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Title: The Elves
Author: Ludwig Tieck
* A Project Gutenberg of Australia eBook *
eBook No.: 0700651.txt
Language:  English
Date first posted: May 2007
Date most recently updated: May 2007

Production notes:

Translated by Thomas Carlyle

"The Elves" was first published in volume 1 (1812) of Tieck's
three-volume Phantasm. The translation into English by Thomas Carlyle
first appeared in 'German Romance' (1827).

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Title: The Elves
Author: Ludwig Tieck

* * *

Translated by Thomas Carlyle

"The Elves" was first published in volume 1 (1812) of Tieck's
three-volume Phantasm. The translation into English by Thomas Carlyle
first appeared in 'German Romance' (1827).

* * *

"Where is our little Mary?" said the father.

W "She is playing out upon the green there with our neighbour's boy,"
replied the mother.

"I wish they may not run away and lose themselves," said he; "they are so

The mother looked for the little ones, and brought them their evening
luncheon. "It is warm," said the boy; "and Mary had a longing for the red

"Have a care, children," said the mother, "and do not run too far from
home, and not into the wood; Father and I are going to the fields."

Little Andres answered: "Never fear, the wood frightens us; we shall sit
here by the house, where there are people near us."

The mother went in, and soon came out again with her husband. They locked
the door, and turned towards the fields to look after their labourers,
and see their hay-harvest in the meadow. Their house lay upon a. little
green height, encircled by a pretty ring of paling, which likewise
enclosed their fruit and flower garden. The hamlet stretched somewhat
deeper down, and on the other side lay the castle of the Count. Martin
rented the large farm from this nobleman; and was living in contentment
with his wife and only child; for he yearly saved some money, and had the
prospect of becoming a man of substance by his industry, for the ground
was productive, and the Count not illiberal.

As he walked with his wife to the fields, he gazed cheerfully round and
said: "What a different look this quarter has, Brigitte, from the place
we lived in formerly! Here it is all so green; the whole village is
bedecked with thick-spreading fruit-trees; the ground is full of
beautiful herbs and flowers; all the houses are cheerful and cleanly, the
inhabitants are at their ease: nay, I could almost fancy that the woods
are greener here than elsewhere, and the sky bluer, and, so far as the
eye can reach, you have pleasure and delight in beholding the bountiful

"And whenever you cross the stream," said Brigitte, "you are, as it were,
in another world, all is so dreary and withered; but every traveller
declares that our village is the fairest in the country, far and near."

"All but that fir-ground," said her husband; "do but look back to it, how
dark and dismal that solitary spot is lying in the gay scene: the dingy
fir-trees with the smoky huts behind them, the ruined stalls, the brook
flowing past with a sluggish melancholy."

"It is true," replied Brigitta; "if you but approach that spot, you grow
disconsolate and sad, you know not why, What sort of people can they be
that live there, and keep themselves so separate from the rest of us, as
if they had an evil conscience?"

"A miserable crew," replied the young Farmer: "gipsies, seemingly, that
steal and cheat in other quarters; and have their hoard and hiding-place
here. I wonder only that his Lordship suffers them."

"Who knows," said the wife, with an accent of pity, "but perhaps they may
be poor people, wishing, out of shame, to conceal their poverty; for,
after all, no one can say aught of them; the only thing is, that they do
not go to church, and none knows how they live; for the little garden,
which indeed seems altogether waste, cannot possibly support them; and
fields they have none."

"God knows," said Martin, as they went along, "what trade they follow; no
mortal comes to them; for the place they live in is as if bewitched and
excommunicated, so that even our wildest fellows will not venture into

Such conversation they pursued, while walking to the fields. That gloomy
spot they spoke of lay aside from the hamlet. In a dell, begirt with
firs, you might behold a hut, and various ruined office-houses; rarely
was smoke seen to mount from it, still more rarely did men appear there;
though at times curious people, venturing somewhat nearer, had perceived
upon the bench before the hut, some hideous women, in ragged clothes,
dandling in their arms some children equally dirty and ill-favoured;
black dogs were running up and down upon the boundary; and, of an
evening, a man of monstrous size was seep to cross the footbridge of the
brook, and disappear in the hut; and, in the darkness, various shapes
were observed, moving like shadows round a fire in the open air. This
piece of ground, the firs and the ruined huts, formed in truth a strange
contrast wit the bright green landscape, the white houses of the hamlet,
and the stately new-bulk castle.

The two little ones had now eaten their fruit; it came into their heads
to run races; and the little nimble Mary always got the start of the less
active Andres. "It is not fair," cried Andres at last: "let us try it for
some length, then we shall see who wins."

"As thou wilt," said Mary; "only to the brook we must not run."

"No," said Andres; "but there, on the hill, stands the large pear-tree, a
quarter of a mile from this. I shall run by the left, round past the
fir-ground; thou canst try it by the right aver the fields; so we do not
meet till we get up, and then we shall see which of us is swifter."

"Done," cried Mary, and began to run; "for we shall not mar one another
by the way, and my father says it is as far to the hill by that side of
the gipsies's house as by this."

Andres had already started, and Mary, turning to the right, could no
longer see him. "It is very silly," said she to herself: "I have only to
take heart, and run along the bridge, past the hut, and through the yard,
and I shall certainly be first." She was already standing by the brook
and the clump of firs. "Shall I? No; it is too frightful," said she. A
little white dog was standing on the farther side, and barking with might
and main. In her terror, Mary thought the dog some monster, and sprang
back. "Fy! fy!" said she: "the dolt is gone half way by this time, while
I stand here considering," The little dog kept barking, and, as she
looked at it more narrowly, it seemed no longer frightful, but, on the
contrary, quite pretty; it had a red collar round its neck, with a
glittering bell; and as it raised its head, and shook itself in barking,
the little bell sounded with the finest tinkle. "Well, I must risk it!"
cried she, "I will run for life; quick, quick; Tam through; certainly to
Heaven, they cannot eat me up alive in half a minute!" And with this, the
gay, courageous little Mary sprang along the footbridge; passed the dog,
which ceased its barking and began to fawn on her; and in a moment she
was standing on the other bank, and the black firs all round concealed
from view her father's house, and the rest of the landscape.

But what was her astonishment when here! The loveliest, most variegated
flower-garden, lay round, her; tulips, roses and lilies were glittering
in the fairest colours; blue and gold-red butterflies were wavering in
the blossoms; cages of shining wire were hung on the espaliers, with
many-coloured birds in them, singing beautiful songs; and children, in
short white frocks, with flowing yellow hair and brilliant eyes, were
frolicking about some playing with lambkins, `some feeding the birds, or
gathering flowers, and giving them to one another; some, again, were
eating cherries, grapes and ruddy apricots. No hut was to be seen; but
instead of it, a large fair house, with a brazen door and lofty statues,
stood glancing in the middle of the space. Mary was confounded with
surprise, and knew not what to think; but, not being bashful, she went
right up to the first of the children, held out her hand, and wished the
little creature good-even.

"Art thou come to visit us, then?" said the glittering child; "I saw thee
running, playing on the other side, but thou wert frightened at our
little dog."

"So you are not gipsies and rogues," said Mary, "as Andres always told
me? He is a stupid thing, and talks of much he does not understand."

"Stay with us," said the strange little girl; "thou wilt like it well."

"But we are running a race."

"Thou wilt find thy comrade soon enough. There, take and eat."

Mary ate, and found the fruit more sweet than any she had ever tasted in
her life before; and Andres, and the race, and the prohibition of her
parents, were entirely forgotten.

A stately woman, in a shining robe, came towards them, and asked about
the stranger child. "Fairest lady," said Mary, "I came running hither by
chance, and now they wish to keep me."

"Thou art aware, Zerina," said the lady, "that she can be here but for a
little while; besides, thou shouldst have asked my leave."

"I thought," said Zerina, "when I saw her admitted across the bridge,
that I might do it; we have often seen her running in the fields, and
thou thyself hast taken pleasure in her lively temper. She will have to
leave us soon enough."

"No, I will stay here," said the little stranger; "for here it is so
beautiful, and here I shall find the prettiest playthings, and store of
berries and cherries to boot. On the other side it is not half so grand."

The gold-robed lady went away with a smile; and many of the children now
came bounding round the happy Mary in their mirth, and twitched her, and
incited her to dance; others brought her lambs, or curious playthings;
others made music on instruments, and sang to it.

She kept, however, by the playmate who had first met her; for Zerina was
the kindest and loveliest of them all. Little Mary cried and cried again:
"I will stay with you forever; I will stay with you, and you shall be my
sisters"; at which the children all laughed, and embraced her. "Now we
shall have a royal sport," said Zerina. She ran into the palace, and
returned with a little golden box, in which lay a quantity of seeds, like
glittering dust. She lifted of it with her little hand, and scattered
some grains on the green earth. Instantly the grass began to move, as in
waves; and, after a few moments, bright rosebushes started from the
ground, shot rapidly up, and budded all at once, while the sweetest
perfume filled the place. Mary also took a little of the dust, and,
having scattered it, she saw white lilies, and the most variegated pinks,
pushing up. At a signal from. Zerina, the flowers disappeared, and others
rose in their room. "Now," said Zerina, "look for something greater." She
laid two pine-seeds in the ground, and stamped them in sharply with her
foot. Two green bushes stood before them. "Grasp me fast," said she; and
Mary threw her arms about the slender form. She felt herself borne
upwards; for the trees were springing under them with the greatest speed;
the tall pines waved to and fro, and the two children held each other
fast embraced, swinging this way and that in the red clouds of the
twilight, and kissed each other; while the rest were climbing up and down
the trunks with quick dexterity, pushing and teasing one another with
loud laughter when they met; if any one fell down in the press, it flew
through the air, and sank slowly and surely to the ground. At length Mary
was beginning to be frightened; and the other little child sang a few
loud tones, and the trees again sank down, and set them on the ground as
gradually as they had lifted them before to the clouds.

They next went through the brazen door of the palace. Here many fair
women, elderly and young, were sitting in the round hall, partaking of
the fairest fruits, and listening to glorious invisible music. In the
vaulting of the ceiling, palms, flowers and groves stood painted, among
which little figures of children were sporting and winding in every
graceful posture; and with the tones of the music-, the images altered
and glowed with the most burning colours; now the blue and green were
sparkling like radiant tight, now these tints faded back in paleness, the
purple flamed up, and the gold took fire; and then the naked children
seemed to be alive among the flower-garlands, and to draw breath, and
emit it through their ruby-coloured lips; so that by fits you could see
the glance of their little white teeth, and the lighting up of their
azure eyes.

From the hall, a stair of brass led down to a subterranean chamber. Here
lay much gold and silver, and precious stones of every hue shone out
between them. Strange vessels stood along the walls, and all seemed
filled with costly things. The gold was worked into many forms, and
glittered with the friendliest red. Many little dwarfs were busied
sorting the pieces from the heap, and putting them in the vessels;
others, hunch-backed and bandy-legged, with long red noses, were tottering
slowly along, half-bent to the ground, under full sacks, which they bore
as millers do their grain; and, with much panting, shaking out the
gold-dust on the ground. Then they darted awkwardly to the right and
left, and caught the rolling balls that were like to run away; and it
happened now and then; that one in his eagerness overact the other, so
that both fell heavily and clumsily to the ground. They made angry faces,
and looked askance, as Mary, laughed at their gestures and their
ugliness. Behind them sat an old crumpled little man, whom Zerina
reverently greeted; he thanked her with a grave inch-nation of his head.
He held a sceptre in his hand, and wore a crown upon his brow, and all
the other dwarfs appeared to regard him as their master, and obey his

"What more wanted?" asked he, with a surly voice, as the children came a
little nearer.. Mary was afraid, and did not speak; but her companion
answered, they were only come to look about them in the chambers. "Still
your old child's tricks!" replied the dwarf: "Will there never be an end
to idleness?" With this, he turned again to his employment, kept his
people weighing and sorting the ingots; some he sent away on errands,
some he chid with angry tones.

"Who is the gentleman?" said Mary.

"Our Metal-Prince," replied Zerina, as they, walked along.

They seemed once more to reach the open air, for they were standing by a
lake, yet no sun appeared, and they saw no sky above their heads. A
little boat received them, and Zerina steered it diligently forwards. It
shot rapidly along. On gaining, the middle of the lake, the stranger saw
that multitudes of pipes, channels, and brooks, were spreading from the
little sea in every direction, "These waters to the right," said Zerina,
"flow beneath your garden, and this is why it blooms so freshly; by the
other side we get down into the great stream?" On a sudden, out of all
the channels, and from every quarter of the lake, came a crowd of little
children swimming up; some wore garlands of sedge and water-lily; some
had red stems of coral, others were blowing on crooked shells; a
tumultuous noise echoed merrily from the dark shores; among the children
might be seen, the fairest women sporting in the waters, and often
several of the children sprang about some one of them, and with kisses
hung upon her neck and shoulders. All saluted the strangers; and these
steered onwards through the revelry out of the lake, into a little river,
which grew narrower and narrower. At last the boat came aground. The
strangers took their leave, and Zerina knocked against the cliff. This
opened like a door, and a female form, all red, assisted them to mount.
"Are you all brisk here?" inquired Zerina. "They are just at work,"
replied the other, "and happy as they could wish; indeed, the heat is
very pleasant."

They went up a winding stair, and on a sudden Mary found herself in a
most resplendent hall, so that as she entered, her eyes were dazzled by
the radiance. Flame-coloured tapestry covered' the walls with a purple
glow; and when her eye had grown a little used to it, the stranger saw, to
her astonishment, that, in the tapestry, there were figures moving up and
down in dancing joyfulness; in form so beautiful, and of so fair
proportions, that nothing could be seen more graceful; their bodies were
as of red crystal, so that it appeared as if the blood were visible
within them, flowing and playing in its courses. They smiled on the
stranger, and saluted her with various bows; but as Mary was about
approaching nearer them, Zerina plucked her sharply back, crying: "Thou
wilt burn thyself, my little Mary, for the whole of it is fire."

Mary felt the heat. "Why do the pretty creatures not come out," said she,
"and play with us?"

"As thou livest in the Air," replied the other, "so are they obliged to
stay continually in Fire, and would faint and languish if they left it.
Look now, how glad they are, how they laugh and shout; those down below
spread out the fire-floods everywhere beneath the earth, and thereby the
flowers, and fruits, and wine; are made to flourish; these red streams
again, are to run beside the brooks of water; and thus the fiery
creatures are kept ever busy and glad. But for thee it is too hot here;
let us return to the garden."

In the garden, the scene had changed since they left it. The moonshine
was lying on every flower; the birds were silent, and the children were
asleep in complicated groups, among the green groves. Mary and her
friend, however, did not feel fatigue, but walked about in the warm
summer night, in abundant talk, till morning.

When the day dawned, they refreshed themselves on fruit and milk, and
Mary said: "Suppose we go, by way of change, to the firs, and see how
things look there?"

"With all my heart," replied Zerina; "thou wilt see our watchmen too, and
they will surely please thee; they are standing up among the trees on
the-mound." The two proceeded through the flower-garden by pleasant
groves, full of nightingales; then they ascended a vine-hill; and at
last, after long following the windings of a clear brook, arrived at the
firs, and the height which bounded the domain. "How does it come;" said
Mary, "that we have to walk so far here, when without, the circuit is so

"I know not," said her friend; "but so it is."

They mounted to the dark firs, and a chill wind blew from without in
their faces; a haze seemed lying far and wide over the landscape. On the
top were many strange forms standing: with mealy, dusty faces; their
misshapen heads not unlike those of white owls; they were clad in folded
cloaks of shaggy wool; they held umbrellas of curious skins stretched out
above them; and they waved and fanned themselves incessantly with large
bat's wings, which flared out curiously beside the woollen roquelaures.
"I could laugh, yet I am frightened," cried Mary.

"These are our good trusty watchmen," said her playmate; "they stand here
and wave their fans, that cold anxiety and inexplicable fear may fall on
every one, that attempts to approach us. They are covered so, because
without it is now cold and rainy, which they cannot bear. But snow, or
wind, or cold air, never reaches down to us; here is an everlasting
spring and summer: yet if these poor people on the top were not
frequently relieved, they would certainly perish."

"But who are you, then?" said Mary, while again descending to the flowery
fragrance; "or have you no name at all?"

"We are called the Elves," replied the friendly child; "people talk about
us in the Earth, as I have heard."

They now perceived a mighty bustle on the green. "The fair Bird is come!"
cried the children to them: all hastened to the hall. Here, as they
approached, young and old were crowding over the threshold, all shouting
for joy; and from within resounded a triumphant peal of music. Having
entered, they perceived the vast circuit filled with the most varied
forms, and all were looking upwards to a large Bird with glancing
plumage, that was sweeping slowly round in the dome, and in its stately
flight describing many a circle. The music sounded more gaily than
before; the colours and lights alternated more rapidly. At last the music
ceased; and the Bird, with a rustling noise, floated down upon a
glittering crown that hung hovering in air under the high window, by
which the hall was lighted from above. His plumage was purple and green,
and shining golden streaks played through it; on his head there waved a
diadem of feathers, so resplendent that they glanced like jewels. His
bill was red, and his legs of a glancing blue. As he moved, the tints
gleamed through each other, and the eye was charmed with their radiance.
His size was as that of an eagle. But now he opened his glittering beak;
and sweetest melodies came pouring from his moved breast, in finer tones
than the lovesick nightingale gives forth; still stronger rose the song,
and streamed like floods of Light, so that all, the very children
themselves, were moved by it to tears of joy and rapture. When he ceased,
all bowed before him; he again flew round the dome in circles, then
darted through the door, and soared into the light heaven, where he shone
far up like a red point, and then soon vanished from their eyes.

"Why are ye all so glad?" inquired Mary, bending to her fair playmate,
who seemed smaller than yesterday.

"The King is coming!" said the little one; "many of us have never seen
him, and whithersoever he turns his face, there is happiness and mirth;
we have long looked for him, more anxiously than you look fix spring when
winter lingers with you; and now he has announced, by his fair herald;
that he is at hand. This wise and glorious Bird, that has been sent to us
by the King, is called Phoenix; he dwells far off in Arabia, on a tree,
which there is no` other that resembles it on Earth, as in like manner
there is no second Phoenix. When he feels himself grown old, he builds a
pile of balm and incense, kindles it, and dies singing; and then from the
fragrant ashes, soars up the renewed Phoenix with unlessened beauty. It
is seldom he so wings his course that men behold him; and when once in
centuries this does occur, they note it in their annals, and expect
remarkable events. But now, my friend, thou and I must part; for the
sight of the King is not permitted thee."

Then the lady with the golden robe came through the throng, and beckoning
Mary to her, led her into a sequestered walk "Thou must leave us, my dear
child," said she; "the King is to hold his court here for twenty years,
perhaps longer; and fruitfulness and blessings will spread far over the
land, but chiefly here beside us; all the brooks and rivulets will become
more bountiful, all the fields and gardens richer, the wine more.
generous, the meadows more fertile, and the woods more fresh and green; a
milder air will blow, no hail shall hurt, no flood shall threaten. Take
this ring, and think of us: but beware of telling any one of our
existence; or we must fly this land, and thou and all around will lose
the happiness and blessing of our neighbourhood. Once more, kiss thy
playmate, and farewell." They issued from the walk; Zerina wept, Mary
stooped to embrace her, and they parted. Already she was on the narrow
bridge; the cold air was blowing on her back from the firs; the little
dog barked with all its might, and rang its little bell; she looked
round, then hastened over, for the darkness of the firs, the bleakness of
the ruined huts, the shadows of the twilight, were filling her with

"What a night my parents must have had on my account!" said she within
herself, as she stept on the green; "and I dare not tell them where I
have been, or what wonders I have witnessed, nor indeed would they
believe me." Two men passing by saluted her; and as they went along, she
heard them say: "What a pretty girl! Where can she come from?" With
quickened steps she approached the house: but the trees which were
hanging last night loaded with fruit were now standing dry and leafless;
the house was differently painted, and a new barn had been built beside
it. Mary was amazed, and thought she must be dreaming. In this perplexity
she opened the door; and behind the table sat her father, between an
unknown woman and a stranger youth. "Good God! Father," cried she, "where
is my mother?"

"Thy mother!" said the woman, with a forecasting tone, and sprang towards
her: "Ha, thou surely cant not--Yes, indeed, indeed thou art my lost,
long-lost dear, only Mary!" She had recognised her by a little brown mole
beneath the chin, as well as by her eyes and shape. All embraced her, all
were moved with joy, and the parents wept. Mary was astonished that she
almost reached to her father's stature; and she could not understand how
her mother had become so changed and faded; she asked the name of the
stranger youth. "It is our neighbour's Andres," said Martin. "How comest
thou to us again, so unexpectedly, after seven long years? Where hag thou
been? Why didst thou never send us tidings of thee?"

"Seven years!" said Mary, and could not order her ideas and
recollections. "Seven whole years?"

"Yes, yes," said Andres, laughing, and shaking her trustfully by the
hand; "I have won the race, good Mary; I was at the pear-tree and back
again seven years ago, and thou, sluggish creature, art but just

They again asked, they pressed her; but remembering her instruction, she
could answer nothing. It was they themselves chiefly that, by degrees,
shaped a story for her: How, having lost her way, she had been taken up
by a coach, and carried to a strange remote part, where she could not
give the people any notion of her parents' residence; how she was
conducted to a distant town, where certain worthy persons brought her up
and loved her; how they had lately died, and at length she had
recollected her birthplace, and so returned. "No matter how it is!"
exclaimed her mother, "enough, that we have thee again, my little
daughter, my own, my all!"

Andres waited supper, and Mary could not be at home in anything she saw.
The house seemed small and dark; she felt astonished at her dress, which
was clean and simple, but appeared quite foreign; she looked at the ring
on her finger, and the gold of it glittered strangely, enclosing a stone
of burning red. To her father's question, she replied that the ring also
was a present from her benefactors.

She was glad when the hour of sleep arrived, and she hastened to her bed.
Next morning she felt much more collected; she had now arranged her
thoughts a little, and could better stand the questions of the people in
the village, all of whom came in to bid her welcome. Andres was there too
with the earliest, active, glad, and serviceable beyond all others. The
blooming maiden of fifteen had made a deep impression on him; he had
passed a sleepless night. The people of the castle likewise sent for
Mary, and she had once more to tell her story to them, which was now,
grown quite familiar to her. The old Count and his Lady were surprised at
her good-breeding; she was modest, but not embarrassed; she made answer
courteously in good phrases to all their questions; all fear of noble
persons and their equipage had passed away from her; for when, she
measured these halls and forms by the wonders and the high beauty she had
seen with the Elves in their hidden abode, this earthly splendour seemed
but dim to her, the presence of men was almost mean. The young lords were
charmed with her beauty.

It was now February. The trees were budding earlier than usual; the
nightingale had, never come so soon; the spring rose fairer in the land
than the oldest men could recollect it. In every quarter, little brooks
gushed out to irrigate the pastures and meadows; the hills seemed
heaving, the vines rose higher and higher, the fruit-trees blossomed as
they had never done; and a swelling fragrant blessedness hung suspended
heavily in rosy clouds over the scene. All prospered beyond expectation;
no rude day, no tempest injured the fruits; the wine flowed blushing in
immense grapes; and the inhabitants of the place felt astonished, and
were captivated as in a sweet dream. The next year was like its
forerunner; but men had now become accustomed to the marvellous. In
autumn Mary yielded to the pressing entreaties of Andres and her parents;
she was betrothed to him, and in winter they were married.

She often thought with inward longing of her residence behind the
fir-trees; she continued serious and still. Beautiful as all that lay
around her was, she knew of something yet more beautiful; and from the
remembrance of this, a faint regret attuned her nature to soft
melancholy. It smote her painfully when her father and mother talked
about the gipsies and vagabonds, that dwelt in the dark spot of ground.
Often she was on the point of speaking out in defence of those good
beings, whom she knew to be the benefactors of the land; especially to
Andres, who appeared to take delight in zealously abusing them: yet still
she repressed the word that was struggling to escape her bosom. So passed
this year; in the next, she was solaced by a little daughter, whom she
named Elfrida, thinking of the designation of her friendly Elves.

The young people lived with Martina and Brigitta, the house being large
enough for all; and helped their parents in conducting their now extended
husbandry. The little Elfrida soon displayed peculiar faculties and
gifts; for she could walk at a very early age, and could speak perfectly
before she was, a twelvemonth old; and after some few years, she had
become so wise and clever, and of such wondrous beauty, that all people
regarded her with astonishment; and her mother could not keep away the
thought that her child resembled one of those shining little ones in the
space behind the Firs. Elfrida cared not to be with other children; but
seemed to avoid, with a sort of horror, their tumultuous amusements; and
liked best to be alone. She would then retire into a corner of the
garden, and read, or work diligently with her needle; often also you
might see her sitting, as if deep sunk in thought; or violently walking
up and down the alleys, speaking to herself. Her parents readily allowed
her to have her will in these things, for she was healthy, and-waxed
apace; only her strange sagacious answers and observations often made
them anxious. "Such wise children do not grow to age," her grandmother,
Brigitte, many times observed; "they are too good for this world; the
child, besides, is beautiful beyond nature, and will never find its
proper place on Earth."

The little girl had this peculiarity, that she was very loath to let
herself be served by any one, but endeavoured to do everything herself.
She was almost the earliest riser in the house; she washed herself
carefully, and dressed without assistance: at night she was equally
careful; she took special heed to pack up her clothes and washed them
with ha own hands, allowing no one, not even her mother, to meddle with
her articles. The mother humoured her in this caprice, not thinking it of
any consequence. But what was her astonishment, when, happening' one
holiday to insist, regardless of Elfrida's tears and screams, on dressing
her out for a visit to the castle, she found upon her breast, suspended
by a string, a piece of gold of a strange form, which she directly
recognised as one of that sort she had seen in such abundance in the
subterranean vault! The little thing was greatly frightened; and at last
confessed that she had found it in the garden, and as she liked it much,
had kept it carefully: she at the same time prayed so earnestly and
pressingly to have it back, that Mary fastened it again on its former
place, and, full of thoughts, went out with her in silence to the castle.

Sidewards from the farmhouse lay some offices for the storing of produce
and implements; and behind these there was a little green, with an old
grove, now visited by no one, as, from the new arrangement of the
buildings, it lay too far from the garden. In this solitude Elfrida
delighted most; and it occurred to nobody to interrupt her here, so that
frequently her parents did not see her for half a day. One afternoon ha
mother chanced to be in these buildings, seeking for some lost article
among the lumber; and she noticed that a beam of light Was coming in,
through a chink in the wall. She took a thought of looking through this
aperture, and seeing what her child was busied with; and it happened that
a stone was lying loose, and could be pushed aside, so that she obtained
a view right into the grove. Elfrida was sitting there on a little bench,
and beside her the well-known Zerina; and the children were playing, and
amusing one another, in the kindliest unity. The Elf embraced her
beautiful companion, and said mournfully: "Ah! dear little creature, as I
sport with thee, so have I sported with thy mother, when she was a child;
but you mortals so soon grow tall and thoughtful! It is very hard: wert
thou but to be a child as long as I!"

"Willingly would I do it," said Elfrida; "but they all say, I shall come
to sense, and give over playing altogether; for I have great gifts, as
they, think, for growing wise. Ah! and then I shall see thee no more,
thou dear Zerina! Yet it is with us as with the fruit-tree flowers: how
glorious the blossoming apple-tree, with its red bursting buds! It looks
so stately and broad; and every one, that passes under it, thinks surely
something great will come of it; then the sun grows hot, and the buds
come joyfully forth; but the wicked kernel is already there, which pushes
off and casts away the fair flower's dress; and now, in, pain and waxing,
it can do nothing more, but must grow to 'fruit in harvest An apple, to
be sure, is pretty and refreshing; yet nothing to the blossom of spring.
So is it also with us mortals: I am not glad in be least at growing to be
a tall girl, Ah! could I but once visit you!"

"Since the King is with us," said Zerina, "it is quite impossible; but I
will come to thee, my darling, often, often; and none shall see me either
hem or there. I will pass invisible through the air, or fly over to thee
like a bird. 0! we will be much, much together, while thou art still
little. What can I do to please thee?"

"Thou must like me very dearly," said Elfrida, "as I like thee in my
heart. But come, let us make another rose."

Zerina took the well-known box from her bosom, threw two grains from it
on, the ground; and instantly a green bush stood before them, with two
deep-red roses, bending their heads, as if to kiss each other. The
children plucked them smiling, and the bush disappeared. "0 that it would
not die so soon!" said Elfrida; "this red child, this wonder of the

"Give it me here," said the little Elf; then breathed thrice upon the
budding rose, and kissed it thrice. "Now," said she, giving back the
rose, "it will continue fresh and blooming till winter."

"I will keep it," said Elfrida, "as an image of thee; I will guard it in
my little room, and kiss it night and morning, as if it were thyself!"

"The sun is setting," said the other; "I must home." They embraced again,
and Zerina vanished.

In the evening, Mary clasped her child to her breast, with a feeling of
alarm and veneration. She henceforth allowed the good little girl more
liberty than formerly; and often calmed her husband when he came to
search for the child; which for some time he was wont to do, as her
retiredness did not please him; and he feared that, in the end, it might
make her silly, or even pervert her understanding. The mother often
glided to the chink; and almost always found the bright Elf beside her
child, employed in sport, or in earnest conversation.

"Wouldst thou like to fly?" inquired Zerina once.

"0 well! How well!" replied Elfrida; and the fairy clasped her mortal
playmate in her arms, and mounted with her from the ground, till they
hovered above the grove. The mother, in alarm, forgot herself, and pushed
out her head in terror to look after them; when Zerina, from the air,
held up her finger, and threatened yet smiled; then descended with the
child, embraced her, and disappeared. After this, it happened more than
once that Mary was observed by her; and every time, the shining little
creature shook her head, or threatened, yet with friendly looks.

Often, in disputing with her husband, Mary had said in her zeal: "Thou
lost injustice to the poor people in the hut!" But when Andres pressed
her to explain why she differed in opinion from the whole village, nay,
from his Lordship himself; and how she could understand it better than
the whole of them, she still broke off embarrassed, and became silent One
day, after dinner, Andres grew more violent than ever; and maintained
that, by one means or another, the crew must be packed away, as a
nuisance to the country; when his wife, in anger, said to him: "Hush! for
they are benefactors to thee and to every one of us."

"Benefactors!" cried the other, in astonishment: "These rogues and

In her indignation, she was now at last tempted to relate to him, under
promise of the strictest secrecy, the history of her youth: and as Andres
at every word grew more incredulous, and shook his head in mockery, she
took him by the hand, and led him to the chink; where, to his amazement
he beheld the glittering Elf sporting with his child, and caressing her
in the grove. He knew not what to say; an exclamation of astonishment
escaped him, and Zerina raised her eyes. On the instant she grew pale,
and trembled violently; not with friendly, but with indignant looks, she
made the sign of threatening, and then said to Elfrida: "Thou canst not
help it, dearest heart; but they will never learn sense, wise as they
believe themselves." She embraced the little one with stormy haste; and
then, in the shape of a raven, flew with hoarse cries over the garden,
towards the Firs.

In the evening, the little one was very still; she kissed her rose with
tears; Mary felt depressed and frightened, Andres scarcely spoke. It grew
dark. Suddenly there went a rustling through the trees; birds flew to and
fro with wild screaming, thunder was heard to roll, the Earth shook, and
tones of lamentation moaned in the air. Andres and his wife had not
courage to rise; they shrouded themselves within the curtains, and with
fear and trembling awaited the day. Towards morning, it grew calmer; and
all was silent when the Sun, with his cheerful light, rose over the wood.

Andres dressed himself; and Mary now observed that the stone of the ring
upon her finger had become quite pale. On opening the door, the sun shone
dear on their faces, but the scene around them they could scarcely
recognise. The freshness of the wood was gone; the hills were shrunk, the
brooks were flowing languidly with scanty streams, the sky seemed grey;
and when you turned to the Firs, they were standing there no darker or
more dreary than the other trees. The huts behind them were no longer
frightful; and several inhabitants of the village came and told about the
fearful night, and how they had been across the spot where the gipsies
had lived; how these people must have left the place at last, for their
huts were standing empty, and within had quite a common look, just like
the dwellings of other poor people: some of their household gear was
left behind.

Elfrida in secret said to her mother: "I could not sleep last night; and
in my fright at the noise; I was praying from the bottom of my heart,
when the door suddenly opened, and my playmate entered to take leave of
me. She had a travelling pouch slung round her, a hat on her head, and a
large staff M her hand. She was very angry at thee; since on thy account
she had now, to suffer the severest and most painful punishments, as she
had always been so fond of thee; for all of them, she said, were very
loath to leave this quarter."

Mary forbade her to speak of this; and now the ferryman came across the
river, and told them new wonders. As it was growing dark, a stranger man
of large size had come to him, and hired his boat till sunrise; and with
this condition, that the boatman should remain quiet in his house, at
least should not cross the threshold of his door. "I was frightened,"
continued the old man, "and the strange bargain would not let me sleep. I
slipped softly to the window, and looked towards the rivet Great clouds
were driving restlessly through the sky, and the distant woods were
rustling fearfully; it was as if my cottage shook, and moans and
lamentations glided round it. On a sudden, I perceived a white streaming
light, that grew broader and broader, like many thousands of falling
stars; sparkling and waving, it proceeded forward from the dark
Fir-ground, moved over the fields, and spread itself along towards the
river. Then I heard a trampling, a jingling, a bustling, and rushing,
nearer and nearer; it went forwards to my boat, and all stept into it,
men and women, as it seemed, and children; and the tall stranger ferried
them, over. In the river were by the boat swimming many thousands of
glittering forms; in the air white clouds and lights were wavering; and
all lamented and bewailed that they must travel forth so far, far away,
and leave their beloved dwelling. The noise of the rudder and the water
creaked and gurgled between-whiles, and then suddenly there would be
silence. Many a time the boat landed, and went back, and was again laden;
many heavy casks, too, they took along with them, which multitudes of
horrid-looking little fellows carried and rolled; whether they were
devils or goblins, Heaven only knows. Then came, in waving brightness, a
stately freight; it seemed an old man, mounted on a small white horse,
and all were crowding round him. I saw nothing of the horse but its head;
for the rest of it was covered with costly glittering cloths and
trappings: on his brow the old man had a crown, so bright that, as he
came across, I thought the sun was rising there, and the redness of the
dawn glimmering in my eyes. Thus it went on all night; I at last fell
asleep in the tumult, half in joy, half in terror. In the morning all was
still; but the river is, as it were, run off, and I know not how I am to
steer my boat in it now."

The same year there came a blight, the woods died away, the springs ran
dry; and the scene, which had once been the joy of every traveller, was
in autumn standing waste, naked and bald; scarcely showing here and
there, in the sea of sand, a spot or two where grass, with a dingy
greenness, still grew up. The fruit-trees all withered, the vines faded
away, and the aspect of the place became so melancholy, that the Count,
with his people, next year left the castle, which in time decayed and
fell to ruins.

Elfrida gazed on her rose day and night with deep longing, and thought of
her kind playmate; and as it drooped and withered, so did she also hang
her head; and before the spring the little, maiden had herself faded
away. Mary often stood upon the spot before the hut, and wept for the
happiness that had departed. She wasted herself away like her child, and
in a few years she too was gone. Old Martin, with his son-in-law,
returned to the quarter where he had lived before.


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