december 04, 2005

Order restored

Captain Silfverbrandt lay very pale, huddled into one corner of the bed. “Did you see him?” he asked.

“No”, said the housekeeper, as she always would. It was not right to admit one had ever seen the house troll. He wasn’t supposed to approve.

“It was the Old Father”, said the Captain. “He left just as you came in,,l He had been here, and diced with me. “

The housekeeper just stood and started at the lord of the manor.

“The Old Father isn’t very happy with me” said the Captain, “He would prefer that my brother took over the estate. Perhaps the servants would prefer this too.”

The Captain looked far beyond her as he said this. The old woman did not know how to reply. He continued, sounding almost calm.

“Well, I got old Duwe out of the estate in the end. I had thought I would thank the Old Father for his help by restoring the estate the way he wants it, but he doesn’t really trust me. He makes the strangest bets ... He’s worse than Duwe, you know.”

The housekeeper began to tremble and mutter as she had in the night “Lord preserve us!”

“Don’t stand there faffing around, woman” said Silfverbrandt. “Get a move on and bring me my uniform. Make sure it’s sparkling clean, with all the buttons polished and the facings shining. I want boots I can see my face in. Then bring my charger, in his best harness. The mane must be combed out; the stirrups must glitter, and the reins be polished.”

The housekeeper watched him, astonished, for a moment. Then she left, and returned almost at once with his dress uniform. On an estate like Töreby there was no question but that everything was kept up with spit and polish.

So Captain Silfverbrandt arose, and put on his blue uniform, with a three cornered hat, hung his sabre by his side, and drew on his long stiff gauntlets. He marched out onto the porch and mounted his charger, which was waiting, saddled and bridled, at his door.

Twice round the manor house he rode; and then he turned away, down to the lake, where, even in those days, the long jetty for washing clothes stretched out into the depths. He made such a splendid sight that all the servants came out to watch. Only the coachman and the housekeeper saw – but they saw it clearly – that the house troll leaned out of the hayloft and watched the lord of the manor ride.

When the Captain reached the shore of the lake, he turned out onto the long jetty. He sat as straight and proud as any captain of the hussars, and his charger walked with light, dancing steps. When they had ridden right to the end of the jetty, there was a brief disagreement between horse and rider. The horse wanted to turn, but captain Silfverbrandt used willpower, whip and spurs. The horse gave one huge jump into the water.

Everyone who had been watching from the yard came rushing down to the shore. But when they reached it, both horse and rider had disappeared. They had gone straight to the bottom, and never returned to the surface.

The young men took boats and rowed out across the lake. They all talked at once. Everyone knew what had to be done, though no one agreed with his neighbour. Only the old housekeeper kept her peace. “Nothing will help” she said quietly. “It is the house troll. The captain lost his life in the game they played this morning, as the stake for the help he had last night.”

When the men of the estate returned from the lake, shocked and frightened, the house troll made himself visible to everyone, where he stood in the opening to the hay loft, a little grey man waving his bright red cap in triumph. He knew now that sobriety, and discipline would return to Töreby.

Posted by andrewb at december 4, 2005 09:26 EM