The arctic heart of Lene

 

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The young Lene lived on the northernmost farm in the Kingdom of Denmark, those frozen oversea lands far from the Queen’s Palace, where snow falls abundantly and the cold wind howls. Lene was a goose keeper. She was very beautiful, but selfish, petty, arrogant and a social climber. She despised her humble peasant status profoundly and mistreated the defenceless birds over which she had to watch. One morning, she was summoned to sell a goose to the burgomaster, who lived in the large house used by the head of the village. She was greeted at the service door by Arnak, the Inuit kitchen maid. Once in the kitchen, the animal wriggled free and flew towards the noble part of the house, landing on the pendulum clock in a small dining room. It caused uproar in the room, which had never seen such confusion. Lene, Arnak, and a band of servants scurried around trying to capture the bird, tumbling over the carpets and slamming against the furniture. The goose escaped the attempts to capture it, hurtling against the picture frames and drapes, sheltering on the velvet armchair, knocking over the candlestick. The bedlam startled Jakob, the burgomaster’s young son, who arrived to see what was happening. When Lene finally ended the escape by catching the goose, the small dining room looked like a battlefield in a gory Viking saga.

Arnak, the kitchen maid, was mortified, begging for the young Jakob’s forgiveness, while quickly trying to clean up the mess that had been caused. However, Jakob was not at all angry, but rather amused, if anything. Only then, once order was restored, was Lene able to notice the warm elegance in the noble small dining room, the furnishings, the glow of the fire in the tiled fireplace and the decorations on the upholstery. After being paid, Lene walked the path back to her farm filled with rancour, envious of the wealth of others. She returned to the burgomaster’s house several times to sell geese and even managed to exchange a few quick greetings with Jakob, who was kind to everyone, even to the servants.

Lene considered Jakob a fool, unable to enjoy the riches and be authoritarian towards his subordinates, as she would have done. She thought she could take advantage of Jakob’s weakness. Although she did not love him, she dreamed of marrying him, abandoning her family’s hovel and being waited on by servants. During her brief visits, to win the boy’s attentions, she wore a bear’s rib clasp, taunted the dusty appearance of Arnak, the kitchen maid, and the corpulence of Grethe, the cook.

However, nothing new ever happened, Jakob would smile and politely say goodbye. Impatience riled Lene and, back on the farm, her parents and the animals bore the brunt of her frustration. It was during the thawing season that something changed.

The ice melted, the grasslands of the tundra bloomed with rosy willowherb and purplish dwarf birch. The shy Jakob also became brighter and more talkative. He could be heard laughing and humming in the well-kept library where he spent long hours studying. Naturally, this change did not escape Lene. Jakob would stay longer to talk to her, question her on the habits of her geese or point out the valleys where the Arctic cotton that they loved to feed on blossomed. She continued to consider him a fool, but indulged him mellifluously.

Then, one day, in a flash of embarrassment that made his face turn red, Jakob asked Lene – “Can I see your hand?” – The girl held out her hand confidently, spreading her fingers. – Extremely awkwardly, he quick told her – “Come back tomorrow, but do not bring any geese!” – And the first snowflakes announced the end of that brief Nordic summer. The following morning, at the house of the burgomaster, Lene was hastily led by a dazed stuttering usher to the study where the master of the house made the most important decisions. The most esteemed jeweller in all of Scandinavia, who had come specially from the Faroe Islands on an imposing wooden ship with elegant caskets, awaited her to perform a meticulous measurement of her ring finger. The gold ring embellished by a glacial gem emanated a hypnotic light. Lene contemplated her hand in a haughty smile that turned into a grimace, as if the reflections of the jewel kidnapped her thoughts and projected them in their authenticity. She would become Jakob’s wife, who, despite being insipid, had succumbed to her beauty. – “Lele Lele Len Lene! … Gige giv givvv give ba give back the ri rin ring!” – The uscher’s voice interrupted the daydream. Lene hesitated, glaring at the stammering man who, she thought, she would have fired immediately after the wedding, and handed back the wedding ring. The girl was told to keep the meeting with the goldsmith from the Faroe Islands a strict secret. Nobody should have the slightest inkling of the plans for a wedding before the official announcement. Lene obeyed, but from that moment her rudeness towards the humble and the weak became fully unleashed, sometimes ruthless, as she waited to become part of the burgomaster’s family. One day, during a heavy snowfall, while cursing at the geese in the enclosure, she was surprised by the visit of the stammering usher – “He he he hello Le Le Le Lene, the they are wa wat wait waiting for ye you a at th the huh huh house of th the Bo Bo Bo Boorgo ma mamaster.Yuh yuh young mi mister Ja Ja Jakob ha ha has se set the da date ooof the we we wedding and wi wishes ye you to b b be there fo for the ann annou announcement, which… “- Shocked by a sudden surge of strength, the young goose keeper interrupted the messenger with a triumphant laugh, preventing him from continuing. Finally, her wait was over and her wishes had been fulfilled! She threw down the bucket bird food, brushing aside the odious birds for the last time, and left the stunned man behind.

She went into the farm to comb her hair and put on her best cloak. Her worried mother questioned her about what was going on, but the arrogant Lene ignored her. The agitated woman followed her for a while along the path, asking her why she had left the geese enclosure and thrown down all the food. Finally, Lene gave her an answer – “The son of the burgomaster has asked my hand in marriage, there’s no longer time for geese.” –

Her mother stopped in the snow in disbelief on hearing the revelation – “The burgomaster’s son wants you, Lene?” – Then, very simply, she pointed out that – “Your father knows nothing about it and you cannot marry without our consent. We need to meet the young man.”-

Lene, smiling at her sympathetically – “Mum, look at your coarse apron. Would Jakob still wish to marry me if I were to go to his sitting room accompanied by two peasants? What elegant carpet would wish to be smeared with your boots covered in dung?” –

Then she turned and continued on her way to the village. Her mother wrung her hands together, a goose that had made its way onto the fence screeched at Lene, who disappeared as if swallowed by the whirling snow.

During the journey, the girl encountered some villagers, Olaf the cod fisherman, Hanna the seamstress and Grimur the shepherd, who as always wished her a good day. She, however, looked away from them with a haughty snort and didn’t bother replying, considering them unworthy. In front of the burgomaster’s house stood a shiny sleigh pulled by six elegant reindeer, with fluffy silk bows on their horns, embellished with golden bells around their necks and kept warm by embroidered blankets.

Lene imagined herself sliding into that stately sleigh on her wedding day, beautiful, bejewelled, applauded and envied by everyone. A roar of applause came from the mansion and Lene knocked curiously.

A bitter surprise awaited when the door of the house opened to reveal the truth. In the elegant small dining room, near the lively fire in the tiled fireplace, in front of an audience of modest villagers, Jakob held the hand of Arnak, the dusty Inuit kitchen maid. There were the carpenter, the teacher, the snowplower, the innkeeper, all the artisans and the workers of the village. Among those present, Lene also recognised the messenger who had summoned her shortly beforehand. Bewildered, she glanced at the rough boots that Arnak wore on the precious carpet in the room. A maid handed the goose keeper a cup of hot tea.

There was another knock on the door and Olaf the cod fisherman, Hanna the seamstress and Grimur the shepherd came in. Jakob then began to speak – “Now that you are all here, I would like to thank you for accepting our invitation. You have always been trusted associates of my family, good friends and honest workers in this community. We are pleased to announce that Arnak and I will soon be married and we would like to invite all of you to the wedding banquet… The young man gently held up Arnak’s hand, which was cracked and marked by fatigue, and slipped on the bright ring from the distant Faeroe Islands. The din of broken crockery smashing against the floor echoed in the room. Lene had dropped her teacup and, her face livid, she trembled and shook her fists – “No! How can you marry her? Arnak, the kitchen maid! Just look at her, her hair is frizzy, she’s covered in dust, her boots dirty your carpet and she’s so insipid!”-

Grethe, the cook, murmured in disbelief – “Lene! How could you say such a cruel thing?” –

However, Lene continued, contemptuously – “Shut up, fatso! You’ve tricked me. You’ve just used me!” – Then, pointing to the messenger – “That stupid man deceived me. Curse you all!” – Then, turning to Jakob and Arnak – “May you be accursed, may your marriage be damned!” – Overcome by anger, she ran away, leaving the spouses and their guests stunned by her curses. Outside the mansion, the young fury tore the silk bows from the horns of the reindeer. Heading back towards the farm, she kicked the piles of snow on the roadside, screaming, beating her fists against fences and throwing stones at the windows of houses. When her mother saw her appear in such a pitiful state, she questioned her mockingly – “For the Crown of King Christian! You’re here, Lene. Where is your husband? I can’t see any pages or liveries…” – Then, turning her back on her, she went into the house.

A goose, that had escaped from the enclosure, screeched petulantly at the keeper. Lene felt as if even the bird was mocking her. She grabbed the stick with which she often beat the animals and pounced on the goose, twisted its white neck and began to beat it. White feathers swirled towards the leaden sky as the snow turned red. The flock inside the encounter whined desperately in a helpless chorus. When the slaughter was over and Lene calmed down on all fours, she saw a whirl of frozen dust rise and the bird drained of blood come miraculously back to life, only to turn into a beautiful woman with fluttering hair and a dress made of ice. She was really a powerful fairy of the North. The frightened keeper was unable to find the strength to get up or call for her mother’s help…The continuation of the story is available on Amazon

-“The arctic heart of Lene”- All rights reserved. The use, in whole or in part, of the contents of this story is forbidden, including the storage, reproduction, reprocessing, distribution or distribution of the contents by any means of printing, audio, video technology platform, stage-theatrical representation, support or electronic network, without the prior agreement of the author Fax Mac Allister macallister1812@gmail.com

 

Autore: Fax Mac Allister

A life in a Fax - Fax Mac Allister- Copyright © www.faxmacallister.com

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