Peiter, Peter, and Peer


Peiter, Peter og Peer

It is unbelievable all that children know nowadays; one can scarcely say what they don't know. They no longer believe the old story that the stork brought them to father and mother out of the well or the millpond when they were little, and yet it is really true.

But how did the little ones get down into the millpond or the well? Ah, not everyone knows that, but there are some who do. Have you ever gazed at the sky on a clear, starry night and watched the many shooting stars? It is as if the stars fall from and disappear into nowhere. Even the most learned persons can't explain what they don't know themselves; but one can explain this when he knows it. It is like a little Christmas-tree candle that falls from heaven and is blown out. It is a soul spark from our Lord that flies toward the earth, and when it reaches our thick, heavy air, it loses its brilliancy, becoming something that our eyes cannot see, something much finer than air itself; it is a little child from heaven, a little angel, but without wings, for it is to become a human child.

Softly it glides through the air, and the wind carries it into a flower, which may be an orchid, a dandelion, a rose, or a cowslip, and there it lies and rests itself. And so light and airy is it that a fly can carry it off, as, of course, a bee can, when they alternately come to seek the sweetness of the flower. If the little air child lies in their way, they do not brush it aside. That they wouldn't have the heart to do! They take it and lay it under the leaf of a water lily in the sunshine, and from there it crawls and creeps into the water, where it sleeps and grows until it is large enough for the stork to see and bring to a human family that has been longing for a sweet little child. But whether it becomes sweet or not depends on whether it has drunk pure clean water or has swallowed mud and duckweed the wrong way; that makes one so filthy!

The stork, always without preference, takes the first one he sees. One goes to kind and loving parents in a fine home; another comes to unpleasant people in such misery that it would have been much better for it to have remained in the millpond.

The little ones can never remember afterward what they dreamed while they were lying under the water-lily leaf, listening to the frogs in the evening singing, "Coax! Coax! Coax!" In human language that means, "Now you go to sleep and dream!" Nor can they remember the flower where they first lay, nor how it smelled; and yet there is always something inside them, even when they are grown people, which makes them say, "I like this flower the best." That's because it is the one in which they were placed when they were air children.

The stork lives to be a very old bird, and he always has interest in the little ones he has brought and watches how they get along in the world and how they behave themselves. Of course, he can't do much for them or change anything in their lives, for he has his own family to look after, but at least he never lets them get out of his thoughts.

I know a very worthy, honest old stork who has had a great deal of experience, and has brought many little ones out of the water, and knows their stories - in which there is always a little mud and duckweed from the millpond. I begged him to tell me the story of one of them, and he said I should have three instead of one, and all from the Pietersens' house.

The Pietersens were an extremely nice family; the father was one of the thirty-two members of the town council, and that was an honor; he was completely wrapped up in his work with the thirty-two councilmen. When the stork brought a little fellow to this home he was named Peiter; the next year the stork brought another, and they named him Peter, and when the third one came they called him Peer - for all three names - Peiter, Peter, and Peer - are parts of the name Pietersen. So there were three brothers here - three shooting stars - and each had been cradled in a flower, then laid under the water-lily leaf in the millpond, and brought from there by the stork to the Pietersen family, whose house is on the corner, as you surely know.

They grew in body and mind, and wanted to become something more than the thirty-two councilmen were. Peiter had decided he wanted to be a robber; he had just seen the play Fra Diavolo, and that had convinced him that a robber's life was the most delightful in the world. Peter wanted to be a trash collector. And Peer, who was such a sweet and good boy, round and plump, whose only fault was biting his nails, wanted to be "Papa." That was what each of them said he was going to be in life, whenever anybody asked them about it.

Then they went to school. One was at the head of the class, and one at the foot, and one in the middle, but in spite of that they could be equally good and clever, and they were, said their very clearsighted parents. The three went to children's parties; they smoked when nobody was watching. They gained knowledge and made acquaintances.

From the time he was quite small, Peiter was quarrelsome, just the way a robber ought to be. He was a very naughty boy, but his mother said that came from worms - naughty children always have worms - or from mud in the stomach. And one day his mother's new silk dress suffered from his obstinacy and naughtiness.

"Don't push the tea table, my good little lamb," she had said. "You might tip over the cream pitcher, and then I'd get spots on my new silk dress."

And so the "good little lamb" firmly took up the cream pitcher and firmly poured all the cream right into Mamma's lap. Mamma couldn't help saying, "Oh, lamb, lamb, that was careless of you, lamb!" But she had to admit that the child had a will of his own. A will means character, and that's very promising to a mother.

He might, of course, have become a robber, but he didn't, in the actual sense of the word; he only came to look like one, with his slouch hat, bare throat, and long, lank hair. He was supposed to be an artist, but he only got as far as the clothes. He looked like a hollyhock, and all the people he made drawings of looked like hollyhocks, so lanky were they. He was very fond of hollyhocks, and the stork said he had lain in that flower when he was an air child.

Peter must have lain in a buttercup. He looked buttery around the corners of his mouth, and his skin was so yellow that one would think that if his cheek were cut, butter would ooze out. He should have been a butter dealer, and could have been his own signboard; but on the inside he was a trash collector with a rattle. He was a musician of the Pietersen family - "musical enough for all of them," the neighbors said. He composed seventeen new polkas in one week, and then put them all together and made an opera out of them, with a trumpet and rattle accompaniment. Ugh! How delightful that was!

Peer was white and red, small and quite ordinary; he had lain in a daisy. He never hit back when the other boys beat him up; he said he was the most sensible, and the most sensible always gives way first.

He was a collector, first of slate pencils, and later of letter seals. Then he got a little cabinet of curiosities of natural history, in which were the skeleton of a stickleback, three blind baby rats preserved in alcohol, and a stuffed mole. Peer had a keen appreciation of science and an eye for the beauties of nature, and that was a comfort to his parents and to him, too. He preferred wandering in the woods to going to school, preferred nature to education.

Both his brothers were engaged to be married, but he could think of nothing but completing his collection of water-bird eggs. He knew much more about animals than he did about human beings; he even thought we could never reach the heights of the animals in the feeling we consider the loftiest of all - love. He saw that when the female nightingale was setting on the nest, Papa Nightingale would perch on a branch close by and sing to his little wife all night, "Kluk-kluk! Zi-Zi! Lo-lo-li!" Peer knew he could never do that or even think of doing such a thing. When Mamma Stork had her babies in the nest, Father Stork stood guard on the edge of the roof all night, on one leg. Peer couldn't have stood that way for an hour!

Then one day when he examined a spider's web, and saw what was in it, he gave up completely any idea of marriage. Mr. Spider weaves his web for catching thoughtless flies, old and young, fat and lean; he lives only to weave and to support his family. But Madam Spider lives only for him. Out of sheer love she eats him up; she eats his heart, his head, his stomach, until only his long thin legs are left in the web where he used to sit, anxious for the welfare of his family. Now that's the real truth, right out of the natural-history book! When Peer saw all this he grew very thoughtful; to be so dearly loved by a wife that she eats one up out of violent love? No! No human being could love like that, and would it be desirable, anyway?

Peer resolved never to marry, or even to give or take a kiss, for that might seem the first step toward marriage. But he did receive a kiss, anyway, the same kiss we all get someday, the great kiss of Death. When we have lived long enough, Death is given the order, "kiss him away," and so away the human goes. A ray of sunshine comes straight from our Lord, so bright that it almost blinds one. Then the soul that came from heaven as a shooting star goes back like a shooting star, but this time not to sleep in a flower or dream beneath the leaf of the water lily; it has more important things than that to do. It enters the great land of eternity; but what that is like and what it looks like there, no one can say. No one has looked into it, not even the stork, though he sees far and knows much.

The stork knew nothing more of Peer, whereas he could have told me lots more about Peiter and Peter. But I had heard enough of them, and I suppose you have, too, so I thanked him and bade him good-by for this time. But now he demands three frogs and a little snake as payment for this simple little story - you see, he takes his pay in food. Will you pay him? I can't; I have neither frogs nor snakes.
Det er utroligt alt, hvad børn i vor tid ved! man ved næsten ikke mere, hvad de ikke ved. At storken har hentet dem fra brønden eller mølledammen og bragt dem som små til fader og moder, er nu så gammel en historie, at de ikke tror på den, og det er dog den eneste rigtige.

Men hvorledes kommer de små i mølledammen og brønden? Ja, det ved ikke enhver, men nogle ved det dog. Har du rigtig betragtet himlen i en stjerneklar nat, set de mange stjerneskud, det er som en stjerne faldt og forsvandt! De lærdeste kan ikke forklare, hvad de ikke selv ved; men det kan forklares, når man ved det. Det er som et lille julelys faldt fra himlen og slukkedes; det er en sjælegnist fra Vorherre, som farer ned mod Jorden, og idet den kommer ind i vor tættere, tunge luft, svinder glansen, der bliver kun, hvad vore øjne ikke mægter at se, thi det er noget langt finere end vor luft, det er et himmelbarn, der sendes, en lille engel, men uden vinger, den lille skal jo blive menneske; stille glider den gennem luften, og vinden bærer den hen i en blomst; det kan nu være i en natviol, i en fandens mælkebøtte, i en rose eller i en begnellike; der ligger den og sunder sig. Luftig og let er den, en flue kan flyve med den, sagtens en bi, og de kommer skiftevis og søger efter det søde i blomsten; ligger nu luftbarnet dem i vejen, så sparker de det ikke ud, det nænner de ikke, de lægger det hen i solen i et åkandeblad, og derfra kravler og kryber det ned i vandet, hvor det sover og vokser, til storken kan se det og hente det til en menneskefamilie, som ønsker sig en sød lille en; men hvor sød eller ikke, beror på om den lille har drukket af det klare væld, eller om der er kommet mudder og andemad i vrangstruben; det gør så jordisk. Storken tager uden vrag den første, han ser. En kommer i et godt hus til mageløse forældre, en anden kommer til hårde folk i stor elendighed, det havde været meget bedre at blive i mølledammen.

De små husker slet ikke, hvad de drømte under åkandebladet, hvor om aftnen frøerne sang for dem: "Koaks, koaks! straks, straks!" det betyder i menneskesproget: "Vil I nu se, I kan sove og drømme!" De kan heller ikke huske, i hvilken blomst de først lå, eller hvorledes den duftede, og dog er der noget hos dem, når de bliver voksne mennesker, som siger: "Den blomst holder vi mest af!" og det er den, de lå i som luftbørn.

Storken bliver en meget gammel fugl, og altid giver han agt på, hvorledes det går de små, han har bragt, og hvorledes de skikker sig i verden; han kan rigtignok ikke gøre noget for dem eller forandre deres vilkår, han har sin egen familie at sørge for, men han slipper dem aldrig af tanke.

Jeg kender en gammel, meget honnet stork, som har store forkundskaber og har hentet flere små og ved deres historie, hvori der altid er lidt mudder og andemad fra mølledammen. Jeg bad ham at fortælle en lille levnedsbeskrivelse af en af dem, og så sagde han, at jeg skulle få tre for en fra Peitersens hus.

Det var en særdeles net familie, Peitersens; Manden var en af byens toogtredve mænd, og det var en udmærkelse; han levede for de toogtredve og gik op i de toogtredve. Her kom storken og bragte en lille Peiter, det blev barnet kaldt. Næste år kom storken igen med en til, ham kaldte de Peter, og da den tredje blev bragt, fik han navnet Peer, thi i navnene Peiter-Peter-Peer ligger navnet Peitersen.

Det var altså tre brødre, tre stjerneskud, vuggede hver i sin blomst, lagt hen under åkandebladet i mølledammen og derfra af storken bragt til familien Peitersen, hvis hus ligger på hjørnet, hvor du nok ved.

De voksede op i krop og tanke, og så ville de være noget endnu mere end de toogtredve mænd.

Peiter sagde, at han ville være røver. Han havde set komedien om "Fra Diavolo" og bestemt sig for røverhåndværket som det yndigste i verden.

Peter ville være skraldemand, og Peer, der var så sød og så artig en dreng, buttet og rund, men bed sine negle af, det var hans eneste fejl, Peer ville være "far." Det sagde nu hver, når man spurgte dem: hvad de ville være i verden.

Og så kom de i skole. En blev duks, og en blev fuks, og en kom midt imellem, men derfor kunne de jo være lige gode og lige kloge, og det var de, sagde deres meget indsigtsfulde forældre.

De kom på børnebal; de røg cigarer, når ingen så det; de tog til i kundskab og kendskab.

Peiter var fra lille af stridig, som jo en røver må være; han var en meget uartig dreng, men det kom af, sagde moderen, at han led af orm; uartige børn har altid orm: mudder i maven. Hans stivhed og stridighed gik en dag ud over moderens nye silkekjole.

"Stød ikke til kaffebordet, mit Guds lam!" havde hun sagt. "Du kunne vælte flødepotten, og jeg få stænk på min nye silkekjole!"

Og det "Guds lam" tog med fast hånd om flødepotten og hældte med fast hånd fløden lige i skødet på mama, der ikke kunne lade være at sige: "lam! lam! det var ikke besindigt, lam!" Men vilje havde barnet, måtte hun indrømme. Vilje viser karakter, og det er så lovende for en moder.

Han kunne ganske vist være blevet røver, men blev det ikke lige efter ordet; han kom bare til at se ud som røver: Gik med bulet hat, bar hals og lange, løse hår; han skulle være kunstner, men kom kun i klæderne, så dertil ud som en stokrose; alle de mennesker, han tegnede, så ud som stokroser, så lange var de. Han holdt meget af den blomst, han havde også ligget i en stokrose, sagde storken.

Peter havde ligget i en smørblomst. Han så så smørret ud om mundvigene, var gul i skindet, man måtte tro, at blev han skåret i kinden, da kom der smør ud. Han var som født til smørkræmmer, og kunne have været sit eget skilt, men inderlig, sådan inden i sig var han "skraldemand"; han var den musikalske del af den Peitersenske familie, "men nok for dem alle sammen!" sagde naboerne. Han lavede sytten nye polkaer i én uge og satte dem sammen til en opera med trompet og skralde; fy, hvor den var dejlig!

Peer var hvid og rød, lille og almindelig; han havde ligget i en gåseurt. Aldrig slog han fra sig, når de andre drenge bankede ham, han sagde, at han var den fornuftigste, og den fornuftigste giver altid efter. Han samlede først på grifler, siden på segl, så fik han sig et lille naturaliekabinet, hvori var skelettet af en hundestejle, tre blindfødte rotteunger i spiritus og en udstoppet muldvarp. Peer havde sans for det videnskabelige og øje for naturen, og det var fornøjeligt for forældrene og for Peer med. Han gik hellere i skoven end i skolen, hellere i naturen end i optugtelsen; hans brødre var allerede forlovede, da han endnu levede for at fuldstændiggøre sin samling af vandfugleæg. Han vidste snart meget mere om dyrene end om menneskene, ja mente, at vi ikke kunne nå op til dyret i det, vi sætter højest: kærlighed. Han så, at når hunnattergalen rugede på sine æg, sad far-nattergal og sang hele natten for sin lille kone: "Kluk! kluk! zi zi! lo lo li!" Det kunne Peer aldrig have udført eller hengivet sig til. Når storkemor lå med unger i reden, stod storkefar hele natten på ét ben på tagryggen, Peer kunne ikke have stået således en time. Og da han en dag betragtede edderkoppens væv og hvad der sad i det, så opgav han aldeles ægtestanden. Hr. Edderkop væver for at fange ubetænksomme fluer, unge og gamle, blodfyldte og vindtørre, han lever for at væve og ernære sin familie, men madame Edderkop lever ene og alene for fatter. Hun æder ham op af bare kærlighed, hun æder hans hjerte, hans hoved, hans mave, kun hans lange, tynde ben bliver tilbage i spindelvævet, hvor han sad med næringssorger for hele familien. Det er den rene sandhed lige ud af naturhistorien. Det så Peer, det tænkte han over, "således at elskes af sin kone, ædes af hende i voldsom kærlighed. Nej! så vidt driver intet menneske det; og ville det være ønskeligt?"

Peer besluttede aldrig at gifte sig! aldrig at give eller tage et kys, det kunne se ud som det første skridt til ægtestanden. Men et kys fik han dog, det, vi alle får, Dødens store smækkys. Når vi har levet længe nok, får Døden ordre: "Kys væk!" og så er mennesket væk; der lysner fra Vorherre et solblink, så stærkt, at det bliver én sort for øjnene; menneskesjælen, der kom som et stjerneskud, flyver igen hen som et stjerneskud, men ikke for at hvile i en blomst eller drømme under et åkandeblad; den har vigtigere ting for, den flyver ind i det store evighedsland, men hvorledes der er og ser ud, kunne ingen sige. Ingen har set derind, ikke engang storken, ihvor langt han end ser og ihvor meget han end ved; han vidste nu heller ikke det mindste mere om Peer, men derimod om Peiter og Peter, men dem havde jeg hørt nok om, og det har du vel også; så sagde jeg storken tak for denne gang; men nu forlanger han for denne lille, almindelig historie tre frøer og en snogeunge, han tager betaling i levnedsmidler. Vil du betale? Jeg vil ikke! Jeg har hverken frøer eller snogeunger.

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