A STORY FROM THE SAND-DUNES 719
The journey over the heath and the deep sand was only too quickly accomplished. They stopped,,before the house of mourning, where they found plenty of guests within and without. Wagon after wagon stood ranged in a row, and horses and oxen went out to crop the scanty pasture. Great sand-hills, like those at home by the North Sea, rose behind the house and extended far and wide. How had they come here, miles into the interior of the land, and as large and high as those on the coast ? The wind had lifted and carried them hither, and to them also a history was attached.
Psalms were sung, and a few of the old people shed tears ; beyond this, the guests were cheeiful enough, as it appeared to Jurgen, and there was plenty to eat and drink. Eels there were of the fattest, upon which brandy should be poured to bury them, as the eel breeder said ; and certainly his maxim was here carried out.
Jurgen went to and fro in the house. On the third day he felt quite at home, just as in the fisherman's hut on the sand-hills where he had passed his early days. Here on the heath there was certainly an unheard-of wealth, for the flowers and blackberries and bilberries were to be found in plenty, so large and sweet, that when they were crushed beneath the tread of the passers-by, the heath was coloured with their red juice.
Here was a grave-mound, and yonder another. Columns of smoke rose into the still air : it was a heath-fire, he was told, that shone so splendidly in the dark evening.
Now came the fourth day, and the funeral festivities were to conclude, and they were to go back from the land-dunes to the sand-dunes.
' Ours are the best,' said the old fisherman, Jurgen's foster-father ; ' these have no strength.'
And they spoke of the way in which the sand-dunes had come into the country, and it seemed all very intelligible.
A corpse had been found on the coast, and the peasants had buried it in the churchyard ; and from that time the sand began to fly and the sea broke in violently. A wise man in the parish advised them to open the grave and to look if the buried man was not lying sucking his thumb; for if so, he was a man of the sea, and the sea would not