The girl who trod on the loaf


Pigen, som trådte på brødet

There was once a girl who trod on a loaf to avoid soiling her shoes, and the misfortunes that happened to her in consequence are well known.
Her name was Inge; she was a poor child, but proud and presuming, and with a bad and cruel disposition. When quite a little child she would delight in catching flies, and tearing off their wings, so as to make creeping things of them. When older, she would take cockchafers and beetles, and stick pins through them. Then she pushed a green leaf, or a little scrap of paper towards their feet, and when the poor creatures would seize it and hold it fast, and turn over and over in their struggles to get free from the pin, she would say, "The cockchafer is reading; see how he turns over the leaf." She grew worse instead of better with years, and, unfortunately, she was pretty, which caused her to be excused, when she should have been sharply reproved.

"Your headstrong will requires severity to conquer it," her mother often said to her. "As a little child you used to trample on my apron, but one day I fear you will trample on my heart." And, alas! this fear was realized.

Inge was taken to the house of some rich people, who lived at a distance, and who treated her as their own child, and dressed her so fine that her pride and arrogance increased.

When she had been there about a year, her patroness said to her, "You ought to go, for once, and see your parents, Inge."

So Inge started to go and visit her parents; but she only wanted to show herself in her native place, that the people might see how fine she was. She reached the entrance of the village, and saw the young laboring men and maidens standing together chatting, and her own mother amongst them. Inge's mother was sitting on a stone to rest, with a fagot of sticks lying before her, which she had picked up in the wood. Then Inge turned back; she who was so finely dressed she felt ashamed of her mother, a poorly clad woman, who picked up wood in the forest. She did not turn back out of pity for her mother's poverty, but from pride.

Another half-year went by, and her mistress said, "you ought to go home again, and visit your parents, Inge, and I will give you a large wheaten loaf to take to them, they will be glad to see you, I am sure."

So Inge put on her best clothes, and her new shoes, drew her dress up around her, and set out, stepping very carefully, that she might be clean and neat about the feet, and there was nothing wrong in doing so. But when she came to the place where the footpath led across the moor, she found small pools of water, and a great deal of mud, so she threw the loaf into the mud, and trod upon it, that she might pass without wetting her feet. But as she stood with one foot on the loaf and the other lifted up to step forward, the loaf began to sink under her, lower and lower, till she disappeared altogether, and only a few bubbles on the surface of the muddy pool remained to show where she had sunk. And this is the story.

But where did Inge go? She sank into the ground, and went down to the Marsh Woman, who is always brewing there.

The Marsh Woman is related to the elf maidens, who are well-known, for songs are sung and pictures painted about them. But of the Marsh Woman nothing is known, excepting that when a mist arises from the meadows, in summer time, it is because she is brewing beneath them. To the Marsh Woman's brewery Inge sunk down to a place which no one can endure for long. A heap of mud is a palace compared with the Marsh Woman's brewery; and as Inge fell she shuddered in every limb, and soon became cold and stiff as marble. Her foot was still fastened to the loaf, which bowed her down as a golden ear of corn bends the stem.

An evil spirit soon took possession of Inge, and carried her to a still worse place, in which she saw crowds of unhappy people, waiting in a state of agony for the gates of mercy to be opened to them, and in every heart was a miserable and eternal feeling of unrest. It would take too much time to describe the various tortures these people suffered, but Inge's punishment consisted in standing there as a statue, with her foot fastened to the loaf. She could move her eyes about, and see all the misery around her, but she could not turn her head; and when she saw the people looking at her she thought they were admiring her pretty face and fine clothes, for she was still vain and proud. But she had forgotten how soiled her clothes had become while in the Marsh Woman's brewery, and that they were covered with mud; a snake had also fastened itself in her hair, and hung down her back, while from each fold in her dress a great toad peeped out and croaked like an asthmatic poodle. Worse than all was the terrible hunger that tormented her, and she could not stoop to break off a piece of the loaf on which she stood. No; her back was too stiff, and her whole body like a pillar of stone. And then came creeping over her face and eyes flies without wings; she winked and blinked, but they could not fly away, for their wings had been pulled off; this, added to the hunger she felt, was horrible torture.

"If this lasts much longer," she said, "I shall not be able to bear it." But it did last, and she had to bear it, without being able to help herself.

A tear, followed by many scalding tears, fell upon her head, and rolled over her face and neck, down to the loaf on which she stood. Who could be weeping for Inge? She had a mother in the world still, and the tears of sorrow which a mother sheds for her child will always find their way to the child's heart, but they often increase the torment instead of being a relief. And Inge could hear all that was said about her in the world she had left, and every one seemed cruel to her. The sin she had committed in treading on the loaf was known on earth, for she had been seen by the cowherd from the hill, when she was crossing the marsh and had disappeared.

When her mother wept and exclaimed, "Ah, Inge! what grief thou hast caused thy mother" she would say, "Oh that I had never been born! My mother's tears are useless now."

And then the words of the kind people who had adopted her came to her ears, when they said, "Inge was a sinful girl, who did not value the gifts of God, but trampled them under her feet."

"Ah," thought Inge, "they should have punished me, and driven all my naughty tempers out of me."

A song was made about "The girl who trod on a loaf to keep her shoes from being soiled," and this song was sung everywhere. The story of her sin was also told to the little children, and they called her "wicked Inge," and said she was so naughty that she ought to be punished. Inge heard all this, and her heart became hardened and full of bitterness.

But one day, while hunger and grief were gnawing in her hollow frame, she heard a little, innocent child, while listening to the tale of the vain, haughty Inge, burst into tears and exclaim, "But will she never come up again?"

And she heard the reply, "No, she will never come up again."

"But if she were to say she was sorry, and ask pardon, and promise never to do so again?" asked the little one.

"Yes, then she might come; but she will not beg pardon," was the answer.

"Oh, I wish she would!" said the child, who was quite unhappy about it. "I should be so glad. I would give up my doll and all my playthings, if she could only come here again. Poor Inge! it is so dreadful for her."

These pitying words penetrated to Inge's inmost heart, and seemed to do her good. It was the first time any one had said, "Poor Inge!" without saying something about her faults. A little innocent child was weeping, and praying for mercy for her. It made her feel quite strange, and she would gladly have wept herself, and it added to her torment to find she could not do so. And while she thus suffered in a place where nothing changed, years passed away on earth, and she heard her name less frequently mentioned. But one day a sigh reached her ear, and the words, "Inge! Inge! what a grief thou hast been to me! I said it would be so." It was the last sigh of her dying mother.

After this, Inge heard her kind mistress say, "Ah, poor Inge! shall I ever see thee again? Perhaps I may, for we know not what may happen in the future." But Inge knew right well that her mistress would never come to that dreadful place.

Time passed– a long bitter time– then Inge heard her name pronounced once more, and saw what seemed two bright stars shining above her. They were two gentle eyes closing on earth. Many years had passed since the little girl had lamented and wept about "poor Inge." That child was now an old woman, whom God was taking to Himself. In the last hour of existence the events of a whole life often appear before us; and this hour the old woman remembered how, when a child, she had shed tears over the story of Inge, and she prayed for her now. As the eyes of the old woman closed to earth, the eyes of the soul opened upon the hidden things of eternity, and then she, in whose last thoughts Inge had been so vividly present, saw how deeply the poor girl had sunk. She burst into tears at the sight, and in heaven, as she had done when a little child on earth, she wept and prayed for poor Inge. Her tears and her prayers echoed through the dark void that surrounded the tormented captive soul, and the unexpected mercy was obtained for it through an angel's tears. As in thought Inge seemed to act over again every sin she had committed on earth, she trembled, and tears she had never yet been able to weep rushed to her eyes. It seemed impossible that the gates of mercy could ever be opened to her; but while she acknowledged this in deep penitence, a beam of radiant light shot suddenly into the depths upon her. More powerful than the sunbeam that dissolves the man of snow which the children have raised, more quickly than the snowflake melts and becomes a drop of water on the warm lips of a child, was the stony form of Inge changed, and as a little bird she soared, with the speed of lightning, upward to the world of mortals. A bird that felt timid and shy to all things around it, that seemed to shrink with shame from meeting any living creature, and hurriedly sought to conceal itself in a dark corner of an old ruined wall; there it sat cowering and unable to utter a sound, for it was voiceless. Yet how quickly the little bird discovered the beauty of everything around it. The sweet, fresh air; the soft radiance of the moon, as its light spread over the earth; the fragrance which exhaled from bush and tree, made it feel happy as it sat there clothed in its fresh, bright plumage. All creation seemed to speak of beneficence and love. The bird wanted to give utterance to thoughts that stirred in his breast, as the cuckoo and the nightingale in the spring, but it could not. Yet in heaven can be heard the song of praise, even from a worm; and the notes trembling in the breast of the bird were as audible to Heaven even as the psalms of David before they had fashioned themselves into words and song.

Christmas-time drew near, and a peasant who dwelt close by the old wall stuck up a pole with some ears of corn fastened to the top, that the birds of heaven might have feast, and rejoice in the happy, blessed time. And on Christmas morning the sun arose and shone upon the ears of corn, which were quickly surrounded by a number of twittering birds. Then, from a hole in the wall, gushed forth in song the swelling thoughts of the bird as he issued from his hiding place to perform his first good deed on earth,– and in heaven it was well known who that bird was.

The winter was very hard; the ponds were covered with ice, and there was very little food for either the beasts of the field or the birds of the air. Our little bird flew away into the public roads, and found here and there, in the ruts of the sledges, a grain of corn, and at the halting places some crumbs. Of these he ate only a few, but he called around him the other birds and the hungry sparrows, that they too might have food. He flew into the towns, and looked about, and wherever a kind hand had strewed bread on the window-sill for the birds, he only ate a single crumb himself, and gave all the rest to the rest of the other birds. In the course of the winter the bird had in this way collected many crumbs and given them to other birds, till they equalled the weight of the loaf on which Inge had trod to keep her shoes clean; and when the last bread-crumb had been found and given, the gray wings of the bird became white, and spread themselves out for flight.

"See, yonder is a sea-gull!" cried the children, when they saw the white bird, as it dived into the sea, and rose again into the clear sunlight, white and glittering. But no one could tell whither it went then although some declared it flew straight to the sun.
Du har vel hørt om Pigen, som traadte paa Brødet for ikke at smudske sine Skoe, og hvor ilde det da gik hende. Det er baade skrevet og trykt.

Hun var et fattigt Barn, stolt og hovmodig, en daarlig Grund var der i hende, som man siger. Som ganske lille Unge var det hende en Fornøielse at faae fat paa Fluerne, pille Vingerne af dem og gjøre dem til Krybdyr. Hun tog Oldenborren og Skarnbassen, stak hver af dem paa en Naal, lagde saa et grønt Blad eller en lille Stump Papir op til deres Fødder, og det arme Dyr holdt fast derved, dreiede og vendte det, for at komme af Naalen.

»Nu læser Oldenborren!« sagde lille Inger, »see, hvor den vender Bladet!«

Som hun nu voxte til, blev hun snarere værre end bedre, men kjøn var hun og det var hendes Ulykke, ellers var hun nok bleven knupset anderledes, end hun blev det.

»Der skal skarp Lud til det Hoved!« sagde hendes egen Moder. »Du har tidt som Barn traadt mig paa Forklædet, jeg er bange for, at Du som Ældre kommer tidt til at træde mig paa Hjertet!«

Og det gjorde hun rigtignok.

Nu kom hun ud paa Landet at tjene hos fornemme Folk, de vare imod hende, som om hun kunde være deres eget Barn, og som saadan blev hun opklædt, godt saae hun ud og Hovmoden tog til.

Et Aarstid havde hun været ude, saa sagde hendes Herskab til, hende: »Du skulde dog engang besøge dine Forældre, lille Inger!«

Hun gik ogsaa, men for at vise sig, de skulde see, hvor fiin hun var bleven; men da hun kom ved Byledet og saae Piger og unge Karle sladdre ud for Gadekjæret og just der hendes Moder sad paa en Steen og hvilede sig med et Knippe Brændsel, hun havde samlet sig i Skoven, saa vendte Inger om, hun skammede sig ved, at hun, der var saa fiin klædt, skulde have til Moder saadan en pjaltet Een, der samlede Pinde. Det fortryd hende slet ikke, at hun vendte om, hun var bare ærgerlig.

Nu gik der igjen et halvt Aars Tid.

»Du skulde dog en Dag gaae hjem og see til dine gamle Forældre, lille Inger!« sagde hendes Huusmoder. »Der har Du et stort Hvedebrød, Du kan tage med til dem; de ville glædes ved at see Dig!«

Og Inger tog sin bedste Stads paa og sine nye Skoe, og hun løftede sine Klæder og gik saa forsigtig, for at være reen og peen om Fødderne, og det var jo ikke at bebreide hende! men da hun kom, hvor Stien gik over Mosegrund og der stod Vand og Søle et langt Stykke Vei, saa smed hun Brødet i Sølen, for at træde paa det og komme tørskoet over, men i det hun stod med den ene Fod paa Brødet og løftede den anden, sank Brødet med hende dybere og dybere, hun blev ganske borte og der var kun at see et sort boblende Kjær.

Det er Historien.

Hvor kom hun hen? Hun kom ned til Mosekonen, der brygger. Mosekonen er Faster til Elverpigerne, de ere bekjendte nok, der er skrevet Viser om dem, og de ere afmalede, men om Mosekonen veed Folk kun det, at naar Engene om Sommeren dampe, saa er det Mosekonen, som brygger. Ned i hendes Bryggeri var det, at Inger sank, og der er ikke til at holde ud længe. Slamkisten er et lyst Pragtgemak mod Mosekonens Bryggeri! hvert Kar stinker, saa at Menneskene maa daane derved, og saa staae Karrene knugede op paa hverandre, og er der et Sted en lille Aabning mellem dem, hvor man kunde klemme sig frem, saa kan man det dog ikke for alle de vaade Skruptudser og fede Snoge, som her filtre sig sammen; her ned sank lille Inger; alt det ækle, levende Filteri var saa isnende koldt, at hun gøs gjennem alle Lemmer, ja hun stivnede ved det meer og meer. Brødet hang hun fast til og det trak hende, ligesom en Ravknap trækker en Smule Straa.

Mosekonen var hjemme, Bryggeriet blev den Dag beseet af Fanden og hans Oldemo'er, og hun er et gammelt, meget giftigt Fruentimmer, der aldrig er ledig; hun tager aldrig ud, uden at hun har sit Haandarbeide med, det havde hun ogsaa her! Hun syede Bisselæder til at sætte Menneskene i Skoene, og saa havde de ingen Ro; hun broderede Løgn og hæklede ubesindige Ord, der vare faldne til Jorden, Alt til Skade og Fordærvelse. Jo, hun kunde sye, brodere og hækle, gamle Oldemo'er.

Hun saae Inger, holdt saa sit Brilleglas for Øiet og saae endnu engang paa hende: »Det er en Pige med Anlæg!« sagde hun, »jeg udbeder mig hende til en Erindring om Besøget her! hun kan blive et passende Postament i mit Barnebarnsbarns Forgemak!«

Og hun fik hende. Saaledes kom lille Inger til Helvede. Der fare Folk ikke altid lige lukt ned, men de kunne komme af en Omvei, naar de have Anlæg.

Det var et Forgemak i en Uendelighed; man blev svimmel der ved at see fremad og svimmel ved at see tilbage; og saa stod her en Forsmægtelsens Skare, der ventede paa at Naadens Dør skulde blive lukket op; de kunde vente længe! store fede, vraltende Edderkopper spandt tusindaarigt Spind over deres Fødder og dette Spind snærede som Fodskruer og holdt som Kobberlænker; og saa var der til dette en evig Uro i hver Sjæl, en Piinsels Uro. Den Gjerrige stod og havde glemt Nøglen til sit Pengeskriin og den sad i, vidste han. Ja, det er saa vidtløftigt at opramse alle Slags Piner og Plager, her blev fornummet. Inger fornam det * grueligt at staae som Postament; hun var ligesom knevlet nedenfra til Brødet.

»Det har man, fordi man vil være reen om Fødderne!« sagde hun til sig selv. »See, hvor de gloe paa mig!« jo, de saae Alle paa hende; deres onde Lyster lyste dem ud af Øinene og talte uden Lyd fra deres Mundvig, de vare forfærdelige at see.

»Mig maa det være en Fornøielse at see paa!« tænkte lille Inger, »jeg har et kjønt Ansigt og gode Klæder!« og nu dreiede hun Øinene, Nakken var for stiv dertil. Nei, hvor var hun tilsølet i Mosekonens Bryghuus, det havde hun ikke betænkt. Klæderne vare som overskyllede med en eneste stor Slimklat; en Snog havde hængt sig i hendes Haar og daskede hende ned ad Nakken, og fra hver Fold i hendes Kjole kigede frem en Skruptudse, der gjøede ligesom en trangbrystig Moppe. Det var meget ubehageligt. »Men de Andre hernede see da ogsaa forfærdelige ud!« trøstede hun sig med.

Værst af Alt var hende dog den gruelige Sult, hun fornam; kunde hun da ikke bøie sig og bryde et Stykke af Brødet, hun stod paa? Nei, Ryggen var stivnet, Arme og Hænder vare stivnede, hele hendes Krop var som en Steenstøtte, kun sine Øine kunde hun dreie i Hovedet, dreie heelt rundt, saa at de saae bagud, og det var et fælt Syn, det. Og saa kom Fluerne, de krøb henover hendes Øine, frem og tilbage, hun blinkede med Øinene, men Fluerne fløi ikke, for de kunde ikke, Vingerne vare pillede af dem, de vare blevne Krybdyr; det var en Pine og saa den Sult, ja, tilsidst syntes hun, at hendes Indvolde aad sig selv op og hun blev saa tom indeni, saa gyselig tom.

»Skal det vare længe ved, saa holder jeg det ikke ud!« sagde hun, men maatte holde ud og det blev ved at vare ved.

Da faldt der en brændende Taare ned paa hendes Hoved, den trillede over hendes Ansigt og Bryst lige ned til Brødet, der faldt en Taare endnu, der faldt mange. Hvem græd over lille Inger? Havde hun ikke oppe paa Jorden en Moder? Bedrøvelsens Taarer, som en Moder græder over sit Barn, naaer altid til det, men de løse ikke, de brænde, de gjøre kun Pinen større. Og nu denne ulidelige Sult og ikke at kunne naae Brødet, hun traadte med sin Fod! hun havde tilsidst en Fornemmelse af, at Alt inde i hende maatte have spiist sig selv op, hun var som et tyndt, huult Rør, der drog hver Lyd ind i sig; hun hørte tydeligt Alt hvad der oppe paa Jorden angik hende, og det var ondt og haardt hvad hun hørte. Hendes Moder græd rigtignok dybt og bedrøvet, men sagde dertil: »Hovmod gaaer for Fald! det var din Ulykke, Inger! hvor Du har bedrøvet din Moder!«

Hendes Moder og Alle deroppe vidste om hendes Synd, at hun havde traadt paa Brødet, var sunken igjennem og bleven borte; Kohyrden havde fortalt det, han havde selv seet det fra Skrenten.

»Hvor Du har bedrøvet din Moder, Inger!« sagde Moderen; »ja, det tænkte jeg nok!«

»Gid jeg aldrig var født!« tænkte Inger derved, »det havde været mig langt bedre. Det kan ikke hjelpe nu, at min Moder tviner!«

Hun hørte, hvorledes hendes Herskab, de skikkelige Folk, der havde været som Forældre mod hende, talte: »Hun var et syndefuld! Barn!« sagde de, »hun agtede ikke Vor Herres Gaver, men traadte dem under Fødderne, Naadens Dør vil blive hende trang at lukke op!«

»De skulde have avet mig bedre!« tænkte Inger, »pillet Nykkerne ud af mig, om jeg havde Nogen.«

Hun hørte, at der blev sat ud en heel Vise om hende, »den hovmodige Pige, der traadte paa Brødet, for at have pene Skoe«, og den blev sjungen Landet rundt.

»At man skal høre saa meget for det! og lide saa meget for det!« tænkte Inger, »de Andre skulde rigtignok ogsaa straffes for deres! ja, saa blev der Meget at straffe! uh, hvor jeg pines!«

Og hendes Sind blev endnu mere haardt end hendes Skal.

»Hernede skal man da ikke blive bedre i det Selskab! og jeg vil ikke være bedre! see, hvor de gloe!«

Og hendes Sind var vredt og ondt mod alle Mennesker.

»Nu har de da Noget at fortælle deroppe! - uh, hvor jeg pines!«

Og hun hørte, at de fortalte hendes Historie for Børnene, og de Smaa kaldte hende den ugudelige Inger, - »hun var saa ækel!« sagde de, »saa fæl, hun skulde rigtig pines!«

Der var altid haarde Ord i Barnemunde mod hende.

Dog een Dag, som Harme og Sult gnavede inde i hendes hule Skal og hun hørte sit Navn nævne og sin Historie fortalt for et uskyldigt Barn, en lille Pige, fornam hun, at den Lille brast i Graad ved Historien om den hovmodige, stadselystne Inger.

»Men kommer hun aldrig mere op?« spurgte den lille Pige. Og der blev svaret:

»Hun kommer aldrig mere op!«

»Men naar hun nu vil bede om Forladelse og aldrig gjøre det mere?«

»Men hun vil ikke bede om Forladelse!« sagde de.

»Jeg vil saa gjerne, at hun gjorde det!« sagde den lille Pige, og var ganske utrøstelig! »Jeg vil give mit Dukkeskab, naar hun maa komme op! Det er saa gyseligt for den stakkels Inger!«

Og de Ord naaede lige ned i Ingers Hjerte, de ligesom gjorde hende godt; det var første Gang, at der var Een som sagde: »stakkels Inger!« og ikke føiede det Mindste til om hendes Feil; et lille uskyldigt Barn græd og bad for hende, hun blev saa underlig derved, hun havde gjerne selv grædt, men hun kunde ikke græde, og det var ogsaa en Pine.

Som Aarene gik deroppe, nede var der ingen Forandring, hørte hun sjeldnere Lyd derovenfra, der blev talt mindre om hende; da fornam hun en Dag et Suk: »Inger! Inger! hvor har Du bedrevet mig! det sagde jeg nok!« Det var hendes Moder, som døde.

Hun hørte sit Navn stundom nævne af sit gamle Herskab og det var de mildeste Ord, at Huusmoderen sagde: »Mon jeg nogensinde seer Dig igjen, Inger! man veed ikke hvorhen man kommer!«

Men Inger begreb da nok, at hendes skikkelige Huusmoder aldrig kunde komme, hvor hun var.

Saaledes gik der igjen en Tid, lang og bitterlig.

Da hørte Inger igjen sit Navn nævne og saae oven over sig ligesom to klare Stjerner skinne; det var to milde Øine, som lukkede sig paa Jorden. Saamange Aaringer var gaaet fra dengang, den lille Pige græd utrøstelig over »stakkels Inger«, at det Barn var blevet en gammel Kone, som nu Vor Herre vilde kalde til sig, og netop i denne Stund, da Tankerne fra hele Livets Sum løftede sig, huskede hun ogsaa, hvorledes hun som lille Barn havde maattet græde bitterligt ved at høre Historien om Inger; den Tid og det Indtryk stod saa lyslevende for den gamle Kone i hendes Dødstime, at hun ganske høit udbrød: »Herre, min Gud, mon ikke ogsaa jeg som Inger tidt har traadt paa din Velsignelsens Gave og ikke tænkt derved, mon jeg ikke ogsaa er gaaet med Hovmod i mit Sind, men Du har i din Naade ikke ladet mig synke, men holdt mig oppe! slip mig ikke i min sidste Stund!«

Og den Gamles Øine lukkedes og Sjælens Øine aabnedes for det Skjulte, og da Inger var saa levende i hendes sidste Tanker, saae hun hende, saae, hvor dybt ned hun var dragen, og ved det Syn brast den Fromme i Graad, i Himmeriges Rige stod hun som Barnet og græd for stakkels Inger! de Taarer og de Bønner klang som et Echo ned i den hule, tomme Skal, der omsluttede den fængslede, piinte Sjæl, denne overvældedes af al den aldrig tænkte Kjærlighed ovenfra: en Guds Engel græd over hende! hvorfor blev det hende forundt! den piinte Sjæl ligesom samlede i Tankerne enhver Jordlivs-Gjerning, den havde øvet, og den bævede i Graad, som Inger aldrig havde kunnet græde den; Bedrøvelse over sig selv fyldte hende, hun syntes, at for hende kunde aldrig Naadens Port aabnes, og i det hun i Sønderknuselse erkjendte det, lyste i det samme en Straale ned i Afgrundssvælget, Straalen kom med en Kraft stærkere end Solstraalen, der optøer Sneemanden, som Drengene reiste i Gaarden, og da, langt hurtigere end Sneefnokken, der falder paa Barnets varme Mund, smelter hen som Draabe, fordunstede sig Ingers forstenede Skikkelse, en lille Fugl svang sig med Lynets Zikzak op mod Menneskeverdenen, men angest og sky var den for Alt rundt om, den skammede sig for sig selv og for alle levende Skabninger og søgte ihast Skjul i et mørkt Hul, den fandt i den forfaldne Muur; her sad den og krøb sammen, skjælvende over hele Kroppen, Stemmens Lyd kunde den ikke give fra sig, den havde ingen; den sad en lang Stund, før den med Ro kunde see og fornemme al den Herlighed derude! ja, en Herlighed var det: Luften var saa frisk og mild, Maanen skinnede saa klart, Træer og Buske duftede; og saa var der saa hyggeligt hvor den sad, dens Fjerkjortel saa reen og fiin. Nei, hvor alt Skabt dog var frembaaret i Kjærlighed og Herlighed. Alle de Tanker, der rørte sig inde i Fuglens Bryst, vilde sjunge sig ud, men Fuglen mægtede det ikke, gjerne havde den sjunget, som i Foraaret Kukker og Nattergal. Vor Herre, som hører ogsaa Ormens lydløse Lovsang, fornam her Lovsangen, der tøftede sig i Tanke-Accorder som Psalmen klang i Davids Bryst, før den fik Ord og Melodi.

I * Dage og Uger voxte og svulmede disse lydløse Sange, de maatte komme til Udbrud, ved det første Vingeslag i god Gjerning, en saadan maatte øves!

Nu kom den hellige Julefest. Bonden reiste tæt ved Muren en Stang og bandt et utærsket Havreknippe derpaa, at Himmelens Fugle ogsaa kunde have en glad Juul og et glædeligt Maaltid i denne Frelserens Tid.

Og Solen stod op Julemorgen og skinnede paa Havrekjærven og alle de qviddrende Fugle de fløi om Maaltids-Stangen, da klang det ogsaa fra Muren »pi, pi!« den svulmende Tanke blev til Lyd, den svage Pippen var en heel Glædeshymne, en god Gjernings Tanke var vakt og Fuglen fløi ud fra sit Skjul; i Himmeriges Rige vidste de nok hvad det var for en Fugl!

Vinteren tog alvorlig fat, Vandene vare dybt frosne, Fuglene og Skovens Dyr havde deres trange Tid paa Føden. Den lille Fugl fløi hen paa Landeveien, og der i Sporene af Slæderne søgte og fandt den ogsaa hist og her et Korn, paa Bedestederne fandt den et Par Brødsmuler, af dem aad den kun en enkelt, men kaldte paa alle de andre forsultne Spurve, at de her kunde finde Føde. Den fløi til Byerne, speidede rundt om, og hvor en kjærlig Haand havde strøet Brød ved Vinduet til Fuglene, der aad den selv kun en enkelt Smule, men gav Alt til de Andre.

I Vinterens Forløb havde Fuglen samlet og givet saa mange Brødsmuler, at de veiede op tilsammen med hele det Brød, som lille Inger havde traadt paa for ikke at smudske sine Skoe, og da den sidste Brødsmule var funden og given bort, blev Fuglens graae Vinger hvide og bredte sig ud.

»Der flyver hen over Søen en Terne!« sagde Børnene, der saae den hvide Fugl; nu dykkede den sig ned i Søen, nu løftede den sig i det klare Solskin, den skinnede, det var ikke muligt at see hvor den blev af, de sagde, at den fløi lige ind i Solen.

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