The elf of the rose



In the midst of a garden grew a rose-tree, in full blossom, and in the prettiest of all the roses lived an elf. He was such a little wee thing, that no human eye could see him. Behind each leaf of the rose he had a sleeping chamber. He was as well formed and as beautiful as a little child could be, and had wings that reached from his shoulders to his feet. Oh, what sweet fragrance there was in his chambers! and how clean and beautiful were the walls! for they were the blushing leaves of the rose.

During the whole day he enjoyed himself in the warm sunshine, flew from flower to flower, and danced on the wings of the flying butterflies. Then he took it into his head to measure how many steps he would have to go through the roads and cross-roads that are on the leaf of a linden-tree. What we call the veins on a leaf, he took for roads; ay, and very long roads they were for him; for before he had half finished his task, the sun went down: he had commenced his work too late. It became very cold, the dew fell, and the wind blew; so he thought the best thing he could do would be to return home. He hurried himself as much as he could; but he found the roses all closed up, and he could not get in; not a single rose stood open. The poor little elf was very much frightened. He had never before been out at night, but had always slumbered secretly behind the warm rose-leaves. Oh, this would certainly be his death. At the other end of the garden, he knew there was an arbor, overgrown with beautiful honey-suckles. The blossoms looked like large painted horns; and he thought to himself, he would go and sleep in one of these till the morning. He flew thither; but "hush!" two people were in the arbor,– a handsome young man and a beautiful lady. They sat side by side, and wished that they might never be obliged to part. They loved each other much more than the best child can love its father and mother.

"But we must part," said the young man; "your brother does not like our engagement, and therefore he sends me so far away on business, over mountains and seas. Farewell, my sweet bride; for so you are to me."

And then they kissed each other, and the girl wept, and gave him a rose; but before she did so, she pressed a kiss upon it so fervently that the flower opened. Then the little elf flew in, and leaned his head on the delicate, fragrant walls. Here he could plainly hear them say, "Farewell, farewell;" and he felt that the rose had been placed on the young man's breast. Oh, how his heart did beat! The little elf could not go to sleep, it thumped so loudly. The young man took it out as he walked through the dark wood alone, and kissed the flower so often and so violently, that the little elf was almost crushed. He could feel through the leaf how hot the lips of the young man were, and the rose had opened, as if from the heat of the noonday sun.

There came another man, who looked gloomy and wicked. He was the wicked brother of the beautiful maiden. He drew out a sharp knife, and while the other was kissing the rose, the wicked man stabbed him to death; then he cut off his head, and buried it with the body in the soft earth under the linden-tree.

"Now he is gone, and will soon be forgotten," thought the wicked brother; "he will never come back again. He was going on a long journey over mountains and seas; it is easy for a man to lose his life in such a journey. My sister will suppose he is dead; for he cannot come back, and she will not dare to question me about him."

Then he scattered the dry leaves over the light earth with his foot, and went home through the darkness; but he went not alone, as he thought,– the little elf accompanied him. He sat in a dry rolled-up linden-leaf, which had fallen from the tree on to the wicked man's head, as he was digging the grave. The hat was on the head now, which made it very dark, and the little elf shuddered with fright and indignation at the wicked deed.

It was the dawn of morning before the wicked man reached home; he took off his hat, and went into his sister's room. There lay the beautiful, blooming girl, dreaming of him whom she loved so, and who was now, she supposed, travelling far away over mountain and sea. Her wicked brother stopped over her, and laughed hideously, as fiends only can laugh. The dry leaf fell out of his hair upon the counterpane; but he did not notice it, and went to get a little sleep during the early morning hours. But the elf slipped out of the withered leaf, placed himself by the ear of the sleeping girl, and told her, as in a dream, of the horrid murder; described the place where her brother had slain her lover, and buried his body; and told her of the linden-tree, in full blossom, that stood close by.

"That you may not think this is only a dream that I have told you," he said, "you will find on your bed a withered leaf."

Then she awoke, and found it there. Oh, what bitter tears she shed! and she could not open her heart to any one for relief.

The window stood open the whole day, and the little elf could easily have reached the roses, or any of the flowers; but he could not find it in his heart to leave one so afflicted. In the window stood a bush bearing monthly roses. He seated himself in one of the flowers, and gazed on the poor girl. Her brother often came into the room, and would be quite cheerful, in spite of his base conduct; so she dare not say a word to him of her heart's grief.

As soon as night came on, she slipped out of the house, and went into the wood, to the spot where the linden-tree stood; and after removing the leaves from the earth, she turned it up, and there found him who had been murdered. Oh, how she wept and prayed that she also might die! Gladly would she have taken the body home with her; but that was impossible; so she took up the poor head with the closed eyes, kissed the cold lips, and shook the mould out of the beautiful hair.

"I will keep this," said she; and as soon as she had covered the body again with the earth and leaves, she took the head and a little sprig of jasmine that bloomed in the wood, near the spot where he was buried, and carried them home with her. As soon as she was in her room, she took the largest flower-pot she could find, and in this she placed the head of the dead man, covered it up with earth, and planted the twig of jasmine in it.

"Farewell, farewell," whispered the little elf. He could not any longer endure to witness all this agony of grief, he therefore flew away to his own rose in the garden. But the rose was faded; only a few dry leaves still clung to the green hedge behind it.

"Alas! how soon all that is good and beautiful passes away," sighed the elf.

After a while he found another rose, which became his home, for among its delicate fragrant leaves he could dwell in safety. Every morning he flew to the window of the poor girl, and always found her weeping by the flower pot. The bitter tears fell upon the jasmine twig, and each day, as she became paler and paler, the sprig appeared to grow greener and fresher. One shoot after another sprouted forth, and little white buds blossomed, which the poor girl fondly kissed. But her wicked brother scolded her, and asked her if she was going mad. He could not imagine why she was weeping over that flower-pot, and it annoyed him. He did not know whose closed eyes were there, nor what red lips were fading beneath the earth. And one day she sat and leaned her head against the flower-pot, and the little elf of the rose found her asleep. Then he seated himself by her ear, talked to her of that evening in the arbor, of the sweet perfume of the rose, and the loves of the elves. Sweetly she dreamed, and while she dreamt, her life passed away calmly and gently, and her spirit was with him whom she loved, in heaven. And the jasmine opened its large white bells, and spread forth its sweet fragrance; it had no other way of showing its grief for the dead. But the wicked brother considered the beautiful blooming plant as his own property, left to him by his sister, and he placed it in his sleeping room, close by his bed, for it was very lovely in appearance, and the fragrance sweet and delightful. The little elf of the rose followed it, and flew from flower to flower, telling each little spirit that dwelt in them the story of the murdered young man, whose head now formed part of the earth beneath them, and of the wicked brother and the poor sister. "We know it," said each little spirit in the flowers, "we know it, for have we not sprung from the eyes and lips of the murdered one. We know it, we know it," and the flowers nodded with their heads in a peculiar manner. The elf of the rose could not understand how they could rest so quietly in the matter, so he flew to the bees, who were gathering honey, and told them of the wicked brother. And the bees told it to their queen, who commanded that the next morning they should go and kill the murderer. But during the night, the first after the sister's death, while the brother was sleeping in his bed, close to where he had placed the fragrant jasmine, every flower cup opened, and invisibly the little spirits stole out, armed with poisonous spears. They placed themselves by the ear of the sleeper, told him dreadful dreams and then flew across his lips, and pricked his tongue with their poisoned spears. "Now have we revenged the dead," said they, and flew back into the white bells of the jasmine flowers. When the morning came, and as soon as the window was opened, the rose elf, with the queen bee, and the whole swarm of bees, rushed in to kill him. But he was already dead. People were standing round the bed, and saying that the scent of the jasmine had killed him. Then the elf of the rose understood the revenge of the flowers, and explained it to the queen bee, and she, with the whole swarm, buzzed about the flower-pot. The bees could not be driven away. Then a man took it up to remove it, and one of the bees stung him in the hand, so that he let the flower-pot fall, and it was broken to pieces. Then every one saw the whitened skull, and they knew the dead man in the bed was a murderer. And the queen bee hummed in the air, and sang of the revenge of the flowers, and of the elf of the rose and said that behind the smallest leaf dwells One, who can discover evil deeds, and punish them also.
Midt i en have voksede der et rosentræ, der var ganske fuldt af roser, og i en af disse, den smukkeste af dem alle, boede en alf; han var så lille bitte, at intet menneskeligt øje kunne se ham; bag hvert blad i rosen havde han et sovekammer; han var så velskabt og dejlig som noget barn kunne være og havde vinger fra skuldrene lige ned til fødderne. Oh, hvor der var en duft i hans værelser, og hvor væggene var klare og smukke! de var jo de blegrøde fine rosenblade.

Hele dagen fornøjede han sig i det varme solskin, fløj fra blomst til blomst, dansede på vingerne af den flyvende sommerfugl og målte hvor mange skridt han måtte gå, for at løbe hen over alle de landeveje og stier, der var på et eneste lindeblad. Det var hvad vi kalder årerne i bladet, som han anså for landeveje og stier; ja det var da evige veje for ham! før han blev færdig, gik solen ned; han havde også begyndt så sildigt.

Det blev så koldt, duggen faldt og vinden blæste; nu var det nok bedst at komme hjem; han skyndte sig alt hvad han kunne, men rosen havde lukket sig, han kunne ikke komme ind - ikke en eneste rose stod åben; den stakkels lille alf blev så forskrækket, han havde aldrig været ude om natten før, altid sovet så sødt bag de lune rosenblade, oh, det ville vist blive hans død!

I den anden ende af haven, vidste han, var en løvhytte, med dejlige kaprifolier, blomsterne så ud som store bemalede horn: I et af disse ville han stige ned og sove til i morgen.

Han fløj derhen. Tys! der var to mennesker derinde; en ung smuk mand og den dejligste jomfru; de sad ved siden af hinanden og ønskede, at de aldrig i evighed måtte skilles ad; de holdt så meget af hinanden, langt mere, end det bedste barn kan holde af sin moder og fader.

"Dog må vi skilles!" sagde den unge mand; "Din broder er os ikke god, derfor sender han mig i et ærinde så langt bort over bjerge og søer! Farvel min søde brud, for det er du mig dog!"

Og så kyssede de hinanden, og den unge pige græd og gav ham en rose; men før hun rakte ham den, trykkede hun et kys på den, så fast og inderligt, så blomsten åbnede sig: Da fløj den lille alf ind i den, og hældede sit hoved op til de fine duftende vægge; men han kunne godt høre, at der blev sagt farvel, farvel! og han følte, at rosen fik plads på den unge mands bryst - oh, hvor dog hjertet bankede derinde! den lille alf kunne slet ikke falde i søvn, sådan bankede det.

Længe lå rosen ikke stille på brystet, manden tog den frem og mens han gik ene gennem den mørke skov, kyssede han blomsten, oh, så tit og stærkt, at den lille alf var nær ved at blive trykket ihjel; han kunne føle gennem bladet, hvor mandens læber brændte, og rosen selv havde åbnet sig som ved den stærkeste middagssol.

Da kom der en anden mand, mørk og vred, han var den smukke piges onde broder; en kniv så skarp og stor tog han frem, og mens den anden kyssede rosen, stak den onde mand ham ihjel, skar hans hoved af og begravede det med kroppen i den bløde jord under lindetræet.

"Nu er han glemt og borte," tænkte den onde broder; "han kommer aldrig mere tilbage. En lang rejse skulle han gøre, over bjerge og søer, da kan man let miste livet, og det har han. Han kommer ikke mere, og mig tør min søster aldrig spørge om ham."

Så ragede han med foden visne blade hen over den opgravede jord og gik hjem igen i den mørke nat; men han gik ikke alene, som han troede: Den lille alf fulgte med, den sad i et vissent, sammenrullet lindeblad, der var faldet den onde mand i håret da han gravede graven. Hatten var nu sat ovenpå, der var så mørkt derinde, og alfen rystede af skræk og vrede over den fæle gerning. -

I morgenstunden kom den onde mand hjem; han tog sin hat af og gik ind i søsterens sovekammer; der lå den smukke blomstrende pige og drømte om ham, hun holdt så meget af og som hun nu troede gik over bjerge og gennem skove; og den onde broder bøjede sig over hende og lo fælt, som en djævel kan le; da faldt det visne blad af hans hår ned på sengetæppet, men han mærkede det ikke og gik ud, for selv at sove lidt i morgenstunden. Men alfen smuttede ud af det visne blad, gik ind i øret på den sovende pige og fortalte hende, som i en drøm, det skrækkelige mord, beskrev hende stedet, hvor broderen havde dræbt ham og lagt hans lig, fortalte om det blomstrende lindetræ tæt ved og sagde: "For at du ikke skal tro, det bare er en drøm, jeg har fortalt dig, så vil du finde på din seng et vissent blad!" og det fandt hun, da hun vågnede.

Oh, hvor græd hun ikke de salte tårer! og til ingen turde hun sige sin sorg. Vinduet stod hele dagen åbent, den lille alf kunne let komme ud i haven til roserne og alle de andre blomster, men han nænnede ikke at forlade den bedrøvede. I vinduet stod et træ med månedsroser, i en af blomsterne der satte han sig og så på den stakkels pige. Hendes broder kom mange gange ind i kamret, og han var så lystig og ond, men hun turde ikke sige et ord om sin store hjertesorg.

Så snart det blev nat, listede hun sig ud af huset, gik i skoven til det sted, hvor lindetræet stod, rev bladene bort fra jorden, gravede ned i den og fandt straks ham der var slået ihjel, oh, hvor hun græd, og bad Vorherre, at hun også snart måtte dø. -

Gerne ville hun føre liget med sig hjem men det kunne hun ikke; så tog hun det blege hoved med de lukkede øjne, kyssede den kolde mund og rystede jorden af hans dejlige hår. "Det vil jeg eje!" sagde hun, og da hun havde lagt jord og blade på det døde legeme, tog hun hovedet med sig hjem og en lille gren af det jasmintræ, der blomstrede i skoven, hvor han var dræbt.

Så snart hun var i sin stue, hentede hun den største blomsterpotte, der var at finde, i den lagde hun den dødes hoved, kom jord derpå og plantede så jasmingrenen i potten.

"Farvel! farvel!" hviskede den lille alf, han kunne ikke længere holde ud at se al den sorg, og fløj derfor ud i haven til sin rose; men den var afblomstret, der hang kun nogle blege blade ved den grønne hyben.

"Ak hvor det dog snart er forbi med alt det skønne og gode!" sukkede alfen. Til sidst fandt han en rose igen, den blev hans hus, bag dens fine duftende blade kunne han bygge og bo.

Hver morgenstund fløj han til den stakkels piges vindue, og der stod hun altid ved blomsterpotten og græd; de salte tårer faldt på jasmingrenen, og for hver dag som hun blev blegere og blegere stod grenen mere frisk og grøn, det ene skud voksede frem efter det andet, der kom små hvide knopper til blomster og hun kyssede dem, men den onde broder skændte og spurgte, om hun var blevet fjantet? han kunne ikke lide og ikke begribe hvorfor hun altid græd over den blomsterpotte. Han vidste jo ikke, hvilke øjne der var lukket og hvilke røde læber der var blevet jord; og hun bøjede sit hoved op til blomsterkrukken og den lille alf fra rosen fandt hende sådan blundende; da steg han ind i hendes øre, fortalte om aftnen i løvhytten, om rosens duft, og alfernes kærlighed; hun drømte så sødt, og mens hun drømte, svandt livet bort: Hun var død en stille død, hun var i Himmelen hos ham, hun havde kær.

Og jasminblomsterne åbnede deres store hvide klokker, de duftede så forunderligt sødt: Anderledes kunne de ikke græde over den døde.

Men den onde broder så på det smukke blomstrende træ, tog det til sig, som et arvegods, og satte det ind i sit sovekammer, tæt ved sengen, for det var dejligt at se på og duften var så sød og liflig. Den lille rosenalf fulgte med, fløj fra blomst til blomst, i hver boede jo en lille sjæl, og denne fortalte han om den dræbte unge mand, hvis hoved nu var jord under jorden, fortalte om den onde broder og den stakkels søster.

"Vi ved det!" sagde hver sjæl i blomsterne, "vi ved det! er vi ikke vokset frem af den dræbtes øjne og læber! vi ved det! vi ved det!" og så nikkede de så underligt med hovedet.

Rosenalfen kunne ikke forstå sig på, hvorledes de kunne være så rolige, og han fløj ud til bierne, som samlede honning, fortalte dem historien om den onde broder, og bierne sagde det til deres dronning, der bød, at de alle næste morgen skulle dræbe morderen.

Men natten forud, det var den første nat efter søsterens død, da broderen sov i sin seng tæt ved det duftende jasmintræ, åbnede hvert blomsterbæger sig, og usynlige, men med giftige spyd, steg blomstersjælene ud og de satte sig først ved hans øre og fortalte ham onde drømme, fløj derpå over hans læber og stak hans tunge med de giftige spyd. "Nu har vi hævnet den døde!" sagde de og søgte igen tilbage i jasminens hvide klokker.

Da det blev morgen, og vinduet til sovekamret med ét blev revet op, fór rosenalfen med bidronningen og den hele sværm bier ind, for at dræbe ham.

Men han var allerede død; der stod folk rundt omkring sengen og de sagde: "Jasminduften har dræbt ham!"

Da forstod rosenalfen blomsternes hævn, og han fortalte det til biernes dronning, og hun surrede med hele sin sværm om blomsterkrukken; bierne var ikke til at forjage; da tog en mand blomsterkrukken bort og en af bierne stak hans hånd, så han lod krukken falde og gå itu.

Da så de det hvide dødningehoved, og de vidste, at den døde i sengen var en morder.

Og bidronningen surrede i luften og sang om blomsternes hævn og om rosenalfen, og at bag det mindste blad bor en, som kan fortælle og hævne det onde!

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