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Christmas in flomay
P. CHR, ASBJORNSEN
H. L. B'li-(.K : KSTAD'.
DANA ESTES AND CO-.
: *" .
BY ES?;E,S *-..\D LAURIAT
->*.-. \.\ :- .
^ -, , V - c
Electrotyped and Printed by C. H. Simonds & Co.
Boston, Mass., U. S. A.
857,3 OF 1 '
J ?>i2 a
'ROUND THE YULE-LOG.
" I ^HE wind was whistling through the old lime and maple
A trees opposite my windows, the snow was sweeping down
the street, and the sky was black as a December sky can
possibly be here in Christiania. I was in just as black a
mood. It was Christmas Eve, - - the first I was to spend away
from the cosey fireside of my home. I had lately received my
officer's commission, and had hoped that I should have glad-
dened my aged parents with my presence during the holidays,
and had also hoped that I should be able to show myself in all
my glory and splendour to the ladies of our parish. But a
fever had brought me to the hospital, which I had left
only a week before, and now I found myself in the much-
extolled state of convalescence. I had written home for a
horse and sledge and my father's fur coat, but my letter could
scarcely reach our valley before the clay after Christmas, and
the horse could not be in town before New Year's Eve.
My comrades had all left town, and I knew no family with
whom I could make myself at home during the holidays. The
two old maids I lodged with were certainly very kind and
friendly people, and they ,had- taken' great care of me in the
commencement of my^ill-b-ess/but the peculiar ways and habits
of these ladies were' re-Q'. touch of the old school to prove
attractive to the fancies of youth. Their thoughts dwelt
mostly on the past ; ?nd when they, as often might occur,
related to me some, stories of the town, its people and its
customs, these stories reminded me, not only by their contents,
CHRISTMAS IN NORWAY.
but also by the simple, unaffected way in which they were
rendered, of a past age.
The antiquated appearance of these ladies was also in the
strictest harmony with the house in which they lived. It was
one of those old houses in Custom House Street, with deep
windows, long dark passages and staircases, gloomy rooms and
garrets, where one could not help thinking of ghosts and
brownies ; in short, just such a house, and perhaps it was the
very one, which Mau-
scribed in his
Dame with the
circle of ac-
was very lim-
a married sister
dren, no other
there but a couple
ritz Hansen has de-
story, "The Old
ited ; besides
and her chil-
of tiresome old ladies.
The only relief to this kind of life was a pretty niece and
some merry little cousins of hers, who always made me tell
them fairy tales and stories.
I tried to divert myself in my loneliness and melancholy
mood by looking out at all the people who passed up and
down the street in the snow and wind, with blue noses and
half-shut eyes. It amused me to see the bustle and the life
in the apothecary's shop across the street. The door was
scarcely shut for a moment. Servants and peasants streamed
in and out, and commenced to study the labels and directions
when they came oui in the street./', orce appeared to be able
to make them cue, but sometimes a lengthy study and a
dubious shake of the head showed that the solution was too
difficult. It was growing dusk. I could not distinguish the
countenances any longer, but gazed across at the old building.
The apothecary's 'house, "The Swan," as it is still called,
CHRISTMAS AY NORWAY.
stood there, with its dark, reddish-brown walls, its pointed
gables and towers, with weather-cocks and latticed windows,
as a monument of the architecture of the time of King Chris-
tian the Fourth. The Swan looked then, as now, a most
respectable and sedate bird, with its gold ring round its neck,
its spur-boots, and its wings stretched out as if to fly. I was
about to plunge myself into reflection on imprisoned birds
when I was disturbed by noise and laughter
proceeding from some children in the
adjoining room, and by a gentle, old-
maidish knock at my door.
On my requesting the visitor
to come in, the elder of my
landladies, Miss Mette, entered
the room with a courtesy in
the good old style ; she in-
quired after my health, and
invited me, without further
ceremony, to come and make
myself at home with them for
the evening. " It is n't good for you, dear Lieutenant, to sit
thus alone here in the dark," she added. "Will you not
come in to us now at once ? Old Mother Skau and my
brother's little girls have come; they will perhaps amuse you
a little. You are so fond of the dear children.'
I accepted the friendly ir.vitatio i i. ;_, .As I entered the room,
the fire from the large/ square stove, where the logs were
burning lustily, tlirev/ a red, flickering, light through the wide-
open door over the room, which was very deep, and furnished
in the old style-, with high-back, Russia leather chairs, and one
of those settees 'which were intended.' for farthingales and
straight up-and-down, positions. The walls *vere adorned with
V ' >
CHRISTMAS IN NORWAY.
oil paintings, portraits of stiff ladies with powdered coiffures,
of bewigged Oldenborgians, and other redoubtable persons in
mail and armour or red coats.
" You must really excuse us, Lieutenant, for not having
lighted the candles vet," said
Miss Cicely, the younger
sister, who was generally
called " Cilly," and who
came towards me and
dropped a courtesy, ex-
actly like her sister's ;
" but the children do so
like to tumble about
here before the fire in
the dusk of the evening,
and Madam Skau does also
enjoy a quiet little chat in the
" Oh, chat me here and chat
me there! there is nothing you
like yourself better than a
little bit of gossip in the dusk
of the evening, Cilly, and then
we are to get the blame of
it," answered the old asthmatic
bdv whom they called Mother
j < j
"Eh ! good evening, sir," she said to me, as she drew herself
up to make the best of her own inflated, bulky appearance.
"Come and sit down here and tell me how it fares with you;
but, by my troth, you are nothing but skin and bones ! "
I had to tell her all. about my illness, and in return I had
CHRISTMAS IN NOKll'AY.
to endure a very long and circumstantial account of her
rheumatism and her asthmatical ailments, which, fortunately,
was interrupted by the noisy arrival of the children from the
kitchen, where they had paid a visit to old Stine, a fixture in
" Oh, auntie, do you know what Stine says ? " cried a little
brown-eyed beauty. " She says I shall go with her into the
hay loft to-night and give the brownie his Christmas porridge.
But I won't go ; I am afraid of the
brownies ! "
" Never mind, my dear,
Stine says it only to get rid
of you ; she dare not go
into the hay-loft herself -
the foolish old thing in the
dark, for she knows well
enough she was frightened
once by the brownies herself,"
said Miss Mette. " But are you
not going to say good evening
to the Lieutenant, children?"
" Oh, is that you, Lieutenant ? I did not know you. How
pale you are ! It is such a long time since I saw you ! "
shouted the children all at once, as they flocked round me.
"Now you must tell us something awfully jolly ! It is such
a long time since you told us anything. Oh, tell us about
Buttercup, dear Mr. Lieutenant, do tell us about Buttercup
and Goldentooth ! "
I had to tell them about Buttercup and the dog Golden-
tooth, but they would not let me off until I gave them a
couple of stories into the bargain about the brownies at Vager
and at Bure, who stole hay from each other, and who met at
12 CHRISTMAS IN NORWAY.
last with a load of hay on their backs, and how they fought till
they vanished in a cloud of hay-dust. I had also to tell
them the story of the brownie at Hesselberg, who teased the
house-dog till the farmer came out and threw him over the barn
bridge. The children clapped their hands in great joy and
" It served him right, the naughty brownie ! " they shouted,
and asked for another story.
"Well," said I, "I will tell you the story of Peter Gynt and
" In the olden days there lived in Kvam a hunter whose
name was Peter Gynt, and who was always roaming about
in the mountains after bears and elks, for in those days there
were more forests on the mountains than there are now, and
consequently plenty of wild beasts.
" One day, shortly before Christmas, Peter set out on an
expedition. He had heard of a farm on Doorefell which was
invaded by such a number of trolls every Christmas Eve that
the people on the farm had to move out, and get shelter at
some of their neighbours'. He was anxious to go there, for
he had a great fancy to come across the trolls, and see if he
could not overcome them. He dressed himself in some old
ragged clothes, and took a tame white bear which he had with
him, as well as an awl, some pitch and twine. When he came
to the farm he went in and asked for lodgings.
'"God help us!' said the farmer; 'we can't give you any
loderinsfs. We have to clear out of the house ourselves soon
and look for lodgings, for every Christmas Eve we have the
" But Peter thought he should be able to clear the trolls out,
-he had done such a thing before; and then he got leave to
stay, and a pig's skin into the bargain. The bear lay down
^ / '/ ;/ If \^F>~
. u^ j^
' "X ''
CHRISTMAS IN NORWAY. 15
behind the fireplace, and Peter took out his awl and pitch
and twine, and began making a big, big shoe, which it took the
whole pig's skin to make. He put a strong rope in for lacings,,
that he might pull the shoe tightly together, and, finally, he
armed himself with a couple of handspikes.
" Shortly he heard the trolls coming. They had a fiddler
with them, and some began dancing, while others fell to eating
the Christmas fare on the table, some fried bacon, and some
fried frogs and toads, and other nasty things which they had
brought with them. During this some of the trolls found
the shoe Peter had made. They thought it must belong
to a very big foot. They all wanted to try it on at once,
so they put a foot each into it ; but Peter made haste and
tightened the rope, took one of the handspikes and fastened
the rope around it, and got them at last securely tied up in
" Just then the bear put his nose out from behind the fire-
place, where he was lying, and smelt they were frying some-
t( ' Will you have a sausage, pussy ? ' said one of the trolls,
and threw a hot frog right into the bear's jaws.
" ' Scratch them, pussy ! ' said Peter.
" The bear got so angry that he rushed at the trolls and
scratched them all over, while Peter took the other handspike
and hammered away at them as if he wanted to beat their
brains out. The trolls had to clear out at last, but Peter
stayed and enjoyed himself with all the Christmas fare the
whole week. After that the trolls were not heard of there for
" Some years afterwards, about Christmas time, Peter was
out in the forest cutting wood for the holidays, when a troll
same up to him and shouted,-
CHRISTMAS IN NOR IV AY.
" ' Have you got that big pussy of yours, yet ? '
" ' Oh, yes ! she is at home behind the fireplace,' said he; 'and
she has got seven kittens, all bigger and larger than herself.'
"'We'll never come to you any more, then,' said the troll,
and they never did."
The children were all delighted with this story.
"Tell us another, dear Lieutenant," they all shouted in
"No, no, children! you bother the Lieutenant too much,"
said Miss Cicely. " Aunt Mette will tell you a story now."
"Yes, do, auntie, do ! " was the general cry.
" I don't know exactly what I shall tell you," said Aunt
CHRISTMAS IN XORWAY. \J
Mette, " but since we have commenced telling about the brown
ies, I think I will tell you something about them, too. You
remember, of course, old Kari Gausdal, who came here and
baked bread, and who always had so many tales to tell you."
" Oh, yes, yes ! " shouted the children.
"Well, old Kari told me that she was in service at the
orphan asylum some years ago, and at that time it was still
more dreary and lonely in that part of the town than it is now.
That asylum is a dark and dismal place, I can tell you. Well,
when Kari came there she was cook, and a very smart and
clever girl she was. She had, one day, to get up very early
in the morning to brew, when the other servants said to
" ' You had better mind you don't get up too early, and you
must n't put any fire under the copper before two o'clock.'
" ' Why ? ' she asked.
" ' Don't you know there is a brownie here ? And you ought
to know that those people don't like to be disturbed so early,'
they said ; ' and before two o'clock you must n't light the fire
by any means.'
" ' Is that all ? ' said Kari. She was anything but chicken-
hearted. 'I have nothing to do with that brownie of yours,
but if he comes in 1113- way, why, by my faith, I will send him
head over heels through the door.'
" The others warned her, but she did not care a bit, and next
morning, just as the clock struck one, she got up and lighted
the fire under the copper in the brewhouse ; but the fire
went out in a moment. Somebody appeared to be throwing
the logs about on the hearth, but she could not see who it was.
She gathered the logs together, one at a time, but it was of no
use, and the chimney would not draw, either. She got tired of
this at last, took a burning log and ran around the room with
CHRISTMAS H\ T NORWAY.
it, swinging it high and low while she shouted, ' Be gone, be
gone whence you came ! If you think you can frighten me
you are mistaken.' 'Curse you!' somebody hissed in one
of the darkest corners. ' I have had seven souls in this house ; I
thought I should have got eight in all ! ' But from that time
nobody saw or heard the brownie in the
asylum, said Kari Gausdal."
"I am getting so frightened!" said
one of the children. "No, you must
tell us some more stories, Lieuten-
ant ; I never feel afraid when you
tell us anything, because you tell us
such jolly tales." Another proposed
that I should tell them about the
brownie who danced the Hailing
dance with the lassie. That was a
tale I did n't care much about, as
there was some singing in it. But
they would on no account let me
off, and I was going to clear my
throat and prepare my exceed-
ingly inharmonious voice to sing
the Hailing dance, which belongs
to the story, when the pretty niece,
whom I have already referred to, entered
the room, to the great joy of the children and to my rescue.
Well, my dear children, I will tell you the story, if you can
get cousin Lizzie to sing the Hailing for you," said I, as she
sat down, "and then you'll dance to it yourselves, won't
Cousin Lizzie was besieged by the children, and had to
promise to do the singing, so I commenced my story.
CHRISTMAS IN NORWAY.
"There was, once upon a time, --I almost think it was in
Hallingdal, --a lassie who was sent up into the hay-loft with
the cream porridge for the brownie,--! cannot recollect if it
was on a Thursday or on a Christmas Eve, but I think it was a
Christmas Eve. Well, she thought it was a great pity to give
the brownie such a dainty dish, so she ate the porridge herself,
and the melted butter in the bargain, and went up into the
hay-loft with the plain oatmeal porridge and sour milk, in a
pig's trough instead. ' There, that 's good enough for you,
Master Brownie,' she said. But no sooner
had she spoken the words than the
brownie stood right before her, seized
her round the waist, and danced about
with her, which he kept up
till she lay gasping for
breath, and when the
people came up into the
hay-loft in the morning, _
she was more dead than
alive. But as long as they danced, the brownie sang," (and
here Cousin Lizzie undertook his part, and sang to the tune
of the Hailing) -
"And you have eaten the porridge for the brownie,
And you shall dance with the little brownie !
" And have you eaten the porridge for the brownie ?
Then you shall dance with the little brownie ! "
I assisted in keeping time by stamping on the floor with my
feet, while the children romped about the room in uproarious
" I think you are turning the house upside down, children ! "
2O CHRISTMAS IN NORWAY.
said old Mother Skau ; " if you '11 be quiet, I '11 give you a
The children were soon quiet, and Mother Skau commenced
as follows :
" You hear a great deal about brownies and fairies and
such like beings, but I don't believe there is much in it. I
have neither seen one nor the other. Of course I have not been
so very much about in my lifetime, but I believe it is all
nonsense. But old Stine out in the kitchen there, she says
she has seen the brownie. About the time when I was
confirmed she was in service with my parents. She came
to us from a captain's, who had given up the sea. It was
a very quiet place. The captain only took a walk as far as
the quay every day. They always went to bed early. People
said there was a brownie in the house. Well, it so happened
that Stine and the cook were sitting in their room one evening,
mending and darning their things; it was near bedtime, for
the watchman had already sung out ' Ten o'clock ! ' but some-
how the darning and the sewing went on very slowly indeed ;
every moment ' Jack Nap ' came and played his tricks upon
them. At one moment Stine was nodding and nodding, and
then came the cook's turn, they could not keep their eyes
open; they had been up early that morning to wash clothes.
But just as they were sitting thus, they heard a terrible crash
down stairs in the kitchen, and Stine shouted, ' Lor' bless and
preserve us ! it must be the brownie.' She was so frightened
she dared scarcely move a foot, but at last the cook plucked
up courage and went clown into the kitchen, closely followed
by Stine. When they opened the kitchen door they found
all the crockery on the floor, but none of it broken, while the
brownie was standing on the big kitchen table with his red cap
on, and hurling one dish after the other on to the floor, and
CHRISTMAS IN NOR IV AY.
laughing in great glee. The cook had heard that the brownies
could sometimes be tricked into moving into another house
when anybody would tell them of a very quiet place, and as
she long had been wishing for an opportunity to play a trick
upon this brownie, she took courage
and spoke to him, --her voice was
a little shaky at the time, - - that
he ought to remove to the tin-
man's over the way, where it
was so very quiet and pleasant,
because they always went
to bed at nine o'clock every
evening; which was true
enough, as the cook told
Stine later, but then the
master and all his ap-
prentices and journey-
men were up every
morning at three
o'clock, and ham-
mered away and
made a terrible
noise all day.
brownie any more at the captain's. He seemed to feel quite
at home at the tinman's, although they were hammering and
tapping away there all day ; but people said that the glide-
wife put a dish of porridge up in the garret for him every
Thursday evening, and it 's no wonder that they got on well
24 CHRISTMAS IN NORWAY.
and became rich when they had a brownie in the house.
Stine believed he brought things to them. Whether it was
the brownie or not who really helped them, I cannot say,"
said Mother Skau, in conclusion, and got a fit of coughing
and choking after the exertion of telling this, for her, un-
usually long story.
When she had taken a pinch of snuff she felt better, and
became quite cheerful again, and began : -
" My mother, who, by the way, was a truthful woman, told
a story which happened here in the town one Christmas Eve.
I know it is true, for an untrue word never passed her lips."
" Let us hear it, Madame Skau," said I.
"Yes, tell, tell, Mother Skau! " cried the children.
She coughed a little, took another pinch of snuff, and pro-
" When my mother still was in her teens, she used some-
times to visit a widow whom she knew, and whose name was,
-dear me, what was her name ?-- Madame, yes, Madame
Evensen, of course. She was a woman who had seen the
best part of her life, but whether she lived up in Mill Street or
down in the corner by the Little Church Hill, I cannot say for
certain. Well, one Christmas Eve, just like to-night, she
thought she would go to the morning service on the Christ-
mas Day, for she was a great church-goer, and so she left
out some coffee with the girl before she went to bed, that
she might get a cup next morning, --she was sure a cup
of warm coffee would do her a great deal of good at that
early hour. When she woke, the moon was shining into
the room ; but when she got up to look at the clock she
found it had stopped and that the fingers pointed to half-
past eleven. She had no idea what time it could be, so
she went to the window and looked across to the church.
CHRISTMAS IN NOR II' AY. 2$
The light was streaming out through all the windows. She
must have overslept herself ! She called the girl and told
her to get the coffee ready, while she dressed herself. So
she took her hymn-book and started for church. The street
was very quiet ; she did not meet a single person on her
way to church. When she went inside, she sat down in
her customary seat in one of the pews, but when she looked
around her she thought that the people were so pale and so
strange, --exactly as if they were all dead. She did not know
any of them, but there were several of them she seemed to
recollect having seen before ; but when and where she had
seen them she could not call to mind. When the minister
came into the pulpit, she saw that he was not one of the
ministers in the town, but a tall, pale man, whose face, how-
ever, she thought she could recollect. He preached very
nicely indeed, and there was not the usual noisy coughing
26 CHRISTMAS IN NORWAY.
and hawking which you always hear at the morning services
on a Christmas Day ; It was so quiet, you could have heard
a needle drop on the floor, in fact, it was so quiet she began
to feel quite uneasy and uncomfortable. When the singing
commenced again, a female who sat next to her leant towards
her and whispered in her ear, ' Throw the cloak loosely
around you and go, because if you wait here till the service
is over they will make short work of you. It is the dead
who are keeping service.' '
" Oh, Mother Skau, I feel so frightened, I feel so fright-
ened ! " whimpered one of the children, and climbed up on
" Hush, hush, child ! " said Mother Skau. " She got away
from them safe enough ; only listen ! When the widow heard
the voice of the person next to her, she turned round to
look at her, - - but what a start she got ! She recognized
her ; it was her neighbour who died many years ago ; and
when she looked around the church, she remembered well
that she had seen both the minister and several of the con-
gregation before, and that they had died long ago. This sent
quite a cold shiver through her, she became that frightened.
She threw the cloak loosely round her, as the female next
to her had said, and went out of the pew ; but she thought
they all turned round and stretched out their hands after her.
Her legs shook under her, till she thought she would sink
down on the church floor. When she came out on the
steps, she felt that they had got hold of her cloak; she let
it go and left it in their clutches, while she hurried home
as quickly as she could. When she came to the door the
clock struck one, and by the time she got inside she was
nearly half dead, she was that frightened. In the morning
when the people went to church, they found the cloak lying
CHRISTMAS IN NORWAY. 2 9
on the steps, but it was torn into a thousand pieces. My
mother had often seen the cloak before, and I think she
saw one of the pieces, also ; but that does n't matter, it
was a short, pink, woollen cloak, with fur lining and borders,
such as was still in use in my childhood. They are very
rarely seen nowadays, but there are some old ladies in the
town and down at the ' Home ' whom I see with such cloaks
in church at Christmas time."
The children, who had expressed considerable fear and
uneasiness during the latter part of the story, declared they
would not hear any more such terrible stories. They had
crept up into the sofa and on the chairs, but still they
thought they felt somebody plucking at them from under-
neath the table. Suddenly the lights were brought in, and
we discovered then, to our great amusement, that the children
had put their legs on to the table. The lights, the Christmas
cake, the jellies, the tarts and the wine soon chased away
the horrible ghost story and all fear from their minds, revived
everybody's spirits, and brought the conversation on to their
neighbours and the topics of the day. Finally, our thoughts
took a flight towards something more substantial, on the
appearance of the Christmas porridge and the roast ribs of
pork. We broke up early, and parted with the best wishes
for a Merry Christmas. I passed, however, a very uneasy
night. I do not know whether it was the stories, the sub-
stantial supper, my weak condition, or all these combined,
which was the cause of it ; I tossed myself hither and thither
in my bed, and got mixed up with brownies, fairies and ghosts
the whole night. Finally, I sailed through the air towards
the church, while some merry sledge-bells were ringing in
my ears. The church was lighted up, and when I came
inside I saw it was our own church up in the valley. There
were nobody there but peasants in their red caps, soldiers
in full uniform, country lasses with their white head-dresses
and red cheeks. The minister was in the pulpit ; it was
my grandfather, \vh6 died when I was a little boy. But just
as he was in the middle of the sermon, he
made a somersault --he was known as
one of the smartest men in the par-
ish --right into the middle of the
church ; the surplice flew one
way and the collar another.
" There lies the parson, and
here am I," he said, with one
of his well-known airs, " and
now let us have a spring
dance ! " In an instant the
whole of the congregation was
in the midst of a wild dance.
A big tall peasant came to-
wards me and took me by
the shoulder and said, " You '11
have to join us, my lad ! "
At this moment I awoke, and
felt some one pulling at my shoulder.
I could scarcely believe my eyes
when I saw the same peasant whom I
had seen in my dream leaning over me.
There he was, with the red cap clown over his ears, a big
fur coat over his arm, and a pair of big eyes looking fixedly
"You must be dreaming," he said, "the perspiration is
standing in big drops on your forehead, and you were sleep-
ing as heavily as a bear in his lair ! God's peace and a
CHRISTMAS IX XORWAY. 31
merry Christmas to you, I say ! and greetings to you from
your father and all yours up in the valley. Here 's a letter
from your father, and the horse is waiting for you out in
" But, good heavens ! is that you, Thor ? " I shouted in
great joy. It was indeed my father's man, a splendid speci-
men of a Norwegian peasant. " How in the world have you
come here already ? "
"Ah! that I can soon tell you," answered Thor. "I came
with your favourite, the bay mare. I had to take your father
down to Naes, and then he says to me, ' Thor,' says he, ' it
isn't very far to town from here. Just take the bay mare
and run down and see how the Lieutenant is, and if he is
well and can come back with you, you must bring him back
along with you,' says he."
\Yhen we left the town it was daylight. The roads were
in splendid condition. The bay mare stretched out her
32 CHRISTMAS IN NORWAY.
old smart legs, and we arrived at length in sight of the
dear old house. Thor jumped off the sledge to undo the
gate, and as we merrily drove up to the door we were met
by the boisterous welcome of old Rover, who, in his frantic
joy at hearing my voice, almost broke his chains in trying
to rush at me.
Such a Christmas as I spent that year I cannot recollect
before or since.