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LITTLE TUK

 

YES, that was little Tuk. His name was not really Tuk; but when he could not speak plainly, he used to call himself so. It was to mean Charley; and it's a good thing to know that. Now, he was to take care of his little sister Gustava, who was much smaller than he, and at the same time he was to learn his lesson; but these two things would not go well together. The poor boy sat there with his little sister on his lap, and sang her all the songs that he knew, and every now and then he gave a glance at the geography book that lay open before him; by tomorrow morning he was to know all the towns in Zealand by heart and to know everything about them that one can well know.

Now his mother came home, for she had been out, and took little Gustava in her arms. Tuk ran to the window, and read so that he almost read his eyes out, for it became darker and darker; but his mother had no money to buy candles.

There goes the old washerwoman out of the lane yonder, said his mother, as she looked out of the window. The poor woman can hardly drag herself along, and now she has to carry the pail of water from the well. Be a good boy, Tuk, and run across, and help the old woman. Won't you?

And Tuk ran across quickly, and helped her; but when he came back into the room it had become quite dark. There was no talk of a candle, and now he had to go to bed, and his bed was an old settle. There he lay, and thought of his geography lesson, and of Zealand, and of all the master had said. He ought certainly to have read it again, but he could not do that. So he put the geography-book under his pillow, because he had heard that this is a very good way to learn one's lesson; but one cannot depend upon it. There he lay, and thought and thought; and all at once he fancied some one kissed him upon his eyes and mouth. He slept, and yet he did not sleep; it was just as if the old washerwoman were looking at him with her kind eyes, and saying,

It would be a great pity if you did not know your lesson tomorrow. You have helped me, therefore now I will help you; and Providence will help us both.

All at once the book began to crawl, crawl about under Tuk's pillow.

Kikeliki! Put! put! It was a Hen that came crawling up, and she came from kj ge. I'm a kj ge hen! she said.

And then she told him how many inhabitants were in the town, and about the battle that had been fought there, though that was really hardly worth mentioning.

Kribli, kribli, plumps! Something fell down: it was a wooden bird, the Parrot from the shooting match at Pr$st e. He said that there were just as many inhabitants yonder as he had nails in his body; and he was very proud. Thorwaldsen lived close to me. Plumps! Here I lie very comfortably.

But now little Tuk no longer lay in bed; on a sudden he was on horseback. Gallop, gallop! hop, hop! and so he went on. A splendidly-attired knight, with shining helmet and flowing plume, held him on the front of his saddle, and so they went riding on through the wood to the old town of Vordingborg, and that was a great and very busy town. On the King's castle rose high towers, and the radiance of lights streamed from every window; within was song and dancing, and King Waldemar and the young gaily-dressed maids of honour danced together. Now the morning came on, and so soon as the sun appeared the whole city and the King's castle suddenly sank down, one tower falling after another; and at last only one remained standing on the hill where the castle had formerly been; and the town was very small and poor, and the schoolboys came with their books under their arms, and said, Two thousand inhabitants; but that was not true, for the town had not so many .

And little Tuk lay in his bed, as if he dreamed, and yet as if he did not dream; but some one stood close beside him.

Little Tuk! little Tuk! said the voice. It was a seaman, quite a little personage, as small as if he had been a cadet; but he was not a cadet. I'm to bring you a greeting from Kors r; that is a town which is just in good progress----a lively town that has steamers and mail coaches. In times past they used always to call it ugly, but that is now no longer true.

“‘I lie by the sea-shore, said Kors r. I have highroads and pleasure gardens; and I gave birth to a poet who was witty and entertaining, and that cannot be said of all of them. I wanted once to fit out a ship that was to sail round the world; but I did not do that, though I might have done it. But I smell deliciously, for close to my gates the loveliest roses bloom.’”

Little Tuk looked, and it seemed red and green before his eyes; but when the confusion of colour had a little passed by, then there appeared a wooded declivity close by a bay, and high above it stood a glorious old church with two high pointed towers. Out of this hill flowed springs of water in thick columns, so that there was a continual splashing, and close by sat an old King with a golden crown upon his long hair: that was King Hroar of the springs, close by the town of Roskilde, as it is now called. And up the hill into the old church went all the Kings and Queens of Denmark, hand in hand, all with golden crowns; and the organ played, and the springs plashed. Little Tuk saw all and heard all.

Don' t forget the States of the realm, said King Hroar.

At once everything had vanished, and whither? It seemed to him like turning a leaf in a book. And now stood there an old peasant woman. She was a weeding woman, who came from Sor e, where grass grows in the marketplace; she had an apron of grey cotton thrown over her head and shoulders, and the apron was very wet; it must have been raining.

Yes, that it has! said she; and she knew many amusing things out of Holberg's plays, and about Waldemar and Absalom. But all at once she cowered down, and wagged her head as if she were about to spring. Koax! said she, it is wet! it is wet! There is a very agreeable death-silence in Sor e! Now she changed all at once into a frog----Koax!----and then she became an old woman again. One must dress according to the weather, she said, It is wet! it is wet! My town is just like a bottle: one goes in at the cork, and must come out again at the cork. In old times I had capital fish, and now I've fresh red-cheeked boys in the bottom of the bottle, and they learn wisdom----Hebrew, Greek----Koax!

That sounded just like the croak of the frogs, or the sound of some one marching across the moss in great boots; always the same note, so monotonous and wearisome that little Tuk fairly fell asleep, and that could not hurt him at all.

But even in this sleep came a dream, or whatever it was. His little sister Gustava with the blue eyes and the fair curly hair was all at once a tall slender maiden, and without having wings she could fly; and now they flew over Zealand, over the green forests and the blue lakes.

Do you hear the cock crow, little Tuk? Kikeliki! The fowls are flying up out of Kj ge! You shall have a poultryyard----a great, great poultry----yard! You shall not suffer hunger nor need; and you shall shoot the popinjay, as the saying is; you shall become a rich and happy man. Your house shall rise up like King Waldemar's tower, and shall be richly adorned with marble statues, like those of Pr$st e. You understand me well. Your name shall travel with fame round the whole world, like the ship that was to sail from K rsor.

Don't forget the States of the realm, said King Hroar. You will speak well and sensibly, little Tuk; and when at last you descend to your grave, you shall sleep peacefully----

As if I lay in Sor e, said Tuk, and he awoke. It was bright morning, and he could not remember the least bit of his dream. But that was not necessary, for one must not know what is to happen.

Now he sprang quickly out of his bed, and read his book. and all at once he knew his whole lesson. The old washerwoman, too, put her head in at the door, nodded to him in a friendly way, and said:

Thank you, you good child, for your help. May your beautiful dreams come true!

Little Tuk did not know at all what he had dreamed, but there was One above who knew it.


 

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