Page images
PDF
EPUB

In the Bailiwick of Holbek, between the towns of Mamp and Aagerup, there once was a castle, the ruins of which still remain, near the Strand. In this place, as the story goes, are immense treasures concealed; and a dragon broods over as much gold as would ransom three kings. Here the subterraneans (Elves) are often seen, especially at festival times. One Christmas-eve, a ploughman in Aagerup went to his master, and asked his permission to ride down and take a peep at the elfbanquet. The farmer gave him leave to go, and take with him the best horse in the stable. When the fellow came to the place, he stopped his horse for some time, to view the entertainment, astonished at the agility with which the little dapper folks were “linking away in the dance. At last an elf-mannikin came to him and begged him to dismount, and take part in their merriment. Another elf skipped up and held his horse, while he danced with them the whole night. As morning approached, he thanked them for his entertainment, and mounted his horse, to ride back to Aagerup. They then invited him to come again next new year's night, to share their jollity; and a young lady offered him the stirrupdraught in a gold cup. But as he mistrusted their courtesy, he cast the liquor over his shoulder, which, falling on the back of his horse, singed off the hair. He then clapped spurs to his horse, and set off at full gallop, with the cup in his hand, over a field of ploughed land.

The whole posse of the elves immediately gave chase ; but found such difficulty in scrambling over the heavy deep furrows, that they ever and anon screamed out,

66 Ride on the sod,

And not on the clod.”

As the adventurer approached the town, he was obliged to take to the open road, which brought him in great jeopardy, as the elves were every instant gaining ground on him. In this extremity he prayed to God, and vowed, if he escaped, to give the cup to the church. As he rode past the churchyard, he threw the cup over the wall

into the consecrated ground, that it at least might be secured. At last he reached the town; and just as they had almost got hold of him, his horse made a spring in at his master's gate, which the fellow shut after him. He was now secure; but the elves were so exasperated, that they threw a stone at the gate with such force, that it knocked four planks out of it.

No traces of the house now remain; but the stone still lies in Aagerup. The cup was presented to the church; and the ploughman got as a reward the best house upon Ericksholme estate.

Between Jerslöise and Sobierg, lies Sobierg bank, which is the richest knoll in the land, and no tongue can tell what fine things it contains. In this knoll lived an elf-lady, on whose account a splendid cavalcade once proceeded from Steen-lille Mark, on the occasion of her being married to the elf of Gultebierg.

It often happens, when people are passing the knoll in fine weather, that they see the most curious copper utensils, and the most beautiful cushions, laid out upon the ridge of the knoll to be sunned; and, if they approach nearer, they can see the hurry and bustle of the little folks removing them as fast as possible into the hill.

THE ALDERMAN'S FUNERAL,

Stranger. Whom are they ushering from the world,

with all This pageantry and long parade of death ?

Townsman. A long parade indeed, sir, and yet here You see but half; round yonder bend it reaches A furlong farther, carriage behind carriage.

S. "Tis but a mournful sight, and yet the pomp
Tempts me to stand a gazer.

T. Yonder schoolboy,
Who plays the truant, says the proclamation
Of peace was nothing to the show, and even

The chairing of the members at election
Would not have been a finer sight than this;
Only that red and green are prettier colours
Than all this mourning. There, sir, you behold
One of the red-gown'd worthies of the city,
The envy and the boast of our exchange,
Ay, what was worth, last week, a good half million,
Screwed down in yonder hearse.

S. Then he was born
Under a lucky planet, who to-day
Puts mourning on for his inheritance.

T. When first I heard his death, that very wish
Leapt to my lips ; but now the closing scene
Of the comedy hath wakened wiser thoughts;
And I bless God, that when I go to the grave,
There will not be the weight of wealth like his
To sink me down.

S. The camel and the needle,-
Is that then in your mind? ".

i rosi. T. Even so. The text
Is gospel wisdom. I would ride the camel,
Yea leap him flying, through the needle's eye,
As easily as such a pampered soul
Could pass the narrow gate.

S. Your pardon, sir,
But sure this lack of christian charity
Looks not like christian truth.

T. Your pardon too, sir,
If, with this text before me, I should feel
In the preaching mood ! But for these barren fig-trees,
With all their flourish and their leafiness,
We have been told their destiny and use,
When the axe is laid unto the root, and they
Cumber the earth no longer.

S. Was his wealth Stored fraudfully, the spoil of orphans wronged, And widows who had none to plead their right?

T. All honest, open, honourable gains, Fair legal interest, bonds and mortgages, Ships to the east and west.

S. Why judge you then
So hardly of the dead?

T. For what he left
Undone :-for sins, not one of which is mentioned
In the Ten Commandments. He, I warrant him,
Believed no other gods than those of the Creed :
Bowed to no idols, but his money-bags :
Swore no false oaths, except at the custom-house :
Kept the Sabbath idle : built a monument
To honour his dead father : did no murder :
Was too old-fashion'd for adultery:
Never picked pockets : never bore false-witness :
And never, with that all-commanding wealth,
Coveted his neighbour's house, nor ox, nor ass.
S. You knew him, then, it seems ?

T. As all men know
The virtues of your hundred-thousanders :
They never hide their lights beneath a bushel.

S. Nay, nay, uncharitable sir! for often Doth bounty like a streamlet flow unseen, Freshening and giving life along its course.

T. We track the streamlet by the brighter green
And livelier growth it gives :- but as for this
This was a pool that stagnated and stunk,
The rains of heaven engendered nothing in it
But slime and foul corruption.

S. Yet even these
Are reservoirs whence public charity
Still keeps her channels full.

T. Now, sir, you touch
Upon the point. This man of half a million
Had all these public virtues which you praise,
But the poor man rung never at his door ;
And the old beggar, at the public gate,
Who, all the summer long, stands, hat in hand,
He knew how vain it was to lift an eye
To that hard face. Yet he was always found
Among your ten and twenty pound subscribers,
Your benefactors in the newspapers.

His alms were money put to interest
In the other world, -donations to keep open-
A running charity-account with Heaven :-
Retaining fees against the last assizes,
When, for the trusted talents, strict account
Shall be required from all, and the old arch-lawyer
Plead his own cause as plaintiff.

S. I must needs
Believe you, sir :--these are your witnesses,
These mourners here, who from their carriages
Gape at the gaping crowd. A good March wind
Were to be prayed for now, to lend their eyes
Some decent rheum. The very hireling mute
Bears not a face blanker of all emotion
Than the old servant of the family!
How can this man have lived, that thus his death
Costs not the soiling one white handkerchief !

T. Who should lament for him, sir, in whose heart
Love had no place, nor natural charity ?
The parlour spaniel, wlien she heard his step,
Rose slowly from the hearth, and stole aside
With creeping pace; she never raised her eyes
To woo kind words from him, nor laid her head
Upraised upon his knee, with fondling whine.
How could it be but thus ! Arithmetic ..
Was the sole science he was ever taught.
The multiplication-table was his creed,
His pater-noster, and his decalogue.
When yet he was a boy, and should have breathed
The open air and sunshine of the fields,
To give his blood its natural spring and play, -
He in a close and dusky counting-house,
Smoke-dried, and seared, and shrivelled up his heart.
So froin the way in which he was trained up
His feet departed not; he toiled and moiled,
Poor muck-worm ! through his three-score years and ten,
And when the earth shall now be shovelled on him,
If that which served him for a soul were still
Within its husk, 'twould still be dirt to dirt.

« PreviousContinue »