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N the midst of the garden grew a rose-bush which was
quite covered with roses; and in one of them, the most
beautiful of all, there dwelt an Elf. He was so tiny
that no human eye could see him. Behind every leaf in
the rose he had a bedroom. He was as well formed and
beautiful as any child could be, and had wings that
reached from his shoulders to his feet. Oh, what a
fragrance there was in his rooms, and how clear and
bright were the walls! They were made of the pale-pink
The whole day he rejoiced in the warm sunshine, flew
from flower to flower, danced on the wings of the
flying butterfly, and measured how many steps he would
have to take to pass along all the roads and
cross-roads that are marked out on a single hidden
leaf. What we call veins on the leaf were to him
highroads and cross-roads. Yes, those were long roads
for him! Before he had finished his journey the sun
went down, for he had begun his work too late!
It became very cold, the dew fell, and the wind blew;
now the best thing to be done was to return home. He
made what haste he could, but the rose had shut itself
up and he could not get in; not a single rose stood
open. The poor little Elf was very much
 frightened. He had never been out at night before; he
had always slumbered sweetly and comfortably behind the
warm rose-leaves. Oh, it certainly would be the death
At the other end of the garden there was, he knew, an
arbor of fine honeysuckle. The flowers looked like
great painted horns, and he wished to go down into one
of them to sleep till the next day.
He flew thither. Silence! two people were in
there—a handsome young man and a young girl. They
sat side by side and wished that they need never part.
They loved each other better than a good child loves
its father and mother.
"Yet we must part!" said the young man. "Your brother
does not like us, therefore he sends me away on an
errand so far over mountains and seas. Farewell, my
sweet bride, for that you shall be!"
And they kissed each other, and the young girl wept and
gave him a rose. But before she gave it to him she
impressed a kiss so firmly and closely upon it that the
flower opened. Then the little Elf flew into it and
leaned his head against the delicate, fragrant walls.
Here he could plainly hear them say, "Farewell!
farewell!" and he felt that the rose was placed on the
young man's heart. Oh, how that heart beat! The little
Elf could not go to sleep, it thumped so.
But not long did the rose rest undisturbed in that
breast. The man took it out, and as he went lonely
through the wood he kissed the flower so often and so
fervently that the little Elf was almost crushed. He
could feel through the leaf how the man's lips burned,
and the rose itself had opened as if under the hottest
Then came another man, gloomy and wicked; he was the
bad brother of the pretty maiden. He drew out a sharp
knife, and while the other kissed the rose the bad man
stabbed him to death, and then, cutting off his head,
buried both head and body in the soft earth under the
"Now he's forgotten and gone!" thought the wicked
brother; "he will never come back again. He was to have
taken a long
 journey over mountains and seas. One can easily lose
one's life, and he has lost his. He cannot come back
again, and my sister dare not ask news of him from me."
Then with his feet he shuffled dry leaves over the
loose earth and went home in the dark night. But he did
not go alone, as he thought; the little Elf accompanied
him. The Elf sat in a dry, rolled-up linden-leaf that
had fallen on the wicked man's hair as he dug. The hat
was now placed over the leaf, and it was very dark in
the had, and the Elf trembled with fear and with anger
at the evil deed.
In the morning hour the bad man got home; he took off
his hat and went into his sister's bedroom. There lay
the beautiful blooming girl, dreaming of him whom she
loved from her heart, and of whom she now believed that
he was going across the mountains and through the
forests. And the wicked brother bent over her and
laughed hideously, as only a fiend can laugh. Then the
dry leaf fell out of his hair upon the coverlet; but he
did not remark it, and he went to sleep a little
himself in the morning hour. But the Elf slipped forth
from the withered leaf, placed himself in the ear of
the sleeping girl, and told her, as in a dream, the
dreadful history of the murder; described to her the
place where her brother had slain her lover and buried
his corpse; told her of the blooming linden-tree close
by it, and said:
"That you may not think it is only a dream that I have
told you, you will find on your bed a withered leaf."
And she found it when she awoke. Oh, what bitter tears
she wept! The window stood open the whole day; the
little Elf could easily get out to the roses and all
the other flowers, but he could not find it in his
heart to quit the afflicted maiden. In the window stood
a plant, a monthly rose-bush; he seated himself in one
of the flowers and looked at the poor girl. Her brother
often came into the room, and, in spite of his wicked
deed, he always seemed cheerful; but she dared not say
a work of the grief that was in her heart.
As soon as the night came she crept out of the house,
went to the wood to the place where the linden-tree
 the leaves from the ground, turned up the earth, and
immediately found him who had been slain. Oh, how she
wept and prayed that she might die also!
Gladly would she have taken the corpse home with her,
but that she could not do. Then she took the pale head
with the closed eyes, kissed the cold mouth, and shook
the earth out of the beautiful hair. "That I will
keep," she said. And when she had laid earth upon the
dead body she took the head and a little sprig of the
jasmine that bloomed in the wood where he was buried
home with her.
As soon as she came into her room she brought the
greatest flower-pot she could find; in this she laid
the dead man's head, strewed earth upon it, and then
planted the jasmine twig in the pot.
"Farewell! farewell!" whispered the little Elf; he
could endure it no longer to see all this pain, and
therefore flew out to his rose in the garden. But the
rose was faded; only a few pale leaves clung to the
"Alas! how soon everything good and beautiful passes
away!" sighed the Elf.
At last he found another rose, and this became his
house; behind its delicate, fragrant leaves he could
hide himself and dwell.
Every morning he flew to the window of the poor girl,
and she was always standing weeping by the flower-pot.
The bitter tears fell upon the jasmine spray; and every
day, as the girl became paler and paler, the twig stood
there fresher and greener, and one shoot after another
sprouted forth, little white buds burst out, and these
she kissed. But the bad brother scolded his sister and
asked if she had gone mad. He could not bear it, and
could not imagine why she was always weeping over the
flower-pot. He did not know what closed eyes there were
there, what red lips had there faded into earth. And
she bowed her head upon the flower-pot, and the little
Elf of the rose-bush found her slumbering there. Then
he seated himself in her ear, told her of the evening
in the arbor, of the fragrance of the rose, and the
love of the elves. And she dreamed a marvelously sweet
 and while she dreamed her life passes away. She had
died a quiet death, and she was in heaven with him whom
And the jasmine opened its great white bells. They
smelt quite peculiarly sweet; it would not weep in any
other way over the dead one.
But the wicked brother looked at the beautiful blooming
plant, and took it for himself as an inheritance, and
put it in his sleeping-room close by his bed, for it
was glorious to look upon, and its fragrance was sweet
and lovely. The little Rose-elf followed and went from
flower to flower—for in each dwelt a little
soul—and told of the murdered young man whose head
was now earth beneath the earth, and told of the evil
brother and of the poor sister.
"We know it!" said each soul in the flower; "we know
it; have we not sprung from the eyes and lips of the
murdered man? We know it! we know it!"
And then they nodded in a strange fashion with their
The Rose-elf could not at all understand how they could
be so quiet, and he flew out to the bees that were
gathering honey and told them the story of the wicked
brother. And the bees told it to their Queen, and the
Queen commanded that they should all kill the murderer
next morning. But in the night—it was the first
night that followed upon the sister's death—when
the brother was sleeping in his bed close to the
fragrant jasmine, each flower opened, and, invisible
but armed with poisonous spears, the flower-souls came
out and seated themselves in his ear and told him bad
dreams, and then flew across his lips and pricked his
tongue with the poisonous spears.
"Now we have avenged the dead man!" they said, and flew
back into the jasmine's white bells.
When the morning came and the windows of the bedchamber
were opened, the Rose-elf and the Queen Bee and the
whole swarm of bees rushed in to kill him.
But he was dead already. People stood around his bed
and said, "The scent of the jasmine has killed him!"
Then the Rose-elf understood the revenge of the
flowers, and told it to
 the Queen and to the bees, and the Queen hummed with
the whole swarm around the flower-pot, and one of the
bees stung him in the hand, so that he let the pot fall
and it broke in pieces.
Then they beheld the whitened skull, and knew that the
dead man on the bed was a murderer.
And the Queen Bee hummed in the air and sang of the
revenge of the bees, and of the Rose-elf, and said that
behind the smallest leaf there dwells
ONE who can bring the evil to light and