The Wind tells about Waldemar Daa and his Daughters

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    When the wind sweeps across the grass, the field has a ripple like a pond, and when it sweeps across the corn the field waves to and fro like a high sea. That is called the wind’s dance; but the wind does not dance only, he also tells stories; and how loudly he can sing out of his deep chest, and how different it sounds in the tree-tops in the forest, and through the loopholes and clefts and cracks in walls! Do you see how the wind drives the clouds up yonder, like a frightened flock of sheep? Do you hear how the wind howls down here through the open valley, like a watchman blowing his horn? With wonderful tones he
    whistles and screams down the chimney and into the fireplace. The fire crackles and flares up, and shines far into the room, and the little place is warm and snug, and it is pleasant to sit there listening to the sounds. Let the wind speak, for he knows plenty of stories and fairy tales, many more than are known to any of us. Just hear what the wind can tell.

    Huh–uh–ush! roar along! That is the burden of the song.

    “By the shores of the Great Belt, one of the straits that unite the Cattegut with the Baltic, lies an old mansion with thick red walls,”says the Wind. “I know every stone in it; I saw it when it still belonged to the castle of Marsk Stig on the promontory. But it had to be pulled down, and the stone was used again for the walls of a new mansion in another place, the baronial mansion of Borreby, which still
    stands by the coast.

    “I knew them, the noble lords and ladies, the changing races that
    dwelt there, and now I’m going to tell about Waldemar Daa and his
    daughters. How proudly he carried himself–he was of royal blood! He
    could do more than merely hunt the stag and empty the wine-can. ‘It
    _shall_ be done,’ he was accustomed to say.

    “His wife walked proudly in gold-embroidered garments over the
    polished marble floors. The tapestries were gorgeous, the furniture
    was expensive and artistically carved. She had brought gold and silver
    plate with her into the house, and there was German beer in the
    cellar. Black fiery horses neighed in the stables. There was a wealthy
    look about the house of Borreby at that time, when wealth was still at
    home there.

    “Four children dwelt there also; three delicate maidens, Ida, Joanna,
    and Anna Dorothea: I have never forgotten their names.

    “They were rich people, noble people, born in affluence, nurtured in

    “Huh–sh! roar along!” sang the Wind; and then he continued:

    “I did not see here, as in other great noble houses, the high-born
    lady sitting among her women in the great hall turning the
    spinning-wheel: here she swept the sounding chords of the cithern, and
    sang to the sound, but not always old Danish melodies, but songs of a
    strange land. It was ‘live and let live’ here: stranger guests came
    from far and near, the music sounded, the goblets clashed, and I was
    not able to drown the noise,” said the Wind. “Ostentation, and
    haughtiness, and splendour, and display, and rule were there, but the
    fear of the Lord was not there.

    “And it was just on the evening of the first day of May,” the Wind
    continued. “I came from the west, and had seen how the ships were
    being crushed by the waves, with all on board, and flung on the west
    coast of Jutland. I had hurried across the heath, and over Jutland’s
    wood-girt eastern coast, and over the Island of Fünen, and now I drove
    over the Great Belt, groaning and sighing.

    “Then I lay down to rest on the shore of Seeland, in the neighbourhood
    of the great house of Borreby, where the forest, the splendid oak
    forest, still rose.

    “The young men-servants of the neighbourhood were collecting branches
    and brushwood under the oak trees; the largest and driest they could
    find they carried into the village, and piled them up in a heap, and
    set them on fire; and men and maids danced, singing in a circle round
    the blazing pile.

    “I lay quite quiet,” continued the Wind; “but I silently touched a
    branch, which had been brought by the handsomest of the men-servants,
    and the wood blazed up brightly, blazed up higher than all the rest;
    and now he was the chosen one, and bore the name the Street-goat, and
    might choose his Street-lamb first from among the maids; and there was
    mirth and rejoicing, greater than I had ever heard before in the halls
    of the rich baronial mansion.

    “And the noble lady drove towards the baronial mansion, with her three
    daughters, in a gilded carriage drawn by six horses. The daughters
    were young and fair–three charming blossoms, rose, lily, and pale
    hyacinth. The mother was a proud tulip, and never acknowledged the
    salutation of one of the men or maids who paused in their sport to do
    her honour: the gracious lady seemed a flower that was rather stiff in
    the stalk.

    “Rose, lily, and pale hyacinth; yes, I saw them all three! Whose
    lambkins will they one day become? thought I; their Street-goat will
    be a gallant knight, perhaps a prince. Huh–sh! hurry along! hurry

    “Yes, the carriage rolled on with them, and the peasant people resumed
    their dancing. They rode that summer through all the villages round
    about. But in the night, when I rose again,” said the Wind, “the very
    noble lady lay down, to rise again no more: that thing came upon her
    which comes upon all–there is nothing new in that.

    “Waldemar Daa stood for a space silent and thoughtful. ‘The proudest
    tree can be bowed without being broken,’ said a voice within him. His
    daughters wept, and all the people in the mansion wiped their eyes;
    but Lady Daa had driven away–and I drove away too, and rushed along,
    huh–sh!” said the Wind.

    * * * * *

    “I returned again; I often returned again over the Island of Fünen,
    and the shores of the Belt, and I sat down by Borreby, by the splendid
    oak wood; there the heron made his nest, and wood-pigeons haunted the
    place, and blue ravens, and even the black stork. It was still spring;
    some of them were yet sitting on their eggs, others had already
    hatched their young. But how they flew up, how they cried! The axe
    sounded, blow on blow: the wood was to be felled. Waldemar Daa wanted
    to build a noble ship, a man-of-war, a three-decker, which the king
    would be sure to buy; and therefore the wood must be felled, the
    landmark of the seamen, the refuge of the birds. The hawk started up
    and flew away, for its nest was destroyed; the heron and all the birds
    of the forest became homeless, and flew about in fear and in anger: I
    could well understand how they felt. Crows and ravens croaked aloud as
    if in scorn. ‘Crack, crack! the nest cracks, cracks, cracks!’

    “Far in the interior of the wood, where the noisy swarm of labourers
    were working, stood Waldemar Daa and his three daughters; and all
    laughed at the wild cries of the birds; only one, the youngest, Anna
    Dorothea, felt grieved in her heart; and when they made preparations
    to fell a tree that was almost dead, and on whose naked branches the
    black stork had built his nest, whence the little storks were
    stretching out their heads, she begged for mercy for the little
    things, and tears came into her eyes. Therefore the tree with the
    black stork’s nest was left standing. The tree was not worth speaking

    “There was a great hewing and sawing, and a three-decker was built.
    The architect was of low origin, but of great pride; his eyes and
    forehead told how clever he was, and Waldemar Daa was fond of
    listening to him, and so was Waldemar’s daughter Ida, the eldest, who
    was now fifteen years old; and while he built a ship for the father,
    he was building for himself an airy castle, into which he and Ida were
    to go as a married couple–which might indeed have happened, if the
    castle with stone walls, and ramparts, and moats had remained. But in
    spite of his wise head, the architect remained but a poor bird; and,
    indeed, what business has a sparrow to take part in a dance of
    peacocks? Huh–sh! I careered away, and he careered away too, for he
    was not allowed to stay; and little Ida got over it, because she was
    obliged to get over it.

    “The proud black horses were neighing in the stable; they were worth
    looking at, and accordingly they _were_ looked at. The admiral, who
    had been sent by the king himself to inspect the new ship and take
    measures for its purchase, spoke loudly in admiration of the beautiful

    “I heard all that,” said the Wind. “I accompanied the gentlemen
    through the open door, and strewed blades of straw like bars of gold
    before their feet. Waldemar Daa wanted to have gold, and the admiral
    wished for the proud black horses, and that is why he praised them so
    much; but the hint was not taken, and consequently the ship was not
    bought. It remained on the shore covered over with boards, a Noah’s
    ark that never got to the water–Huh–sh! rush away! away!–and that
    was a pity.

    “In the winter, when the fields were covered with snow, and the water
    with large blocks of ice that I blew up on to the coast,” continued
    the Wind, “crows and ravens came, all as black as might be, great
    flocks of them, and alighted on the dead, deserted, lonely ship by the
    shore, and croaked in hoarse accents of the wood that was no more, of
    the many pretty bird’s nests destroyed, and the little ones left
    without a home; and all for the sake of that great bit of lumber, that
    proud ship that never sailed forth.

    “I made the snow-flakes whirl, and the snow lay like a great lake high
    around the ship, and drifted over it. I let it hear my voice, that it
    might know what a storm has to say. Certainly I did my part towards
    teaching it seamanship. Huh–sh! push along!

    “And the winter passed away; winter and summer, both passed away, and
    they are still passing away, even as I pass away; as the snow whirls
    along, and the apple blossom whirls along, and the leaves fall–away!
    away! away! and men are passing away too!

    “But the daughters were still young, and little Ida was a rose, as
    fair to look upon as on the day when the architect saw her. I often
    seized her long brown hair, when she stood in the garden by the apple
    tree, musing, and not heeding how I strewed blossoms on her hair, and
    loosened it, while she was gazing at the red sun and the golden sky,
    through the dark underwood and the trees of the garden.

    “Her sister was bright and slender as a lily. Joanna had height and
    deportment, but was like her mother, rather stiff in the stalk. She
    was very fond of walking through the great hall, where hung the
    portraits of her ancestors. The women were painted in dresses of silk
    and velvet, with a tiny little hat, embroidered with pearls, on their
    plaited hair. They were handsome women. The gentlemen were represented
    clad in steel, or in costly cloaks lined with squirrel’s skin; they
    wore little ruffs, and swords at their sides, but not buckled to their
    hips. Where would Joanna’s picture find its place on that wall some
    day? and how would _he_ look, her noble lord and husband? This is what
    she thought of, and of this she spoke softly to herself. I heard it,
    as I swept into the long hall, and turned round to come out again.

    “Anna Dorothea, the pale hyacinth, a child of fourteen, was quiet and
    thoughtful; her great deep blue eyes had a musing look, but the
    childlike smile still played around her lips: I was not able to blow
    it away, nor did I wish to do so.

    “We met in the garden, in the hollow lane, in the field and meadow;
    she gathered herbs and flowers which she knew would be useful to her
    father in concocting the drinks and drops he distilled. Waldemar Daa
    was arrogant and proud, but he was also a learned man, and knew a
    great deal. That was no secret, and many opinions were expressed
    concerning it. In his chimney there was fire even in summer time. He
    would lock the door of his room, and for days the fire would be poked
    and raked; but of this he did not talk much–the forces of nature must
    be conquered in silence; and soon he would discover the art of making
    the best thing of all–the red gold.

    “That is why the chimney was always smoking, therefore the flames
    crackled so frequently. Yes, I was there too,” said the Wind. “Let it
    go, I sang down through the chimney: it will end in smoke, air, coals
    and ashes! You will burn yourself! Hu-uh-ush! drive away! drive away!
    But Waldemar Daa did _not_ drive it away.”

    “The splendid black horses in the stable–what became of them? what
    became of the old gold and silver vessels in cupboards and chests, the
    cows in the fields, and the house and home itself? Yes, they may melt,
    may melt in the golden crucible, and yet yield no gold.

    “Empty grew the barns and store-rooms, the cellars and magazines. The
    servants decreased in number, and the mice multiplied. Then a window
    broke, and then another, and I could get in elsewhere besides at the
    door,” said the Wind. “‘Where the chimney smokes the meal is being
    cooked,’ the proverb says. But here the chimney smoked that devoured
    all the meals, for the sake of the red gold.

    “I blew through the courtyard-gate like a watchman blowing his horn,”
    the Wind went on, “but no watchman was there. I twirled the
    weathercock round on the summit of the tower, and it creaked like the
    snoring of the warder, but no warder was there; only mice and rats
    were there. Poverty laid the tablecloth; poverty sat in the wardrobe
    and in the larder; the door fell off its hinges, cracks and fissures
    made their appearance, and I went in and out at pleasure; and that is
    how I know all about it.

    “Amid smoke and ashes, amid sorrow and sleepless nights, the hair and
    beard of the master turned grey, and deep furrows showed themselves
    around his temples; his skin turned pale and yellow, as his eyes
    looked greedily for the gold, the desired gold.

    “I blew the smoke and ashes into his face and beard: the result of his
    labour was debt instead of pelf. I sung through the burst window-panes
    and the yawning clefts in the walls. I blew into the chests of drawers
    belonging to the daughters, wherein lay the clothes that had become
    faded and threadbare from being worn over and over again. That was not
    the song that had been sung at the children’s cradle. The lordly life
    had changed to a life of penury. I was the only one who rejoiced aloud
    in that castle,” said the Wind. “I snowed them up, and they say snow
    keeps people warm. They had no wood, and the forest from which they
    might have brought it was cut down. It was a biting frost. I rushed in
    through loopholes and passages, over gables and roofs, that I might be
    brisk. They were lying in bed because of the cold, the three high-born
    daughters; and their father was crouching under his leathern coverlet.
    Nothing to bite, nothing to break, no fire on the hearth–there was a
    life for high-born people! Huh-sh, let it go! But that is what my Lord
    Daa could _not_ do–he could _not_ let it go.

    “‘After winter comes spring,’ he said. ‘After want, good times will
    come: one must not lose patience; one must learn to wait! Now my house
    and lands are mortgaged, it is indeed high time; and the gold will
    soon come. At Easter!’

    “I heard how he spoke thus, looking at a spider’s web. ‘Thou cunning
    little weaver, thou dost teach me perseverance. Let them tear thy web,
    and thou wilt begin it again, and complete it. Let them destroy it
    again, and thou wilt resolutely begin to work again–again! That is
    what we must do, and that will repay itself at last.’

    “It was the morning of Easter-day. The bells sounded from the
    neighbouring church, and the sun seemed to rejoice in the sky. The
    master had watched through the night in feverish excitement, and had
    been melting and cooling, distilling and mixing. I heard him sighing
    like a soul in despair; I heard him praying, and I noticed how he held
    his breath. The lamp was burnt out, but he did not notice it. I blew
    at the fire of coals, and it threw its red glow upon his ghastly white
    face, lighting it up with a glare, and his sunken eyes looked forth
    wildly out of their deep sockets–but they became larger and larger,
    as though they would burst.

    “Look at the alchymic glass! It glows in the crucible, red-hot, and
    pure and heavy! He lifted it with a trembling hand, and cried with a
    trembling voice, ‘Gold! gold!’

    “He was quite dizzy–I could have blown him down,” said the Wind; “but
    I only fanned the glowing coals, and accompanied him through the door
    to where his daughters sat shivering. His coat was powdered with
    ashes, and there were ashes in his beard and in his tangled hair. He
    stood straight up, and held his costly treasure on high, in the
    brittle glass. ‘Found, found!–Gold, gold!’ he shouted, and again held
    aloft the glass to let it flash in the sunshine; but his hand
    trembled, and the alchymic glass fell clattering to the ground, and
    broke into a thousand pieces; and the last bubble of his happiness had
    burst! Hu-uh-ush! rushing away!–and I rushed away from the
    gold-maker’s house.

    “Late in autumn, when the days are short, and the mist comes and
    strews cold drops upon the berries and leafless branches, I came back
    in fresh spirits, rushed through the air, swept the sky clear, and
    snapped the dry twigs–which is certainly no great labour, but yet it
    must be done. Then there was another kind of sweeping clean at
    Waldemar Daa’s, in the mansion of Borreby. His enemy, Owe Rainel, of
    Basnäs, was there with the mortgage of the house and everything it
    contained in his pocket. I drummed against the broken window-panes,
    beat against the old rotten doors, and whistled through cracks and
    rifts–huh-sh! Mr. Owe Rainel did not like staying there. Ida and Anna
    Dorothea wept bitterly; Joanna stood pale and proud, and bit her thumb
    till it bled–but what could that avail? Owe Rainel offered to allow
    Waldemar Daa to remain in the mansion till the end of his life, but no
    thanks were given him for his offer. I listened to hear what occurred.
    I saw the ruined gentleman lift his head and throw it back prouder
    than ever, and I rushed against the house and the old lime trees with
    such force, that one of the thickest branches broke, one that was not
    decayed; and the branch remained lying at the entrance as a broom
    when any one wanted to sweep the place out: and a grand sweeping out
    there was–I thought it would be so.

    “It was hard on that day to preserve one’s composure; but their will
    was as hard as their fortune.

    “There was nothing they could call their own except the clothes they
    wore: yes, there was one thing more–the alchymist’s glass, a new one
    that had lately been bought, and filled with what had been gathered up
    from the ground of the treasure which promised so much but never kept
    its promise. Waldemar Daa hid the glass in his bosom, and taking his
    stick in his hand, the once rich gentleman passed with his daughters
    out of the house of Borreby. I blew cold upon his heated cheeks, I
    stroked his grey beard and his long white hair, and I sang as well as
    I could,–‘Huh-sh! gone away! gone away!’ And that was the end of the
    wealth and splendour.

    “Ida walked on one side of the old man, and Anna Dorothea on the
    other. Joanna turned round at the entrance–why? Fortune would not
    turn because she did so. She looked at the old walls of what had once
    been the castle of Marsk Stig, and perhaps she thought of his

    ‘The eldest gave the youngest her hand.
    And forth they went to the far-off land.’

    Was she thinking of this old song? Here were three of them, and their
    father was with them too. They walked along the road on which they had
    once driven in their splendid carriage–they walked forth as beggars,
    with their father, and wandered out into the open field, and into a
    mud hut, which they rented for a dollar and a half a year–into their
    new house with the empty rooms and empty vessels. Crows and magpies
    fluttered above them, and cried, as if in contempt, ‘Craw! craw! out
    of the nest! craw! craw!’ as they had done in the wood at Borreby when
    the trees were felled.

    “Daa and his daughters could not help hearing it. I blew about their
    ears, for what use would it be that they should listen?

    “And they went to live in the mud hut on the open field, and I wandered
    away over moor and field, through bare bushes and leafless forests, to the
    open waters, the free shores, to other lands–huh-uh-ush!–away, away! year
    after year!”

    * * * * *

    And how did Waldemar Daa and his daughters prosper? The Wind tells us:

    “The one I saw last, yes, for the last time, was Anna Dorothea, the
    pale hyacinth: then she was old and bent, for it was fifty years
    afterwards. She lived longer than the rest; she knew all.

    “Yonder on the heath, by the Jutland town of Wiborg, stood the fine
    new house of the canon, built of red bricks with projecting gables;
    the smoke came up thickly from the chimney. The canon’s gentle lady
    and her beautiful daughters sat in the bay window, and looked over the
    hawthorn hedge of the garden towards the brown heath. What were they
    looking at? Their glances rested upon the stork’s nest without, and
    on the hut, which was almost falling in; the roof consisted of moss
    and houseleek, in so far as a roof existed there at all–the stork’s
    nest covered the greater part of it, and that alone was in proper
    condition, for it was kept in order by the stork himself.

    “That is a house to be looked at, but not to be touched; I must deal
    gently with it,” said the Wind. “For the sake of the stork’s nest the
    hut has been allowed to stand, though it was a blot upon the
    landscape. They did not like to drive the stork away, therefore the
    old shed was left standing, and the poor woman who dwelt in it was
    allowed to stay: she had the Egyptian bird to thank for that; or was
    it perchance her reward, because she had once interceded for the nest
    of its black brother in the forest of Borreby? At that time she, the
    poor woman, was a young child, a pale hyacinth in the rich garden. She
    remembered all that right well, did Anna Dorothea.

    “‘Oh! oh!’ Yes, people can sigh like the wind moaning in the rushes
    and reeds. ‘Oh! oh!'” she sighed, “no bells sounded at thy burial,
    Waldemar Daa! The poor schoolboys did not even sing a psalm when the
    former lord of Borreby was laid in the earth to rest! Oh, everything
    has an end, even misery. Sister Ida became the wife of a peasant. That
    was the hardest trial that befell our father, that the husband of a
    daughter of his should be a miserable serf, whom the proprietor could
    mount on the wooden horse for punishment! I suppose he is under the
    ground now. And thou, Ida? Alas, alas! it is not ended yet, wretch
    that I am! Grant me that I may die, kind Heaven!’

    “That was Anna Dorothea’s prayer in the wretched hut which was left
    standing for the sake of the stork.

    “I took pity on the fairest of the sisters,” said the Wind. “Her
    courage was like that of a man, and in man’s clothes she took service
    as a sailor on board of a ship. She was sparing of words, and of a
    dark countenance, but willing at her work. But she did not know how to
    climb; so I blew her overboard before anybody found out that she was a
    woman, and according to my thinking that was well done!” said the

    * * * * *

    “On such an Easter morning as that on which Waldemar Daa had fancied
    that he had found the red gold, I heard the tones of a psalm under the
    stork’s nest, among the crumbling walls–it was Anna Dorothea’s last

    “There was no window, only a hole in the wall. The sun rose up like a
    mass of gold, and looked through. What a splendour he diffused! Her
    eyes were breaking, and her heart was breaking–but that they would
    have done, even if the sun had not shone that morning on Anna

    “The stork covered her hut till her death. I sang at her grave!” said
    the Wind. “I sang at her father’s grave; I know where his grave is,
    and where hers is, and nobody else knows it.

    “New times, changed times! The old high-road now runs through
    cultivated fields; the new road winds among the trim ditches, and soon
    the railway will come with its train of carriages, and rush over the
    graves which are forgotten like the names–hu-ush! passed away, passed

    “That is the story of Waldemar Daa and his daughters. Tell it better,
    any of you, if you know how,” said the Wind, and turned away–and he
    was gone.

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