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"Hansi and the Nix"

In Switzerland, in the lake of Zug, there
once lived a water nymph called a "nix". When
the nix was in the lake, she had a tail like
any mermaid. When the nix crept onto land,
she had feet and toes like any mortal girl.
The Lake of Zug was the nix's favorite
haunt. She liked to look up at the snow-
streaked mountains that towered above the lake.
She liked to look at the dandelions and daises
that bloomed beside the shore. Best of all,
she liked to admire her reflection in the clear
water. She inspected herself to make sure she
was not getting any wrinkles like a human.
One summer day, the nix sat on the shore,
combing her hair and singing an old song. She
peered into the Lake of Zug and sang,

"Go call the Swiss cow,
Go call the Jersey,
They must all come, they must all come,
All come into the barn"

Suddenly, a pebble skidded across the
water, and a voice added,

"Hol-de-ree-dee-ah, dee ah.
Hol-de-ree-dee, dee-ah, ho!"

The nix spun about. Behind her stood a
young man and beside him stood a brown cow.
Over her singing, the nix had not heard them
come.
"Stop that!" she scolded.
"You are spoiling my song"

"But it is supposed to have a yodel."
objected the lad.

"A what?" the nix wondered if a yodel
was another kind of cow.

"Hol-de-ree-dee-ah" he sang again,
sliding the notes from low to high, up and
down the scale.
"That is a yodel." He grinned at her.
"I am Hansi, and this is my cow, Klara."

The nix smiled back. She did not want
to admit she did not have a name, so she said,
"Kindly call me Nixie, and kindly teach
me to yodel."

Hansi left Klara grazing on dandelions
and sat down next to the nix. In no time at
all the boy and the water maid discovered that
they both liked to eat trout and hated to
drink buttermilk. They agreed that cows smell
better than goats and that, although their
favorite color was yellow, bluebells were
their favorite flower. They talked until
shadows stretched across the lake, and the
setting sun had topped each mountain with a
red nightcap.
"I must return to my villiage, Klara
must be milked" said Hansi.

"But I still cannot yodel" protested
the nix.
"I shall come back tommorrow and teach
you" said Hansi.

"Promise?" asked Nixie.

"I promise" he said.

Then the nix dived into the Lake of
Zug, and the last Hansi saw of her was a tail
splashing where her legs had been.
The next afternoon, when Hansi returned
to the lake, he found the nix waiting. She
had a beautiful voice, as mermaids do, but
yodeling, like whistling, is hard for some,
easy for others.
"I cannot do it!" wailed Nixie.

"Keep trying" said Hansi, "I will be
back tommorrow."

Hansi returned the following day, and
all for the days of summer. Nixie never tired
of trying to yodel, and Hansi never tired of
trying to teach her. When Klara tired of
munching dandelions, she would eat daisies.
As autumn came, the chill alpine air made the
nix shiver.
"The water is warm at the bottom of the
lake." said Nixie

"Come home with me and sing by my fire"
offered Hansi.
"On land I would get old and wrinkled,
then I would not want to sing at all."
Nixie shook her head.
"Why do you not come with me instead?"

Hansi looked doubtfully at the lake. He
had heard that anyone who followed a mermaid
vanished forever

"If you are not happy, you can always go
home" said Nixie.

"Promise?" asked Hansi

"I promise" she replied.

Hansi held his nose and leaped into the
Lake of Zug. Although he sank like a pebble,
he discovered he could breathe easily. Soon
he ws wriggling about like a tadpole, and
playing leap-frog with real frogs.
"Are you happy?" asked the nix.

"As a fish in water" Hansi said, blowing
bubbles as proof.

Then one day, Nixie found him sitting
glumly on a sunken millstone.
"What is wrong?" she asked

"I am worried about Klara" Hansi said,
"for it is winter up above, the wind is
blowing, the snow is falling and icicles
must be hanging off the barn."

"Is that all?" returned Nixie.

The nix swam to the surface, cracked the
ice, and skimmed over the snow into the villiage
to Hansi's barn. Then she tugged Klara,
bellowing and snorting, down to the bottom of
the lake.
"Klara!" Hansi cried. He hugged his cow
and fed her tender waterweeds. Then Klara was
happy and so was Hansi.
But when springtime came, Hansi was gloomy
again.
"It does not seem like spring without
wildflowers." he explained.

"Is that all?" said the nix.

The nix swam to the shore of the Lake of
Zug, and returned with bluebells and daises for
Hsnsi and dandelions for Klara.
Then everyone was content. The cow ate,
the nix sang, and the cowherd yodeled, the three
of them together.
But when the long warm days of summer came,
Hansi looked up through the blue-green water and
saw the sun hanging above, as round and yellow as
a wheel of cheese.
"The cheese I made from Klara's milk is
ripe by now, how I would love to taste it" said
Hansi.
"Is that all?" said the nix.

Soon ten cheeses as big as grinding stones
splashed into the Lake of Zug, and Hansi was happy.
Then Hansi complained that sleeping on the
stony lake bed bruised his back, so Nixie brought
him his own feather-bed. Next he wanted his
rocking chair and then his whittling knife and his
alpenhorn and his fishing pole. The nix no longer
had any time to practice yodeling. She spent most
of her days and some of her nights fetching things
for Hansi. The more she got for him, the more he
needed to be happy.
One evening, before Hansi could ask for
anything, Nixie said:
"Just, wait Hansi!" then she disappeared in
the dark water.

Hansi waited. He waited from dusk until
midnight, and then, sometime after his tenth yawn,
he fell asleep. When he awoke in the morning, he
saw the nix perched on a millstone, and spread out
around her was his villiage.
He rubbed his eyes. He counted each shop on
every street and found his own house and barn.
All was as he remembered. Sheets flapped on
clotheslines, and he could even hear cow bells
jangle. The nix had enchanted the town of Zug and
brought it down to the bottom of the lake.

"Is that all?" asked Nixie

"That is all." Hansi grinned. "I promise."

Even today, when the Lake of Zug is calm,
you can sometimes see the streets and houses of
the town beneath the water. If the air is still,
you may hear a mermaid singing:

"Go call the brown cow,
Go call the black one,
They must all come, they must all come,
All come into the barn."

And then, like an echo,

"Hol-de-ree-dee-ah, dee-ah!"



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