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The Elves






Source: Folk-lore And Legends: German

The happy day at length arrived on which Count Hermann von Rosenberg
was married to his beloved Catherine, a princess of the house of
Gonzaca. The event was celebrated by a magnificent banquet and
festival, and it was late before the Count and Countess could leave
their guests. The young Countess was already asleep, and Hermann was
sinking into a slumber, when he was aroused by hearing the sounds of
soft and gentle music, and, the door of his apartment flying open, a
joyous bridal procession entered the room. The figures engaged in this
extraordinary scene were not more than two or three spans high. The
bride and bridegroom were in the centre of the procession, and the
musicians preceded it.

Hermann rose up in bed, and demanded what brought them there, and why
they had aroused him, whereupon one of the company stepped up to him,
and said--

"We are attendant spirits of that peaceful class who dwell in the
earth. We have dwelt for many years beneath this thy birthplace, and
have ever watched over thy dwelling to preserve it from misfortune.
Already have we taken good care of the ashes of your forefathers that
they should not fall into the power of hostile and evil spirits, and
as faithful servants we watch over the welfare of your house. Since
thou hast this day been married for the continuance of thy name and
ancient race, we have represented to you this bridal ceremony, in
hopes that you will grant us full permission to keep and celebrate
this joyous festival, in return for which we promise to serve you and
your house with the greatest readiness."

"Very well," said Hermann, laughing; "make yourselves as merry in my
castle as you please."

They thanked him, and took their departure. Hermann could not,
however, banish from his mind this remarkable scene, and it was
daybreak before he fell asleep. In the morning his thoughts were still
occupied with it, yet he never mentioned one word of the occurrence to
his wife.

In the course of time the Countess presented him with a daughter.
Scarcely had Hermann received intelligence of this event before a very
diminutive old crone entered the apartment and informed him that the
elfin bride, whom he had seen in the miniature procession on the night
of his nuptials, had given birth to a daughter. Hermann was very
friendly to the visitor, wished all happiness to the mother and child,
and the old woman took her departure. The Count did not, however,
mention this visit to his wife.

A year afterwards, on the approach of her second confinement, the
Countess saw the elves on the occasion of her husband receiving
another of their unexpected visits. The little people entered the
chamber in a long procession in black dresses, carrying lights in
their hands, and the little women were clothed in white. One of these
stood before the Count holding up her apron, while an old man thus
addressed her--

"No more, dear Hermann, can we find a resting-place in your castle. We
must wander abroad. We are come to take our departure from you."

"Wherefore will you leave my castle?" inquired Hermann. "Have I
offended you?"

"No, thou hast not; but we must go, for she whom you saw as a bride on
your wedding-night lost, last evening, her life in giving birth to an
heir, who likewise perished. As a proof that we are thankful for the
kindness you have always shown us, take a trifling proof of our
power."

When the old man had thus spoken, he placed a little ladder against
the bed, which the old woman who had stood by ascended. Then she
opened her apron, held it before Hermann, and said--

"Grasp and take."

He hesitated. She repeated what she had said. At last he did what she
told him, took out of her apron what he supposed to be a handful of
sand, and laid it in a basin which stood upon a table by his bedside.
The little woman desired him to take another handful, and he did once
more as she bade him. Thereupon the woman descended the ladder; and
the procession, weeping and lamenting, departed from the chamber.

When day broke, Hermann saw that the supposed sand which he had taken
from the apron of the little woman was nothing less than pure and
beautiful grains of gold.

But what happened? On that very day he lost his Countess in
childbirth, and his new-born son. Hermann mourned her loss so bitterly
that he was very soon laid beside her in the grave. With him perished
the house of Rosenberg.





Next: The Conclave Of Corpses

Previous: The Jew In The Bush



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