januari 01, 2005

The wedding day

He had managed to avoid doing so, though it had not been easy. It was hard not to moisten himself with so much as a drop of water when he was out on the lake on hot summer days. When he went visiting, he hardly dared set a glass to his lips. There were people who laughed at everything like this, and they tried to fool him into drinking lake water, just for the fun of it. They couldn't really believe it meant anything to him. Even the lake trolls had sometimes tried to tempt him into breaking the ban. But so far he had been able to control himself, and everything had gone well for him, as prophesied. And many times -- innumerable times -- he had seen that the little mermaids, no larger than perch, who were lovely down to the waist, where their fish tails started, were swimming in whole schools round his boat where he lay at rest, bait fishing on warm summer evenings, and they would put one fish after another onto his hooks. And in the same way he had been helped by them in autumn, when gales has tangled his nets.

When the priest heard this story from Gille's own mouth it hadn't upset him as much as it did now, when he looked back on it. While Gille talked, he had clearly seen the lovely small V´┐Żrmland lakes with their bathing beaches and fishing grounds, where he himself had had his happiest hours as a boy. He thought that the water glittered and reflected all the way into the room in his own house: it rose gently and caressingly around him. He had felt as if Gille and his troll and the fishing and the easy life out on the lake all belonged together: he couldn't see anything shocking in it. He had almost been dowsy with the slapping of small waves. Nor had he really known whether Gille was serious or whether he would announce any moment that he had just been joking. Therefore the priest had said, in a matter of fact way, that it could be dangerous to accept help from creatures who don't belong to our world.

Gille had answered as before, that there was no danger for him so long as he didn't insult the water people by drinking water from the lake where he fished, for in that case he would pass into their hands. As things now were, he had had nothing but help and profit from them.

To illustrate this, he told the priest a story from his wedding.

On the day of his marriage, Gille had almost come late to the ceremony. He had arranged to borrow a horse from one of his neighbours, but the horse had fallen ill that very day, and Gille had stood there with no idea of what to do. Just then he had caught sight of a horse that was cropping the grass in the meadow on the shore. It was a fine beast, grey white and dappled, with a mane so long that it touched the ground as soon as the horse lowered its head, and a tail thick as a sheaf of rye. Gille had never seen the horse before, and didn't know who owned it, but desperate times call for desperate measures. He had to get hold of a horse; otherwise he would never get to his wedding on time. He tried to catch the strange horse, and that went easily enough. It condescended to be harnessed to the cart and pulled him all the way without fuss. Gill thought he noticed it had a curious gait and was badly trained, so that it didn't understand his signals and orders, but he sat in his bridegroom's thoughts and didn't take much notice of the horse: he was just happy if it kept walking forwards.

But when he had reached the wedding ground, people came running out of the house, and forgot both bride and bridegroom to look at the horse, and praise it and discuss it. No one could understand how Gille had got hold of such a creature. It must have grown up in a King's stable at the very least. Gille hurried to unharness it and placed it with the other horses. He laid out good hay for him,, thanked him for the lift, and fastened him with nothing more than an overhand knot. When the wedding was over, people had gone out for another look at the horse, but it had gone. Gille blamed himself because he hadn't tied him up securely, and said that the horse had probably run home. There in the wedding place he hadn't wanted to reveal that there was anything strange with the horse, but he himself had decided that is was none other than the Kelpie, which had done him the favour of being his horse on his wedding day.

He had told other stories as well, but it was that one more than any other which had persuaded him that he had friends under water, and did not need to fear them.

Posted by andrewb at januari 1, 2005 02:28 EM