734 A STORY FROM THE SAND-DUNES
into you too, mother. You look younger this year, and you seem well and bonny. But then you were once the prettiest girl in Wiborg, and that's saying a great deal, for I have always found the Wiborg girls the prettiest of any.'
Jurgen said nothing to this, but he thought of a certain maiden of Skagen ; and he sailed to visit that maiden, for the ship steered to Christiansand in Norway, and a favouring wind took him there in half a day.
One morning merchant Bronne went out to the lighthouse that stands far away from Old Skagen : the coal fire had long gone out and the sun was already high when he mounted the tower. The sand-banks extend under the water a whole mile from the shore. Outside these banks many ships were seen that day ; and with the help of his telescope the old man thought he descried his own vessel, the Karen Bronne.
Yes, surely, there she was ; and the ship was sailing up with Jurgen and Clara on board. The church and the lighthouse appeared to them as a heron and a swan rising from the blue waters. Clara sat on deck, and saw the sandhills gradually looming forth : if the wind held she might reach her home in about an hour—so near were they to home and its joys—so near were they to death and its terrors. For a plank in the ship gave way, and the water rushed in. The crew flew to the pumps and attempted to stop the leak, and a signal of distress was hoisted ; but they were still a full mile from the shore. Fishing-boats were in sight, but they were still far distant. The wind blew shoreward, and the tide was in their favour too; but all was insufficient, for the ship sank. Jurgen threw his right arm about Clara.
With what a look she gazed in his face! As he threw himself in God's name into the water with her, she uttered a cry; but still she felt safe, certain that he would not let her sink.
And now, in the hour of terror and danger, Jurgen
experienced what the old song told :
And written it stood, how the brave King's son Embraced the bride his valour had won.
How rejoiced he felt that he was a good swimmer ! He