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Chicken Grethe's Family

"Each of the wise men from the east," Holberg said.

"Oh, that's how you meant it," she said, and sat in silence for a while. But on that evening of the Three Kings, he learned a great deal about her that he had not known.

"You are fond of the man you are wedded to," Holberg said, "yet people tell me he daily mistreated you."

"That concerns no one but me," Mother Soren declared. "The blows would have done me good had they fallen when I was a child. Now they probably fall for my sins. I only know the good he has done me." She stood up straight. "When I lay ill and weak among the sand dunes, and no one would come near me except perhaps the rooks, the crows, and the jackdaws, who came to pick at me, he carried me in his arms, and got hard words for bringing such a find on board his ship. I do not come of sickly stock, so I recovered. All of us have our faults, and Soren has his. One must not judge the horse by his halter. With him I have led a more pleasant life than I did with him whom they called the highest and most gallant one of all the King's men. I have been married to Governor Gyldenlove, half-brother to the King. Afterward I took Palle Dyre. Good or bad, each has his own way, and I have mine. That was a long story, and now you know it."

Mother Soren went out of the room.

So this was Marie Grubbe, so strangely does the ball of fortune turn. She did not live to see many more feasts of the Three Kings. Holberg wrote that she died in June, 1716, but he did not write, for he did not know, that when Mother Soren, as they called her, lay dead in Borrehouse, a flock of large black birds flew over the roof in silence. They did not scream, and it was as if they knew that at funerals one must be quiet. As soon as she was in her grave, the birds departed, but on that same evening the birds were seen in enormous numbers over her old estate in Jutland. Rooks, crows, and jackdaws, screamed to each other as if they had much to tell. Perhaps they croaked of him who robbed them of their eggs and young ones when he was a boy - the peasant boy who received an iron garter on the King's Island - and also of the high-born young lady who died a ferry woman at Gronsund.

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