Viggo and Beate,

Translated by Mrs. Gudrun Thorne-Thompson

 

THE DOLL UNDER THE BRIER ROSEBUSH

There was once a girl, and her name was Beate. On her birthday her father had given her a beautiful straw hat. Her mother had given her a pair of yellow shoes and the daintiest white dress. But her old aunt had given her the very best present of all; it was a doll, with a sweet face and dark brown curls.

Oh, how Beate grew to love that doll, almost more than she loved Marie and Louise, and they were her best friends.

One day Beate was walking in the yard with her doll in her arms. It had a name now, and they had become fast friends. She had called her Beate, her own name, and the name of her old aunt who had given her the present.

It was in the early Spring. There was a green spot in one corner of the yard around the old  well. There stood a big willow tree with a low trunk, and it was covered with the little yellow blossoms that children call “goslings.”

They look like goslings, too, for each little tassel has soft yellow down, and they can swim in the water.

Now, Big Beate and Little Beate soon agreed that they would pick goslings from the tree and throw them into the well, so that these might have just as good a time as the big geese and goslings that were swimming about in the pond. It was really Big Beate who thought of this first, but Little Beate agreed immediately; you can’t imagine how good she always was.

Now, Big Beate climbed up into the willow and picked many pretty yellow goslings into her little white apron, and when she counted them she said that now they had enough, and Little Beate thought so too.

Both of them ran over to the well, and Big Beate helped her little friend to get her legs firmly fixed between the logs that were around the well, so that she might sit in comfort and watch the little goslings swim about on the water. Then gosling after gosling was dropped down, and as soon as each one reached the water it seemed to become alive and it moved about. Oh, what fun!

But after awhile the little goslings would not swim any longer, but lay quite still. That was no fun at all, so Big Beate asked her namesake if she didn’t think she might lean a little over the edge of the well and blow on them, for then she thought they might come to life again. Little Beate didn’t answer, but she raised her left eye-brow, saying, “Please don’t do that, dear Big Beate! Don’t you remember, Mother has told us how dark it is down there in the well? Think, if you should fall in!”

“Oh, nonsense; just see how easy it is,” said Big Beate. She leaned out over the wall and blew on the nearest ones. Yes, it helped—the goslings began to swim again. But those that were farthest away didn’t move at all.

“What stupid little things!” said Beate; and she leaned far, far out over the edge of the well. Then her little hands slipped on the smooth log—splash! Down she fell into the water. It was so cold, so icy cold, and it closed over her head, and took the straw hat, which she had got on her birthday, off her hair! She hadn’t time to hear whether Little Beate screamed, but I’m sure she did.

When Beate’s head came up over the water again she grasped the round log with both her hands, but the hands were too small, and the log too wide and slippery, she couldn’t hold on. Then she saw her dear friend, Little Beate, standing stiff and dumb with fright, staring at her and with her right arm stretched out to her. Big Beate hurriedly caught hold of her and Little Beate made herself as stiff as she could, and stiffer still, and stood there between the logs holding her dear friend out of the water.

Now Beate screamed so loudly that her father and mother heard her and came running as fast as they could, pale and frightened, and pulled her out. She was dripping wet, and so scared and cold that her teeth chattered.

Now they put Beate to bed, and Little Beate had to sleep with her. When she had said her prayers she hugged her little friend and said: “Never, never can I thank you enough, because you saved me from that horrible deep well, dear Little Beate. You shall be my very best friend, always, and when I grow up you shall be the godmother to my first daughter, and I shall call her Little Beate for you.”

THE FLOATING ISLAND

Beate was now a year older. During that year she had lost Little Beate, but she had never forgotten her.

Big Beate had many dolls given to her, but not one was like Little Beate. No one was so sweet and good-natured, no one so pretty and graceful.

It was a Saturday, and the next day, Sunday, she expected her friends, Marie and Louise, on a visit, for it was her birthday; therefore she wanted to decorate her doll-house as prettily as she could.

Beate knew what to do. On the hillside by the Black Pond she remembered that she had seen the prettiest little snail shells anyone might wish for—round and fluted, with yellow and brown markings. They would be just the thing for her bureau. She ran off to search for them, slipping in and out through the hazel bushes, and picking empty shells by the dozen.

But all of a sudden she heard a bird utter such a weird cry from the lake. She peeped out between the green branches and saw a big bird swimming about. It had a long blue neck and a white breast, but its back was shining black. It swam fast, and then suddenly dived and was gone.

Beate stood there and stared at the water, hoping to see the bird come up again, but she waited and waited in vain. She was frightened, thinking it was drowned, when she saw it shoot up again far away, almost in the middle of the lake. Then it began to swim slowly toward a tiny green  island which lay there, and crept into the high weeds and grasses that hung over the water.

Beate could not get tired of looking at the pretty little island. Willow bushes grew out of the grass in some places, and in one end grew a little white-barked birch tree. Beate thought she had never seen anything half so lovely. It seemed just like a strange little land, all by itself.

At last Beate remembered that she must hurry home. Again she peeped through the leaves and branches to say good-night to the island, when—think of it!—the little green island was gone.

She thought of goblins and fairies, and ran up the path to the top of the hill as fast as she could. But when she got there she had to look again. And she became more astonished than ever, for now she saw the little green island again, but far from the place where she first saw it. It was sailing slowly toward the southern end of the lake, and the silver birch was its sail.

As soon as Beate reached home she found Anne, the nurse, and told her what she had seen.

Anne knew all about the floating island: it had been on the lake for many years, she said. But there were many strange things about it. One thing she would tell, and that was, that if anyone stood on the floating island and took a loon’s egg out of the nest and wished for something, that wish would come true, if the egg was put safely back into the nest again. If you wished to become a Princess of England, your wish would indeed be fulfilled, said old Anne. But there was one more thing to notice: you must not talk about it to a living soul.

“Not even to Father and Mother?” asked Beate.

“No,” said Anne, “not to a living soul.”

Beate could think of nothing but the island all that evening, and when she had closed her eyes she could dream of nothing else all night.

Just as soon as Beate got up in the morning she begged her father to row her and Marie and Louise out to the floating island, when they came to visit her in the afternoon, and that he promised.

But he also asked how she had happened to think of that, and what she wanted there. Beate thought first that she would tell him everything, but then she remembered Anne’s words, and said only that she wished to go out there because the little green island was so pretty.

“Yes, indeed, it is pretty, and you shall see a loon’s nest too,” said the father.

Then Beate’s face grew red, and the tears came to her eyes, for she knew well enough about the loon’s nest and about the eggs.

In the afternoon the father took the three little girls down to the lake. Beate’s friends thought this was the loveliest place they had ever seen, and they begged the father to stop and get some of the pretty water-lilies for them. But Beate was longing for the floating island.

The father rowed close up to the island and around it, and when he came to the other side the loon plunged out of the reeds into the water and was gone.

“There is the loon’s nest,” said the father.

What joy! The loon’s nest was on the very edge of the little tiny island, hidden among the grasses, and in the nest were two big grayish-brown eggs, with black spots, larger than any goose eggs.

Marie and Louise shouted and laughed, but Beate felt strangely frightened and was very quiet. She begged her father to let her stand on the island, only a minute, and would he let her take one of the eggs in her hand?

The father told her she must be very careful just lift the egg gently between her two fingers, for if the bird noticed that the egg had been touched she would not hatch it.

And now Beate stood on the green floating island. She was excited when she bent down to pick up the grayish-brown egg, but lifted it carefully between two fingers. Now she might wish for anything in the wide, wide world.

And what do you think she wished for? To become a Princess of England? Oh, no, she knew something far better than that. Then her lips moved softly, and she whispered to herself: “I wish that Little Beate was with me once more, and would never, never leave me.” Carefully she put the egg back into the nest.

What was the pink something her eye now caught sight of among the tall reeds close to the nest? It was her doll! Beate gave one shriek of joy. “Little Beate, my own Little Beate,” she sobbed, when she had her own dearest friend in her arms again. She covered her with tears and kisses, and held her tight in her arms as if she would never in the world let her go.

Her father, Marie, and Louise stood by without saying a word. At last the father kissed his little girl, and lifted her on to the raft again.

Such a birthday party as Beate had now! What did it matter that a year’s rains and snows had faded Little Beate’s cheeks and bleached her brown curls? She was the guest of honor, and sat on the prettiest chair. She had all the cookies and chocolate that she wanted. She was petted and loved; and at night, tired and happy, Big Beate slept with her little friend in her arms.

HANS, THE OLD SOLDIER

Viggo was Beate’s brother. He was 10 years old. Hans was Viggo’s dearest friend. The servants on the farm called the old Grenadier “Hans the Watchdog,” for they said when he talked to anyone it sounded like a dog barking, and he looked as if he were ready to bite. But Viggo had once said that the Grenadier’s voice sounded like the rattle of a drum, and the old soldier thought that was well said. It was from that time on that Viggo and Hans were such good friends.

Hans the Grenadier was six feet two, and a little more. He was straight as a stick. His hair was long and snowy white, and it hung in a braid down his red soldier’s coat.

When he came walking up to the farm from his little cottage he always carried the ax on the left shoulder, like a gun, and marched stiff and straight, and kept step as if the sergeant were marching right at his heels, commanding “Left, right! Left, right!”

Viggo knew that sometimes Old Hans was willing to tell about the time he served in the army. He told of the battles, and first and last about the “Prince of ’Gustenberg.”

“That was a man!” said Hans. “When he looked at you it was as if he would eat you in one bite. And such a nose between the eyes! The Prince of ’Gustenberg had a nose that shouted ‘Get out of my way!’ And therefore they did get put of his way, too, wherever he showed himself.

“Do you know what the Prince of ’Gustenberg said when he spoke in front of the troops? ‘One thing is a shame,’ said he, ‘and that is to turn your back before retreat is called.’ And now you know what is a shame, my boy!”

Viggo sat silent a little while.

“Have you never known a little boy to become a general?” he asked at last.

“No, I haven’t, but I have known a drummer boy to become a sergeant. He was not much bigger than you. He could do everything you can think of. There was one thing, though, that was very hard for him to do, and that was to beat ‘Retreat.’ ‘Forward March’ he knew how to drum; he never forgot that, and sometimes he beat that instead of ‘Retreat,’ and the captain got angry. Usually he wasn’t punished either, because he had once saved the captain’s life with a snowball.”

“With a snowball?” said Viggo.

“Yes, I said snowball; he did not use greater means. We were rushing up a hill with the enemy in front of us. It was in Winter. The captain and the drummer boy led the march; but as soon as they came to the top of the hill there stood the enemy in line. ‘Aim!’ commanded the enemy’s officer, and all the guns pointed right at the captain. Quick as lightning the drummer boy grabbed a handful of snow and made a snowball, and, just as the officer opened his mouth to say ‘Fire!’ the drummer boy threw the snowball straight into the open mouth. He stood there, mouth wide open. Well, then the rest of us arrived and we had a hot fight.”

“Then was he made a sergeant?” asked Viggo.

“Yes, when the Prince had heard of it. He was given the rank of a sergeant, and something better even than that. The Prince called him ‘my son.’”

“It was too bad that they didn’t make him a general,” said Viggo. He added half aloud: “Do you think I might become a general, Hans?”

“Well, well, listen to the spring chicken!” said Hans. “So it is general you want to be? Never mind, don’t blush for that; it wasn’t a bad question. But it is very difficult, for you must learn much, oh, very much.”

“Mathematics, you mean?” said Viggo. “I have learned some of that already, and languages too.”

“Yes, that is well enough, but you must learn much more; you must learn to drill so that you don’t make a mistake in a single movement.”

“Then do you think I might become a general?” continued Viggo.

“Who knows? But it is difficult. The eyes are not bad, you have the right expression. But the nose—no it has not the correct shape. But, of course, it may grow and curve in time,” said Old Hans.

After that Viggo learned to drill and march from his old friend; but he often looked in the mirror and wished with all his heart that the nose would curve a little more.

ALLARM, THE DOG

One afternoon Viggo was walking home from school with a bag of books on his back. He marched straight as a stick, with a soldiery step. Old Hans was standing outside the cottage waiting for him, and when Viggo halted and saluted, the old man asked if he could guess what present there was for him at the house.

“How does it look?” asked Viggo.

“It is brown,” said Hans. “Now guess.”

“Oh, I suppose it is nothing but a lump of brown sugar from Aunt Beate,” said Viggo.

“Try again!” said Hans, and grinned. “It is  dark brown, it walks on four feet and laps milk.”

“Is it the puppy the Captain has promised me? Is it?” cried Viggo, and forgot all about standing straight and stiff before the Grenadier.

“Right about! Of course that’s what it is,” said Hans the Grenadier.

But Viggo turned a somersault instead of “Right about” and ran to the house. On a piece of carpet close by the fireplace lay the little puppy, and he was beautiful. The body was dark brown, but the nose and paws were light brown, and he had a light brown spot over each eye. When Viggo sat down on the floor beside him and stroked the soft fur, he licked Viggo’s hand. Soon they had become acquainted, and from that time on Viggo watched, to see if the puppy grew, almost as carefully as he watched his own nose to see if it had the proper curve so that he might become a general.

In the night, Allarm lay by Viggo’s bed, and in the daytime sat beside him when he was studying his lessons. The puppy was not allowed to go along to school, but he met Viggo every afternoon, and barked with joy and wagged his tail.

One winter morning Hans the Grenadier and some of the farm hands were going to the woods to haul timber with seven horses. Viggo had a holiday that day, so he was allowed to go along. He put his rubber boots on, and whistled for Allarm. The puppy jumped and barked when he noticed that they were off for the woods. But Viggo’s father said it would be best to leave Allarm at home, for there were packs of wolves in the woods. Viggo did not like to leave Allarm behind, but when his father said so of course he must do it. He took the strap and tied Allarm to the leg of the sofa. Then he put his old coat on the floor beside the dog, so that he might be comfortable. But you can’t imagine how Allarm whined and howled when he understood that he was to be left tied up.

Viggo told his father that he could not stand it to have Allarm so sad, happen what would, and he begged that he might take him along.

The father smiled, and said if Viggo wanted to risk it he must take good care of the dog, and not let him out of his sight. Then they untied him, and you may imagine Allarm’s joy. He jumped and barked so that the mother had to put her fingers in her ears.

The seven horses went in a line, one after the other, and Hans the Grenadier and Viggo and Allarm walked behind the last one. The forest was so still you could not hear the least sound except the horses’ hoofs crunching in the snow. Here and there Viggo saw the foot-prints of a wolf beside the road. Then he always told Allarm to keep close by him, and that he did.

But after awhile they left the road and turned into the thick forest. Hans the Grenadier waded in front, and the snow reached to his knees; then came the horses and the boys, one after the other, and at last Viggo.

After a while they came to the logs and began to hitch them to the horses. Then suddenly Viggo remembered Allarm; he had forgotten all about the dog since they turned away from the road. He looked around him, and just then he heard Allarm whine and howl somewhere in the depths of the forest.

As quick as lightning he grabbed an ax which Old Hans had driven into a stump, and rushed in through the trees in the direction from which the howling came. It was not easy; the snow reached far above his knees, but he noticed nothing: he only feared he would be too late. Once he had to stop a little to draw breath, then again he heard the pitiful wail of the dog, but now it sounded fainter. Off Viggo rushed again, and at last he espied something between the trees. He did not see his dog, but three wolves stood in a circle, heads turned toward the center; the fourth one lay inside the ring and bit something in the snow.

Viggo shouted so that it thundered in the forest, and rushed against the wolves with lifted ax. When he came within seven or eight feet of them, the three grey-legs took fright and sneaked, tails between legs, far into the forest; but the fourth, who lay on top of Allarm, hated to give up his prey. It was a large yellow wolf, and it looked up at Viggo and showed sharp, bloody teeth.

“Let go of Allarm! Let go of my dog, or I’ll teach you!” he cried, and swung the ax high above his head. Then grey-legs sneaked slowly away after the others. He turned once and howled, and showed his teeth, and then disappeared among the bushes.

Far down in a hole in the snow lay Allarm. He was so bitten that he could not jump to his feet; and, when Viggo lifted him, the blood dripped down on the snow. His whole body shivered, but he licked Viggo’s hand.

Just then Old Hans the Grenadier stood by Viggo’s side. When he had gained his breath after his hurried run, the old man cried very angrily: “If I did what you deserve I should have to whip you. Do you think it fit for a youngster like you to rush against a pack of wolves? If they had eaten you up alive before you had a chance to make a sound, what would  you have said then?”

“Then I would have said: ‘One thing is a shame, and that is to turn your back before “retreat” is called,’” said Viggo, and looked sharply at the Grenadier.

“Well said, my boy! The nose has not quite the right curve yet, but the eyes are there, and I do believe the heart, too,” said Old Hans. He took the dog from Viggo, and went home with both of them.

THE BLACK POND

“Hurrah, the Black Pond is frozen! The ice is more than an inch thick, and there’s a crowd of boys down there!” shouted one of Viggo’s classmates one morning, as he thrust his frost-covered head through the door and swung his skates. It didn’t take Viggo long before he got his skates down from the nail, and ran off with his friend. And he was so anxious to get down to the lake that he forgot to whistle for Allarm.

But Allarm had a fine nose. Just as soon as he had swallowed his breakfast he understood that Viggo was gone. Then he ran out hunting through the yard for Viggo’s trail, and when he noticed that it didn’t lead to the school he knew he might follow. Then he rushed madly after him over the fields, and had caught up with him long before Viggo had reached the cottage of Hans the Grenadier, which lay close by the lake.

One thing Viggo had promised his father before he got permission to go, and that was that he would be very careful and not skate far out from the shore. Near the middle of the lake there was an air hole through which warm air rose to the surface, and there the ice was never thick.

And Viggo meant honestly to do what his father had told him, but now you shall hear what happened.

When he came to the lake there was a crowd of boys there. There must have been twenty or more. Most of them had skates on, but some only slid on the ice. They shouted and laughed so that you could not hear yourself think.

As soon as Viggo had put on his skates he began to look around. Most of the boys he knew, for he had raced with them before, and he felt that he could beat every one of them. But there was one boy who skated by himself, and seemed not to care about the others. He was much bigger than Viggo, and Viggo saw immediately that it would not be easy to beat him in a race. The boys called him Peter Lightfoot, and the name fitted him. He could do the corkscrew, skate backward as easily as forward, and lie so low and near the ice that he might have kissed it. But all this Viggo could do, too.

“Can you write your initials?” asked Viggo. Yes; Peter Lightfoot stood on one leg and wrote “P. L.” in the ice, but the letters hung together. Then Viggo started. He ran, turned himself around backward and wrote “P. L.,” and between the “P.” and the “L.” he made a short jump so that the letters stood apart.

“Hurrah for Viggo! He wrote Peter Lightfoot backward!” shouted the boys, and threw up their caps. Then the big boy blushed crimson, but he said nothing.

Now they began to play “Fox and Geese,” and everybody wanted Viggo to be the fox. Peter wanted to play, too, for he was sure that Viggo could not catch him. The race-course was scratched in the ice, and Viggo called, “Out, out, my geese,” and off they ran. But Viggo didn’t care to run after the little goslings, it was the big gander, Peter Lightfoot, he wished to catch. And that was a game!

Off they went, Peter in front and Viggo after him, back and forth in corners and circles, and all the other boys stopped and looked on. Every time Viggo was right at his heels, Peter jumped and was far ahead of the fox again. At last Viggo had him cornered, but just as he would have caught the goose, Peter stretched out his left leg and meant to trip Viggo, but his skate caught in a frozen twig and—thump! there lay Peter Lightfoot, the ice cracking all around him.

“A good thing he wasn’t made of glass,” laughed the boys and crowded around Peter. He got up and looked angrily around the circle of boys.

“Now stand in a row, we’ll jump,” said he, and the boys did. They piled hats and caps on top of each other first only three high. The whole row jumped that, then four, then five, then six, but each time fewer got over and those who pushed the top cap off with their skates had to stop playing and must stand aside and look on. At last there were eight hats and caps on top of each other, and now only Peter and Viggo were left to jump.

“Put your cap on top!” said Peter, and Viggo did. But all the boys shouted that no one could ever make that jump.

Now, Peter came so fast that the air whistled about him, jumped—and whiff! he was over! He touched Viggo’s cap the least little bit, but it did not fall off the pile.

“Hurrah for Peter! That was a masterly  jump!” shouted the boys. “Viggo can never do that, he is too small,” said one.

Viggo knew this was the test, and his heart beat fast. He ran with all his might. Viggo flew over like a bird, and there was at least four inches between his skates and the topmost cap. Then the boys crowded around him and shouted that Viggo was the champion. But Peter Lightfoot looked at him with a sly and evil eye, and you could see he was planning to play a trick on him. And, indeed, that’s what he did.

After a little while Peter took an apple out of his pocket and rolled it over the ice toward the airhole. “The one who dares to go for the apple may keep it!” he called. And many dared to try that, for the apple had not rolled far and the ice was strong enough. Now Peter threw an apple farther out, someone got that too. But at last he rolled one that stopped right on the edge of the open water. One boy after the other ran out toward it, but when the ice began to crack they slowly turned around again.

“Don’t do it, it is dangerous!” shouted Viggo.

“Oh, yes, Viggo is great when things are easy, but if there is danger he turns pale as a ghost,” said Peter, and laughed aloud.

This was more than Viggo could bear. He thought of what the Prince of Augustenburg had said before the front, and he thought he must fetch the apple, come what might. But he forgot that “retreat” had been called, for his father had forbidden him to go near the hole. Allarm looked at him with grave eyes and wagged his tail slowly; he did not dare to whine. But that did not help. Viggo ran so that the wind whistled about his ears. The ice bent under his feet and cracked, but he glided on and on, and the ice did not break. Now he was close by the apple; he bent down to pick it up—crash! The ice broke, and Viggo, head first, fell in.

In a minute his head appeared above the hole. He swam for the ice and seized the edge, but a piece broke off every time he tried to climb up.

At first the boys stood there dumb with fright. Then they all called to him that he must try to hold on, but no one dared to help him, and no one thought of running for help. Peter Lightfoot had sneaked away when Viggo fell in.

The best one of them all was Allarm. First he ran yelping around the hole, but when he saw Viggo appear again he snatched his wet cap between his teeth and as fast as an arrow he ran toward home. When he reached the cottage of Hans the Grenadier the old soldier was just standing in the open doorway. The dog put Viggo’s stiff frozen cap at his feet, whined and cried, jumped up on the old man, held on to his coat and dragged him toward the ice. Hans understood right away what was the matter, snatched a rope and ran toward the lake, and in no time he stood by the hole. He threw the rope to Viggo, who had begun to grow stiff from the icy bath, and pulled him out.

Viggo ran as fast as he could to the cottage of Hans, and when he reached the door he had an armor of shining ice over his whole body. When the Grenadier pulled off the boy’s trousers they could stand by themselves on the floor; they were frozen stiff.

Viggo, of course, had to change from top to toe, and what should he put on? Hans went to his old chest and came back with his uniform. Viggo looked rather queer; the yellow knee-trousers reached to his ankles, and the red coat with yellow cuffs and lapels hung on him like a bag.

But he was wearing a real uniform! Hans looked at him.

“Well,” he said, “I won’t say much about the fit of the clothes, but who knows you may wear a better looking uniform some day. The heart is of the right kind, and the nose—well it is doing better.”