“All at once, they see something. Down go their long hooks through the water. A moment afterward, they begin to tow a tangle of stones and seaweed to the shore. As soon as they land, they begin to sort out the great mass. Perhaps they will rejoice in finding large pieces of amber in the collection.
“There is still another way of getting amber. I know Hans will be most interested in what I am going to say now. It has more of danger in it, and boys like to hear anything in the way of adventure.”
Hans looked up and smiled. His father knew him well. He was a daring lad. He was always longing for the time when he should grow up and be a soldier, and possibly take part in some war.
“Children,” their father went on, “you have all heard of divers and of their dangerous work under the sea. Gretchen was telling me the other day about her geography lesson, and of the pearl-divers along the shores of India. I did not tell her then that some men spend their lives diving for amber on the shores of our own country.
“They wear rubber suits and helmets and air-chests of sheet iron.”
“How can they see where they are going?” asked Bertha.
“There are glass openings in their helmets, and they can look through these. They go out in boats. The crew generally consists of six men. Two of them are divers, and four men have charge of the air-pumps. These pumps force fresh air down through tubes fastened to the helmet of each diver. Besides these men there is an overseer who has charge of everything.
“Sometimes the divers stay for hours on the bed of the sea, and work away at the amber tangles.”
“But suppose anything happens to the air-tubes and the men fail to get as much air as they need?” said Hans. “Is there any way of letting those in the boat know they are in trouble? And, besides that, how do the others know when it is time to raise the divers with their precious loads?”
“There is a safety-rope reaching from the boat to the men. When they pull this rope it is a sign that they wish to be drawn up. But I have told you as much about amber now as you will be able to remember.”
“Are you very tired, father dear?” said Bertha, in her most coaxing tone.
“Why should I be tired? What do you wish to ask me? Come, speak out plainly, little one.”
“You tell such lovely fairy-tales, papa, I was just wishing for one. See! The moon is just rising above the tree-tops. It is the very time for stories of the wonderful beings.”
Her father smiled. “It shall be as you wish, Bertha. It is hard to refuse you when you look at me that way. Come, children, let us sit in the doorway. Goodwife, put down your work and join us while I tell the story of Siegfried, the old hero of Germany.”
THE MAGIC SWORD