THE NIX LABOUR
A MIDWIFE related that her mother was one night called up, and desired to make haste and come to the aid of a woman in labour. It was dark, but notwithstanding she got up and dressed herself, and went down, where she found a man waiting. She begged of him to stay till she should get a lantern, and she would go with him; but he was urgent, said he would show her the way without a lantern, and that there was no fear of her going astray.
He then bandaged her eyes, at which she was terrified, and was going to cry out; but he told her she was in no danger, and might go with him without any apprehension. They accordingly went away together, and the woman remarked that he struck the water with a rod, and that they went down deeper and deeper till they came to a room, in which there was no one but the lying-in woman.
Her guide now took the bandage off her eyes, led her up to the bed, and recommending her to his wife, went away. She then helped to bring the babe into the world, put the woman to bed, washed the babe, and did everything that was requisite.
The woman, grateful to the midwife, then secretly said to her: "I am a Christian woman as well as you; and I was carried off by a Water-man, who changed me. Whenever I bring a child into the world he always eats it on the third. day. Come on the third day to your pond, and you will see the water turned to blood. When my husband comes in now and offers you money, take no more from him than you usually get, or else he will twist your neck. Take good care!"
Just then the husband came in. He was in a great passion, and he looked all about; and when he saw that all had gone on properly he bestowed great praise on the midwife. He then threw a great heap of money on the table, and said, "Take as much as you will!" She, however, prudently answered, "I desire no more from you than from others, and that is a small sum. If you give me that I am content; if you think it too much, I ask nothing from you but to take me home again." "It is God," says he, "has directed you to say that." He paid her then the sum she mentioned, and conducted her home honestly. She was, however, afraid to go to the pond at the appointed day.
There are many other tales in Germany of midwives, and even ladies of rank, who have been called in to assist at Nix or Dwarf labours. The Ahnfrau von Ranzau, for example, and the Frau von Alvensleben--the Ladies Bountiful of Germany--were waked up in the night to attend the little women m their confinement. [a] There is the same danger in touching anything in the Dwarf as in the Nix abodes, but the Dwarfs usually bestow rings and other articles, which will cause the family to flourish. We have seen tales of the same kind in Scandinavia, and shall meet with them in many other countries.
[a] A tale of this kind is to be seen in Luther's Table-talk, told by die frau doctorin, his wife. The scene of it was the river Mulda.