" My wife and I bore such a lodger as long as we could, but at length we were fairly beaten; and as he seemed to have taken up his abode in the house, we thought it best to give up to him what he wanted: and the little rascal knew what we were about when we were moving, and seemed afraid we should not go soon enough. So he helped us off: for on the morning we were to start, as we were going to put our goods upon the waggon, there it stood before the door ready loaded: and when we started we heard a loud laugh; and a little sharp voice cried out of the window, ' Good-bye, neighbours! " So now he has our old house all to himself to play his gambols in, whenever he likes to sleep within doors; and we have built ourselves a snug cottage on the other side of the hill, where we live as well as we can, though we have no great room to make merry in. Now if you, and your ugly friend there, like to run the hazard of taking up your quarters in the elf's house, pray do! Yonder is the road. He may not be at home to-night."
"We will try our luck," said Gunter; "anything is better to my mind than sleeping out of doors such a night as this. Your troublesome neighbour will perhaps think so too, and we may have to fight for our lodging: but never mind, Bruin is rather an awkward hand to quarrel with; and the goblin may perhaps find a worse welcome from him than your house-dog could give him. He will at anyrate let him know what a bear's hug is; for I dare say he has not been far enough north to know much about it yet."
Then the woodman gave Gunter a fagot to make his fire with, and wished him a good-night. He and the bear soon found their way to the deserted house; and no one being at home they walked into the kitchen and made a capital fire.
"Lack-a-day!" said the Norseman; "I forgot one thing —I ought to have asked that good man for some supper;
I have nothing left but some dry bread. However, this is better than sleeping in the woods: we must make the most of what we have, keep ourselves warm, and get to bed as soon as we can." So after eating up all their crusts, and drinking some water from the well close by, the huntsman wrapt himself up close in his cloak, and lay down in the snuggest corner he could find. Bruin rolled himself up in the corner of the wide fire-place; and both were fast asleep, the fire out, and everything quiet within doors, long before midnight.
Just as the clock struck twelve the storm began to get louder—the wind blew—a slight noise within the room wakened the huntsman, and all on a sudden in popped a little ugly skrattel, scarce three spans high; with a hump on his back, a face like a dried pippin, a nose like a ripe mulberry, and an eye that had lost its neighbour. He had high-heeled shoes, and a pointed red cap; and came dragging after him a nice fat kid, ready skinned, and fit for roasting. " A rough night this," grumbled the goblin to himself; " but, thanks to that booby woodman, I've a house to myself: and now for a hot supper and a glass of good ale till the cock crows."
No sooner said than done: the skrattel busied himself about, here and there; presently the fire blazed up, the kid was put on the spit and turned merrily round. A keg of ale made its appearance from a closet: the cloth was laid, and the kid was soon dished up for eating. Then the little imp, in the joy of his heart, rubbed his hands, tossed up his red cap, danced before the hearth, and sang his song—
Oh! 'tis weary enough abroad to bide,
In the shivery midnight blast;
And 'tis dreamy enough alone to ride
Hungry and cold,
On the wintry mold,
Where the drifting snow falls fast."
But cheery enough to revel by night,
In the crackling fagot's light;
Tis merry enough to have and to hold
The savoury roast,
And the nut-brown toast,
With jolly good ale and old."
The huntsman lay snug all this time; sometimes quaking, in dread of getting into trouble, and sometimes licking his lips at the savoury supper before him, and half in the mind to fight for it with the imp. However, he kept himself quiet in his corner; till all of a sudden the little man's eye wandered from his cheering ale-cup to Bruin's carcase, as he lay rolled up like a ball, fast asleep in the chimney-corner.
The imp turned round sharp in an instant, and crept softly nearer and nearer to where Bruin lay, looking at him very closely, and not able to make out what in the world he was. " One of the family, I suppose ! " said he to himself. But just then Bruin gave his ears a shake, and showed a little of his shaggy muzzle. " Oh ho ! " said the imp, " that's all, is it ? But what a large one ! Where could he come from ? and how came he here ? What shall I do ? Shall I let him alone or drive him out ? Perhaps he may do me some mischief, and I am not afraid of mice or rats. So here goes ! I have driven all the rest of the live stock out of the house, and why should I be afraid of sending this brute after them ?"
With that the elf walked softly to the comer of the room, and taking up the spit, stole back on tip-toe till he got quite close to the bear; then raising up his weapon, down came a rattling thump across Bruin's mazard, that sounded as hollow as a drum. The bear raised himself slowly up, snorted, shook his head, then scratched it,— opened first one eye, then the other, took a turn across the room, and grinned at his enemy; who, somewhat alarmed, ran back a few paces, and stood with the spit in his hand, foreseeing a rough attack. And it soon came; for the bear, rearing himself up, walked leisurely forward, and putting out one of his paws caught hold of the spit, jerked it out of the goblin's hand, and sent it spinning to the other end of the kitchen.
And now began a fierce battle. This way and that way flew tables and chairs, pots and pans. The elf was one moment on the bear's back, lugging his ears and pommelling him with blows that might have felled an ox. In the next, the bear would throw him up in the air, and treat him as he came down with a hug that would make the little imp squall. Then up he would jump upon one of the beams out of Bruin's reach; and soon, watching his chance, would be down astride upon his back.