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NEXT morning the Kalevide arose at dawn, and hurried on towards Lake Peipus, clearing and levelling the country as he went. When he arrived at the lake, there was no boat to be seen; so he girded himself, and plunged into it at a point where it was too wide to see the opposite shore, while the fish fled before him as he waded through.
On the shore opposite, a hideous sorcerer was hiding in the bushes. He was as bristly as a wild boar, with wide mouth and small oblique eyes.1 He was well skilled in all magic; he could make the wind blow from any quarter, could p. 73 remove ill from one man to cast it on another, and could cause quarrels between the best friends. He had evil demons at his beck and call; but for all that, he could cure all hurts and diseases when he pleased. But to-day he was in a bad humour, and blew a tremendous storm against the son of Kalev. Presently he saw a human form struggling through the waters, which reached to his girdle. Even at four or five miles’ distance the figure seemed as large as a man, and he appeared to be heavily laden. Sometimes the water hid him from view, but as he came nearer the form became ever huger and more terrible.
The Kalevide laughed at the raging storm, and said to the lake, “You nasty little puddle, you’re wetting my girdle.” He had taken scarcely an hour in his passage, when he reached the firm ground, carrying a load of planks which a horse or a pair of oxen could hardly have dragged along. He had brought them from Pleskau to build a refuge for his people; over twenty dozen planks, three inches thick, an ell broad, and ten yards long. He drew his sword to trim the timber, and the sorcerer determined to reward a himself for his late exertions in raising the tempest p. 74 by possessing himself of it; but this was no the time for action, and he slunk deeper into the shades of the forest.
The Kalevide was tired with his journey, and found a level place some little distance from the shore, so he brought a lapful of shingle from the beach and a quantity of sand, and made himself a comfortable bed in a dry spot. Then he refreshed himself with bread and milk from his wallet, loosed his girdle, laid his sword beside him, and soon fell asleep, with his head to the west and his feet to the east, that the first rays of the morning sun might shine in his eyes and awaken him. Presently the ground shook, and the woods re-echoed, and the billows of the lake rose in answer to his snoring, which sounded like the Thunder-God driving three-in-hand through the clouds.
The sorcerer now stole from his hiding-place, and advanced towards the sleeping giant with catlike steps; but he tried in vain to steal the good sword from its master’s side by his incantations. Neither commands nor supplications would avail, and he was forced to use stronger spells. So he scattered rowan-leaves, thyme, fern, and other magic herbs over the sword, and at last it inclined p. 75 towards the sorcerer, and he took it in his arms. The huge weapon weighed him to the ground, and he was only able to struggle along painfully under its weight, step by step, with the sweat pouring from his face; but still he would not relinquish his booty. Presently he came to the brook Käpä, and jumped over it; but the sword slipped from his arm, and sank in the mud in the deepest place. He renewed his incantations, but was now quite unable to repossess himself of the sword, and on the approach of dawn he fled into the forest, to hide from the vengeance of its owner.
When the Kalevide awoke, he rubbed the sleep out of his eyes and felt for his sword, but it had disappeared. He could see its traces where it had been dragged away, and he followed on its track, calling to the sword as to a brother, and beseeching it to answer him, and not to let him search in vain. But there was no reply, and then he tried a song, but still there was no reply, and he searched everywhere for the sword, till at last he saw it shining at the bottom of the water.
Then the Kalevide asked the sword who had stolen it and sunk it in the water, and the sword p. 76 sang in reply how the sorcerer had carried it off, and how it had slipped from his grasp into the water, into the embraces of the fairest of the water-nymphs. The Kalevide answered, “Does my sword prefer to lie in the arms of a water-nymph rather than to feel the grasp of a hero in battle?” The sword reminded the Kalevide of the terrible murder in Finland, which it declared it could never forget, and the hero abandoned the weapon to its sweet repose, saying that he relied on his own strength to overcome his enemies in battle. But he laid his commands on the sword that if any heroes of his race, Kalevides, Alevides, or Sulevides, should come to the spot, then the sword should address them in words. If a great singer came, the sword was to sing to him; if a hero as brave and as strong as the Kalevide himself should come to the brook, then the sword was to rise from its bed and join him; but if the man himself who had brought the sword there should come that way, then the sword was to cut off both his feet.
By this he meant the sorcerer, but he expressed himself ambiguously.
The son of Kalev then left the brook, took the boards on his back, and set out for home. On his p. 77 journey he passed through a pine forest which belonged to men, a leafy forest sacred to women, and a hazel thicket, the last refuge of the maidens, the orphans, and the sick. Here his foot touched something soft, which he found to be a man of about the stature of our present race, who was quaking with fear and besought his protection. The Kalevide took him up kindly by the hair, and dropped him into his wallet, where he fell as down a deep precipice, till he came to a stop among the bread and herrings at the bottom. Then the hero asked him what had frightened him so much.
Up from the bottom of the bag came a voice like the croaking of a frog from the bottom of a deep well, and this was the man’s story:—“Yesterday evening I was wandering on the shores of Lake Peipus, and lost my way. Presently I came to a footpath which led me to a poor hut, where I thought to find a night’s lodging. I came into a great, empty room, where an old woman was standing by the hearth preparing supper. She was cooking half a pig in a great pot with peas, and kindly gave me a cupful, but told me to eat my supper quick. As soon as I had finished, she told me to hide among the straw which she had laid under the table, and p. 78 to lie as still as a mouse, for if I only moved a finger after her sons returned, they would be sure to kill me. I thanked the good old woman, and crept into the straw, where three men could easily have hidden themselves; and I hoped to sleep. But presently I heard steps approaching which shook the house; and whether or not it was my fear that makes me think so, I fancy, noble scion of the Kalevides, that even your heavy tread never made such a noise.
“The two brothers rushed into the room like wild bears, and one of them sniffed about the room and said, ‘Mother, who has been here? I smell man’s sweat.’ ‘Nobody has even been near the house today, my son,’ answered the old woman. ‘If you smell anything, you must have brought the smell with you from out of doors.’
“Then she gave them their supper, and they ate as much as would have satisfied fifty of our race, and left something over. Then they laid themselves down on the hard floor, one on each side the table, while the old woman crept cautiously up the ladder to her couch above the stove.
“Poor wretch that I am! if I had ever expected to find myself in such a position, I would rather have drowned myself in the lake or thrown myself p. 79 over a precipice. I could not sleep a wink all night, and when the old woman opened the door in the morning I crept behind her, and fled through two woods till I reached the third, where you found me.”
This was the poor man’s story, and the Kalevide laughed heartily at the recital.
1 This is a well-known Mongol characteristic; and it is rather oddly attributed by Arabic writers to the Jinn. “Two of them appeared in the form and aspect of the Jarm, each with one eye slit endlong, and jutting horns and projecting tusks.”—Story of Tohfat-el-Kulub (Thousand and One Nights, Breslau edition).