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Title: Weird Tales from Northern Seas
Author: Lie, Jonas Lauritz Idemil, 1833-1908
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Weird Tales from Northern Seas" ***

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WEIRD TALES FROM NORTHERN SEAS FROM THE DANISH OF JONAS LIE

BY R. NISBET BAIN

WITH TWELVE ILLUSTRATIONS

BY LAURENCE HOUSMAN

Translation 1893

       *       *       *       *       *

[Illustration: _THE GAN-FINN._]


       *       *       *       *       *

PREFACE


Jonas Lie is sufficiently famous to need but a very few words of
introduction. Ever since 1870, when he made his reputation by his first
novel, "_Den Fremsynte_," he has been a prime favourite with the
Scandinavian public, and of late years his principal romances have gone
the round of Europe. He has written novels of all kinds, but he excels
when he describes the wild seas of Northern Norway, and the stern and
hardy race of sailors and fishers who seek their fortunes, and so often
find their graves, on those dangerous waters. Such tales, for instance,
as _"Tremasteren Fremtid," "Lodsen og hans Hustru," "Gaa Paa!"_ and
"_Den Fremsynte_" are unique of their kind, and give far truer pictures
of Norwegian life and character in the rough than anything that can be
found elsewhere in the literature. Indeed, Lie's skippers and mates are
as superior to Kjelland's, for instance, as the peasants of Jens Tvedt
(a writer, by the way, still unknown beyond his native land) are
superior to the much-vaunted peasants of Björnstjerne Björnson.

But it is when Lie tells us some of the wild legends of his native
province, Nordland, some of the grim tales on which he himself was
brought up, so to speak, that he is perhaps most vivid and enthralling.
The folk-lore of those lonely sub-arctic tracts is in keeping with the
savagery of nature. We rarely, if ever, hear of friendly elves or
companionable gnomes there. The supernatural beings that haunt those
shores and seas are, for the most part, malignant and malefic. They seem
to hate man. They love to mock his toils, and sport with his despair. In
his very first romance, "_Den Fremsynte_," Lie relates two of these
weird tales (Nos. 1 and 3 of the present selection). Another tale, in
which many of the superstitious beliefs and wild imaginings of the
Nordland fishermen are skilfully grouped together to form the background
of a charming love-story, entitled "Finn Blood," I have borrowed from
the volume of "_Fortællinger og Skildringer_," published in 1872. The
remaining eight stories are selected from the book "_Trold_," which was
the event of the Christmas publishing season at Christiania in 1891.
Last Christmas a second series of "_Trold_" came out, but it is
distinctly inferior to the former one.

R.N.B.


       *       *       *       *       *



                         CONTENTS

CHAPTER

I. THE FISHERMAN AND THE DRAUG

II. JACK OF SJÖHÖLM AND THE GAN-FINN

III. TUG OF WAR

IV. "THE EARTH DRAWS"

V. THE CORMORANTS OF ANDVÆR

VI. ISAAC AND THE PARSON OF BRÖNÖ

VII. THE WIND-GNOME

VIII. THE HULDREFISH

IX. FINN BLOOD

X. THE HOMESTEAD WESTWARD IN THE BLUE MOUNTAINS

XI. "IT'S ME!"

       *       *       *       *       *


_THE FISHERMAN AND THE DRAUG_

[Illustration: _THE FISHERMAN AND THE DRAUG._]



THE FISHERMAN AND THE DRAUG


On Kvalholm, down in Helgeland,[1] dwelt a poor fisherman, Elias by
name, with his wife Karen, who had been in service at the parson's over
at Alstad. They had built them a hut here, and he used to go out fishing
by the day about the Lofotens.

There could be very little doubt that the lonely Kvalholm was haunted.
Whenever her husband was away, Karen heard all manner of uncanny shrieks
and noises, which could mean no good. One day, when she was up on the
hillside, mowing grass to serve as winter fodder for their couple of
sheep, she heard, quite plainly, a chattering on the strand beneath the
hill, but look over she durst not.

They had a child every year, but that was no burden, for they were both
thrifty, hard-working folks. When seven years had gone by, there were
six children in the house; but that same autumn Elias had scraped
together so much that he thought he might now venture to buy a
_Sexæring_,[2] and henceforward go fishing in his own boat.

One day, as he was walking along with a _Kvejtepig_[3] in his hand, and
thinking the matter over, he unexpectedly came upon a monstrous seal,
which lay sunning itself right behind a rock on the strand, and was as
much surprised to see the man as the man was to see the seal. But Elias
was not slack; from the top of the rock on which he stood, he hurled the
long heavy Kvejtepig right into the monster's back, just below the neck.

The seal immediately rose up on its tail right into the air as high as a
boat's mast, and looked so evilly and viciously at him with its
bloodshot eyes, at the same time showing its grinning teeth, that Elias
thought he should have died on the spot for sheer fright. Then it
plunged into the sea, and lashed the water into bloody foam behind it.
Elias didn't stop to see more, but that same evening there drifted into
the boat place on Kvalcreek, on which his house stood, a Kvejtepole,
with the hooked iron head snapped off.

Elias thought no more about it, but in the course of the autumn he
bought his _Sexæring_, for which he had been building a little boat-shed
the whole summer.

One night as he lay awake, thinking of his new _Sexæring_, it occurred
to him that his boat would balance better, perhaps, if he stuck an extra
log of wood on each side of it. He was so absurdly fond of the boat that
it was a mere pastime for him to light a lantern and go down to have a
look at it.

Now as he stood looking at it there by the light of the lantern, he
suddenly caught a glimpse in the corner opposite, on a coil of nets, of
a face which exactly resembled the seal's. For an instant it grinned
savagely at him and the light, its mouth all the time growing larger and
larger; and then a big man whisked out of the door, not so quickly,
however, but that Elias could catch a glimpse, by the light of the
lantern, of a long iron hooked spike sticking out of his back. And now
he began to put one and two together. Still he was less anxious about
his life than about his boat; so he there and then sat him down in it
with the lantern, and kept watch. When his wife came in the morning, she
found him sleeping there, with the burnt-out lantern by his side.

One morning in January, while he was out fishing in his boat with two
other men, he heard, in the dark, a voice from a skerry at the very
entrance of the creek. It laughed scornfully, and said, "When it _comes
to a Femböring_,[4] Elias, look to thyself!"

But there was many a long year yet before it _did_ come to that; but one
autumn, when his son Bernt was sixteen, Elias knew he could manage it,
so he took his whole family with him in his boat to Ranen,[5] to
exchange his _Sexæring_ for a _Femböring_. The only person left at home
was a little Finn girl, whom they had taken into service some few years
before, and who had only lately been confirmed.

Now there was a boat, a little _Femböring_, for four men and a boy, that
Elias just then had his eye upon--a boat which the best boat-builder in
the place had finished and tarred over that very autumn. Elias had a
very good notion of what a boat should be, and it seemed to him that he
had never seen a _Femböring_ so well built _below_ the water-line.
_Above_ the water-line, indeed, it looked only middling, so that, to one
of less experience than himself, the boat would have seemed rather a
heavy goer than otherwise, and anything but a smart craft.

Now the boat-master knew all this just as well as Elias. He said he
thought it would be the swiftest sailer in Ranen, but that Elias should
have it cheap, all the same, if only he would promise one thing, and
that was, to make no alteration whatever in the boat, nay, not so much
as adding a fresh coat of tar. Only when Elias had expressly given his
word upon it did he get the boat.

But "yon laddie"[6] who had taught the boat-master how to build his
boats so cunningly _below_ the water-line--_above_ the water-line he had
had to use his native wits, and they were scant enough--must surely have
been there beforehand, and bidden him both sell it cheaply, so that
Elias might get it, and stipulate besides that the boat should not be
looked at too closely. In this way it escaped the usual tarring fore and
aft.

Elias now thought about sailing home, but went first into the town,
provided himself and family with provisions against Christmas, and
indulged in a little nip of brandy besides. Glad as he was over the
day's bargain, he, and his wife too, took an extra drop in their e'en,
and their son Bernt had a taste of it too.

After that they sailed off homewards in their new boat. There was no
other ballast in the boat but himself, his old woman, the children, and
the Christmas provisions. His son Bernt sat by the main-sheet; his wife,
helped by her next eldest son, held the sail-ropes; Elias himself sat at
the rudder, while the two younger brothers of twelve and fourteen were
to take it in turns to bail out.

They had eight miles of sea to sail over, and when they got into the
open, it was plain that the boat would be tested pretty stiffly on its
first voyage. A gale was gradually blowing up, and crests of foam began
to break upon the heavy sea.

And now Elias saw what sort of a boat he really had. She skipped over
the waves like a sea-mew; not so much as a splash came into the boat,
and he therefore calculated that he would have no need to take in all
his clews[7] against the wind, which an ordinary _Femböring_ would have
been forced to do in such weather.

Out on the sea, not very far away from him, he saw another _Femböring_,
with a full crew, and four clews in the sail, just like his own. It lay
on the same course, and he thought it rather odd that he had not noticed
it before. It made as if it would race him, and when Elias perceived
that, he could not for the life of him help letting out a clew again.

And now he went racing along like a dart, past capes and islands and
rocks, till it seemed to Elias as if he had never had such a splendid
sail before. Now, too, the boat showed itself what it really was, the
best boat in Ranen.

The weather, meantime, had become worse, and they had already got a
couple of dangerous seas right upon them. They broke in over the
main-sheet in the forepart of the boat where Bernt sat, and sailed out
again to leeward near the stern.

Since the gloom had deepened, the other boat had kept almost alongside,
and they were now so close together that they could easily have pitched
the baling-can from one to the other.

So they raced on, side by side, in constantly stiffer seas, till
night-fall, and beyond it. The fourth clew ought now to have been taken
in again, but Elias didn't want to give in, and thought he might bide a
bit till they took it in in the other boat also, which they needs _must_
do soon. Ever and anon the brandy-flask was brought out and passed
round, for they had now both cold and wet to hold out against.

The sea-fire, which played on the dark billows near Elias's own boat,
shone with an odd vividness in the foam round the other boat, just as if
a fire-shovel was ploughing up and turning over the water. In the bright
phosphorescence he could plainly make out the rope-ends on board her. He
could also see distinctly the folks on board, with their sou'westers on
their heads; but as their larboard side lay nearest, of course they all
had their backs towards him, and were well-nigh hidden by the high
heeling hull.

Suddenly a tremendous roller burst upon them. Elias had long caught a
glimpse of its white crest through the darkness, right over the prow
where Bernt sat. It filled the whole boat for a moment, the planks shook
and trembled beneath the weight of it, and then, as the boat, which had
lain half on her beam-ends, righted herself and sped on again, it
streamed off behind to leeward.

While it was still upon him, he fancied he heard a hideous yell from the
other boat; but when it was over, his wife, who sat by the shrouds,
said, with a voice which pierced his very soul: "Good God, Elias! the
sea has carried off Martha and Nils!"--their two youngest children, the
first nine, the second seven years old, who had been sitting in the hold
near Bernt. Elias merely answered: "Don't let go the lines, Karen, or
you'll lose yet more!"

They had now to take in the fourth clew, and, when this was done, Elias
found that it would be well to take in the fifth and last clew too, for
the gale was ever on the increase; but, on the other hand, in order to
keep the boat free of the constantly heavier seas, he dare not lessen
the sail a bit more than he was absolutely obliged to do; but they found
that the scrap of sail they could carry gradually grew less and less.
The sea seethed so that it drove right into their faces, and Bernt and
his next eldest brother Anthony, who had hitherto helped his mother with
the sail-lines, had, at last, to hold in the yards, an expedient one
only resorts to when the boat cannot bear even the last clew--here the
fifth.

The companion boat, which had disappeared in the meantime, now suddenly
ducked up alongside again, with precisely the same amount of sail as
Elias's boat; but he now began to feel that he didn't quite like the
look of the crew on board there. The two who stood and held in the yards
(he caught a glimpse of their pale faces beneath their sou'westers)
seemed to him, by the odd light of the shining foam, more like corpses
than men, nor did they speak a single word.

A little way off to larboard he again caught sight of the high white
back of a fresh roller coming through the dark, and he got ready betimes
to receive it. The boat was laid to with its prow turned aslant towards
the on-rushing wave, while the sail was made as large as possible, so as
to get up speed enough to cleave the heavy sea and sail out of it again.
In rushed the roller with a roar like a foss; again, for an instant,
they lay on their beam ends; but, when it was over, the wife no longer
sat by the sail ropes, nor did Anthony stand there any longer holding
the yards--they had both gone overboard.

This time also Elias fancied he heard the same hideous yell in the air;
but in the midst of it he plainly heard his wife anxiously calling him
by name. All that he said when he grasped the fact that she was washed
overboard, was, "In Jesus' Name!" His first and dearest wish was to
follow after her, but he felt at the same time that it became him to
save the rest of the freight he had on board, that is to say, Bernt and
his other two sons, one twelve, the other fourteen years old, who had
been baling out for a time, but had afterwards taken their places in the
stern behind him.

Bernt had now to look to the yards all alone, and the other two helped
as best they could. The rudder Elias durst not let slip, and he held it
fast with a hand of iron, which continuous exertion had long since made
insensible to feeling.

A moment afterwards the comrade boat ducked up again: it had vanished
for an instant as before. Now, too, he saw more of the heavy man who sat
in the stern there in the same place as himself. Out of his back, just
below his sou'wester (as he turned round it showed quite plainly),
projected an iron spike six inches long, which Elias had no difficulty
in recognising again. And now, as he calmly thought it all over, he was
quite clear about two things: one was that it was the _Draug_[8] itself
which was steering its half-boat close beside him, and leading him to
destruction; the other was that it was written in heaven that he was to
sail his last course that night. For he who sees the Draug on the sea is
a doomed man. He said nothing to the others, lest they should lose
heart, but in secret he commended his soul to God.

During the last hour or so he had been forced out of his proper course
by the storm; the air also had become dense with snow; and Elias knew
that he must wait till dawn before land could be sighted. Meanwhile he
sailed along much the same as before. Now and then the boys in the stern
complained that they were freezing; but, in the plight they were now in,
that couldn't be helped, and, besides, Elias had something else to think
about. A terrible longing for vengeance had come over him, and, but for
the necessity of saving the lives of his three lads, he would have tried
by a sudden turn to sink the accursed boat which kept alongside of him
the whole time as if to mock him; he now understood its evil errand only
too well. If the _Kvejtepig_[9] could reach the Draug before, a knife or
a gaff might surely do the same thing now, and he felt that he would
gladly have given his life for one good grip of the being who had so
mercilessly torn from him his dearest in this world and would fain have
still more.

At three or four o'clock in the morning they saw coming upon them
through the darkness a breaker of such a height that at first Elias
thought they must be quite close ashore near the surf swell.
Nevertheless, he soon recognised it for what it really was--a huge
billow. Then it seemed to him as if there was a laugh over in the other
boat, and something said, "There goes thy boat, Elias!" He, foreseeing
the calamity, now cried aloud: "In Jesus' Name!" and then bade his sons
hold on with all their might to the withy-bands by the rowlocks when the
boat went under, and not let go till it was above the water again. He
made the elder of them go forward to Bernt; and himself held the
youngest close by his side, stroked him once or twice furtively down the
cheeks, and made sure that he had a good grip. The boat, literally
buried beneath the foaming roller, was lifted gradually up by the bows
and then went under. When it rose again out of the water, with the keel
in the air, Elias, Bernt, and the twelve-year-old Martin lay alongside,
holding on by the withy-bands; but the third of the brothers was gone.

They had now first of all to get the shrouds on one side cut through, so
that the mast might come to the surface alongside instead of disturbing
the balance of the boat below; and then they must climb up on the
swaying bottom of the boat and stave in the key-holes, to let out the
air which kept the boat too high in the water, and so ease her. After
great exertions they succeeded, and Elias, who had got up on the top
first, now helped the other two up after him.

There they sat through the long dark winter night, clinging convulsively
on by their hands and knees to the boat's bottom, which was drenched by
the billows again and again.

After the lapse of a couple of hours died Martin, whom his father had
held up the whole time as far as he was able, of sheer exhaustion, and
glided down into the sea. They had tried to cry for help several times,
but gave it up at last as a bad job.

Whilst they two thus sat all alone on the bottom of the boat, Elias said
to Bernt he must now needs believe that he too was about to be "along o'
mother!"[10] but that he had a strong hope that Bernt, at any rate,
would be saved, if he only held out like a man. Then he told him all
about the _Draug_, whom he had struck below the neck with the
_Kvejtepig_, and how it had now revenged itself upon him, and certainly
would not forbear till it was "quits with him."

It was towards nine o'clock in the morning when the grey dawn began to
appear. Then Elias gave to Bernt, who sat alongside him, his silver
watch with the brass chain, which he had snapped in two in order to drag
it from beneath his closely buttoned jacket. He held on for a little
time longer, but, as it got lighter, Bernt saw that his father's face
was deadly pale, his hair too had parted here and there, as often
happens when death is at hand, and his skin was chafed off his hands
from holding on to the keel. The son understood now that his father was
nearly at the last gasp, and tried, so far as the pitching and tossing
would allow it, to hold him up; but when Elias marked it, he said, "Nay,
look to thyself, Bernt, and hold on fast. I go to mother--in Jesus'
Name!" and with that he cast himself down headlong from the top of the
boat.

Every one who has sat on the keel of a boat long enough knows that when
the sea has got its own it grows much calmer, though not immediately.
Bernt now found it easier to hold on, and still more of hope came to him
with the brightening day. The storm abated, and, when it got quite
light, it seemed to him that he knew where he was, and that it was
outside his own homestead, Kvalholm, that he lay driving.

He now began again to cry for help, but his chief hope was in a current
which he knew bore landwards at a place where a headland broke in upon
the surge, and there the water was calmer. And he did, in fact, drive
closer and closer in, and came at last so near to one of the rocks that
the mast, which was floating by the side of the boat all the time,
surged up and down in the swell against the sloping cliff. Stiff as he
now was in all his limbs from sitting and holding on, he nevertheless
succeeded, after a great effort, in clambering up the cliff, where he
hauled the mast ashore, and made the _Femböring_ fast.

The Finn girl, who was alone in the house, had been thinking, for the
last two hours, that she had heard cries for help from time to time, and
as they kept on she mounted the hill to see what it was. There she saw
Bernt up on the cliff, and the overturned _Femböring_ bobbing up and
down against it. She immediately dashed down to the boat-place, got out
the old rowing-boat, and rowed along the shore and round the island
right out to him.

Bernt lay sick under her care the whole winter through, and didn't go a
fishing all that year. Ever after this, too, it seemed to folks as if
the lad were a little bit daft.

On the open sea he never would go again, for he had got the sea-scare.
He wedded the Finn girl, and moved over to Malang, where he got him a
clearing in the forest, and he lives there now, and is doing well, they
say.

       *       *       *       *       *

[1] A district in northern Norway.

[2] A boat with three oars on each side.

[3] A long pole, with a hooked iron spike at the end of it, for spearing
Kvejte or hallibut with.

[4] A large boat with five oars on each side, used for winter fishing in
northern Norway.

[5] The chief port in those parts.

[6] _Hin Karen_ = "the devil." _Karen_ is the Danish _Karl_.

[7] The _Klör_, or clews, were rings in the corner of the sail to fasten
it down by in a strong wind. _Setja ei Klo_ = "take in the sail a clew."
_Setja tvo_, or _tri Klör_ = "take it in two or three clews," _i.e._,
diminish it still further as the wind grew stronger.

[8] A demon peculiar to the north Norwegian coast. It rides the seas in
a half-boat. Compare Icelandic _draugr_.

[9] See note 3 above.

[10] _Være med hu, Mor. Hu_ is the Danish _Hun_.

       *       *       *       *       *

_JACK OF SJÖHOLM AND THE GAN-FINN_

[Illustration: _THE GAN-FINN._]



JACK OF SJÖHOLM AND THE GAN[1]-FINN


In the days of our forefathers, when there was nothing but wretched
boats up in Nordland, and folks must needs buy fair winds by the sackful
from the Gan-Finn, it was not safe to tack about in the open sea in
wintry weather. In those days a fisherman never grew old. It was mostly
womenfolk and children, and the lame and halt, who were buried ashore.

Now there was once a boat's crew from Thjöttö in Helgeland, which had
put to sea, and worked its way right up to the East Lofotens.

But that winter the fish would not bite.

They lay to and waited week after week, till the month was out, and
there was nothing for it but to turn home again with their fishing gear
and empty boats.

But Jack of Sjöholm, who was with them, only laughed aloud, and said
that, if there were no fish there, fish would certainly be found higher
northwards. Surely they hadn't rowed out all this distance only to eat
up all their victuals, said he.

He was quite a young chap, who had never been out fishing before. But
there was some sense in what he said for all that, thought the
head-fisherman.

And so they set their sails northwards.

On the next fishing-ground they fared no better than before, but they
toiled away so long as their food held out.

And now they all insisted on giving it up and turning back.

"If there's none here, there's sure to be some still higher up towards
the north," opined Jack; "and if they had gone so far, they might surely
go a little further still," quoth he.

So they tempted fortune from fishing-ground to fishing-ground, till they
had ventured right up to Finmark.[2] But there a storm met them, and,
try as they might to find shelter under the headlands, they were obliged
at last to put out into the open sea again.

There they fared worse than ever. They had a hard time of it. Again and
again the prow of the boat went under the heavy rollers, instead of over
them, and later on in the day the boat foundered.

There they all sat helplessly on the keel in the midst of the raging
sea, and they all complained bitterly against that fellow Jack, who had
tempted them on, and led them into destruction. What would now become of
their wives and children? They would starve now that they had none to
care for them.

When it grew dark, their hands began to stiffen, and they were carried
off by the sea one by one.

And Jack heard and saw everything, down to the last shriek and the last
clutch; and to the very end they never ceased reproaching him for
bringing them into such misery, and bewailing their sad lot.

"I must hold on tight now," said Jack to himself, for he was better even
where he was than in the sea.

And so he tightened his knees on the keel, and held on fast till he had
no feeling left in either hand or foot.

In the coal-black gusty night he fancied he heard yells from one or
other of the remaining boats' crews.

"They, too, have wives and children," thought he. "I wonder whether they
have also a Jack to lay the blame upon!"

Now while he thus lay there and drifted and drifted, and it seemed to
him to be drawing towards dawn, he suddenly felt that the boat was in
the grip of a strong shoreward current; and, sure enough, Jack got at
last ashore. But whichever way he looked, he saw nothing but black sea
and white snow.

Now as he stood there, speering and spying about him, he saw, far away,
the smoke of a Finn Gamme,[3] which stood beneath a cliff, and he
managed to scramble right up to it.

The Finn was so old that he could scarcely move. He was sitting in the
midst of the warm ashes, and mumbling into a big sack, and neither spoke
nor answered. Large yellow humble-bees were humming about all over the
snow, as if it were Midsummer; and there was only a young lass there to
keep the fire alight, and give the old man his food. His grandsons and
grand-daughters were with the reindeer, far far away on the _Fjeld_.

Here Jack got his clothes well dried, and the rest he so much wanted.
The Finn girl, Seimke, couldn't make too much of him; she fed him with
reindeer milk and marrow-bones, and he lay down to sleep on silver
fox-skins.

Cosy and comfortable it was in the smoke there. But as he thus lay
there, 'twixt sleep and wake, it seemed to him as if many odd things
were going on round about him.

There stood the Finn in the doorway talking to his reindeer, although
they were far away in the mountains. He barred the wolf's way, and
threatened the bear with spells; and then he opened his skin sack, so
that the storm howled and piped, and there was a swirl of ashes into the
hut. And when all grew quiet again, the air was thick with yellow
humble-bees, which settled inside his furs, whilst he gabbled and
mumbled and wagged his skull-like head.

But Jack had something else to think about besides marvelling at the old
Finn. No sooner did the heaviness of slumber quit his eyes than he
strolled down to his boat.

There it lay stuck fast on the beach and tilted right over like a
trough, while the sea rubbed and rippled against its keel. He drew it
far enough ashore to be beyond the reach of the sea-wash.

But the longer he walked around and examined it, the more it seemed to
him as if folks built boats rather for the sake of letting the sea in
than for the sake of keeping the sea out. The prow was little better
than a hog's snout for burrowing under the water, and the planking by
the keel-piece was as flat as the bottom of a chest. Everything, he
thought, must be arranged very differently if boats were to be really
seaworthy. The prow must be raised one or two planks higher at the very
least, and made both sharp and supple, so as to bend before and cut
through the waves at the same time, and then a fellow would have a
chance of steering a boat smartly.

He thought of this day and night. The only relaxation he had was a chat
with the Finn girl of an evening.

He couldn't help remarking that this Seimke had fallen in love with him.
She strolled after him wherever he went, and her eyes always became so
mournful when he went down towards the sea; she understood well enough
that all his thoughts were bent upon going away.

And the Finn sat and mumbled among the ashes till his fur jacket
regularly steamed and smoked.

But Seimke coaxed and wheedled Jack with her brown eyes, and gave him
honeyed words as fast as her tongue could wag, till she drew him right
into the smoke where the old Finn couldn't hear them.

The Gan-Finn turned his head right round.

"My eyes are stupid, and the smoke makes 'em run," said he; "what has
Jack got hold of there?"

"Say it is the white ptarmigan you caught in the snare," whispered she.

And Jack felt that she was huddling up against him and trembling all
over.

Then she told him so softly that he thought it was his own thoughts
speaking to him, that the Finn was angry and muttering mischief, and
_jöjking_,[4] against the boat which Jack wanted to build. If Jack were
to complete it, said she, the Gan-Finn would no longer have any sale for
his fair-winds in all Nordland. And then she warned him to look to
himself and never get between the Finn and the Gan-flies.

Then Jack felt that his boat might be the undoing of him. But the worse
things looked, the more he tried to make the best of them.

In the grey dawn, before the Finn was up, he made his way towards the
sea-shore.

But there was something very odd about the snow-hills. They were so many
and so long that there was really no end to them, and he kept on
trampling in deep and deeper snow and never got to the sea-shore at all.
Never before had he seen the northern lights last so long into the day.
They blazed and sparkled, and long tongues of fire licked and hissed
after him. He was unable to find either the beach or the boat, nor had
he the least idea in the world where he really was.

At last he discovered that he had gone quite astray inland instead of
down to the sea. But now, when he turned round, the sea-fog came close
up against him, so dense and grey that he could see neither hand nor
foot before him.

By the evening he was well-nigh worn out with weariness, and was at his
wits' end what to do.

Night fell, and the snowdrifts increased.

As now he sat him down on a stone and fell a brooding and pondering how
he should escape with his life, a pair of snow-shoes came gliding so
smoothly towards him out of the sea-fog and stood still just in front of
his feet.

"As you have found me, you may as well find the way back also," said he.

So he put them on, and let the snow-shoes go their own way over hillside
and steep cliff. He let not his own eyes guide him or his own feet carry
him, and the swifter he went the denser the snowflakes and the driving
sea-spray came up against him, and the blast very nearly blew him off
the snow-shoes.

Up hill and down dale he went over all the places where he had fared
during the daytime, and it sometimes seemed as if he had nothing solid
beneath him at all, but was flying in the air.

Suddenly the snow-shoes stood stock still, and he was standing just
outside the entrance of the Gan-Finn's hut.

There stood Seimke. She was looking for him.

"I sent my snow-shoes after thee," said she, "for I marked that the Finn
had bewitched the land so that thou should'st not find the boat. Thy
_life_ is safe, for he has given thee shelter in his house, but it were
not well for thee to see him this evening."

Then she smuggled him in, so that the Finn did not perceive it in the
thick smoke, and she gave him meat and a place to rest upon.

But when he awoke in the night, he heard an odd sound, and there was a
buzzing and a singing far away in the air:

       "The Finn the boat can never bind,
        The Fly the boatman cannot find,
        But round in aimless whirls doth wind."

The Finn was sitting among the ashes and _jöjking_, and muttering till
the ground quite shook, while Seimke lay with her forehead to the floor
and her hands clasped tightly round the back of her neck, praying
against him to the Finn God. Then Jack understood that the Gan-Finn was
still seeking after him amidst the snowflakes and sea-fog, and that his
life was in danger from magic spells.

So he dressed himself before it was light, went out, and came tramping
in again all covered with snow, and said he had been after bears in
their winter retreats. But never had he been in such a sea-fog before;
he had groped about far and wide before he found his way back into the
hut again, though he stood just outside it.

The Finn sat there with his skin-wrappings as full of yellow flies as a
beehive. He had sent them out searching in every direction, but back
they had all come, and were humming and buzzing about him.

When he saw Jack in the doorway, and perceived that the flies had
pointed truly, he grew somewhat milder, and laughed till he regularly
shook within his skin-wrappings, and mumbled, "The bear we'll bind fast
beneath the scullery-sink, and his eyes I've turned all awry,[5] so that
he can't see his boat,[6] and I'll stick a sleeping-peg in front of him
till springtime."

But the same day the Finn stood in the doorway, and was busy making
magic signs and strange strokes in the air.

Then he sent forth two hideous Gan-flies, which flitted off on their
errands, and scorched black patches beneath them in the snow wherever
they went. They were to bring pain and sickness to a cottage down in the
swamps, and spread abroad the Finn disease, which was to strike down a
young bride at Bodö with consumption.

But Jack thought of nothing else night and day but how he could get the
better of the Gan-Finn.

The lass Seimke wheedled him and wept and begged him, as he valued his
life, not to try to get down to his boat again. At last, however, she
saw it was no use--he had made up his mind to be off.

Then she kissed his hands and wept bitterly. At least he must promise to
wait till the Gan-Finn had gone right away to Jokmok[7] in Sweden.

On the day of his departure, the Finn went all round his hut with a
torch and took stock.

Far away as they were, there stood the mountain pastures, with the
reindeer and the dogs, and the Finn's people all drew near. The Finn
took the tale of the beasts, and bade his grandsons not let the reindeer
stray too far while he was away, and could not guard them from wolves
and bears. Then he took a sleeping potion and began to dance and turn
round and round till his breath quite failed him, and he sank moaning to
the ground. His furs were all that remained behind of him. His spirit
had gone--gone all the way over to Jokmok.

There the magicians were all sitting together in the dark sea-fog
beneath the shelter of the high mountain, and whispering about all
manner of secret and hidden things, and blowing spirits into the novices
of the black art.

But the Gan-flies, humming and buzzing, went round and round the empty
furs of the Gan-Finn like a yellow ring and kept watch.

In the night Jack was awakened by something pulling and tugging at him
as if from far away. There was as it were a current of air, and
something threatened and called to him from the midst of the snowflakes
outside--

     "Until thou canst swim like the duck or the drake,
     The egg[8] thou'dst be hatching no progress shall make;
     The Finn shall ne'er let thee go southwards with sail,
     For he'll screw off the wind and imprison the gale."

At the end of it the Gan-Finn was standing there, and bending right over
him. The skin of his face hung down long and loose, and full of
wrinkles, like an old reindeer skin, and there was a dizzying smoke in
his eyes. Then Jack began to shiver and stiffen in all his limbs, and he
knew that the Finn was bent upon bewitching him.

Then he set his face rigidly against it, so that the magic spells should
not get at him; and thus they struggled with one another till the
Gan-Finn grew green in the face, and was very near choking.

After that the sorcerers of Jokmok sent magic shots after Jack, and
clouded his wits. He felt so odd; and whenever he was busy with his
boat, and had put something to rights in it, something else would
immediately go wrong, till at last he felt as if his head were full of
pins and needles.

Then deep sorrow fell upon him. Try as he would, he couldn't put his
boat together as he would have it; and it looked very much as if he
would never be able to cross the sea again.

But in the summer time Jack and Seimke sat together on the headland in
the warm evenings, and the gnats buzzed and the fishes spouted close
ashore in the stillness, and the eider-duck swam about.

"If only some one would build me a boat as swift and nimble as a fish,
and able to ride upon the billows like a sea-mew!" sighed and lamented
Jack, "then I could be off."

"Would you like me to guide you to Thjöttö?" said a voice up from the
sea-shore.

There stood a fellow in a flat turned-down skin cap, whose face they
couldn't see.

And right outside the boulders there, just where they had seen the
eider-duck, lay a long and narrow boat, with high prow and stern; and
the tar-boards were mirrored plainly in the clear water below; there was
not so much as a single knot in the wood.

"I would be thankful for any such guidance," said Jack.

When Seimke heard this, she began to cry and take on terribly. She fell
upon his neck, and wouldn't let go, and raved and shrieked. She promised
him her snow-shoes, which would carry him through everything, and said
she would steal for him the bone-stick from the Gan-Finn, so that he
might find all the old lucky dollars that ever were buried, and would
teach him how to make salmon-catching knots in the fishing lines, and
how to entice the reindeer from afar. He should become as rich as the
Gan-Finn, if only he wouldn't forsake her.

But Jack had only eyes for the boat down there. Then she sprang up, and
tore down her black locks, and bound them round his feet, so that he had
to wrench them off before he could get quit of her.

"If I stay here and play with you and the young reindeer, many a poor
fellow will have to cling with broken nails to the keel of a boat,"[9]
said he. "If you like to make it up, give me a kiss and a parting hug,
or shall I go without them?"

Then she threw herself into his arms like a young wild cat, and looked
straight into his eyes through her tears, and shivered and laughed, and
was quite beside herself.

But when she saw she could do nothing with him, she rushed away, and
waved her hands above her head in the direction of the Gamme.[10]

Then Jack understood that she was going to take counsel of the Gan-Finn,
and that he had better take refuge in his boat before the way was closed
to him. And, in fact, the boat had come so close up to the boulders,
that he had only to step down upon the thwarts. The rudder glided into
his hand, and aslant behind the mast sat some one at the prow, and
hoisted and stretched the sail: but his face Jack could not see.

Away they went.

And such a boat for running before the wind Jack had never seen before.
The sea stood up round about them like a deep snow-drift, although it
was almost calm. But they hadn't gone very far before a nasty piping
began in the air. The birds shrieked and made for land, and the sea rose
like a black wall behind them.

It was the Gan-Finn who had opened his wind-sack, and sent a storm after
them.

"One needs a full sail in the Finn-cauldron here," said something from
behind the mast.

The fellow who had the boat in hand took such little heed of the weather
that he did not so much as take in a single clew.

Then the Gan-Finn sent double knots[11] after them.

They sped along in a wild dance right over the firth, and the sea
whirled up in white columns of foam, reaching to the very clouds.

Unless the boat could fly as quick and quicker than a bird, it was lost.

Then a hideous laugh was heard to larboard--

    "Anfinn Ganfinn gives mouth,
     And blows us right south;
     There's a crack[12] in the sack,
     With three clews we must tack."

And heeling right over, with three clews in the sail, and the heavy
foremost fellow astride on the sheer-strake, with his huge sea-boots
dangling in the sea-foam, away they scudded through the blinding spray
right into the open sea, amidst the howling and roaring of the wind.

The billowy walls were so vast and heavy that Jack couldn't even see the
light of day across the yards, nor could he exactly make out whether
they were going under or over the sea-trough.

The boat shook the sea aside as lightly and easily as if its prow were
the slippery fin of a fish, and its planking was as smooth and fine as
the shell of a tern's egg; but, look as he would, Jack couldn't see
where these planks ended; it was just as if there was only half a boat
and no more; and at last it seemed to him as if the whole of the front
part came off in the sea-foam, and they were scudding along under sail
in half a boat.

When night fell, they went through the sea-fire, which glowed like hot
embers, and there was a prolonged and hideous howling up in the air to
windward.

And cries of distress and howls of mortal agony answered the wind from
all the upturned boat keels they sped by, and many hideously
pale-looking folks clutched hold of their thwarts. The gleam of the
sea-fire cast a blue glare on their faces, and they sat, and gaped, and
glared, and yelled at the blast.

Suddenly he awoke, and something cried, "Now thou art at home at
Thjöttö, Jack!"

And when he had come to himself a bit, he recognised where he was. He
was lying over against the boulders near his boathouse at home. The tide
had come so far inland that a border of foam gleamed right up in the
potato-field, and he could scarcely keep his feet for the blast. He sat
him down in the boathouse, and began scratching and marking out the
shape of the Draugboat in the black darkness till sleep overtook him.

When it was light in the morning, his sister came down to him with a
meat-basket. She didn't greet him as if he were a stranger, but behaved
as if it were the usual thing for her to come thus every morning. But
when he began telling her all about his voyage to Finmark, and the
Gan-Finn, and the Draugboat he had come home in at night, he perceived
that she only grinned and let him chatter. And all that day he talked
about it to his sister and his brothers and his mother, until he arrived
at the conclusion that they thought him a little out of his wits. When
he mentioned the Draugboat they smiled amongst themselves, and evidently
went out of their way to humour him. But they might believe what they
liked, if only he could carry out what he wanted to do, and be left to
himself in the out-of-the-way old boathouse.

"One should go with the stream," thought Jack; and if they thought him
crazy and out of his wits, he ought to behave so that they might beware
of interfering with him, and disturbing him in his work.

So he took a bed of skins with him down to the boathouse, and slept
there at night; but in the daytime he perched himself on a pole on the
roof, and bellowed out that now he was sailing. Sometimes he rode
astraddle on the roof ridge, and dug his sheath-knife deep into the
rafters, so that people might think he fancied himself at sea, holding
fast on to the keel of a boat.

Whenever folks passed by, he stood in the doorway, and turned up the
whites of his eyes so hideously, that every one who saw him was quite
scared. As for the people at home, it was as much as they dared to stick
his meat-basket into the boathouse for him. So they sent it to him by
his youngest sister, merry little Malfri, who would sit and talk with
him, and thought it such fun when he made toys and playthings for her,
and talked about the boat which should go like a bird, and sail as no
other boat had ever sailed.

If any one chanced to come upon him unexpectedly, and tried to peep and
see what he was about in the boathouse there, he would creep up into the
timber-loft and bang and pitch the boards and planks about, so that they
didn't know exactly where to find him, and were glad enough to be off.
But one and all made haste to climb over the hill again when they heard
him fling himself down at full length and send peal after peal of
laughter after them.

So that was how Jack got folks to leave him at peace.

He worked best at night when the storm tore and tugged at the stones and
birchbark of the turf roof, and the sea-wrack came right up to the
boathouse door.

When it piped and whined through the fissured walls, and the fine
snowflakes flitted through the cracks, the model of the Draugboat stood
plainest before him. The winter days were short, and the wick of the
train-oil lamp, which hung over him as he worked, cast deep shadows, so
that the darkness came soon and lasted a long way into the morning, when
he sought sleep in his bed of skins with a heap of shavings for his
pillow.

He spared no pains or trouble. If there was a board which would not run
into the right groove with the others, though never so little, he would
take out a whole row of them and plane them all round again and again.

Now, one night, just before Christmas, he had finished all but the
uppermost planking and the gabs. He was working so hard to finish up
that he took no count of time.

The plane was sending the shavings flying their briskest when he came to
a dead stop at something black which was moving along the plank.

It was a large and hideous fly which was crawling about and feeling and
poking all the planks in the boat. When it reached the lowest keel-board
it whirred with its wings and buzzed. Then it rose and swept above it in
the air till, all at once, it swerved away into the darkness.

Jack's heart sank within him. Such doubt and anguish came upon him. He
knew well enough that no good errand had brought the Gan-fly buzzing
over the boat like that.

So he took the train-oil lamp and a wooden club, and began to test the
prow and light up the boarding, and thump it well, and go over the
planks one by one. And in this way he went over every bit of the boat
from stem to stern, both above and below. There was not a nail or a
rivet that he really believed in now.

But now neither the shape nor the proportions of the boat pleased him
any more. The prow was too big, and the whole cut of the boat all the
way down the gunwale had something of a twist and a bend and a swerve
about it, so that it looked like the halves of two different boats put
together, and the half in front didn't fit in with the half behind. As
he was about to look into the matter still further (and he felt the cold
sweat bursting out of the roots of his hair), the train-oil lamp went
out and left him in blank darkness.

Then he could contain himself no longer. He lifted his club and burst
open the boathouse door, and, snatching up a big cow-bell, he began to
swing it about him and ring and ring with it through the black night.

"Art chiming for me, Jack?" something asked. There was a sound behind
him like the surf sucking at the shore, and a cold blast blew into the
boathouse.

There on the keel-stick sat some one in a sloppy grey sea-jacket, and
with a print cap drawn down over its ears, so that its skull looked like
a low tassel.

Jack gave a great start. This was the very being he had been thinking of
in his wild rage. Then he took the large baling can and flung it at the
Draug.

But right through the Draug it went, and rattled against the wall
behind, and back again it came whizzing about Jack's ears, and if it had
struck him he would never have got up again.

The old fellow, however, only blinked his eyes a little savagely.

"Fie!" cried Jack, and spat at the uncanny thing--and back into his face
again he got as good as he gave.

"There you have your wet clout back again!" cried a laughing voice.

But the same instant Jack's eyes were opened and he saw a whole
boat-building establishment on the sea-shore.

And, there, ready and rigged out on the bright water, lay an
_Ottring_,[13] so long and shapely and shining that his eyes could not
feast on it enough.

The old 'un blinked with satisfaction. His eyes became more and more
glowing.

"If I could guide you back to Helgeland," said he, "I could put you in
the way of gaining your bread too. But you must pay me a little tax for
it. In every seventh boat you build 'tis _I_ who must put in the
keel-board."

Jack felt as if he were choking. He felt that the boat was dragging him
into the very jaws of an abomination.

"Or do you fancy you'll worm the trick out of me for nothing?" said the
gaping grinning Draug.

Then there was a whirring sound, as if something heavy was hovering
about the boathouse, and there was a laugh: "If you want the _seaman's_
boat you must take the _dead man's_ boat along with it. If you knock
three times to-night on the keel-piece with the club, you shall have
such help in building boats that the like of them will not be found in
all Nordland."

Twice did Jack raise his club that night, and twice he laid it aside
again.

But the Ottring lay and frisked and sported in the sea before his eyes,
just as he had seen it, all bright and new with fresh tar, and with the
ropes and fishing gear just put in. He kicked and shook the fine slim
boat with his foot just to see how light and high she could rise on the
waves above the water-line.

And once, twice, thrice, the club smote against the keel-piece.

So that was how the first boat was built at Sjöholm.

Thick as birds together stood a countless number of people on the
headland in the autumn, watching Jack and his brothers putting out in
the new Ottring.

It glided through the strong current so that the foam was like a foss
all round it.

Now it was gone, and now it ducked up again like a sea-mew, and past
skerries and capes it whizzed like a dart.

Out in the fishing grounds the folks rested upon their oars and gaped.
Such a boat they had never seen before.

But if in the first year it was an Ottring, next year it was a broad
heavy _Femböring_ for winter fishing which made the folks open their
eyes.

And every boat that Jack turned out was lighter to row and swifter to
sail than the one before it.

But the largest and finest of all was the last that stood on the stocks
on the shore.

This was the _seventh_.

Jack walked to and fro, and thought about it a good deal; but when he
came down to see it in the morning, it seemed to him, oddly enough, to
have grown in the night and, what is more, was such a wondrous beauty
that he was struck dumb with astonishment. There it lay ready at last,
and folks were never tired of talking about it.

Now, the Bailiff who ruled over all Helgeland in those days was an
unjust man who laid heavy taxes upon the people, taking double weight
and tale both of fish and of eider-down, nor was he less grasping with
the tithes and grain dues. Wherever his fellows came they fleeced and
flayed. No sooner, then, did the rumour of the new boats reach him than
he sent his people out to see what truth was in it, for he himself used
to go fishing in the fishing grounds with large crews. When thus his
fellows came back and told him what they had seen, the Bailiff was so
taken with it that he drove straightway over to Sjöholm, and one fine
day down he came swooping on Jack like a hawk. "Neither tithe nor tax
hast thou paid for thy livelihood, so now thou shalt be fined as many
half-marks of silver as thou hast made boats," said he.

Ever louder and fiercer grew his rage. Jack should be put in chains and
irons and be transported northwards to the fortress of Skraar, and be
kept so close that he should never see sun or moon more.

But when the Bailiff had rowed round the _Femböring_, and feasted his
eyes upon it, and seen how smart and shapely it was, he agreed at last
to let Mercy go before Justice, and was content to take the _Femböring_
in lieu of a fine.

Then Jack took off his cap and said that if there was one man more than
another to whom he would like to give the boat, it was his honour the
Bailiff.

So off the magistrate sailed with it.

Jack's mother and sister and brothers cried bitterly at the loss of the
beautiful _Femböring_; but Jack stood on the roof of the boat-house and
laughed fit to split.

And towards autumn the news spread that the Bailiff with his eight men
had gone down with the _Femböring_ in the West-fjord.

But in those days there was quite a changing about of boats all over
Nordland, and Jack was unable to build a tenth part of the boats
required of him. Folks from near and far hung about the walls of his
boat-house, and it was quite a favour on his part to take orders, and
agree to carry them out. A whole score of boats soon stood beneath the
pent-house on the strand.

He no longer troubled his head about every _seventh_ boat, or cared to
know which it was or what befell it. If a boat foundered now and then,
so many the more got off and did well, so that, on the whole, he made a
very good thing indeed out of it. Besides, surely folks could pick and
choose their own boats, and take which they liked best.

But Jack got so great and mighty that it was not advisable for any one
to thwart him, or interfere where he ruled and reigned.

Whole rows of silver dollars stood in the barrels in the loft, and his
boat-building establishment stretched over all the islands of Sjöholm.

One Sunday his brothers and merry little Malfri had gone to church in
the _Femböring_. When evening came, and they hadn't come home, the
boatman came in and said that some one had better sail out and look
after them, as a gale was blowing up.

Jack was sitting with a plumb-line in his hand, taking the measurements
of a new boat, which was to be bigger and statelier than any of the
others, so that it was not well to disturb him.

"Do you fancy they're gone out in a rotten old tub, then?" bellowed he.
And the boatman was driven out as quickly as he had come.

But at night Jack lay awake and listened. The wind whined outside and
shook the walls, and there were cries from the sea far away. And just
then there came a knocking at the door, and some one called him by name.

"Go back whence you came," cried he, and nestled more snugly in his bed.

Shortly afterwards there came the fumbling and the scratching of tiny
fingers at the door.

"Can't you leave me at peace o' nights?" he bawled, "or must I build me
another bedroom?"

But the knocking and the fumbling for the latch outside continued, and
there was a sweeping sound at the door, as of some one who could not
open it. And there was a stretching of hands towards the latch ever
higher and higher.

But Jack only lay there and laughed. "The _Fembörings_ that are built at
Sjöholm don't go down before the first blast that blows," mocked he.

Then the latch chopped and hopped till the door flew wide open, and in
the doorway stood pretty Malfri and her mother and brothers. The
sea-fire shone about them, and they were dripping with water.

Their faces were pale and blue, and pinched about the corners of the
mouth, as if they had just gone through their death agony. Malfri had
one stiff arm round her mother's neck; it was all torn and bleeding,
just as when she had gripped her for the last time. She railed and
lamented, and begged back her young life from him.

So now he knew what had befallen them.

Out into the dark night and the darker weather he went straightway to
search for them, with as many boats and folk as he could get together.
They sailed and searched in every direction, and it was in vain.

But towards day the _Femböring_ came drifting homewards bottom upwards,
and with a large hole in the keel-board.

Then he knew who had done the deed.

But since the night when the whole of Jack's family went down, things
were very different at Sjöholm.

In the daytime, so long as the hammering and the banging and the planing
and the clinching rang about his ears, things went along swimmingly, and
the frames of boat after boat rose thick as sea fowl on an
_Æggevær_.[14]

But no sooner was it quiet of an evening than he had company. His mother
bustled and banged about the house, and opened and shut drawers and
cupboards, and the stairs creaked with the heavy tread of his brothers
going up to their bedrooms.

At night no sleep visited his eyes, and sure enough pretty Malfri came
to his door and sighed and groaned.

Then he would lie awake there and think, and reckon up how many boats
with false keel-boards he might have sent to sea. And the longer he
reckoned the more draug-boats he made of it.

Then he would plump out of bed and creep through the dark night down to
the boathouse. There he held a light beneath the boats, and banged and
tested all the keel-boards with a club to see if he couldn't hit upon
the _seventh_. But he neither heard nor felt a single board give way.
One was just like another. They were all hard and supple, and the wood,
when he scraped off the tar, was white and fresh.

One night he was so tormented by an uneasiness about the new
_Sekstring_,[15] which lay down by the bridge ready to set off next
morning, that he had no peace till he went down and tested its
keel-board with his club.

But while he sat in the boat, and was bending over the thwart with a
light, there was a gulping sound out at sea, and then came such a vile
stench of rottenness. The same instant he heard a wading sound, as of
many people coming ashore, and then up over the headland he saw a boat's
crew coming along.

They were all crooked-looking creatures, and they all leaned right
forward and stretched out their arms before them. Whatever came in their
way, both stone and stour,[16] they went right through it, and there was
neither sound nor shriek.

Behind them came another boat's crew, big and little, grown men and
little children, rattling and creaking.

And crew after crew came ashore and took the path leading to the
headland.

When the moon peeped forth Jack could see right into their skeletons.
Their faces glared, and their mouths gaped open with glistening teeth,
as if they had been swallowing water. They came in heaps and shoals, one
after the other: the place quite swarmed with them.

Then Jack perceived that here were all they whom he had tried to count
and reckon up as he lay in bed, and a fit of fury came upon him.

He rose in the boat and spanked his leather breeches behind and cried:
"You would have been even more than you are already if Jack hadn't built
his boats!"

But now like an icy whizzing blast they all came down upon him, staring
at him with their hollow eyes.

They gnashed their teeth, and each one of them sighed and groaned for
his lost life.

Then Jack, in his horror, put out from Sjöholm.

But the sail slackened, and he glided into dead water.[17] There, in the
midst of the still water, was a floating mass of rotten swollen planks.
All of them had once been shaped and fashioned together, but were now
burst and sprung, and slime and green mould and filth and nastiness hung
about them.

Dead hands grabbed at the corners of them with their white knuckles and
couldn't grip fast. They stretched themselves across the water and sank
again.

Then Jack let out all his clews and sailed and sailed and tacked
according as the wind blew.

He glared back at the rubbish behind him to see if those _things_ were
after him. Down in the sea all the dead hands were writhing, and tried
to strike him with gaffs astern.

Then there came a gust of wind whining and howling, and the boat drove
along betwixt white seething rollers.

The weather darkened, thick snowflakes filled the air, and the rubbish
around him grew greener.

In the daytime he took the cormorants far away in the grey mist for his
landmarks, and at night they screeched about his ears.

And the birds flitted and flitted continually, but Jack sat still and
looked out upon the hideous cormorants.

At last the sea-fog lifted a little, and the air began to be alive with
bright, black, buzzing flies. The sun burned, and far away inland the
snowy plains blazed in its light.

He recognised very well the headland and shore where he was now able to
lay to. The smoke came from the Gamme up on the snow-hill there. In the
doorway sat the Gan-Finn. He was lifting his pointed cap up and down, up
and down, by means of a thread of sinew, which went right through him,
so that his skin creaked.

And up there also sure enough was Seimke.

She looked old and angular as she bent over the reindeer-skin that she
was spreading out in the sunny weather. But she peeped beneath her arm
as quick and nimble as a cat with kittens, and the sun shone upon her,
and lit up her face and pitch-black hair.

She leaped up so briskly, and shaded her eyes with her hand, and looked
down at him. Her dog barked, but she quieted it so that the Gan-Finn
should mark nothing.

Then a strange longing came over him, and he put ashore.

He stood beside her, and she threw her arms over her head, and laughed
and shook and nestled close up to him, and cried and pleaded, and didn't
know what to do with herself, and ducked down upon his bosom, and threw
herself on his neck, and kissed and fondled him, and wouldn't let him
go.

But the Gan-Finn had noticed that there was something amiss, and sat all
the time in his furs, and mumbled and muttered to the Gan-flies, so that
Jack dare not get between him and the doorway.

The Finn was angry.

Since there had been such a changing about of boats over all Nordland,
and there was no more sale for his fair winds, he was quite ruined, he
complained. He was now so poor that he would very soon have to go about
and beg his bread. And of all his reindeer he had only a single doe
left, who went about there by the house.

Then Seimke crept behind Jack, and whispered to him to bid for this doe.
Then she put the reindeer-skin around her, and stood inside the Gamme
door in the smoke, so that the Gan-Finn only saw the grey skin, and
fancied it was the reindeer they were bringing in.

Then Jack laid his hand upon Seimke's neck, and began to bid.

The pointed cap ducked and nodded, and the Finn spat in the warm air;
but sell his reindeer he would not.

Jack raised his price.

But the Finn heaved up the ashes all about him, and threatened and
shrieked. The flies came as thick as snow-flakes; the Finn's furry
wrappings were alive with them.

Jack bid and bid till it reached a whole bushel load of silver, and the
Finn was ready to jump out of his skins.

Then he stuck his head under his furs again, and mumbled and _jöjked_
till the amount rose to seven bushels of silver.

Then the Gan-Finn laughed till he nearly split. He thought the reindeer
would cost the purchaser a pretty penny.

But Jack lifted Seimke up, and sprang down with her to his boat, and
held the reindeer-skin behind him, against the Gan-Finn.

And they put off from land, and went to sea.

Seimke was so happy, and smote her hands together, and took her turn at
the oars.

The northern light shot out like a comb, all greeny-red and fiery, and
licked and played upon her face. She talked to it, and fought it with
her hands, and her eyes sparkled. She used both tongue and mouth and
rapid gestures as she exchanged words with it.

Then it grew dark, and she lay on his bosom, so that he could feel her
warm breath. Her black hair lay right over him, and she was as soft and
warm to the touch as a ptarmigan when it is frightened and its blood
throbs.

Jack put the reindeer-skin over Seimke, and the boat rocked them to and
fro on the heavy sea as if it were a cradle.

They sailed on and on till night-fall; they sailed on and on till they
saw neither headland nor island nor sea-bird in the outer skerries more.

       *       *       *       *       *

[1] This untranslatable word is a derivative of the Icelandic _Gandr_,
and means magic of the black or malefic sort.

[2] The northernmost province of Norway, right within the Arctic circle.

[3] The huts peculiar to the Norwegian Finns.

[4] To sing songs (here magic songs), as the Finns do. Possibly derived
from the Finnish verb _joikun_, which means monotonous chanting.

[5] The Norse _Kverva Syni_ is to delude the sight by magic spells.

[6] I.e., the boat he (Jack) wanted to build.

[7] A mountain between Sweden and Norway.

[8] I.e., the boat he would be building.

[9] Meaning that he would never have a chance of building the new sort
of boat that his mind was bent on.

[10] The Finn's hut.

[11] _Tvinde Knuder_. When the Finn tied _one_ magic knot, he raised a
gale, so two knots would give a tempest.

[12] I.e., where the Gan-Finn let out the wind.

[13] An eight-oared boat.

[14] A place where sea-birds' eggs abound.

[15] A contraction of _Sexæring_, i.e., a boat with six oars.

[16] Eng. dialect word (the Norse is _staur_) meaning impediments of any
kind.

[17] _Daudvatn_ (Dan. _Dödvand_), water in which there is no motion.

       *       *       *       *       *

TUG OF WAR.

[Illustration: TUG OF WAR.]



TUG OF WAR


For the last two or three days the weather had been terrific; but on the
third day it so far cleared up that one of the men who belonged to the
fishing station thought that they might manage to drag the nets a bit
that day. The others, however, were not inclined to venture out. Now it
is the custom for the various crews to lend each other a hand in pushing
off the boats, and so it happened now. When, however, they came to the
_Femböring_, which was drawn up a good distance ashore, they found the
oars and the thwarts turned upside down in the boat, and, more than
that, despite all their exertions, it was impossible to move the boat
from the spot. They tried once, twice, thrice; but it was of no use. But
then one of them, who was known to have second sight, said that, from
what he saw, it would be best not to touch the boat at all that day; it
was too heavy for the might of man to move. One of the crew, however,
who belonged to the fishing-station (he was a smart lad of fourteen),
was amusing them all the time with all manner of pranks and tomfoolery.
He now caught up a heavy stone, and pitched it with all his might right
into the stern of the boat. Then, suddenly and plainly visible to them
all, out of the boat rushed a Draug in seaman's clothes, but with a
heavy crop of seaweed instead of a head. It had been weighing down the
boat by sitting in the stern, and now dashed into the sea, so that the
foam spirted all over them. After that the _Femböring_ glided quite
smoothly into the water. Then the man with second sight looked at the
boy, and said that he should not have done so. But the lad went on
laughing as before, and said he didn't believe in such stuff. When they
had come home in the evening, and the folks lay sleeping in the
fishing-station, they heard, about twelve o'clock at night, the lad
yelling for help; it even seemed to one of them, by the light of the
train-oil lamp, as if a heavy hand were stretching forward from the door
right up to the bench on which the lad lay. The lad, yelling and
struggling, had already been dragged as far as the door before the
others had so far come to their senses as to think of grasping him round
the body to prevent him from being dragged right out. And now, in mid
doorway, a hard fight began, the Draug dragging him by the legs, while
the whole crew tugged against him with the boy's arms and upper limbs.
Thus, amidst yelling and groaning, they swayed to and fro all through
the midnight hour, backwards and forwards, in the half-open door; and
now the Draug, and now the men, had the most of the boy on their side of
the doorway. All at once the Draug let go, so that the whole crew fell
higgledy-piggledy backwards on to the floor. Then they found that the
boy was dead; it was only then that the Draug had let him go.

       *       *       *       *       *


"THE EARTH DRAWS"

[Illustration: "THE EARTH DRAWS."]



"THE EARTH DRAWS"


There was once a young salesman at the storekeeper's at Sörvaag.

He was fair, with curly hair, shrewd blue eyes, and so smart, and
obliging, and handsome, that all the girls in the town got themselves
sent on errands, and made pilgrimages to the shop on purpose to see him.
Moreover, he was so smart and skilful in everything he put his hand to,
that the storekeeper never would part with him.

Now it happened one day that he went out to a fishing station for his
principal.

The current was dead against him, so he rode close in shore.

All at once he saw a little ring in the rocky wall a little above
high-water mark. He thought it was the sort of ring which is used for
fastening boats to, so he fancied it wouldn't do any harm to rest a bit
and lay to ashore, and have a snack of something, for he had been
pulling at the oars from early morn.

But when he took hold of the ring to run his boatline through it, it
fitted round his finger so tightly that he had to tug at it. He tugged,
and out of the mountain side with a rush came a large drawer. It was
brimful of silk neckerchiefs and women's frippery.

He was amazed, and began pondering the matter over.

Then he saw what looked like rusty flakes of iron in rows right over the
whole mountain side, exactly resembling the slit of his own drawer.

He had now got the ring on his finger, and must needs try if it would
open the other slits also. And out he drew drawer after drawer full of
gold bracelets and silver bracelets, glass pearls, brooches and rings,
bracelets and laced caps, yarn, night-caps and woollen drawers, coffee,
sugar, groats, tobacco pipes, buttons, hooks and eyes, knives, axes, and
scythes.

He drew out drawer after drawer; there was no end to the display they
made.

But all round about him he heard, as it were, the humming of a crowd and
the tramp of sea-boots. There was a hubbub, as if they were rolling
hogsheads over a bridge and hoisting sails against the wind, and out
from the sea sounded the stroke of oars and the bumping of boats putting
ashore.

Then he began to have an inkling that he had laid to his boat at a
mooring-ring belonging to the underground folk, and had lit right upon
their landing-place where they deposited their wares.

He stood there looking into a drawer of meerschaum pipes. They were
finer than any he had thought it possible to find in the whole world.

Then he felt, as it were, the blow of a heavy hand which tried to thrust
him aside; but, at the same time, some one laughed so merrily close by.
The same instant he saw a young woman in the fore-part of his boat. She
was leaning, with broad shoulders and hairy arms, over a meal-sack. Her
eyes laughed and shot forth sparks as from a smithy in the dark, but her
face was oddly pale.

Then she vanished altogether like a vision.

He was glad when he got down into his boat again, and pushed off and
rode away.

But when he got out into the sound, and slackened speed a bit, he
perceived that the ring still sat upon his finger.

His first thought was to tear it off and fling it into the sea; but then
it sat tighter than ever.

It was so curiously wrought and fretted and engraved that he must needs
examine it more curiously; and the longer he looked at it the stranger
the gold whereof it was wrought gleamed and glistened. Turn it as he
would to examine its spirals, he could never make out where they began
and where they ended.

But as he sat there and looked and looked at it, the black crackling and
sparkling eyes of that pale face stood out more and more plainly before
his eyes. He didn't exactly know whether he thought her ugly or
handsome--the uncanny creature!

The ring he now meant to keep, come what might.

And home he rowed, and said not a word to anybody of what had happened
to him.

But from that day forth a strange restlessness came over him.

When he was sweeping out the shop or measuring goods, he would suddenly
stand there in a brown study, and fancy he was right away at the
landing-stage in the mountain-side, and the black woman was laughing at
him over the meal-sack.

Out yonder he must needs venture once more, and put his ring to the
test, though it cost him his life.

And in the course of the summer his boat lay over at the mountain-side
in the self-same place as before.

When he had opened the drawer with his gold ring, he caught sight of the
broad-shouldered woman. Her eyes sparkled, and had a wild look about
them, and she peered curiously at him.

And, every time he came, he seemed to be more expected, and she was more
and more gladsome. They became quite old acquaintances, and she was
always waiting for him there.

But at home he grew gloomy and silent. Yet, although he bethought him
that it was all sorcery, and her arms were hairy almost like a beast's,
and although he determined and really tried to keep away, nevertheless
he could not help going thither, and whenever he had been away from her
a whole week, she grew quite unmanageable, and laughed and shrieked when
she saw him coming again.

And he always heard the noise and the bustle of many people all about
him, but never could he see anything. It seemed to him, however, as if
they all lay a little way off and pulled their boat aside for him to
pass. His boat, too, was always nicely baled out, and the oars and sails
righted and trimmed. The cable, too, was fastened for him whenever he
came, and thrown to him whenever he went away.

Now and then she so managed it that he caught a glimpse into their
warehouses and their bright halls in the mountain side, and at such
times she seemed to be enticing him after her. And then, on his way
home, he would shudder. "What," thought he, "if the mountain wall were
to shut to behind me?" and every time he was right glad that he had been
so far on his guard and had come off scot free.

And now, towards autumn, he grew more at his ease. He really made up his
mind to try to give up these journeys. He set to work in real earnest,
so that he had no time for thought, and plunged into his business with
fiery impetuosity.

But when Christmas-tide drew nigh with its snowflakes and darkness, such
strange fancies came over him.

Whenever he went into the dark draughty nooks and corners, he saw the
strong, heavily built shape before him. She laughed and called to him,
and shrieked and sent him messages by the blast. And then a strong
desire came upon him.

And one day he was unable to hold out any longer, so off he went.

He fancied he caught a glimpse of her a long way off. She was casting
huge boulders aside so as to see and follow the course of the boat, and
she beckoned and greeted him through the drizzle and the mist. It was as
though the current was bearing him thither all the time.

When he came up, the sea seethed and boiled for the crowds that were in
it, though he saw them not. They waded out to him and drew his boat
ashore, and steps and a bridge lay there ready for his feet. But right
at the top stood she, and her breath came heavily, and she leaned
towards him and drew him with those bold eyes of hers set in that face
as pale as night. She went swiftly inland, looked behind her, and
beckoned him after her; and then she threw open the door of an old iron
safe in the midst of the wall.

On its shelves sparkled a bridal crown, and a shining girdle and
breastplate and a kirtle, and all manner of bridal finery.

There she stood, and her breath came straining hot and heavy through her
white teeth, and she smiled and ogled him archly. He felt her take hold
of him, and it was as though a darkness fell around him.

Then all at once, as if in a gleam of twilight, he saw the whole
trading-place, vast and wealthy and splendid, all round about him with
its haven, warehouses, and trading-ships. She stretched out her hands
and pointed to it, as if she would say that he should be the lord and
master of the whole of it.

A cold shiver ran through him; he perceived that it led right into the
mountain.

And out he rushed.

He cut the cable through with his knife, and wrenched the ring from his
finger, and cast it into the sea, and off he rowed, so that the sea was
like a foaming foss around him.

When he got home to his work again, and the bustle of the Christmas
season began, he felt as if he had awakened from a heavy nightmare or an
evil dream. He felt so light of heart. He chatted gaily with customers
over the counter, and his old life went on much the same as before. And
everything he put his hand to went along as smooth as butter.

But the tradesman's daughter stuck her head into the shop not once nor
twice. She looked and smiled at him in shy admiration. Never had he
remarked before what taking ways were hers, or noticed how bonnie and
bright the lassie was, and how graceful and supple she looked as she
stood in the doorway. And ever since the tradesman's daughter had looked
so strangely at him, he had no thought for any one but her. He was
always thinking what a way she had of holding her head, and how slim she
looked when she walked about, and what quick and lively blue eyes she
had, just like merry twinkling stars.

He would lay awake o' nights, and reflect upon his grievous abominable
sin in lowering himself to the level of an uncanny monster, and right
glad was he that he had cast the ring away.

But on Christmas Eve, when the shop was shut and the house folks and
servants were making ready for the festival in kitchen and parlour, the
shopkeeper took him aside into his counting-house. If he liked his
daughter, said he, there was no impediment that he could see. Let him
take heart and woo her, for it hadn't escaped him how she was moping
about all love-sick on his account. He himself, said the shopkeeper, was
old, and would like to retire from business.

The good-looking shopman did not wait to be asked twice. He wooed
straightway, and, before the Christmas cheer was on the table, he got
yes for an answer.

Then years and years passed over them, and they thrived and prospered in
house and home.

They had pretty and clever children. He rejoiced in his wife; nothing
was good enough for her, and honour and ease were her portion, both at
home and abroad.

But in the seventh year, when it was drawing towards Yule-tide, such a
strange restlessness came over him. He wandered about all by himself,
and could find peace nowhere.

His wife fretted and sorrowed over it. She knew not what it could be,
and it seemed to her that he oddly avoided her. He would wander for
hours together about the dark packhouse loft, among coffers and casks
and barrels and sacks, and it was as though he didn't like folks to come
thither when he was there.

Now it chanced on the day before Little Christmas Eve[1] that one of the
workpeople had to fetch something from the loft.

There stood the master, deep in thought, by one of the meal sacks,
staring down on the ground before him.

"Don't you see the iron ring down in the floor there?" he asked.

But the man saw no ring.

"I see it there--the earth draws," he sighed heavily.

On Little Christmas Eve he was nowhere to be found, nor on the day
after, though they searched for him high and low, and made inquiries
about him everywhere amidst the Yule-tide bustle and merriment.

But late on Christmas Eve, while they were all running about in the
utmost anxiety, not knowing whether they should lay the table or not,
all at once in he came through the door.

He longed so much for both meat and drink, he said, and he was so happy
and merry and jovial the whole evening through, that they all clean
forgot the fright they had been in.

For a whole year afterwards he was chatty and sociable as before, and he
made so much of his wife that it was quite absurd. He bore her in his
hands, so to speak, and absolutely could not do enough for her.

But when it drew towards Yule-tide again, and the darkest time of the
year, the same sort of restlessness came over him. It was as though they
only saw his shadow amongst them, and he went moping about the packhouse
loft again, and lingering there.

On Little Christmas Eve the same thing happened as before--he
disappeared.

His wife and the people of the house went about in a terrible way, and
were filled with astonishment and alarm.

And on Christmas Eve he suddenly stepped into the room again, and was
merry and jovial, as he generally was. But when the lights had burnt
out, and they all had gone to bed, his wife could hold her tongue no
longer: she burst into tears, and begged him to tell her where he had
been.

Then he thrust her roughly from him, and his eyes shot sparks, as if he
were downright crazy. He implored her, for their mutual happiness' sake,
never to ask him such a question again.

Time went on, and the same thing happened every year.

When the days grew dark, he moped about by himself, all gloomy and
silent, and seemed bent upon hiding himself away from people; and on
Little Christmas Eve he always disappeared, though nobody ever saw him
go. And punctually on Christmas Eve, at the very moment when they were
about to lay the table, he all at once came in at the door, happy and
contented with them all.

But just before every autumn, towards the dark days, always earlier than
the year before, this restlessness came over him, and he moped about
with it, moodier, and shyer of people than ever.

His wife never questioned him; but a load of sorrow lay upon her, and it
seemed to her to grow heavier and more crushing, since she seemed no
longer able to take care of him, and he no longer seemed to belong to
her.

Now one year, when it was again drawing nigh to Yule-tide, he began
roaming about as usual, heavy and cast down; and the day before Little
Christmas Eve he took his wife along with him into the packhouse loft.

"Do you see anything there by the meal sack?" he asked.

But she saw nothing.

Then he gripped her by the hand, and begged and implored her to remain,
and go with him there at night. As his life was dear to him, said he, he
would fain try and stay at home that day.

In the course of the night he tightly grasped her hand time after time,
and sighed and groaned. She felt that he was holding on to her, and
striving hard, and with all his might, against _something_.

When morning came, it was all over. He was happier and lighter of mood
than she had seen him for a long, long time, and he remained at home.

On that Christmas Eve there was such a hauling and a-carrying upstairs
from both shop and cellar, and the candles shone till all the
window-panes sparkled again. It was the first real festival he had ever
spent in his own house, he said, and he meant to make a regular banquet
of it.

But when, as the custom was, the people of the house came in one by one,
and drank the healths of their master and mistress, he grew paler and
paler and whiter and whiter, as if his blood were being sucked out of
him and drained away.

"The earth draws!" he shrieked, and there was a look of horror in his
eyes.

Immediately afterwards he sat there--dead!

       *       *       *       *       *

[1] _Lille Jule-aften_, i.e., the day before Christmas Eve
(_Jule-aften_).

       *       *       *       *       *

_THE CORMORANTS OF ANDVÆR_

[Illustration: _THE TWELVE CORMORANTS_.]



THE CORMORANTS OF ANDVÆR


Outside Andvær lies an island, the haunt of wild birds, which no man can
land upon, be the sea never so quiet; the sea-swell girds it round about
with sucking whirlpools and dashing breakers.

On fine summer days something sparkles there through the sea-foam like a
large gold ring; and, time out of mind, folks have fancied there was a
treasure there left by some pirates of old.

At sunset, sometimes, there looms forth from thence a vessel with a
castle astern, and a glimpse is caught now and then of an old-fashioned
galley. There it lies as if in a tempest, and carves its way along
through heavy white rollers.

Along the rocks sit the cormorants in a long black row, lying in wait
for dog-fish.

But there was a time when one knew the exact number of these birds.
There was never more nor less of them than twelve, while upon a stone,
out in the sea-mist, sat the thirteenth, but it was only visible when it
rose and flew right over the island.

The only persons who lived near the Vær[1] at winter time, long after
the fishing season was over, was a woman and a slip of a girl. Their
business was to guard the scaffolding poles for drying fish against the
birds of prey, who had such a villainous trick of hacking at the
drying-ropes.

The young girl had thick coal-black hair, and a pair of eyes that peeped
at folk so oddly. One might almost have said that she was like the
cormorants outside there, and she had never seen much else all her life.
Nobody knew who her father was.

Thus they lived till the girl had grown up.

It was found that, in the summer time, when the fishermen went out to
the Vær to fetch away the dried fish, that the young fellows began
underbidding each other, so as to be selected for that special errand.

Some gave up their share of profits, and others their wages; and there
was a general complaint in all the villages round about that on such
occasions no end of betrothals were broken off.

But the cause of it all was the girl out yonder with the odd eyes.

For all her rough and ready ways, she had something about her, said
those she chatted with, that there was no resisting. She turned the
heads of all the young fellows; it seemed as if they couldn't live
without her.

The first winter a lad wooed her who had both house and warehouse of his
own.

"If you come again in the summer time, and give me the right gold ring I
will be wedded by, something may come of it," said she.

And, sure enough, in the summer time the lad was there again.

He had a lot of fish to fetch away, and she might have had a gold ring
as heavy and as bonnie as heart could wish for.

"The ring I must have lies beneath the wreckage, in the iron chest, over
at the island yonder," said she; "that is, if you love me enough to dare
fetch it."

But then the lad grew pale.

He saw the sea-bore rise and fall out there like a white wall of foam on
the bright warm summer day, and on the island sat the cormorants
sleeping in the sunshine.

"Dearly do I love thee," said he, "but such a quest as that would mean
my burial, not my bridal."

The same instant the thirteenth cormorant rose from his stone in the
misty foam, and flew right over the island.

Next winter the steersman of a yacht came a wooing. For two years he had
gone about and hugged his misery for her sake, and he got the same
answer.

"If you come again in the summer time, and give me the right gold ring I
will be wedded with, something may come of it."

Out to the Vær he came again on Midsummer Day.

But when he heard where the gold ring lay, he sat and wept the whole day
till evening, when the sun began to dance north-westward into the sea.

Then the thirteenth cormorant arose, and flew right over the island.

There was nasty weather during the third winter.

There were manifold wrecks, and on the keel of a boat, which came
driving ashore, hung an exhausted young lad by his knife-belt.

But they couldn't get the life back into him, roll and rub him about in
the boat-house as they might.

Then the girl came in.

"'Tis my bridegroom!" said she.

And she laid him in her bosom, and sat with him the whole night through,
and put warmth into his heart.

And when the morning came, his heart beat.

"Methought I lay betwixt the wings of a cormorant, and leaned my head
against its downy breast," said he.

The lad was ruddy and handsome, with curly hair, and he couldn't take
his eyes away from the girl.

He took work upon the Vær.

But off he must needs be gadding and chatting with her, be it never so
early and never so late.

So it fared with him as it had fared with the others.

It seemed to him that he could not live without her, and on the day when
he was bound to depart, he wooed her.

"_Thee_ I will not fool," said she. "Thou hast lain on my breast, and I
would give my life to save thee from sorrow. Thou shalt have me if thou
wilt place the betrothal ring upon my finger; but longer than the day
lasts thou canst not keep me. And now I will wait, and long after thee
with a horrible longing, till the summer comes."

On Midsummer Day the youth came thither in his boat all alone.

Then she told him of the ring that he must fetch for her from among the
skerries.

"If thou hast taken me off the keel of a boat, thou mayest cast me forth
yonder again," said the lad. "Live without thee I cannot."

But as he laid hold of the oars in order to row out, she stepped into
the boat with him and sat in the stern. Wondrous fair was she!

It was beautiful summer weather, and there was a swell upon the sea:
wave followed upon wave in long bright rollers.

The lad sat there, lost in the sight of her, and he rowed and rowed till
the insucking breakers roared and thundered among the skerries; the
ground-swell was strong, and the frothing foam spurted up as high as
towers.

"If thy life is dear to thee, turn back now," said she.

"Thou art dearer to me than life itself," he made answer.

But just as it seemed to the lad as if the prow were going under, and
the jaws of death were gaping wide before him, it grew all at once as
still as a calm, and the boat could run ashore as if there was never a
billow there.

On the island lay a rusty old ship's anchor half out of the sea.

"In the iron chest which lies beneath the anchor is my dowry," said she;
"carry it up into thy boat, and put the ring that thou seest on my
finger. With this thou dost make me thy bride. So now I am thine till
the sun dances north-westwards into the sea."

It was a gold ring with a red stone in it, and he put it on her finger
and kissed her.

In a cleft on the skerry was a patch of green grass. There they sat them
down, and they were ministered to in wondrous wise, how he knew not nor
cared to know, so great was his joy.

"Midsummer Day is beauteous," said she, "and I am young and thou art my
bridegroom. And now we'll to our bridal bed."

So bonnie was she that he could not contain himself for love.

But when night drew nigh, and the sun began to dance out into the sea,
she kissed him and shed tears.

"Beauteous is the summer day," said she, "and still more beauteous is
the summer evening; but now the dusk cometh."

And all at once it seemed to him as if she were becoming older and older
and fading right away.

When the sun went below the sea-margin there lay before him on the
skerry some mouldering linen rags and nought else.

Calm was the sea, and in the clear Midsummer night there flew _twelve_
cormorants out over the sea.

       *       *       *       *       *

[1] A fishing-station, where fishermen assemble periodically.

       *       *       *       *       *

_ISAAC AND THE PARSON OF BRÖNÖ_


[Illustration: _THE PARSON OF BRÖNÖ. (Story of the Sea-Boot.)_]



ISAAC AND THE PARSON OF BRÖNÖ


In Helgeland there was once a fisherman called Isaac. One day when he
was out halibut fishing he felt something heavy on the lines. He drew
up, and, lo! there was a sea-boot.

"That _was_ a rum 'un! " said he, and he sat there a long time looking
at it.

It looked just as if it might be the boot of his brother who had gone
down in the great storm last winter on his way home from fishing.

There was still something _inside_ the boot too, but he durst not look
to see what it was, nor did he exactly know what to do with the sea-boot
either.

He didn't want to take it home and frighten his mother, nor did he quite
fancy chucking it back into the sea again; so he made up his mind to go
to the parson of Brönö, and beg him to bury it in a Christian way.

"But I can't bury a sea-boot," quoth the parson.

The fellow scratched his head. "Na, na!" said he.

Then he wanted to know how much there ought to be of a human body before
it could have the benefit of Christian burial.

"That I cannot exactly tell you," said the parson; "a tooth, or a
finger, or hair clippings is not enough to read the burial service over.
Anyhow, there ought to be so much remaining that one can see that a soul
has been in it. But to read Holy Scripture over a toe or two in a
sea-boot! Oh, no! that would never do!"

But Isaac watched his opportunity, and managed to get the sea-boot into
the churchyard on the sly, all the same.

And home he went.

It seemed to him that he had done the best he could. It was better,
after all, that _something_ of his brother should lie so near God's
house than that he should have heaved the boot back into the black sea
again.

But, towards autumn, it so happened that, as he lay out among the
skerries on the look-out for seals, and the ebb-tide drove masses of
tangled seaweed towards him, he fished up a knife-belt and an empty
sheath with his oar-blade.

He recognised them at once as his brother's.

The tarred wire covering of the sheath had been loosened and bleached by
the sea; and he remembered quite well how, when his brother had sat and
cobbled away at this sheath, he had chatted and argued with him about
the leather for his belt which he had taken from an old horse which they
had lately killed.

They had bought the buckle together over at the storekeeper's on the
Saturday, and mother had sold bilberries, and capercailzies, and three
pounds of wool. They had got a little tipsy, and had had such fun with
the old fishwife at the headland, who had used a bast-mat for a sail.

So he took the belt away with him, and said nothing about it. It was no
good giving pain to no purpose, thought he.

But the longer the winter lasted the more he bothered himself with odd
notions about what the parson had said. And he knew not what he should
do in case he came upon something else, such as another boot, or
something that a squid, or a fish, or a crab, or a Greenland shark might
have bitten off. He began to be really afraid of rowing out in the sea
there among the skerries.

And yet, for all that, it was as though he were constantly being drawn
thither by the hope of finding, perhaps, so much of the remains as might
show the parson where the soul had been, and so move him to give them a
Christian burial.

He took to walking about all by himself in a brown study.

And then, too, he had such nasty dreams.

His door flew open in the middle of the night and let in a cold
sea-blast, and it seemed to him as if his brother were limping about the
room, and yelling that he must have his foot again, the Draugs were
pulling and twisting him about so.

For hours and hours he stood over his work without laying a hand to it,
and blankly staring at the fifth wall[1].

At last he felt as if he were really going out of his wits, because of
the great responsibility he had taken upon himself by burying the foot
in the churchyard.

He didn't want to pitch it into the sea again, but it couldn't lie in
the churchyard either.

It was borne in upon him so clearly that his brother could not be among
the blessed, and he kept going about and thinking of all that might be
lying and drifting and floating about among the skerries.

So he took it upon himself to dredge there, and lay out by the sea-shore
with ropes and dredging gear. But all that he dredged up was sea-wrack,
and weeds, and star-fish, and like rubbish.

One evening as he sat out there by the rocks trying his luck at fishing,
and the line with the stone and all the hooks upon it shot down over the
boat's side, the last of the hooks caught in one of his eyes, and right
to the bottom went the eye.

There was no use dredging for _that_, and he could see to row home very
well without it.

In the night he lay with a bandage over his eye, wakeful for pain, and
he thought and thought till things looked as black as they could be to
him. Was there ever any one in the world in such a hobble as he?

All at once such an odd thing happened.

He thought he was looking about him, deep down in the sea, and he saw
the fishes flitting and snapping about among the sea-wrack and seaweeds
round about the fishing line. They bit at the bait, and wriggled and
tried to slip off, first a cod, and then a ling, and then a dog-fish.
Last of all, a haddock came and stood still there, and chewed the water
a little as if it were tasting before swallowing it.

And he saw there what he couldn't take his eyes off. It looked like the
back of a man in leather clothes, with one sleeve caught beneath the
grapnel of a _Femböring_.[2]

Then a heavy white halibut came up and gulped down the hook, and it
became pitch dark.

"You must let the big halibut slip off again when you pull up
to-morrow," something said, "the hook tears my mouth so. 'Tis of no use
searching except in the evening, when the tide in the sound is on the
ebb."

Next day he went off, and took a piece of a tombstone from the
churchyard to dredge the bottom with; and in the evening, when the tide
had turned, he lay out in the sound again and searched.

Immediately he hauled up the grapnel of a _Femböring_, the hooks of
which were clinging to a leather fisherman's jacket, with the remains of
an arm in it.

The fishes had got as much as they could of it out of the leather
jacket.

Off to the parson he rowed straightway.

"What! read the service over a washed-out old leather jacket!" cried the
parson of Brönö.

"I'll throw the sea-boot into the bargain," answered Isaac.

"Waifs and strays and sea salvage should be advertised in the church
porch," thundered the parson.

Then Isaac looked straight into the parson's face.

"The sea-boot has been heavy enough on my conscience," said he; "and I'm
sure I don't want to be saddled with the leather jacket as well."

"I tell you I don't mean to cast consecrated earth to the winds," said
the parson; he was getting wroth.

Isaac scratched his head again. "Na, na!" said he.

And with that he had to be content and go home.

But Isaac had neither rest nor repose, there lay such a grievous load
upon him.

In the night time he again saw the big white halibut. It was going round
and round so slowly and sadly in the selfsame circle at the bottom of
the sea. It was just as if some invisible sort of netting was all round
it, and the whole time it was striving to slip through the meshes.

Isaac lay there, and gazed and gazed till his blind eye ached again.

No sooner was he out dredging next day, and had let down the ropes, than
an ugly heavy squid came up, and spouted up a black jet right in front
of him.

But one evening he let the boat drive, as the current chose to take it,
outside the skerries, but within the islands. At last it stopped at a
certain spot, as if it were moored fast, and there it grew wondrously
still; there was not a bird in the air or a sign of life in the sea.

All at once up came a big bubble right in front of the jib, and as it
burst he heard a deep heavy sigh.

But Isaac had his own opinion about what he had seen.

"And the parson of Brönö shall see to the funeral too, or I'll know the
reason why," said he.

From henceforth it was bruited abroad that he had second sight, and saw
many things about him which were hid from other folks.

He could tell exactly where the fish were to be found thick together by
the sea-banks, and where they were not; and whenever they asked him
about such things, he would say--

"If I don't know it, my brother does."

Now one day it chanced that the parson of Brönö had to go out along the
coast on a pious errand, and Isaac was one of them who had to row him
thither.

Off they went with a rattling good breeze.

The parson got quickly there, and was not very long about his business,
for next day he had to hold divine service in his own parish church.

"The firth seems to me a bit roughish," said he, "and 'tis getting
towards evening; but as we have come hither, I should think we could get
back again also."

They had not got very far on their homeward journey when the rising gale
began to whistle and whine, so that they had to take in four clews[3].

And away they went, with the sea-scud and the snow-flakes flying about
their ears, while the waxing rollers rose big as houses.

The parson of Brönö had never been out in such weather before. They
sailed right into the rollers, and they sailed out again.

Soon it became black night.

The sea shone like mountain snow-fields, and the showers of snow and
spray rather waxed than waned.

Isaac had just taken in the fifth clew also when one of the planks
amidships gave way, so that the sea foamed in, and the parson of Brönö
and the crew leaped upon the upper deck, and bawled out that the boat
was going down.

"I don't think she'll founder this voyage," said Isaac; and he remained
sitting where he was at the rudder.

But as the moon peeped forth from behind a hail-shower, they saw that a
strange foremastman was standing in the scuppers, and baling the water
out of the boat as fast as it poured in.

"I didn't know that I had hired that fellow yonder," said the parson of
Brönö; "he seems to me to be baling with a sea-boot; and it also seems
to me as if he had neither breeches nor skin upon his legs, and the
upper part of him is neither more nor less than an empty fluttering
leather jacket."

"Parson has seen him before, I think," said Isaac.

Then the parson of Brönö grew angry.

"By virtue of my sacred office," said he, "I adjure him to depart from
amidships."

"Na, na!" answered Isaac; "and can parson also answer for the plank that
has burst?"

Then the parson bethought him of the evil case he was in.

"The man seems to me mortally strong, and we have great need of him,"
said he; "nor is it any great sin, methinks, to help a servant of God's
over the sea. But I should like to know what he wants in return."

The billows burst, and the blast howled around him.

"Only some two or three shovels of earth on a rotten sea-boot and a
mouldy skin-jacket," said Isaac.

"If you're able to gad about again here below, I suppose there's nothing
against your being able to enter into bliss again, for all that I know,"
bawled the parson of Brönö; "and you shall have your shovelfuls of earth
into the bargain."

Just as he said this, the water within the skerries all at once became
quite smooth, and the parson's boat drove high and dry upon the
sandbank, so that the mast cracked.

       *       *       *       *       *

[1] _I.e.,_ at nothing--a house having usually only four walls.

[2] See "The Fisherman and the Draug."

[3] See "The Fisherman and the Draug."

       *       *       *       *       *


_THE WIND-GNOME_


[Illustration: _THE WIND-GNOME_.]



THE WIND-GNOME


There was once a skipper of Dyrevig called Bardun. He was so headstrong
that there was no doing anything with him. Whatever he set his mind
upon, that should be done, he said, and done it always was.

If he promised to be at a dance, the girls could safely rely upon his
being there, though it blew a tempest and rained cats and dogs.

He would come scudding along on a _Færing_[1] to his father's house
through storm and stress. Row upon row of girls would be waiting for him
there, and he spanked the floor with every one of them in turn, and left
their gallants to cool their heels as best they might.

Cock-of-the-walk he always must be.

He would go shark-fishing too, and would venture with his fishing gaff
into seas where only large vessels were wont to go.

If there was anything nobody else dared do, Bardun was the man to do it.
And, absurd and desperate as the venture might be, he always succeeded,
so that folks were always talking about him.

Now, right out at sea, beyond the skerries, lay a large rock, the lair
of wild-fowl, whither the merchant who owned it came every year to bring
away rich loads of eider-down. A long way down the side of this lofty
rock was a cleft. Nobody could tell how far _into_ the rock it went, and
so inaccessible was it there that its owner had said that whoever liked
might come and take eider-down from thence. It became quite a proverb to
say, when anything couldn't be done, that it was just as impossible as
taking eider-down from Dyrevig rock.

But Bardun passed by the rock, and peeped up at the cleft, and saw all
the hosts of the fowls of the air lighting upon it so many times that he
felt he needs must try his hand at it.

He lost no time about it, and the sun was shining brightly as he set
out.

He took with him a long piece of rope, which he cast two or three times
round a rocky crag, and lowered himself down till he was right opposite
the cleft. There he hung and swung over it backwards and forwards till
he had got a firm footing, and then he set about collecting eider-down
and stuffing his sacks with it.

He went searching about for it so far into the rocky chasm that he saw
no more than a gleam of sunlight outside the opening, and he couldn't
take a hundreth part of the eider-down that was there.

It was quite late in the evening before he gave up trying to gather it
all. But when he came out again, the stone which he had placed on the
top of the rope and tied it to was gone. And now the rope hung loosely
there, and dangled over the side of the rock. The wind blew it in and
out and hither and thither. The currents of air sported madly with it,
so that it always kept sheer away from the rock and far out over the
abyss.

There he stood then, and tried again and again to clutch hold of it till
the sun lay right down in the sea.

When it began to dawn again, and the morning breeze rose up from the
sea, he all at once heard something right over his head say--

"It blows away, it blows away!"

He looked up, and there he saw a big woman holding the rope away from
the cliff side.

Every time he made a grip at it she wrenched and twisted it right away
over the rocky wall, and there was a laughing and a grinning all down
the mountain side--

"It blows away, it blows away!"

And, again and again, the rope drove in and out and hither and thither.

"You had better take a spring at once, and not wait till you're tired,"
thought he.

It was a pretty long leap to take, but he went back a sufficient
distance, and then out he sprang.

Bardun was not the man to fall short of anything. He caught the rope and
held it tight.

And, oddly enough, it seemed now to run up the cliff-side of its own
accord, just as if some one were hoisting it.

But in front of the rocky crag to which he had fastened the rope, he
heard a soughing and a sighing, and something said, "I am the daughter
of the Wind-Gnome, and now thou hast dominion over me! When the blast
blows and whines about thee 'tis I who long for thee. And here thou hast
a rudder which will give thee luck and a fair wind whithersoever thou
farest. He who is with thee shall thrive, and he who is against thee
shall suffer shipwreck and be lost. For 'tis I who am in the windy
gusts."

Then all at once everything was quite still; but down on the sea below
there swept a heavy squall.

There stood Bardun with the rudder in his hand, and he understood that
it was not a thing to be lightly cast away.

Homeward he steered with a racing breeze behind him, and he had not
sailed far before he met a galeas which gave him the Bergen price for
his eider-down.

But Bardun was not content with only going thither once. He went just
the same as before, and he returned from the Dyrevig rock with a pile of
sacks of eider-down on his boat right up to the mast.

He bought houses and ships; mightier and mightier he grew.

And it was not long before he owned whole fishing-grounds, both
northwards and southwards.

Those who submitted to him, and did as he would have them do, increased
and prospered, and saw good days; but all who stood in his way were
wrecked on the sea and perished, for the Wind-Gnome was on his side.

So things quickly went from good to better with him. What was to him a
fair wind was the ruin of all those who were in any way opposed to him.
At last he became so rich and mighty that he owned every blessed
trading-place and fishing-station in all Finmark, and sent vessels even
as far as Spitzbergen.

Nobody durst sell fish up north without his leave, and his sloops sailed
over to Bergen eighteen at a time.

He ruled and gave judgment as it seemed best to him.

But the magistrates thought that such authority was too much for one man
to have, and they began to make inquiries, and receive complaints of how
he domineered the people.

Next, the magistrates sent him a warning.

"But the right to rule lies in my rudder," thought Bardun to himself.

Then the magistrates summoned him before the tribunal.

Bardun simply whistled contemptuously.

At last matters came to such a pitch that the magistrates sailed forth
to seize him in the midst of a howling tempest, and down they went in
the Finmark seas.

Then Bardun was made chief magistrate, till such time as the king should
send up another.

But the new man who came had not been very long in office there before
it seemed to him as if it was not he but Bardun who held sway.

So the same thing happened over again.

Bardun was summoned in vain before the courts, and the magistrates came
forth to seize him and perished at sea.

But when the next governor was sent up to Finmark, it was only the keel
of the king's ship that came drifting in from the sea. At last nobody
would venture thither to certain ruin, and Bardun was left alone, and
ruled over all. Then so mighty was he in all Finmark that he reigned
there like the king himself.

Now he had but one child, and that a daughter.

Boel was her name, and she shot up so handsome and comely that her
beauty shone like the sun. No bridegroom was good enough for her,
unless, perhaps, it were the king's son.

Wooers came from afar, and came in vain. She was to have a dower, they
said, such as no girl in the North had ever had before.

One year quite a young officer came up thither with a letter from the
king. His garments were stiff with gold, and shone and sparkled wherever
he went. Bardun received him well, and helped him to carry out the
king's commands.

But since the day when he himself was young, and got the answer, "Yes!"
from his bride, he had never been so happy as when Boel came to him one
day and said that the young officer had wooed her, and she would throw
herself into the sea straightway if she couldn't have him.

In this way, he argued, his race would always sit in the seat of
authority, and hold sway when he was gone.

While the officer, in the course of the summer, was out on circuit,
Bardun set a hundred men to work to build a house for them.

It was to shine like a castle, and be bright with high halls and large
reception-rooms, and windows in long rooms; and furs and cloth of gold
and bright tiles were fetched from the far South.

And in the autumn there was such a wedding that the whole land heard and
talked about it.

But it was not long before Bardun began to find that to be a fact which
was already a rumour, to wit, that the man who had got his daughter
would fain have his own way also.

He laid down the law, and gave judgment like Bardun himself; and he
over-ruled Bardun, not once nor twice.

Then Bardun went to Boel, and bade her take her husband to task, and
look sharp about it. He had never yet seen the man, said he, who
couldn't be set right by his bride in the days when they did nothing but
eat honey together.

But Boel said that she had wedded a man who, to her mind, was no less a
man than her own father; and it was his office, besides, to uphold the
law and jurisdiction of the king.

Young folks are easy to talk over, thought Bardun. One can do anything
with them when one only makes them fancy they are having their own way.
And it is wonderful how far one can get if one only bides one's time,
and makes the best of things. Whatever was out of gear he could very
easily put right again, when once he got a firm grip of the reins.

So he praised everything his son-in-law did, and talked big about him,
so that there was really no end to it. He was glad, he said, that such a
wise and stately ruler was there, ready to stand in his shoes against
the day when he should grow old.

And so he made himself small, and his voice quivered when he spoke, as
if he were really a sick and broken-down man.

But it didn't escape Boel how he slammed to the doors, and struck the
stones with his stick till the sparks flew.

Next time the court met, Bardun was taxed to a full tenth of the value
of all his property, according to the king's law and justice.

Then only did he begin to foresee that it might fare with the
magistrates now as it had done formerly.

But all women like pomp and show, thought he, and Boel was in this
respect no different to other people. And she was no daughter of his
either, if she couldn't keep the upper hand of her husband.

So he bought her gold and jewels, and other costly things. One day he
came with a bracelet, and another day with a chain; and now it was a
belt, and now a gold embroidered shoe. And every time he told her that
he brought her these gifts, because she was his dearest jewel. He knew
of nothing in the world that was too precious for her.

Then, in his most pleasant, most courtly style, he just hinted that she
might see to it, and talk her husband over to other ways.

But it booted him even less than before.

And so things went on till autumn. The king's law was first, and his
will was only second.

Then he began to dread what would be the end of it all. His eyes
sparkled so fiercely that none dare come near him. But at night he would
pace up and down, and shriek and bellow at his daughter, and give her
all sorts of vile names.

Now one day he came in to Boel with a heavy gold crown full of the most
precious stones. She should be the Queen of Finmark and Spitzbergen,
said he, if her husband would do according to his will.

Then she looked him stiffly in the face, and said she would never seduce
her husband into breaking the king's law.

He grew as pale as the wall behind him, and cast the gold crown on the
floor, so that there was a perfect shower of precious stones about them.

She must know, said he, that her father and none other was king here.
And now the young officer should find out how it fared with them who sat
in his seat.

Then Boel washed her hands of her father altogether, but she advised her
husband to depart forthwith.

And on the third day she had packed up all her bridal finery, and
departed in the vessel with the young officer.

Then Bardun smote his head against the wall, and that night he laughed,
so that it was heard far away, but he wept for his daughter.

And now there arose such a storm that the sea was white for a whole
week. And it was not long before the tidings came that the ship that
Boel and her husband had sailed by had gone down, and the splinters lay
and floated among the skerries.

Then Bardun took the rudder he had got from the Wind-Gnome, and stuck it
into the stern of the largest yacht he had. He was God himself now, said
he, and could always get a fair wind to steer by, and could rule where
he would in the wide world. And southwards he sailed with a rattling
breeze, and the billows rolled after him like mounds and hillocks.

Heavier and heavier grew the sea, till it rolled like white mountains as
high as the rocky walls of Lofoten.

It couldn't well be less when he was to rule the whole world, cried he.
And so he set his rudder dead southwards.

He never diminished his sail one bit, and worse and worse grew the
storm, and higher and higher rose the sea.

For now he was steering right into the sun.

       *       *       *       *       *

[1] A small two-oared boat.

       *       *       *       *       *

_THE HULDREFISH_


[Illustration: _THE HULDREFISH_.]



THE HULDREFISH[1]


It was such an odd trout that Nona hauled in at the end of his
fishing-line. Large and fat, red spotted and shiny, it sprawled and
squirmed, with its dirty yellow belly above the water, to wriggle off
the hook. And when he got it into the boat, and took it off the hook, he
saw that it had only two small slits where the eyes should have been.

It must be a huldrefish, thought one of the boatmen, for rumour had it
that that lake was one of those which had a double bottom.

But Nona didn't trouble his head very much about what sort of a fish it
was, so long as it was a big one. He was ravenously hungry, and bawled
to them to row as rapidly as possible ashore so as to get it cooked.

He had been sitting the whole afternoon with empty lines out in the
mountain lake there; but as for the trout, it was only an hour ago since
it had been steering its way through the water with its rudder of a
tail, and allowed itself to be fooled by a hook, and already it lay
cooked red there on the dish.

But now Nona recollected about the strange eyes, and felt for them, and
pricked away at its head with his fork. There was nothing but slits
outside, and yet there was a sort of hard eyeball inside. The head was
strangely shaped, and looked very peculiar in many respects.

He was vexed that he had not examined it more closely before it was
cooked; it was not so easy now to make out what it really was. It had
tasted first-rate, however, and that was something.

But at night there was, as it were, a gleam of bright water before his
eyes, and he lay half asleep, thinking of the odd fish he had pulled up.

He was in his boat again, he thought, and it seemed to him as if his
hands felt the fish wriggling and sprawling for its life, and shooting
its snout backwards and forwards to get off the hook.

All at once it grew so heavy and strong that it drew the boat after it
by the line.

It went along at a frightful speed, while the lake gradually diminished,
as it were, and dried up.

There was an irresistible sucking of the water in the direction the fish
went, which was towards a hole at the bottom of the lake like a funnel,
and right into this hole went the boat.

It glided for a long time in a sort of twilight along a subterranean
river, which dashed and splashed about him. The air that met him was, at
first, chilly and cellar-like; gradually, however, it grew milder and
milder, and warmer and warmer.

The stream now flowed along calmly and quietly, and broadened out
continually till it fell into a large lake.

Beyond the borders of this lake, but only half visible in the gloom,
stretched swamps and morasses, where he heard sounds as of huge beasts
wading and trampling. Serpent like they rose and writhed with a crashing
and splashing and snorting amidst the tepid mud and mire.

By the phosphorescent gleams he saw various fishes close to his boat,
but all of them lacked eyes.

And he caught glimpses of the outlines of gigantic sea-serpents
stretching far away into the darkness. He now understood that it was
from down here that they pop up their heads off the coast in the dog
days when the sea is warm.

The lindworm, with its flat head and duck's beak, darted after fish, and
crept up to the surface of the earth through the slimy ways of mire and
marsh.

Through the warm and choking gloom there came, from time to time, a
cooling chilling blast from the cold curves and winds of the slimy and
slippery greenish lichworm,[2] which bores its way through the earth and
eats away the coffins that are rotting in the churchyards.

Horrible shapeless monsters, with streaming manes, such as are said to
sometimes appear in mountain tarns, writhed and wallowed and seized
their prey in the fens and marshes.

And he caught glimpses of all sorts of humanlike creatures, such as
fishermen and sailors meet and marvel at on the sea, and landsmen see
outside the elfin mounds.

And, besides, that there was a soft whizzing and an endless hovering and
swarming of beings, whose shapes were nevertheless invisible to the eye
of man.

Then the boat glided into miry pulpy water, where her course tended
downwards, and where the earth-vault above darkened as it sank lower and
lower.

All at once a blinding strip of light shot down from a bright blue slit
high, high, above him.

A stuffy vapour stood round about him. The water was as yellow and
turbid as that which comes out of steam boilers.

And he called to mind the peculiar tepid undrinkable water which bubbles
up by the side of artesian wells. It was quite hot. Up there they were
boring down to a world of warm watercourses and liquid strata beneath
the earth's crust.

Heat as from an oven rose up from the huge abysses and dizzying clefts,
whilst mighty steaming waterfalls roared and shook the ground.

All at once he felt as if his body were breaking loose, freeing itself,
and rising in the air. He had a feeling of infinite lightness, of a
wondrous capability for floating in higher atmospheres and recovering
equilibrium.

And, before he knew how it was, he found himself up on the earth again.

       *       *       *       *       *

[1] _Hulder, huldre_, a name for anything elfin or gnomish. Compare
_Icel. Hulda_, a hiding, covering. It implies the invisibility of the
elfin race.

[2] _Ligorm_, serpent that eats the dead. If we have Lichfield and
lichgate, we may have lichworm too.

       *       *       *       *       *

_FINN BLOOD_


[Illustration: _FINN BLOOD._]



FINN BLOOD


In Svartfjord, north of Senje, dwelt a lad called Eilert. His neighbours
were seafaring Finns, and among their children was a pale little girl,
remarkable for her long black hair and her large eyes. They dwelt behind
the crag on the other side of the promontory, and fished for a
livelihood, as also did Eilert's parents; wherefore there was no
particular goodwill between the families, for the nearest fishing ground
was but a small one, and each would have liked to have rowed there
alone.

Nevertheless, though his parents didn't like it at all, and even forbade
it, Eilert used to sneak regularly down to the Finns. There they had
always strange tales to tell, and he heard wondrous things about the
recesses of the mountains, where the original home of the Finns was, and
where, in the olden time, dwelt the Finn Kings, who were masters among
the magicians. There, too, he heard tell of all that was beneath the
sea, where the Mermen and the Draugs hold sway. The latter are gloomy
evil powers, and many a time his blood stood still in his veins as he
sat and listened. They told him that the Draug usually showed himself on
the strand in the moonlight on those spots which were covered with
sea-wrack; that he had a bunch of seaweed instead of a head, but shaped
so peculiarly that whoever came across him absolutely couldn't help
gazing into his pale and horrible face. They themselves had seen him
many a time, and once they had driven him, thwart by thwart, out of the
boat where he had sat one morning, and turned the oars upside down. When
Eilert hastened homewards in the darkness round the headland, along the
strand, over heaps of seaweed, he dare scarcely look around him, and
many a time the sweat absolutely streamed from his forehead.

In proportion as hostility increased among the old people, they had a
good deal of fault to find with one another, and Eilert heard no end of
evil things spoken about the Finns at home. Now it was this, and now it
was that. They didn't even row like honest folk, for, after the Finnish
fashion, they took high and swift strokes, as if they were womenkind,
and they all talked together, and made a noise while they rowed, instead
of being "silent in the boat." But what impressed Eilert most of all was
the fact that, in the Finnwoman's family, they practised sorcery and
idolatry, or so folks said. He also heard tell of something beyond all
question, and that was the shame of having Finn blood in one's veins,
which also was the reason why the Finns were not as good as other honest
folk, so that the magistrates gave them their own distinct burial-ground
in the churchyard, and their own separate "Finn-pens" in church. Eilert
had seen this with his own eyes in the church at Berg.

All this made him very angry, for he could not help liking the Finn
folks down yonder, and especially little Zilla. They two were always
together: she knew such a lot about the Merman. Henceforth his
conscience always plagued him when he played with her; and whenever she
stared at him with her large black eyes while she told him tales, he
used to begin to feel a little bit afraid, for at such times he
reflected that she and her people belonged to the Damned, and that was
why they knew so much about such things. But, on the other hand, the
thought of it made him so bitterly angry, especially on her account.
She, too, was frequently taken aback by his odd behaviour towards her,
which she couldn't understand at all; and then, as was her wont, she
would begin laughing at and teasing him by making him run after her,
while she went and hid herself.

One day he found her sitting on a boulder by the sea-shore. She had in
her lap an eider duck which had been shot, and could only have died
quite recently, for it was still warm, and she wept bitterly over it. It
was, she sobbed, the same bird which made its nest every year beneath
the shelter of their outhouse--she knew it quite well, and she showed
him a red-coloured feather in its white breast. It had been struck dead
by a single shot, and only a single red drop had come out of it; it had
tried to reach its nest, but had died on its way on the strand. She wept
as if her heart would break, and dried her face with her hair in
impetuous Finnish fashion. Eilert laughed at her as boys will, but he
overdid it, and was very pale the whole time. He dared not tell her that
that very day he had taken a random shot with his father's gun from
behind the headland at a bird a long way off which was swimming ashore.

One autumn Eilert's father was downright desperate. Day after day on the
fishing grounds his lines caught next to nothing, while he was forced to
look on and see the Finn pull up one rich catch after another. He was
sure, too, that he had noticed malicious gestures over in the Finn's
boat. After that his whole house nourished a double bitterness against
them; and when they talked it over in the evening, it was agreed, as a
thing beyond all question, that Finnish sorcery had something to do with
it. Against this there was only one remedy, and that was to rub
corpse-mould on the lines; but one must beware of doing so, lest one
should thereby offend the dead, and expose oneself to their vengeance,
while the sea-folk would gain power over one at the same time.

Eilert bothered his head a good deal over all this; it almost seemed to
him as if he had had a share in the deed, because he was on such a good
footing with the Finn folks.

On the following Sunday both he and the Finn folks were at Berg church,
and he secretly abstracted a handful of mould from one of the Finn
graves, and put it in his pocket. The same evening, when they came home,
he strewed the mould over his father's lines unobserved. And, oddly
enough, the very next time his father cast his lines, as many fish were
caught as in the good old times. But after this Eilert's anxiety became
indescribable. He was especially cautions while they were working of an
evening round the fireside, and it was dark in the distant corners of
the room. He sat there with a piece of steel in his pocket. To beg
"forgiveness" of the dead is the only helpful means against the
consequences of such deeds as his, otherwise one will be dragged off at
night, by an invisible hand, to the churchyard, though one were lashed
fast to the bed by a ship's hawser.

When Eilert, on the following "Preaching Sunday," went to church, he
took very good care to go to the grave, and beg forgiveness of the dead.

As Eilert grew older, he got to understand that the Finn folks must,
after all, be pretty much the same sort of people as his own folks at
home; but, on the other hand, another thought was now uppermost in his
mind, the thought, namely, that the Finns must be of an inferior stock,
with a taint of disgrace about them. Nevertheless, he could not very
well do without Zilla's society, and they were very much together as
before, especially at the time of their confirmation.

But when Eilert became a man, and mixed more with the people of the
parish, he began to fancy that this old companionship lowered him
somewhat in the eyes of his neighbours. There was nobody who did not
believe as a matter of course that there was something shameful about
Finn blood, and he, therefore, always tried to avoid her in company.

The girl understood it all well enough, for latterly she took care to
keep out of his way. Nevertheless, one day she came, as had been her
wont from childhood, down to their house, and begged for leave to go in
their boat when they rowed to church next day. There were lots of
strangers present from the village, and so Eilert, lest folks should
think that he and she were engaged, answered mockingly, so that every
one could hear him, "that church-cleansing was perhaps a very good thing
for Finnish sorcery," but she must find some one else to ferry her
across.

After that she never spoke to him at all, but Eilert was anything but
happy in consequence.

Now it happened one winter that Eilert was out all alone fishing for
Greenland shark. A shark suddenly bit. The boat was small, and the fish
was very big; but Eilert would not give in, and the end of the business
was that his boat capsized.

All night long he lay on the top of it in the mist and a cruel sea. As
now he sat there almost fainting for drowsiness, and dimly conscious
that the end was not far off, and the sooner it came the better, he
suddenly saw a man in seaman's clothes sitting astride the other end of
the boat's bottom, and glaring savagely at him with a pair of dull
reddish eyes. He was so heavy that the boat's bottom began to slowly
sink down at end where he sat. Then he suddenly vanished, but it seemed
to Eilert as if the sea-fog lifted a bit; the sea had all at once grown
quite calm (at least, there was now only a gentle swell); and right in
front of him lay a little low grey island, towards which the boat was
slowly drifting.

The skerry was wet, as if the sea had only recently been flowing over
it, and on it he saw a pale girl with such lovely eyes. She wore a green
kirtle, and round her body a broad silver girdle with figures upon it,
such as the Finns use. Her bodice was of tar-brown skin, and beneath her
stay-laces, which seemed to be of green sea-grass, was a foam-white
chemise, like the feathery breast of a sea-bird.

When the boat came drifting on to the island, she came down to him and
said, as if she knew him quite well, "So you're come at last, Eilert;
I've been waiting for you so long!"

It seemed to Eilert as if an icy cold shudder ran through his body when
he took the hand which helped him ashore; but it was only for the
moment, and he forgot it instantly.

In the midst of the island there was an opening with a brazen flight of
steps leading down to a splendid cabin. Whilst he stood there thinking
things over a bit, he saw two heavy dog-fish swimming close by--they
were, at least, twelve to fourteen ells long.

As they descended, the dog-fish sank down too, each on one side of the
brazen steps. Oddly enough, it looked as if the island was transparent.
When the girl perceived that he was frightened, she told him that they
were only two of her father's bodyguard, and shortly afterwards they
disappeared. She then said that she wanted to take him to her father,
who was waiting for them. She added that, if he didn't find the old
gentleman precisely as handsome as he might expect, he had,
nevertheless, no need to be frightened, nor was he to be astonished too
much at what he saw.

He now perceived that he was under water, but, for all that, there was
no sign of moisture. He was on a white sandy bottom, covered with
chalk-white, red, blue, and silvery-bright shells. He saw meadows of
sea-grass, mountains thick with woods of bushy seaweed and sea-wrack,
and the fishes darted about on every side just as the birds swarm about
the rocks that sea-fowl haunt.

As they two were thus walking along together she explained many things
to him. High up he saw something which looked like a black cloud with a
white lining, and beneath it moved backwards and forwards a shape
resembling one of the dog-fish.

"What you see there is a vessel," said she; "there's nasty weather up
there now, and beneath the boat goes he who was sitting along with you
on the bottom of the boat just now. If it is wrecked, it will belong to
us, and then you will not be able to speak to father to-day." As she
said this there was a wild rapacious gleam in her eyes, but it was gone
again immediately.

And, in point of fact, it was no easy matter to make out the meaning of
her eyes. As a rule, they were unfathomably dark with the lustre of a
night-billow through which the sea-fire sparkles; but, occasionally,
when she laughed, they took a bright sea-green glitter, as when the sun
shines deep down into the sea.

Now and again they passed by a boat or a vessel half buried in the sand,
out and in of the cabin doors and windows of which fishes swam to and
fro. Close by the wrecks wandered human shapes which seemed to consist
of nothing but blue smoke. His conductress explained to him that these
were the spirits of drowned men who had not had Christian burial--one
must beware of them, for dead ones of this sort are malignant. They
always know when one of their own race is about to be wrecked, and at
such times they howl the death-warning of the Draug through the wintry
nights.

Then they went further on their way right across a deep dark valley. In
the rocky walls above him he saw a row of four-cornered white doors,
from which a sort of glimmer, as from the northern lights, shot
downwards through the darkness. This valley stretched in a
north-eastwardly direction right under Finmark, she said, and inside the
white doors dwelt the old Finn Kings who had perished on the sea. Then
she went and opened the nearest of these doors--here, down in the salt
ocean, was the last of the kings, who had capsized in the very breeze
that he himself had conjured forth, but could not afterwards quell.
There, on a block of stone, sat a wrinkled yellow Finn with running eyes
and a polished dark-red crown. His large head rocked backwards and
forwards on his withered neck, as if it were in the swirl of an ocean
current. Beside him, on the same block, sat a still more shrivelled and
yellow little woman, who also had a crown on, and her garments were
covered with all sorts of coloured stones; she was stirring up a brew
with a stick. If she only had fire beneath it, the girl told Eilert, she
and her husband would very soon have dominion again over the salt sea,
for the thing she was stirring about was magic stuff.

In the middle of a plain, which opened right before them at a turn of
the road, stood a few houses together like a little town, and, a little
further on, Eilert saw a church turned upside down, looking, with its
long pointed tower, as if it were mirrored in the water. The girl
explained to him that her father dwelt in these houses, and the church
was one of the seven that stood in his realm, which extended all over
Helgoland and Finmark. No service was held in them yet, but it would be
held when the drowned bishop, who sat outside in a brown study, could
only hit upon the name of the Lord that was to be served, and then all
the Draugs would go to church. The bishop, she said, had been sitting
and pondering the matter over these eight hundred years, so he would no
doubt very soon get to the bottom of it. A hundred years ago the bishop
had advised them to send up one of the Draugs to Rödö church to find out
all about it; but every time the word he wanted was mentioned he
couldn't catch the sound of it. In the mountain "Kunnan" King Olaf had
hung a church-bell of pure gold, and it is guarded by the first priest
who ever came to Nordland, who stands there in a white chasuble.

On the day the priest rings the bell, Kunnan will become a big stone
church, to which all Nordland, both above and below the sea, will
resort. But time flies, and therefore all who come down here below are
asked by the bishop if they can tell him that name.

At this Eilert felt very queer indeed, and he felt queerer still when he
began reflecting and found, to his horror, that he also had forgotten
that name.

While he stood there in thought, the girl looked at him so anxiously. It
was almost as if she wanted to help him to find it and couldn't, and
with that she all at once grew deadly pale.

The Draug's house, to which they now came, was built of boat's keels and
large pieces of wreckage, in the interstices of which grew all sorts of
sea-grass and slimy green stuff. Three monstrously heavy green posts,
covered with shell-fish, formed the entrance, and the door consisted of
planks which had sunk to the bottom and were full of clincher-nails. In
the middle of it, like a knocker, was a heavy rusty iron mooring-ring,
with the worn-away stump of a ship's hawser hanging to it. When they
came up to it, a large black arm stretched out and opened the door.

They were now in a vaulted chamber, with fine shell-sand on the floor.
In the corners lay all sorts of ropes, yarn, and boating-gear, and among
them casks and barrels and various ship's inventories. On a heap of
yarn, covered by an old red-patched sail, Eilert saw the Draug, a
broad-shouldered, strongly built fellow, with a glazed hat shoved back
on to the top of his head, with dark-red tangled hair and beard, small
tearful dog-fish eyes, and a broad mouth, round which there lay for the
moment a good-natured seaman's grin. The shape of his head reminded one
somewhat of the big sort of seal which is called Klakkekal--his skin
about the neck looked dark and shaggy, and the tops of his fingers grew
together. He sat there with turned-down sea-boots on, and his thick grey
woollen stockings reached right up to his thigh. He wore besides, plain
freize clothes with bright glass buttons on his waistcoat. His spacious
skin jacket was open, and round his neck he had a cheap red woollen
scarf.

When Eilert came up, he made as if he would rise, and said good
naturedly, "Good day, Eilert--you've certainly had a hard time of it
to-day! Now you can sit down, if you like, and take a little grub. You
want it, I'm sure;" and with that he squirted out a jet of tobacco juice
like the spouting of a whale. With one foot, which for that special
purpose all at once grew extraordinarily long, he fished out of a
corner, in true Nordland style, the skull of a whale to serve as a chair
for Eilert, and shoved forward with his hand a long ship's drawer full
of first-rate fare. There was boiled groats with sirup, cured fish,
oatcakes with butter, a large stack of flatcakes, and a multitude of the
best hotel dishes besides.

The Merman bade him fall to and eat his fill, and ordered his daughter
to bring out the last keg of Thronhjem _aqua vitæ_. "Of that sort the
last is always the best," said he. When she came with it, Eilert thought
he knew it again: it was his father's, and he himself, only a couple of
days before, had bought the brandy from the wholesale dealer at Kvæford;
but he didn't say anything about that now. The quid of tobacco, too,
which the Draug turned somewhat impatiently in his mouth before he
drank, also seemed to him wonderfully like the lead on his own line. At
first it seemed to him as if he didn't quite know how to manage with the
keg--his mouth was so sore; but afterwards things went along smoothly
enough.

So they sat for some time pretty silently, and drank glass after glass,
till Eilert began to think that they had had quite enough. So, when it
came to his turn again, he said no, he would rather not; whereupon the
Merman put the keg to his own mouth and drained it to the very dregs.
Then he stretched his long arm up to the shelf, and took down another.
He was now in a better humour, and began to talk of all sorts of things.
But every time he laughed, Eilert felt queer, for the Draug's mouth
gaped ominously wide, and showed a greenish pointed row of teeth, with a
long interval between each tooth, so that they resembled a row of boat
stakes.

The Merman drained keg after keg, and with every keg he grew more
communicative. With an air as if he were thinking in his own mind of
something very funny, he looked at Eilert for a while and blinked his
eyes. Eilert didn't like his expression at all, for it seemed to him to
say: "Now, my lad, whom I have fished up so nicely, look out for a
change!" But instead of that he said, "You had a rough time of it last
night, Eilert, my boy, but it wouldn't have gone so hard with you if you
hadn't streaked the lines with corpse-mould, and refused to take my
daughter to church"--here he suddenly broke off, as if he had said too
much, and to prevent himself from completing the sentence, he put the
brandy-keg to his mouth once more. But the same instant Eilert caught
his glance, and it was so full of deadly hatred that it sent a shiver
right down his back.

When, after a long, long draught, he again took the keg from his mouth,
the Merman was again in a good humour, and told tale after tale. He
stretched himself more and more heavily out on the sail, and laughed and
grinned complacently at his own narrations, the humour of which was
always a wreck or a drowning. From time to time Eilert felt the breath
of his laughter, and it was like a cold blast. If folks would only give
up their boats, he said, he had no very great desire for the crews. It
was driftwood and ship-timber that he was after, and he really couldn't
get on without them. When his stock ran out, boat or ship he _must_
have, and surely nobody could blame him for it either.

With that he put the keg down empty, and became somewhat more gloomy
again. He began to talk about what bad times they were for him and her.
It was not as it used to be, he said. He stared blankly before him for a
time, as if buried in deep thought. Then he stretched himself out
backwards at full length, with feet extending right across the floor,
and gasped so dreadfully that his upper and lower jaws resembled two
boats' keels facing each other. Then he dozed right off with his neck
turned towards the sail.

Then the girl again stood by Eilert's side, and bade him follow her.

They now went the same way back, and again ascended up to the skerry.
Then she confided to him that the reason why her father had been so
bitter against him was because he had mocked her with the taunt about
church-cleansing when she had wanted to go to church--the name the folks
down below wanted to know might, the Merman thought, be treasured up in
Eilert's memory; but during their conversation on their way down to her
father, she had perceived that he also had forgotten it. And now he must
look to his life.

It would be a good deal later on in the day before the old fellow would
begin inquiring about him. Till then he, Eilert, must sleep so as to
have sufficient strength for his flight--she would watch over him.

The girl flung her long dark hair about him like a curtain, and it
seemed to him that he knew those eyes so well. He felt as if his cheek
were resting against the breast of a white sea-bird, it was so warm and
sleep-giving--a single reddish feather in the middle of it recalled a
dark memory. Gradually he sank off into a doze, and heard her singing a
lullaby, which reminded him of the swell of the billows when it ripples
up and down along the beach on a fine sunny day. It was all about how
they had once been playmates together, and how later on he would have
nothing to say to her. Of all she sang, however, he could only recollect
the last words, which were these--

     "Oh, thousands of times have we played on the shore,
     And caught little fishes--dost mind it no more?
     We raced with the surf as it rolled at our feet,
     And the lurking old Merman we always did cheat.

     "Yes, much shalt thou think of at my lullaby,
     Whilst the billows do rock and the breezes do sigh.
     Who sits now and weeps o'er thy cheeks? It is she
     Who gave thee her soul, and whose soul lived in thee.

     "But once as an eider-duck homeward I came
     Thou didst lie 'neath a rock, with thy rifle didst aim;
     In my breast thou didst strike me; the blood thou dost see
     Is the mark that I bear, oh! beloved one, of thee."

Then it seemed to Eilert as if she sat and wept over him, and that, from
time to time, a drop like a splash of sea-water fell upon his cheek. He
felt now that he loved her so dearly.

The next moment he again became uneasy. He fancied that right up to the
skerry came a whale, which said that he, Eilert, must now make haste;
and when he stood on its back he stuck the shaft of an oar down its
nostril, to prevent it from shooting beneath the sea again. He perceived
that in this way the whale could be steered accordingly as he turned the
oar to the right or left; and now they coasted the whole land of Finmark
at such a rate that the huge mountain islands shot by them like little
rocks. Behind him he saw the Draug in his half-boat, and he was going so
swiftly that the foam stood mid-mast high. Shortly afterwards he was
again lying on the skerry, and the lass smiled so blithely; she bent
over him and said, "It is I, Eilert."

With that he awoke, and saw that the sunbeams were running over the wet
skerry, and the Mermaid was still sitting by his side. But presently the
whole thing changed before his eyes. It was the sun shining through the
window-panes, on a bed in the Finn's hut, and by his side sat the Finn
girl supporting his back, for they thought he was about to die. He had
lain there delirious for six weeks, ever since the Finn had rescued him
after capsizing, and this was his first moment of consciousness.

After that it seemed to him that he had never heard anything so absurd
and presumptuous as the twaddle that would fix a stigma of shame or
contempt on Finn blood, and the same spring he and the Finn girl Zilla
were betrothed, and in the autumn they were married.

There were Finns in the bridal procession, and perhaps many said a
little more about that than they need have done; but every one at the
wedding agreed that the fiddler, who was also a Finn, was the best
fiddler in the whole parish, and the bride the prettiest girl.

       *       *       *       *       *

_THE HOMESTEAD WESTWARD IN THE BLUE MOUNTAINS_


[Illustration: HOMESTEAD WESTWARD IN THE BLUE MOUNTAINS.]



THE HOMESTEAD WESTWARD IN THE BLUE MOUNTAINS


There was once a farmer's son who was off to Moen for the annual
manoeuvres. He was to be the drummer, and his way lay right across the
mountains. There he could practise his drumming at his ease, and beat
his tattoos again and again without making folks laugh, or having a
parcel of small boys dangling about him like so many midges.

Every time he passed a mountain homestead he beat his rat-tat-tat to
bring the girls out, and they stood and hung about and gaped after him
at all the farmhouses.

It was in the midst of the hottest summer weather. He had been
practising his drumming from early in the morning, till he had grown
quite sick and tired of it. And now he was toiling up a steep cliff, and
had slung his drum over his shoulder, and stuck his drumsticks in his
bandoleer.

The sun baked and broiled upon the hills; but in the clefts there was a
coolness as of a rushing roaring waterfall. The little knolls swarmed
with bilberries the whole way along, and he felt he must stoop down and
pluck whole handfuls at a time, so that it took a long time to get to
the top.

Then he came to a hilly slope where the ferns stood high, and there were
lots of birch bushes. It was so nice and shady there, he thought, and so
he couldn't for the life of him help taking a rest.

His drum he took off, his jacket he put beneath his head, and his cap
over his face, and off he went to sleep.

But as he lay dozing there, he dreamt that some one was tickling him
under the nose with a straw so that he could get no peace; and the
instant he awoke, he fancied he heard laughing and giggling.

The sun had by this time begun to cast oblique shadows, and far down
below, towards the valleys, lay the warm steaming vapours, creeping
upwards in long drawn-out gossamer bands and ribands of mist.

As he reached behind him for his jacket, he saw a snake, which lay and
looked at him with such shrewd quick eyes. But when he threw a stone at
it, it caught its tail in its mouth, and trundled away like a wheel.

Again there was a giggling and a sniggering among the bushes.

And now he heard it among some birch trees which stood in such a
wonderful sunlight, for they were filled with the rain and fine drizzle
of a waterfall. The water-drops glistened and sparkled so that he really
couldn't see the trees properly.

But it was as though something were moving about in them, and he could
have sworn that he had caught a glimpse of a fine bright slim damsel,
who was laughing and making fun of him. She peeped at him from beneath
her hand, because of the sun, and her sleeves were tucked up.

A little while afterwards a dark-blue blouse appeared above the
brushwood.

He was after it in an instant.

He ran and ran till he had half a mind to give up, but then a frock and
a bare shoulder gleamed betwixt an opening in the leaves.

And off again he pelted as hard as he could, till he began to think that
it must have all been imagination.

Then he saw her right in a corner of the green bushes. Her hair had been
torn out of its plaits from the speed with which she had flown through
the bushes. She stood still, and looked back as if she were terribly
frightened.

But the lad thought to himself that if she had run away with his
drumsticks, she should pay for it.

And off they ran again, she in front, and he behind.

Now and again she turned round and laughed and gibed, and gave a toss
and a twist, so that it looked as if her long wavy hair were writhing
and wriggling and twisting like a serpent's tail.

At last she turned round on the top of the hill, laughed, and held out
his drumsticks towards him.

But now he was determined to catch her. He was so near that he made grab
after grab at her; but just as he was about to lay hold of her hard by a
fence, she was over it, while he tumbled after her into the enclosure of
a homestead.

Then she cried and shouted up to the house, "Randi, and Brandi, and
Gyri, and Gunna!"

And four girls came rushing down over the sward.

But the last of them, who had a fine ruddy complexion and heavy
golden-red hair, stood and greeted him so graciously with her downcast
eyes, as if she was quite distressed that they should play such wanton
pranks with a strange young man.

She stood there abashed and uncertain, poor thing! just like a child,
who knows not whether it should say something or not; but all the while
she sidled up nearer and nearer to him. Then, when she was so close to
him that her hair almost touched him, she opened her blue eyes wide, and
looked straight at him.

But she had a frightfully sharp look in those eyes of hers.

"Rather come with me, and thou shalt have dancing--or art thou tired, my
lad?" cried a girl with blue-black hair, and a wild dark fire in her
eyes. She tripped up and down, and clapped her hands. She had white
teeth and hot breath, and would have dragged him off with her.

"Tie thyself up behind first, black Gyri!" giggled the others.

And immediately she let the lad go, and wobbled and twisted, and went
backwards so oddly.

He couldn't help staring after the black lassie, who stood and writhed
and twisted so uncomfortably, as if she were concealing something behind
her, and had, all at once, become so meek.

But the fine bright girl with the slim slender waist, who had rushed on
before him, and who seemed to him the loveliest of them all, began to
laugh at him again and tease him.

Run as he might, he shouldn't catch her, she jibed and jeered; never
should he find his drumsticks again, she said.

But then her mood shifted right round, and she flung herself down
headlong, and began to cry. She had followed his drumming the whole day,
she said, and never had she heard any fellow who could beat rat-tat-tat
so well; nor had she ever seen a lad who was so handsome while he was
asleep. "I kissed thee then," said she, and smiled up at him so
sorrowfully.

"Beware of the serpent's tongue, lest it bite thee, swain! Tis worst of
all when it licks thee first," whispered the bashful one with the
golden-red hair. She would fain have stolen between them so softly.

And all at once the swain recollected the snake, which was as slender,
and supple, and quick, and sparkling as the girl who lay there on the
hill-side, and wept and made fun at the same time and looked oddly alert
and wary.

But a stooping, somewhat clumsy little thing now stuck her head quickly
in between, and smiled shamefacedly at him, as if she knew and could
tell him so much. Her eyes sparkled a long way inwards, and across her
face there passed a sort of pale golden gleam, as when the last sunbeam
slowly draws away from the grassy mountain slope.

"At my place," said she, "thou shalt hear such _Langelejk_[1] as none
else has ever heard. I will play for thee, and thou shalt listen to
things unknown to others. Thou shalt hear all that sings, and laughs,
and cries in the roots of trees, and in the mountains, and in all things
that grow, so that thou wilt never trouble thy head about anything else
in the world."

Then there was a scornful laugh; and up on a rock he saw a tall strongly
built girl, with a gold band in her hair and a huge wand in her hand.

She lifted a long wooden trumpet with such splendid powerful arms, threw
back her neck with such a proud and resolute air, and stood firm and
fast as a rock while she blew.

And it sounded far and wide through the summer evening, and rang back
again across the hills.

But she, the prettiest and daintiest of them all, who had cast herself
on the ground, stuck her fingers in her ears, and mimicked her and
laughed and jeered.

Then she glanced up at him with her blue eyes peeping through her
ashen-yellow hair, and whispered---

"If thou dost want me, swain, thou must pick me up."

"She has a strong firm grip for a gentle maiden," thought he to himself,
as he raised her from the ground.

"But thou must catch me first," cried she.

And right towards the house they ran--she first, and he after her.

Suddenly she stopped short, and putting both arms akimbo, looked
straight into his eyes: "Dost like me?" she asked.

The swain couldn't say no to that. He had now got hold of her, and would
have put his arm round her.

"'Tis for thee to have a word in the matter, father," she shouted all at
once in the direction of the house; "this swain here would fain wed me."

And she drew him hastily towards the hut door.

There sat a little grey-clad old fellow, with a cap like a milk-can on
his head, staring at the livestock on the mountain-side. He had a large
silver jug in front of him.

"'Tis the homestead westward in the Blue Mountains that he's after, I
know," said the old man, nodding his head, with a sly look in his eyes.

"Haw, haw! That's what they're after, is it?" thought the swain. But
aloud he said, "'Tis a great offer, I know; but methinks 'tis a little
hasty too. Down our way 'tis the custom to send two go-betweens first of
all to arrange matters properly."

"Thou _didst_ send two before thee, and here they be," quoth she
smartly, and produced his drumsticks.

"And 'tis usual with us, moreover, to have a look over the property
first; though the lass herself have wit enough and to spare," added he.

Then she all at once grew so small, and there was a nasty green glitter
in her eyes---

"Hast thou not run after me the livelong day, and wooed me right down in
the enclosure there, so that my father both heard and saw it all?" cried
she.

"Pretty lasses are wont to hold back a bit," said the swain, in a
wheedling sort of way. He perceived that he must be a little subtle
here; it was not all love in this wooing.

Then she seemed to bend her body backwards into a complete curve, and
shot forward her head and neck, and her eyes sparkled.

But the old fellow lifted his stick from his knee, and she stood there
again as blithe and sportive as ever.

She stretched herself out tall and stiff, with her hands in her silver
girdle; and she looked right into his eyes and laughed, and asked him if
he was one of those fellows who were afraid of the girls. If he wanted
her he might perchance be run off his legs again, said she.

Then she began tripping up and down, and curtseying and making fun of
him again.

But all at once he saw on the sward behind her what looked like the
shadow of something that whisked and frisked and writhed round and
round, and twisted in and out according as she practised her wheedling
ways upon him.

"That is a very curious long sort of riband," thought the drummer to
himself in his amazement. They were in a great hurry, too, to get him
under the yoke, he thought; but they should find that a soldier on his
way to the manoeuvres is not to be betrothed and married offhand.

So he told them bluntly that he had come hither for his drumsticks, and
not to woo maidens, and he would thank them to let him have his
property.

"But have a look about you a bit first, young man," said the old fellow,
and he pointed with his stick.

And all at once the drummer saw large dun cows grazing all along the
mountain pastures, and the cow-bells rang out their merry peals. Buckets
and vats of the brightest copper shone all about, and never had he seen
such shapely and nicely dressed milkmaids. There must needs be great
wealth here.

"Perchance thou dost think 'tis but a beggarly inheritance I have here
in the Blue Mountains," said she, and sitting down on a haycock, she
began chatting with him. "But we've four such _sætar[2]_ as this, and
what I inherit from my mother is twelve times as large."

But the drummer had seen what he had seen. They were rather too anxious
to settle the property upon him, thought he. So he declared that in so
serious a matter he must crave a little time for consideration.

Then the lass began to cry and take on, and asked him if he meant to
befool a poor innocent, ignorant, young thing, and pursue her and drive
her out of her very wits. She had put all her hope and trust in him, she
said, and with that she fell a-howling.

She sat there quite inconsolable, and rocked herself to and fro with all
her hair over her eyes, till at last the drummer began to feel quite
sorry for her and almost angry with himself. She was certainly most
simple-minded and confiding.

All at once she twisted round and threw herself petulantly down from the
haycock. Her eyes spied all about, and seemed quite tiny and piercing as
she looked up at him, and laughed and jested.

He started back. It was exactly as if he again saw the snake beneath the
birch tree down there when it trundled away.

And now he wanted to be off as quickly as possible; he cared no longer
about being civil.

Then she reared up with a hissing sound. She quite forgot herself, and a
long tail hung down and whisked about from behind her kirtle.

He shouldn't escape her in that way, she shrieked. He should first of
all have a taste of public penance and public opinion from parish to
parish. And then she called her father.

Then the drummer felt a grip on his jacket, and he was lifted right off
his legs.

He was chucked into an empty cow-house, and the door was shut behind
him.

There he stood and had nothing to look at but an old billy-goat through
a crack in the door, who had odd, yellow eyes, and was very much like
the old fellow, and a sunbeam through a little hole, which sunbeam crept
higher and higher up the blank stable wall till late in the evening,
when it went out altogether.

But towards night a voice outside said softly, "Swain! swain!" and in
the moonlight he saw a shadow cross the little hole.

"Hist! hist! the old man is sleeping at the other side of the wall," it
sounded.

He knew by the voice that it was she, the golden-red one, who had
behaved so prettily and been so bashful the moment he had come upon the
scene.

"Thou need'st but say that thou dost know that serpent-eye has had a
lover before, or they wouldn't be in such a hurry to get her off their
hands with a dowry. Thou must know that the homestead westwards in the
Blue Mountains is mine. And answer the old man that it was me, Brandi,
that thou didst run after all the time. Hist! hist! here comes the old
man," she whispered, and whisked away.

But a shadow again fell across the little hole in the moonlight, and the
duck-necked one stuck her head in and peeped at him.

"Swain, swain, art thou awake?"

"That serpent-eye will make thee the laughingstock of the neighbourhood.
She's spiteful, and she stings. But the homestead westward in the Blue
Mountains is mine, and when I play there the gates beneath the high
mountains fly open, and through them lies the road to the nameless
powers of nature. Do but say that 'twas me, Randi, thou wert running
after, because she plays so prettily on the _Langelijk_.--"Hist, hist!
the old man is stirring about by the wall!"--she beckoned to him and was
gone.

A little afterwards nearly every bit of the hole was darkened, and he
recognised the Black one by her voice.

"Swain, swain!" she hissed.

"I had to bind up my kirtle to-day behind," said she, "so we couldn't go
dancing the _Halling-fling_[3] together on the green sward. But the
homestead in the Blue Mountains is my lawful property, and tell the old
man that it was madcap Gyri thou wast running after to-day, because thou
art so madly fond of dancing jigs and _hallings_."

Then she clapped her hands aloud, and straightway was full of fear lest
she should have awakened the old man.

And she was gone.

But the lad sat inside there, and thought it all over, and looked up at
the thin pale summer moon, and he thought that never in his whole life
had he been in such evil case.

From time to time he heard something moving, scraping, and snorting
against the wall outside. It was the old fellow who lay there and kept
watch over him.

"Thou, swain, thou," said another voice at the peep-hole.

It was she who had planted herself so firmly on the rock with such
sturdy hips and such a masterful voice.

"For these three hundred years have I been blowing the _langelur[4]_
here in the summer evenings far and wide, but never has it drawn any one
westward hither into the Blue Mountains. And let me tell thee that we
are all homeless and houseless, and all thou seest here is but glitter
and glamour. Many a man has been befooled hither time out of mind. But I
won't have the other lasses married before me. And rather than that any
one of them should get thee, I'll free thee from the mountains. Mark me,
now! When the sun is hot and high the old man will get frightened and
crawl into his corner. Then look to thyself. Shove hard against the door
of the hayloft, and hasten to get thee over the fence, and thou wilt be
rid of us."

The drummer was not slow to follow this counsel. He crept out the moment
the sun began to burn, and cleared the fence with one good bound.

In less than no time he was down in the valley again.

And far, far away towards sunrise in the mountains, he heard the sound
of her _langelur_.

He threw his drum across his shoulder, and hied him off to the
manoeuvres at Moen.

But never would he play rat-tat-tat and beat the tattoo before the
lasses again, lest he should find himself westwards in the Blue
Mountains before he was well aware of it.

       *       *       *       *       *

[1] A long slow dance, and the music to it.

[2] A _Sæter_ (Swed. _säter_) is a remote pasturage with huts upon it,
where the cows are tended and dairy produce prepared for market and home
use during the summer.

[3] A country dance of a boisterous jig-like sort.

[4] A long wooden trumpet.


       *       *       *       *       *

"_IT'S ME_."


[Illustration: "IT'S ME."]



"IT'S ME"


They had chatted so long about the lasses down in the valley; and what a
fine time they had of it there, that Gygra's[1] daughter grew sick and
tired of it all, and began to heave rocks against the mountain side. She
was bent upon taking service in the valley below, said she.


"Then go down to the ground gnome first, and grind thy nose down, and
tidy thyself up a bit, and stick a comb in thy hair instead of an iron
rake," said the dwellers in the mountains.

So Gygra's daughter tramped along in the middle of the river, till the
foss steamed and the storm whirled round about her. Down she went to the
ground gnome, and was scoured and scrubbed and combed out finely.

       *       *       *       *       *

One evening a large-limbed coarse-grained wench stepped into the
general-dealer's kitchen, and asked if she could be taken into service.

"You must be cook, then," said Madame[2]. It seemed to her that the
wench was one who would stir the porridge finely, and would make no
bones about a little extra wood-chopping and tub-washing. So they took
her on.

She was a roughish colt, and her ways were roughish too. The first time
she carried in a load of wood, she shoved so violently against the
kitchen door that she burst its hinges. And however many times the
carpenter might mend the door, it always remained hingeless, for she
burst it open with her foot every time she brought in wood.

When she washed up, too, heaps and heaps of pots and pans were piled up
higgledy-piggledy from meal to meal, so that the kitchen shelves and
tables could hold no more, and bustle about as she might, they never
seemed to grow less.

Nor had her mistress a much better opinion of her scouring.

When Toad, for so they called her, set to work with the sand-brush, and
scrubbed with all her might, the wooden, tin, and pewter vessels would
no doubt have looked downright bonny if they hadn't broken to bits
beneath her hands. And when her mistress tried to show her how it ought
to be done, she only gasped and gaped.

Such sets of cracked cups, and such rows of chipped and handleless jugs
and dishes, had never before been seen in that kitchen.

And then, too, she ate as much as all the other servants put together.

So her mistress complained to her master, and said that the sooner they
were well quit of her the better.

Out into the kitchen went the general dealer straightway. He was quite
red in the face, and flung open the kitchen-door till it creaked again.
He would let her know, he said, that she was not there to only stand
with her back to the fire and warm her dirty self.

Now when he saw the lazy sluttish beast lounging over the kitchen bench
and doing nothing but gape through the window-panes at his boats, which
lay down by the bridge laden with train-oil, he was downright furious.
"Pack yourself off this instant!" said he.

But Toad showed her teeth, and grinned and blinked up at him, and said
that as master himself had come into the kitchen, he should see that she
did not eat his bread for nothing.

Then she slouched down to the boats, and snorted back at him with her
arm before her face. Before any one could guess what she was after, she
had one of the heavy hogsheads of train-oil on her back.

And back she came through the kitchen door, all smirking and smiling,
and begged father to be so good as to tell her where she was to put it.

He simply stood and gaped at her. Such a thing he had never seen before.

And hogshead after hogshead she carried from the boat right up into the
shop.

The general dealer laughed till he quite gasped for breath, and slapped
his thighs so far as his big belly would let him reach them.

Nor was he sparing of compliments.

And into the dwelling-room he rushed almost as quickly as he had rushed
out of it.

"Mother has no idea what a capital wench she has got," said he.

But, ever after that, she put her hand to nothing, nay, not so much as
to drive a wooden peg into the wall, and if some one else hadn't warmed
up a thing or two now and then, there would have been very little to eat
in the house. It was as much as they could do to get her away from the
fireside at meal times.

When her mistress complained about it, her master said that she oughtn't
to expect too much. The lass surely required a little rest now and
again, after carrying such drayman's loads as she did.

But Toad always had an ogle and a grin ready at such times as the
general dealer came through the door from the shop. Then she grew quick
and lively enough, and went on all sorts of errands, whether it was with
the bucket to the spring or to the storehouse for bread. And when she
saw that her mistress was out of the way, she took it upon herself to do
exactly as she liked, both in this and in that.

No sooner was the pot hung on the pot-hook, than she would slip away
with a big saucer and fetch sirup from the shop. And she would flounce
down before the porridge dish and gobble to her heart's content. If any
of her fellow-servants claimed an equal share, she would simply answer,
"It's me!"

They dared not rebel. Since the day she had taken up the hogsheads of
train-oil, they knew that she had master on her side.

But her mistress was not slow to mark the diminishing both of the
sirup-pot and the powdered sugar, and she perceived also in which
direction the gingerbreads and all the butter and bacon went. For out
the wench would come, munching rye cakes and licking the sirup from her
fingers.

And she grew as round and thick and fat as if she would burst.

When her mistress took away and kept the key, Toad would poke her head
into the parlour door, and ogle and writhe at the general dealer, and
ask if there was anything to carry up to the store-room. And then he
would go to the window and watch her as she lifted and carried kegs of
fish and casks of sugar and sacks of meal.

He laughed till he coughed again, and, wiping the sweat from his
forehead, would bellow all over the place--"Can any one of my labouring
men carry loads like Toad can?"

And when her master came home, dripping wet and benumbed with cold, from
his first autumn voyage, it was Toad who was first and foremost to meet
him and unbutton his oil-skin jacket for him, and undo his sou'wester,
and help him off with his long sea-boots.

He shivered and shook; but she was not slow to wring out his wet
stockings for him, and fetch no end of birch bark and huge logs. Then
she made up a regular bonfire in the fireplace, and placed him cosily in
the chimney corner.

Madame came to give her husband some warm ale posset; but she was so
annoyed to see the wench whisking and bustling about him, that she went
up into the parlour and howled with rage.

Early in the morning, the general dealer bawled and shouted downstairs
for his long worsted stockings. They could hear that he was peevish and
cross because he had to put on his sea-jacket and cramped water-boots,
and go out again into the foul weather.

He tore open the kitchen door, and asked them furiously how much longer
they were going to keep him waiting.

But now his mouth grew as wide open as the door-way he stood in, and his
face quite lit up with satisfaction.

Round about the walls, and in the warmth of the chimney corner, hung his
sou'wester, and his oil-skin jacket, and his trousers, and every blessed
bit of clothes he was to put on, as dry as tinder. And in the middle of
the kitchen bench he saw his large sea-boots standing there, so snug,
and so nicely greased, that the grease ran right down the shafts and
over the straps.

Such a servant for looking after him and taking care of him he had not
believed it possible to get for love or money, cried the general dealer.

But now his wife could contain herself no longer. She showed him that
the clothes were both scorched and burned, and that the whole of one
side of the oilskin jacket was crumpled up with heat, and cracked if one
pulled it never so lightly.

And in she dragged the big butter-keg, that he might see for himself how
the wench had stuck both his boots in it and used it to grease them
with.

But the general dealer stood there quite dumfoundered, and glanced now
at the boots and now at the butter-tub.

He snapped his fingers, and his face twitched, and then he began to wipe
away his tears.

He hastened to go in that they might not see that he was weeping.

"Mother does not know how kindly the wench has meant it all," he sobbed.
Good heavens! what if she _had_ used butter for his boots, if she had
only _meant_ well. Never would he turn such a lass out of the house.

Then the wife gave it up altogether, and let the big kitchen wench rule
as best she might. And it was not very long either before Toad let the
key of the store-room remain in the door from morn till eve. When any
one bawled out to her, "Who's inside there?" she would simply answer,
"It's me!"

And she didn't budge from the gingerbread-box, as she sat there and ate,
even for Madame herself. But she always had an eye upon her master the
general dealer.

But he only jested with her, and asked her if she got food enough, and
said that he was afraid he would, one day, find her starved to death.

Towards Christmas time, when folks were making ready to go a-fishing,
Madame was busy betimes and bustled about as usual, and got the great
caldron taken down into the working-room for washing and wool-stamping.

The cooks hired for the occasion rolled out the _lefser_,[3] and baked
and frizzled on the flat oven-pans. And they brought in herring kegs
from the shop, and meal and meat, both cured and fresh, and weighed and
measured, and laid in stores of provisions.

But then it seemed to Toad as if she hadn't a moment's peace for prying
into pots and pans. Her mistress was going backwards and forwards
continually, between store-room and pantry, after meal, or sugar, or
butter, or sirup for the _lefser_. The store-room door was ajar for her
all day long.

So at last Toad grew downright wild. She was determined to put an end to
all this racket. So she took it upon her to well smear the threshold of
the store-room with green soap.

Next morning her mistress came bustling along first thing with butter
and a wooden ladle in a bowl, and she slipped and fell in the opening
between the stairs and the store-house door.

There she lay till Toad dragged her up.

She carried her in to her husband with such a crying and yelling that it
was heard all over the depôt. Madame had been regularly worrying herself
to death with all this bustle, said she, and now the poor soul had
fallen and broken her leg.

But the one who cried the most, and didn't know what to do with himself
when he heard such weeping and wailing over his wife, was the general
dealer.

None knew the real worth of that kitchen wench, said he.

And so it was Toad who now superintended everything, and both dispensed
the stores and made provision for the household.

She drove all the hired cooks and pancake rollers out of the house--they
were only eating her master out of house and home, she said.

The _lefser_ were laid together without any sirup between them, and she
gave out fat instead of butter. She distributed it herself, and packed
it up in their _Nistebommers_[4].

Never had the general dealer known the heavy household business disposed
of so quickly as it was that year. He was quite astonished.

And he was really dumfoundered when Toad took him up into the
store-room, and showed him how little had been consumed, and how the
cured shoulders of mutton and the hams hung down from the rafters in
rows and rows.

"So long as things went on as they were going now," said he, "she should
have the control of the household like mother herself," for his wife was
now bedridden in her room upstairs.

And at Yule-tide Toad baked and roasted, and cut things down so finely
that her fellow-servants were almost driven to chew their wooden spoons
and gnaw bones.

But such fat calves, and such ribs of pork, and such _lefser_ filled
with both sirup and butter, and such _mölje_[5] and splendid fare for
the guests that came to his house at Christmas-time the general dealer
had never seen before.

Then the general dealer took her by the arm, and right down into the
shop they both went together.

She might take what she would, said he, both of kirtles and neckerchiefs
and other finery, so that she might dress and go in and out as if she
were mother herself; and she might provide herself with beads and silk
as much as she liked. There was nothing that she might not have.

But when the bailiff and the sexton sat at cards, and Toad came in to
lay the table-cloth, they were like to have rolled off their chairs.
Such a sight they had never seen before. Toad had rigged herself up with
all manner of parti-coloured 'kerchiefs, and trimmed her hairy poll with
blue and yellow and green ribbons till it looked like a cart-horse's
tail. But they said nothing, for the sake of the general dealer, who
thought she looked so smart, and was calling her in continually.

And they were forced to confess that the wench spared neither meat nor
ale nor brandy. And on the third evening, when they got so drunk that
they lay there like logs, she carried them off to bed as if they were
sucking babes.

And so it went on, with feasting and entertaining, right up to the
twentieth day after Christmas Day, and beyond it.

And that wench Toad used to smirk and stare about the room; and whenever
they didn't laugh or jest enough with her, she would plant herself right
in the middle of the floor, and turn herself about in all her finery to
attract notice, and say, "It's me!"

And when the guests left the house they must needs admit that the
general dealer was right when he said that such serving-maids were not
to be picked up every day.

But those folks who went a-fishing for the general dealer, and had their
provisions put up for them beforehand, were not slow to mark that Toad
had the control of the shop and stores likewise.

So it happened as might only have been expected. Their provisions ran
short, and they had to return home just as the cod was biting best,
while all the other fishermen sailed further out and made first-rate
hauls.

The general dealer was like to have had apoplexy on the day that he saw
his boats lying empty by the bridge in the height of the fishing season.
His men came up in a body to the shop, headed by their eldest foreman,
and laid a complaint before him.

The food that had been packed into their boxes and baskets, they said,
couldn't be called human food at all. The _lefser_ were so hard, they
said, that it was munch munch all day; there was only rancid fat on
them, with scarcely a glimpse of bacon; and as for the cured shoulders
of mutton, one had scarcely shaved off a thin slice when one scraped
against the bare bone.

Up into the store-room went the general dealer like a shot.

But as for Toad, she smote her hands above her head, and said that it
was as much as he, the general dealer, could manage, to meet the heavy
expenses for fish-hooks and fish-baskets, and nets and lines, without
having to provide his fishermen with salt herring and bacon, and fresh
butter and _lefser_ and ground coffee into the bargain. They had no need
to starve when they had all the fish of the sea right under their noses,
said she.

And then she handed him, as a specimen, one of his own _lefser_, which
she had filled with butter and sirup herself, and let him taste it. And
he tasted it, and ate and ate till the sirup ran down both corners of
his mouth. Such good greasy _lefser_ he had never tasted before.

Then the general dealer gave them a bit of his mind.

He was as red as a turkey-cock; and out of the shop-door they went head
first--some three yards and some four, according as he got a good grip
of them; and old Thore, who had steered the big _femböring_, both for
him and his father, was discharged.

But Kjel, the herdsman, had hid himself out of the way up on the
threshing-floor whilst the row was going on, and the general dealer was
shrieking and bellowing his worst in the yard below. And he stood there
and peeped through the little window. Then he saw his mistress, who
hadn't been out of bed for nine weeks, hobble forward and stare out of
her bedroom window.

She took on terribly, and cried and wrung her thin hands when she saw
their old foreman told to go to the devil, and shamble off with his cap
in his hand as if he were deranged.

But she dared not so much as shout a word of comfort after him, for
there stood Toad, big and broad, in the store-house door, with a platter
of _mölje_ in her hand, and shook her fist after him.

Then Kjel was like to have wept too.... That stout Toad should not
grease herself shiny with _mölje_ fat much longer in _their_ house, or
he'd know the reason why, thought Kjel.

And from thenceforth Kjel kept a strict watch upon her. There were lots
of things going on that he couldn't make out at all.

Towards spring-time, when they put the mast into the large new yacht
which was to take the first trading voyage to Bergen, the general dealer
was so glad that he was running up and down from the bridge to the house
the whole day. He had never imagined that the yacht would have turned
out so fine and stately.

And when they had the tackle and the shrouds all ready, and were
hoisting away at the yards, he spun round on his heel and snapped his
fingers--"That lass Toad should go with him to Bergen," said he.... "She
had never seen the town, poor thing! while as for mother, she had been
there three times already."

But it seemed to Kjel that he saw more in this than other people saw.

As for Toad, when she heard she was to go to Bergen, she regularly
turned the house upside down. There was nothing good enough for her in
the whole shop; there was not a shelf that she didn't ransack to find
the finery and frippery that glittered most.

And in the evening, when the others had lain them down to rest, she
strolled over to the storehouse with a light.

But Kjel, who was a very light sleeper, was up and after her in an
instant, and peeped at her through the crack in the door.

There he saw her cutting up the victuals and putting one tit-bit aside
after the other, _lefser_ and sweet-cakes and bacon and collared-beef,
into the large chest which she had hidden behind the herring barrels.
And on this, the last evening before their departure for Bergen, she had
filled her provision-chest so full that she had to sit upon it, with all
her huge heavy weight, to press it down.

But the lock wouldn't catch; she had filled the chest too full, so she
had to get up and stamp backwards on the lid till it regularly
thundered; and sure enough she forced it down at last.

But the heel she stamped down upon it with was much more like the hoof
of a horse than the foot of a human being, thought Kjel.

Then she carried the chest to the waggon that it might be smuggled on
board without any one seeing it. After that she went into the stable and
unloosed the horse. But then there was a pretty to do in the stable!

The horse knew that there was witchcraft afoot, and would not allow
itself to be inspanned. Toad dragged and dragged, and the horse shied
and kicked. At last the wench used her back-legs, just as a mare does.

Such sport as that no human eye should have ever seen.

And straight off to the general dealer rushed Kjel, and got him to come
out with him.

There in the moonshine that wench, Toad, and the dun horse were flinging
out at each other as if for a wager, so that their hoofs dashed against
the framework of the stable-door. Their long legs flew in turn over the
stable walls, and the sparks scattered about in showers.

Then the general dealer grew all of a shiver and staggered about. Blood
flew from his nose, and Kjel had to help him into the kitchen and duck
his head in the sink. That night the general dealer didn't go to bed at
all; but he walked up and down and stamped till the floor regularly
thundered. And it was scarcely light next morning when he sent off Kjel
with a dollar in his fist to old Thore the foreman. And he sent in the
same way to all the boat people down by the shore.

Thore was told to put on his holiday clothes and get out the
_femböring_, and row Madame herself to the yacht with the last lading.
She should go with him to Bergen. There she should get both a silk dress
and a shawl, and a gold watch and chain into the bargain, and engage a
Bergen serving-wench.

It was still early in the day when the yacht lay in the bay with her
flag flying, all ready to start.

When they had hoisted the sail, that wench Toad, heavy and stout, came,
puffing and blowing, across the bridge, in full parade, with rings on
all her sprawling fingers, and her body covered with all the yellow and
green and red ribbons she could possibly find room for on her ample
person.

There she stood waiting for them to come back in the stately _femböring_
and take her on board.

And when they began to raise the anchor, and the general dealer appeared
on deck with his large meerschaum pipe and his telescope, she smirked
and minced and wriggled and twisted, and cried aloud, "It's me!"

She thought he wanted to peep at her splendour through his spyglass.

All at once she saw Madame standing by his side in full travelling
costume, and understood that they were going away without her.

Then she kicked out so that the planks of the bridge groaned and creaked
beneath her. Eight into the sea she plunged, and caught hold of the
anchor, and tugged and held the ship back till the cable broke.

Then head over heels she went with both her hoofs in the air.

But the yacht glided away under full sail, and the general dealer stood
there and laughed till he nearly fell overboard.

       *       *       *       *       *

[1] A giantess, the wife of the mountain gnome, who rules in the
Dovrefeld.

[2] _I.e.,_ the general dealer's wife.

[3] Thin cakes that can be doubled in two and eaten with sirup.

[4] Boxes containing provisions for voyages or journeys.

[5] Flat cakes broken up with butter.


       *       *       *       *       *

THE END.





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