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The Blue Light

There was once upon a time a soldier who for many years had servedthe king faithfully, but when the war came to an end c...

The Blue Light

There was once upon a time a soldier who for many years had servedthe king faithfully, but when the war came to an end could serve nolonger because of the many wounds which he had received. The king saidto him: «You may return to your home, I need you no longer, andyou will not receive any more money, for he only receives wages whorenders me service for them.» Then the soldier did not know how toearn a living, went away greatly troubled, and walked the whole day,until in the evening he entered a forest. When darkness came on, hesaw a light, which he went up to, and came to a house wherein lived awitch.

«Do give me one night’s lodging, and a little to eat anddrink,» said he to her, «or I shall starve.» «Oho!» she answered,«who gives anything to a run-away soldier? Yet will I becompassionate, and take you in, if you will do what I wish.» «What doyou wish?» said the soldier. «That you should dig all round my gardenfor me, tomorrow.» The soldier consented, and next day laboured withall his strength, but could not finish it by the evening. «I see wellenough,» said the witch, «that you can do no more today, but I willkeep you yet another night, in payment for which you must tomorrowchop me a load of wood, and chop it small.»

The soldier spent the wholeday in doing it, and in the evening the witch proposed that he shouldstay one night more. «Tomorrow, you shall only do me a verytrifling piece of work. Behind my house, there is an old dry well,into which my light has fallen, it burns blue, and never goes out, andyou shall bring it up again.» Next day the old woman took him to thewell, and let him down in a basket. He found the blue light, and madeher a signal to draw him up again. She did draw him up, but when hecame near the edge, she stretched down her hand and wanted to take theblue light away from him. «No,» said he, perceiving her evil intention,«I will not give you the light until I am standing with both feetupon the ground.» The witch fell into a passion, let him fall againinto the well, and went away.

The poor soldier fell without injury on the moist ground, and theblue light went on burning, but of what use was that to him? He sawvery well that he could not escape death. He sat for a while verysorrowfully, then suddenly he felt in his pocket and found his tobaccopipe, which was still half full. «This shall be my last pleasure,’thought he, pulled it out, lit it at the blue light and began tosmoke. When the smoke had circled about the cavern, suddenly alittle black dwarf stood before him, and said: «Lord, what are yourcommands?» «What my commands are?» replied the soldier, quiteastonished. «I must do everything you bid me,» said the little man.«Good,» said the soldier; «then in the first place help me out of thiswell.» The little man took him by the hand, and led him through anunderground passage, but he did not forget to take the blue lightwith him. On the way the dwarf showed him the treasures which thewitch had collected and hidden there, and the soldier took as much goldas he could carry. When he was above, he said to the little man: «Nowgo and bind the old witch, and carry her before the judge.» In ashort time she came by like the wind, riding on a wild tom-cat andscreaming frightfully. Nor was it long before the little man reappeared.«It is all done,» said he, «and the witch is already hanging on thegallows. What further commands has my lord?» inquired the dwarf. «Atthis moment, none,» answered the soldier; «you can return home, onlybe at hand immediately, if I summon you.» «Nothing more is neededthan that you should light your pipe at the blue light, and I willappear before you at once.» Thereupon he vanished from his sight.

The soldier returned to the town from which he came. He went to thebest inn, ordered himself handsome clothes, and then bade the landlordfurnish him a room as handsome as possible. When it was ready and thesoldier had taken possession of it, he summoned the little blackmanikin and said: «I have served the king faithfully, but he hasdismissed me, and left me to hunger, and now I want to take myrevenge.» «What am I to do?» asked the little man. «Late at night, whenthe king’s daughter is in bed, bring her here in her sleep, she shalldo servant’s work for me.» The manikin said: «That is an easy thing forme to do, but a very dangerous thing for you, for if it isdiscovered, you will fare ill.» When twelve o’clock had struck, thedoor sprang open, and the manikin carried in the princess. «Aha! areyou there?» cried the soldier, «get to your work at once! Fetch thebroom and sweep the chamber.» When she had done this, he ordered herto come to his chair, and then he stretched out his feet and said:«Pull off my boots,» and then he threw them in her face, and made herpick them up again, and clean and brighten them. She, however, dideverything he bade her, without opposition, silently and withhalf-shut eyes. When the first cock crowed, the manikin carried herback to the royal palace, and laid her in her bed.

Next morning when the princess arose she went to her father, and toldhim that she had had a very strange dream. «I was carried through thestreets with the rapidity of lightning,» said she, «and taken into asoldier’s room, and I had to wait upon him like a servant, sweep hisroom, clean his boots, and do all kinds of menial work. It was only adream, and yet I am just as tired as if I really had doneeverything.» «The dream may have been true,» said the king. «I willgive you a piece of advice. Fill your pocket full of peas, and make asmall hole in the pocket, and then if you are carried away again,they will fall out and leave a track in the streets.» But unseen bythe king, the manikin was standing beside him when he said that, andheard all. At night when the sleeping princess was again carried throughthe streets, some peas certainly did fall out of her pocket, butthey made no track, for the crafty manikin had just before scatteredpeas in every street there was. And again the princess wascompelled to do servant’s work until cock-crow.

Next morning the king sent his people out to seek the track, but itwas all in vain, for in every street poor children were sitting,picking up peas, and saying: «It must have rained peas, last night.’«We must think of something else,» said the king; «keep your shoes onwhen you go to bed, and before you come back from the place where youare taken, hide one of them there, I will soon contrive to find it.’The black manikin heard this plot, and at night when the soldieragain ordered him to bring the princess, revealed it to him, andtold him that he knew of no expedient to counteract this stratagem,and that if the shoe were found in the soldier’s house it wouldgo badly with him. «Do what I bid you,» replied the soldier, and againthis third night the princess was obliged to work like a servant, butbefore she went away, she hid her shoe under the bed.

Next morning the king had the entire town searched for hisdaughter’s shoe. It was found at the soldier’s, and the soldierhimself, who at the entreaty of the dwarf had gone outside the gate,was soon brought back, and thrown into prison. In his flight he hadforgotten the most valuable things he had, the blue light and the gold,and had only one ducat in his pocket. And now loaded with chains, hewas standing at the window of his dungeon, when he chanced to seeone of his comrades passing by. The soldier tapped at the pane ofglass, and when this man came up, said to him: «Be so kind as to fetchme the small bundle I have left lying in the inn, and I will give youa ducat for doing it.» His comrade ran thither and brought him what hewanted. As soon as the soldier was alone again, he lighted his pipe andsummoned the black manikin. «Have no fear,» said the latter to hismaster. «Go wheresoever they take you, and let them do what they will,only take the blue light with you.» Next day the soldier was tried,and though he had done nothing wicked, the judge condemned him todeath. When he was led forth to die, he begged a last favour of theking. «What is it?» asked the king. «That I may smoke one more pipe onmy way.» «You may smoke three,» answered the king, «but do not imaginethat I will spare your life.» Then the soldier pulled out his pipe andlighted it at the blue light, and as soon as a few wreaths of smokehad ascended, the manikin was there with a small cudgel in his hand,and said: «What does my lord command?» «Strike down to earth thatfalse judge there, and his constable, and spare not the king whohas treated me so ill.» Then the manikin fell on them like lightning,darting this way and that way, and whosoever was so much as touched byhis cudgel fell to earth, and did not venture to stir again. The kingwas terrified; he threw himself on the soldier’s mercy, and merely tobe allowed to live at all, gave him his kingdom for his own, and hisdaughter to wife.

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