338 HOLGER THE DANE
best. But the most beautiful of all is old Kronborg ; and here it is that Holger the Dane sits in the deep dark cellar, where nobody goes. He is clad in iron and steel, and leans his head on his strong arm ; his long beard hangs down over the marble table, and has grown into it. He sleeps and dreams, but in his dreams he sees everything that happens up here in Denmark. Every Christmas-eve comes an angel, and tells him that what he has dreamed is right, and that he may go to sleep in quiet, for that Denmark is not yet in any real danger; but when once such a danger comes, then old Holger the Dane will rouse himself, so that the table shall burst when he draws out his beard ! Then he will come forth and strike, so that it shall be heard in all the countries in the world.'
An old grandfather sat and told his little grandson all this about Holger the Dane ; and the little boy knew that what his grandfather told him was true. And while the old man sat and told his story, he carved an image which was to represent Holger the Dane, and to be fastened to the prow of a ship ; for the old grandfather was a carver of figure-heads—that is, one who cuts out the figures fastened to the front of ships, and from which every ship is named. And here he had cut out Holger the Dane, who stood there proudly with his long beard, and held the broad battle-sword in one hand while with the other he leaned upon the Danish arms.
And the old grandfather told so much about famous Danish men and women, that it appeared at last to the little grandson as if he knew as much as Holger the Dane himself, who, after all, could only dream ; and when the little fellow was in his bed, he thought so much of it, that he actually pressed his chin against the coverlet, and fancied he had a long beard that had grown fast to it.
But the old grandfather remained sitting at his work, and carved away at the last part of it; and this was the Danish coat of arms. When he had done, he looked at the whole, and thought of all he had read and heard, and that he had told this evening to the little boy; and he nodded, and wiped his spectacles, and put them on again, and said,
6 Yes, Holger the Dane will probably not come in my