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fault with her all day long. She had a very compassionate and feeling heart, and, as Peter was so rich, she thought there was no harm in giving now and then a penny to a poor beggar-woman, or a basin of warm soup to an old wayfaring man; but one day when Peter saw her thus charitably employed, he frowned a terrible frown, and said harshly, “What do you mean by thus wasting my fortune upon beggars and such idle rascals? How large a dowry did you bring ? that you presume to act the Lady Bountiful. In your own home you were all as poor as church mice, but since you have come to my house you have learned to throw money about like a princess. Let me ever find you out in anything of this kind again, and you shall feel the weight of my arm."
Poor Elsbeth took refuge in her little chamber, and wept long and bitterly over her husband's unkindness and want of feeling. Often did she sorrowfully wish herself back in her father's humble cottage, rather than in this rich mansion with such a cruel, hard-hearted man. Ah! if she had but known that her husband had only a piece of marble in place of a heart, she would not have felt so surprised at his conduct. From this time forward, if, when she sat knitting before the door, a poor man came up to her and began to beg, she shut her eyes, that she might not see the misery which she was forbidden to relieve ; and she folded her little hands firmly together, that they might not find the way to her purse, and take from it a small alms. And thus in course of time it came to pass that the fair Elsbeth was as much disliked as her husband ; indeed, people said that she was more grasping and avaricious than he.
One summer's day, Dame Elsbeth was sitting before the door with her spinning-wheel, she was singing too, for she felt more cheerful than usual, the day was so lovely and her husband was out for a long ride round his estate. All at once she looked up, and saw coming towards her a little old man, bending under the weight of a heavy sack, which he carried on his shoulders. Elsbeth looked compassionately at him and thought in her tender heart, that one so old and weak as this poor creature ought not to be so heavily burdened. Meanwhile, with faltering steps, the old man came nearer; as he stood almost opposite Dame Elsbeth he seemed ready to faint beneath his load.
“Ah, good lady, be so kind as to give me a draught of water, I cannot go a step further, I feel as if I were dying.”
“Poor man, you ought not to have such a weight to carry at your age,” said Dame Elsbeth.
“Yes, I have to work hard for a living,” he answered, "a rich lady like you knows nothing of the trials of poverty, nor can you think how refreshing even a cup of cold water is, in such scorchi
ing heat as this.” Dame Elsbeth waited to hear no more, but turning back into the house, took a pitcher from the table and filled it with water; when she was within a few steps of the old man, her heart smote her for the meanness of her gift to one in such necessity, he looked so weary and wretched as he sat there leaning against the sack. For the second time she returned, set down the water-pitcher, and going to the side-board, filled a goblet with wine, took also a cake of fine wheaten bread, and brought these to the old man.
“Here, my friend,” she said, “at your age, a sup of wine will do more good than water, but drink slowly and take some bread with it.” The poor man looked at her with tears in his eyes, drank a little, and then said in a husky voice, “I am an old man now, but in my long life I have met with few people so compassionate as you, Dame Elsbeth, or who knew how to give alms so kindly and freely. But heaven will prosper you, sooner or later a heart like your's must meet with its reward.”
“Yes! and she shall have it this instant,” cried a terrible voice; they turned round and saw Peter standing by them, white with rage..
“ So! you dare to give the best wine in my cellar to a worthless vagrant, and as if that were not enough, it must be served to him in my own drinking cup, there, take your reward !”
Dame Elsbeth threw herself at his feet, and begged for mercy, but the stony heart knew no compassion. He raised the heavy handle of the riding whip which he held in his hand, and struck her such a violent blow upon the forehead, that she fell lifeless into the arms of the old man. When he saw what he had done, he seemed to feel something like remorse, for he bent down to see if she were quite dead. At the same instant a well-known voice sounded in his ear.
“ You may spare yourself any further trouble Peter, she was the sweetest and loveliest flower in the whole forest, but you have trodden her under your feet, and she will never bloom again."
Peter turned deathly pale, and said, “So it's you, Sir Treasurer, is it? Well, what is done cannot be undone. I only hope you will not go to the magistrates and accuse me as a murderer.”
“Miserable wretch !” replied the Glass-dwarf, “how would it benefit me to bring your wretched carcase to the gallows? It is no earthly tribunal which you have to fear, but a higher and more severe one; for you have sold yourself, body and soul, to the evil spirit.”
“And if I have sold my heart,” screamed Peter, " there is no one to be blamed for it but you and your deceitful treasures.
You lured me to destruction, you .drove me to seek help from another, you are the sole cause of all my misfortunes.” .
As the words passed his lips, the Glass-dwarf seemed to grow suddenly to an immense height, his eyes became as large as soup-plates, and his mouth like a heated oven, out of which the flames poured. Peter threw himself upon his knees, and his stony heart did not prevent him from trembling like an aspen leaf. The wood-spirit seized him with its eagle's claws, turned him round and round in the air, as a whirlwind does the dead leaves in Autumn, and then threw him again to the earth, so that all his bones seemed to crack.
“ Vile worm of earth !" cried the Glassman, with a voice of thunder, “if it were my pleasure, I could crush you to atoms in a second of time, for you have sinned against the lord of the forest. But for the sake of this dead woman, who gave me to eat and drink, I will grant you still eight days. If in that time you have not repented, and turned aside from your evil courses, I will come and kill your wretched body, and send your soul out of this world to the master whom you have chosen."
The night was coming on, when some labourers, returning late from their work, found the rich Mr. Peter Munk lying like one dead upon the ground. They lifted him up, and tried every means to revive him, but for some time all was in vain. At last, one of the men ran to the nearest house, and brought some water, with which they bathed his temples; then Peter drew a long breath, groaned, opened his eyes, looked round, and asked for his wife. But no one could give him any news of her; she had not been seen in the village that day. He thanked the men for their help, crept back to his house, and searched it from garret to cellar for his wife. But Dame Elsbeth was nowhere to be found; and at last he was compelled to own to himself that what he had taken for a horrible dream was in fact a dreadful reality. Now that he was quite alone, several very disagreeable thoughts would force themselves upon him. He did not exactly feel afraid-his heart was too cold for that, too insensible-but when he thought of his wife, then his own death came into his mind; and he knew that he should go down to the grave loaded with the tears of widows and orphans, the reproaches of the poor, whose misery had not been able to touch his hard heart, the curses of the unhappy creatures at whom he had set his dogs when they begged for a crust of bread, the silent despair of his aged mother, and the blood of the good and beautiful Elsbeth. When the old man came to him and asked, Where is my child, your wife? What should he say. And if unable to reply to this man, how should he answer for himself in another world?
to hinantly awokl trong those thote
Even in his dreams these thoughts tormented him, and he was constantly awoke from his uneasy slumbers by a soft voice calling to him, “ Try to get a warmer heart, Peter !" Then he shut his eyes again quickly, for, to judge by the gentle tones of the voice, this warning could have come from none other than the dead Elsbeth. The next day he went to the ale-house to divert his thoughts, and there he met the big Ezekiel. He took a seat by him, and they began to talk upon various matters,—the weather, the war, the taxes, and at last the conversation turned upon death, and how suddenly some of their neighbours had been called away. Then Peter asked Ezekiel what he thought of the subject, and what happened after death. Ezekiel answered him that the body was put in the churchyard, and that the spirit went either to a place of happiness or misery
“Is the heart buried also ?” asked Peter, 'anxiously. “ Why, of course, that is buried too."
“But supposing one has not got a heart," continued Peter. A horrible expression passed over Ezekiel's face.
“What do you mean by that? Do you think that I have not got a heart ?"
“Oh, yes; one as firm as a stone," answered Peter.
Ezekiel looked at him wonderingly for a moment, cast a hasty glance round the room to see that he was not observed, and then said :-"How did you know it? Or perhaps your own does not beat any longer!”
"Not in my breast, at least," answered Peter. “But now that you understand what I mean tell me how you think it will go with our hearts by-and-bye.”
“Why need you trouble yourself about that, comrade," said Ezekiel, laughing. “You have got all you want in this world, and cannot you be satisfied ? Why that is just one of the conveniences of our cold hearts; we have no fears of what may happen to us hereafter.” .
“True, but one cannot help thinking about it; and I well remember how I used to fear these things when I was an innocent child.”
"I do not suppose that we shall be quite as well off then as we are now," answered Ezekiel, after a pause. "I once asked the schoolmaster about it, and he said that after death people's hearts were weighed, to see how much they had sinned in their lives. The light hearts mounted up to heaven, and the heavy ones sunk down to the other place. And our stones, I should think, would weigh pretty heavily.”
“Yes, indeed,” answered Peter;" and it is often rather an unpleasant reflection to me that my heart is so dull and indifferent to all these things, although I cannot help thinking of them.”
hepeter, try to getut when, in an had taken a jour days had pas
Their conversation continued till the night was far advanced ; but when at last Peter found himself again in his solitary chamber, he heard the well-known voice whisper several times in his ear, “ Peter, try to get a warmer heart !” He felt no sorrow for having killed his wife, but when, in answer to the servants' enquiries after their mistress, he said she had taken a journey, he thought to himself, “I wonder where she has gone.” Six days had passed in this manner, and every night he had heard the warning voice. He remembered too constantly the dreadful threat of the wood spirit. On the seventh morning he sprang from his couch and cried, “I will try what I can do to get a warmer heart, for this senseless piece of stone makes my life a burden to me.” He dressed himself quickly in his Sunday suit and rode to the Pine Hill. There, where the trees began to grow thickly, he dismounted, tied his horse's bridle to a tree, and climbed eagerly to the summit of the hill. As he stood before the highest fir-tree he began his incantation :
“Sir Treasurer, in the forest green,
As the last echo of his words died away, the little Glassman came out from behind the tree. His countenance was no longer cheerful and friendly as on Peter's former visits. To-day he looked stern and sad. He wore a little coat of black glass, and a long crape scarf hung down from his high-pointed hat. Peter had no reason to ask for whom the dwarf wore this mourning garb; he knew that only too well. “Well, what do you want with me, Peter Munk ?” he said, sternly.
“I have still one wish left, Sir Treasurer," answered Peter, casting down his eyes. “Can stone hearts wish ?” was the reply. “You have everything that your bad nature can desire, and it is not probable that I can fulfil any wish of yours.”
“ But you have promised me three wishes, and one still remains to me.”
“Yes, but I can refuse it if it be a foolish one,” said the dwarf; “but proceed, I will hear what it is.”
“ Very well then, take this dead stone out of my breast, and give me my own living heart again,” said Peter.
“Have I made the bargain with you?" asked the Glassman. “Am I Hollander Michel who gives gold and cold hearts? No, you must ask your heart from him to whom you sold it.”
"Ah! he will never give it back to me," said Peter, sadly.