
could hear the noise of the workmen; the splashing of the masses of
clay tumbling down, the rattling of the carts and the rustling of the
straw let down from above went on unceasingly. In the midst of these
noises, now and then, the wailing of a little yellow dog could be
heard, which, shivering and forlorn, was knocked about among all the
men and teams. Suddenly a scream of anguish from the little animal
rose out of the cleft. Hauke looked down: he had seen the dog hurled
down from above. His face suddenly flushed with rage. "Stop! Stop!" he
shouted down to the carts; for the wet clay was being heaped up
unceasingly.

"Why?" a rough voice bawled up from below, "not on account of the
wretched brat of a dog?"

"Stop, I say!" Hauke shouted again; "bring me the dog! I don't want
any crime done with our work."

But not a hand stirred; only a few spades full of tough clay were
still thrown beside the howling animal. Then he spurred his white
horse so that it uttered a cry and stormed down the dike, and all gave
way before him. "The dog!" he shouted, "I want the dog!"

A hand slapped his shoulder gently, as if it were the hand of old Jewe
Manners, but when Hauke looked round, he saw that it was only a friend
of the old man's. "Take care, dikemaster!" he whispered to him. "You
have no friends among these people; let this dog business be!"

The wind whistled, the rain splashed, the men had stuck their spades
into the ground, some had thrown them away. Hauke bent down to the old
man. "Do you want to hold my horse, Harke Jens?" he asked; and the
latter scarcely had the reins in his hand when Hauke had leaped into
the cleft and held the little wailing animal in his arms. Almost in
the same moment he sat high in his saddle again and galloped back to
the dike. He glanced swiftly over the men who stood by the teams. "Who
was it?" he called. "Who threw down this creature?"

For a moment all was silent, for rage was flashing from the face of
the dikemaster, and they had a superstitious fear of him. Then a
muscular fellow stepped down from a team and stood before him. "I
didn't do it, dikemaster," he said, bit off a piece from his roll of
tobacco, and calmly pushed it into his mouth before he went on, "but
he who did it, did right; if your dike is to hold, something alive has
to be put into it!"

"Something alive? From what catechism have you learned that?"

"From none, sir!" replied the fellow with a pert laugh: "our
grandfathers knew that, who, I am sure, were as good Christians as
you! A child is still better; if you can't get that, a dog will do!'

"You keep still with your heathen doctrines," Hauke shouted at him,
"the hole would be stopped up better if you had been thrown into it!"

"Oho!" sounded from a dozen throats, and the dikemaster saw grim faces
and clenched fists round him; he saw that these were no friends. The
thought of his dike came over him like a sudden fear. What would
happen if now all should throw down their spades? As he glanced down
he again saw the friend of old Jewe Manners, who walked in and out
among the workmen, talked to this one and that one, smiled at one,
slapped another on the shoulder with a pleasant air-and one after
another took up his spade again. After a few minutes the work was in
full swing-What was it that he still wanted? The channel had to be
closed and he hid the dog safely in the folds of his cloak. With a
sudden decision, he turned his white horse to the next team: "Let down
the straw!" he called despotically, and the teamster obeyed
mechanically. Soon it rustled down into the depth, and on all sides
all arms were stirring again.

This work lasted an hour longer. It was six o'clock, and deep twilight
was descending; the rain had stopped. Then Hauke called the
superintendents together beside his horse: "To-morrow morning at four
o'clock," he said, "everybody is to be in his place; the moon will
still be shining, then we'll finish with God's blessing. And one thing
more," he cried, when they were about to go: "do you know this dog?"
And he took the trembling creature out of his cloak.

They did not know it. Only one man said: "He has been begging round
the village for days; he belongs to nobody."

"Then he is mine!" said the dikemaster. "Don't forget: to-morrow
morning at four o'clock!" And he rode away.

When he came home, Ann Grethe stepped out of the door. She had on neat
clothing, and the thought shot through his head that she was going to
the conventicle tailor's.

"Hold out your apron!" he called to her, and as she did so
automatically, he threw the little dog, all covered with clay, into
the apron.

"Carry him in to little Wienke; he is to be her companion! But wash
and warm him first; then you'll do a good deed, too, that will please
God, for the creature is almost frozen!"

And Ann Grethe could not help obeying her master, and therefore did
not get to the conventicle that day.

The next day the last cut with the spade was made on the new dike. The
wind had gone down; gulls and other sea birds were flying back and
forth over land and water in graceful flight. From Jevers Island one
could hear like a chorus of a thousand voices the cries of the wild
geese that still were making themselves at home on the coast of the
North Sea, and out of the white morning mists that spread over the
wide marshes, gradually rose a golden autumn day and shed its light on
the new work of human hands.

After a few weeks the commissioners of the ruler came with the
dikemaster general for inspection. A great banquet, the first since
the funeral banquet of old Tede Volkerst, was given in the house of
the dikemaster, to which all the dike overseers and the greater
landowners were invited. After dinner all the carriages of the guests
and of the dikemaster were made ready. The dikemaster general helped
Elke into the carriage in front of which the brown horse was stamping
his hoofs; then he leaped in after her and took the reins himself, for
he wanted to drive the clever wife of his dikemaster himself. Then
they rode merrily from the hill down to the road, then up to the new
dike, and upon it all round the new enclosed land. In the mean time a
light northwest wind had risen and the tide was driven against the
north and west sides of the new dike. But one could not help being
aware of the fact that the gentle slope made the attack of the water
gentler; and praise was poured on the new dikemaster from the lips of
the ruler's commissioners, so that the objections which now and then
were slowly brought out by the overseers, were soon stifled by it.

This, too, passed by. But the dikemaster received another satisfaction
one day as he rode along on the new dike, in quiet, self-conscious
meditation. The question naturally arose in his mind, why the new
enclosure, which would not have had its being without him, into which
he had put the sweat of his brow and his night watches, now finally
was named after one of the princesses "the new Caroline-land." But it
was so: on all the documents concerned with it stood the name, on some
even in red Gothic letters. Then, just as he was looking up, he saw
two workmen coming toward him with their tools, the one about twenty
paces behind the other. "Why don't you wait!" he heard the one behind
calling. The other, who was just standing by a path which led down
into the new land, called to him: "Another time, Jens. I'm late; I
have to dig clay here."

"Where?"

"Down here, in the Hauke-Haien-land."

He called it aloud, as he trotted down the path, as if he wanted the
whole marsh below to hear it. But Hauke felt as if he were hearing his
fame proclaimed; he rose from his saddle, spurred on his horse and
with steady eyes looked over the wide land that lay to his left.
"Hauke-Haien-land! Hauke-Haien-land!" he repeated softly; that sounded
as if in all time it could not have another name. Let them defy him as
they would-they could not get round his name; the name of the
princess-wouldn't that soon moulder in old documents?-His white horse
galloped proudly and in his ears he heard a murmur: "Hauke-Haien-land!
Hauke-Haien-land!" In his thoughts the new dike almost grew into the
eighth wonder of the world; in all Frisia there was not the like of
it. And he let the white horse dance, for he felt as if he were
standing in the midst of all the Frisians, towering over them the
height of a head, and glancing down upon all keenly and full of pity.

Gradually three years had gone by since the building of the dike. The
new structure had proved its worth, the cost of repairing had been
small. And now almost everywhere in the enclosed land white clover was
blooming, and as one walked over the sheltered pastures, the summer
wind blew toward one a whole cloud of sweet fragrance. Thus the time
had come to turn the shares, which hitherto had only been ideal, into
real ones, and to allot to each shareholder the piece which he was to
keep as his own. Hauke had not been slow to acquire some new shares
before this; Old Peters had kept back out of spite, and owned nothing
in the new land. The distribution of the parts could not be
accomplished without annoyance and quarreling; but it was done,
nevertheless. This day, too, lay behind the dikemaster.

From now on he lived in a lonely way for his duties as farmer and as
dikemaster and for those who were nearest to him. His old friends were
no longer living, and he was not the man to make new ones. But under
his roof was a peace which even the quiet child did not mar. She spoke
little, the constant questioning that is so characteristic of bright
children was rare with her and usually came in such a way that it was
hard to answer; but her dear, simple little face almost always wore an
expression of content. She had two play-fellows, and they were enough:
when she wandered over the hill, the rescued little yellow dog always
jumped round her, and when the dog appeared, little Wienke did not
stay away long. The second companion was a pewit gull. As the dog's
name was "Pearl" so the gull was called "Claus."

Claus had been installed on the farm by an aged woman. Eighty-year-old
Trin Jans had not been able to keep herself any longer in her hut on
the outer dike; and Elke had thought that the aged servant of her
grandfather might find peaceful evening hours and a good room to die
in at her home. So, half by force, she and Hauke had brought her to
their farm and settled her in the little northwest room in the new
barn that the dikemaster had had built beside the main house when he
had enlarged his establishment. A few of the maids had been given
rooms next to the old woman's and could help her tonight. Along the
walls she kept her old furnishings; a chest made of wood from sugar
boxes, above it two coloured pictures of her lost son, then a
spinning-wheel, now at rest, and a very neat canopied bed in front of
which stood an unwieldy stool covered with the white fur of the
defunct Angora cat. But something alive, too, she had had about her
and brought with her: that was the gull Claus, which had been attached
to her and fed by her for years. To be sure, when winter came, it flew
with the other gulls to the south and did not come again until the
wormwood was fragrant on the shore.

The barn was a little lower down on the hill, so the old woman could
not look over the dike at the sea from her window. "You keep me here
as in prison, dikemaster," she muttered one day, as Hauke stepped in
to see her, and she pointed with her bent finger at the fens that
spread out below. "Where is Jeverssand? Above those red oxen or those
black ones?"

"What do you want Jeverssand for?" asked Hauke.

"Jeverssand!" muttered the old woman. "Why, I want to see where my boy
that time went to God!"

"If you want to see that," Hauke replied, "you'll have to sit up there
under the ash tree. From there you can look over the whole sea."

"Yes," said the old woman; "yes, if I had your young legs,
dikemaster."

This was the style of thanks the dikemaster and his wife received for
some time, until all at once everything was different. The little
child's head of Wienke one morning peeped in through her half-open
door. "Well," called the old woman, who sat with her hands folded on
her wooden stool; "what have you to tell me?"

But the child silently came nearer and looked at her constantly with
its listless eyes.

"Are you the dikemaster's child?" Trin Jans asked, and as the child
lowered its head as if nodding, she went on: "Then sit down here on my
stool. Once it was an Angora cat-so big! But your father killed it. If
it wee still alive, you could ride on it."

Wienke silently turned her eyes to the white fur; then she knelt down
and began to stroke lit with her little hands as children are wont to
do with live cats or dogs. "Poor cat!" she said then and went on with
her caresses.

"Well," cried the old woman after a while, "now that's enough; and you
can sit on him to-day, too. Perhaps your father only killed him for
that." Then she lifted up the child by both arms and set it down
roughly on the stool. But when it remained sitting there, silent and
motionless and only kept looking at her, she began to shake her head.
"Thou art punishing him, Lord God! Yes, yes, Thou art punishing him!"
she murmured. But pity for the child seemed to come over her; she
stroked its scanty hair with her bony hand, and the eyes of the little
girl seemed to show that this did her good.

From now on Wienke came every day to the old woman in her room. Soon
she sat down on the Angora stool of her own accord, and Trin Jans put
small bits of meat and bread which she always saved into the child's
little hands, and made her throw them on the floor. Then the gull shot
out of some corner with screams and wings spread out and pounced on
the morsels. At first the great, rushing bird frightened the child and
made her cry out; but soon it all happened like a game learned by
heart, and her little head only had to appear in the opening of the
door, when the bird rushed up to her and perched on her head and
shoulders, until the old woman helped and the feeding could begin.
Trin Jans who before never could bear to have anyone merely stretch
out a hand after her "Claus," now patiently watched the child
gradually win over the bird altogether. It willingly let itself be
chased, and she carried it about in her apron. Then, when on the hill
the little yellow dog would jump round her and up at the bird in
jealousy, she would cry: "Don't, don't, Pearl!" and lift the gull with
her little arms so high, that the bird, after setting itself free,
would fly screaming over the hill, and now the dog, by jumping and
caressing, would try to win its place in her arms.

When by chance Hauke's or Elke's eyes fell upon this strange four-
leaved clover which, as it were, was held to the same stem only by the
same defect-then they cast tender glances upon the child. But when
they turned away, there remained on their faces only the pain that
each carried away alone, for the saving word had not yet been spoken
between them. One summer morning, when Wienke sat with the old woman
and the two animals on the big stones in front of the barn door, both
her parents passed by-the dikemaster leading his white horse, with the
reins flung over his arm. He wanted to ride on the dike and had got
his horse out of the fens himself; on the hill his wife had taken his
arm. The sun shone down warmly; it was almost sultry, and now and then
a gust of wind blew from the south-southeast. It seemed that her seat
was uncomfortable for the child. "Wienke wants to go too!" she cried,
shook the gull out of her lap and seized her father's hand.

"Then come!" said he.

But Elke cried: "In this wind? She'll fly away from you!"

"I'll hold her all right; and to-day we have warm air and jolly water;
then she can see it dance!"

Then Elke ran into the house and got a shawl and a little cap for her
child. "But a storm is brewing," she said; "hurry and get on your way
and be back soon."

Hauke laughed: "That shan't get us!" and lifted the child to his
saddle. Elke stayed a while on the hill and, shading her eyes with her
hand, watched the two trot down the road and toward the dike. Trin Jan
sat on the stone and murmured incomprehensible things with her lips.

The child lay motionless in her father's arms. It seemed as if it
breathed with difficulty under the pressure of the sultry air. He bent
down his head to her: "Well, Wienke?" he asked.

The child looked at him a while: "Father," she said, "you can do that.
Can't you do everything?"

"What is it that I can do, Wienke?"

But she was silent; she seemed not to have understood her own
question.

It was high tide. When they came to the dike, the reflection of the
sun on the wide water flashed into her eyes, a whirlwind made the
waves eddy and raised them high up, ever new waves came and beat
splashing against the beach. Then, in her fear, her little hands clung
round her father's fist which was holding the reins, so that the horse
made a bound to the side. The pale-blue eyes looked up at Hauke in
confused fright: "The water, father! The water!" she cried.

But he gently freed his hand and said: "Be calm, child; you are with
your father; the water won't hurt you!"

She pushed her pale blond hair from her forehead and again dared to
look upon the sea. "It won't hurt me," she said trembling; "no, tell
it not to hurt us; you can do that, and then it won't do anything to
us!"

"I can't do that, child," replied Hauke seriously; "but the dike on
which we are riding shelters us, and this your father has thought out
and has had built."

Her eyes turned upon him as if she did not quite understand that; then
she buried her strikingly small head in the wide folds of her father's
coat.

"Why are you hiding, Wienke?" he whispered to her; "are you afraid?"
And a trembling little voice rose out of the folds of the coat:
"Wienke would rather not look; but you can do everything, can't you,
father?"

Distant thunder was rolling against the wind. "Hoho!" cried Hauke,
"there it comes!" And he turned his horse round to ride back. "Now we
want to go home to mother!"

The child drew a deep breath; but not until they had reached the hill
and the house did she raise her little head from her father's breast.
When Elke had taken off the little shawl and cap in the room, the
child remained standing before her mother like a dumb little ninepin.

"Well, Wienke," she said, and shook her gently, "do you like the big
water?"

But the child opened her eyes wide. "It talks," she said. "Wienke is
afraid!"

"It doesn't talk; it only murmurs and roars!"

The child looked into the void: "Has it got legs?" she asked again;
"can it come over the dike?"

"No, Wienke; your father looks out for that, he is the dikemaster."

"Yes," said the child and clapped her little hands together with an
idiotic smile. "Father can do everything-everything!" Then suddenly,
turning away from her mother, she cried: "Let Wienke go to Trin Jans,
she has red apples!"

And Elke opened the door and let the child out. When she had closed it
again, she glanced at her husband with the deepest anguish in her eyes
from which hitherto he had drawn only comfort and courage that had
helped him.

He gave her his hand and pressed hers, as if there were no further
need for words between them; then she said in a low voice: "No, Hauke,
let me speak: the child that I have borne you after years will stay a
child always. Oh, good God! It is feeble-minded! I have to say it once
in your hearing."

"I knew it long ago," said Hauke and held tightly his wife's hand
which she wanted to draw away.

"So we are left alone after all," she said again.

But Hauke shook his head: "I love her, and she throws her little arms
round me and presses close to my breast; for all the treasures of the
world I wouldn't miss that!"

The woman stared ahead darkly: "But why?" she asked; "what have I,
poor mother, done?"

"Yes, Elke, that I have asked, too, of Him who alone can know; but you
know, too, that the Almighty gives men no answer-perhaps because we
would not grasp it."

He had seized his wife's other hand too, and gently drew her toward
him. "Don't let yourself be kept from loving your child as you do; be
sure it understands that."

Then Elke threw herself on her husband's breast and cried to her
heart's content and was on longer alone with her grief. Then suddenly
she smiled at him; after pressing his hand passionately, she ran out
and got her child from old Trin Jans' room, took it on her lap and
caressed and kissed it, until it stammered:

"Mother, my dear mother!"

Thus the people on the dikemaster's farm lived quietly; if the child
had not been there, it would have been greatly missed.

Gradually the summer passed by; the migrating birds had flown away,
the song of larks was no longer in the air; only in front of the
barns, where they pecked at the grain in thrashing time, one could
hear some of them scream as they flew away. Already everything was
frozen hard. In the kitchen of the main house Trin Jans sat one
afternoon on the wooden steps of a stairway that started beside the
stove and led to the attic. In the last weeks it seemed as if a new
life had entered into her. Now she liked to go into the kitchen
occasionally and watch Elke at work; there was no longer any idea of
her legs not being able to carry her so far, since one day little
Wienke had pulled her up here by her apron. Now the child was kneeling
beside her, looking with her quiet eyes into the flames that were
blazing up out of the stove-hole; one of her little hands was clinging
to the old woman's sleeve, the other was in her own pale blonde hair.
Trin Jans was telling a story: "You know," she said, "I was in the
service at your great-grandfather's, as housemaid, and there I had to
feed the pigs. He was cleverer than all the rest-then it happened-it
was awfully long ago-but, one night, by moonlight, they had the lock
to the sea closed, and she couldn't go back into the sea. Oh, how she
screamed and clutched her hard, bristly hair with her fish-hands! Yes,
child, I saw her and heard her scream. The ditches between the fens
were all full of water, and the moon beamed on them so that they shone
like silver; and she swam from one ditch into another and raised her
arms and clapped what hands she had together, so that one could hear
the splash from far, as if she wanted to pray. But, child, those
creatures can't pray. I sat in front of the house door on a few beams
that had been driven there to build with, and looked far over the
fens; and the mermaid was still swimming in the ditches, and when she
raised her arms, they were glittering with silver and diamonds. At
last I saw her no longer, and the wild geese and gulls that I had not
been hearing all the time were again flying through the air with
whistling and cackling."

The old woman stopped. The child had caught one word: "Couldn't pray?"
she asked. "What are you saying? Who was that?"

"Child," said the old woman; "it was the mermaid; they are monsters
and can't be saved."

"Can't be saved!" repeated the child, and a deep sigh made her little
breast heave, as if she had understood that.

"Trin Jans!" a deep voice sounded from the kitchen door, and the old
woman was a little startled. It was the dikemaster Hauke Haien, who
leaned there by the post; "what are you telling the child? Haven't I
told you to keep your fairy-tales for yourself or else to tell them to
the geese and hens?"

The old woman looked at him with an angry glance and pushed the little
girl away. "That's no fairy-tale," she murmured, "my great-uncle told
it to me!"

"Your great-uncle, Trin? You just said you had seen it yourself."

"That doesn't matter," said the old woman; "but you don't believe me,
Hauke Haien; you want to make my great-uncle a liar!" Then she moved
nearer to the stove and stretched her hands out over the flames of the
stove-hole.

The dikemaster cast a glance at the window: twilight had scarcely
begun. "Come, Wienke!" he said and drew his feeble-minded child toward
him; "come with me, I want to show you something outside, from the
dike. But we have to walk; the white horse is at the blacksmith's."
Then he took her into the room and Elke wrapped thick woolen shawls
round the child's neck and shoulders; and soon her father walked with
her on the old dike toward the north-west, past Jeverssand, where the
flats stretched out broad and almost endless.

Now he would carry her, now she would walk holding his hand; the
twilight thickened; in the distance everything vanished in mist and
vapour. But in parts still in sight, the invisibly swelling streams
that washed the flats had broken the ice and, as Hauke Haien had once
seen it in his youth, steaming mists rose out of the cracks as at that
time, and there again the uncanny foolish figures were hopping toward
one another, bowed and suddenly stretched out into horrible breadths.

The child clung frightened to her father and covered her face with his
hand. "The sea devils!" she whispered, trembling, through his fingers;
"the sea devils!"

He shook his head: "No, Wienke, they are neither mermaids nor sea
devils; there are no such things; who told you about them?"

She looked up to him with a dull glance; but she did not reply.
Tenderly he stroked her cheeks: "Look there again!" he said, "they are
only poor hungry birds! Look now, how that big one spreads its wings;
they are getting the fish that go into those steaming cracks!"

"Fish!" repeated Wienke.

"Yes, child, they are all alive, just as we are; there is nothing
else; but God is everywhere!"

Little Wienke had fixed her eyes on the ground and held her breath;
she looked frightened as if she were gazing into an abyss. Perhaps it
only seemed so; her father looked at her a long while, he bent down
and looked at her little face, but on it was written no emotion of her
inscrutable soul. He lifted her on his arm and put her icy little
hands into one of his thick woollen mittens. "There, my Wienke"-the
child could not have been aware of the note of passionate tenderness
in his words-"there, warm yourself, near me! You are our child, our
only one. You love us-" The man's voice broke; but the little girl
pressed her small head tenderly against his rough beard.

And so they went home in peace.

After New Year care had once more entered the house. A fever of the
marshes had seized the dikemaster; he too had hovered near the edge of
the grave, and when he had revived under Elke's nursing and care, he
scarcely seemed the same man. The fatigue of his body also lay upon
his spirit, and Elke noticed with some worry that he was always easily
satisfied. Nevertheless, toward the end of March, he had a desire to
mount his white horse and for the first time to ride along his dike
again. This was one afternoon when the sun that had shone before, was
shrouded for a long while by dim mist.

In the winter there had been a few floods; but they had not been
serious. Only over by the other shore a flock of sheep had been
drowned on an island and a piece of the foreland torn away; here on
this side and on the new land no damage worth mentioning had been
done. But in the last night a stronger storm had raged; now the
dikemaster had to go out and inspect everything with his own eyes. He
had ridden along on the new dike from the southeastern corner and
everything was well preserved. But when he reached the northeastern
corner, at the point where the new dike meets the old one, the new
one, to be sure, was unharmed. But where formerly the channel had
reached the old dike and flowed along it, he saw a great, broad piece
of the grassy scar destroyed and washed away and a hollow in the body
of the dike worn by the flood, in which, moreover, a network of paths
made by mice was exposed. Hauke dismounted and inspected the damage
close by: there was no doubt that the mischief done by the mice
extended on invisible.

He was startled violently. All this should have been considered when
the new dike was being built; as it had been overlooked then,
something had to be done now. The cattle were not yet grazing in the
fens, the growth of the grass was unusually backward; wherever he
looked there was barrenness and void. He mounted his horse again and
rode up and down the shore; it was low tide, and he was well aware of
how the current had again dug itself a new bed in the clay and had now
hit upon the old dike. The new dike, however, when it was hit, had
been able to withstand the attack on account of its gentler slope.

A heap of new toil and care rose before the mind's eye of the
dikemaster. Not only did the old dike have to be reenforced, its
profile, too, had to be made more like that of the new one; above all,
the channel, which again had proved dangerous, had to be turned aside
by new dams or walls.

Once more he rode on the new dike up to the farthest northwestern
corner, then back again, keeping his eyes continually on the newly
worn bed of the channel which was marked off clearly on the exposed
clay beside him. The white horse pushed forward, snorted and pawed
with its front hoofs; but the rider held him back, for he wanted to
ride slowly, and to curb the inner unrest that was seething within him
more and more wildly.

If a storm flood should come again-a flood like the one in 1655, when
property and unnumbered human beings were swallowed up-if it should
come again, as it had come several times before! A violent shudder
came over the rider-the old dike would not hold out against the sudden
attack. What then-what would happen then? There would be only one, one
single way of possibly saving the old enclosed land with the property
and life in it. Hauke felt his heart stand still, his usually so
steady head grew dizzy. He did not utter it, but something spoke
within him strongly enough: your land, the Hauke-Haien-land, would
have to be sacrificed and the new dike pierced.

In his mind's eye he saw the rushing tide break in and cover grass and
clover with its salty, foaming spray. His spur pricked the flanks of
his white horse, which, with a sudden scream, flew along the dike and
down the road that led to the hill of the dikemaster.

He came home with his head full of inner fright and disorderly plans.
He threw himself into his armchair, and when Elke came into the room
with their daughter, he rose again, lifted up the child and kissed it.
Then he chased away the little yellow dog with a few light slaps. "I
have to go up to the inn again," he said, and took his cap from the
hook by the door, where he had only just put it.

His wife looked at him anxiously. "What do you want to do there? It is
near evening, Hauke."

"Dike matters!" he muttered. "I'll meet some of the overseers there."

She followed him and pressed his hand, for with these words he had
already left the door. Hauke Haien, who hitherto had made all
decisions by himself, now was eager for a word from those whom he had
not considered worthy of taking an interest before. In the room of the
tavern he found Ole Peters with two of the overseers and an inhabitant
of the district at the card table.

"I suppose you come from out there, dikemaster?" said Ole, who took up
the already half distributed cards and threw them down again.

"Yes, Ole," Hauke replied; "I was there; it looks bad."

"Bad? Well, it'll cost a few hundred pieces of sod and a straw
covering. I was there too this afternoon.

"It won't be done so cheaply, Ole," replied the dikemaster; "the
channel is there again, and even if it doesn't hit the old dike from
the north, it hits it from the north-west."

"You should have left it where you found it," said Ole drily.

"That means," returned Hauke, "the new land's none of your business;
and therefore it should not exist. That is your own fault. But if we
have to make walls to protect the old dike, the green clover behind
the new one will bring us a profit above the cost."

"What are you saying, dikemaster?" cried the overseers; "Walls? How
many? You like to have the most expensive of everything."

The cards lay untouched upon the table. "I'll tell you, dikemaster,"
said Ole Peters, and leaned on both elbows, "Your new land that you
presented to us is a devouring thing. Everybody is still laboring
under the heavy cost of your broad dike; and now that is devouring our
old dike too we are expected to renew it. Fortunately it isn't so bad;
the dike has held out so far and will continue to hold out. Mount your
white horse to-morrow and look at it again!"

Hauke had come here from the peace of his own house; behind these
words he had just heard, moderate though they were, there lay-and he
could not but be aware of it-tough resistance; he felt, too, as if he
were lacking his old strength to cope with it. "I will do as you
advise, Ole," he said; "only I fear I shall find it as I have seen it
to-day."

A restless night followed this day. Hauke tossed sleepless upon his
pillows. "What is the matter?" asked Elke who was kept awake by worry
over her husband; "if something depresses you, speak it out; that's
the way we've always done."

"It's of no consequence, Elke," he replied, "there is something to
repair on the dike at the locks; you know that I always have to work
over these things at night." That was all he said; he wanted to keep
freedom of action; unconsciously the clear insight and strong
intelligence of his wife was a hindrance to him which he instinctively
avoided in his present weakness.

The following morning when he came out on to the dike once more the
world was different from the one he had seen the day before; it was
low tide again, to be sure, but the day had not yet attained its noon,
and beams of the bright spring sun fell almost perpendicularly onto
the endless flats. The white gulls flew quietly hither and thither,
and invisible above them, high under the azure sky, larks sang their
eternal melody. Hauke, who did not know how nature can deceive one
with her charms, stood on the north-western corner of the dike and
looked for the new bed of the channel that had startled him so
yesterday, but in the sunlight pouring down from the zenith, he did
not even find it at first. Not until he had shaded his eyes from the
blinding rays, did he recognise it. Yet the shadows in the twilight of
yesterday must have deceived him: it could be discerned but faintly.
The exposed mouse business must have done more damage to the dike than
the flood. To be sure, things had to be changed; however, this could
be done by careful digging and, as Ole Peters had said, the damage
could be repaired by fresh sod and some bundles of straw for covering.

"It wasn't so bad," he said to himself, relieved; "you fooled yourself
yesterday." He called the overseers, and the work was decided on
without contradiction, something that had never happened before.

The dikemaster felt as if a strengthening calm were spreading through
his still weakened body and after a few weeks everything was neatly
carried out.

The year went on, but the more it advanced and the more undisturbed
the newly spread turf grew green through the straw covering, the more
restlessly Hauke walked or rode past the spot. He turned his eyes
away, he rode on the inside edge of the dike. A few times, when it
occurred to him that he would have to pass by the place, he had his
horse, though it was already saddled, led back into the stable. Then
again, when he had no business there, he would wander to it, suddenly
and on foot, so as to leave his hill quickly and unseen. Sometimes he
had turned back again, unable once more to inflict on himself the
sight of this uncanny place. Finally, he felt like breaking up the
whole thing with his own hands, for this piece of the dike lay before
his eyes like a bite of conscience that had taken on form outside of
himself. And yet his hand could not touch it any more; and to no one,
not even his wife, could he talk about it. Thus September had come; at
night a moderate storm had raged and at last had blown away to the
northwest. On the dull forenoon after it, at low tide, Hauke rode out
on the dike and, as his glance swept over the flats, something shot
through him: there, on from the northwest, he suddenly saw the ghostly
new bed of the channel again, more sharply marked and worn deeper. No
matter how hard he strained his eyes, it would not go.

When he came home, Elke seized his hand. "What's the matter, Hauke?"
she said, as she looked at his gloomy face. "There is no new calamity,
is there? We are so happy now; it seems, you are at peace now with all
of them."

After these words, he did not feel equal to expressing his confused
fear.

"No, Elke," he said, "nobody is hostile to me; but it is a responsible
function-to protect the community from our Lord's sea."

He withdrew, so as to escape further questioning by his beloved wife.
He walked through stable and barn, as if he had to look over
everything; but he saw nothing round about. He was preoccupied only
with hushing up his conscience, with convincing himself that it was a
morbidly exaggerated fear.

The year that I am telling about, my host, the school-master, said
after a while, was the year 1756, which will surely never be forgotten
in this region. Into the house of Hauke Haien it brought a death. At
the end of September Trin Jans, almost ninety years old, was dying in
the barn furnished for her. According to her wishes, they had propped
her up in her pillows, and her eyes wandered through the little
windows with their leaden casements far out into the distance. A thin
layer of atmosphere must have lain above a thicker one up in the sky,
for there was a high mirage and the reflection raised the sea like a
glittering strip of silver above the edge of the dike, so that it
shone dazzlingly into the room. The southern tip of Jeverssand was
visible, too.

At the foot of the bed little Wienke was cowering, holding with one
hand that of her father who stood beside her. On the face of the dying
woman death was just imprinting the Hippocratic face, and the child
stared breathlessly on the uncanny incomprehensible change in the
plain, but familiar features.

"What is she doing? What is that, father?" she whispered, full of
fear, and dug her finger nails into her father's hand.

"She is dying!" said the dikemaster.

"Dying!" repeated the child, and seemed to have fallen into a confused
pondering.

But the old woman moved her lips once more: "Jens! Jens!" her screams
broke out, like cries in danger, and her long arms were stretched out
against the glittering reflection of the sea; "Help me! Help me! You
are in the water---God have mercy on the others!"

Her arms sank down, a low creaking of the bedstead could be heard; she
had ceased to live.

The child drew a deep breath and lifted her pale eyes to her father's.
"Is she still dying?" she asked.

"She has done it!" said the dikemaster, and took his child in his
arms. "Now she is far from us with God."

"With God!" repeated the child and was silent for a while, as if she
had to think about these words. "Is that good-with God?"

"Yes, that is the best." In Hauke's heart, however, the last words of
the dying woman resounded heavily. "God have mercy on the others!" a
low voice said within him. "What did the old hag mean? Are the dying
prophets-?"

Soon after Trin Jans had been buried by the church, there was more and
more talk about all kinds of mischief and strange vermin that had
frightened the people in North Frisia, and there was no doubt that on
mid-Lent Sunday the golden cock was thrown down by a whirlwind. It was
true, too, that in midsummer a great cloud of vermin fell down, like
snow, from the sky, so that one could scarcely open one's eyes, and
afterwards it lay on the fens in a layer as high as a hand, and no one
had ever seen anything like it. But at the end of September, after the
hired man had driven to the city market with grain and the maid Ann
Grethe with butter, they both climbed down, when they came home, with
faces pale from fright. "What's the matter? What's the matter with
you?" cried the other maids, who had come running out when they heard
the wagon roll up.

Ann Grethe in her travelling clothes stepped breathless into the
spacious kitchen. "Well, tell us," cried the maids again, "what has
happened?"

"Oh, our Lord Jesus protect us!" cried Ann Grethe. "You know, old
Marike of the brickworks from over there across the water-we always
stand together with our butter by the drugstore at the corner-she told
me, and Iven Johns said too-'There's going to be a calamity!' he said;
'a calamity for all North Frisia; believe me, Ann Grethe!' And"-she
muffled her voice-"maybe there's something wrong after all about the
dikemaster's white horse!"

"Sh! Sh!" replied the other maids.

"Oh, yes, what do I care! But over there, on the other side, it's even
worse than ours. Not only flies and vermin, but blood has poured down
from the sky like rain. And the Sunday morning after that, when the
pastor went to his washbowl, he found five death's heads in it, as big
as peas, and everybody came to look at them. In the month of August
horrible red-headed caterpillars crawled all over the land and
devoured what they found, grain and flour and bread, and no fire could
kill them off."

The talker broke off suddenly; none of the maids had noticed that the
mistress of the house had stepped into the kitchen. "What are you
talking about there?" she said. "Don't let your master hear that!" And
as they all wanted to tell about it now, she stopped them. "Never
mind; I heard enough; go to your work; that will bring you better
blessings." Then she took Ann Grethe with her into the room and
settled the accounts of the market business.

Thus the superstitious talk in the house of the dikemaster found no
reception from its master and mistress. But it spread into the other
houses, and the longer the evenings grew, the more easily it found its
way in. Something like sultry air weighed on all, and it was secretly
said that a calamity, a serious one, would come over North Frisia.

It was All Saints' Day, in October. During the day a southwest wind
had raged; at night a half moon was in the sky, dark brown clouds
chased by it, and shadows and dim light flitted over the earth in
confusion. The storm was growing. In the room of the dikemaster's
house stood the cleared supper table, the hired men were sent to the
stables to look after the cattle; the maids had to see if the doors
and shutters were closed everywhere in the house and attic, so that
the storm would not blow in and do harm. Inside stood Hauke beside his
wife at the window, after he had hurriedly eaten his supper. He had
been outside on the dike. On foot he had marched out, early in the
afternoon. Pointed posts and bags full of clay or earth he had had
brought to the place where the dike seemed to betray a weakness.
Everywhere he had engaged people to ram in the posts and make a dam of
them and the bags, as soon as the flood began to damage the dike; at
the northwestern corner, where the old and the new dike met, he had
placed the most people, who were allowed to leave their appointed
posts only in case of need. These orders he had left when, scarcely a
quarter of an hour ago, he had come home wet and dishevelled, and now,
as he listened to the gusts of wind that made the windows rattle in
their leaden casements, he gazed absently out into the wild night. The
clock on the wall was just striking eight. The child that stood beside
her mother, started and buried her head in her mother's clothes.
"Claus!" she exclaimed crying, "where's my Claus?"

She had a right to ask, for this year, as well as the year before, the
gull had not gone on its winter journey. Her father overheard the
question; her mother took the child on her arm. "Your Claus is in the
barn," she said; "there he is warm."

"Why?" said Wienke, "is that good?"

"Yes, that is good."

The master of the house was still standing by the window.

"This won't do any longer, Elke!" he said; "call one of the maids; the
storm will break through the windowpanes-the shutters have to be
fastened!"

At the word of the mistress, the maid had rushed out; from the room
one could see how her skirts were flying. But when she had loosened
the hooks, the storm tore the shutter out of her hand and threw it
against the window, so that several panes flew splintered into the
room and one of the candles went out, smoking. Hauke had to go out
himself to help, and only with trouble did they gradually get the
shutters fastened in front of the windows. As they opened the door to
step back into the house a gust blew after them so that the glass and
silver in the sideboard rattled; and upstairs, over their heads the
beams trembled and creaked, as if the storm wanted to tear the roof
from the walls. But Hauke did not come back into the room; Elke heard
him walk across the threshing floor to the stable. "The white horse!
The white horse, John! Quick!" she heard him call. Then he came back
into the room with his hair dishevelled, but his gray eyes beaming.
"The wind has turned!" he cried, "to the northwest; at half spring
tide! Not a wind-we have never lived through a storm like this!"

Elke had turned deadly pale. "And you want to go out once more?"

He seized both her hands and pressed them almost convulsively. "I have
to, Elke."

Slowly she raised her dark eyes to his, and for a few seconds they
looked at each other; but it seemed an eternity. "Yes, Hauke," said
his wife, "I know-you have to!"

Then trotting was heard outside the house door. She fell upon his
neck, and for a moment it seemed as if she could not let him go; but
that, too, was only for a moment. "This is our fight!" said Hauke,
"you are safe here; no flood has ever risen up to this house. And pray
to God that He may be with me too!"

Hauke wrapped himself up in his coat, and Elke took a scarf and
wrapped it carefully round his neck, but her trembling lips failed
her.

Outside the neighing of the white horse sounded like trumpets amid the
howling of the storm. Elke had stepped out with her husband; the old
ash tree creaked, as if it would fall to pieces. "Mount, sir!" cried
the hired man; "the horse is like mad; the reins might tear!"

Hauke embraced his wife. "At sunrise I'll be back."

He had already leaped onto his horse; the animal rose on its hind
legs, then, like a warhorse rushing into battle, it tore down the hill
with its rider, out into the night and the howling storm. "Father, my
father!" a plaintive child voice screamed after him, "my dear father!"

Wienke had run after her father as he was tearing away; but after a
hundred steps she stumbled over a mound of earth and fell to the
ground.

The man Iven Johns brought the crying child back to her mother. She
was leaning against the trunk of the ash tree the branches of which
were whipping the air above her, and staring absently out into the
night where her husband had vanished. When the roaring of the storm
and the distant splashing of the sea stopped for a few moments, she
started as if in fright; it seemed to her now as if all were seeking
to destroy him and would be hushed suddenly when they had seized him.
Her knees were trembling, the wind had unloosed and was sporting with
her hair. "Here is the child, lady," John cried to her; "hold her
fast!" and pressed the little girl into her mother's arms.

"The child?-I had forgotten you, Wienke!" she cried. "God forgive me!"
Then she lifted her to her heart, as close as only love can hold, and
with her fell on her knees. "Lord God and Thou my Jesus, let us not be
widow and orphan! Protect him, oh, good God; only Thou and I, we alone
know him!" Now the storm had no more pauses; it howled and thundered
as if the whole world would pass away in this uproar.

"Go into the house, lady!" said John; "come!" and he helped them up
and led both into the house and into the room.

The dikemaster Hauke Haien sped on his white horse to the dike. The
small path seemed to have no bottom, for measureless rain had fallen;
nevertheless, the wet, sucking clay did not appear to hold back the
hoofs of the animal, for it acted as if it felt the solid ground of
summer beneath it. As in a wild chase the clouds wandered in the sky;
below lay the marshes like an indistinct desert filled with restless
shadows. A muffled roaring rose from the water behind the dike, more
and more horrible, as if it had to drown all other sounds. "Get up,
horse!" called Hauke, "we are riding our worst ride."

Then a scream of death sounded under the hoofs of his horse. He jerked
back the reins, and turned round: beside him, close above the ground,
half flying, half hurled by the wind, a swarm of white gulls was
passing by with derisive cackling; they were seeking shelter on land.
One of them-the moon was shining through the clouds for a moment-lay
trampled by the way: the rider believed that he saw a red ribbon
flutter at its throat. "Claus!" he cried; "poor Claus!"

Was it the bird of his child? Had it recognised horse and rider and
wanted to find shelter with them? The rider did not know. "Get up!" he
cried again; the white horse raised his hoofs to gallop once more. All
at once the wind stopped, and in its place there was a deathlike
silence-but only for a second, when it began again with renewed rage.
But human voices and the forlorn barking of dogs meanwhile fell upon
the rider's ear, and when he turned his head round to look at his
village, he recognised by the appearing moonlight people working round
heaped up wagons on the hills and in front of the houses. Instantly he
saw other wagons hurriedly driving up to the higher land; he heard the
lowing of cattle that were being driven up there out of their warm
stables. "Thank God! They are saving themselves and their cattle!" his
heart cried within him; and then with a scream of fear: "My wife! My
child! No, no; the water doesn't rise up on our hill!"

A terrible gust came roaring from the sea, and horse and rider were
rushing against it up the small path to the dike. When they were on
top, Hauke stopped his horse violently. But where was the sea? Where
Jeverssand? Where had the other shore gone? He saw only mountains of
water before him that rose threateningly against the dark sky, that
were trying to tower above one another in the dreadful dusk and beat
over one another against the solid land. With white crests they rushed
on, howling, as if they uttered the outcry of all terrible beasts of
prey in the wilderness. The horse kicked and snorted out into the
uproar; a feeling came over the rider that here all human power was at
an end; that now death, night, and chaos must break in.

But he stopped to think: this really was the storm flood; only he
himself had never seen it like this. His wife, his child, were safe on
the high hill, in the solid house. His dike-and something like pride
shot through his breast-the Hauke-Haien dike, as the people called it,
now should show how dikes ought to be built!

But-what was that? He stopped at the corner between the two dikes;
where were the men whom he had placed there to keep watch? He glanced
to the north up at the old dike; for he had ordered some there too.
But neither here nor there could he see a man. He rode a way further
out, but he was still alone; only the blowing of the wind and the roar
of the sea all the way from an immeasurable distance beat with
deafening force against his ear. He turned his horse back again; he
reached the deserted corner and let his eyes wander along the line of
the new dike. He discerned clearly that the waves were here rolling on
more slowly, less violently; there it seemed almost as if there were a
different sea. "That will stand all right!" he murmured, and something
like a laugh rose within him.

But his laughter vanished when his eyes wandered farther along the
line of his dike: in the northwestern corner-what was that? A dark
mass was swarming in confusion; he saw that it was stirring busily and
crowding-no doubt, there were people! What were they doing, what were
they working for now at his dike? Instantly his spurs dug into the
shanks of his horse, and the animal sped thither. The storm rushed on
broadside; at times the gusts of wind were so violent, that they would
almost have been hurled from the dike into the new land-but horse and
rider knew where they were riding. Already Hauke saw that a few dozen
men were gathered there in eager work, and now he saw clearly that a
groove was dug diagonally across the new dike. Forcibly he stopped his
horse: "Stop!" he shouted, "stop! What devil's mischief are you doing
there?"

In their fright they had let their spades rest, when they had suddenly
spied the dikemaster among them. The wind had carried his words over
to them, and he noticed that several were trying to answer him; but he
saw only their violent gestures, for they stood to the left of him and
their words were blown away by the wind which here at times was
throwing the men reeling against each other, so that they gathered
close together. Hauke measured the dug-in groove with his quick glance
and the might of the water which in spite of the new profile, splashed
almost to the top of the dike and sprayed horse and rider. Only ten
minutes more of work-he saw that clearly-and the flood would break
through the groove and the Hauke-Haien-land would be drowned by the
sea!

The dikemaster beckoned one of the workmen to the other side of his
horse. "Now, tell me," he shouted, "what are you doing here? What does
that mean?"

And the man shouted back: "We are to dig through the new dike, sir, so
that the old dike won't break."

"What are you to do?"

"Dig through the new dike."

"And drown the land? What devil has ordered that?"

"No, sir, no devil, the overseer Ole Peters has been here and ordered
it."

Rage surged into the rider's eyes. "Do you know me?" he shouted.
"Where I am, Ole Peters can't give any orders! Away with you! Go to
your posts, where I put you!"

And when they hesitated, he made his horse gallop in among them. "Away
to your own or the devil's grandmother!"

"Sir, take care!" cried one of the crowd and hit his spade against the
animal that acted as if it were mad; but a kick of its hoof flung the
spade from his hand; another man fell to the ground. Then all at once
a scream rose from the rest of the crowd-a scream such as only the
fear of death can call forth from the throat of man. For a moment all,
even the dikemaster and the horse were benumbed. Only one workman had
stretched out his arm like a road sign and pointed to the northwestern
corner of both dikes where the new one joined the old. Nothing could
be heard but the raging of the storm and the roar of the water. Hauke
turned round in his saddle: what was that? His eyes grew big: "Lord
God! A break! A break in the old dike!"

"Your fault, dikemaster!" shouted a voice out of the crowd; "your
fault! Take it with you before the throne of God."

Hauke's face, red with rage, had turned deathly pale; the moon that
shone upon it could not make it any paler; his arms hung down limply;
he scarcely knew that he was holding his reins. But that, too, was
only for a moment. Instantly he pulled himself erect with a heavy
moan; then he turned his horse silently, and the white horse snorted
and tore away with him eastward upon the dike. The rider glanced
sharply to all sides; in his head these thoughts were raging: what
fault had he to bear to God's throne? The digging through of the new
dike-perhaps they would have accomplished it, if he had not stopped
them; but-there was something else that shot seething into his heart,
because he knew it all too well-if only, last summer, Ole Peters's
malicious words hadn't kept him back-that was the point. He alone had
recognised the weakness of the old dike; he ought to have seen the new
repairs through in spite of all. "Lord God, yes, I confess it," he
cried out aloud suddenly into the storm: "I have fulfilled my task
badly."

To his left, close to the horse's the sea was raging; in front of him,
now in complete darkness lay the old enclosed land with its hills and
homelike houses. The pale light of the sky had gone out altogether;
from one point only a glimmer of light broke through the dark. A
solace came into the man's heart: the light must have been shining
over from his own house. It seemed like a greeting from wife and
child. Thank God, they were safe on their high hill! The others surely
were up in the village of the higher land, for more lights were
glimmering there than he had ever seen before. Yes, even high up in
the air, perhaps from the church steeple, light was piercing the
darkness. "They must all have left-all!" said Hauke to himself; "to be
sure, on many a hill the houses will lie in ruins; a bad year will
come for the flooded fens; sluices and locks will have to be repaired!
We'll have to bear it and I will help even those who did me harm;
only, Lord, my God, be merciful to us human beings!"

Then he cast a glance to his side at the new enclosed land; the sea
foamed round it, but the land lay as if the peace of night were upon
it. An inevitable sense of triumph rose out of the rider's breast.
"The Hauke-Haien dike will hold all right, it will hold after a
hundred years!"

A thundering roar at his feet waked him out of his dreams; the horse
refused to go on. What was that? The horse bounded back, and he felt
that a piece of the dike was crashing into the depth right before him.
He opened his eyes wide and shook off all his pondering: he was
stopping by the old dike; his horse had already planted his forelegs
upon it. Instinctively he pulled his horse back. Then the last mantle
of clouds uncovered the moon, and the mild light shone on all the
horror that was rushing, foaming and hissing into the depth before
him, down into the old land.

Hauke stared at it, as if bereft of his senses; this was a deluge to
devour beasts and men. Then the light glimmered to his eyes again, the
same that he had seen before; it was still burning up on his hill.
When he looked down into the land now, encouraged as he was, he
perceived that behind the chaotic whirlpool that was pouring down,
raging in front of him, only a breadth of about a hundred paces was
flooded; beyond he could recognise clearly the path that led through
the land. He saw still more: a carriage, no, a two-wheeled cart was
driven like mad toward the dike; in it sat a woman-yes, a child too.
And now-was that not the barking of a little dog that reached his ears
through the storm? Almighty God! It was his wife, his child; already
they were coming close, and the foaming mass of water was rushing
toward them. A scream, a scream of despair broke forth from the
rider's breast: "Elke!" he screamed; "Elke! Back! Back!"

But the storm and sea were not merciful, their raving scattered his
words. The wind had caught his cloak and almost torn him down from his
horse; and the cart was speeding on without pause towards the rushing
flood. Then he saw that his wife was stretching out her arms as if
toward him. Had she recognised him? Had her longing, her deathly fear
for him driven her out of her safe house? And now-was she crying a
last word to him? These questions shot through his brain; they were
never answered, for from her to him, and from him to her, their words
were all lost. Only a roar as if the world were coming to an end
filled their ears and let no other sound enter.

"My child! Oh, Elke, oh, faithful Elke!" Hauke shouted out into the
storm. Then another great piece of the dike fell crashing into the
depth, and the sea rushed after it, thundering. Once more he saw the
head of the horse below, saw the wheels of the cart emerge out of the
wild horror and then, caught in an eddy, sink underneath it and drown.
The staring eyes of the rider, who was left all alone on the dike, saw
nothing more. "The end!" he said, in a low voice to himself. Then he
rode up to the abyss where the water, gurgling gruesomely, was
beginning to flood his home village. Still he saw the light glimmer
from his house; it was soulless now. He drew himself up erect, and
drove the spurs into his horse's shanks; the horse reared and would
almost have fallen over, but the man's force held it down. "Go on!" he
called once more, as he had called so often when he wanted a brisk
ride. "Lord God, take me, save the others!"

One more prick of the spurs; a scream from the horse that rose above
the storm and the roar of the waves-then from the rushing stream below
a muffled sound, a short struggle.

The moon shone from her height, but down on the dike there was no more
life, only the wild waters that soon had almost wholly flooded the old
land. But the hill of Hauke Haien's farm was still rising above the
turmoil, the light was still glimmering there and from the higher
land, where the houses were gradually growing darker, the lonely light
in the church steeple sent its quivering gleams over the foaming
waves.

The story-teller stopped. I took hold of my full glass that had for a
long time been standing before me, but I did not raise it to my lips;
my hand remained on the table.

"That is the story of Hauke Haien," my host began again, "as I have
been able to tell it according to my best knowledge. To be sure, the
housekeeper of our dikemaster would have told it differently. For
people tell this too: the white horse skeleton was seen after the
flood again, just as before, by moonlight on Jevers Island; the whole
village is supposed to have seen it. But this is certain: Hauke Haien
with wife and child perished in this flood. Not even their graves have
I been able to find up in the churchyard; their dead bodies must have
been carried by the receding water through the breach into the sea and
gradually have been dissolved into their elements on the sea bottom-
thus they were left in peace by men at last. But the Hauke-Haien dike
is still standing after a hundred years, and to-morrow, if you are
going to ride to the city and don't mind half an hour's longer way,
your horse will feel it under its hoofs.

"The thanks of a younger generation that Jewe Manners had once
promised the builder of the dike he never received, as you have seen.
For that is the way, sir: Socrates they gave poison to drink, and our
Lord Christ they nailed to the cross. That can't be done so easily
nowadays, but-making a saint out of a tyrant or a bad, stubborn
priest, or turning a good fellow, just because he towers above us by a
head, into a ghost or a monster-that's still done every day."

When the serious little man had said that, he got up and listened into
the night. "Some change must have gone on outside," he said, and drew
the woolen covering from the window. There was bright moonlight.
"Look," he went on, "there the overseers are coming back; but they are
scattering, they are going home. There must have been a break in the
dike on the other shore; the water has sunk."

I looked out beside him. The windows up here were above the edge of
the dike; everything was just as he had said. I took up my glass and
drank the rest: "I thank you for this evening. I think now we can
sleep in peace."

"We can," replied the little gentleman; "I wish you heartily a good
night's sleep."

As I walked downstairs, I met the dikemaster in the hall; he wanted to
take home a map that he had left in the tavern. "All over!" he said.
"But our schoolmaster, I suppose, has told you a fine story-he belongs
to the enlighteners!"

"He seems to be a sensible man."

"Yes, yes, surely; but you can't distrust your own eyes. And over
there on the other side-I said it would-the dike is broken."

I shrugged my shoulders. "You will have to think that over in bed.
Good night, dikemaster."

The next morning, in the golden sunlight that shone over wide ruin, I
rode down to the city on the Hauke-Haien dike.



THE END



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