THE NISSES IN VOSBORG
THERE was once an exceeding great number of Nisses in Jutland. Those in Vosborg in particular were treated with so much liberality, that they were careful and solicitous beyond measure for 'their master's interest. They got every evening in their sweet-groute a large lump of butter, and in return for this, they once showed great zeal and gratitude.
One very severe winter, a lonely house in which there were six calves was so completely covered by the snow, that for the space of fourteen days no one, could get into it. When the snow was gone, the people naturally thought that the calves were all dead of hunger; but far from it, they found them all in excellent condition; the place cleaned up, and the cribs full of beautiful corn, so that it was quite evident the Nisses had attended to them.
But, the Nis, though thus grateful when well treated, is sure to avenge himself when any one does anything to annoy and vex him. As a Nis was one day amusing himself by running on the loft over the cow-house, one of the boards gave way and his leg went through. The boy happened to be in the cow-house when this happened, and when he saw the Nis's leg hanging down, he took up a dung fork, and gave him with it a smart rap on the leg. At noon; when the people were sitting round the table in the hall, the boy sat continually laughing to himself. The bailiff asked him what be was laughing at; and the boy replied, "Oh! a got such a blow at Nis to-day, and a gave him such a hell of a rap with my fork, when he put his leg down through the loft." "No," cried Nis, outside of the window, "it was not one, but three blows you gave me, for there were three prongs on the fork; but I shall pay you for it, my lad."
Next night, while the boy was lying fast asleep, Nis came and took him up and brought him out into the yard, then flung him over the house, and was so expeditious in getting to the other side of the house, that he caught him before he came to the ground, and instantly pitched him over again, and kept going on with this sport till the boy had been eight times backwards and forwards over the roof, and the ninth time he let him fall into a great pool of water, and then set up such a shout of laughter at him, that it wakened up all the people that were in the place.
In Sweden the Tomte is sometimes seen at noon, in summer, slowly and stealthily dragging a straw or an ear of corn. A farmer, seeing him thus engaged, laughed, and said, "What difference does it make if you bring away that or nothing?" The Tomte in displeasure left his farm, and went to that of his neighbour; and with him went all prosperity from him who had made light of him, and passed over to the other farmer. Any one who treated the industrious Tomte with respect, and set store by the smallest straw, became rich, and neatness and regularity prevailed in his household. [a]
[a] Afzelius, Sago Häfdar., ii. 169. On Christmas-morning, he says, the peasantry gives the Tomte, his wages. i. e. a piece of grey cloth, tobacco, and a shovelful of clay.