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The following short stories relate to different classes of spirits of the air.
A CERTAIN nobleman was in the habit of driving away from his mansion every Thursday during hard winters, and not returning till towards morning. But he had strictly forbidden all his people to accompany him, or to receive him on his return. He himself harnessed the horse to the sledge, and unharnessed him when he returned. But no one was permitted to see the horse and carriage, and he threatened every one with death who should venture into his secret stable in the evening. During the day he carried the stable key in his bosom, and at night he hid it under his pillow.
But the nobleman’s coachman heeded not the strict prohibition of his master, for he was much too anxious to know where his master went every Thursday, and what the horse and carriage were like. So he contrived one Thursday to get into the stable, and he hid himself in a dark corner near the door.
He had not long to wait before his master came and opened the door. All at once it became as light as if many candles had been kindled in the great stable. The coachman crouched together in his corner like a hedgehog, for if his master had seen him, he would certainly have suffered the threatened punishment.
Then the master pushed the sledge forward, and it shone like a red-hot anvil.
But while the master went to fetch the horse, the coachman crept under the sledge.
The noble man harnessed the horse, and threw cloths over the horse and the sledge, that the people about the yard should not see the wonderful radiance.
Then the coachman crept quietly from under the sledge, and hid himself behind on the runners, where by good luck his master did not notice him.
When all was ready, the nobleman sprang into the sledge, and they went off so rapidly that the runners of the sledge resounded, always due north. After some hours, the coachman saw that the cloths were gone from the horse and sledge, which shone again like fire.
Now, too, he perceived that ladies and gentlemen p. 109 were driving up from all directions with similar sledges and horses. That was a rush and rattle! The drivers rushed past each other as though it was for a very heavy wager, or as if they were on their wedding journey. At last the coachman perceived that their course lay above the clouds, which stretched below them like smooth lakes.
After a time, the racers fell more and more behind, and the coachman’s master said to his nearest companion, “Brother, the other spirits of the Northern Lights are departing. Let us go too!”
Then the master and coachman drove fast home. Next day people said they had never seen the Northern Lights so bright as the night before.
The coachman held his tongue, and trusted no one with the story of his nocturnal journey. But when he was old and grey he told the story to his grandson, and so it became known to the people. And it was said that such spirits still exist, and that when the Northern Lights flame in the heavens in winter they hold a wedding in the sky.
1 In Canto xvi. of the Kalevipoeg, the spirits of the Northern Lights are described as carrying on mimic combats in the air.