THE ELF-HILL 317
the invitations ? You must do something, as you don't keep any house yourself. We shall have some very distinguished friends, magicians who have something to say ; and so the old Elf King wants to make a display.'
1 Who 's to be invited ?' asked the night Raven.
1 To the great ball the world may come, even men, if they can talk in their sleep, or do something that falls in our line. But at the first feast there's to be a strict selection; we will have only the most distinguished. I have had a dispute with the Elf King, for I declared that we could not even admit ghosts. The merman and his daughters must be invited first. They may not be very well pleased to come on the dry land, but they shall have a wet stone to sit upon, or something still better, and then I think they won't refuse for this time. All the old demons of the first class, with tails, and the river man and the goblins we must have ; and then I think we may not leave out the grave pig, the death horse,1 and the church lamb ; they certainly belong to the clergy, and are not reckoned among our people. But that's only their office : they are closely related to us, and visit us diligently.'
* Bravo !' said the night Raven, and flew away to give the invitations.
The elf girls were already dancing on the elf-hill, and they danced with shawls which were woven of mist and moonshine ; and that looks very pretty for those who like that sort of thing. In the midst, below the elf-hill, the great hall was splendidly decorated ; the floor had been washed with moonshine, and the walls rubbed with witches' salve, so that they glowed like tulips in the light. In the kitchen, plenty of frogs were turning on the spit, snail-skins with children's fingers in them and salads of mushroom spawn, damp mouse muzzles, and hemlock ; beer brewed by the marsh witch, gleaming saltpetre wine from grave cellars : everything very grand ; and rusty nails and church window glass among the sweets.
1 It is a popular superstition in Denmark, that under every church that is built, a living horse must be buried ; the ghost of this horse is the death horse, that limps every night on three legs to the house where some one is to die. Under a few churches a living pig was buried, and the ghost of this was called the grave pig.