856 ' WILL-O'-THE-WISPS ARE IN THE TOWN '
* I wonder if the Story will ever come back again, and knock ?'
And he remembered it so well in all the various forms in which it had come to him, sometimes young and charming, like spring itself, sometimes as a beautiful maiden, with a wreath of woodruff in her hair, and a beechen branch in her hand, and with eyes that gleamed like deep woodland lakes in the bright sunshine.
Sometimes it had come to him in the guise of a pedlar, and had opened its pack and let silver ribbon come fluttering out, with verses and inscriptions of old remembrances.
But it was most charming of all when it came as an old grandmother, with silvery hair, and such large sensible eyes : she knew so well how to tell about the oldest times, long before the Princesses span with the golden spindles, and the dragons lay outside the castles, guarding them. She told with such an air of truth, that black spots danced before the eyes of all who heard her, and the floor became black with human blood ; terrible to see and to hear, and yet so entertaining, because such a long time had passed since it all happened.
' Will she ever knock at my door again ? ' said the man ; and he gazed at the door, so that black spots came before his eyes and upon the floor ; he did not know if it was blood, or mourning crape from the dark heavy days.
And as he sat thus, the thought came upon him, whether the Story might not have hidden itself, like the Princess in the old tale ? And he would now go in search of it : if he found it, it would beam in new splendour, lovelier than ever.
1 Who knows ? Perhaps it has hidden itself in the straw that balances on the margin of the well. Carefully, carefully ! Perhaps it lies hidden in a withered flower—that flower in one of the great books on the bookshelf/
And the man went and opened one of the newest books, to gain information on this point; but there was no flower to be found. There he read about Holger the Dane ; and the man read that the whole tale had been invented and put together by a monk in France, that it was a romance, ' translated into Danish and printed in that language * ; that Holger the Dane had never really lived, and conse-