(a tale from Lapland)
The winter was long and cold, and the thoughts of the villagers were much busier with wolves than with Andras Baive when, suddenly, on a frosty day, he made his appearance in the little town of Vadso. The bailiff was delighted at this chance of trying his strength and at once went out to seek Andras and to coax him into giving proof of his vigour.
As he walked along, his eyes fell upon a big eight-oared boat that lay upon the shore, and his face shone with pleasure. 'That is the very thing,' laughed he. 'I will make him jump over that boat.'
Andras was quite ready to accept the challenge, and they soon settled the terms of the wager. He who could jump over the boat without so much as touching it with his heel was to be the winner and would get a large sum of money as the prize. So, followed by many of the villagers, the two men walked down to the sea.
An old fisherman was chosen to stand near the boat to watch fair play and to hold the stakes, and Andras, as the stranger, was told to jump first. Going back to the flag which had been stuck into the sand to mark the starting place, he ran forward, with his head well thrown back, and cleared the boat with a mighty bound. The lookers-on cheered him, and indeed he well deserved it, but they waited anxiously all the same to see what the bailiff would do.
On he came, taller than Andras by several inches, but heavier of build. He too sprang high and well, but as he came down his heel just grazed the edge of the boat. Dead silence reigned amidst the townsfolk, but Andras only laughed and said carelessly: 'Just a little too short, bailiff; next time you must do better than that.'
The bailiff turned red with anger at his rival's scornful words and answered quickly: 'Next time you will have something harder to do.' And turning his back on his friends, he went sulkily home. Andras, putting the money he had earned in his pocket, went home also.
The following spring Andras happened to be driving his reindeer along a great fiord to the west of Vadso. A boy who had met him hastened to tell the bailiff that his enemy was only a few miles off, and the bailiff, disguising himself as a Stalo, or ogre, called his son and his dog and rowed away across the fiord to the place where the boy had met Andras.
Now the mountaineer was lazily walking along the sands, thinking of the new hut that he was building with the money that he had won on the day of his lucky jump. He wandered on, his eyes fixed on the sands, so that he did not see the bailiff drive his boat behind a rock while he changed himself into a heap of wreckage which floated in on the waves. A stumble over a stone recalled Andras to himself and, looking up, he beheld the mass of wreckage.
'Dear me! I may find some use for that,' he said and hastened down to the sea, waiting till he could lay hold of some stray rope which might float towards him. Suddenly — he could not have told why — a nameless fear seized upon him, and he fled away from the shore as if for his life. As he ran, he heard the sound of a pipe, such as only ogres of the Stalo kind were wont to use, and there flashed into his mind what the bailiff had said when they jumped the boat: 'Next time you will have something harder to do.' So it was no wreckage after all that he had seen, but the bailiff himself.
It happened that in the long summer nights up in the mountain, where the sun never set and it was very difficult to get to sleep, Andras had spent many hours in the study of magic, and this stood him in good stead now. The instant he heard the Stalo music, he wished himself to become the feet of a reindeer, and in this guise he galloped like the wind for several miles. Then he stopped to take breath and find out what his enemy was doing. Nothing he could see, but to his ears the notes of a pipe floated over the plain and ever, as he listened, it drew nearer.
A cold shiver shook Andras, and this time he wished himself the feet of a reindeer calf. For when a reindeer calf has reached the age at which he begins first to lose his hair, he is so swift that neither beast nor bird can come near him. A reindeer calf is the swiftest of all things living. Yes, but not so swift as a Stalo, as Andras found out when he stopped to rest, and heard the pipe playing!
Next: Andras Baive (cont.)