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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
How the Mountain was Clad
By Björnstjerne Björnson (1832–1910)
 
From ‘Arne’: Translation of Rasmus Björn Anderson

THERE was a deep gorge between two mountains. Through this gorge a large, full stream flowed heavily over a rough and stony bottom. Both sides were high and steep, and so one side was bare; but close to its foot, and so near the stream that the latter sprinkled it with moisture every spring and autumn, stood a group of fresh-looking trees, gazing upward and onward, yet unable to advance this way or that.  1
  “What if we should clothe the mountain?” said the juniper one day to the foreign oak, to which it stood nearer than all the others. The oak looked down to find out who it was that spoke, and then it looked up again without deigning a reply. The river rushed along so violently that it worked itself into a white foam; the north wind had forced its way through the gorge and shrieked in the clefts of the rocks; the naked mountain, with its great weight, hung heavily over and felt cold. “What if we should clothe the mountain?” said the juniper to the fir on the other side. “If anybody is to do it, I suppose it must be we,” said the fir, taking hold of its beard and glancing toward the birch. “What do you think?” But the birch peered cautiously up, at the mountain, which hung over it so threateningly that it seemed as if it could scarcely breathe. “Let us clothe it, in God’s name!” said the birch. And so, though there were but these three, they undertook to clothe the mountain. The juniper went first.  2
  When they had gone a little way, they met the heather. The juniper seemed as though about to go past it. “Nay, take the heather along,” said the fir. And the heather joined them. Soon it began to glide on before the juniper. “Catch hold of me,” said the heather. The juniper did so, and where there was only a wee crevice, the heather thrust in a finger, and where it first had placed a finger, the juniper took hold with its whole hand. They crawled and crept along, the fir laboring on behind, the birch also. “This is well worth doing,” said the birch.  3
  But the mountain began to ponder on what manner of insignificant objects these might be that were clambering up over it. And after it had been considering the matter a few hundred years, it sent a little brook down to inquire. It was yet in the time of the spring freshets, and the brook stole on until it reached the heather. “Dear, dear heather, cannot you let me pass? I am so small.” The heather was very busy; only raised itself a little and pressed onward. In, under, and onward went the brook. “Dear, dear juniper, cannot you let me pass? I am so small.” The juniper looked sharply at it; but if the heather had let it pass, why, in all reason, it must do so too. Under it and onward went the brook; and now came to the spot where the fir stood puffing on the hill-side. “Dear, dear fir, cannot you let me pass? I am really so small,” said the brook,—and it kissed the fir’s feet and made itself so very sweet. The fir became bashful at this, and let it pass. But the birch raised itself before the brook asked it. “Hi, hi, hi!” said the brook, and grew. “Ha, ha, ha!” said the brook, and grew. “Ho, ho, ho!” said the brook, and flung the heather and the juniper and the fir and the birch flat on their faces and backs, up and down these great hills. The mountain sat up for many hundred years musing on whether it had not smiled a little that day.  4
  It was plain enough: the mountain did not want to be clad. The heather fretted over this until it grew green again, and then it started forward. “Fresh courage!” said the heather.  5
  The juniper had half raised itself to look at the heather, and continued to keep this position, until at length it stood upright. It scratched its head and set forth again, taking such a vigorous foothold that it seemed as though the mountain must feel it. “If you will not have me, then I will have you.” The fir crooked its toes a little to find out whether they were whole, then lifted one foot, found it whole, then the other, which proved also to be whole, then both of them. It first investigated the ground it had been over, next where it had been lying, and finally where it should go. After this it began to wend its way slowly along, and acted just as though it had never fallen. The birch had become most wretchedly soiled, but now rose up and made itself tidy. Then they sped onward, faster and faster, upward and on either side, in sunshine and in rain. “What in the world can this be?” said the mountain, all glittering with dew, as the summer sun shone down on it. The birds sang, the wood-mouse piped, the hare hopped along, and the ermine hid itself and screamed.  6
  Then the day came when the heather could peep with one eye over the edge of the mountain. “Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear!” said the heather, and away it went. “Dear me! what is it the heather sees?” said the juniper, and moved on until it could peer up. “Oh dear, oh dear!” it shrieked, and was gone. “What is the matter with the juniper to-day?” said the fir, and took long strides onward in the heat of the sun. Soon it could raise itself on its toes and peep up. “Oh dear!” Branches and needles stood on end in wonderment. It worked its way forward, came up, and was gone. “What is it all the others see, and not I?” said the birch; and lifting well its skirts, it tripped after. It stretched its whole head up at once. “Oh,—oh!—is not here a great forest of fir and heather, of juniper and birch, standing upon the table-land waiting for us?” said the birch; and its leaves quivered in the sunshine so that the dew trembled. “Ay, this is what it is to reach the goal!” said the juniper.  7
 
 
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