POULTRY MEG'S FAMILY
POULTRY MEG was the only human occupant in the handsome new house which was built for the fowls and ducks on the estate．It stood where the old baronial man-sion had stood，with its tower， crow-step gable，moat，and drawbridge． Close by was a wilderness of trees andbushes ；the garden had been here and had stretched downto a big lake， which was now a bog. Rooks，crows， andjackdaws flew screaming and cawing over the old trees， aperfect swarm of birds． They did not seem to decrease，but rather to increase， although one shot amongst them．One could hear them inside the poultry-house， where Poultry Meg sat with the ducklings running about over herwooden shoes．She knew every fowl，and every duck，from the time it crept out of the egg； she was proud of herfowls and ducks， and proud of the splendid house which had been built for them．
Her own little room was clean and neat， that was thewish of the lady to whom the poultry-house belonged； sheoften came there with distinguished guests and showed them the "barracks of the hens and ducks"，as she called it. Here was both a wardrobe and an easy-chair，and even a chest of drawers，and on it was a brightly polishedbrass plate on which was engraved the word "Grubbe"， which was the name of the old，noble family who had lived here in the mansion. The brass plate was found when they were digging here， and the parish clerk hadsaid that it had no other value except as an old relic． Theclerk knew all about the place and the old time， for hehad knowledge from books；there were so many manuscripts in his table-drawer ．He had great knowledgeof the old times； but the oldest of the crows knew moreperhaps，and screamed aboaut it in his own language，butit was crow-language， which the clerk did not under-stand，clever as he might be．
The bog could steam after a warm summer day so that it seemed as if a lake lay behind the old trees，where thecrows， rooks， and jackdaws flew； so it had appeared whenthe Knight Grubbe had lived here， and the old manor- house stood with its thick，red walls．The dog's chain usedto reach quite past the gateway in those days；through thetower， one went into a stone-paved passage which led to the rooms； the windows were narrow and the panes small，even in the great hall，where the dancing took place，but in the time of the last Grubbe there was no dancing as farback as one could remember，and yet there lay there an old kettledrum which had served as part of the music．Here stood a curions carved cupboard， in which rare flower bulbswere kept， for Lady Grubbe was fond of gardening， and cultivated tress and plants ； her husband preferred ridingout to shoot wolves and wild boars， and his little daughterMarie always went with him ．When she was only five years old， she sat proudly on her horse， and looked round brave-ly with her big black eyes． It was her delight to hit outwith her whip amongst the hounds； her father would havepreferred to see her hit out amongst the peasant boys who came to look at the company．
The peassant in the clay house close to the manor had a son called S ren， the same age as the little noble lady．He knew how to climb；and had always to go up and getthe bird's nests for her． The birds screamed as loud as they could scream， and one of the biggest of them cut himover the eye， so that the blood poured out． It was thoughtat first that the eye had been destroyed； but it was very little damaged after all．
Marie Grubbe called him her Sren—that was a great favour，and it was a good thing for his father， poor John；he had committed a fault one day，and was to be punishedby riding the wooden horse．It stood in the yard， with fourpoles for legs， and a single narrow plank for a back ； onthis John had to ride astride， and have some heavy bricks fastened to his legs， so that he might not sit too comfort-ably；he made horrible grimaces， and Sren wept and im- plored little Marie to interfere； immediately she orderedthat Sren's father should be taken down， and when they did not obey her she stamped on the stone pavement，andpulled her father's coat sleeve till it was torn. She would have her way， and she got it， and Sren's father was tak-en down．
The Lady Grubbe，who now came up，stroked her little daughter's hair， and looked at her affectionately ；Maire did not understand why ．She would go to the hounds， and not with her mother ， who went into the gar- den， down to the lake， where the white and yellow water- lilies bloomed ， and the bulrushes nodded amongst the reeds． She looked at all this luxuriance and freshness．
"How pleasant！" said she． There stood in the garden a rare tree which she herself had planted； it was called a"copper-beech"， a kind of black a mooor amongst the oth- er trees， so dark brown were the leaves； it must havestrong sunshine， otherwise in continual shade it would be- come green like the other trees and so lose its distinctive character．In the high chestnut-trees were many birds'
nests， as well as in the bushes and the grassy meadows．
It seemed as if the birds knew that they were protected here， for here no one dared to fire a gun．
The little Marie came here with Sren； he could climb， as we know， and he fetched both eggs and young downy birds． The birds flew about in terror and anguish，little ones and big ones！Peewits from the field， rooks， crows， and jackdaws from the high trees， screamed andshrieked； it was a shriek exactly the same as their descendants shriek in our own day．
" What are you doing， children？" cried the gentle lady．"This is ungodly work！"
Sren stood ashamed， and even the high-born littlegirl looked a little abashed， but then she said， shortly and sulkily，"My father lets me do it！"
"Afar！ afar！" screamed the great blackbirds， and flew off， but they came again next day， for their home was here．
But the quiet， gentle lady did not stay long at home here；our Lord called her to Himself， with Him she was more at home than in the mansion，and the church bellstolled solemnly when her body was carried to the church．
Poor men's eyes were wet，for she had been good to them．When she was gone，no one cared for her plants， and the garden ran to waste．
Sir Grubbe was a bard man， they said， but his daugh- ter，although she was so young，could manage him；he had to laugh， and she got her way．She was now twelve yearsold， and strongly built；she looked through and throughpeople， with her big black eyes， rode her horse like a man， and shot her gun like a practised hunter．
One day there came great visitors to the neighbour- hood， the very greatest， the young king and his half-broth- er and comrade Lord Ulrik Frederick Gyldenlwe； theywanted to hunt the wild boar there， and would stay somedays at Sir Grubbe's castle．
Gyldenlwe sat next Marie at table； he took her roundthe neck and gave her a kiss， as if they had been rela- tions，but she gave him a slap on the mouth and said thatshe could not bear him． At that there was great laughter，as if it was an amusing thing ．
And it mag have been amusing too， for five years af-ter，when Marie had completed her seventeenth year，a messenger came with a letter；Lord Gyldenlwe proposed for the hand of the noble lady； that was something！
"He is the grandest and most gallant gentleman in thekingdom！" said Sir Grubbe．"That is not to be despised．"
" I don't care much about him！" said Marie Grubbe，but she did not reject the grandest man in the country，whosat by the king's side．
Silver plate， woollen and linen went with a ship toCopenhagen ； she travelled overland in ten days． The outfithad contrary winds， or no wind at all； four months passedbefore it arrived，and when it did come Lady Gyldenlwehad departed．
"I would rather lie on coarse sacking， than in his silken bed！"said she；" I'd rather walk on my bare feetthan drive with him in a carriage！"
Late one evening in November， two women came rid- ing into the town of Aarhus；it was Lady Gyldenlwe andher maid： they came from Veile， where they had arrived from Copenhagen by ship． They rode up to Sir Grubbe's stone mansion． He was not delighted with the visit． She gothard words， but she got a bedroom as well； got nice foodfor breakfast， but not nice words， for the evil in her fatherwas roused against her，and she was not accustomed to that．She was not of a gentle temper，and as one is spoken to， so one answers． She certainly did answer， and spoke with bitterness and hate about her husband，with whom she would not live； she was too honourable for that．
So a year went past， but it did not pass pleasantly．
There were evil words between father and daughter， and that there should never be． Evil words have evil fruit．What could be the end of this？
"We two cannot remain under the same roof ，"said the father one day．" Go away from here to our old manor- house，but rather bite your tongue out than set liesgoing！"
So these two separated， she went with her maid to the old manor-house， where she had been born andbrought up，and where the gentle pious lady， her mother， lay in the church vault； an old cowherd lived in the house， and that was the whole establishment．Cobwebshung in the rooms，dark and heavy with dust ； in the gardween the trees and bushes； and hemlock and nettlesgrew larger and stronger．The copper beech was overgrown by the others and now stood in shade， its leaves were now as green as the other common trees，and its glory had de- parted．Rooks，crows，and daws flew in thick swarms over the high chestnut-trees， and there was a cawing and screaming， as if they had some important news to tell each other： now she is here again， the little one who had caused their eggs and their young ones to be stolen from them． The thief himself， who had fetched them， now climbed on a leafless tree， sat on the high mast，and got good blows from the rope's end if he did not behave him- self．
The clerk told all this in our own time； he had col-lected it and put it together from books and manuscripts；it lay with many more manuscripts in the table-drawer．
" Up and down is the way of the world！" said he，" it is strange to hear！ " And we shall hear how it went with Marie Grubbe， but we will not forget Poultry Meg， who sits in her grand hen-house in our time ； Marie Grubbe sat there in her time，but not with the same spirit as old Poultry Meg．
The winter passed， spring and summer passed， andthen again came the stormy autumn-time ， with the cold， wet sea-fogs．It was a lonely life， a wearisome life there in the old manor-house．So Marie Grubbe took her gun and went out on the moors， and shot hares and foxes，andwhatever birds she came across． Out there she met oftenerthan once noble Sir Palle Dyre from Nrrebaek， who was al- so wandering about with his gun and his dogs． He was bigand strong， and boasted about it when they talked together．He could have dared to measure himself with the late Mr．
Brockenhus of Egeskov， of whose strength there were still stories． Palle Dyre had， following his example， caused an iron chain with a hunting-horn to be hung at his gate， andwhen he rode home he caught the chain， and lifted himself with the horse from the ground， and blew the horn．
" Come yourself and see it， Dame Marie！" said he，"there is fresh air blowing at Nrrebaek！"
When she went to his house is not recorded， but onthe candlesticks in Nrrebaek Church one can read that they were given by Palle Dyre and Marie Grubbe of Nrrebaek Castle．
Bodily strength had Palle Dyre： he drank like a sponge ； he was like a tub that could never be filled； hesnored like a whole pig-sty， and he looked red and bloat- ed. "He is Piggish and rude！" said Dame Palle Dyre，Grubbe's daughter．Soon she was tired of the life， but thatdid not make it any better．One day the table was laid，and the food was getting cold；Palle Dyre was fox-hunting and the lady was not to be found．Palle Dyre home at midnight ，Dame Dyre came neither at midnight nor in the morning ， she had turned her back on Nrrebaek had ridden away without greeting or farewell．
It was grey wet weather； the wind blew cold， and a flock of black screaming birds flew over her， they were not so homeless as she．
First she went south，quite up to Germany； a couple of gold ring with precious stones were turned into money ；
then she went east， and then turned again to the west； shehad no goal before her eyes， and was angry with every one，even with the good God Himself， so wretched was hermind；soon her whole body became wretched too， and she could scarcely put one foot before another．The peewit flew up from its tussock when she fell over it：the bird screamed as it always dose ，"You thief！You thief！ "Shehad never stolen her neighbour's goods， but birds'eggsand young birds she had had brought to her when she was a little girl； she thought of that now. From where she lay she cluld see the sand-hills by the shore； fishermen lived there， but she could not get sofar，she was so ill．The great white sea-mews came flyingabove her and screamed as the rooks and crows screamed over the garden at home. The birds flew very near her， and at last she imagined that they were coal-black， butthen it became night before her eyes．
When she again opened her eyes was being car- ried； a big， strong fellow had taken her in his arms．Shelooked straight into his bearded face； he had a scar overhis eye， so that the eyebrow appeared to be divided in two． He carried her， miserable as she was， to the ship，where he got a rating from the captain for it．
The day following，the ship sailed；Marie Grubbe was not put ashore， so she went with it． But she came back again， no doubt？ Yes， but when and where？
The clerk could also tell about this， and it was not astory which he himself had put together． He had the whole strange story from a trustworthy old book；we our- selves can take it out and read it．
The Danish historian， Ludwig Holberg， who has written so many useful books and the amusing comedies from which we can get to know his time and people， tells in his letters of Marie Grubbe， where and how he mether；it is well worth hearing about，but we will not forgetPoultry Meg，who sits so glad and comfortable in her grand hen-house．
The ship sailed away with Marie Grubbe；it was there we left off．
Years and years went past．
The plague was raging in Copenhagen；it was in theyear 1711．The Queen of Denmark went away to her Ger- man home ，the king quitted the capital， every one who could， hastened away．The students， even if they had board and lodging free， left the city． One of them， the last whostill remained at the so-called Borch's College， close byRegensen， also went away． It was two o' clock in the morning； he came with his knapsack， which was filledmore with books and manuscripts than with clothes．
A damp， clammy mist hung over the town； not acreature was to be seen in the whole street； round about onthe doors and gates crosses were marked to show that theplague was inside，or that the people were dead． No onewas to be seen either in the broader， winding Butcher'sRow， as the street was called which led from the Round Tower to the King's Castle． A big ammunition wagon rum-bled past； the driver swung his whip and the horses wentoff at a gallop， the wagon was full of dead bodies． The young student held his hand before his face， and smelt atsome strong spirits which he had on a sponge in a brass box．
From a tavern in one of the streets came the sound of singing and unpleasant laughter， from people who drank thenight through， to forget that the plague stood before thedoor and would have them to accompany him in the wagon with the other corpses． The student turned his steps to- wards the castle bridge， where one or two small ships lay；one of them was weighing anchor to get away from the plague-stricken city. "Ludwig Holberg ，" said the student， and the name；sounded like any other name now the sound is one of the proudest names in Denmark；at that time he was only ayoung，unknown student．
The ship glided past the castle．It was not yet clear morning when they came out into the open water． A light breeze came along， and the sails swelled， the young stu-dent set himself with his face to the wind， and fell asleep，and that was not quite the wisest thing to do．Already onthe third morning the ship lay off Falster．
" Do you know any one in this place， with whom I could live cheaply？" Holberg asked the captain．
"I believe that you would do well to go to the ferry－woman in Borrehouse,"said he."If you want to be verypolie,her name is Mother Sren Sorensen Mller!yet itmay happen that she will fly into a rage if you are too po－lite to her!Her husband is in custody for a crime;sheherself manages the ferry－boat,she has fists of her own!" The student took his knapsack and went to theferry-house.The door was not locked,he lifted thelatch,and went into a room with a brick－laid floor,where a bench with a big leather coverlet was the chiefarticle of furniture.A white hen with chickens was fas－tened to the bench,and had upset the water－dish,andthe water had run across the floor.No one was here,orin the next room,only a cradle with a child in it.Theferry-boat came back with only one person in it,whether man or woman was not easy to say.The personwas wrapped in a great cloak,and wore a fur cap like ahood on the head.The boat lay to. It was a woman who got out and came into theroom.She looked very imposing when she straightenedher back;two proud eyes sat under the black eye－brows.It was Mother Sren,the ferry-woman;rooks,crows,and daws would scream out another name whichwe know better. She looked morose,and did not seem to care totalk,but so much was said and settled,that the stu－dent arranged for board and lodging for an indefinitetime,whilst things were so bad in Copenhagen. One or other honest citizen from the neighbouringtown came regularly out to the ferry-house.Frank thecutler and Sivert the excise－man came there;theydrank a glass of ale and talked with the student.Hewas a clever young man,who knew his"Practica",asthey called it;he read Greek and Latin,and was wellup in learned subjects. "The less one knows,the less one is burdenedwith it,"said Mother Sren. "You have to work hard!"said Holberg,one daywhen she soaked her clothes in the sharp lye,and her－self chopped the tree－roots for firewood. "That's my affair!"said she. "Have you always from childhood been obliged towork and toil?"
"You can see that in my hands!"said she,and showed him two small but strong,hard hands with bittennails."You have learning and can read." At Christmas it began to snow heavily.The cold cameon,the wind blew sharply,as if it had vitriol to wash peo－ple's faces with.Mother Sren did not let that disturb her.She drew her cloak around her,and pulled her hood downover her head.It was dark in the house,early in the after－noon.She laid wood and turf on the fire,and set herselfdown to darn her stockings,there was no one else to do it.Towards evening she talked more to the student than washer custom.She spoke about her husband. "He has by accident killed a skipper of Dragr,andfor that he must work three years in irons.He is only acommon sailor,and so the law must take its course." "The law applies also to people of higher position,"said Holberg. "De you think so?"said Mother Sren,and lookedinto the fire,but then she began again,"Have you heardof Kai Lykke,who caused one of his churches to be pulleddown,and when the priest thundered red from the pulpit aboutit,he caused the priest to be laid in irons,appointed acourt,and adjudged him to have forfeited his head,whichwas accordingly struck off;that was not an accident,andyet Kai Lykke went free that time!" "He was in the right according to the times!"saidHolberg,"now we are past that!" "You can try to make fools believe that,"said MotherSren as she rose and went into the room where the childlay,eased it and laid it down again,and then arranged thestudent's bed;he had the leather covering,for he felt thecold more than she did,and yet he had been born in Nor－way. On New Year's morning it was a real bright sunshinyday;the frost had been and still was so strong that thedrifted snow lay frozen hard,so that one could walk uponit.The bells in the town rang for church,and the studentHolberg took his woollen cloak about him and would go tothe town. Over the ferry-house the crows and rooks were flyingwith loud cries,one could scarcely hear the church bells fortheir noise.Mother Sren stood outside,filling a brasskettle with snow,which she was going to put on the fireto get drinking-water.She looked up to the swarm ofbirds,and had her own thoughts about it. The student Holberg went to church;on the waythere and back he passed Sivert the tax-collector's house,by the town gate;there he was invited in for a glass ofwarm ale with syrup and ginger.The conversation turnedon Mother Sren,but the tax－collector did not know muchabout her—indeed,few people did.She did not belong toFalster,he said;she had possessed a little property atone time;her husband was a common sailor with a violenttemper,who had murdered a skipper of Dragor."Hebeats his wife,and yet she takes his part." "I could not stand such treatment!"said the tax col－lector's wife."I am also come of better people;my fatherwas stocking－weaver to the Court!" "Consequently you have married a Government offi－cial,"said Holberg,and made a bow to her and the tax－collector. It was Twelfth Night,the evening of the festival ofthe Three Kings.Mother Soren lighted for Holberg athree-king candle—that is to say,a tallow－candle withthree branches,which she herself had dipped. "A candle for each man!"said Holberg. "Each man?"said the woman,and looked sharply athim. "Each of the wise men from the east!"said Hol-berg. "That way!"said she,and was silent for a longtime. But on the evening of the Three Kings he learnedmore about her than he did before. "You have an affectionate mind to your husband,"said Holberg,"and yet people say that he treats youbadly." "That is no one's business but mine!"she an－swered."The blows could have done me good as a child;now I get them for my sin's sake!I know what good hehas done me,"and she rose up."When I lay ill on theopen heath,and no one cared to come in contact with me,except perhaps the crows and the rooks to peck at me,hecarried me in his arms and got hard words for the catch hebrought on board.I am not used to be ill,and so I recov-ered.Every one has his own way,Sren has his,and oneshould not judge a horse by the halter!With him I havelived more comfortably than with the one they called themost gallant and noble of all the king's subjects.I havebeen married to the Stadtholder Gyldenlwe,the half-brother of the king;later on I took Palle Dyre!Right orwrong,each has his own way,and I have mine.That wasa long story,but now you know it!"And she went out ofthe room. It was Marie Grubbe!so strange had been the rollingball of her fortune.She did not live to see many more an－niversaries of the festival of the Three Kings;Holberg hasrecorded that she died in 1716,but he has not recorded,for he did not know it,that when Mother Sren,as she wascalled,lay a corpse in the ferry－house,a number of bigblackbirds flew over the place.They did not scream,as ifthey knew that silence belonged to a burial.As soon as shewas laid in the earth the birds disappeared,but the sameevening over at the old manor in Jutland an enormous num－ber of crows and rooks were seen;they all screamed asloud as they could,as if they had something to announce,perhaps about him who as a little boy took their eggs andyoung ones,the farmer's son who had to wear a garter ofiron,and the noble lady who ended her life as a ferry－woman at Grnsund. "Brave!brave!"they screamed. And the whole family screamed"Brave!brave!"when the old manor-house was pulled down. "They still cry,and there is no more to cry about!"said the clerk,when he told the story."The family is ex－tinct,the house pulled down,and where it stood,nowstands the grand hen-house with the gilded weathercock andwith old Poultry Meg.She is so delighted with her charm-ing dwelling;if she had not come here,she would havebeen in the workhouse."
The pigeons cooed over her.the turkeys gobbledround about her,and the ducks quacked. "No one knew her!"they said."She has no rela-tions.It is an act of grace that she is here.She has nei-ther a drake father nor a hen mother,and no descendants!" Still she had relations,although she did not knowit,nor the clerk either,however much manuscript hehad in the table－drawer,but one of the old crows knewabout it,and told about it.From its mother and grand－mother it had heard about Poultry Meg's mother andher grandmother,whom we also know from the time shewas a child and rode over the bridge looking about herproudly,as if the whole world and its birds'nests be－longed to her;we saw her out on the heath by thesand－dunes,and last of all in the ferry－house. The grandchild,the last of the race,had comehome again where the old house had stood,where thewild birds screamed,but she sat among the tamebirds,known by them and known along with them.Poultry Meg had no more to wish for,she was glad todie,and old enough to die. "Grave!grave!"screamed the crows. And Poultry Meg got a good grave,which no oneknew except the old crow,if he is not dead also. And now we know the story of the old manor,theold race,and the whole of Poultry Meg's family.