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Viggo And Beate

from Boys And Girls Bookshelf - STORIES FROM IRELAND

Translated by Mrs. Gudrun Thorne-Thompson


There was once a girl, and her name was Beate. On her birthday her
father had given her a beautiful straw hat. Her mother had given her a
pair of yellow shoes and the daintiest white dress. But her old aunt had
given her the very best present of all; it was a doll, with a sweet face
and dark brown curls.

Oh, how Beate grew to love that doll, almost more than she loved Marie
and Louise, and they were her best friends.

One day Beate was walking in the yard with her doll in her arms. It had
a name now, and they had become fast friends. She had called her Beate,
her own name, and the name of her old aunt who had given her the

It was in the early Spring. There was a green spot in one corner of the
yard around the old well. There stood a big willow tree with a low
trunk, and it was covered with the little yellow blossoms that children
call "goslings."

They look like goslings, too, for each little tassel has soft yellow
down, and they can swim in the water.

Now, Big Beate and Little Beate soon agreed that they would pick
goslings from the tree and throw them into the well, so that these
might have just as good a time as the big geese and goslings that were
swimming about in the pond. It was really Big Beate who thought of this
first, but Little Beate agreed immediately; you can't imagine how good
she always was.

Now, Big Beate climbed up into the willow and picked many pretty yellow
goslings into her little white apron, and when she counted them she said
that now they had enough, and Little Beate thought so too.

Both of them ran over to the well, and Big Beate helped her little
friend to get her legs firmly fixed between the logs that were around
the well, so that she might sit in comfort and watch the little goslings
swim about on the water. Then gosling after gosling was dropped down,
and as soon as each one reached the water it seemed to become alive and
it moved about. Oh, what fun!

But after awhile the little goslings would not swim any longer, but lay
quite still. That was no fun at all, so Big Beate asked her namesake if
she didn't think she might lean a little over the edge of the well and
blow on them, for then she thought they might come to life again. Little
Beate didn't answer, but she raised her left eye-brow, saying, "Please
don't do that, dear Big Beate! Don't you remember, Mother has told us
how dark it is down there in the well? Think, if you should fall in!"

"Oh, nonsense; just see how easy it is," said Big Beate. She leaned out
over the wall and blew on the nearest ones. Yes, it helped--the goslings
began to swim again. But those that were farthest away didn't move at

"What stupid little things!" said Beate; and she leaned far, far out
over the edge of the well. Then her little hands slipped on the smooth
log--splash! Down she fell into the water. It was so cold, so icy cold,
and it closed over her head, and took the straw hat, which she had got
on her birthday, off her hair! She hadn't time to hear whether Little
Beate screamed, but I'm sure she did.

When Beate's head came up over the water again she grasped the round log
with both her hands, but the hands were too small, and the log too wide
and slippery, she couldn't hold on. Then she saw her dear friend, Little
Beate, standing stiff and dumb with fright, staring at her and with her
right arm stretched out to her. Big Beate hurriedly caught hold of her
and Little Beate made herself as stiff as she could, and stiffer still,
and stood there between the logs holding her dear friend out of the

Now Beate screamed so loudly that her father and mother heard her and
came running as fast as they could, pale and frightened, and pulled her
out. She was dripping wet, and so scared and cold that her teeth

Now they put Beate to bed, and Little Beate had to sleep with her. When
she had said her prayers she hugged her little friend and said: "Never,
never can I thank you enough, because you saved me from that horrible
deep well, dear Little Beate. You shall be my very best friend, always,
and when I grow up you shall be the godmother to my first daughter, and
I shall call her Little Beate for you."


Beate was now a year older. During that year she had lost Little Beate,
but she had never forgotten her.

Big Beate had many dolls given to her, but not one was like Little
Beate. No one was so sweet and good-natured, no one so pretty and

It was a Saturday, and the next day, Sunday, she expected her friends,
Marie and Louise, on a visit, for it was her birthday; therefore she
wanted to decorate her doll-house as prettily as she could.

Beate knew what to do. On the hillside by the Black Pond she remembered
that she had seen the prettiest little snail shells anyone might wish
for--round and fluted, with yellow and brown markings. They would be
just the thing for her bureau. She ran off to search for them, slipping
in and out through the hazel bushes, and picking empty shells by the

But all of a sudden she heard a bird utter such a weird cry from the
lake. She peeped out between the green branches and saw a big bird
swimming about. It had a long blue neck and a white breast, but its back
was shining black. It swam fast, and then suddenly dived and was gone.

Beate stood there and stared at the water, hoping to see the bird
come up again, but she waited and waited in vain. She was frightened,
thinking it was drowned, when she saw it shoot up again far away, almost
in the middle of the lake. Then it began to swim slowly toward a tiny
green island which lay there, and crept into the high weeds and grasses
that hung over the water.

Beate could not get tired of looking at the pretty little island. Willow
bushes grew out of the grass in some places, and in one end grew a
little white-barked birch tree. Beate thought she had never seen
anything half so lovely. It seemed just like a strange little land, all
by itself.

At last Beate remembered that she must hurry home. Again she peeped
through the leaves and branches to say good-night to the island,
when--think of it!--the little green island was gone.

She thought of goblins and fairies, and ran up the path to the top of
the hill as fast as she could. But when she got there she had to look
again. And she became more astonished than ever, for now she saw the
little green island again, but far from the place where she first saw
it. It was sailing slowly toward the southern end of the lake, and the
silver birch was its sail.

As soon as Beate reached home she found Anne, the nurse, and told her
what she had seen.

Anne knew all about the floating island: it had been on the lake for
many years, she said. But there were many strange things about it. One
thing she would tell, and that was, that if anyone stood on the floating
island and took a loon's egg out of the nest and wished for something,
that wish would come true, if the egg was put safely back into the nest
again. If you wished to become a Princess of England, your wish would
indeed be fulfilled, said old Anne. But there was one more thing to
notice: you must not talk about it to a living soul.

"Not even to Father and Mother?" asked Beate.

"No," said Anne, "not to a living soul."

Beate could think of nothing but the island all that evening, and when
she had closed her eyes she could dream of nothing else all night.

Just as soon as Beate got up in the morning she begged her father to row
her and Marie and Louise out to the floating island, when they came to
visit her in the afternoon, and that he promised.

But he also asked how she had happened to think of that, and what she
wanted there. Beate thought first that she would tell him everything,
but then she remembered Anne's words, and said only that she wished to
go out there because the little green island was so pretty.

"Yes, indeed, it is pretty, and you shall see a loon's nest too," said
the father.

Then Beate's face grew red, and the tears came to her eyes, for she knew
well enough about the loon's nest and about the eggs.

In the afternoon the father took the three little girls down to the
lake. Beate's friends thought this was the loveliest place they had ever
seen, and they begged the father to stop and get some of the pretty
water-lilies for them. But Beate was longing for the floating island.

The father rowed close up to the island and around it, and when he came
to the other side the loon plunged out of the reeds into the water and
was gone.

"There is the loon's nest," said the father.

What joy! The loon's nest was on the very edge of the little tiny
island, hidden among the grasses, and in the nest were two big
grayish-brown eggs, with black spots, larger than any goose eggs.

Marie and Louise shouted and laughed, but Beate felt strangely
frightened and was very quiet. She begged her father to let her stand on
the island, only a minute, and would he let her take one of the eggs in
her hand?

The father told her she must be very careful just lift the egg gently
between her two fingers, for if the bird noticed that the egg had been
touched she would not hatch it.

And now Beate stood on the green floating island. She was excited when
she bent down to pick up the grayish-brown egg, but lifted it carefully
between two fingers. Now she might wish for anything in the wide, wide

And what do you think she wished for? To become a Princess of England?
Oh, no, she knew something far better than that. Then her lips moved
softly, and she whispered to herself: "I wish that Little Beate was with
me once more, and would never, never leave me." Carefully she put the
egg back into the nest.

What was the pink something her eye now caught sight of among the tall
reeds close to the nest? It was her doll! Beate gave one shriek of joy.
"Little Beate, my own Little Beate," she sobbed, when she had her own
dearest friend in her arms again. She covered her with tears and kisses,
and held her tight in her arms as if she would never in the world let
her go.

Her father, Marie, and Louise stood by without saying a word. At last
the father kissed his little girl, and lifted her on to the raft again.

Such a birthday party as Beate had now! What did it matter that a year's
rains and snows had faded Little Beate's cheeks and bleached her brown
curls? She was the guest of honor, and sat on the prettiest chair. She
had all the cookies and chocolate that she wanted. She was petted and
loved; and at night, tired and happy, Big Beate slept with her little
friend in her arms.


Viggo was Beate's brother. He was 10 years old. Hans was Viggo's dearest
friend. The servants on the farm called the old Grenadier "Hans the
Watchdog," for they said when he talked to anyone it sounded like a dog
barking, and he looked as if he were ready to bite. But Viggo had once
said that the Grenadier's voice sounded like the rattle of a drum, and

the old soldier thought that was well said. It was from that time on
that Viggo and Hans were such good friends.

Hans the Grenadier was six feet two, and a little more. He was straight
as a stick. His hair was long and snowy white, and it hung in a braid
down his red soldier's coat.

When he came walking up to the farm from his little cottage he always
carried the ax on the left shoulder, like a gun, and marched stiff and
straight, and kept step as if the sergeant were marching right at his
heels, commanding "Left, right! Left, right!"

Viggo knew that sometimes Old Hans was willing to tell about the time he
served in the army. He told of the battles, and first and last about the
"Prince of 'Gustenberg."

"That was a man!" said Hans. "When he looked at you it was as if he
would eat you in one bite. And such a nose between the eyes! The Prince
of 'Gustenberg had a nose that shouted 'Get out of my way!' And
therefore they did get put of his way, too, wherever he showed himself.

"Do you know what the Prince of 'Gustenberg said when he spoke in front
of the troops? 'One thing is a shame,' said he, 'and that is to turn
your back before retreat is called.' And now you know what is a shame,
my boy!"

Viggo sat silent a little while.

"Have you never known a little boy to become a general?" he asked at

"No, I haven't, but I have known a drummer boy to become a sergeant. He
was not much bigger than you. He could do everything you can think of.
There was one thing, though, that was very hard for him to do, and that
was to beat 'Retreat.' 'Forward March' he knew how to drum; he never
forgot that, and sometimes he beat that instead of 'Retreat,' and the
captain got angry. Usually he wasn't punished either, because he had
once saved the captain's life with a snowball."

"With a snowball?" said Viggo.

"Yes, I said snowball; he did not use greater means. We were rushing up
a hill with the enemy in front of us. It was in Winter. The captain and
the drummer boy led the march; but as soon as they came to the top of
the hill there stood the enemy in line. 'Aim!' commanded the enemy's
officer, and all the guns pointed right at the captain. Quick as
lightning the drummer boy grabbed a handful of snow and made a snowball,
and, just as the officer opened his mouth to say 'Fire!' the drummer boy
threw the snowball straight into the open mouth. He stood there, mouth
wide open. Well, then the rest of us arrived and we had a hot fight."

"Then was he made a sergeant?" asked Viggo.

"Yes, when the Prince had heard of it. He was given the rank of a
sergeant, and something better even than that. The Prince called him 'my

"It was too bad that they didn't make him a general," said Viggo. He
added half aloud: "Do you think I might become a general, Hans?"

"Well, well, listen to the spring chicken!" said Hans. "So it is general
you want to be? Never mind, don't blush for that; it wasn't a bad
question. But it is very difficult, for you must learn much, oh, very

"Mathematics, you mean?" said Viggo. "I have learned some of that
already, and languages too."

"Yes, that is well enough, but you must learn much more; you must learn
to drill so that you don't make a mistake in a single movement."

"Then do you think I might become a general?" continued Viggo.

"Who knows? But it is difficult. The eyes are not bad, you have the
right expression. But the nose--no it has not the correct shape. But, of
course, it may grow and curve in time," said Old Hans.

After that Viggo learned to drill and march from his old friend; but he
often looked in the mirror and wished with all his heart that the nose
would curve a little more.


One afternoon Viggo was walking home from school with a bag of books on
his back. He marched straight as a stick, with a soldiery step. Old Hans
was standing outside the cottage waiting for him, and when Viggo halted
and saluted, the old man asked if he could guess what present there was
for him at the house.

"How does it look?" asked Viggo.

"It is brown," said Hans. "Now guess."

"Oh, I suppose it is nothing but a lump of brown sugar from Aunt Beate,"
said Viggo.

"Try again!" said Hans, and grinned. "It is dark brown, it walks on four
feet and laps milk."

"Is it the puppy the Captain has promised me? Is it?" cried Viggo, and
forgot all about standing straight and stiff before the Grenadier.

"Right about! Of course that's what it is," said Hans the Grenadier.

But Viggo turned a somersault instead of "Right about" and ran to the
house. On a piece of carpet close by the fireplace lay the little puppy,
and he was beautiful. The body was dark brown, but the nose and paws
were light brown, and he had a light brown spot over each eye. When
Viggo sat down on the floor beside him and stroked the soft fur, he
licked Viggo's hand. Soon they had become acquainted, and from that time
on Viggo watched, to see if the puppy grew, almost as carefully as he
watched his own nose to see if it had the proper curve so that he might
become a general.

In the night, Allarm lay by Viggo's bed, and in the daytime sat beside
him when he was studying his lessons. The puppy was not allowed to go
along to school, but he met Viggo every afternoon, and barked with joy
and wagged his tail.

One winter morning Hans the Grenadier and some of the farm hands were
going to the woods to haul timber with seven horses. Viggo had a holiday
that day, so he was allowed to go along. He put his rubber boots on, and
whistled for Allarm. The puppy jumped and barked when he noticed that
they were off for the woods. But Viggo's father said it would be best to
leave Allarm at home, for there were packs of wolves in the woods. Viggo
did not like to leave Allarm behind, but when his father said so of
course he must do it. He took the strap and tied Allarm to the leg of
the sofa. Then he put his old coat on the floor beside the dog, so that
he might be comfortable. But you can't imagine how Allarm whined and
howled when he understood that he was to be left tied up.

Viggo told his father that he could not stand it to have Allarm so sad,
happen what would, and he begged that he might take him along.

The father smiled, and said if Viggo wanted to risk it he must take good
care of the dog, and not let him out of his sight. Then they untied him,
and you may imagine Allarm's joy. He jumped and barked so that the
mother had to put her fingers in her ears.

The seven horses went in a line, one after the other, and Hans the
Grenadier and Viggo and Allarm walked behind the last one. The forest
was so still you could not hear the least sound except the horses' hoofs
crunching in the snow. Here and there Viggo saw the foot-prints of a
wolf beside the road. Then he always told Allarm to keep close by him,
and that he did.

But after awhile they left the road and turned into the thick forest.
Hans the Grenadier waded in front, and the snow reached to his knees;
then came the horses and the boys, one after the other, and at last

After a while they came to the logs and began to hitch them to the
horses. Then suddenly Viggo remembered Allarm; he had forgotten all
about the dog since they turned away from the road. He looked around
him, and just then he heard Allarm whine and howl somewhere in the
depths of the forest.

As quick as lightning he grabbed an ax which Old Hans had driven into a
stump, and rushed in through the trees in the direction from which the
howling came. It was not easy; the snow reached far above his knees, but
he noticed nothing: he only feared he would be too late. Once he had to
stop a little to draw breath, then again he heard the pitiful wail of
the dog, but now it sounded fainter. Off Viggo rushed again, and at last
he espied something between the trees. He did not see his dog, but three
wolves stood in a circle, heads turned toward the center; the fourth one
lay inside the ring and bit something in the snow.

Viggo shouted so that it thundered in the forest, and rushed against the
wolves with lifted ax. When he came within seven or eight feet of them,
the three grey-legs took fright and sneaked, tails between legs, far
into the forest; but the fourth, who lay on top of Allarm, hated to give
up his prey. It was a large yellow wolf, and it looked up at Viggo and
showed sharp, bloody teeth.

"Let go of Allarm! Let go of my dog, or I'll teach you!" he cried, and
swung the ax high above his head. Then grey-legs sneaked slowly away
after the others. He turned once and howled, and showed his teeth, and
then disappeared among the bushes.

Far down in a hole in the snow lay Allarm. He was so bitten that he
could not jump to his feet; and, when Viggo lifted him, the blood
dripped down on the snow. His whole body shivered, but he licked Viggo's

Just then Old Hans the Grenadier stood by Viggo's side. When he had
gained his breath after his hurried run, the old man cried very angrily:
"If I did what you deserve I should have to whip you. Do you think it
fit for a youngster like you to rush against a pack of wolves? If they
had eaten you up alive before you had a chance to make a sound, what
would you have said then?"

"Then I would have said: 'One thing is a shame, and that is to turn your
back before "retreat" is called,'" said Viggo, and looked sharply at the

"Well said, my boy! The nose has not quite the right curve yet, but the
eyes are there, and I do believe the heart, too," said Old Hans. He took
the dog from Viggo, and went home with both of them.


"Hurrah, the Black Pond is frozen! The ice is more than an inch thick,
and there's a crowd of boys down there!" shouted one of Viggo's
classmates one morning, as he thrust his frost-covered head through the
door and swung his skates. It didn't take Viggo long before he got his
skates down from the nail, and ran off with his friend. And he was so
anxious to get down to the lake that he forgot to whistle for Allarm.

But Allarm had a fine nose. Just as soon as he had swallowed his
breakfast he understood that Viggo was gone. Then he ran out hunting
through the yard for Viggo's trail, and when he noticed that it didn't
lead to the school he knew he might follow. Then he rushed madly after
him over the fields, and had caught up with him long before Viggo had
reached the cottage of Hans the Grenadier, which lay close by the lake.

One thing Viggo had promised his father before he got permission to go,
and that was that he would be very careful and not skate far out from
the shore. Near the middle of the lake there was an air hole through
which warm air rose to the surface, and there the ice was never thick.

And Viggo meant honestly to do what his father had told him, but now you
shall hear what happened.

When he came to the lake there was a crowd of boys there. There must
have been twenty or more. Most of them had skates on, but some only slid
on the ice. They shouted and laughed so that you could not hear yourself

As soon as Viggo had put on his skates he began to look around. Most of
the boys he knew, for he had raced with them before, and he felt that
he could beat every one of them. But there was one boy who skated by
himself, and seemed not to care about the others. He was much bigger
than Viggo, and Viggo saw immediately that it would not be easy to beat
him in a race. The boys called him Peter Lightfoot, and the name fitted
him. He could do the corkscrew, skate backward as easily as forward, and
lie so low and near the ice that he might have kissed it. But all this
Viggo could do, too.

"Can you write your initials?" asked Viggo. Yes; Peter Lightfoot stood
on one leg and wrote "P. L." in the ice, but the letters hung together.
Then Viggo started. He ran, turned himself around backward and wrote "P.
L.," and between the "P." and the "L." he made a short jump so that the
letters stood apart.

"Hurrah for Viggo! He wrote Peter Lightfoot backward!" shouted the boys,
and threw up their caps. Then the big boy blushed crimson, but he said

Now they began to play "Fox and Geese," and everybody wanted Viggo to be
the fox. Peter wanted to play, too, for he was sure that Viggo could not
catch him. The race-course was scratched in the ice, and Viggo called,
"Out, out, my geese," and off they ran. But Viggo didn't care to run
after the little goslings, it was the big gander, Peter Lightfoot, he
wished to catch. And that was a game!

Off they went, Peter in front and Viggo after him, back and forth in
corners and circles, and all the other boys stopped and looked on. Every
time Viggo was right at his heels, Peter jumped and was far ahead of the
fox again. At last Viggo had him cornered, but just as he would have
caught the goose, Peter stretched out his left leg and meant to trip
Viggo, but his skate caught in a frozen twig and--thump! there lay Peter
Lightfoot, the ice cracking all around him.

"A good thing he wasn't made of glass," laughed the boys and crowded
around Peter. He got up and looked angrily around the circle of boys.

"Now stand in a row, we'll jump," said he, and the boys did. They piled
hats and caps on top of each other first only three high. The whole row
jumped that, then four, then five, then six, but each time fewer got
over and those who pushed the top cap off with their skates had to stop
playing and must stand aside and look on. At last there were eight hats
and caps on top of each other, and now only Peter and Viggo were left to

"Put your cap on top!" said Peter, and Viggo did. But all the boys
shouted that no one could ever make that jump.

Now, Peter came so fast that the air whistled about him, jumped--and
whiff! he was over! He touched Viggo's cap the least little bit, but it
did not fall off the pile.

"Hurrah for Peter! That was a masterly jump!" shouted the boys. "Viggo
can never do that, he is too small," said one.

Viggo knew this was the test, and his heart beat fast. He ran with all
his might. Viggo flew over like a bird, and there was at least four
inches between his skates and the topmost cap. Then the boys crowded
around him and shouted that Viggo was the champion. But Peter Lightfoot
looked at him with a sly and evil eye, and you could see he was planning
to play a trick on him. And, indeed, that's what he did.

After a little while Peter took an apple out of his pocket and rolled it
over the ice toward the airhole. "The one who dares to go for the apple
may keep it!" he called. And many dared to try that, for the apple had
not rolled far and the ice was strong enough. Now Peter threw an apple
farther out, someone got that too. But at last he rolled one that
stopped right on the edge of the open water. One boy after the other ran
out toward it, but when the ice began to crack they slowly turned around

"Don't do it, it is dangerous!" shouted Viggo.

"Oh, yes, Viggo is great when things are easy, but if there is danger he
turns pale as a ghost," said Peter, and laughed aloud.

This was more than Viggo could bear. He thought of what the Prince of
Augustenburg had said before the front, and he thought he must fetch the
apple, come what might. But he forgot that "retreat" had been called,
for his father had forbidden him to go near the hole. Allarm looked at
him with grave eyes and wagged his tail slowly; he did not dare to
whine. But that did not help. Viggo ran so that the wind whistled about
his ears. The ice bent under his feet and cracked, but he glided on and
on, and the ice did not break. Now he was close by the apple; he bent
down to pick it up--crash! The ice broke, and Viggo, head first, fell

In a minute his head appeared above the hole. He swam for the ice and
seized the edge, but a piece broke off every time he tried to climb up.

At first the boys stood there dumb with fright. Then they all called to
him that he must try to hold on, but no one dared to help him, and no
one thought of running for help. Peter Lightfoot had sneaked away when
Viggo fell in.

The best one of them all was Allarm. First he ran yelping around the
hole, but when he saw Viggo appear again he snatched his wet cap between
his teeth and as fast as an arrow he ran toward home. When he reached
the cottage of Hans the Grenadier the old soldier was just standing in
the open doorway. The dog put Viggo's stiff frozen cap at his feet,
whined and cried, jumped up on the old man, held on to his coat and
dragged him toward the ice. Hans understood right away what was the
matter, snatched a rope and ran toward the lake, and in no time he stood
by the hole. He threw the rope to Viggo, who had begun to grow stiff
from the icy bath, and pulled him out.

Viggo ran as fast as he could to the cottage of Hans, and when he
reached the door he had an armor of shining ice over his whole body.
When the Grenadier pulled off the boy's trousers they could stand by
themselves on the floor; they were frozen stiff.

Viggo, of course, had to change from top to toe, and what should he put
on? Hans went to his old chest and came back with his uniform. Viggo
looked rather queer; the yellow knee-trousers reached to his ankles, and
the red coat with yellow cuffs and lapels hung on him like a bag.

But he was wearing a real uniform! Hans looked at him.

"Well," he said, "I won't say much about the fit of the clothes, but who
knows you may wear a better looking uniform some day. The heart is of
the right kind, and the nose--well it is doing better."

[L] From "The Bird and the Star," translated by Mrs. Gudrun
Thorne-Thompson; used by special arrangement with the publishers, Row,
Peterson & Co.

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