In Midsummer Days
The Big Gravel-Sifter
The Pilot's Troubles
Photographer And Philosopher
Half A Sheet Of Foolscap
Conquering Hero And Fool
What The Tree-Swallow Sang In The Buckthorn Tree
The Mystery Of The Tobacco Shed
The Story Of The St. Gotthard
The Story Of Jubal Who Had No “I”
The Golden Helmets In The Alleberg
Little Bluewing Finds The Goldpowder
An excerpt from the beginning of the first story:
IN MIDSUMMER DAYS
IN Midsummer days when in the countries of the North the earth is a bride, when the ground is full of gladness, when the brooks are still running, the flowers in the meadows still untouched by the scythe, and all the birds singing, a dove flew out of the wood and sat down before the cottage in which the ninety-year-old granny lay in her bed.
The old woman had been bedridden for twenty years, but she could see through her window everything that happened in the farmyard which was managed by her two sons. But she saw the world and the people in her own peculiar manner, for time and the weather had painted her window-panes with all the colours of the rainbow; she need but turn her head a little and things appeared successively red, yellow, green, blue, and violet. If she happened to look out on a cold winter's day when the trees were covered with hoar-frost and the white foliage looked as if it were made of silver, she had but to turn her head a little on the pillow, and all the trees were green; it was summer-time, the ploughed fields were yellow, and the sky looked blue even if a moment before it had been ever so grey. And therefore the old granny imagined that she could work magic, and was never bored.
But the magical window-panes possessed another quality; they bulged a little and consequently they magnified or reduced every object which came into their field of vision. Whenever, therefore, her grown-up son came home in a bad temper and scolded everybody, granny had but to wish him to be a good little boy again, and straightway she saw him quite small. Or, when she watched her grandchildren playing in the yard, and thought of their future—one, two, three—she changed her position ever so slightly, and they became grown-up men and women, as tall as giants.
Ail during the summer the window stood open, for then the window-panes could not show her anything so beautiful as the reality. And now, on Midsummer Eve, the most beautiful time of all the year, she lay there and looked at the meadows and towards the wood, where the dove was singing its song. It sang most beautifully of the Lord Jesus, and the joy and splendour of the Kingdom of Heaven, where all are welcome who are weary and heavy laden.
The old woman listened to the song for a little while, and then she laid that she was much obliged, but that Heaven could be no more beautiful than the earth itself, and she wanted nothing better.
Thereupon the dove flew away over the meadow into the mountain glen, where the farmer stood digging a well. He stood in a deep hole which he had dug, three yards below the surface; it was just as if he were standing in his grave.
The dove settled on a fir tree and sung of the joy of Heaven, quite convinced that the man in the hole, who could see neither sky, nor sea, nor meadow, must be longing for Heaven.
“No,” said the farmer, “I must first dig a well; otherwise my summer guest will have no water, and the unhappy little mother will take her child and go and live elsewhere.”
The dove flew down to the strand, when the farmer's brother was busy hauling in the fishing-nets; it sat among the rushes and began to sing.
“No,” said the farmer's brother, “I must provide food for my family, otherwise my children will cry with hunger. Later on! Later on, I tell you! Let's live first and die afterwards.”
And the dove flew to the pretty cottage, where the unhappy little mother had taken rooms for the summer. She sat on the verandah, working at a sewing machine; her face was as white as a lily, and her red felt hat looked like a huge poppy on her hair, which was as black as a mourning veil. She was busy making a pinafore which her little girl was to wear on Midsummer Eve, and the child sat at her feet on the floor, cutting up little pieces of material which were not wanted.
“Why isn't daddy coming home?” asked the little girl, looking up.
That was a very difficult question, so difficult that the young mother could not answer it; and very possibly daddy could not have answered it either, for he was far away in a foreign country with his grief, which was twice as great as mammy's....