Zay is a young lady now, and I presume when she reads this story she will pout and blush, and the more because it is every word true.
Once upon a time there lived by the great sea two brothers, named Klaus and Koerg; the elder inheriting the rich estates of his ancestors; the younger a woodchopper, and so poor that it was ofttimes a difficult task for him to provide bread for his wife and little children.
Hard as life often seems it may be even harder; and so bitterly realized Koerg when, nigh on to one merry Christmas-tide, an accident deprived him of his strong right hand, thereby cutting off forever his slender means of livelihood. There was but one resource, and, with crushed spirit Koerg betook himself to his elder brother to crave some mercy for his starving babes.
Klaus was a harsh man, with love only for his yellow gold. He frowned impatiently when Koerg interrupted his selfish dreams, and, for answer to his pitiful story, threw him a loaf of bread and a pudding, bidding him begone and be satisfied. And Koerg went forth with a heavy heart, his faint hope dead.
His homeward path followed the raging sea. The night was dark and stormy, the waves bellowed and lashed at the shore like an army of infuriated beasts; but Koerg heeded it not, only clutched his bread and pudding, and walked on with a white despairing face. Suddenly, as he emerged from a thick bit of woods, he became conscious of a strange light encircling him, and halting, quite terrified at the phenomenon, he beheld a little old man, snow-haired and bearded, standing plump in the path before him.
“You seem in trouble, friend,” he ejaculated, with a chuckle. “Something twists in your world, I trow.”
Koerg was not slow to recognize a geist; his knees shook, and he dared not utter a word. The elf looked down upon him half displeased, yet chuckling merrily withal.
“You have nothing to fear from me,” he continued, sweetly. “I am the guardian of the honest poor. This night I come to reveal to you a secret, which, rightly used, will bestow upon you riches, life-lasting and unlimited.”
Koerg, bewildered, could not yet yield simple faith. He clutched desperately his bread and pudding. He found no joyful words.
The little man frowned scathingly on the gift of Klaus, then burst into a scornful laugh.
[Illustration: THE WONDER-MILL GRINDS.]
“It is always thus, friend, with the money elves; they deal niggardly, even at the full. But, care not, since this meagre chip will prove to you a barter for millions. Follow me! The great estates to Klaus; the treasures of the sea Koerg shall know, to-night!” And, with a hand-wave, the elf led the way over the rough cliffs, Koerg mutely following.
[Illustration: THE GEIST.]
He paused at the base of a hillock, shaped like a horseshoe—a spot which Koerg knew well—a place of rocks, reefs, and general ill-report.