The Elves





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.





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