WHAT do you think I have got here?” said Ole-Luk-Oie, “Do not be frightened, and you shall see a little mouse.” And then he held out his hand to him, in which lay a lovely little creature. “It has come to invite you to a wedding. Two little mice are going to enter into the marriage state tonight. They reside under the floor of your mother’s store-room, and that must be a fine dwelling-place.”
“But how can I get through the little mouse-hole in the floor?” asked Hjalmar.
“Leave me to manage that,” said Ole-Luk-Oie. “I will soon make you small enough.” And then he touched Hjalmar with his magic wand, whereupon he became less and less, until at last he was not longer than a little finger. “Now you can borrow the dress of the tin soldier. I think it will just fit you. It looks well to wear a uniform when you go into company.”
“Yes, certainly,” said Hjalmar; and in a moment he was dressed as neatly as the neatest of all tin soldiers.
“Will you be so good as to seat yourself in your mamma’s thimble,” said the little mouse, “that I may have the pleasure of drawing you to the wedding.”
“Will you really take so much trouble, young lady?” said Hjalmar. And so in this way he rode to the mouse’s wedding.
First they went under the floor, and then passed through a long passage, which was scarcely high enough to allow the thimble to drive under, and the whole passage was lit up with the phosphorescent light of rotten wood.
“Does it not smell delicious?” asked the mouse, as she drew him along. “The wall and the floor have been smeared with bacon-rind; nothing can be nicer.”
Very soon they arrived at the bridal hall. On the right stood all the little lady-mice, whispering and giggling, as if they were making game of each other. To the left were the gentlemen-mice, stroking their whiskers with their fore-paws; and in the centre of the hall could be seen the bridal pair, standing side by side, in a hollow cheese-rind, and kissing each other, while all eyes were upon them; for they had already been betrothed, and were soon to be married. More and more friends kept arriving, till the mice were nearly treading each other to death; for the bridal pair now stood in the doorway, and none could pass in or out.
The room had been rubbed over with bacon-rind, like the passage, which was all the refreshment offered to the guests. But for dessert they produced a pea, on which a mouse belonging to the bridal pair had bitten the first letters of their names. This was something quite uncommon. All the mice said it was a very beautiful wedding, and that they had been very agreeably entertained.
After this, Hjalmar returned home. He had certainly been in grand society; but he had been obliged to creep under a room, and to make himself small enough to wear the uniform of a tin soldier.
IT is incredible how many old people there are who would be glad to have me at night,” said Ole-Luk-Oie, “especially those who have done something wrong. ‘Good little Ole,’ say they to me, ‘we cannot close our eyes, and we lie awake the whole night and see all our evil deeds sitting on our beds like little imps, and sprinkling us with hot water. Will you come and drive them away, that we may have a good night’s rest?’ and then they sigh so deeply and say, ‘We would gladly pay you for it. Good-night, Ole-Luk, the money lies on the window.’ But I never do anything for gold.” “What shall we do to-night?” asked Hjalmar. “I do not know whether you would care to go to another wedding,” he replied, “although it is quite a different affair to the one we saw last night. Your sister’s large doll, that is dressed like a man, and is called Herman, intends to marry the doll Bertha. It is also the dolls’ birthday, and they will receive many presents.”
“Yes, I know that already,” said Hjalmar, “my sister always allows her dolls to keep their birthdays or to have a wedding when they require new clothes; that has happened already a hundred times, I am quite sure.”
“Yes, so it may; but to-night is the hundred and first wedding, and when that has taken place it must be the last, therefore this is to be extremely beautiful. Only look.”
Hjalmar looked at the table, and there stood the little card-board doll’s house, with lights in all the windows, and drawn up before it were the tin soldiers presenting arms. The bridal pair were seated on the floor, leaning against the leg of the table, looking very thoughtful, and with good reason. Then Ole-Luk-Oie dressed up in grandmother’s black gown married them.
As soon as the ceremony was concluded, all the furniture in the room joined in singing a beautiful song, which had been composed by the lead pencil, and which went to the melody of a military tattoo.
“What merry sounds are on the wind,
As marriage rites together bind
A quiet and a loving pair,
Though formed of kid, yet smooth and fair!
Hurrah! If they are deaf and blind,
We’ll sing, though weather prove unkind.”
And now came the present; but the bridal pair had nothing to eat, for love was to be their food.
“Shall we go to a country house, or travel?” asked the bridegroom.
Then they consulted the swallow who had travelled so far, and the old hen in the yard, who had brought up five broods of chickens.
And the swallow talked to them of warm countries, where the grapes hang in large clusters on the vines, and the air is soft and mild, and about the mountains glowing with colors more beautiful than we can think of.
“But they have no red cabbage like we have,” said the hen, “I was once in the country with my chickens for a whole summer, there was a large sand-pit, in which we could walk about and scratch as we liked. Then we got into a garden in which grew red cabbage; oh, how nice it was, I cannot think of anything more delicious.”
“But one cabbage stalk is exactly like another,” said the swallow; “and here we have often bad weather.”
“Yes, but we are accustomed to it,” said the hen.
“But it is so cold here, and freezes sometimes.”
“Cold weather is good for cabbages,” said the hen; “besides we do have it warm here sometimes. Four years ago, we had a summer that lasted more than five weeks, and it was so hot one could scarcely breathe. And then in this country we have no poisonous animals, and we are free from robbers. He must be wicked who does not consider our country the finest of all lands. He ought not to be allowed to live here.” And then the hen wept very much and said, “I have also travelled. I once went twelve miles in a coop, and it was not pleasant travelling at all.”
“The hen is a sensible woman,” said the doll Bertha. “I don’t care for travelling over mountains, just to go up and come down again. No, let us go to the sand-pit in front of the gate, and then take a walk in the cabbage garden.”
And so they settled it.
AM I to hear any more stories?” asked little Hjalmar, as soon as Ole-Luk-Oie had sent him to sleep.
“We shall have no time this evening,” said he, spreading out his prettiest umbrella over the child. “Look at these Chinese,” and then the whole umbrella appeared like a large china bowl, with blue trees and pointed bridges, upon which stood little Chinamen nodding their heads. “We must make all the world beautiful for to-morrow morning,” said Ole-Luk-Oie, “for it will be a holiday, it is Sunday. I must now go to the church steeple and see if the little sprites who live there have polished the bells, so that they may sound sweetly. Then I must go into the fields and see if the wind has blown the dust from the grass and the leaves, and the most difficult task of all which I have to do, is to take down all the stars and brighten them up. I have to number them first before I put them in my apron, and also to number the places from which I take them, so that they may go back into the right holes, or else they would not remain, and we should have a number of falling stars, for they would all tumble down one after the other.”
“Hark ye! Mr. Luk-Oie,” said an old portrait which hung on the wall of Hjalmar’s bedroom. “Do you know me? I am Hjalmar’s great-grandfather. I thank you for telling the boy stories, but you must not confuse his ideas. The stars cannot be taken down from the sky and polished; they are spheres like our earth, which is a good thing for them.”
“Thank you, old great-grandfather,” said Ole-Luk-Oie. “I thank you; you may be the head of the family, as no doubt you are, but I am older than you. I am an ancient heathen. The old Romans and Greeks named me the Dream-god. I have visited the noblest houses, and continue to do so; still I know how to conduct myself both to high and low, and now you may tell the stories yourself:” and so Ole-Luk-Oie walked off, taking his umbrellas with him.
“Well, well, one is never to give an opinion, I suppose,” grumbled the portrait. And it woke Hjalmar.
GOOD evening,” said Ole-Luk-Oie.
Hjalmar nodded, and then sprang out of bed, and turned his great-grandfather’s portrait to the wall, so that it might not interrupt them as it had done yesterday. “Now,” said he, “you must tell me some stories about five green peas that lived in one pod; or of the chickseed that courted the chickweed; or of the darning needle, who acted so proudly because she fancied herself an embroidery needle.”
“You may have too much of a good thing,” said Ole-Luk-Oie. “You know that I like best to show you something, so I will show you my brother. He is also called Ole-Luk-Oie but he never visits any one but once, and when he does come, he takes him away on his horse, and tells him stories as they ride along. He knows only two stories. One of these is so wonderfully beautiful, that no one in the world can imagine anything at all like it; but the other is just as ugly and frightful, so that it would be impossible to describe it.” Then Ole-Luk-Oie lifted Hjalmar up to the window. “There now, you can see my brother, the other Ole-Luk-Oie; he is also called Death. You perceive he is not so bad as they represent him in picture books; there he is a skeleton, but now his coat is embroidered with silver, and he wears the splendid uniform of a hussar, and a mantle of black velvet flies behind him, over the horse. Look, how he gallops along.” Hjalmar saw that as this Ole-Luk-Oie rode on, he lifted up old and young, and carried them away on his horse. Some he seated in front of him, and some behind, but always inquired first, “How stands the mark-book?”
“Good,” they all answered.
“Yes, but let me see for myself,” he replied; and they were obliged to give him the books. Then all those who had “Very good,” or “Exceedingly good,” came in front of the horse, and heard the beautiful story; while those who had “Middling,” or “Tolerably good,” in their books, were obliged to sit behind, and listen to the frightful tale. They trembled and cried, and wanted to jump down from the horse, but they could not get free, for they seemed fastened to the seat.
“Why, Death is a most splendid Luk-Oie,” said Hjalmar. “I am not in the least afraid of him.”
“You need have no fear of him,” said Ole-Luk-Oie, “if you take care and keep a good conduct book.”
“Now I call that very instructive,” murmured the great-grandfather’s portrait. “It is useful sometimes to express an opinion;” so he was quite satisfied.
These are some of the doings and sayings of Ole-Luk-Oie. I hope he may visit you himself this evening, and relate some more.