724 A STORY FROM THE SAND-DUNES
how they cross the reefs. One of the men stands upright in the bow of the boat, and the others watch him, sitting with oars in their hands. Outside the reef they appear to be rowing not towards the land, but backing out to sea, till the man standing in the boat gives them the sign that the great wave is coming which is to float them across the reef ; and accordingly the boat is lifted—lifted high in the air, so that its keel is seen from the shore ; and in the next minute the whole boat is hidden from the eye—neither mast nor keel nor people can be seen, as though the sea had devoured them ; but in a few moments they emerge like a great sea animal climbing up the waves, and the oars move as if the creature had legs. The second and the third reef are passed in the same manner ; and now the fishermen jump into the water ; every wave helps them, and pushes the boat well forward, till at length they have drawn it beyond the range of the breakers.
A wrong order given in front of the reef—the slightest hesitation—and the boat must founder.
' Then it would be all over with me, and Martin too !' This thought struck Jiirgen while they were out at sea, where his foster-father had been taken alarmingly ill. The fever had seized him. They were only a few oars' strokes from the reef, and Jiirgen sprang from his seat and stood up in the bow.
* Father—let me come ! ' he said ; and his eye glanced towards Martin and across the waves ; but while every oar bent with the exertions of the rowers, as the great wave came towering towards them, he beheld the pale face of his father, and dared not obey the evil impulse that had seized him. The boat came safely across the reef to land, but the evil thought remained in his blood, and roused up every little fibre of bitterness which had remained in his memory since he and Martin had been comrades. But he could not weave the fibres together, nor did he endeavour to do so. He felt that Martin had despoiled him, and this was enough to make him detest his former friend. Several of the fishermen noticed this, but not Martin, who continued to be obliging and talkative—indeed, a little too talkative.
Jiirgen's adopted father had to keep his bed, which became his death-bed, for in the next week he died ; and