It is admitted, however, in a passage which might well make my two adventurers glow with triumph, that if by any mischance the British discovered what was afoot in good time, and were able to send over a swarm of light-draught boats, which could elude the German warships and get amongst the flotillas while they were still in process of leaving the siels; it is admitted that in that case the expedition was doomed.

Now directly I began to resign myself to temporary inaction, and to centre my thoughts on the rendezvous, a new doubt assailed me. Nothing had seemed more certain yesterday than that Norden was the scene of the rendezvous, but that was before the seven siels had come into prominence. The name Norden now sounded naked and unconvincing.

At the six siels there was a mean period of two and a half hours in every twelve, during which the water was high enough. At Norden a rather longer time was available. But this should be amply sufficient if the machinery were in good working order and were punctually set in motion.

The islands are what we thought them barren for the most part, with a small fishing population, and a scanty accession of summer visitors for bathing. The season is over now, and business slack for him. There is still, however, a little trade with the mainland in galliots and lighters, a few of which come from the "siels" on the mainland. "Had these harbours?" I asked.

Fool that I had been to put such a narrow and literal construction on the phrase 'the tide serves! Which was it more likely that my conspirators would visit Norden, whose intrusion into our theories was purely hypothetical, or one of these siels to whose sevenfold systems all my latest observations gave such transcendent significance?

26 The Seven Siels SELECTING the very humblest Gasthaus I could discover, I laid down my bundle and called for beer, bread, and Wurst. The landlord, as I had expected, spoke the Frisian dialect, so that though he was rather difficult to understand, he had no doubts about the purity of my own German high accent.

'When the banks uncovered we lay more quietly, so landed and took a long, tempestuous walk over the Rute, with compass and notebooks. Returning at two, we found the glass tumbling down almost visibly. 'I suggested running for Bensersiel, one of the mainland villages south-west of us, on the evening flood, as it seemed just the right opportunity, if we were to visit one of those "siels" at all.