The Will-o'-the-Wisps Are in Town
And if, at the end of the year, it hasn't led three hundred and sixty-five people away from the truth and all that's fine and noble, it is condemned to lie in a rotten stump and shine without being able to move. That's the worst punishment of all for a lively will-o'-the-wisp.
"Now, I know all about this, and I told it all to the twelve little ones that I held on my lap, and they were quite wild with joy. I warned them that the safest and easiest way would be to give up the honor and just do nothing at all, but the little flames wouldn't listen to that; already they could imagine themselves dressed in fiery yellow uniforms, breathing flames from their mouths.
" 'Stay here with us!' said some of the older ones.
" 'Go and have your fun with the human beings!' others said.
" 'Yes, they are draining our meadows and drying them up! What will become of our descendants?'
" ' We want to flame with flames!' said the newborn will-o'-the wisps, and that settled it.
"Then presently began the minute ball, which couldn't have been any shorter. The elf maidens whirled around three times with all the others, so as not appear proud, but they always preferred dancing with each other. Then the godparents' gifts were given - ' throwing pebbles,' it's called. The 'pebbles' were flung over the marsh water. Each of the elf maidens gave a little piece of her veil.
" 'Take that,' they said, 'and you'll be able to do the highest dance, the most difficult turns and twists - that is, if you should ever need to. You'll have the best manners, so you can show yourselves in the highest of society.'
"The night raven taught the young will-o'-the-wisps to say, 'Bra-bra-brave!' and to say it at the right times; and that's a great gift that brings its own reward.
"The owl and the stork dropped their gifts. But they said these weren't worth mentioning, and so we won't talk about it.
"The wild hunt of King Valdemar was just then rushing across the marsh, and when the nobles heard of the celebration they sent as a present a couple of handsome dogs which could hunt with the speed of the wind and carry a will-o'-the-wisp, or three, on their backs.