november 25, 2005

The house troll at Töreby

Once, as a child, I travelled past an old manor, where there was known to be a house troll. The estate was very isolated and ugly on a bare lake shore. There was no garden around the high white manor house, just a couple of untrimmed trees. It was the saddest place I ever saw. But it looked prosperous. The outhouses were large and well built, while the crops stood so thick in the fields that I can see them still today.

The most astonishing thing was the neatness everywhere. I remember that we drove slowly past the estate to see how well the ditches had been dug, how straight the roads were, and how solidly the bridges were built. We noticed the pretty painted boats that rocked by the shore, and an extraordinarily long washing jetty that ran straight out into the lake. “It must be the house troll who wants to them rinse their clothes out in the really deep water and not in the shallows by the shore”, we said.

There was no one who doubted that everything was the way it was on that estate for the sake of the house troll, nor that the people who lived there believed in him. It was for fear of the house troll that niether twig nor straw might blemish the yard, that the barn was polished like an ornament, and the fields were like flowerbeds.

The house troll had been there since the beginning, and since the beginning there had been stories told about him. Here I will tell you one of them, which was supposed to have happened about two hundred years ago.

In the dark of an autumn night, rain poured down the gray wooden walls, for in those days the manor house was neither painted nor faced with planks, and there was a wind which grabbed the branches of the wild apple tree that stood by the eaves and beat them against the roof.

An owl came buffeted on the worst of the storm. She had her nest in under the beams of one of the great attics, usually flew in through a crack under the roof. But before she could find the opening the wind grabbed her, fluffed up her coat of feathers till she looked like a little round ball, and banged her against the side of the house a couple of times. The she abandoned her attempts to come in, and perched in stead in the wild apple tree, where she shrieked all night long.

Inside the building it was very quiet and still, but from the light which slipped out through the cracks in the shutters it was clear that the inhabitants were still up. Now and again came bursts of shouting and loud laughter then it would be quiet as a grave once more.

Around eleven the old housekeeper came out unto the entry hall. She was wearing her outdoor clothes, and at her side were the keys that she kept with her day and night. The heavy door was shut with four different locks, and it was long before the old woman could open it. As soon as she had the door ajar, the wind took its chance, slammed the door open against the wall, throw a bucket of rain in her face, and spun around among the rag rugs on the floor so that they writhed like snakes.

The old woman hauled shut the door after her, and staggered out into the night. She walked quickly, as if pursued by some great terror, and muttered, over and over, “Lord preserve us!” “Lord preserve us!”

She lit her way with a horn lantern, but she was was so preoccupied with her terrifying thoughts that she ignored what the lantern showed her, and splashed through puddles she could easily have avoided. Again and again, i her confusion, she turned off the beaten path and climbed a bank of lawn to a thorny hedge, which tore her clothes. She seemed not to notice any of this. She rushed uninterruptedly onwards, still muttering “Lord preserve us!” “Lord preserve us!”

At least she reached the stable block. He climbed to stairs to the loft, which clung, narrow, and frail, to the outside of the building, and stopped at the entrance to the hayloft. There was a glimmer of light inside the door, and as the housekeeper leaned forward, she could see into a little room, whose walls were hung with reins and bridles, saddles and girths. It wasn’t really a room at all: just an alcove off the hayloft. The hay bulged in through gaps in the sparse plank partition and in the middle of the floor was a large open trapdoor to the stables. On a bed in a corner sat the old coachman. He held a taper up s he could read God’s word. He sat there, as if the storm were too noisy to sleep in. He kept raising his head from the book to listen to the storm, the rain, and the shrieking of the owl.

Posted by andrewb at november 25, 2005 07:35 FM | TrackBack
Well thank goodness your going to give us more. I was left in a state of high suspense at the end there. I love some of the constructions... "it was long before she could open it". Give such a flavour. Posted by: qB at november 25, 2005 10:51 FM
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