Hans Andersen's Fairy Tales, Second Series
by Hans Christian Andersen
Hans Andersen's Fairy Tales
Edited by J. H. Stickney
Illustrated by Edna F. Hart
Ginn and Company
COPYRIGHT, 1915, BY GINN AND COMPANY
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
The Athenæum Press
GINN AND COMPANY · PROPRIETORS
· BOSTON · U.S.A.
THE PEA BLOSSOM
THE WILD SWANS
THE LAST DREAM
OF THE OLD OAK
THE SNOW MAN
COCK AND THE
THE RED SHOES
WHAT HAPPENED TO
THE PEN AND THE
SOUP FROM A
WHAT THE GOODMAN
DOES IS ALWAYS
THE OLD STREET
AND THE CHIMNEY
THE DROP OF
THE METAL PIG
THE FLYING TRUNK
THE GOBLIN AND
ITS RIGHT PLACE
GREAT CLAUS AND
THE present volume is the second of the selected stories from Hans
Andersen. Together the books include what, out of a larger number, are
the best for children's use. The story-telling activity of this
inimitable genius covered a period of more than forty years. Besides
these shorter juvenile tales, there are a few which deserve to survive.
The Ice Maiden is a standard, if not a classic, and The Sandhills of
Jutland was pronounced by Ruskin the most perfect story that he knew.
It adds a charm to the little stories of these two volumes to know
that the genial author traveled widely for a man of his time and
everywhere was urged to tell the tales himself. This he did with equal
charm in the kitchens of the humble and in the courts and palaces of
As was said in the preface to the first volume, wherever there are
children to read, the stories of Hans Christian Andersen will be read
HANS ANDERSEN'S FAIRY TALES
[Illustration: They wanted to seen the paper burn....]
HANS ANDERSEN'S FAIRY TALES
THE flax was in full bloom; it had pretty little blue flowers, as
delicate as the wings of a moth. The sun shone on it and the showers
watered it; and this was as good for the flax as it is for little
children to be washed and then kissed by their mothers. They look much
prettier for it, and so did the flax.
People say that I look exceedingly well, said the flax, and that
I am so fine and long that I shall make a beautiful piece of linen. How
fortunate I am! It makes me so happy to know that something can be made
of me. How the sunshine cheers me, and how sweet and refreshing is the
rain! My happiness overpowers me; no one in the world can feel happier
Ah, yes, no doubt, said the fern, but you do not know the world
yet as well as I do, for my sticks are knotty; and then it sang quite
Snip, snap, snurre,
The song is ended.
No, it is not ended, said the flax. To-morrow the sun will shine
or the rain descend. I feel that I am growing. I feel that I am in full
blossom. I am the happiest of all creatures, for I may some day come to
Well, one day some people came, who took hold of the flax and pulled
it up by the roots, which was very painful. Then it was laid in water,
as if it were to be drowned, and after that placed near a fire, as if
it were to be roasted. All this was very shocking.
We cannot expect to be happy always, said the flax. By
experiencing evil as well as good we become wise. And certainly there
was plenty of evil in store for the flax. It was steeped, and roasted,
and broken, and combed; indeed, it scarcely knew what was done to it.
At last it was put on the spinning wheel. Whir, whir, went the wheel,
so quickly that the flax could not collect its thoughts.
Well, I have been very happy, it thought in the midst of its pain,
and must be contented with the past. And contented it remained, till
it was put on the loom and became a beautiful piece of white linen. All
the flax, even to the last stalk, was used in making this one piece.
Well, this is quite wonderful, said the flax. I could not have
believed that I should be so favored by fortune. The fern was not wrong
when it sang,
'Snip, snap, snurre,
But the song is not ended yet, I am sure; it is only just beginning.
How wonderful it is that, after all I have suffered, I am made
something of at last! I am the luckiest person in the worldso strong
and fine. And how white and long I am! This is far better than being a
mere plant and bearing flowers. Then I had no attention, nor any water
unless it rained; now I am watched and cared for. Every morning the
maid turns me over, and I have a shower bath from the watering-pot
every evening. Yes, and the clergyman's wife noticed me and said I was
the best piece of linen in the whole parish. I cannot be happier than I
After some time the linen was taken into the house, and there cut
with the scissors and torn into pieces and then pricked with needles.
This certainly was not pleasant, but at last it was made into twelve
garments of the kind that everybody wears. See now, then, said the
flax, I have become something of importance. This was my destiny; it
is quite a blessing. Now I shall be of some use in the world, as every
one ought to be; it is the only way to be happy. I am now divided into
twelve pieces, and yet the whole dozen is all one and the same. It is
most extraordinary good fortune.
Years passed away, and at last the linen was so worn it could
scarcely hold together. It must end very soon, said the pieces to
each other. We would gladly have held together a little longer, but it
is useless to expect impossibilities. And at length they fell into
rags and tatters and thought it was all over with them, for they were
torn to shreds and steeped in water and made into a pulp and dried, and
they knew not what besides, till all at once they found themselves
beautiful white paper. Well, now, this is a surprisea glorious
surprise too, said the paper. Now I am finer than ever, and who can
tell what fine things I may have written upon me? This is wonderful
luck! And so it was, for the most beautiful stories and poetry were
written upon it, and only once was there a blot, which was remarkable
good fortune. Then people heard the stories and poetry read, and it
made them wiser and better; for all that was written had a good and
sensible meaning, and a great blessing was contained in it.
I never imagined anything like this when I was only a little blue
flower growing in the fields, said the paper. How could I know that I
should ever be the means of bringing knowledge and joy to men? I cannot
understand it myself, and yet it is really so. Heaven knows that I have
done nothing myself but what I was obliged to do with my weak powers
for my own preservation; and yet I have been promoted from one joy and
honor to another. Each time I think that the song is ended, and then
something higher and better begins for me. I suppose now I shall be
sent out to journey about the world, so that people may read me. It
cannot be otherwise, for I have more splendid thoughts written upon me
than I had pretty flowers in olden times. I am happier than ever.
But the paper did not go on its travels. It was sent to the printer,
and all the words written upon it were set up in type to make a
book,or rather many hundreds of books,for many more persons could
derive pleasure and profit from a printed book than from the written
paper; and if the paper had been sent about the world, it would have
been worn out before it had half finished its journey.
Yes, this is certainly the wisest plan, said the written paper; I
really did not think of this. I shall remain at home and be held in
honor like some old grandfather, as I really am to all these new books.
They will do some good. I could not have wandered about as they can,
yet he who wrote all this has looked at me as every word flowed from
his pen upon my surface. I am the most honored of all.
Then the paper was tied in a bundle with other papers and thrown
into a tub that stood in the washhouse.
After work, it is well to rest, said the paper, and a very good
opportunity to collect one's thoughts. Now I am able, for the first
time, to learn what is in me; and to know one's self is true progress.
What will be done with me now, I wonder? No doubt I shall still go
forward. I have always progressed hitherto, I know quite well.
Now it happened one day that all the paper in the tub was taken out
and laid on the hearth to be burned. People said it could not be sold
at the shop, to wrap up butter and sugar, because it had been written
upon. The children in the house stood round the hearth to watch the
blaze, for paper always flamed up so prettily, and afterwards, among
the ashes, there were so many red sparks to be seen running one after
the other, here and there, as quick as the wind. They called it seeing
the children come out of school, and the last spark, they said, was the
schoolmaster. They would often think the last spark had come, and one
would cry, There goes the schoolmaster, but the next moment another
spark would appear, bright and beautiful. How they wanted to know where
all the sparks went to! Perhaps they will find out some day.
The whole bundle of paper had been placed on the fire and was soon
burning. Ugh! cried the paper as it burst into a bright flame; ugh!
It was certainly not very pleasant to be burned. But when the whole was
wrapped in flames, the sparks mounted up into the air, higher than the
flax had ever been able to raise its little blue flowers, and they
glistened as the white linen never could have glistened. All the
written letters became quite red in a moment, and all the words and
thoughts turned to fire.
Now I am mounting straight up to the sun, said a voice in the
flames; and it was as if a thousand voices echoed the words as the
flames darted up through the chimney and went out at the top. Then a
number of tiny beings, as many as the flowers on the flax had been, and
invisible to mortal eyes, floated above the children. They were even
lighter and more delicate than the blue flowers from which they were
born; and as the flames died out and nothing remained of the paper but
black ashes, these little beings danced upon it, and wherever they
touched it, bright red sparks appeared.
The children are all out of school, and the schoolmaster was the
last of all, said the children. It was good fun, and they sang over
the dead ashes:
Snip, snap, snurre,
The song is ended.
But the little invisible beings said, The song is never ended; the
most beautiful is yet to come.
But the children could neither hear nor understand this; nor should
they, for children must not know everything.
NOW listen. Out in the country, close by the roadside, stood a
pleasant house; you have seen one like it, no doubt, very often. In
front lay a little fenced-in garden, full of blooming flowers. Near the
hedge, in the soft green grass, grew a little daisy. The sun shone as
brightly and warmly upon her as upon the large and beautiful garden
flowers, so the daisy grew from hour to hour. Every morning she
unfolded her little white petals, like shining rays round the little
golden sun in the center of the flower. She never seemed to think that
she was unseen down in the grass or that she was only a poor,
insignificant flower. She felt too happy to care for that. Merrily she
turned toward the warm sun, looked up to the blue sky, and listened to
the lark singing high in the air.
One day the little flower was as joyful as if it had been a great
holiday, although it was only Monday. All the children were at school,
and while they sat on their benches learning their lessons, she, on her
little stem, learned also from the warm sun and from everything around
her how good God is, and it made her happy to hear the lark expressing
in his song her own glad feelings. The daisy admired the happy bird who
could warble so sweetly and fly so high, and she was not at all
sorrowful because she could not do the same.
I can see and hear, thought she; the sun shines upon me, and the
wind kisses me; what else do I need to make me happy?
Within the garden grew a number of aristocratic flowers; the less
scent they had the more they flaunted. The peonies considered it a
grand thing to be so large, and puffed themselves out to be larger than
the roses. The tulips knew that they were marked with beautiful colors,
and held themselves bolt upright so that they might be seen more
They did not notice the little daisy outside, but she looked at them
and thought: How rich and beautiful they are! No wonder the pretty
bird flies down to visit them. How glad I am that I grow so near them,
that I may admire their beauty!
Just at this moment the lark flew down, crying Tweet, but he did
not go to the tall peonies and tulips; he hopped into the grass near
the lowly daisy. She trembled for joy and hardly knew what to think.
The little bird hopped round the daisy, singing, Oh, what sweet, soft
grass, and what a lovely little flower, with gold in its heart and
silver on its dress! For the yellow center in the daisy looked like
gold, and the leaves around were glittering white, like silver.
How happy the little daisy felt, no one can describe. The bird
kissed her with his beak, sang to her, and then flew up again into the
blue air above. It was at least a quarter of an hour before the daisy
could recover herself. Half ashamed, yet happy in herself, she glanced
at the other flowers; they must have seen the honor she had received,
and would understand her delight and pleasure.
But the tulips looked prouder than ever; indeed, they were evidently
quite vexed about it. The peonies were disgusted, and could they have
spoken, the poor little daisy would no doubt have received a good
scolding. She could see they were all out of temper, and it made her
At this moment there came into the garden a girl with a large,
glittering knife in her hand. She went straight to the tulips and cut
off several of them.
O dear, sighed the daisy, how shocking! It is all over with them
now. The girl carried the tulips away, and the daisy felt very glad to
grow outside in the grass and to be only a poor little flower. When the
sun set, she folded up her leaves and went to sleep. She dreamed the
whole night long of the warm sun and the pretty little bird.
The next morning, when she joyfully stretched out her white leaves
once more to the warm air and the light, she recognized the voice of
the bird, but his song sounded mournful and sad.
Alas! he had good reason to be sad: he had been caught and made a
prisoner in a cage that hung close by the open window. He sang of the
happy time when he could fly in the air, joyous and free; of the young
green corn in the fields, from which he would spring higher and higher
to sing his glorious songbut now he was a prisoner in a cage.
The little daisy wished very much to help him. But what could she
do? In her anxiety she forgot all the beautiful things around her, the
warm sunshine, and her own pretty, shining, white leaves. Alas! she
could think of nothing but the captive bird and her own inability to
Two boys came out of the garden; one of them carried a sharp knife
in his hand, like the one with which the girl had cut the tulips. They
went straight to the little daisy, who could not think what they were
going to do.
We can cut out a nice piece of turf for the lark here, said one of
the boys; and he began to cut a square piece round the daisy, so that
she stood just in the center.
[Illustration: So the daisy remained, and was put with the turf in
the lark's cage.]
Pull up the flower, said the other boy; and the daisy trembled
with fear, for to pluck her up would destroy her life and she wished so
much to live and to be taken to the captive lark in his cage.
No, let it stay where it is, said the boy, it looks so pretty.
So the daisy remained, and was put with the turf in the lark's cage.
The poor bird was complaining loudly about his lost freedom, beating
his wings against the iron bars of his prison. The little daisy could
make no sign and utter no word to console him, as she would gladly have
done. The whole morning passed in this manner.
There is no water here, said the captive lark; they have all gone
out and have forgotten to give me a drop to drink. My throat is hot and
dry; I feel as if I had fire and ice within me, and the air is so
heavy. Alas! I must die. I must bid farewell to the warm sunshine, the
fresh green, and all the beautiful things which God has created. And
then he thrust his beak into the cool turf to refresh himself a little
with the fresh grass, and, as he did so, his eye fell upon the daisy.
The bird nodded to her and kissed her with his beak and said: You also
will wither here, you poor little flower! They have given you to me,
with the little patch of green grass on which you grow, in exchange for
the whole world which was mine out there. Each little blade of grass is
to me as a great tree, and each of your white leaves a flower. Alas!
you only show me how much I have lost.
Oh, if I could only comfort him! thought the daisy, but she could
not move a leaf. The perfume from her leaves was stronger than is usual
in these flowers, and the bird noticed it, and though he was fainting
with thirst, and in his pain pulled up the green blades of grass, he
did not touch the flower.
The evening came, and yet no one had come to bring the bird a drop
of water. Then he stretched out his pretty wings and shook
convulsively; he could only sing Tweet, tweet, in a weak, mournful
tone. His little head bent down toward the flower; the bird's heart was
broken with want and pining. Then the flower could not fold her leaves
as she had done the evening before when she went to sleep, but, sick
and sorrowful, drooped toward the earth.
Not till morning did the boys come, and when they found the bird
dead, they wept many and bitter tears. They dug a pretty grave for him
and adorned it with leaves of flowers. The bird's lifeless body was
placed in a smart red box and was buried with great honor.
Poor bird! while he was alive and could sing, they forgot him and
allowed him to sit in his cage and suffer want, but now that he was
dead, they mourned for him with many tears and buried him in royal
But the turf with the daisy on it was thrown out into the dusty
road. No one thought of the little flower that had felt more for the
poor bird than had any one else and that would have been so glad to
help and comfort him if she had been able.
THE PEA BLOSSOM
THERE were once five peas in one shell; they were green, and the
shell was green, and so they believed that the whole world must be
green also, which was a very natural conclusion.
The shell grew, and the peas grew; and as they grew they arranged
themselves all in a row. The sun shone without and warmed the shell,
and the rain made it clear and transparent; it looked mild and
agreeable in broad daylight and dark at night, just as it should. And
the peas, as they sat there, grew bigger and bigger, and more
thoughtful as they mused, for they felt there must be something for
them to do.
Are we to sit here forever? asked one. Shall we not become hard,
waiting here so long? It seems to me there must be something outside; I
feel sure of it.
Weeks passed by; the peas became yellow, and the shell became
All the world is turning yellow, I suppose, said theyand perhaps
they were right.
Suddenly they felt a pull at the shell. It was torn off and held in
human hands; then it was slipped into the pocket of a jacket, together
with other full pods.
Now we shall soon be let out, said one, and that was just what
they all wanted.
I should like to know which of us will travel farthest, said the
smallest of the five; and we shall soon see.
What is to happen will happen, said the largest pea.
Crack! went the shell, and the five peas rolled out into the
bright sunshine. There they lay in a child's hand. A little boy was
holding them tightly. He said they were fine peas for his pea-shooter,
and immediately he put one in and shot it out.
Now I am flying out into the wide world, said the pea. Catch me
if you can. And he was gone in a moment.
I intend to fly straight to the sun, said the second. That is a
shell that will suit me exactly, for it lets itself be seen. And away
We will go to sleep wherever we find ourselves, said the next two;
we shall still be rolling onwards. And they did fall to the floor and
roll about, but they got into the pea-shooter for all that. We will go
farthest of any, said they.
What is to happen will happen, exclaimed the last one, as he was
shot out of the pea-shooter. Up he flew against an old board under a
garret window and fell into a little crevice which was almost filled
with moss and soft earth. The moss closed itself about him, and there
he laya captive indeed, but not unnoticed by God.
What is to happen will happen, said he to himself.
Within the little garret lived a poor woman, who went out to clean
stoves, chop wood into small pieces, and do other hard work, for she
was both strong and industrious. Yet she remained always poor, and at
home in the garret lay her only daughter, not quite grown up and very
delicate and weak. For a whole year she had kept her bed, and it seemed
as if she could neither die nor get well.
She is going to her little sister, said the woman. I had only the
two children, and it was not an easy thing to support them; but the
good God provided for one of them by taking her home to himself. The
other was left to me, but I suppose they are not to be separated, and
my sick girl will soon go to her sister in heaven.
All day long the sick girl lay quietly and patiently, while her
mother went out to earn money.
Spring came, and early one morning the sun shone through the little
window and threw his rays mildly and pleasantly over the floor of the
room. Just as the mother was going to her work, the sick girl fixed her
gaze on the lowest pane of the window. Mother, she exclaimed, what
can that little green thing be that peeps in at the window? It is
moving in the wind.
The mother stepped to the window and half opened it. Oh! she said,
there is actually a little pea that has taken root and is putting out
its green leaves. How could it have got into this crack? Well, now,
here is a little garden for you to amuse yourself with. So the bed of
the sick girl was drawn nearer to the window, that she might see the
budding plant; and the mother went forth to her work.
Mother, I believe I shall get well, said the sick child in the
evening. The sun has shone in here so bright and warm to-day, and the
little pea is growing so fast, that I feel better, too, and think I
shall get up and go out into the warm sunshine again.
God grant it! said the mother, but she did not believe it would be
so. She took a little stick and propped up the green plant which had
given her daughter such pleasure, so that it might not be broken by the
winds. She tied the piece of string to the window-sill and to the upper
part of the frame, so that the pea tendrils might have something to
twine round. And the plant shot up so fast that one could almost see it
grow from day to day.
A flower is really coming, said the mother one morning. At last
she was beginning to let herself hope that her little sick daughter
might indeed recover. She remembered that for some time the child had
spoken more cheerfully, and that during the last few days she had
raised herself in bed in the morning to look with sparkling eyes at her
little garden which contained but a single pea plant.
A week later the invalid sat up by the open window a whole hour,
feeling quite happy in the warm sunshine, while outside grew the little
plant, and on it a pink pea blossom in full bloom. The little maiden
bent down and gently kissed the delicate leaves. This day was like a
festival to her.
Our heavenly Father himself has planted that pea and made it grow
and flourish, to bring joy to you and hope to me, my blessed child,
said the happy mother, and she smiled at the flower as if it had been
an angel from God.
[Illustration: On it a pink pea blossom ... in full bloom.]
But what became of the other peas? Why, the one who flew out into
the wide world and said, Catch me if you can, fell into a gutter on
the roof of a house and ended his travels in the crop of a pigeon. The
two lazy ones were carried quite as far and were of some use, for they
also were eaten by pigeons; but the fourth, who wanted to reach the
sun, fell into a sink and lay there in the dirty water for days and
weeks, till he had swelled to a great size.
I am getting beautifully fat, said the pea; I expect I shall
burst at last; no pea could do more than that, I think. I am the most
remarkable of all the five that were in the shell. And the sink agreed
with the pea.
But the young girl, with sparkling eyes and the rosy hue of health
upon her cheeks, stood at the open garret window and, folding her thin
hands over the pea blossom, thanked God for what He had done.
ON the last house in the village there lay a stork's nest. The
mother stork sat in it with her four little ones, who were stretching
out their heads with their pointed black bills that had not yet turned
red. At a little distance, on the top of the roof, stood the father
stork, bolt upright and as stiff as could be. That he might not appear
quite idle while standing sentry, he had drawn one leg up under him, as
is the manner of storks. One might have taken him to be carved in
marble, so still did he stand.
It must look very grand for my wife to have a sentinel to guard her
nest, he thought. They can't know that I am her husband and will, of
course, conclude that I am commanded to stand here by her nest. It
Below, in the street, a crowd of children were playing. When they
chanced to catch sight of the storks, one of the boldest of the boys
began to sing the old song about the stork. The others soon joined him,
but each sang the words that he happened to have heard. This is one of
Stork, stork, fly away;
Stand not on one leg to-day.
Thy dear wife sits in the nest,
To lull the little ones to rest.
There's a halter for one,
There's a stake for another,
For the third there's a gun,
And a spit for his brother!
Only listen, said the young storks, to what the boys are singing.
Do you hear them say we're to be hanged and shot?
Don't listen to what they say; if you don't mind, it won't hurt
you, said the mother.
But the boys went on singing, and pointed mockingly at the sentinel
stork. Only one boy, whom they called Peter, said it was a shame to
make game of animals, and he would not join in the singing at all.
The mother stork tried to comfort her young ones. Don't mind them,
she said; see how quiet your father stands on one leg there.
But we are afraid, said the little ones, drawing back their beaks
into the nest.
The children assembled again on the next day, and no sooner did they
see the storks than they again began their song:
The first will be hanged,
The second be hit.
Tell us, are we to be hanged and burned? asked the young storks.
No, no; certainly not, replied the mother. You are to learn to
fly, and then we shall pay a visit to the frogs. They will bow to us in
the water and sing 'Croak! croak!' and we shall eat them up, and that
will be a great treat.
And then what? questioned the young storks.
Oh, then all the storks in the land will assemble, and the autumn
sports will begin; only then one must be able to fly well, for that is
very important. Whoever does not fly as he should will be pierced to
death by the general's beak, so mind that you learn well, when the
Yes, but then, after that, we shall be killed, as the boys say.
Hark! they are singing it again.
Attend to me and not to them, said the mother stork. After the
great review we shall fly away to warm countries, far from here, over
hills and forests. To Egypt we shall fly, where are the three-cornered
houses of stone, one point of which reaches to the clouds; they are
called pyramids and are older than a stork can imagine. In that same
land there is a river which overflows its banks and turns the whole
country into mire. We shall go into the mire and eat frogs.
Oh! oh! exclaimed all the youngsters.
Yes, it is indeed a delightful place. We need do nothing all day
long but eat; and while we are feasting there so comfortably, in this
country there is not a green leaf left on the trees. It is so cold here
that the very clouds freeze in lumps or fall down in little white
rags. It was hail and snow that she meant, but she did not know how to
say it better.
And will the naughty boys freeze in lumps? asked the young storks.
No, they will not freeze in lumps, but they will come near it, and
they will sit moping and cowering in gloomy rooms while you are flying
about in foreign lands, amid bright flowers and warm sunshine.
Some time passed, and the nestlings had grown so large and strong
that they could stand upright in the nest and look all about them.
Every day the father stork came with delicious frogs, nice little
snakes, and other such dainties that storks delight in. How funny it
was to see the clever feats he performed to amuse them! He would lay
his head right round upon his tail; and sometimes he would clatter with
his beak, as if it were a little rattle; or he would tell them stories,
all relating to swamps and fens.
Come, children, said the mother stork one day, now you must learn
to fly. And all the four young storks had to go out on the ridge of
the roof. How they did totter and stagger about! They tried to balance
themselves with their wings, but came very near falling to the ground.
Look at me! said the mother. This is the way to hold your head.
And thus you must place your feet. Left! right! left! right! that's
what will help you on in the world.
Then she flew a little way, and the young ones took a clumsy little
leap. Bump! plump! down they fell, for their bodies were still too
heavy for them.
I will not fly, said one of the young storks, as he crept back to
the nest. I don't care about going to warm countries.
Do you want to stay here and freeze when the winter comes? Will you
wait till the boys come to hang, to burn, or to roast you? Well, then,
I'll call them.
Oh, no! cried the timid stork, hopping back to the roof with the
By the third day they actually began to fly a little. Then they had
no doubt that they could soar or hover in the air, upborne by their
wings. And this they attempted to do, but down they fell, flapping
their wings as fast as they could.
Again the boys came to the street, singing their song, Storks,
storks, fly home and rest.
Shall we fly down and peck them? asked the young ones.
No, leave them alone. Attend to me; that's far more important.
Onetwothree! now we fly round to the right. Onetwothree! now to
the left, round the chimney. There! that was very good. That last flap
with your wings and the kick with your feet were so graceful and proper
that to-morrow you shall fly with me to the marsh. Several of the
nicest stork families will be there with their children. Let me see
that mine are the best bred of all. Carry your heads high and mind you
strut about proudly, for that looks well and helps to make one
But shall we not take revenge upon the naughty boys? asked the
No, no; let them scream away, as much as they please. You are to
fly up to the clouds and away to the land of the pyramids, while they
are freezing and can neither see a green leaf nor taste a sweet apple.
But we will revenge ourselves, they whispered one to another. And
then the training began again.
Among all the children down in the street the one that seemed most
bent upon singing the song that made game of the storks was the boy who
had begun it, and he was a little fellow hardly more than six years
old. The young storks, to be sure, thought he was at least a hundred,
for he was much bigger than their parents, and, besides, what did they
know about the ages of either children or grown men? Their whole
vengeance was to be aimed at this one boy. It was always he who began
the song and persisted in mocking them. The young storks were very
angry, and as they grew larger they also grew less patient under
insult, and their mother was at last obliged to promise them that they
might be revengedbut not until the day of their departure.
We must first see how you carry yourselves at the great review. If
you do so badly that the general runs his beak through you, then the
boys will be in the rightat least in one way. We must wait and see!
Yes, you shall see! cried all the young storks; and they took the
greatest pains, practicing every day, until they flew so evenly and so
lightly that it was a pleasure to see them.
The autumn now set in; all the storks began to assemble, in order to
start for the warm countries and leave winter behind them. And such
exercises as there were! Young fledglings were set to fly over forests
and villages, to see if they were equal to the long journey that was
before them. So well did our young storks acquit themselves, that, as a
proof of the satisfaction they had given, the mark they got was,
Remarkably well, with a present of a frog and a snake, which they
lost no time in eating.
Now, said they, we will be revenged.
Yes, certainly, said their mother; and I have thought of a way
that will surely be the fairest. I know a pond where all the little
human children lie till the stork comes to take them to their parents.
There lie the pretty little babies, dreaming more sweetly than they
ever dream afterwards. All the parents are wishing for one of these
little ones, and the children all want a sister or a brother. Now we'll
fly to the pond and bring back a baby for every child who did not sing
the naughty song that made game of the storks.
But the very naughty boy who was the first to begin the song,
cried the young storks, what shall we do with him?
There is a little dead child in the pondone that has dreamed
itself to death. We will bring that for him. Then he will cry because
we have brought a little dead brother to him.
But that good boy,you have not forgotten him!the one who said
it was a shame to mock at the animals; for him we will bring both a
brother and a sister. And because his name is Peter, all of you shall
be called Peter, too.
All was done as the mother had said; the storks were named Peter,
and so they are called to this day.
THE WILD SWANS
FAR away, in the land to which the swallows fly when it is winter,
dwelt a king who had eleven sons, and one daughter, named Eliza.
The eleven brothers were princes, and each went to school with a
star on his breast and a sword by his side. They wrote with diamond
pencils on golden slates and learned their lessons so quickly and read
so easily that every one knew they were princes. Their sister Eliza sat
on a little stool of plate-glass and had a book full of pictures, which
had cost as much as half a kingdom.
Happy, indeed, were these children; but they were not long to remain
so, for their father, the king, married a queen who did not love the
children, and who proved to be a wicked sorceress.
The queen began to show her unkindness the very first day. While the
great festivities were taking place in the palace, the children played
at receiving company; but the queen, instead of sending them the cakes
and apples that were left from the feast, as was customary, gave them
some sand in a teacup and told them to pretend it was something good.
The next week she sent the little Eliza into the country to a peasant
and his wife. Then she told the king so many untrue things about the
young princes that he gave himself no more trouble about them.
Go out into the world and look after yourselves, said the queen.
Fly like great birds without a voice. But she could not make it so
bad for them as she would have liked, for they were turned into eleven
beautiful wild swans.
With a strange cry, they flew through the windows of the palace,
over the park, to the forest beyond. It was yet early morning when they
passed the peasant's cottage where their sister lay asleep in her room.
They hovered over the roof, twisting their long necks and flapping
their wings, but no one heard them or saw them, so they at last flew
away, high up in the clouds, and over the wide world they sped till
they came to a thick, dark wood, which stretched far away to the
Poor little Eliza was alone in the peasant's room playing with a
green leaf, for she had no other playthings. She pierced a hole in the
leaf, and when she looked through it at the sun she seemed to see her
brothers' clear eyes, and when the warm sun shone on her cheeks she
thought of all the kisses they had given her.
One day passed just like another. Sometimes the winds rustled
through the leaves of the rosebush and whispered to the roses, Who can
be more beautiful than you? And the roses would shake their heads and
say, Eliza is. And when the old woman sat at the cottage door on
Sunday and read her hymn book, the wind would flutter the leaves and
say to the book, Who can be more pious than you? And then the hymn
book would answer, Eliza. And the roses and the hymn book told the
When she was fifteen she returned home, but because she was so
beautiful the witch-queen became full of spite and hatred toward her.
Willingly would she have turned her into a swan like her brothers, but
she did not dare to do so for fear of the king.
Early one morning the queen went into the bathroom; it was built of
marble and had soft cushions trimmed with the most beautiful tapestry.
She took three toads with her, and kissed them, saying to the first,
When Eliza comes to bathe seat yourself upon her head, that she may
become as stupid as you are. To the second toad she said, Place
yourself on her forehead, that she may become as ugly as you are, and
that her friends may not know her. Rest on her heart, she whispered
to the third; then she will have evil inclinations and suffer because
of them. So she put the toads into the clear water, which at once
turned green. She next called Eliza and helped her undress and get into
As Eliza dipped her head under the water one of the toads sat on her
hair, a second on her forehead, and a third on her breast. But she did
not seem to notice them, and when she rose from the water there were
three red poppies floating upon it. Had not the creatures been venomous
or had they not been kissed by the witch, they would have become red
roses. At all events they became flowers, because they had rested on
Eliza's head and on her heart. She was too good and too innocent for
sorcery to have any power over her.
When the wicked queen saw this, she rubbed Eliza's face with walnut
juice, so that she was quite brown; then she tangled her beautiful hair
and smeared it with disgusting ointment until it was quite impossible
to recognize her.
The king was shocked, and declared she was not his daughter. No one
but the watchdog and the swallows knew her, and they were only poor
animals and could say nothing. Then poor Eliza wept and thought of her
eleven brothers who were far away. Sorrowfully she stole from the
palace and walked the whole day over fields and moors, till she came to
the great forest. She knew not in what direction to go, but she was so
unhappy and longed so for her brothers, who, like herself, had been
driven out into the world, that she was determined to seek them.
She had been in the wood only a short time when night came on and
she quite lost the path; so she laid herself down on the soft moss,
offered up her evening prayer, and leaned her head against the stump of
a tree. All nature was silent, and the soft, mild air fanned her
forehead. The light of hundreds of glowworms shone amidst the grass and
the moss like green fire, and if she touched a twig with her hand, ever
so lightly, the brilliant insects fell down around her like shooting
All night long she dreamed of her brothers. She thought they were
all children again, playing together. She saw them writing with their
diamond pencils on golden slates, while she looked at the beautiful
picture book which had cost half a kingdom. They were not writing lines
and letters, as they used to do, but descriptions of the noble deeds
they had performed and of all that they had discovered and seen. In the
picture book, too, everything was living. The birds sang, and the
people came out of the book and spoke to Eliza and her brothers; but as
the leaves were turned over they darted back again to their places,
that all might be in order.
When she awoke, the sun was high in the heavens. She could not see
it, for the lofty trees spread their branches thickly overhead, but its
gleams here and there shone through the leaves like a gauzy golden
mist. There was a sweet fragrance from the fresh verdure, and the birds
came near and almost perched on her shoulders. She heard water rippling
from a number of springs, all flowing into a lake with golden sands.
Bushes grew thickly round the lake, and at one spot, where an opening
had been made by a deer, Eliza went down to the water.
The lake was so clear that had not the wind rustled the branches of
the trees and the bushes so that they moved, they would have seemed
painted in the depths of the lake; for every leaf, whether in the shade
or in the sunshine, was reflected in the water.
When Eliza saw her own face she was quite terrified at finding it so
brown and ugly, but after she had wet her little hand and rubbed her
eyes and forehead, the white skin gleamed forth once more; and when she
had undressed and dipped herself in the fresh water, a more beautiful
king's daughter could not have been found anywhere in the wide world.
As soon as she had dressed herself again and braided her long hair,
she went to the bubbling spring and drank some water out of the hollow
of her hand. Then she wandered far into the forest, not knowing whither
she went. She thought of her brothers and of her father and mother and
felt sure that God would not forsake her. It is God who makes the wild
apples grow in the wood to satisfy the hungry, and He now showed her
one of these trees, which was so loaded with fruit that the boughs bent
beneath the weight. Here she ate her noonday meal, and then placing
props under the boughs, she went into the gloomiest depths of the
It was so still that she could hear the sound of her own footsteps,
as well as the rustling of every withered leaf which she crushed under
her feet. Not a bird was to be seen, not a sunbeam could penetrate the
large, dark boughs of the trees. The lofty trunks stood so close
together that when she looked before her it seemed as if she were
enclosed within trelliswork. Here was such solitude as she had never
The night was very dark. Not a glowworm was glittering in the moss.
Sorrowfully Eliza laid herself down to sleep. After a while it seemed
to her as if the branches of the trees parted over her head and the
mild eyes of angels looked down upon her from heaven.
In the morning, when she awoke, she knew not whether this had really
been so or whether she had dreamed it. She continued her wandering, but
she had not gone far when she met an old woman who had berries in her
basket and who gave her a few to eat. Eliza asked her if she had not
seen eleven princes riding through the forest.
No, replied the old woman, but I saw yesterday eleven swans with
gold crowns on their heads, swimming in the river close by. Then she
led Eliza a little distance to a sloping bank, at the foot of which ran
a little river. The trees on its banks stretched their long leafy
branches across the water toward each other, and where they did not
meet naturally the roots had torn themselves away from the ground, so
that the branches might mingle their foliage as they hung over the
Eliza bade the old woman farewell and walked by the flowing river
till she reached the shore of the open sea. And there, before her eyes,
lay the glorious ocean, but not a sail appeared on its surface; not
even a boat could be seen. How was she to go farther? She noticed how
the countless pebbles on the shore had been smoothed and rounded by the
action of the water. Glass, iron, stones, everything that lay there
mingled together, had been shaped by the same power until they were as
smooth as her own delicate hand.
The water rolls on without weariness, she said, till all that is
hard becomes smooth; so will I be unwearied in my task. Thanks for your
lesson, bright rolling waves; my heart tells me you will one day lead
me to my dear brothers.
[Illustration: Eliza asked her if she had not seen eleven princes
riding through the forest....]
On the foam-covered seaweeds lay eleven white swan feathers, which
she gathered and carried with her. Drops of water lay upon them;
whether they were dewdrops or tears no one could say. It was lonely on
the seashore, but she did not know it, for the ever-moving sea showed
more changes in a few hours than the most varying lake could produce in
a whole year. When a black, heavy cloud arose, it was as if the sea
said, I can look dark and angry too; and then the wind blew, and the
waves turned to white foam as they rolled. When the wind slept and the
clouds glowed with the red sunset, the sea looked like a rose leaf.
Sometimes it became green and sometimes white. But, however quietly it
lay, the waves were always restless on the shore and rose and fell like
the breast of a sleeping child.
When the sun was about to set, Eliza saw eleven white swans, with
golden crowns on their heads, flying toward the land, one behind the
other, like a long white ribbon. She went down the slope from the shore
and hid herself behind the bushes. The swans alighted quite close to
her, flapping their great white wings. As soon as the sun had
disappeared under the water, the feathers of the swans fell off and
eleven beautiful princes, Eliza's brothers, stood near her.
She uttered a loud cry, for, although they were very much changed,
she knew them immediately. She sprang into their arms and called them
each by name. Very happy the princes were to see their little sister
again; they knew her, although she had grown so tall and beautiful.
They laughed and wept and told each other how cruelly they had been
treated by their stepmother.
We brothers, said the eldest, fly about as wild swans while the
sun is in the sky, but as soon as it sinks behind the hills we recover
our human shape. Therefore we must always be near a resting place
before sunset; for if we were flying toward the clouds when we
recovered our human form, we should sink deep into the sea.
We do not dwell here, but in a land just as fair that lies far
across the ocean; the way is long, and there is no island upon which we
can pass the nightnothing but a little rock rising out of the sea,
upon which, even crowded together, we can scarcely stand with safety.
If the sea is rough, the foam dashes over us; yet we thank God for this
rock. We have passed whole nights upon it, or we should never have
reached our beloved fatherland, for our flight across the sea occupies
two of the longest days in the year.
We have permission to visit our home once every year and to remain
eleven days. Then we fly across the forest to look once more at the
palace where our father dwells and where we were born, and at the
church beneath whose shade our mother lies buried. The very trees and
bushes here seem related to us. The wild horses leap over the plains as
we have seen them in our childhood. The charcoal burners sing the old
songs to which we have danced as children. This is our fatherland, to
which we are drawn by loving ties; and here we have found you, our dear
little sister. Two days longer we can remain here, and then we must fly
away to a beautiful land which is not our home. How can we take you
with us? We have neither ship nor boat.
How can I break this spell? asked the sister. And they talked
about it nearly the whole night, slumbering only a few hours.
Eliza was awakened by the rustling of the wings of swans soaring
above her. Her brothers were again changed to swans. They flew in
circles, wider and wider, till they were far away; but one of them, the
youngest, remained behind and laid his head in his sister's lap, while
she stroked his wings. They remained together the whole day.
Towards evening the rest came back, and as the sun went down they
resumed their natural forms. To-morrow, said one, we shall fly away,
not to return again till a whole year has passed. But we cannot leave
you here. Have you courage to go with us? My arm is strong enough to
carry you through the wood, and will not all our wings be strong enough
to bear you over the sea?
Yes, take me with you, said Eliza. They spent the whole night in
weaving a large, strong net of the pliant willow and rushes. On this
Eliza laid herself down to sleep, and when the sun rose and her
brothers again became wild swans, they took up the net with their
beaks, and flew up to the clouds with their dear sister, who still
slept. When the sunbeams fell on her face, one of the swans soared over
her head so that his broad wings might shade her.
They were far from the land when Eliza awoke. She thought she must
still be dreaming, it seemed so strange to feel herself being carried
high in the air over the sea. By her side lay a branch full of
beautiful ripe berries and a bundle of sweet-tasting roots; the
youngest of her brothers had gathered them and placed them there. She
smiled her thanks to him; she knew it was the same one that was
hovering over her to shade her with his wings. They were now so high
that a large ship beneath them looked like a white sea gull skimming
the waves. A great cloud floating behind them appeared like a vast
mountain, and upon it Eliza saw her own shadow and those of the eleven
swans, like gigantic flying things. Altogether it formed a more
beautiful picture than she had ever before seen; but as the sun rose
higher and the clouds were left behind, the picture vanished.
Onward the whole day they flew through the air like winged arrows,
yet more slowly than usual, for they had their sister to carry. The
weather grew threatening, and Eliza watched the sinking sun with great
anxiety, for the little rock in the ocean was not yet in sight. It
seemed to her as if the swans were exerting themselves to the utmost.
Alas! she was the cause of their not advancing more quickly. When the
sun set they would change to men, fall into the sea, and be drowned.
Then she offered a prayer from her inmost heart, but still no rock
appeared. Dark clouds came nearer, the gusts of wind told of the coming
storm, while from a thick, heavy mass of clouds the lightning burst
forth, flash after flash. The sun had reached the edge of the sea, when
the swans darted down so swiftly that Eliza's heart trembled; she
believed they were falling, but they again soared onward.
Presently, and by this time the sun was half hidden by the waves,
she caught sight of the rock just below them. It did not look larger
than a seal's head thrust out of the water. The sun sank so rapidly
that at the moment their feet touched the rock it shone only like a
star, and at last disappeared like the dying spark in a piece of burnt
paper. Her brothers stood close around her with arms linked together,
for there was not the smallest space to spare. The sea dashed against
the rock and covered them with spray. The heavens were lighted up with
continual flashes, and thunder rolled from the clouds. But the sister
and brothers stood holding each other's hands, and singing hymns.
In the early dawn the air became calm and still, and at sunrise the
swans flew away from the rock, bearing their sister with them. The sea
was still rough, and from their great height the white foam on the
dark-green waves looked like millions of swans swimming on the water.
As the sun rose higher, Eliza saw before her, floating in the air, a
range of mountains with shining masses of ice on their summits. In the
center rose a castle that seemed a mile long, with rows of columns
rising one above another, while around it palm trees waved and flowers
as large as mill wheels bloomed. She asked if this was the land to
which they were hastening. The swans shook their heads, for what she
beheld were the beautiful, ever-changing cloud-palaces of the Fata
Morgana, into which no mortal can enter.
Eliza was still gazing at the scene, when mountains, forests, and
castles melted away, and twenty stately churches rose in their stead,
with high towers and pointed Gothic windows. She even fancied she could
hear the tones of the organ, but it was the music of the murmuring sea.
As they drew nearer to the churches, these too were changed and became
a fleet of ships, which seemed to be sailing beneath her; but when she
looked again she saw only a sea mist gliding over the ocean.
One scene melted into another, until at last she saw the real land
to which they were bound, with its blue mountains, its cedar forests,
and its cities and palaces. Long before the sun went down she was
sitting on a rock in front of a large cave, the floor of which was
overgrown with delicate green creeping plants, like an embroidered
Now we shall expect to hear what you dream of to-night, said the
youngest brother, as he showed his sister her bedroom.
Heaven grant that I may dream how to release you! she replied. And
this thought took such hold upon her mind that she prayed earnestly to
God for help, and even in her sleep she continued to pray. Then it
seemed to her that she was flying high in the air toward the cloudy
palace of the Fata Morgana, and that a fairy came out to meet her,
radiant and beautiful, yet much like the old woman who had given her
berries in the wood, and who had told her of the swans with golden
crowns on their heads.
Your brothers can be released, said she, if you only have courage
and perseverance. Water is softer than your own delicate hands, and yet
it polishes and shapes stones. But it feels no pain such as your
fingers will feel; it has no soul and cannot suffer such agony and
torment as you will have to endure. Do you see the stinging nettle
which I hold in my hand? Quantities of the same sort grow round the
cave in which you sleep, but only these, and those that grow on the
graves of a churchyard, will be of any use to you. These you must
gather, even while they burn blisters on your hands. Break them to
pieces with your hands and feet, and they will become flax, from which
you must spin and weave eleven coats with long sleeves; if these are
then thrown over the eleven swans, the spell will be broken. But
remember well, that from the moment you commence your task until it is
finished, even though it occupy years of your life, you must not speak.
The first word you utter will pierce the hearts of your brothers like a
deadly dagger. Their lives hang upon your tongue. Remember all that I
have told you.
And as she finished speaking, she touched Eliza's hand lightly with
the nettle, and a pain as of burning fire awoke her.
It was broad daylight, and near her lay a nettle like the one she
had seen in her dream. She fell on her knees and offered thanks to God.
Then she went forth from the cave to begin work with her delicate
hands. She groped in amongst the ugly nettles, which burned great
blisters on her hands and arms, but she determined to bear the pain
gladly if she could only release her dear brothers. So she bruised the
nettles with her bare feet and spun the flax.
At sunset her brothers returned, and were much frightened when she
did not speak. They believed her to be under the spell of some new
sorcery, but when they saw her hands they understood what she was doing
in their behalf. The youngest brother wept, and where his tears touched
her the pain ceased and the burning blisters vanished. Eliza kept to
her work all night, for she could not rest till she had released her
brothers. During the whole of the following day, while her brothers
were absent, she sat in solitude, but never before had the time flown
One coat was already finished and she had begun the second, when she
heard a huntsman's horn and was struck with fear. As the sound came
nearer and nearer, she also heard dogs barking, and fled with terror
into the cave. She hastily bound together the nettles she had gathered,
and sat upon them. In a moment there came bounding toward her out of
the ravine a great dog, and then another and another; they ran back and
forth barking furiously, until in a few minutes all the huntsmen stood
before the cave. The handsomest of them was the king of the country,
who, when he saw the beautiful maiden, advanced toward her, saying,
How did you come here, my sweet child?
Eliza shook her head. She dared not speak, for it would cost her
brothers their deliverance and their lives. And she hid her hands under
her apron, so that the king might not see how she was suffering.
Come with me, he said; here you cannot remain. If you are as good
as you are beautiful, I will dress you in silk and velvet, I will place
a golden crown on your head, and you shall rule and make your home in
my richest castle. Then he lifted her onto his horse. She wept and
wrung her hands, but the king said: I wish only your happiness. A time
will come when you will thank me for this.
He galloped away over the mountains, holding her before him on his
horse, and the hunters followed behind them. As the sun went down they
approached a fair, royal city, with churches and cupolas. On arriving
at the castle, the king led her into marble halls, where large
fountains played and where the walls and the ceilings were covered with
rich paintings. But she had no eyes for all these glorious sights; she
could only mourn and weep. Patiently she allowed the women to array her
in royal robes, to weave pearls in her hair, and to draw soft gloves
over her blistered fingers. As she stood arrayed in her rich dress, she
looked so dazzlingly beautiful that the court bowed low in her
Then the king declared his intention of making her his bride, but
the archbishop shook his head and whispered that the fair young maiden
was only a witch, who had blinded the king's eyes and ensnared his
heart. The king would not listen to him, however, and ordered the music
to sound, the daintiest dishes to be served, and the loveliest maidens
to dance before them.
Afterwards he led her through fragrant gardens and lofty halls, but
not a smile appeared on her lips or sparkled in her eyes. She looked
the very picture of grief. Then the king opened the door of a little
chamber in which she was to sleep. It was adorned with rich green
tapestry and resembled the cave in which he had found her. On the floor
lay the bundle of flax which she had spun from the nettles, and under
the ceiling hung the coat she had made. These things had been brought
away from the cave as curiosities, by one of the huntsmen.
Here you can dream yourself back again in the old home in the
cave, said the king; here is the work with which you employed
yourself. It will amuse you now, in the midst of all this splendor, to
think of that time.
When Eliza saw all these things which lay so near her heart, a smile
played around her mouth, and the crimson blood rushed to her cheeks.
The thought of her brothers and their release made her so joyful that
she kissed the king's hand. Then he pressed her to his heart.
Very soon the joyous church bells announced the marriage feast; the
beautiful dumb girl of the woods was to be made queen of the country. A
single word would cost her brothers their lives, but she loved the
kind, handsome king, who did everything to make her happy, more and
more each day; she loved him with her whole heart, and her eyes beamed
with the love she dared not speak. Oh! if she could only confide in him
and tell him of her grief. But dumb she must remain till her task was
Therefore at night she crept away into her little chamber which had
been decked out to look like the cave and quickly wove one coat after
another. But when she began the seventh, she found she had no more
flax. She knew that the nettles she wanted to use grew in the
churchyard and that she must pluck them herself. How should she get out
there? Oh, what is the pain in my fingers to the torment which my
heart endures? thought she. I must venture; I shall not be denied
help from heaven.
Then with a trembling heart, as if she were about to perform a
wicked deed, Eliza crept into the garden in the broad moonlight, and
passed through the narrow walks and the deserted streets till she
reached the churchyard. She prayed silently, gathered the burning
nettles, and carried them home with her to the castle.
One person only had seen her, and that was the archbishophe was
awake while others slept. Now he felt sure that his suspicions were
correct; all was not right with the queen; she was a witch and had
bewitched the king and all the people. Secretly he told the king what
he had seen and what he feared, and as the hard words came from his
tongue, the carved images of the saints shook their heads as if they
would say, It is not so; Eliza is innocent.
But the archbishop interpreted it in another way; he believed that
they witnessed against her and were shaking their heads at her
wickedness. Two tears rolled down the king's cheeks. He went home with
doubt in his heart, and at night pretended to sleep. But no real sleep
came to his eyes, for every night he saw Eliza get up and disappear
from her chamber. Day by day his brow became darker, and Eliza saw it,
and although she did not understand the reason, it alarmed her and made
her heart tremble for her brothers. Her hot tears glittered like pearls
on the regal velvet and diamonds, while all who saw her were wishing
they could be queen.
In the meantime she had almost finished her task; only one of her
brothers' coats was wanting, but she had no flax left and not a single
nettle. Once more only, and for the last time, must she venture to the
churchyard and pluck a few handfuls. She went, and the king and the
archbishop followed her. The king turned away his head and said, The
people must condemn her. Quickly she was condemned to suffer death by
Away from the gorgeous regal halls she was led to a dark, dreary
cell, where the wind whistled through the iron bars. Instead of the
velvet and silk dresses, they gave her the ten coats which she had
woven, to cover her, and the bundle of nettles for a pillow. But they
could have given her nothing that would have pleased her more. She
continued her task with joy and prayed for help, while the street boys
sang jeering songs about her and not a soul comforted her with a kind
Toward evening she heard at the grating the flutter of a swan's
wing; it was her youngest brother. He had found his sister, and she
sobbed for joy, although she knew that probably this was the last night
she had to live. Still, she had hope, for her task was almost finished
and her brothers were come.
Then the archbishop arrived, to be with her during her last hours as
he had promised the king. She shook her head and begged him, by looks
and gestures, not to stay; for in this night she knew she must finish
her task, otherwise all her pain and tears and sleepless nights would
have been suffered in vain. The archbishop withdrew, uttering bitter
words against her, but she knew that she was innocent and diligently
continued her work.
Little mice ran about the floor, dragging the nettles to her feet,
to help as much as they could; and a thrush, sitting outside the
grating of the window, sang to her the whole night long as sweetly as
possible, to keep up her spirits.
It was still twilight, and at least an hour before sunrise, when the
eleven brothers stood at the castle gate and demanded to be brought
before the king. They were told it could not be; it was yet night; the
king slept and could not be disturbed. They threatened, they entreated,
until the guard appeared, and even the king himself, inquiring what all
the noise meant. At this moment the sun rose, and the eleven brothers
were seen no more, but eleven wild swans flew away over the castle.
Now all the people came streaming forth from the gates of the city
to see the witch burned. An old horse drew the cart on which she sat.
They had dressed her in a garment of coarse sackcloth. Her lovely hair
hung loose on her shoulders, her cheeks were deadly pale, her lips
moved silently while her fingers still worked at the green flax. Even
on the way to death she would not give up her task. The ten finished
coats lay at her feet; she was working hard at the eleventh, while the
mob jeered her and said: See the witch; how she mutters! She has no
hymn book in her hand; she sits there with her ugly sorcery. Let us
tear it into a thousand pieces.
They pressed toward her, and doubtless would have destroyed the
coats had not, at that moment, eleven wild swans flown over her and
alighted on the cart. They flapped their large wings, and the crowd
drew back in alarm.
It is a sign from Heaven that she is innocent, whispered many of
them; but they did not venture to say it aloud.
As the executioner seized her by the hand to lift her out of the
cart, she hastily threw the eleven coats over the eleven swans, and
they immediately became eleven handsome princes; but the youngest had a
swan's wing instead of an arm, for she had not been able to finish the
last sleeve of the coat.
Now I may speak, she exclaimed. I am innocent.
[Illustration: Even on the way to death she would not give up her
Then the people, who saw what had happened, bowed to her as before a
saint; but she sank unconscious in her brothers' arms, overcome with
suspense, anguish, and pain.
Yes, she is innocent, said the eldest brother, and related all
that had taken place. While he spoke, there rose in the air a fragrance
as from millions of roses. Every piece of fagot in the pile made to
burn her had taken root, and threw out branches until the whole
appeared like a thick hedge, large and high, covered with roses; while
above all bloomed a white, shining flower that glittered like a star.
This flower the king plucked, and when he placed it in Eliza's bosom
she awoke from her swoon with peace and happiness in her heart. Then
all the church bells rang of themselves, and the birds came in great
flocks. And a marriage procession, such as no king had ever before
seen, returned to the castle.
THE LAST DREAM OF THE OLD OAK
IN THE forest, high up on the steep shore and not far from the open
seacoast, stood a very old oak tree. It was just three hundred and
sixty-five years old, but that long time was to the tree as the same
number of days might be to us. We wake by day and sleep by night, and
then we have our dreams. It is different with the tree; it is obliged
to keep awake through three seasons of the year and does not get any
sleep till winter comes. Winter is its time for restits night after
the long day of spring, summer, and autumn.
During many a warm summer, the Ephemeras, which are flies that exist
for only a day, had fluttered about the old oak, enjoyed life, and felt
happy. And if, for a moment, one of the tiny creatures rested on the
large, fresh leaves, the tree would always say: Poor little creature!
your whole life consists of but a single day. How very short! It must
be quite melancholy.
Melancholy! what do you mean? the little creature would always
reply. Why do you say that? Everything around me is so wonderfully
bright and warm and beautiful that it makes me joyous.
But only for one day, and then it is all over.
Over! repeated the fly; what is the meaning of 'all over'? Are
you 'all over' too?
No, I shall very likely live for thousands of your days, and my day
is whole seasons long; indeed, it is so long that you could never
reckon it up.
No? then I don't understand you. You may have thousands of my days,
but I have thousands of moments in which I can be merry and happy. Does
all the beauty of the world cease when you die?
No, replied the tree; it will certainly last much longer,
infinitely longer than I can think of.
Well, then, said the little fly, we have the same time to live,
only we reckon differently. And the little creature danced and floated
in the air, rejoicing in its delicate wings of gauze and velvet,
rejoicing in the balmy breezes laden with the fragrance from the clover
fields and wild roses, elder blossoms and honeysuckle, and from the
garden hedges of wild thyme, primroses, and mint. The perfume of all
these was so strong that it almost intoxicated the little fly. The long
and beautiful day had been so full of joy and sweet delights, that,
when the sun sank, the fly felt tired of all its happiness and
enjoyment. Its wings could sustain it no longer, and gently and slowly
it glided down to the soft, waving blades of grass, nodded its little
head as well as it could, and slept peacefully and sweetly. The fly was
Poor little Ephemera! said the oak; what a short life! And so on
every summer day the dance was repeated, the same questions were asked
and the same answers given, and there was the same peaceful falling
asleep at sunset. This continued through many generations of Ephemeras,
and all of them felt merry and happy.
The oak remained awake through the morning of spring, the noon of
summer, and the evening of autumn; its time of rest, its night, drew
nearits winter was coming. Here fell a leaf and there fell a leaf.
Already the storms were singing: Good night, good night. We will rock
you and lull you. Go to sleep, go to sleep. We will sing you to sleep,
and shake you to sleep, and it will do your old twigs good; they will
even crackle with pleasure. Sleep sweetly, sleep sweetly, it is your
three hundred and sixty-fifth night. You are still very young in the
world. Sleep sweetly; the clouds will drop snow upon you, which will be
your coverlid, warm and sheltering to your feet. Sweet sleep to you,
and pleasant dreams.
And there stood the oak, stripped of all its leaves, left to rest
during the whole of a long winter, and to dream many dreams of events
that had happened, just as men dream.
The great tree had once been small; indeed, in its cradle it had
been an acorn. According to human reckoning, it was now in the fourth
century of its existence. It was the largest and best tree in the
forest. Its summit towered above all the other trees and could be seen
far out at sea, so that it served as a landmark to the sailors. It had
no idea how many eyes looked eagerly for it. In its topmost branches
the wood pigeon built her nest, and the cuckoo sang his well-known
song, the familiar notes echoing among the boughs; and in autumn, when
the leaves looked like beaten copper plates, the birds of passage came
and rested on the branches before beginning their flight across the
But now that it was winter, the tree stood leafless, so that every
one could see how crooked and bent were the branches that sprang forth
from the trunk. Crows and rooks came by turns and sat on them, and
talked of the hard times that were beginning, and how difficult it was
in winter to obtain a living.
It was just at the holy Christmas time that the tree dreamed a
dream. The tree had doubtless a feeling that the festive time had
arrived, and in its dream fancied it heard the bells of the churches
ringing. And yet it seemed to be a beautiful summer's day, mild and
warm. The tree's mighty summit was crowned with spreading, fresh green
foliage; the sunbeams played among its leaves and branches, and the air
was full of fragrance from herb and blossom; painted butterflies chased
each other; the summer flies danced around it as if the world had been
created merely that they might dance and be merry. All that had
happened to the tree during all the years of its life seemed to pass
before it as if in a festive pageant.
It saw the knights of olden times and noble ladies ride through the
wood on their gallant steeds, with plumes waving in their hats and with
falcons on their wrists, while the hunting horn sounded and the dogs
barked. It saw hostile warriors, in colored dress and glittering armor,
with spear and halberd, pitching their tents and again taking them
down; the watchfires blazed, and men sang and slept under the
hospitable shelter of the tree. It saw lovers meet in quiet happiness
near it in the moonshine, and carve the initials of their names in the
grayish-green bark of its trunk.
[Illustration: It saw lovers meet in quiet happiness near it in the
Once, but long years had passed since then, guitars and Æolian harps
had been hung on its boughs by merry travelers; now they seemed to hang
there again, and their marvelous notes sounded again. The wood pigeons
cooed as if to express the feelings of the tree, and the cuckoo called
out to tell it how many summer days it had yet to live.
Then it appeared to it that new life was thrilling through every
fiber of root and stem and leaf, rising even to its highest branches.
The tree felt itself stretching and spreading out, while through the
root beneath the earth ran the warm vigor of life. As it grew higher
and still higher and its strength increased, the topmost boughs became
broader and fuller; and in proportion to its growth its
self-satisfaction increased, and there came a joyous longing to grow
higher and higherto reach even to the warm, bright sun itself.
Already had its topmost branches pierced the clouds, which floated
beneath them like troops of birds of passage or large white swans;
every leaf seemed gifted with sight, as if it possessed eyes to see.
The stars became visible in broad daylight, large and sparkling, like
clear and gentle eyes. They brought to the tree's memory the light that
it had seen in the eyes of a child and in the eyes of lovers who had
once met beneath the branches of the old oak.
These were wonderful and happy moments for the old oak, full of
peace and joy; and yet amidst all this happiness, the tree felt a
yearning desire that all the other trees, bushes, herbs, and flowers
beneath it might also be able to rise higher, to see all this splendor
and experience the same happiness. The grand, majestic oak could not be
quite happy in its enjoyment until all the rest, both great and small,
could share it. And this feeling of yearning trembled through every
branch, through every leaf, as warmly and fervently as through a human
The summit of the tree waved to and fro and bent downwards, as if in
its silent longing it sought something. Then there came to it the
fragrance of thyme and the more powerful scent of honeysuckle and
violets, and the tree fancied it heard the note of the cuckoo.
At length its longing was satisfied. Up through the clouds came the
green summits of the forest trees, and the oak watched them rising
higher and higher. Bush and herb shot upward, and some even tore
themselves up by the roots to rise more quickly. The quickest of all
was the birch tree. Like a lightning flash the slender stem shot
upwards in a zigzag line, the branches spreading round it like green
gauze and banners. Every native of the wood, even to the brown and
feathery rushes, grew with the rest, while the birds ascended with the
melody of song. On a blade of grass that fluttered in the air like a
long green ribbon sat a grasshopper cleaning its wings with its legs.
May beetles hummed, bees murmured, birds sangeach in its own way; the
air was filled with the sounds of song and gladness.
But where is the little blue flower that grows by the water, and
the purple bellflower, and the daisy? asked the oak. I want them
Here we are; here we are, came the reply in words and in song.
But the beautiful thyme of last summer, where is that? And where
are the lilies of the valley which last year covered the earth with
their bloom, and the wild apple tree with its fragrant blossoms, and
all the glory of the wood, which has flourished year after year? And
where is even what may have but just been born?
We are here; we are here, sounded voices high up in the air, as if
they had flown there beforehand.
Why, this is beautiful, too beautiful to be believed, cried the
oak in a joyful tone. I have them all here, both great and small; not
one has been forgotten. Can such happiness be imagined? It seems almost
In heaven with the Eternal God it can be imagined, for all things
are possible, sounded the reply through the air.
And the old tree, as it still grew upwards and onwards, felt that
its roots were loosening themselves from the earth.
It is right so; it is best, said the tree. No fetters hold me
now. I can fly up to the very highest point in light and glory. And all
I love are with me, both small and great. Allall are here.
Such was the dream of the old oak at the holy Christmas time. And
while it dreamed, a mighty storm came rushing over land and sea. The
sea rolled in great billows toward the shore. A cracking and crushing
was heard in the tree. Its roots were torn from the ground, just at the
moment when in its dream it was being loosened from the earth. It fell;
its three hundred and sixty-five years were ended like the single day
of the Ephemera.
On the morning of Christmas Day, when the sun rose, the storm had
ceased. From all the churches sounded the festive bells, and from every
hearth, even of the smallest hut, rose the smoke into the blue sky,
like the smoke from the festive thank-offerings on the Druids' altars.
The sea gradually became calm, and on board a great ship that had
withstood the tempest during the night, all the flags were displayed as
a token of joy and festivity.
The tree is down! the old oakour landmark on the coast!
exclaimed the sailors. It must have fallen in the storm of last night.
Who can replace it? Alas! no one. This was the old tree's funeral
oration, brief but well said.
There it lay stretched on the snow-covered shore, and over it
sounded the notes of a song from the shipa song of Christmas joy, of
the redemption of the soul of man, and of eternal life through Christ.
Sing aloud on this happy morn,
All is fulfilled, for Christ is born;
With songs of joy let us loudly sing,
Hallelujahs to Christ our King.
Thus sounded the Christmas carol, and every one on board the ship
felt his thoughts elevated through the song and the prayer, even as the
old tree had felt lifted up in its last beautiful dream on that
THE PORTUGUESE DUCK
A DUCK once arrived from Portugal. There were some who said she came
from Spain, but that is almost the same thing. At all events, she was
called the Portuguese duck, and she laid eggs, was killed and cooked,
and that was the end of her.
The ducklings which crept forth from her eggs were also called
Portuguese ducks, and about that there may be some question. But of all
the family only one remained in the duck yard, which may be called a
farmyard, since the chickens were admitted to it and the cock strutted
about in a very hostile manner.
He annoys me with his loud crowing, said the Portuguese duck, but
still, he's a handsome bird, there's no denying that, even if he is not
a duck. He ought to moderate his voice, like those little birds who are
singing in the lime trees over there in our neighbor's gardenbut that
is an art only acquired in polite society. How sweetly they sing there;
it is quite a pleasure to listen to them! I call it Portuguese singing.
If I only had such a little singing bird, I'd be as kind and good to
him as a mother, for it's in my Portuguese nature.
While she was speaking, one of the little singing birds came
tumbling head over heels from the roof into the yard. The cat was after
him, but he had escaped from her with a broken wing and so came
fluttering into the yard. That's just like the cat; she's a villain,
said the Portuguese duck. I remember her ways when I had children of
my own. How can such a creature be allowed to live and wander about
upon the roofs? I don't think they allow such things in Portugal.
She pitied the little singing bird, and so did all the other ducks,
who were not Portuguese.
Poor little creature! they said, one after another, as they came
up. We can't sing, certainly; but we have a sounding board, or
something of the kind, within us, though we don't talk about it.
But I can talk, said the Portuguese duck. I'll do something for
the little fellow; it's my duty. So she stepped into the watering
trough and beat her wings upon the water so strongly that the little
bird was nearly drowned. But the duck meant it kindly. That is a good
deed, she said; I hope the others will take example from it.
Tweet, tweet! said the little bird. One of his wings was broken
and he found it difficult to shake himself, but he quite understood
that the bath was meant kindly, so he said, You are very kind-hearted,
madam. But he did not wish for a second bath.
I have never thought about my heart, replied the Portuguese duck;
but I know that I love all my fellow creatures, except the cat, and
nobody can expect me to love her, for she ate up two of my ducklings.
But pray make yourself at home; it is easy to make oneself comfortable.
I myself am from a foreign country, as you may see by my bearing and my
feathery dress. My husband is a native of these parts; he's not of my
race, but I am not proud on that account. If any one here can
understand you, I may say positively that I am that person.
She's quite full of portulak, said a little common duck,
who was witty. All the common ducks considered the word portulak a
good joke, for it sounded like Portugal. They nudged each other and
said, Quack! that was witty!
Then the other ducks began to notice the newcomer. The Portuguese
has certainly a great flow of language, they said to the little bird.
For our part, we don't care to fill our beaks with such long words,
but we sympathize with you quite as much. If we don't do anything else,
we can walk about with you everywhere; that is the best we can do.
You have a lovely voice, said one of the eldest ducks; it must be
a great satisfaction to you to be able to give as much pleasure as you
do. I am certainly no judge of your singing, so I keep my beak shut,
which is better than talking nonsense as others do.
Don't plague him so, interrupted the Portuguese duck; he requires
rest and nursing. My little singing bird, do you wish me to prepare
another bath for you?
Oh, no! no! pray let me be dry, implored the little bird.
The water cure is the only remedy for me when I am not well, said
the Portuguese. Amusement, too, is very beneficial. The fowls from the
neighborhood will soon be here to pay you a visit. There are two
Cochin-Chinese among them; they wear feathers on their legs and are
well educated. They have been brought from a great distance, and
consequently I treat them with greater respect than I do the others.
Then the fowls arrived, and the cock was polite enough to keep from
being rude. You are a real songster, he said, and you do as much
with your little voice as it is possible to do; but more noise and
shrillness is necessary if one wishes others to know who he is.
The two Chinese were quite enchanted with the appearance of the
singing bird. His feathers had been much ruffled by his bath, so that
he seemed to them quite like a tiny Chinese fowl. He's charming, they
said to each other, and began a conversation with him in whispers,
using the most aristocratic Chinese dialect.
We are of the same race as yourself, they said. The ducks, even
the Portuguese, are all aquatic birds, as you must have noticed. You do
not know us yetvery few, even of the fowls, know us or give
themselves the trouble to make our acquaintance, though we were born to
occupy a higher position in society than most of them. But that does
not disturb us; we quietly go our way among them. Their ideas are
certainly not ours, for we look at the bright side of things and only
speak of what is good, although that is sometimes difficult to find
where none exists. Except ourselves and the cock, there is not one in
the yard who can be called talented or polite. It cannot be said even
of the ducks, and we warn you, little bird, not to trust that one
yonder, with the short tail feathers, for she is cunning. Then the
curiously marked one, with the crooked stripes on her wings, is a
mischief-maker and never lets any one have the last word, though she is
always in the wrong. The fat duck yonder speaks evil of every one, and
that is against our principles; if we have nothing good to tell, we
close our beaks. The Portuguese is the only one who has had any
education and with whom we can associate, but she is passionate and
talks too much about Portugal.
I wonder what those two Chinese are whispering about, whispered
one duck to another. They are always doing it, and it annoys me. We
never speak to them.
Now the drake came up, and he thought the little singing bird was a
sparrow. Well, I don't understand the difference, he said; it
appears to me all the same. He's only a plaything, and if people will
have playthings, why let them, I say.
Don't take any notice of what he says, whispered the Portuguese;
he is very well in matters of business, and with him business is
first. Now I shall lie down and have a little rest. It is a duty we owe
to ourselves, so that we shall be nice and fat when we come to be
embalmed with sage and onions and apples.
So she laid herself down in the sun and winked with one eye. She had
a very comfortable place and felt so at ease that she fell asleep. The
little singing bird busied himself for some time with his broken wing,
and at last he too lay down, quite close to his protectress. The sun
shone warm and bright, and he found it a very good place. But the fowls
of the neighborhood were all awake, and, to tell the truth, they had
paid a visit to the duck yard solely to find food for themselves. The
Chinese were the first to leave, and the other fowls soon followed
The witty little duck said of the Portuguese that the old lady was
getting to be quite a doting ducky. All the other ducks laughed at
this. 'Doting ducky,' they whispered; oh, that's too witty! Then
they repeated the joke about portulak and declared it was most
amusing. After that they all lay down to have a nap.
They had been lying asleep for quite a while, when suddenly
something was thrown into the yard for them to eat. It came down with
such a bang that the whole company started up and clapped their wings.
The Portuguese awoke, too, and rushed over to the other side of the
yard. In doing this she trod upon the little singing bird.
Tweet, he cried; you trod very hard upon me, madam.
Well, then, why do you lie in my way? she retorted. You must not
be so touchy. I have nerves of my own, but I do not cry 'Tweet.'
Don't be angry, said the little bird; the 'Tweet' slipped out of
my beak before I knew it.
The Portuguese did not listen to him, but began eating as fast as
she could, and made a good meal. When she had finished she lay down
again, and the little bird, who wished to be amiable, began to sing:
Chirp and twitter,
The dewdrops glitter,
In the hours of sunny spring;
I'll sing my best,
Till I go to rest,
With my head behind my wing.
Now I want rest after my dinner, said the Portuguese. You must
conform to the rules of the place while you are here. I want to sleep
The little bird was quite taken aback, for he meant it kindly. When
madam awoke afterwards, there he stood before her with a little corn he
had found, and laid it at her feet; but as she had not slept well, she
was naturally in a bad temper. Give that to a chicken, she said, and
don't be always standing in my way.
Why are you angry with me? replied the little singing bird; what
have I done?
Done! repeated the Portuguese duck; your mode of expressing
yourself is not very polite. I must call your attention to that fact.
There was sunshine here yesterday, said the little bird, but
to-day it is cloudy and the air is heavy.
You know very little about the weather, I fancy, she retorted;
the day is not over yet. Don't stand there looking so stupid.
But you are looking at me just as the wicked eyes looked when I
fell into the yard yesterday.
Impertinent creature! exclaimed the Portuguese duck. Would you
compare me with the catthat beast of prey? There's not a drop of
malicious blood in me. I've taken your part, and now I'll teach you
better manners. So saying, she made a bite at the little
singing-bird's head, and he fell to the ground dead. Now whatever is
the meaning of this? she said. Could he not bear even such a little
peck as I gave him? Then, certainly, he was not made for this world.
I've been like a mother to him, I know that, for I've a good heart.
Then the cock from the neighboring yard stuck his head in and crowed
with steam-engine power.
You'll kill me with your crowing, she cried. It's all your fault.
He's lost his life, and I'm very near losing mine.
There's not much of him lying there, observed the cock.
Speak of him with respect, said the Portuguese duck, for he had
manners and education, and he could sing. He was affectionate and
gentle, and those are as rare qualities in animals as in those who call
themselves human beings.
Then all the ducks came crowding round the little dead bird. Ducks
have strong passions, whether they feel envy or pity. There was nothing
to envy here, so they all showed a great deal of pity. So also did the
two Chinese. We shall never again have such a singing bird among us;
he was almost a Chinese, they whispered, and then they wept with such
a noisy, clucking sound that all the other fowls clucked too. But the
ducks went about with redder eyes afterwards. We have hearts of our
own, they said; nobody can deny that.
Hearts! repeated the Portuguese. Indeed you havealmost as
tender as the ducks in Portugal.
Let us think of getting something to satisfy our hunger, said the
drake; that's the most important business. If one of our toys is
broken, why, we have plenty more.
THE SNOW MAN
IT IS so delightfully cold that it makes my whole body crackle,
said the Snow Man. This is just the kind of wind to blow life into
one. How that great red thing up there is staring at me! He meant the
sun, which was just setting. It shall not make me wink. I shall manage
to keep the pieces.
He had two triangular pieces of tile in his head instead of eyes,
and his mouth, being made of an old broken rake, was therefore
furnished with teeth. He had been brought into existence amid the
joyous shouts of boys, the jingling of sleigh bells, and the slashing
The sun went down, and the full moon rose, large, round, and clear,
shining in the deep blue.
There it comes again, from the other side, said the Snow Man, who
supposed the sun was showing itself once more. Ah, I have cured it of
staring. Now it may hang up there and shine, so that I may see myself.
If I only knew how to manage to move away from this placeI should so
like to move! If I could, I would slide along yonder on the ice, as I
have seen the boys do; but I don't understand how. I don't even know
how to run.
Away, away! barked the old yard dog. He was quite hoarse and could
not pronounce Bow-wow properly. He had once been an indoor dog and
lain by the fire, and he had been hoarse ever since. The sun will make
you run some day. I saw it, last winter, make your predecessor run, and
his predecessor before him. Away, away! They all have to go.
I don't understand you, comrade, said the Snow Man. Is that thing
up yonder to teach me to run? I saw it running itself, a little while
ago, and now it has come creeping up from the other side.
You know nothing at all, replied the yard dog. But then, you've
only lately been patched up. What you see yonder is the moon, and what
you saw before was the sun. It will come again to-morrow and most
likely teach you to run down into the ditch by the well, for I think
the weather is going to change. I can feel such pricks and stabs in my
left leg that I am sure there is going to be a change.
I don't understand him, said the Snow Man to himself, but I have
a feeling that he is talking of something very disagreeable. The thing
that stared so hard just now, which he calls the sun, is not my friend;
I can feel that too.
Away, away! barked the yard dog, and then he turned round three
times and crept into his kennel to sleep.
There really was a change in the weather. Toward morning a thick fog
covered the whole country and a keen wind arose, so that the cold
seemed to freeze one's bones. But when the sun rose, a splendid sight
was to be seen. Trees and bushes were covered with hoarfrost and looked
like a forest of white coral, while on every twig glittered frozen
dewdrops. The many delicate forms, concealed in summer by luxuriant
foliage, were now clearly defined and looked like glittering lacework.
A white radiance glistened from every twig. The birches, waving in the
wind, looked as full of life as in summer and as wondrously beautiful.
Where the sun shone, everything glittered and sparkled as if diamond
dust had been strewn about; and the snowy carpet of the earth seemed
covered with diamonds from which gleamed countless lights, whiter even
than the snow itself.
This is really beautiful, said a girl who had come into the garden
with a young friend; and they both stood still near the Snow Man,
contemplating the glittering scene. Summer cannot show a more
beautiful sight, she exclaimed, while her eyes sparkled.
And we can't have such a fellow as this in the summer-time,
replied the young man, pointing to the Snow Man. He is capital.
The girl laughed and nodded at the Snow Man, then tripped away over
the snow with her friend. The snow creaked and crackled beneath her
feet, as if she had been treading on starch.
Who are those two? asked the Snow Man of the yard dog. You have
been here longer than I; do you know them?
Of course I know them, replied the yard dog; the girl has stroked
my back many times, and the young man has often given me a bone of
meat. I never bite those two.
But what are they? asked the Snow Man.
They are lovers, he replied. They will go and live in the same
kennel, by and by, and gnaw at the same bone. Away, away!
Are they the same kind of beings as you and I? asked the Snow Man.
Well, they belong to the master, retorted the yard dog. Certainly
people know very little who were only born yesterday. I can see that in
you. I have age and experience. I know every one here in the house, and
I know there was once a time when I did not lie out here in the cold,
fastened to a chain. Away, away!
The cold is delightful, said the Snow Man. But do tell me, tell
me; only you must not clank your chain so, for it jars within me when
you do that.
Away, away! barked the yard dog. I'll tell you: they said I was a
pretty little fellow, once; then I used to lie in a velvet-covered
chair, up at the master's house, and sit in the mistress's lap; they
used to kiss my nose, and wipe my paws with an embroidered
handkerchief, and I was called 'Ami, dear Ami, sweet Ami.' But after a
while I grew too big for them, and they sent me away to the
housekeeper's room; so I came to live on the lower story. You can look
into the room from where you stand, and see where I was once
masterfor I was, indeed, master to the housekeeper. It was a much
smaller room than those upstairs, but I was more comfortable, for I was
not continually being taken hold of and pulled about by the children,
as I had been. I received quite as good food and even better. I had my
own cushion, and there was a stoveit is the finest thing in the world
at this season of the year. I used to go under the stove and lie down.
Ah, I still dream of that stove. Away, away!
Does a stove look beautiful? asked the Snow Man. Is it at all
It is just the opposite of you, said the dog. It's as black as a
crow and has a long neck and a brass knob; it eats firewood, and that
makes fire spurt out of its mouth. One has to keep on one side or under
it, to be comfortable. You can see it through the window from where you
Then the Snow Man looked, and saw a bright polished thing with a
brass knob, and fire gleaming from the lower part of it. The sight of
this gave the Snow Man a strange sensation; it was very odd, he knew
not what it meant, and he could not account for it. But there are
people who are not men of snow who understand what the feeling is. And
why did you leave her? asked the Snow Man, for it seemed to him that
the stove must be of the female sex. How could you give up such a
I was obliged to, replied the yard dog. They turned me out of
doors and chained me up here. I had bitten the youngest of my master's
sons in the leg, because he kicked away the bone I was gnawing. 'Bone
for bone,' I thought. But they were very angry, and since that time I
have been fastened to a chain and have lost my voice. Don't you hear
how hoarse I am? Away, away! I can't talk like other dogs any more.
Away, away! That was the end of it all.
But the Snow Man was no longer listening. He was looking into the
housekeeper's room on the lower story, where the stove, which was about
the same size as the Snow Man himself, stood on its four iron legs.
What a strange crackling I feel within me, he said. Shall I ever get
in there? It is an innocent wish, and innocent wishes are sure to be
fulfilled. I must go in there and lean against her, even if I have to
break the window.
You must never go in there, said the yard dog, for if you
approach the stove, you will melt away, away.
I might as well go, said the Snow Man, for I think I am breaking
up as it is.
During the whole day the Snow Man stood looking in through the
window, and in the twilight hour the room became still more inviting,
for from the stove came a gentle glow, not like the sun or the moon; it
was only the kind of radiance that can come from a stove when it has
been well fed. When the door of the stove was opened, the flames darted
out of its mouth,as is customary with all stoves,and the light of
the flames fell with a ruddy gleam directly on the face and breast of
the Snow Man. I can endure it no longer, said he. How beautiful it
looks when it stretches out its tongue!
The night was long, but it did not appear so to the Snow Man, who
stood there enjoying his own reflections and crackling with the cold.
In the morning the window-panes of the housekeeper's room were covered
with ice. They were the most beautiful ice flowers any Snow Man could
desire, but they concealed the stove. These window-panes would not
thaw, and he could see nothing of the stove, which he pictured to
himself as if it had been a beautiful human being. The snow crackled
and the wind whistled around him; it was just the kind of frosty
weather a Snow Man ought to enjoy thoroughly. But he did not enjoy it.
How, indeed, could he enjoy anything when he was so stove-sick?
That is a terrible disease for a Snow Man to have, said the yard
dog. I have suffered from it myself, but I got over it. Away, away!
he barked, and then added, The weather is going to change.
The weather did change. It began to thaw, and as the warmth
increased, the Snow Man decreased. He said nothing and made no
complaint, which is a sure sign.
One morning he broke and sank down altogether; and behold! where he
had stood, something that looked like a broomstick remained sticking up
in the ground. It was the pole round which the boys had built him.
Ah, now I understand why he had such a great longing for the
stove, said the yard dog. Why, there's the shovel that is used for
cleaning out the stove, fastened to the pole. The Snow Man had a stove
scraper in his body; that was what moved him so. But it is all over
now. Away, away!
And soon the winter passed. Away, away! barked the hoarse yard
dog, but the girls in the house sang:
Come from your fragrant home, green thyme;
Stretch your soft branches, willow tree;
The months are bringing the sweet spring-time,
When the lark in the sky sings joyfully.
Come, gentle sun, while the cuckoo sings,
And I'll mock his note in my wanderings.
And nobody thought any more of the Snow Man.
THE FARMYARD COCK AND THE
THERE were once two cocks; one of them stood on a dunghill, the
other on the roof. Both were conceited, but the question is, Which of
the two was the more useful?
A wooden partition divided the poultry yard from another yard, in
which lay a heap of manure sheltering a cucumber bed. In this bed grew
a large cucumber, which was fully aware that it was a plant that should
be reared in a hotbed.
It is the privilege of birth, said the Cucumber to itself. All
cannot be born cucumbers; there must be other kinds as well. The fowls,
the ducks, and the cattle in the next yard are all different creatures,
and there is the yard cockI can look up to him when he is on the
wooden partition. He is certainly of much greater importance than the
weathercock, who is so highly placed, and who can't even creak, much
less crowbesides, he has neither hens nor chickens, and thinks only
of himself, and perspires verdigris. But the yard cock is something
like a cock. His gait is like a dance, and his crowing is music, and
wherever he goes it is instantly known. What a trumpeter he is! If he
would only come in here! Even if he were to eat me up, stalk and all,
it would be a pleasant death. So said the Cucumber.
During the night the weather became very bad; hens, chickens, and
even the cock himself sought shelter. The wind blew down with a crash
the partition between the two yards, and the tiles came tumbling from
the roof, but the weathercock stood firm. He did not even turn round;
in fact, he could not, although he was fresh and newly cast. He had
been born full grown and did not at all resemble the birds, such as the
sparrows and swallows, that fly beneath the vault of heaven. He
despised them and looked upon them as little twittering birds that were
made only to sing. The pigeons, he admitted, were large and shone in
the sun like mother-of-pearl. They somewhat resembled weathercocks, but
were fat and stupid and thought only of stuffing themselves with food.
Besides, said the weathercock, they are very tiresome things to
The birds of passage often paid a visit to the weathercock and told
him tales of foreign lands, of large flocks passing through the air,
and of encounters with robbers and birds of prey. These were very
interesting when heard for the first time, but the weathercock knew the
birds always repeated themselves, and that made it tedious to listen.
They are tedious, and so is every one else, said he; there is no
one fit to associate with. One and all of them are wearisome and
stupid. The whole world is worth nothingit is made up of stupidity.
The weathercock was what is called lofty, and that quality alone
would have made him interesting in the eyes of the Cucumber, had she
known it. But she had eyes only for the yard cock, who had actually
made his appearance in her yard; for the violence of the storm had
passed, but the wind had blown down the wooden palings.
What do you think of that for crowing? asked the yard cock of his
hens and chickens. It was rather rough, and wanted elegance, but they
did not say so, as they stepped upon the dunghill while the cock
strutted about as if he had been a knight. Garden plant, he cried to
the Cucumber. She heard the words with deep feeling, for they showed
that he understood who she was, and she forgot that he was pecking at
her and eating her upa happy death!
Then the hens came running up, and the chickens followed, for where
one runs the rest run also. They clucked and chirped and looked at the
cock and were proud that they belonged to him. Cock-a-doodle-doo!
crowed he; the chickens in the poultry yard will grow to be large
fowls if I make my voice heard in the world.
And the hens and chickens clucked and chirped, and the cock told
them a great piece of news. A cock can lay an egg, he said. And what
do you think is in that egg? In that egg lies a basilisk. No one can
endure the sight of a basilisk. Men know my power, and now you know
what I am capable of, also, and what a renowned bird I am. And with
this the yard cock flapped his wings, erected his comb, and crowed
again, till all the hens and chickens trembled; but they were proud
that one of their race should be of such renown in the world. They
clucked and they chirped so that the weathercock heard it; he had heard
it all, but had not stirred.
It's all stupid stuff, said a voice within the weathercock. The
yard cock does not lay eggs any more than I do, and I am too lazy. I
could lay a wind egg if I liked, but the world is not worth a wind egg.
And now I don't intend to sit here any longer.
With that, the weathercock broke off and fell into the yard. He did
not kill the yard cock, although the hens said he intended to do so.
And what does the moral say? Better to crow than to be vainglorious
and break down at last.
THE RED SHOES
THERE was once a pretty, delicate little girl, who was so poor that
she had to go barefoot in summer and wear coarse wooden shoes in
winter, which made her little instep quite red.
In the center of the village there lived an old shoemaker's wife.
One day this good woman made, as well as she could, a little pair of
shoes out of some strips of old red cloth. The shoes were clumsy
enough, to be sure, but they fitted the little girl tolerably well, and
anyway the woman's intention was kind. The little girl's name was
On the very day that Karen received the shoes, her mother was to be
buried. They were not at all suitable for mourning, but she had no
others, so she put them on her little bare feet and followed the poor
plain coffin to its last resting place.
Just at that time a large, old-fashioned carriage happened to pass
by, and the old lady who sat in it saw the little girl and pitied her.
Give me the little girl, she said to the clergyman, and I will
take care of her.
Karen supposed that all this happened because of the red shoes, but
the old lady thought them frightful and ordered them to be burned.
Karen was then dressed in neat, well-fitting clothes and taught to read
and sew. People told her she was pretty, but the mirror said, You are
much more than prettyyou are beautiful.
It happened not long afterwards that the queen and her little
daughter, the princess, traveled through the land. All the people,
Karen among the rest, flocked toward the palace and crowded around it,
while the little princess, dressed in white, stood at the window for
every one to see. She wore neither a train nor a golden crown, but on
her feet were beautiful red morocco shoes, which, it must be admitted,
were prettier than those the shoemaker's wife had given to little
Karen. Surely nothing in the world could be compared to those red
Now that Karen was old enough to be confirmed, she of course had to
have a new frock and new shoes. The rich shoemaker in the town took the
measure of her little feet in his own house, in a room where stood
great glass cases filled with all sorts of fine shoes and elegant,
shining boots. It was a pretty sight, but the old lady could not see
well and naturally did not take so much pleasure in it as Karen. Among
the shoes were a pair of red ones, just like those worn by the little
princess. Oh, how gay they were! The shoemaker said they had been made
for the child of a count, but had not fitted well.
Are they of polished leather, that they shine so? asked the old
Yes, indeed, they do shine, replied Karen. And since they fitted
her, they were bought. But the old lady had no idea that they were red,
or she would never in the world have allowed Karen to go to
confirmation in them, as she now did. Every one, of course, looked at
Karen's shoes; and when she walked up the nave to the chancel it seemed
to her that even the antique figures on the monuments, the portraits of
clergymen and their wives, with their stiff ruffs and long black robes,
were fixing their eyes on her red shoes. Even when the bishop laid his
hand upon her head and spoke of her covenant with God and how she must
now begin to be a full-grown Christian, and when the organ pealed forth
solemnly and the children's fresh, sweet voices joined with those of
the choirstill Karen thought of nothing but her shoes.
In the afternoon, when the old lady heard every one speak of the red
shoes, she said it was very shocking and improper and that, in the
future, when Karen went to church it must always be in black shoes,
even if they were old.
The next Sunday was Karen's first Communion day. She looked at her
black shoes, and then at her red ones, then again at the black and at
the redand the red ones were put on.
The sun shone very brightly, and Karen and the old lady walked to
church through the cornfields, for the road was very dusty.
At the door of the church stood an old soldier, who leaned upon a
crutch and had a marvelously long beard that was not white but red. He
bowed almost to the ground and asked the old lady if he might dust her
shoes. Karen, in her turn, put out her little foot.
Oh, look, what smart little dancing pumps! said the old soldier.
Mind you do not let them slip off when you dance, and he passed his
hands over them. The old lady gave the soldier a half-penny and went
with Karen into the church.
As before, every one saw Karen's red shoes, and all the carved
figures too bent their gaze upon them. When Karen knelt at the chancel
she thought only of the shoes; they floated before her eyes, and she
forgot to say her prayer or sing her psalm.
At last all the people left the church, and the old lady got into
her carriage. As Karen lifted her foot to step in, the old soldier
said, See what pretty dancing shoes! And Karen, in spite of herself,
made a few dancing steps. When she had once begun, her feet went on of
themselves; it was as though the shoes had received power over her. She
danced round the church corner,she could not help it,and the
coachman had to run behind and catch her to put her into the carriage.
Still her feet went on dancing, so, that she trod upon the good lady's
toes. It was not until the shoes were taken from her feet that she had
The shoes were put away in a closet, but Karen could not resist
going to look at them every now and then.
Soon after this the old lady lay ill in bed, and it was said that
she could not recover. She had to be nursed and waited on, and this, of
course, was no one's duty so much as it was Karen's, as Karen herself
well knew. But there happened to be a great ball in the town, and Karen
was invited. She looked at the old lady, who was very ill, and she
looked at the red shoes. She put them on, for she thought there could
not be any sin in that, and of course there was notbut she went next
to the ball and began to dance.
Strange to say, when she wanted to move to the right the shoes bore
her to the left; and when she wished to dance up the room the shoes
persisted in going down the room. Down the stairs they carried her at
last, into the street, and out through the town gate. On and on she
danced, for dance she must, straight out into the gloomy wood. Up among
the trees something glistened. She thought it was the round, red moon,
for she saw a face; but no, it was the old soldier with the red beard,
who sat and nodded, saying, See what pretty dancing shoes!
She was dreadfully frightened and tried to throw away the red shoes,
but they clung fast and she could not unclasp them. They seemed to have
grown fast to her feet. So dance she must, and dance she did, over
field and meadow, in rain and in sunshine, by night and by dayand by
night it was by far more dreadful.
She danced out into the open churchyard, but the dead there did not
dance; they were at rest and had much better things to do. She would
have liked to sit down on the poor man's grave, where the bitter tansy
grew, but for her there was no rest.
[Illustration: She danced past the open church door....]
She danced past the open church door, and there she saw an angel in
long white robes and with wings that reached from his shoulders to the
earth. His look was stern and grave, and in his hand he held a broad,
Thou shalt dance, he said, in thy red shoes, till thou art pale
and cold, and till thy body is wasted like a skeleton. Thou shalt dance
from door to door, and wherever proud, haughty children dwell thou
shalt knock, that, hearing thee, they may take warning. Dance thou
Mercy! cried Karen; but she did not hear the answer of the angel,
for the shoes carried her past the door and on into the fields.
One morning she danced past a well-known door. Within was the sound
of a psalm, and presently a coffin strewn with flowers was borne out.
She knew that her friend, the old lady, was dead, and in her heart she
felt that she was abandoned by all on earth and condemned by God's
angel in heaven.
Still on she dancedfor she could not stopthrough thorns and
briers, while her feet bled. Finally, she danced to a lonely little
house where she knew that the executioner dwelt, and she tapped at the
window, saying, Come out, come out! I cannot come in, for I must
The man said, Do you know who I am and what I do?
Yes, said Karen; but do not strike off my head, for then I could
not live to repent of my sin. Strike off my feet, that I may be rid of
my red shoes.
Then she confessed her sin, and the executioner struck off the red
shoes, which danced away over the fields and into the deep wood. To
Karen it seemed that the feet had gone with the shoes, for she had
almost lost the power of walking.
Now I have suffered enough for the red shoes, she said; I will go
to the church, that people may see me. But no sooner had she hobbled
to the church door than the shoes danced before her and frightened her
All that week she endured the keenest sorrow and shed many bitter
tears. When Sunday came, she said: I am sure I must have suffered and
striven enough by this time. I am quite as good, I dare say, as many
who are holding their heads high in the church. So she took courage
and went again. But before she reached the churchyard gate the red
shoes were dancing there, and she turned back again in terror, more
deeply sorrowful than ever for her sin.
She then went to the pastor's house and begged as a favor to be
taken into the family's service, promising to be diligent and faithful.
She did not want wages, she said, only a home with good people. The
clergyman's wife pitied her and granted her request, and she proved
industrious and very thoughtful.
Earnestly she listened when at evening the preacher read aloud the
Holy Scriptures. All the children came to love her, but when they spoke
of beauty and finery, she would shake her head and turn away.
On Sunday, when they all went to church, they asked her if she would
not go, too, but she looked sad and bade them go without her. Then she
went to her own little room, and as she sat with the psalm book in her
hand, reading its pages with a gentle, pious mind, the wind brought to
her the notes of the organ. She raised her tearful eyes and said, O
God, do thou help me!
Then the sun shone brightly, and before her stood the white angel
that she had seen at the church door. He no longer bore the glittering
sword, but in his hand was a beautiful branch of roses. He touched the
ceiling with it, and the ceiling rose, and at each place where the
branch touched it there shone a star. He touched the walls, and they
widened so that Karen could see the organ that was being played at the
church. She saw, too, the old pictures and statues on the walls, and
the congregation sitting in the seats and singing psalms, for the
church itself had come to the poor girl in her narrow room, or she in
her chamber had come to it. She sat in the seat with the rest of the
clergyman's household, and when the psalm was ended, they nodded and
said, Thou didst well to come, Karen!
This is mercy, said she. It is the grace of God.
The organ pealed, and the chorus of children's voices mingled
sweetly with it. The bright sunshine shed its warm light, through the
windows, over the pew in which Karen sat. Her heart was so filled with
sunshine, peace, and joy that it broke, and her soul was borne by a
sunbeam up to God, where there was nobody to ask about the red shoes.
THE LITTLE MERMAID
FAR out in the ocean, where the water is as blue as the prettiest
cornflower and as clear as crystal, it is very, very deep; so deep,
indeed, that no cable could sound it, and many church steeples, piled
one upon another, would not reach from the ground beneath to the
surface of the water above. There dwell the Sea King and his subjects.
We must not imagine that there is nothing at the bottom of the sea
but bare yellow sand. No, indeed, for on this sand grow the strangest
flowers and plants, the leaves and stems of which are so pliant that
the slightest agitation of the water causes them to stir as if they had
life. Fishes, both large and small, glide between the branches as birds
fly among the trees here upon land.
In the deepest spot of all stands the castle of the Sea King. Its
walls are built of coral, and the long Gothic windows are of the
clearest amber. The roof is formed of shells that open and close as the
water flows over them. Their appearance is very beautiful, for in each
lies a glittering pearl which would be fit for the diadem of a queen.
The Sea King had been a widower for many years, and his aged mother
kept house for him. She was a very sensible woman, but exceedingly
proud of her high birth, and on that account wore twelve oysters on her
tail, while others of high rank were only allowed to wear six.
She was, however, deserving of very great praise, especially for her
care of the little sea princesses, her six granddaughters. They were
beautiful children, but the youngest was the prettiest of them all. Her
skin was as clear and delicate as a rose leaf, and her eyes as blue as
the deepest sea; but, like all the others, she had no feet and her body
ended in a fish's tail. All day long they played in the great halls of
the castle or among the living flowers that grew out of the walls. The
large amber windows were open, and the fish swam in, just as the
swallows fly into our houses when we open the windows; only the fishes
swam up to the princesses, ate out of their hands, and allowed
themselves to be stroked.
Outside the castle there was a beautiful garden, in which grew
bright-red and dark-blue flowers, and blossoms like flames of fire; the
fruit glittered like gold, and the leaves and stems waved to and fro
continually. The earth itself was the finest sand, but blue as the
flame of burning sulphur. Over everything lay a peculiar blue radiance,
as if the blue sky were everywhere, above and below, instead of the
dark depths of the sea. In calm weather the sun could be seen, looking
like a reddish-purple flower with light streaming from the calyx.
Each of the young princesses had a little plot of ground in the
garden, where she might dig and plant as she pleased. One arranged her
flower bed in the form of a whale; another preferred to make hers like
the figure of a little mermaid; while the youngest child made hers
round, like the sun, and in it grew flowers as red as his rays at
She was a strange child, quiet and thoughtful. While her sisters
showed delight at the wonderful things which they obtained from the
wrecks of vessels, she cared only for her pretty flowers, red like the
sun, and a beautiful marble statue. It was the representation of a
handsome boy, carved out of pure white stone, which had fallen to the
bottom of the sea from a wreck.
She planted by the statue a rose-colored weeping willow. It grew
rapidly and soon hung its fresh branches over the statue, almost down
to the blue sands. The shadows had the color of violet and waved to and
fro like the branches, so that it seemed as if the crown of the tree
and the root were at play, trying to kiss each other.
Nothing gave her so much pleasure as to hear about the world above
the sea. She made her old grandmother tell her all she knew of the
ships and of the towns, the people and the animals. To her it seemed
most wonderful and beautiful to hear that the flowers of the land had
fragrance, while those below the sea had none; that the trees of the
forest were green; and that the fishes among the trees could sing so
sweetly that it was a pleasure to listen to them. Her grandmother
called the birds fishes, or the little mermaid would not have
understood what was meant, for she had never seen birds.
When you have reached your fifteenth year, said the grandmother,
you will have permission to rise up out of the sea and sit on the
rocks in the moonlight, while the great ships go sailing by. Then you
will see both forests and towns.
In the following year, one of the sisters would be fifteen, but as
each was a year younger than the other, the youngest would have to wait
five years before her turn came to rise up from the bottom of the ocean
to see the earth as we do. However, each promised to tell the others
what she saw on her first visit and what she thought was most
beautiful. Their grandmother could not tell them enoughthere were so
many things about which they wanted to know.
None of them longed so much for her turn to come as the
youngestshe who had the longest time to wait and who was so quiet and
thoughtful. Many nights she stood by the open window, looking up
through the dark blue water and watching the fish as they splashed
about with their fins and tails. She could see the moon and stars
shining faintly, but through the water they looked larger than they do
to our eyes. When something like a black cloud passed between her and
them, she knew that it was either a whale swimming over her head, or a
ship full of human beings who never imagined that a pretty little
mermaid was standing beneath them, holding out her white hands towards
the keel of their ship.
At length the eldest was fifteen and was allowed to rise to the
surface of the ocean.
When she returned she had hundreds of things to talk about. But the
finest thing, she said, was to lie on a sand bank in the quiet moonlit
sea, near the shore, gazing at the lights of the near-by town, that
twinkled like hundreds of stars, and listening to the sounds of music,
the noise of carriages, the voices of human beings, and the merry
pealing of the bells in the church steeples. Because she could not go
near all these wonderful things, she longed for them all the more.
Oh, how eagerly did the youngest sister listen to all these
descriptions! And afterwards, when she stood at the open window looking
up through the dark-blue water, she thought of the great city, with all
its bustle and noise, and even fancied she could hear the sound of the
church bells down in the depths of the sea.
In another year the second sister received permission to rise to the
surface of the water and to swim about where she pleased. She rose just
as the sun was setting, and this, she said, was the most beautiful
sight of all. The whole sky looked like gold, and violet and
rose-colored clouds, which she could not describe, drifted across it.
And more swiftly than the clouds, flew a large flock of wild swans
toward the setting sun, like a long white veil across the sea. She also
swam towards the sun, but it sank into the waves, and the rosy tints
faded from the clouds and from the sea.
The third sister's turn followed, and she was the boldest of them
all, for she swam up a broad river that emptied into the sea. On the
banks she saw green hills covered with beautiful vines, and palaces and
castles peeping out from amid the proud trees of the forest. She heard
birds singing and felt the rays of the sun so strongly that she was
obliged often to dive under the water to cool her burning face. In a
narrow creek she found a large group of little human children, almost
naked, sporting about in the water. She wanted to play with them, but
they fled in a great fright; and then a little black animalit was a
dog, but she did not know it, for she had never seen one beforecame
to the water and barked at her so furiously that she became frightened
and rushed back to the open sea. But she said she should never forget
the beautiful forest, the green hills, and the pretty children who
could swim in the water although they had no tails.
The fourth sister was more timid. She remained in the midst of the
sea, but said it was quite as beautiful there as nearer the land. She
could see many miles around her, and the sky above looked like a bell
of glass. She had seen the ships, but at such a great distance that
they looked like sea gulls. The dolphins sported in the waves, and the
great whales spouted water from their nostrils till it seemed as if a
hundred fountains were playing in every direction.
The fifth sister's birthday occurred in the winter, so when her turn
came she saw what the others had not seen the first time they went up.
The sea looked quite green, and large icebergs were floating about,
each like a pearl, she said, but larger and loftier than the churches
built by men. They were of the most singular shapes and glittered like
diamonds. She had seated herself on one of the largest and let the wind
play with her long hair. She noticed that all the ships sailed past
very rapidly, steering as far away as they could, as if they were
afraid of the iceberg. Towards evening, as the sun went down, dark
clouds covered the sky, the thunder rolled, and the flashes of
lightning glowed red on the icebergs as they were tossed about by the
heaving sea. On all the ships the sails were reefed with fear and
trembling, while she sat on the floating iceberg, calmly watching the
lightning as it darted its forked flashes into the sea.
Each of the sisters, when first she had permission to rise to the
surface, was delighted with the new and beautiful sights. Now that they
were grown-up girls and could go when they pleased, they had become
quite indifferent about it. They soon wished themselves back again, and
after a month had passed they said it was much more beautiful down
below and pleasanter to be at home.
Yet often, in the evening hours, the five sisters would twine their
arms about each other and rise to the surface together. Their voices
were more charming than that of any human being, and before the
approach of a storm, when they feared that a ship might be lost, they
swam before the vessel, singing enchanting songs of the delights to be
found in the depths of the sea and begging the voyagers not to fear if
they sank to the bottom. But the sailors could not understand the song
and thought it was the sighing of the storm. These things were never
beautiful to them, for if the ship sank, the men were drowned and their
dead bodies alone reached the palace of the Sea King.
When the sisters rose, arm in arm, through the water, their youngest
sister would stand quite alone, looking after them, ready to cryonly,
since mermaids have no tears, she suffered more acutely.
Oh, were I but fifteen years old! said she. I know that I shall
love the world up there, and all the people who live in it.
At last she reached her fifteenth year.
Well, now you are grown up, said the old dowager, her grandmother.
Come, and let me adorn you like your sisters. And she placed in her
hair a wreath of white lilies, of which every flower leaf was half a
pearl. Then the old lady ordered eight great oysters to attach
themselves to the tail of the princess to show her high rank.
But they hurt me so, said the little mermaid.
Yes, I know; pride must suffer pain, replied the old lady.
Oh, how gladly she would have shaken off all this grandeur and laid
aside the heavy wreath! The red flowers in her own garden would have
suited her much better. But she could not change herself, so she said
farewell and rose as lightly as a bubble to the surface of the water.
The sun had just set when she raised her head above the waves. The
clouds were tinted with crimson and gold, and through the glimmering
twilight beamed the evening star in all its beauty. The sea was calm,
and the air mild and fresh. A large ship with three masts lay becalmed
on the water; only one sail was set, for not a breeze stirred, and the
sailors sat idle on deck or amidst the rigging. There was music and
song on board, and as darkness came on, a hundred colored lanterns were
lighted, as if the flags of all nations waved in the air.
The little mermaid swam close to the cabin windows, and now and
then, as the waves lifted her up, she could look in through glass
window-panes and see a number of gayly dressed people.
Among them, and the most beautiful of all, was a young prince with
large, black eyes. He was sixteen years of age, and his birthday was
being celebrated with great display. The sailors were dancing on deck,
and when the prince came out of the cabin, more than a hundred rockets
rose in the air, making it as bright as day. The little mermaid was so
startled that she dived under water, and when she again stretched out
her head, it looked as if all the stars of heaven were falling around
She had never seen such fireworks before. Great suns spurted fire
about, splendid fireflies flew into the blue air, and everything was
reflected in the clear, calm sea beneath. The ship itself was so
brightly illuminated that all the people, and even the smallest rope,
could be distinctly seen. How handsome the young prince looked, as he
pressed the hands of all his guests and smiled at them, while the music
resounded through the clear night air!
It was very late, yet the little mermaid could not take her eyes
from the ship or from the beautiful prince. The colored lanterns had
been extinguished, no more rockets rose in the air, and the cannon had
ceased firing; but the sea became restless, and a moaning, grumbling
sound could be heard beneath the waves. Still the little mermaid
remained by the cabin window, rocking up and down on the water, so that
she could look within. After a while the sails were quickly set, and
the ship went on her way. But soon the waves rose higher, heavy clouds
darkened the sky, and lightning appeared in the distance. A dreadful
storm was approaching. Once more the sails were furled, and the great
ship pursued her flying course over the raging sea. The waves rose
mountain high, as if they would overtop the mast, but the ship dived
like a swan between them, then rose again on their lofty, foaming
crests. To the little mermaid this was pleasant sport; but not so to
the sailors. At length the ship groaned and creaked; the thick planks
gave way under the lashing of the sea, as the waves broke over the
deck; the mainmast snapped asunder like a reed, and as the ship lay
over on her side, the water rushed in.
The little mermaid now perceived that the crew were in danger; even
she was obliged to be careful, to avoid the beams and planks of the
wreck which lay scattered on the water. At one moment it was pitch dark
so that she could not see a single object, but when a flash of
lightning came it revealed the whole scene; she could see every one who
had been on board except the prince. When the ship parted, she had seen
him sink into the deep waves, and she was glad, for she thought he
would now be with her. Then she remembered that human beings could not
live in the water, so that when he got down to her father's palace he
would certainly be quite dead.
No, he must not die! So she swam about among the beams and planks
which strewed the surface of the sea, forgetting that they could crush
her to pieces. Diving deep under the dark waters, rising and falling
with the waves, she at length managed to reach the young prince, who
was fast losing the power to swim in that stormy sea. His limbs were
failing him, his beautiful eyes were closed, and he would have died had
not the little mermaid come to his assistance. She held his head above
the water and let the waves carry them where they would.
In the morning the storm had ceased, but of the ship not a single
fragment could be seen. The sun came up red and shining out of the
water, and its beams brought back the hue of health to the prince's
cheeks, but his eyes remained closed. The mermaid kissed his high,
smooth forehead and stroked back his wet hair. He seemed to her like
the marble statue in her little garden, so she kissed him again and
wished that he might live.
Presently they came in sight of land, and she saw lofty blue
mountains on which the white snow rested as if a flock of swans were
lying upon them. Beautiful green forests were near the shore, and close
by stood a large building, whether a church or a convent she could not
tell. Orange and citron trees grew in the garden, and before the door
stood lofty palms. The sea here formed a little bay, in which the water
lay quiet and still, but very deep. She swam with the handsome prince
to the beach, which was covered with fine white sand, and there she
laid him in the warm sunshine, taking care to raise his head higher
than his body. Then bells sounded in the large white building, and some
young girls came into the garden. The little mermaid swam out farther
from the shore and hid herself among some high rocks that rose out of
the water. Covering her head and neck with the foam of the sea, she
watched there to see what would become of the poor prince.
It was not long before she saw a young girl approach the spot where
the prince lay. She seemed frightened at first, but only for a moment;
then she brought a number of people, and the mermaid saw that the
prince came to life again and smiled upon those who stood about him.
But to her he sent no smile; he knew not that she had saved him. This
made her very sorrowful, and when he was led away into the great
building, she dived down into the water and returned to her father's
She had always been silent and thoughtful, and now she was more so
than ever. Her sisters asked her what she had seen during her first
visit to the surface of the water, but she could tell them nothing.
Many an evening and morning did she rise to the place where she had
left the prince. She saw the fruits in the garden ripen and watched
them gathered; she watched the snow on the mountain tops melt away; but
never did she see the prince, and therefore she always returned home
more sorrowful than before.
It was her only comfort to sit in her own little garden and fling
her arm around the beautiful marble statue, which was like the prince.
She gave up tending her flowers, and they grew in wild confusion over
the paths, twining their long leaves and stems round the branches of
the trees so that the whole place became dark and gloomy.
At length she could bear it no longer and told one of her sisters
all about it. Then the others heard the secret, and very soon it became
known to several mermaids, one of whom had an intimate friend who
happened to know about the prince. She had also seen the festival on
board ship, and she told them where the prince came from and where his
Come, little sister, said the other princesses. Then they entwined
their arms and rose together to the surface of the water, near the spot
where they knew the prince's palace stood. It was built of
bright-yellow, shining stone and had long flights of marble steps, one
of which reached quite down to the sea. Splendid gilded cupolas rose
over the roof, and between the pillars that surrounded the whole
building stood lifelike statues of marble. Through the clear crystal of
the lofty windows could be seen noble rooms, with costly silk curtains
and hangings of tapestry and walls covered with beautiful paintings. In
the center of the largest salon a fountain threw its sparkling jets
high up into the glass cupola of the ceiling, through which the sun
shone in upon the water and upon the beautiful plants that grew in the
basin of the fountain.
Now that the little mermaid knew where the prince lived, she spent
many an evening and many a night on the water near the palace. She
would swim much nearer the shore than any of the others had ventured,
and once she went up the narrow channel under the marble balcony, which
threw a broad shadow on the water. Here she sat and watched the young
prince, who thought himself alone in the bright moonlight.
She often saw him evenings, sailing in a beautiful boat on which
music sounded and flags waved. She peeped out from among the green
rushes, and if the wind caught her long silvery-white veil, those who
saw it believed it to be a swan, spreading out its wings.
Many a night, too, when the fishermen set their nets by the light of
their torches, she heard them relate many good things about the young
prince. And this made her glad that she had saved his life when he was
tossed about half dead on the waves. She remembered how his head had
rested on her bosom and how heartily she had kissed him, but he knew
nothing of all this and could not even dream of her.
She grew more and more to like human beings and wished more and more
to be able to wander about with those whose world seemed to be so much
larger than her own. They could fly over the sea in ships and mount the
high hills which were far above the clouds; and the lands they
possessed, their woods and their fields, stretched far away beyond the
reach of her sight. There was so much that she wished to know! but her
sisters were unable to answer all her questions. She then went to her
old grandmother, who knew all about the upper world, which she rightly
called the lands above the sea.
If human beings are not drowned, asked the little mermaid, can
they live forever? Do they never die, as we do here in the sea?
Yes, replied the old lady, they must also die, and their term of
life is even shorter than ours. We sometimes live for three hundred
years, but when we cease to exist here, we become only foam on the
surface of the water and have not even a grave among those we love. We
have not immortal souls, we shall never live again; like the green
seaweed when once it has been cut off, we can never flourish more.
Human beings, on the contrary, have souls which live forever, even
after the body has been turned to dust. They rise up through the clear,
pure air, beyond the glittering stars. As we rise out of the water and
behold all the land of the earth, so do they rise to unknown and
glorious regions which we shall never see.
Why have not we immortal souls? asked the little mermaid,
mournfully. I would gladly give all the hundreds of years that I have
to live, to be a human being only for one day and to have the hope of
knowing the happiness of that glorious world above the stars.
You must not think that, said the old woman. We believe that we
are much happier and much better off than human beings.
So I shall die, said the little mermaid, and as the foam of the
sea I shall be driven about, never again to hear the music of the waves
or to see the pretty flowers or the red sun? Is there anything I can do
to win an immortal soul?
No, said the old woman; unless a man should love you so much that
you were more to him than his father or his mother, and if all his
thoughts and all his love were fixed upon you, and the priest placed
his right hand in yours, and he promised to be true to you here and
hereafterthen his soul would glide into your body, and you would
obtain a share in the future happiness of mankind. He would give to you
a soul and retain his own as well; but this can never happen. Your
fish's tail, which among us is considered so beautiful, on earth is
thought to be quite ugly. They do not know any better, and they think
it necessary, in order to be handsome, to have two stout props, which
they call legs.
Then the little mermaid sighed and looked sorrowfully at her fish's
tail. Let us be happy, said the old lady, and dart and spring about
during the three hundred years that we have to live, which is really
quite long enough. After that we can rest ourselves all the better.
This evening we are going to have a court ball.
It was one of those splendid sights which we can never see on earth.
The walls and the ceiling of the large ballroom were of thick but
transparent crystal. Many hundreds of colossal shells,some of a deep
red, others of a grass green,with blue fire in them, stood in rows on
each side. These lighted up the whole salon, and shone through the
walls so that the sea was also illuminated. Innumerable fishes, great
and small, swam past the crystal walls; on some of them the scales
glowed with a purple brilliance, and on others shone like silver and
gold. Through the halls flowed a broad stream, and in it danced the
mermen and the mermaids to the music of their own sweet singing.
No one on earth has such lovely voices as they, but the little
mermaid sang more sweetly than all. The whole court applauded her with
hands and tails, and for a moment her heart felt quite gay, for she
knew she had the sweetest voice either on earth or in the sea. But soon
she thought again of the world above her; she could not forget the
charming prince, nor her sorrow that she had not an immortal soul like
his. She crept away silently out of her father's palace, and while
everything within was gladness and song, she sat in her own little
garden, sorrowful and alone. Then she heard the bugle sounding through
the water and thought: He is certainly sailing above, he in whom my
wishes center and in whose hands I should like to place the happiness
of my life. I will venture all for him and to win an immortal soul.
While my sisters are dancing in my father's palace I will go to the sea
witch, of whom I have always been so much afraid; she can give me
counsel and help.
Then the little mermaid went out from her garden and took the road
to the foaming whirlpools, behind which the sorceress lived. She had
never been that way before. Neither flowers nor grass grew there;
nothing but bare, gray, sandy ground stretched out to the whirlpool,
where the water, like foaming mill wheels, seized everything that came
within its reach and cast it into the fathomless deep. Through the
midst of these crushing whirlpools the little mermaid was obliged to
pass before she could reach the dominions of the sea witch. Then, for a
long distance, the road lay across a stretch of warm, bubbling mire,
called by the witch her turf moor.
Beyond this was the witch's house, which stood in the center of a
strange forest, where all the trees and flowers were polypi, half
animals and half plants. They looked like serpents with a hundred
heads, growing out of the ground. The branches were long, slimy arms,
with fingers like flexible worms, moving limb after limb from the root
to the top. All that could be reached in the sea they seized upon and
held fast, so that it never escaped from their clutches.
The little mermaid was so alarmed at what she saw that she stood
still and her heart beat with fear. She came very near turning back,
but she thought of the prince and of the human soul for which she
longed, and her courage returned. She fastened her long, flowing hair
round her head, so that the polypi should not lay hold of it. She
crossed her hands on her bosom, and then darted forward as a fish
shoots through the water, between the supple arms and fingers of the
ugly polypi, which were stretched out on each side of her. She saw that
they all held in their grasp something they had seized with their
numerous little arms, which were as strong as iron bands. Tightly
grasped in their clinging arms were white skeletons of human beings who
had perished at sea and had sunk down into the deep waters; skeletons
of land animals; and oars, rudders, and chests, of ships. There was
even a little mermaid whom they had caught and strangled, and this
seemed the most shocking of all to the little princess.
She now came to a space of marshy ground in the wood, where large,
fat water snakes were rolling in the mire and showing their ugly,
drab-colored bodies. In the midst of this spot stood a house, built of
the bones of shipwrecked human beings. There sat the sea witch,
allowing a toad to eat from her mouth just as people sometimes feed a
canary with pieces of sugar. She called the ugly water snakes her
little chickens and allowed them to crawl all over her bosom.
I know what you want, said the sea witch. It is very stupid of
you, but you shall have your way, though it will bring you to sorrow,
my pretty princess. You want to get rid of your fish's tail and to have
two supports instead, like human beings on earth, so that the young
prince may fall in love with you and so that you may have an immortal
soul. And then the witch laughed so loud and so disgustingly that the
toad and the snakes fell to the ground and lay there wriggling.
You are but just in time, said the witch, for after sunrise
to-morrow I should not be able to help you till the end of another
year. I will prepare a draft for you, with which you must swim to land
to-morrow before sunrise; seat yourself there and drink it. Your tail
will then disappear, and shrink up into what men call legs.
You will feel great pain, as if a sword were passing through you.
But all who see you will say that you are the prettiest little human
being they ever saw. You will still have the same floating gracefulness
of movement, and no dancer will ever tread so lightly. Every step you
take, however, will be as if you were treading upon sharp knives and as
if the blood must flow. If you will bear all this, I will help you.
Yes, I will, said the little princess in a trembling voice, as she
thought of the prince and the immortal soul.
But think again, said the witch, for when once your shape has
become like a human being, you can no more be a mermaid. You will never
return through the water to your sisters or to your father's palace
again. And if you do not win the love of the prince, so that he is
willing to forget his father and mother for your sake and to love you
with his whole soul and allow the priest to join your hands that you
may be man and wife, then you will never have an immortal soul. The
first morning after he marries another, your heart will break and you
will become foam on the crest of the waves.
I will do it, said the little mermaid, and she became pale as
But I must be paid, also, said the witch, and it is not a trifle
that I ask. You have the sweetest voice of any who dwell here in the
depths of the sea, and you believe that you will be able to charm the
prince with it. But this voice you must give to me. The best thing you
possess will I have as the price of my costly draft, which must be
mixed with my own blood so that it may be as sharp as a two-edged
But if you take away my voice, said the little mermaid, what is
left for me?
Your beautiful form, your graceful walk, and your expressive eyes.
Surely with these you can enchain a man's heart. Well, have you lost
your courage? Put out your little tongue, that I may cut it off as my
payment; then you shall have the powerful draft.
It shall be, said the little mermaid.
Then the witch placed her caldron on the fire, to prepare the magic
Cleanliness is a good thing, said she, scouring the vessel with
snakes which she had tied together in a large knot. Then she pricked
herself in the breast and let the black blood drop into the caldron.
The steam that rose twisted itself into such horrible shapes that no
one could look at them without fear. Every moment the witch threw a new
ingredient into the vessel, and when it began to boil, the sound was
like the weeping of a crocodile. When at last the magic draft was
ready, it looked like the clearest water.
There it is for you, said the witch. Then she cut off the
mermaid's tongue, so that she would never again speak or sing. If the
polypi should seize you as you return through the wood, said the
witch, throw over them a few drops of the potion, and their fingers
will be torn into a thousand pieces. But the little mermaid had no
occasion to do this, for the polypi sprang back in terror when they
caught sight of the glittering draft, which shone in her hand like a
So she passed quickly through the wood and the marsh and between the
rushing whirlpools. She saw that in her father's palace the torches in
the ballroom were extinguished and that all within were asleep. But she
did not venture to go in to them, for now that she was dumb and going
to leave them forever she felt as if her heart would break. She stole
into the garden, took a flower from the flower bed of each of her
sisters, kissed her hand towards the palace a thousand times, and then
rose up through the dark-blue waters.
The sun had not risen when she came in sight of the prince's palace
and approached the beautiful marble steps, but the moon shone clear and
bright. Then the little mermaid drank the magic draft, and it seemed as
if a two-edged sword went through her delicate body. She fell into a
swoon and lay like one dead. When the sun rose and shone over the sea,
she recovered and felt a sharp pain, but before her stood the handsome
He fixed his coal-black eyes upon her so earnestly that she cast
down her own and then became aware that her fish's tail was gone and
that she had as pretty a pair of white legs and tiny feet as any little
maiden could have. But she had no clothes, so she wrapped herself in
her long, thick hair. The prince asked her who she was and whence she
came. She looked at him mildly and sorrowfully with her deep blue eyes,
but could not speak. He took her by the hand and led her to the palace.
[Illustration: Before her stood the handsome young prince....]
Every step she took was as the witch had said it would be; she felt
as if she were treading upon the points of needles or sharp knives. She
bore it willingly, however, and moved at the prince's side as lightly
as a bubble, so that he and all who saw her wondered at her graceful,
swaying movements. She was very soon arrayed in costly robes of silk
and muslin and was the most beautiful creature in the palace; but she
was dumb and could neither speak nor sing.
Beautiful female slaves, dressed in silk and gold, stepped forward
and sang before the prince and his royal parents. One sang better than
all the others, and the prince clapped his hands and smiled at her.
This was a great sorrow to the little mermaid, for she knew how much
more sweetly she herself once could sing, and she thought, Oh, if he
could only know that I have given away my voice forever, to be with
The slaves next performed some pretty fairy-like dances, to the
sound of beautiful music. Then the little mermaid raised her lovely
white arms, stood on the tips of her toes, glided over the floor, and
danced as no one yet had been able to dance. At each moment her beauty
was more revealed, and her expressive eyes appealed more directly to
the heart than the songs of the slaves. Every one was enchanted,
especially the prince, who called her his little foundling. She danced
again quite readily, to please him, though each time her foot touched
the floor it seemed as if she trod on sharp knives.
The prince said she should remain with him always, and she was given
permission to sleep at his door, on a velvet cushion. He had a page's
dress made for her, that she might accompany him on horseback. They
rode together through the sweet-scented woods, where the green boughs
touched their shoulders, and the little birds sang among the fresh
leaves. She climbed with him to the tops of high mountains, and
although her tender feet bled so that even her steps were marked, she
only smiled, and followed him till they could see the clouds beneath
them like a flock of birds flying to distant lands. While at the
prince's palace, and when all the household were asleep, she would go
and sit on the broad marble steps, for it eased her burning feet to
bathe them in the cold sea water. It was then that she thought of all
those below in the deep.
Once during the night her sisters came up arm in arm, singing
sorrowfully as they floated on the water. She beckoned to them, and
they recognized her and told her how she had grieved them; after that,
they came to the same place every night. Once she saw in the distance
her old grandmother, who had not been to the surface of the sea for
many years, and the old Sea King, her father, with his crown on his
head. They stretched out their hands towards her, but did not venture
so near the land as her sisters had.
As the days passed she loved the prince more dearly, and he loved
her as one would love a little child. The thought never came to him to
make her his wife. Yet unless he married her, she could not receive an
immortal soul, and on the morning after his marriage with another, she
would dissolve into the foam of the sea.
Do you not love me the best of them all? the eyes of the little
mermaid seemed to say when he took her in his arms and kissed her fair
Yes, you are dear to me, said the prince, for you have the best
heart and you are the most devoted to me. You are like a young maiden
whom I once saw, but whom I shall never meet again. I was in a ship
that was wrecked, and the waves cast me ashore near a holy temple where
several young maidens performed the service. The youngest of them found
me on the shore and saved my life. I saw her but twice, and she is the
only one in the world whom I could love. But you are like her, and you
have almost driven her image from my mind. She belongs to the holy
temple, and good fortune has sent you to me in her stead. We will never
Ah, he knows not that it was I who saved his life, thought the
little mermaid. I carried him over the sea to the wood where the
temple stands; I sat beneath the foam and watched till the human beings
came to help him. I saw the pretty maiden that he loves better than he
loves me. The mermaid sighed deeply, but she could not weep. He says
the maiden belongs to the holy temple, therefore she will never return
to the worldthey will meet no more. I am by his side and see him
every day. I will take care of him, and love him, and give up my life
for his sake.
Very soon it was said that the prince was to marry and that the
beautiful daughter of a neighboring king would be his wife, for a fine
ship was being fitted out. Although the prince gave out that he
intended merely to pay a visit to the king, it was generally supposed
that he went to court the princess. A great company were to go with
him. The little mermaid smiled and shook her head. She knew the
prince's thoughts better than any of the others.
I must travel, he had said to her; I must see this beautiful
princess. My parents desire it, but they will not oblige me to bring
her home as my bride. I cannot love her, because she is not like the
beautiful maiden in the temple, whom you resemble. If I were forced to
choose a bride, I would choose you, my dumb foundling, with those
expressive eyes. Then he kissed her rosy mouth, played with her long,
waving hair, and laid his head on her heart, while she dreamed of human
happiness and an immortal soul.
You are not afraid of the sea, my dumb child, are you? he said, as
they stood on the deck of the noble ship which was to carry them to the
country of the neighboring king. Then he told her of storm and of calm,
of strange fishes in the deep beneath them, and of what the divers had
seen there. She smiled at his descriptions, for she knew better than
any one what wonders were at the bottom of the sea.
In the moonlight night, when all on board were asleep except the man
at the helm, she sat on deck, gazing down through the clear water. She
thought she could distinguish her father's castle, and upon it her aged
grandmother, with the silver crown on her head, looking through the
rushing tide at the keel of the vessel. Then her sisters came up on the
waves and gazed at her mournfully, wringing their white hands. She
beckoned to them, and smiled, and wanted to tell them how happy and
well off she was. But the cabin boy approached, and when her sisters
dived down, he thought what he saw was only the foam of the sea.
The next morning the ship sailed into the harbor of a beautiful town
belonging to the king whom the prince was going to visit. The church
bells were ringing, and from the high towers sounded a flourish of
trumpets. Soldiers, with flying colors and glittering bayonets, lined
the roads through which they passed. Every day was a festival, balls
and entertainments following one another. But the princess had not yet
appeared. People said that she had been brought up and educated in a
religious house, where she was learning every royal virtue.
At last she came. Then the little mermaid, who was anxious to see
whether she was really beautiful, was obliged to admit that she had
never seen a more perfect vision of beauty. Her skin was delicately
fair, and beneath her long, dark eyelashes her laughing blue eyes shone
with truth and purity.
It was you, said the prince, who saved my life when I lay as if
dead on the beach, and he folded his blushing bride in his arms.
Oh, I am too happy! said he to the little mermaid; my fondest
hopes are now fulfilled. You will rejoice at my happiness, for your
devotion to me is great and sincere.
The little mermaid kissed his hand and felt as if her heart were
already broken. His wedding morning would bring death to her, and she
would change into the foam of the sea.
All the church bells rang, and the heralds rode through the town
proclaiming the betrothal. Perfumed oil was burned in costly silver
lamps on every altar. The priests waved the censers, while the bride
and the bridegroom joined their hands and received the blessing of the
bishop. The little mermaid, dressed in silk and gold, held up the
bride's train; but her ears heard nothing of the festive music, and her
eyes saw not the holy ceremony. She thought of the night of death which
was coming to her, and of all she had lost in the world.
On the same evening the bride and bridegroom went on board the ship.
Cannons were roaring, flags waving, and in the center of the ship a
costly tent of purple and gold had been erected. It contained elegant
sleeping couches for the bridal pair during the night. The ship, under
a favorable wind, with swelling sails, glided away smoothly and lightly
over the calm sea.
When it grew dark, a number of colored lamps were lighted and the
sailors danced merrily on the deck. The little mermaid could not help
thinking of her first rising out of the sea, when she had seen similar
joyful festivities, so she too joined in the dance, poised herself in
the air as a swallow when he pursues his prey, and all present cheered
her wonderingly. She had never danced so gracefully before. Her tender
feet felt as if cut with sharp knives, but she cared not for the pain;
a sharper pang had pierced her heart.
She knew this was the last evening she should ever see the prince
for whom she had forsaken her kindred and her home. She had given up
her beautiful voice and suffered unheard-of pain daily for him, while
he knew nothing of it. This was the last evening that she should
breathe the same air with him or gaze on the starry sky and the deep
sea. An eternal night, without a thought or a dream, awaited her. She
had no soul, and now could never win one.
All was joy and gaiety on the ship until long after midnight. She
smiled and danced with the rest, while the thought of death was in her
heart. The prince kissed his beautiful bride and she played with his
raven hair till they went arm in arm to rest in the sumptuous tent.
Then all became still on board the ship, and only the pilot, who stood
at the helm, was awake. The little mermaid leaned her white arms on the
edge of the vessel and looked towards the east for the first blush of
morningfor that first ray of the dawn which was to be her death. She
saw her sisters rising out of the flood. They were as pale as she, but
their beautiful hair no longer waved in the wind; it had been cut off.
We have given our hair to the witch, said they, to obtain help
for you, that you may not die to-night. She has given us a knife; see,
it is very sharp. Before the sun rises you must plunge it into the
heart of the prince. When the warm blood falls upon your feet they will
grow together again into a fish's tail, and you will once more be a
mermaid and can return to us to live out your three hundred years
before you are changed into the salt sea foam. Haste, then; either he
or you must die before sunrise. Our old grandmother mourns so for you
that her white hair is falling, as ours fell under the witch's
scissors. Kill the prince, and come back. Hasten! Do you not see the
first red streaks in the sky? In a few minutes the sun will rise, and
you must die.
Then they sighed deeply and mournfully, and sank beneath the waves.
The little mermaid drew back the crimson curtain of the tent and
beheld the fair bride, whose head was resting on the prince's breast.
She bent down and kissed his noble brow, then looked at the sky, on
which the rosy dawn grew brighter and brighter. She glanced at the
sharp knife and again fixed her eyes on the prince, who whispered the
name of his bride in his dreams.
She was in his thoughts, and the knife trembled in the hand
of the little mermaidbut she flung it far from her into the waves.
The water turned red where it fell, and the drops that spurted up
looked like blood. She cast one more lingering, half-fainting glance at
the prince, then threw herself from the ship into the sea and felt her
body dissolving into foam.
The sun rose above the waves, and his warm rays fell on the cold
foam of the little mermaid, who did not feel as if she were dying. She
saw the bright sun, and hundreds of transparent, beautiful creatures
floating around hershe could see through them the white sails of the
ships and the red clouds in the sky. Their speech was melodious, but
could not be heard by mortal earsjust as their bodies could not be
seen by mortal eyes. The little mermaid perceived that she had a body
like theirs and that she continued to rise higher and higher out of the
foam. Where am I? asked she, and her voice sounded ethereal, like the
voices of those who were with her. No earthly music could imitate it.
Among the daughters of the air, answered one of them. A mermaid
has not an immortal soul, nor can she obtain one unless she wins the
love of a human being. On the will of another hangs her eternal
destiny. But the daughters of the air, although they do not possess an
immortal soul, can, by their good deeds, procure one for themselves. We
fly to warm countries and cool the sultry air that destroys mankind
with the pestilence. We carry the perfume of the flowers to spread
health and restoration.
After we have striven for three hundred years to do all the good in
our power, we receive an immortal soul and take part in the happiness
of mankind. You, poor little mermaid, have tried with your whole heart
to do as we are doing. You have suffered and endured, and raised
yourself to the spirit world by your good deeds, and now, by striving
for three hundred years in the same way, you may obtain an immortal
The little mermaid lifted her glorified eyes toward the sun and, for
the first time, felt them filling with tears.
On the ship in which she had left the prince there were life and
noise, and she saw him and his beautiful bride searching for her.
Sorrowfully they gazed at the pearly foam, as if they knew she had
thrown herself into the waves. Unseen she kissed the forehead of the
bride and fanned the prince, and then mounted with the other children
of the air to a rosy cloud that floated above.
After three hundred years, thus shall we float into the kingdom of
heaven, said she. And we may even get there sooner, whispered one of
her companions. Unseen we can enter the houses of men where there are
children, and for every day on which we find a good child that is the
joy of his parents and deserves their love, our time of probation is
shortened. The child does not know, when we fly through the room, that
we smile with joy at his good conductfor we can count one year less
of our three hundred years. But when we see a naughty or a wicked child
we shed tears of sorrow, and for every tear a day is added to our time
IF YOU should chance, after a tempest, to cross a field where
buckwheat is growing, you may observe that it looks black and singed,
as if a flame of fire had passed over it. And should you ask the
reason, a farmer will tell you, The lightning did that.
But how is it that the lightning did it?
I will tell you what the sparrow told me, and the sparrow heard it
from an aged willow which stoodand still stands for that
matterclose to the field of buckwheat.
This willow is tall and venerable, though old and crippled. Its
trunk is split clear through the middle, and grass and blackberry
tendrils creep out through the cleft. The tree bends forward, and its
branches droop like long, green hair.
In the fields around the willow grew rye, wheat, and oatsbeautiful
oats that, when ripe, looked like little yellow canary birds sitting on
a branch. The harvest had been blessed, and the fuller the ears of
grain the lower they bowed their heads in reverent humility.
There was also a field of buckwheat lying just in front of the old
willow. The buckwheat did not bow its head, like the rest of the grain,
but stood erect in stiff-necked pride.
I am quite as rich as the oats, it said; and, moreover, I am much
more sightly. My flowers are as pretty as apple blossoms. It is a treat
to look at me and my companions. Old willow, do you know anything more
beautiful than we?
The willow nodded his head, as much as to say, Indeed I do! But
the buckwheat was so puffed with pride that it only said: The stupid
tree! He is so old that grass is growing out of his body.
Now there came on a dreadful storm, and the flowers of the field
folded their leaves or bent their heads as it passed over them. The
buckwheat flower alone stood erect in all its pride.
Bow your heads, as we do, called the flowers.
There is no need for me to do that, answered the buckwheat.
Bow your head as we do, said the grain. The angel of storms comes
flying hither. He has wings that reach from the clouds to the earth; he
will smite you before you have time to beg for mercy.
But I do not choose to bow down, said the buckwheat.
Close your flowers and fold your leaves, said the old willow. Do
not look at the lightning when the cloud breaks. Even human beings dare
not do that, for in the midst of the lightning one may look straight
into God's heaven. The sight strikes human beings blind, so dazzling is
it. What would not happen to us, mere plants of the field, who are so
much humbler, if we should dare do so?
So much humbler! Indeed! If there is a chance, I shall look right
into God's heaven. And in its pride and haughtiness it did so. The
flashes of lightning were so awful that it seemed as if the whole world
were in flames.
When the tempest was over, both the grain and the flowers, greatly
refreshed by the rain, again stood erect in the pure, quiet air. But
the buckwheat had been burned as black as a cinder by the lightning and
stood in the field like a dead, useless weed.
The old willow waved his branches to and fro in the wind, and large
drops of water fell from his green leaves, as if he were shedding
tears. The sparrows asked: Why are you weeping when all around seems
blest? Do you not smell the sweet perfume of flowers and bushes? The
sun shines, and the clouds have passed from the sky. Why do you weep,
Then the willow told them of the buckwheat's stubborn pride and of
the punishment which followed.
I, who tell this tale, heard it from the sparrows. They told it to
me one evening when I had asked them for a story.
WHAT HAPPENED TO THE THISTLE
AROUND a lordly old mansion was a beautiful, well-kept garden, full
of all kinds of rare trees and flowers. Guests always expressed their
delight and admiration at the sight of its wonders. The people from far
and near used to come on Sundays and holidays and ask permission to see
it. Even whole schools made excursions for the sole purpose of seeing
Near the fence that separated the garden from the meadow stood an
immense thistle. It was an uncommonly large and fine thistle, with
several branches spreading out just above the root, and altogether was
so strong and full as to make it well worthy of the name thistle
No one ever noticed it, save the old donkey that pulled the milk
cart for the dairymaids. He stood grazing in the meadow hard by and
stretched his old neck to reach the thistle, saying: You are
beautiful! I should like to eat you! But the tether was too short to
allow him to reach the thistle, so he did not eat it.
There were guests at the Hall, fine, aristocratic relatives from
town, and among them a young lady who had come from a long
distanceall the way from Scotland. She was of old and noble family
and rich in gold and landsa bride well worth the winning, thought
more than one young man to himself; yes, and their mothers thought so,
The young people amused themselves on the lawn, playing croquet and
flitting about among the flowers, each young girl gathering a flower to
put in the buttonhole of some one of the gentlemen.
The young Scotch lady looked about for a flower, but none of them
seemed to please her, until, happening to glance over the fence, she
espied the fine, large thistle bush, full of bluish-red, sturdy-looking
flowers. She smiled as she saw it, and begged the son of the house to
get one of them for her.
That is Scotland's flower, she said; it grows and blossoms in our
coat of arms. Get that one yonder for me, please.
And he gathered the finest of the thistle flowers, though he pricked
his fingers as much in doing so as if it had been growing on a wild
She took the flower and put it in his buttonhole, which made him
feel greatly honored. Each of the other young men would gladly have
given up his graceful garden flower if he might have worn the one given
by the delicate hands of the Scotch girl. As keenly as the son of the
house felt the honor conferred upon him, the thistle felt even more
highly honored. It seemed to feel dew and sunshine going through it.
It seems I am of more consequence than I thought, it said to
itself. I ought by rights to stand inside and not outside the fence.
One gets strangely placed in this world, but now I have at least one of
my flowers over the fenceand not only there, but in a buttonhole!
To each one of its buds as it opened, the thistle bush told this
great event. And not many days had passed before it heardnot from the
people who passed, nor yet from the twittering of little birds, but
from the air, which gives out, far and wide, the sounds that it has
treasured up from the shadiest walks of the beautiful garden and from
the most secluded rooms at the Hall, where doors and windows are left
openthat the young man who received the thistle flower from the hands
of the Scottish maiden had received her heart and hand as well.
That is my doing! said the thistle, thinking of the flower she had
given to the buttonhole. And every new flower that came was told of
this wonderful event.
Surely I shall now be taken and planted in the garden, thought the
thistle. Perhaps I shall be put into a flowerpot, for that is by far
the most honorable position. It thought of this so long that it ended
by saying to itself with the firm conviction of truth, I shall be
planted in a flowerpot!
It promised every little bud that came that it also should be placed
in a pot and perhaps have a place in a buttonholethat being the
highest position one could aspire to. But none of them got into a
flowerpot, and still less into a gentleman's buttonhole.
They lived on light and air, and drank sunshine in the day and dew
at night. They received visits from bee and hornet, who came to look
for the honey in the flower, and who took the honey and left the
The good-for-nothing fellows, said the thistle bush. I would
pierce them if I could!
The flowers drooped and faded, but new ones always came.
You come as if you had been sent, said the thistle bush to them.
I am expecting every moment to be taken over the fence.
A couple of harmless daisies and a huge, thin plant of canary grass
listened to this with the deepest respect, believing all they heard.
The old donkey, that had to pull the milk cart, cast longing looks
toward the blooming thistle and tried to reach it, but his tether was
too short. And the thistle bush thought and thought, so much and so
long, of the Scotch thistleto whom it believed itself relatedthat
at last it fancied it had come from Scotland and that its parents had
grown into the Scottish arms.
It was a great thought, but a great thistle may well have great
Sometimes one is of noble race even if one does not know it, said
the nettle growing close byit had a kind of presentiment that it
might be turned into muslin, if properly treated.
The summer passed, and the autumn passed; the leaves fell from the
trees; the flowers came with stronger colors and less perfume; the
gardener's lad sang on the other side of the fence:
Up the hill and down the hill,
That's the way of the world still.
The young pine trees in the wood began to feel a longing for
Christmas, though Christmas was still a long way off.
Here I am still, said the thistle. It seems that I am quite
forgotten, and yet it was I who made the match. They were engaged, and
now they are marriedthe wedding was a week ago. I do not make a
single step forward, for I cannot.
Some weeks passed. The thistle had its last, solitary flower, which
was large and full and growing down near the root. The wind blew coldly
over it, the color faded, and all its glory disappeared, leaving only
the cup of the flower, now grown to be as large as the flower of an
artichoke and glistening like a silvered sunflower.
The young couple, who were now man and wife, came along the garden
path, and as they passed near the fence, the bride, glancing over it,
said, Why, there stands the large thistle! it has no flowers now.
Yes, there is still the ghost of the last one, said her husband,
pointing to the silvery remains of the last flowera flower in itself.
How beautiful it is! she said. We must have one carved in the
frame of our picture.
And once more the young man had to get over the fence, to break off
the silvery cup of the thistle flower. It pricked his fingers for his
pains, because he had called it a ghost. And then it was brought into
the garden, and to the Hall, and into the drawing room. There stood a
large picturethe portraits of the two, and in the bridegroom's
buttonhole was painted a thistle. They talked of it and of the flower
cup they had brought in with themthe last silver-shimmering thistle
flower, that was to be reproduced in the carving of the frame.
The air took all their words and scattered them about, far and wide.
What strange things happen to one! said the thistle bush. My
first-born went to live in a buttonhole, my last-born in a frame! I
wonder what is to become of me.
The old donkey, standing by the roadside, cast loving glances at the
thistle and said, Come to me, my sweetheart, for I cannot go to you;
my tether is too short!
But the thistle bush made no answer. It grew more and more
thoughtful, and it thought as far ahead as Christmas, till its budding
thoughts opened into flower.
When one's children are safely housed, a mother is quite content to
stay beyond the fence.
That is true, said the sunshine; and you will be well placed,
In a flowerpot or in a frame? asked the thistle.
In a story, answered the sunshine. And here is the story!
THE PEN AND THE INKSTAND
IN A POET'S room, where his inkstand stood on the table, the remark
was once made: It is wonderful what can be brought out of an inkstand.
What will come next? It is indeed wonderful.
Yes, certainly, said the inkstand to the pen and to the other
articles that stood on the table; that's what I always say. It is
wonderful and extraordinary what a number of things come out of me.
It's quite incredible, and I really never know what is coming next when
that man dips his pen into me. One drop out of me is enough for half a
page of paperand what cannot half a page contain?
From me all the works of the poet are producedall those imaginary
characters whom people fancy they have known or met, and all the deep
feeling, the humor, and the vivid pictures of nature. I myself don't
understand how it is, for I am not acquainted with nature, but it is
certainly in me. From me have gone forth to the world those wonderful
descriptions of charming maidens, and of brave knights on prancing
steeds; of the halt and the blindand I know not what more, for I
assure you I never think of these things.
There you are right, said the pen, for you don't think at all. If
you did, you would see that you can only provide the means. You give
the fluid, that I may place upon the paper what dwells in me and what I
wish to bring to light. It is the pen that writes. No man doubts that;
and indeed most people understand as much about poetry as an old
You have had very little experience, replied the inkstand. You
have hardly been in service a week and are already half worn out. Do
you imagine you are a poet? You are only a servant, and before you came
I had many like you, some of the goose family and others of English
manufacture. I know a quill pen as well as I know a steel one. I have
had both sorts in my service, and I shall have many more as long as
he comesthe man who performs the mechanical partand writes down
what he obtains from me. I should like to know what will be the next
thing he gets out of me.
Inkpot! retorted the pen, contemptuously.
Late in the evening the poet returned home from a concert, where he
had been quite enchanted by the admirable performance of a famous
The player had produced from his instrument a richness of tone that
sometimes sounded like tinkling water drops or rolling pearls,
sometimes like the birds twittering in chorus, and then again, rising
and swelling like the wind through the fir trees. The poet felt as if
his own heart were weeping, but in tones of melody, like the sound of a
woman's voice. These sounds seemed to come not only from the strings
but from every part of the instrument. It was a wonderful performance
and a difficult piece, and yet the bow seemed to glide across the
strings so easily that one would think any one could do it. The violin
and the bow seemed independent of their master who guided them. It was
as if soul and spirit had been breathed into the instrument. And the
audience forgot the performer in the beautiful sounds he produced.
Not so the poet; he remembered him and wrote down his thoughts on
the subject: How foolish it would be for the violin and the bow to
boast of their performance, and yet we men often commit that folly. The
poet, the artist, the man of science in his laboratory, the generalwe
all do it, and yet we are only the instruments which the Almighty uses.
To Him alone the honor is due. We have nothing in ourselves of which we
should be proud. Yes, this is what the poet wrote. He wrote it in the
form of a parable and called it The Master and the Instruments.
That is what you get, madam, said the pen to the inkstand when the
two were alone again. Did you hear him read aloud what I had written
Yes, what I gave you to write, retorted the inkstand. That was a
cut at you, because of your conceit. To think that you could not
understand that you were being quizzed! I gave you a cut from within
me. Surely I must know my own satire.
Ink pitcher! cried the pen.
Writing stick! retorted the inkstand. And each of them felt
satisfied that he had given a good answer. It is pleasing to be
convinced that you have settled a matter by your reply; it is something
to make you sleep well. And they both slept well over it.
But the poet did not sleep. Thoughts rose within him, like the tones
of the violin, falling like pearls or rushing like the strong wind
through the forest. He understood his own heart in these thoughts; they
were as a ray from the mind of the Great Master of all minds.
To Him be all the honor.
THERE was once a proud teapot; it was proud of being porcelain,
proud of its long spout, proud of its broad handle. It had something
before and behind,the spout before and the handle behind,and that
was what it talked about. But it did not talk of its lid, which was
cracked and riveted; these were defects, and one does not talk of one's
defects, for there are plenty of others to do that. The cups, the cream
pot, and the sugar bowl, the whole tea service, would think much
oftener of the lid's imperfectionsand talk about themthan of the
sound handle and the remarkable spout. The teapot knew it.
I know you, it said within itself. I know, too, my imperfection,
and I am well aware that in that very thing is seen my humility, my
modesty. Imperfections we all have, but we also have compensations. The
cups have a handle, the sugar bowl a lid; I have both, and one thing
besides, in front, which they can never have. I have a spout, and that
makes me the queen of the tea table. I spread abroad a blessing on
thirsting mankind, for in me the Chinese leaves are brewed in the
boiling, tasteless water.
All this said the teapot in its fresh young life. It stood on the
table that was spread for tea; it was lifted by a very delicate hand,
but the delicate hand was awkward. The teapot fell, the spout snapped
off, and the handle snapped off. The lid was no worse to speak of; the
worst had been spoken of that.
The teapot lay in a swoon on the floor, while the boiling water ran
out of it. It was a horrid shame, but the worst was that everybody
jeered at it; they jeered at the teapot and not at the awkward hand.
I never shall forget that experience, said the teapot, when it
afterward talked of its life. I was called an invalid, and placed in a
corner, and the next day was given to a woman who begged for victuals.
I fell into poverty, and stood dumb both outside and in. But then, just
as I was, began my better life. One can be one thing and still become
Earth was placed in me. For a teapot, this is the same as being
buried, but in the earth was placed a flower bulb. Who placed it there,
who gave it, I know not; but given it was, and it became a compensation
for the Chinese leaves and the boiling water, a compensation for the
broken handle and spout.
And the bulb lay in the earth, the bulb lay in me; it became my
heart, my living heart, such as I had never before possessed. There was
life in me, power and might. The heart pulsed, and the bulb put forth
sprouts; it was the springing up of thoughts and feelings which burst
forth into flower.
I saw it, I bore it, I forgot myself in its delight. Blessed is it
to forget oneself in another. The flower gave me no thanks; it did not
think of me. It was admired and praised, and I was glad at that. How
happy it must have been! One day I heard some one say that the flower
deserved a better pot. I was thumped hard on my back, which was a great
affliction, and the flower was put into a better pot. I was thrown out
into the yard, where I lie as an old potsherd. But I have the memory,
and that I can never lose.
SOUP FROM A SAUSAGE SKEWER
WE HAD such an excellent dinner yesterday, said an old lady-mouse
to another who had not been present at the feast. I sat number
twenty-one below the mouse-king, which was not a bad place. Shall I
tell you what we had? Everything was excellentmoldy bread, tallow
candle, and sausage.
Then, when we had finished that course, the same came on all over
again; it was as good as two feasts. We were very sociable, and there
was as much joking and fun as if we had been all of one family circle.
Nothing was left but the sausage skewers, and this formed a subject of
conversation till at last some one used the expression, 'Soup from
sausage sticks'; or, as the people in the neighboring country call it,
'Soup from a sausage skewer.'
Every one had heard the expression, but no one had ever tasted the
soup, much less prepared it. A capital toast was drunk to the inventor
of the soup, and some one said he ought to be made a relieving officer
to the poor. Was not that witty?
Then the old mouse-king rose and promised that the young lady-mouse
who should learn how best to prepare this much-admired and savory soup
should be his queen, and a year and a day should be allowed for the
That was not at all a bad proposal, said the other mouse; but how
is the soup made?
Ah, that is more than I can tell you. All the young lady-mice were
asking the same question. They wish very much to be the queen, but they
do not want to take the trouble to go out into the world to learn how
to make soup, which it is absolutely necessary to do first.
It is not every one who would care to leave her family or her happy
corner by the fireside at home, even to be made queen. It is not always
easy in foreign lands to find bacon and cheese rind every day, and,
after all, it is not pleasant to endure hunger and perhaps be eaten
alive by the cat.
Probably some such thoughts as these discouraged the majority from
going out into the world to collect the required information. Only four
mice gave notice that they were ready to set out on the journey.
They were young and sprightly, but poor. Each of them wished to
visit one of the four divisions of the world, to see which of them
would be most favored by fortune. Each took a sausage skewer as a
traveler's staff and to remind her of the object of her journey.
They left home early in May, and none of them returned till the
first of May in the following year, and then only three of them.
Nothing was seen or heard of the fourth, although the day of decision
was close at hand. Ah, yes, there is always some trouble mingled with
the greatest pleasure, said the mouse-king. But he gave orders that
all the mice within a circle of many miles should be invited at once.
They were to assemble in the kitchen, and the three travelers were
to stand in a row before them, and a sausage skewer covered with crape
was to stand in the place of the missing mouse. No one dared express an
opinion until the king spoke and desired one of them to proceed with
her story. And now we shall hear what she said.
WHAT THE FIRST LITTLE MOUSE SAW AND HEARD ON HER TRAVELS
When I first went out into the world, said the little mouse, I
fancied, as so many of my age do, that I already knew everythingbut
it was not so. It takes years to acquire great knowledge.
I went at once to sea, in a ship bound for the north. I had been
told that the ship's cook must know how to prepare every dish at sea,
and it is easy enough to do that with plenty of sides of bacon, and
large tubs of salt meat and musty flour. There I found plenty of
delicate food but no opportunity to learn how to make soup from a
We sailed on for many days and nights; the ship rocked fearfully,
and we did not escape without a wetting. As soon as we arrived at the
port to which the ship was bound, I left it and went on shore at a
place far towards the north. It is a wonderful thing to leave your own
little corner at home, to hide yourself in a ship where there are sure
to be some nice snug corners for shelter, then suddenly to find
yourself thousands of miles away in a foreign land.
I saw large, pathless forests of pine and birch trees, which smelt
so strong that I sneezed and thought of sausage. There were great lakes
also, which looked as black as ink at a distance but were quite clear
when I came close to them. Large swans were floating upon them, and I
thought at first they were only foam, they lay so still; but when I saw
them walk and fly, I knew directly what they were. They belonged to the
goose species. One could see that by their walk, for no one can
successfully disguise his family descent.
I kept with my own kind and associated with the forest and field
mice, who, however, knew very littleespecially about what I wanted to
know and what had actually made me travel abroad.
The idea that soup could be made from a sausage skewer was so
startling to them that it was repeated from one to another through the
whole forest. They declared that the problem would never be
solvedthat the thing was an impossibility. How little I thought that
in this place, on the very first night, I should be initiated into the
manner of its preparation!
It was the height of summer, which the mice told me was the reason
that the forest smelt so strong, and that the herbs were so fragrant,
and that the lakes with the white, swimming swans were so dark and yet
On the margin of the wood, near several houses, a pole as large as
the mainmast of a ship had been erected, and from the summit hung
wreaths of flowers and fluttering ribbons. It was the Maypole. Lads and
lasses danced round it and tried to outdo the violins of the musicians
with their singing. They were as gay as ever at sunset and in the
moonlight, but I took no part in the merrymaking. What has a little
mouse to do with a Maypole dance? I sat in the soft moss and held my
sausage skewer tight. The moon shone particularly bright on one spot
where stood a tree covered with very fine moss. I may almost venture to
say that it was as fine and soft as the fur of the mouse-king, but it
was green, which is a color very agreeable to the eye.
All at once I saw the most charming little people marching towards
me. They did not reach higher than my knee, although they looked like
human beings but were better proportioned. They called themselves
elves, and wore clothes that were very delicate and fine, for they were
made of the leaves of flowers, trimmed with the wings of flies and
gnats. The effect was by no means bad.
They seemed to be seeking somethingI knew not what, till at last
one of them espied me. They came towards me, and the foremost pointed
to my sausage skewer, saying: 'There, that is just what we want. See,
it is pointed at the top; is it not capital?' The longer he looked at
my pilgrim's staff the more delighted he became.
'I will lend it to you,' said I, 'but not to keep.'
'Oh, no, we won't keep it!' they all cried. Then they seized the
skewer, which I gave up to them, and dancing with it to the tree
covered with delicate moss, set it up in the middle of the green. They
wanted a Maypole, and the one they now had seemed made especially for
them. This they decorated so beautifully that it was quite dazzling to
look at. Little spiders spun golden threads around it, and it was hung
with fluttering veils and flags, as delicately white as snow glittering
in the moonlight. Then they took colors from the butterfly's wing,
sprinkling them over the white drapery until it gleamed as if covered
with flowers and diamonds, and I could no longer recognize my sausage
skewer. Such a Maypole as this has never been seen in all the world.
Then came a great company of real elves. Nothing could be finer
than their clothes. They invited me to be present at the feast, but I
was to keep at a certain distance because I was too large for them.
Then began music that sounded like a thousand glass bells, and was so
full and strong that I thought it must be the song of the swans. I
fancied also that I heard the voices of the cuckoo and the blackbird,
and it seemed at last as if the whole forest sent forth glorious
melodiesthe voices of children, the tinkling of bells, and the songs
of the birds. And all this wonderful melody came from the elfin
Maypole. My sausage peg was a complete peal of bells. I could scarcely
believe that so much could have been produced from it, till I
remembered into what hands it had fallen. I was so much affected that I
wept tears such as a little mouse can weep, but they were tears of joy.
The night was far too short for me; there are no long nights there
in summer, as we often have in this part of the world. When the morning
dawned and the gentle breeze rippled the glassy mirror of the forest
lake, all the delicate veils and flags fluttered away into thin air.
The waving garlands of the spider's web, the hanging bridges and
galleries, or whatever else they may be called, vanished away as if
they had never been. Six elves brought me back my sausage skewer and at
the same time asked me to make any request, which they would grant if
it lay in their power. So I begged them, if they could, to tell me how
to make soup from a sausage skewer.
'How do we make it?' asked the chief of the elves, with a smile.
'Why, you have just seen us. You scarcely knew your sausage skewer
again, I am sure.'
'They think themselves very wise,' thought I to myself. Then I told
them all about it, and why I had traveled so far, and also what promise
had been made at home to the one who should discover the method of
preparing this soup.
'What good will it do the mouse-king or our whole mighty kingdom,'
I asked, 'for me to have seen all these beautiful things? I cannot
shake the sausage peg and say, Look, here is the skewer, and now the
soup will come. That would only produce a dish to be served when
people were keeping a fast.'
Then the elf dipped his finger into the cup of a violet and said,
'Look, I will anoint your pilgrim's staff, so that when you return to
your home and enter the king's castle, you have only to touch the king
with your staff and violets will spring forth, even in the coldest
winter time. I think I have given you something worth carrying home,
and a little more than something.'
Before the little mouse explained what this something more was, she
stretched her staff toward the king, and as it touched him the most
beautiful bunch of violets sprang forth and filled the place with their
perfume. The smell was so powerful that the mouse-king ordered the mice
who stood nearest the chimney to thrust their tails into the fire that
there might be a smell of burning, for the perfume of the violets was
overpowering and not the sort of scent that every one liked.
But what was the something more, of which you spoke just now?
asked the mouse-king.
Why, answered the little mouse, I think it is what they call
'effect.' Thereupon she turned the staff round, and behold, not a
single flower was to be seen on it! She now held only the naked skewer,
and lifted it up as a conductor lifts his baton at a concert.
Violets, the elf told me, continued the mouse, are for the sight,
the smell, and the touch; so we have only to produce the effect of
hearing and tasting. Then, as the little mouse beat time with her
staff, there came sounds of music; not such music as was heard in the
forest, at the elfin feast, but such as is often heard in the
kitchenthe sounds of boiling and roasting. It came quite suddenly,
like wind rushing through the chimneys, and it seemed as if every pot
and kettle were boiling over.
The fire shovel clattered down on the brass fender, and then, quite
as suddenly, all was still,nothing could be heard but the light,
vapory song of the teakettle, which was quite wonderful to hear, for no
one could rightly distinguish whether the kettle was just beginning to
boil or just going to stop. And the little pot steamed, and the great
pot simmered, but without any regard for each other; indeed, there
seemed no sense in the pots at all. As the little mouse waved her baton
still more wildly, the pots foamed and threw up bubbles and boiled
over, while again the wind roared and whistled through the chimney, and
at last there was such a terrible hubbub that the little mouse let her
That is a strange sort of soup, said the mouse-king. Shall we not
now hear about the preparation?
That is all, answered the little mouse, with a bow.
That all! said the mouse-king; then we shall be glad to hear what
information the next may have to give us.
WHAT THE SECOND MOUSE HAD TO TELL
I was born in the library, at a castle, said the second mouse.
Very few members of our family ever had the good fortune to get into
the dining room, much less into the storeroom. To-day and while on my
journey are the only times I have ever seen a kitchen. We were often
obliged to suffer hunger in the library, but we gained a great deal of
knowledge. The rumor reached us of the royal prize offered to those who
should be able to make soup from a sausage skewer.
Then my old grandmother sought out a manuscript,which she herself
could not read, to be sure, but she had heard it read,and in it were
written these words, 'Those who are poets can make soup of sausage
skewers.' She asked me if I was a poet. I told her I felt myself quite
innocent of any such pretensions. Then she said I must go out and make
myself a poet. I asked again what I should be required to do, for it
seemed to me quite as difficult as to find out how to make soup of a
sausage skewer. My grandmother had heard a great deal of reading in her
day, and she told me that three principal qualifications were
necessaryunderstanding, imagination, and feeling. 'If you can manage
to acquire these three, you will be a poet, and the sausage-skewer soup
will seem quite simple to you.'
So I went forth into the world and turned my steps toward the west,
that I might become a poet. Understanding is the most important matter
of all. I was sure of that, for the other two qualifications are not
thought much of; so I went first to seek understanding. Where was I to
'Go to the ant and learn wisdom,' said the great Jewish king. I
learned this from living in a library. So I went straight on till I
came to the first great ant hill. There I set myself to watch, that I
might become wise. The ants are a very respectable people; they are
wisdom itself. All they do is like the working of a sum in arithmetic,
which comes right. 'To work, and to lay eggs,' say they, 'and to
provide for posterity, is to live out your time properly.' This they
truly do. They are divided into clean and dirty ants, and their rank is
indicated by a number. The ant-queen is number ONE. Her opinion is the
only correct one on everything, and she seems to have in her the wisdom
of the whole world. This was just what I wished to acquire. She said a
great deal that was no doubt very cleveryet it sounded like nonsense
to me. She said the ant hill was the loftiest thing in the world,
although close to the mound stood a tall tree which no one could deny
was loftier, much loftier. Yet she made no mention of the tree.
One evening an ant lost herself on this tree. She had crept up the
stem, not nearly to the top but higher than any ant had ever ventured,
and when at last she returned home she said that she had found
something in her travels much higher than the ant hill. The rest of the
ants considered this an insult to the whole community, and condemned
her to wear a muzzle and live in perpetual solitude.
A short time afterwards another ant got on the tree and made the
same journey and the same discovery. But she spoke of it cautiously and
indefinitely, and as she was one of the superior ants and very much
respected, they believed her. And when she died they erected an
egg-shell as a monument to her memory, for they cultivated a great
respect for science.
I saw, said the little mouse, that the ants were always running
to and fro with their burdens on their backs. Once I saw one of them,
who had dropped her load, try very hard to raise it again, but she did
not succeed. Two others came up and tried with all their strength to
help her, till they nearly dropped their own burdens. Then they were
obliged to stop a moment, for every one must think of himself first.
The ant-queen remarked that their conduct that day showed that they
possessed kind hearts and good understanding. 'These two qualities,'
she continued, 'place us ants in the highest degree above all other
reasonable beings. Understanding must therefore stand out prominently
among us, and my wisdom is greatest.' So saying, she raised herself on
her two hind legs, that no one else might be mistaken for her. I could
not, therefore, have made a mistake, so I ate her up. We are to go to
the ants to learn wisdom, and I had secured the queen.
I now turned and went nearer to the lofty tree already mentioned,
which was an oak. It had a tall trunk, with a wide-spreading top, and
was very old. I knew that a living being dwelt here, a dryad, as she is
called, who is born with the tree and dies with it. I had heard this in
the library, and here was just such a tree and in it an oak maiden. She
uttered a terrible scream when she caught sight of me so near to her.
Like women, she was very much afraid of mice, and she had more real
cause for fear than they have, for I might have gnawed through the tree
on which her life depended.
I spoke to her in a friendly manner and begged her to take courage.
At last she took me up in her delicate hand, and I told her what had
brought me out into the world. She told me that perhaps on that very
evening she would be able to obtain for me one of the two treasures for
which I was seeking. She told me that Phantæsus, the genius of the
imagination, was her very dear friend; that he was as beautiful as the
god of love; that he rested many an hour with her under the leafy
boughs of the tree, which then rustled and waved more than ever. He
called her his dryad, she said, and the tree his tree, for the grand
old oak with its gnarled trunk was just to his taste. The root, which
spread deep into the earth, and the top, which rose high in the fresh
air, knew the value of the drifting snow, the keen wind, and the warm
sunshine, as it ought to be known. 'Yes,' continued the dryad, 'the
birds sing up above in the branches and talk to each other about the
beautiful fields they have visited in foreign lands. On one of the
withered boughs a stork has built his nestit is beautifully arranged,
and, besides, it is pleasant to hear a little about the land of the
pyramids. All this pleases Phantæsus, but it is not enough for him. I
am obliged to relate to him of my life in the woods and to go back to
my childhood, when I was little and the tree so small and delicate that
a stinging nettle could overshadow it, and I have to tell everything
that has happened since then until now, when the tree is so large and
strong. Sit you down now under the green bindwood and pay attention.
When Phantæsus comes I will find an opportunity to lay hold of his wing
and to pull out one of the little feathers. That feather you shall
have. A better was never given to any poet, and it will be quite enough
And when Phantæsus came the feather was plucked, said the little
mouse, and I seized and put it in water and kept it there till it was
quite soft. It was very heavy and indigestible, but I managed to nibble
it up at last. It is not so easy to nibble oneself into a poet, there
are so many things to get through. Now, however, I had two of them,
understanding and imagination, and through these I knew that the third
was to be found in the library.
A great man has said and written that there are novels whose sole
and only use appears to be to attempt to relieve mankind of overflowing
tearsa kind of sponge, in fact, for sucking up feelings and emotions.
I remembered a few of these books. They had always appeared tempting to
the appetite, for they had been much read and were so greasy that they
must have absorbed no end of emotions in themselves.
I retraced my steps to the library and literally devoured a whole
novelthat is, properly speaking, the interior, or soft part of it.
The crust, or binding, I left. When I had digested not only this, but a
second, I felt a stirring within me. I then ate a small piece of a
third romance and felt myself a poet. I said it to myself and told
others the same. I had headache and backache and I cannot tell what
aches besides. I thought over all the stories that may be said to be
connected with sausage pegs; and all that has ever been written about
skewers, and sticks, and staves, and splinters came to my thoughtsthe
ant-queen must have had a wonderfully clear understanding. I remembered
the man who placed in his mouth a white stick, by which he could make
himself and the stick invisible. I thought of sticks as hobbyhorses,
staves of music or rime, of breaking a stick over a man's back, and of
Heaven knows how many more phrases of the same sort, relating to
sticks, staves, and skewers. All my thoughts ran on skewers, sticks of
wood, and staves. As I am at last a poet and have worked terribly hard
to make myself one, I can of course make poetry on anything. I shall
therefore be able to wait upon you every day in the week with a
poetical history of a skewer. And that is my soup.
In that case, said the mouse-king, we will hear what the third
mouse has to say.
Squeak, squeak, cried a little mouse at the kitchen door. It was
the fourth, and not the third, of the four who were contending for the
prize, the one whom the rest supposed to be dead. She shot in like an
arrow and overturned the sausage peg that had been covered with crape.
She had been running day and night, for although she had traveled in a
baggage train, by railway, yet she had arrived almost too late. She
pressed forward, looking very much ruffled.
She had lost her sausage skewer but not her voice, and she began to
speak at once, as if they waited only for her and would hear her
onlyas if nothing else in the world were of the least consequence.
She spoke out so clearly and plainly, and she had come in so suddenly,
that no one had time to stop her or to say a word while she was
speaking. This is what she said.
WHAT THE FOURTH MOUSE, WHO SPOKE BEFORE THE THIRD, HAD TO TELL
I started off at once to the largest town, said she, but the name
of it has escaped me. I have a very bad memory for names. I was carried
from the railway, with some goods on which duties had not been paid, to
the jail, and on arriving I made my escape, running into the house of
the keeper. He was speaking of his prisoners, especially of one who had
uttered thoughtless words. These words had given rise to other words,
and at length they were written down and registered. 'The whole affair
is like making soup of sausage skewers,' said he, 'but the soup may
cost him his neck.'
Now this raised in me an interest for the prisoner, continued the
little mouse, and I watched my opportunity and slipped into his
apartment, for there is a mousehole to be found behind every closed
The prisoner, who had a great beard and large, sparkling eyes,
looked pale. There was a lamp burning, but the walls were so black that
they only looked the blacker for it. The prisoner scratched pictures
and verses with white chalk on the black walls, but I did not read the
verses. I think he found his confinement wearisome, so that I was a
welcome guest. He enticed me with bread crumbs, with whistling, and
with gentle words, and seemed so friendly towards me that by degrees I
gained confidence in him and we became friends. He divided his bread
and water with me and gave me cheese and sausage, and I began to love
him. Altogether, I must own that it was a very pleasant intimacy. He
let me run about on his hand, on his arm, into his sleeve, and even
into his beard. He called me his little friend, and I forgot for what I
had come out into the world; forgot my sausage skewer, which I had laid
in a crack in the floor, where it is still lying. I wished to stay with
him always, for I knew that if I went away, the poor prisoner would
have no one to be his friend, which is a sad thing.
I stayed, but he did not. He spoke to me so mournfully for the last
time, gave me double as much bread and cheese as usual, and kissed his
hand to me. Then he went away and never came back. I know nothing more
of his history.
The jailer took possession of me now. He said something about soup
from a sausage skewer, but I could not trust him. He took me in his
hand, certainly, but it was to place me in a cage like a treadmill. Oh,
how dreadful it was! I had to run round and round without getting any
farther, and only to make everybody laugh.
The jailer's granddaughter was a charming little thing. She had
merry eyes, curly hair like the brightest gold, and such a smiling
'You poor little mouse,' said she one day, as she peeped into my
cage, 'I will set you free.' She then drew forth the iron fastening,
and I sprang out on the window-sill, and from thence to the roof. Free!
free! that was all I could think of, and not of the object of my
It grew dark, and as night was coming on I found a lodging in an
old tower, where dwelt a watchman and an owl. I had no confidence in
either of them, least of all in the owl, which is like a cat and has a
great failing, for she eats mice. One may, however, be mistaken
sometimes, and I was now, for this was a respectable and well-educated
old owl, who knew more than the watchman and even as much as I did
myself. The young owls made a great fuss about everything, but the only
rough words she would say to them were, 'You had better go and try to
make some soup from sausage skewers.' She was very indulgent and loving
to her own children. Her conduct gave me such confidence in her that
from the crack where I sat I called out 'Squeak.'
This confidence pleased her so much that she assured me she would
take me under her own protection and that not a creature should do me
harm. The fact was, she wickedly meant to keep me in reserve for her
own eating in the winter, when food would be scarce. Yet she was a very
clever lady-owl. She explained to me that the watchman could only hoot
with the horn that hung loose at his side and that he was so terribly
proud of it that he imagined himself an owl in the tower, wanted to do
great things, but only succeeded in smallsoup from a sausage skewer.
Then I begged the owl to give me the recipe for this soup. 'Soup
from a sausage skewer,' said she, 'is only a proverb amongst mankind
and may be understood in many ways. Each believes his own way the best,
and, after all, the proverb signifies nothing.' 'Nothing!' I exclaimed.
I was quite struck. Truth is not always agreeable, but truth is above
everything else, as the old owl said. I thought over all this and saw
quite plainly that if truth was really so far above everything else, it
must be much more valuable than soup from a sausage skewer. So I
hastened to get away, that I might be in time and bring what was
highest and best and above everythingnamely, the truth.
The mice are enlightened people, and the mouse-king is above them
all. He is therefore capable of making me queen for the sake of truth.
Your truth is a falsehood, said the mouse who had not yet spoken.
I can prepare the soup, and I mean to do so.
HOW IT WAS PREPARED
I did not travel, said the third mouse, I stayed in this country;
that was the right way. One gains nothing by traveling. Everything can
be acquired here quite as easily, so I stayed at home. I have not
obtained what I know from supernatural beings; I have neither swallowed
it nor learned it from conversing with owls. I have gained it all from
my own reflections and thoughts. Will you now set the kettle on the
fireso? Now pour the water in, quite full up to the brim; place it on
the fire; make up a good blaze; keep it burning, that the water may
boil, for it must boil over and over. There, now I throw in the skewer.
Will the mouse-king be pleased now to dip his tail into the boiling
water and stir it round with the tail? The longer the king stirs it the
stronger the soup will become. Nothing more is necessary, only to stir
Can no one else do this? asked the king.
No, said the mouse; only in the tail of the mouse-king is this
And the water boiled and bubbled, as the mouse-king stood close
beside the kettle. It seemed rather a dangerous performance, but he
turned round and put out his tail, as mice do in a dairy when they wish
to skim the cream from a pan of milk with their tails and afterwards
lick it off. But the mouse-king's tail had only just touched the hot
steam when he sprang away from the chimney in a great hurry,
Oh, certainly, by all means, you must be my queen. We will let the
soup question rest till our golden wedding, fifty years hence, so that
the poor in my kingdom who are then to have plenty of food will have
something to look forward to for a long time, with great joy.
And very soon the wedding took place. Many of the mice, however, as
they were returning home, said that the soup could not be properly
called soup from a sausage skewer, but soup from a mouse's tail.
They acknowledged that some of the stories were very well told, but
thought that the whole might have been managed differently.
WHAT THE GOODMAN DOES IS ALWAYS
I WILL tell you a story that was told to me when I was a little boy.
Every time I think of this story it seems to me more and more charming;
for it is with stories as it is with many peoplethey become better as
they grow older.
I have no doubt that you have been in the country and seen a very
old farmhouse, with thatched roof, and mosses and small plants growing
wild upon it. There is a stork's nest on the ridge of the gable, for we
cannot do without the stork. The walls of the house are sloping, and
the windows are low, and only one of the latter is made to open. The
baking oven sticks out of the wall like a great knob. An elder tree
hangs over the palings, and beneath its branches, at the foot of the
paling, is a pool of water in which a few ducks are sporting. There is
a yard dog, too, that barks at all comers.
Just such a farmhouse as this stood in a country lane, and in it
dwelt an old couple, a peasant and his wife. Small as their possessions
were, they had one thing they could not do without, and that was a
horse, which contrived to live upon the grass found by the side of the
highroad. The old peasant rode into the town upon this horse, and his
neighbors often borrowed it of him and paid for the loan of it by
rendering some service to the old couple. Yet after a time the old
people thought it would be as well to sell the horse or exchange it for
something which might be more useful to them. But what should this
You will know best, old man, said the wife. It is fair day
to-day; so ride into town and get rid of the horse for money or make a
good exchange. Whichever you do will please me; so ride to the fair.
She fastened his neckerchief for him, for she could do that better
than he could and she could also tie it very prettily in a double bow.
She also smoothed his hat round and round with the palm of her hand and
gave him a kiss. Then he rode away upon the horse that was to be sold,
or bartered for something else. Yes, the goodman knew what he was
about. The sun shone with great heat, and not a cloud was to be seen in
the sky. The road was very dusty, for many people, all going to the
fair, were driving, riding, or walking upon it. There was no shelter
anywhere from the hot sun. Among the crowd a man came trudging along,
driving a cow to the fair. The cow was as beautiful a creature as any
cow could be.
She gives good milk, I am certain, said the peasant to himself.
That would be a very good exchange: the cow for the horse. Halloo
there! you with the cow, he said. I tell you what, I dare say a horse
is of more value than a cow; but I don't care for that. A cow will be
more useful to me, so if you like we'll exchange.
To be sure I will, said the man.
[Illustration: And then our peasant ... continued his way.]
Accordingly the exchange was made. When the matter was settled the
peasant might have turned back, for he had done the business he came to
do. But having made up his mind to go to the fair, he determined to do
so, if only to have a look at it. So on he went to the town with his
cow. Leading the animal, he strode on sturdily, and, after a short
time, overtook a man who was driving a sheep. It was a good fat sheep,
with a fine fleece on its back.
I should like to have that fellow, said the peasant to himself.
There is plenty of grass for him by our palings, and in the winter we
could keep him in the room with us. Perhaps it would be more profitable
to have a sheep than a cow. Shall I exchange?
The man with the sheep was quite ready, and the bargain was quickly
made. And then our peasant continued his way on the highroad with his
sheep. Soon after this, he overtook another man, who had come into the
road from a field, and was carrying a large goose under his arm.
What a heavy creature you have there! said the peasant. It has
plenty of feathers and plenty of fat, and would look well tied to a
string, or paddling in the water at our place. That would be very
useful to my old woman; she could make all sorts of profit out of it.
How often she has said, 'If we only had a goose!' Now here is an
opportunity, and, if possible, I will get it for her. Shall we
exchange? I will give you my sheep for your goose, and thanks into the
The other had not the least objection, and accordingly the exchange
was made, and our peasant became possessor of the goose. By this time
he had arrived very near the town. The crowd on the highroad had been
gradually increasing, and there was quite a rush of men and cattle. The
cattle walked on the path and by the palings, and at the turnpike gate
they even walked into the toll keeper's potato field, where one fowl
was strutting about with a string tied to its leg, lest it should take
fright at the crowd and run away and get lost. The tail feathers of
this fowl were very short, and it winked with both its eyes, and looked
very cunning as it said, Cluck, cluck. What were the thoughts of the
fowl as it said this I cannot tell you, but as soon as our good man saw
it, he thought, Why, that's the finest fowl I ever saw in my life;
it's finer than our parson's brood hen, upon my word. I should like to
have that fowl. Fowls can always pick up a few grains that lie about,
and almost keep themselves. I think it would be a good exchange if I
could get it for my goose. Shall we exchange? he asked the toll
Exchange? repeated the man. Well, it would not be a bad thing.
So they made an exchange; the toll keeper at the turnpike gate kept
the goose, and the peasant carried off the fowl. Now he really had done
a great deal of business on his way to the fair, and he was hot and
tired. He wanted something to eat, and a glass of ale to refresh
himself; so he turned his steps to an inn. He was just about to enter,
when the ostler came out, and they met at the door. The ostler was
carrying a sack. What have you in that sack? asked the peasant.
Rotten apples, answered the ostler; a whole sackful of them. They
will do to feed the pigs with.
Why, that will be terrible waste, the peasant replied. I should
like to take them home to my old woman. Last year the old apple tree by
the grassplot bore only one apple, and we kept it in the cupboard till
it was quite withered and rotten. It was property, my old woman said.
Here she would see a great deal of propertya whole sackful. I should
like to show them to her.
What will you give me for the sackful? asked the ostler.
What will I give? Well, I will give you my fowl in exchange.
So he gave up the fowl and received the apples, which he carried
into the inn parlor. He leaned the sack carefully against the stove,
and then went to the table. But the stove was hot, and he had not
thought of that. Many guests were presenthorse-dealers,
cattle-drovers, and two Englishmen. The Englishmen were so rich that
their pockets bulged and seemed ready to burst; and they could bet too,
as you shall hear. Hissss, hissss. What could that be by the
stove? The apples were beginning to roast. What is that? asked one.
Why, do you know said our peasant, and then he told them the
whole story of the horse, which he had exchanged for a cow, and all the
rest of it, down to the apples.
Well, your old woman will give it to you when you get home, said
one of the Englishmen. Won't there be a noise?
What! Give me what? said the peasant. Why, she will kiss me, and
say, 'What the goodman does is always right.'
Let us lay a wager on it, said the Englishman. We'll wager you a
ton of coined gold, a hundred pounds to the hundredweight.
No, a bushel will be enough, replied the peasant. I can only set
a bushel of apples against it, and I'll throw myself and my old woman
into the bargain. That will pile up the measure, I fancy.
Done! taken! and so the bet was made.
Then the landlord's coach came to the door, and the two Englishmen
and the peasant got in, and away they drove. Soon they had stopped at
the peasant's hut. Good evening, old woman.
Good evening, old man.
I've made the exchange.
Ah, well, you understand what you're about, said the woman. Then
she embraced him, and paid no attention to the strangers, nor did she
notice the sack.
I got a cow in exchange for the horse.
Oh, how delightful! said she. Now we shall have plenty of milk,
and butter, and cheese on the table. That was a capital exchange.
Yes, but I changed the cow for a sheep.
Ah, better still! cried the wife. You always think of everything;
we have just enough pasture for a sheep. Ewe's milk and cheese, woolen
jackets and stockings! The cow could not give all these, and her hairs
only fall off. How you think of everything!
But I changed away the sheep for a goose.
Then we shall have roast goose to eat this year. You dear old man,
you are always thinking of something to please me. This is delightful.
We can let the goose walk about with a string tied to her leg, so that
she will get fatter still before we roast her.
But I gave away the goose for a fowl.
A fowl! Well, that was a good exchange, replied the woman. The
fowl will lay eggs and hatch them, and we shall have chickens. We shall
soon have a poultry yard. Oh, this is just what I was wishing for!
Yes, but I exchanged the fowl for a sack of shriveled apples.
What! I must really give you a kiss for that! exclaimed the wife.
My dear, good husband, now I'll tell you something. Do you know,
almost as soon as you left me this morning, I began thinking of what I
could give you nice for supper this evening, and then I thought of
fried eggs and bacon, with sweet herbs. I had eggs and bacon but lacked
the herbs, so I went over to the schoolmaster's. I knew they had plenty
of herbs, but the schoolmistress is very mean, although she can smile
so sweetly. I begged her to lend me a handful of herbs. 'Lend!' she
exclaimed, 'I have nothing to lend. I could not even lend you a
shriveled apple, my dear woman.' But now I can lend her ten, or a whole
sackful, for which I'm very glad. It makes me laugh to think of it.
Then she gave him a hearty kiss.
Well, I like all this, said both the Englishmen; always going
down the hill and yet always merry. It's worth the money to see it. So
they paid a hundredweight of gold to the peasant who, whatever he did,
was not scolded but kissed.
Yes, it always pays best when the wife sees and maintains that her
husband knows best and that whatever he does is right.
This is a story which I heard when I was a child. And now you have
heard it, too, and know that What the goodman does is always right.
THE OLD STREET LAMP
DID you ever hear the story of the old street lamp? It is not
remarkably interesting, but for once you may as well listen to it.
It was a most respectable old lamp, which had seen many, many years
of service and now was to retire with a pension. It was this very
evening at its post for the last time, giving light to the street. Its
feelings were something like those of an old dancer at the theater who
is dancing for the last time and knows that on the morrow she will be
in her garret, alone and forgotten.
The lamp had very great anxiety about the next day, for it knew that
it had to appear for the first time at the town hall to be inspected by
the mayor and the council, who were to decide whether it was fit for
further service; whether it was good enough to be used to light the
inhabitants of one of the suburbs, or in the country, at some factory.
If the lamp could not be used for one of these purposes, it would be
sent at once to an iron foundry to be melted down. In this latter case
it might be turned into anything, and it wondered very much whether it
would then be able to remember that it had once been a street lamp.
This troubled it exceedingly.
Whatever might happen, it seemed certain that the lamp would be
separated from the watchman and his wife, whose family it looked upon
as its own. The lamp had first been hung up on the very evening that
the watchman, then a robust young man, had entered upon the duties of
his office. Ah, well! it was a very long time since one became a lamp
and the other a watchman. His wife had some little pride in those days;
she condescended to glance at the lamp only when she passed by in the
eveningnever in the daytime. But in later years, when all of
themthe watchman, the wife, and the lamphad grown old, she had
attended to it, cleaning it and keeping it supplied with oil. The old
people were thoroughly honest; they had never cheated the lamp of a
single drop of the oil provided for it.
This was the lamp's last night in the street, and to-morrow it must
go to the town halltwo very dark things to think of. No wonder it did
not burn brightly. How many persons it had lighted on their way, and
how much it had seen! As much, very likely, as the mayor and
corporation themselves! None of these thoughts were uttered aloud,
however, for the lamp was good and honorable and would not willingly do
harm to any one, especially to those in authority. As one thing after
another was recalled to its mind, the light would flash up with sudden
brightness. At such moments the lamp had a conviction that it would be
There was a handsome young man, once, thought the lamp; it is
certainly a long while ago, but I remember that he had a little note,
written on pink paper with a gold edge. The writing was elegant,
evidently a lady's. Twice he read it through, and kissed it, and then
looked up at me with eyes that said quite plainly, 'I am the happiest
of men!' Only he and I know what was written on this, his first letter
from his lady-love. Ah, yes, and there was another pair of eyes that I
remember; it is really wonderful how the thoughts jump from one thing
to another! A funeral passed through the street. A young and beautiful
woman lay on a bier decked with garlands of flowers, and attended by
torches which quite overpowered my light. All along the street stood
the people from the houses, in crowds, ready to join the procession.
But when the torches had passed from before me and I could look around,
I saw one person standing alone, leaning against my post and weeping.
Never shall I forget the sorrowful eyes that looked up at me.
These and similar reflections occupied the old street lamp on this
the last time that its light would shine. The sentry, when he is
relieved from his post, knows, at least, who will be his successor, and
may whisper a few words to him. But the lamp did not know its
successor, or it might have given him a few hints respecting rain or
mist and might have informed him how far the moon's rays would reach,
and from which side the wind generally blew, and so on.
On the bridge over the canal stood three persons who wished to
recommend themselves to the lamp, for they thought it could give the
office to whomsoever it chose. The first was a herring's head, which
could emit light in the darkness. He remarked that it would be a great
saving of oil if they placed him on the lamp-post. Number two was a
piece of rotten wood, which also shines in the dark. He considered
himself descended from an old stem, once the pride of the forest. The
third was a glowworm, and how he found his way there the lamp could not
imagine; yet there he was, and could really give light as well as the
others. But the rotten wood and the herring's head declared most
solemnly, by all they held sacred, that the glowworm only gave light at
certain times and must not be allowed to compete with them. The old
lamp assured them that not one of them could give sufficient light to
fill the position of a street lamp, but they would believe nothing that
it said. When they discovered that it had not the power of naming its
successor, they said they were very glad to hear it, for the lamp was
too old and worn out to make a proper choice.
At this moment the wind came rushing round the corner of the street
and through the air-holes of the old lamp. What is this I hear? it
asked. Are you going away to-morrow? Is this evening the last time we
shall meet? Then I must present you with a farewell gift. I will blow
into your brain, so that in future not only shall you be able to
remember all that you have seen or heard in the past, but your light
within shall be so bright that you will be able to understand all that
is said or done in your presence.
Oh, that is really a very, very great gift, said the old lamp. I
thank you most heartily. I only hope I shall not be melted down.
That is not likely to happen yet, said the wind. I will also blow
a memory into you, so that, should you receive other similar presents,
your old age will pass very pleasantly.
That is, if I am not melted down, said the lamp. But should I, in
that case, still retain my memory?
Do be reasonable, old lamp, said the wind, puffing away.
At this moment the moon burst forth from the clouds. What will you
give the old lamp? asked the wind.
I can give nothing, she replied. I am on the wane, and no lamps
have ever given me light, while I have frequently shone upon them.
With these words the moon hid herself again behind the clouds, that she
might be saved from further importunities. Just then a drop fell upon
the lamp from the roof of the house, but the drop explained that it was
a gift from those gray clouds and perhaps the best of all gifts. I
shall penetrate you so thoroughly, it said, that you will have the
power of becoming rusty, and, if you wish it, can crumble into dust in
But this seemed to the lamp a very shabby present, and the wind
thought so, too. Does no one give any more? Will no one give any
more? shouted the breath of the wind, as loud as it could. Then a
bright, falling star came down, leaving a broad, luminous streak behind
What was that? cried the herring's head. Did not a star fall? I
really believe it went into the lamp. Certainly, when such high-born
personages try for the office we may as well go home.
And so they did, all three, while the old lamp threw a wonderfully
strong light all around.
This is a glorious gift, it said. The bright stars have always
been a joy to me and have always shone more brilliantly than I ever
could shine, though I have tried with my whole might. Now they have
noticed me, a poor old lamp, and have sent me a gift that will enable
me to see clearly everything that I remember, as if it still stood
before me, and to let it be seen by all those who love me. And herein
lies the truest happiness, for pleasures which we cannot share with
others are only half enjoyed.
That sentiment does you honor, said the wind; but for this
purpose wax lights will be necessary. If these are not lighted in you,
your peculiar faculties will not benefit others in the least. The stars
have not thought of this. They suppose that you and every other light
must be a wax taper. But I must go down now. So it laid itself to
Wax tapers, indeed! said the lamp; I have never yet had these,
nor is it likely I ever shall. If I could only be sure of not being
The next daywell, perhaps we had better pass over the next day.
The evening had come, and the lamp was resting in a grandfather's
chair; and guess where! Why, at the old watchman's house. He had begged
as a favor that the mayor and corporation would allow him to keep the
street lamp in consideration of his long and faithful service, as he
had himself hung it up and lighted it on the day he first commenced his
duties, four and twenty years ago. He looked upon it almost as his own
child. He had no children, so the lamp was given to him.
There lay the lamp in the great armchair near the warm stove. It
seemed almost to have grown larger, for it appeared quite to fill the
chair. The old people sat at their supper, casting friendly glances at
it, and would willingly have admitted it to a place at the table. It is
quite true that they dwelt in a cellar two yards below ground, and had
to cross a stone passage to get to their room. But within, it was warm
and comfortable, and strips of list had been nailed round the door. The
bed and the little window had curtains, and everything looked clean and
neat. On the window seat stood two curious flowerpots, which a sailor
named Christian had brought from the East or West Indies. They were of
clay, and in the form of two elephants with open backs; they were
filled with earth, and through the open space flowers bloomed. In one
grew some very fine chives or leeks; this was the kitchen garden. The
other, which contained a beautiful geranium, they called their flower
garden. On the wall hung a large colored print, representing the
Congress of Vienna and all the kings and emperors. A clock with heavy
weights hung on the wall and went tick, tick, steadily enough; yet it
was always rather too fast, which, however, the old people said was
better than being too slow. They were now eating their supper, while
the old street lamp, as we have heard, lay in the grandfather's
armchair near the stove.
It seemed to the lamp as if the whole world had turned round. But
after a while the old watchman looked at the lamp and spoke of what
they had both gone through togetherin rain and in fog, during the
short, bright nights of summer or in the long winter nights, through
the drifting snowstorms when he longed to be at home in the cellar.
Then the lamp felt that all was well again. It saw everything that had
happened quite clearly, as if the events were passing before it. Surely
the wind had given it an excellent gift!
The old people were very active and industrious; they were never
idle for even a single hour. On Sunday afternoons they would bring out
some books, generally a book of travels which they greatly liked. The
old man would read aloud about Africa, with its great forests and the
wild elephants, while his wife would listen attentively, stealing a
glance now and then at the clay elephants which served as flowerpots.
I can almost imagine I am seeing it all, she said.
Ah! how the lamp wished for a wax taper to be lighted in it, for
then the old woman would have seen the smallest detail as clearly as it
did itself; the lofty trees, with their thickly entwined branches, the
naked negroes on horseback, and whole herds of elephants treading down
bamboo thickets with their broad, heavy feet.
What is the use of all my capabilities, sighed the old lamp, when
I cannot obtain any wax lights? They have only oil and tallow here, and
these will not do. One day a great heap of wax-candle ends found their
way into the cellar. The larger pieces were burned, and the smaller
ones the old woman kept for waxing her thread. So there were now
candles enough, but it never occurred to any one to put a little piece
in the lamp.
Here I am now, with my rare powers, thought the lamp. I have
faculties within me, but I cannot share them. They do not know that I
could cover these white walls with beautiful tapestry, or change them
into noble forests or, indeed, to anything else they might wish.
The lamp, however, was always kept clean and shining in a corner,
where it attracted all eyes. Strangers looked upon it as lumber, but
the old people did not care for that; they loved it. One dayit was
the watchman's birthdaythe old woman approached the lamp, smiling to
herself, and said, I will have an illumination to-day, in honor of my
old man. The lamp rattled in its metal frame, for it thought, Now at
last I shall have a light within me. But, after all, no wax light was
placed in the lamponly oil, as usual.
The lamp burned through the whole evening and began to perceive too
clearly that the gift of the stars would remain a hidden treasure all
its life. Then it had a dream; for to one with its faculties, dreaming
was not difficult. It dreamed that the old people were dead and that it
had been taken to the iron foundry to be melted down. This caused the
lamp quite as much anxiety as on the day when it had been called upon
to appear before the mayor and the council at the town hall. But though
it had been endowed with the power of falling into decay from rust when
it pleased, it did not make use of this power. It was therefore put
into the melting furnace and changed into as elegant an iron
candlestick as you could wish to seeone intended to hold a wax taper.
The candlestick was in the form of an angel holding a nosegay, in the
center of which the wax taper was to be placed. It was to stand on a
green writing table in a very pleasant room, where there were many
books scattered about and splendid paintings on the walls.
The owner of the room was a poet and a man of intellect. Everything
he thought or wrote was pictured around him. Nature showed herself to
him sometimes in the dark forests, sometimes in cheerful meadows where
the storks were strutting about, or on the deck of a ship sailing
across the foaming sea, with the clear, blue sky above, or at night in
the glittering stars.
What powers I possess! said the lamp, awaking from its dream. I
could almost wish to be melted down; but no, that must not be while the
old people live. They love me for myself alone; they keep me bright and
supply me with oil. I am as well off as the picture of the Congress, in
which they take so much pleasure. And from that time it felt at rest
in itself, and not more so than such an honorable old lamp really
deserved to be.
THE SHEPHERDESS AND THE CHIMNEY
HAVE you ever seen an old wooden cabinet, quite worn black with age,
and ornamented with all sorts of carved figures and flourishes?
Just such a one stood in a certain parlor. It was a legacy from the
great-grandmother, and was covered from top to bottom with carved roses
and tulips. The most curious flourishes were on it, too; and between
them peered forth little stags' heads, with their zigzag antlers. On
the door panel had been carved the entire figure of a man, a most
ridiculous man to look at, for he grinnedyou could not call it
smiling or laughingin the drollest way. Moreover, he had crooked
legs, little horns upon his forehead, and a long beard.
The children used to call him the crooked-legged
field-marshal-major-general-corporal-sergeant, which was a long, hard
name to pronounce. Very few there are, whether in wood or in stone, who
could get such a title. Surely to have cut him out in wood was no
trifling task. However, there he was. His eyes were always fixed upon
the table below, and toward the mirror, for upon this table stood a
charming little porcelain shepherdess, her mantle gathered gracefully
about her and fastened with a red rose. Her shoes and hat were gilded,
and her hand held a shepherd's crook; she was very lovely. Close by her
stood a little chimney sweep, also of porcelain. He was as clean and
neat as any other figure. Indeed, he might as well have been made a
prince as a sweep, since he was only make-believe; for though
everywhere else he was as black as a coal, his round, bright face was
as fresh and rosy as a girl's. This was certainly a mistakeit ought
to have been black.
There he stood so prettily, with his ladder in his hand, quite close
to the shepherdess. From the first he had been placed there, and he
always remained on the same spot; for they had promised to be true to
each other. They suited each other exactlythey were both young, both
of the same kind of porcelain, and both equally fragile.
Close to them stood another figure three times as large as
themselves. It was an old Chinaman, a mandarin, who could nod his head.
He was of porcelain, too, and he said he was the grandfather of the
shepherdess; but this he could not prove. He insisted that he had
authority over her, and so when the crooked-legged
field-marshal-major-general-corporal-sergeant made proposals to the
little shepherdess, he nodded his head, in token of his consent.
You will have a husband, said the old mandarin to her, a husband
who, I verily believe, is of mahogany wood. You will be the wife of a
field-marshal-major-general-corporal-sergeant, of a man who has a whole
cabinet full of silver plate, besides a store of no one knows what in
the secret drawers.
I will never go into that dismal cabinet, declared the little
shepherdess. I have heard it said that there are eleven porcelain
ladies already imprisoned there.
Then, rejoined the mandarin, you will be the twelfth, and you
will be in good company. This very night, when the old cabinet creaks,
we shall keep the wedding, as surely as I am a Chinese mandarin. And
upon this he nodded his head and fell asleep.
But the little shepherdess wept, and turned to the beloved of her
heart, the porcelain chimney sweep.
I believe I must ask you, she said, to go out with me into the
wide world, for here it is not possible for us to stay.
I will do in everything as you wish, replied the little chimney
sweep. Let us go at once. I am sure I can support you by my trade.
If we were only down from the table, said she. I shall not feel
safe till we are far away out in the wide world and free.
The little chimney sweep comforted her, and showed her how to set
her little foot on the carved edges, and on the gilded foliage twining
round the leg of the table, till at last they both reached the floor.
But, turning for a last look at the old cabinet, they saw that
everything was in commotion. All the carved stags stretched their heads
farther out than before, raised their antlers, and moved their throats,
while the crooked-legged field-marshal-major-general-corporal-sergeant
sprang up and shouted to the old Chinese mandarin, Look! they are
eloping! they are eloping!
They were not a little frightened at this, and jumped quickly into
an open drawer in the window seat.
Here lay three or four packs of cards that were not quite complete,
and a little doll's theater, which had been set up as nicely as could
be. A play was going on, and all the queens sat in the front row, and
fanned themselves with the flowers which they held in their hands,
while behind them stood the knaves, each with two heads, one above and
one below, as playing cards have. The play was about two persons who
were not allowed to marry, and the shepherdess cried, for it seemed so
like her own story.
I cannot bear this! she said. Let us leave the drawer.
But when she had again reached the floor she looked up at the table
and saw that the old Chinese mandarin was awake, and that he was
rocking his whole body to and fro with rage.
The old mandarin is coming! cried she, and down she fell on her
porcelain knees, so frightened was she.
I have thought of a plan, said the chimney sweep. Suppose we
creep into the jar of perfumes, the potpourri vase which stands in the
corner. There we can rest upon roses and lavender, and throw salt in
his eyes if he comes near.
That will not do at all, she said. Besides, I know that the old
mandarin and the potpourri vase were once betrothed; and no doubt some
slight friendship still exists between them. No, there is no help for
it; we must wander forth together into the wide world.
Have you really the courage to go out into the wide world with me?
asked the chimney sweep. Have you considered how large it is, and that
if we go, we can never come back?
I have, replied she.
And the chimney sweep looked earnestly at her and said, My way lies
through the chimney. Have you really the courage to go with me through
the stove, and creep through the flues and the tunnel? Well do I know
the way! we shall come out by the chimney, and then I shall know how to
manage. We shall mount so high that they can never reach us, and at the
top there is an opening that leads out into the wide world.
And he led her to the door of the stove.
Oh, how black it looks! she said. Still she went on with him,
through the stove, the flues, and the tunnel, where it was as dark as
Now we are in the chimney, said he; and see what a lovely star
shines above us.
There actually was a star in the sky, that was shining right down
upon them, as if to show them the way. Now they climbed and crepta
frightful way it was, so steep and high! But he went first to guide,
and to smooth the way as much as he could. He showed her the best
places on which to set her little china foot, till at last they came to
the edge of the chimney and sat down to rest, for they were very tired,
as may well be supposed.
The sky and all its stars were above them, and below lay all the
roofs of the town. They saw all around them the great, wide world. It
was not like what the poor little shepherdess had fancied it, and she
leaned her little head upon her chimney sweep's shoulder and wept so
bitterly that the gilding was washed from her golden sash.
This is too much, said she; it is more than I can bear. The world
is too large! I wish I were safe back again upon the little table under
the mirror. I shall never be happy till I am there once more. I have
followed you out into the wide world. Surely, if you really love me,
you will follow me back.
The chimney sweep tried to reason with her. He reminded her of the
old mandarin, and the crooked-legged
field-marshal-major-general-corporal-sergeant, but she wept so
bitterly, and kissed her little chimney sweep so fondly, that he could
not do otherwise than as she wished, foolish as it was.
So they climbed down the chimney, though with the greatest
difficulty, crept through the flues, and into the stove, where they
paused to listen behind the door, to discover what might be going on in
All was quiet, and they peeped out. Alas! there on the floor lay the
old mandarin. He had fallen from the table in his attempt to follow the
runaways, and had broken into three pieces. His whole back had come off
in a single piece, and his head had rolled into a corner. The
crooked-legged field-marshal-major-general-corporal-sergeant stood
where he had always stood, reflecting upon what had happened.
This is shocking! said the little shepherdess. My old grandfather
is broken in pieces, and we are the cause of it, and she wrung her
He can be riveted, said the chimney sweep; he can certainly be
riveted. Do not grieve so! If they cement his back and put a rivet
through his neck, he will be just as good as new, and will be able to
say as many disagreeable things to us as ever.
Do you really think so? asked she. Then they climbed again up to
the place where they had stood before.
How far we have been, observed the chimney sweep, and since we
have got no farther than this, we might have saved ourselves all the
I wish grandfather were mended, said the shepherdess; I wonder if
it will cost very much.
Mended he was. The family had his back cemented and his neck
riveted, so that he was as good as new, only he could not nod.
You have become proud since you were broken to shivers, observed
the crooked-legged field-marshal-major-general-corporal-sergeant, but
I must say, for my part, I don't see much to be proud of. Am I to have
her, or am I not? Just answer me that.
The chimney sweep and the shepherdess looked most piteously at the
old mandarin. They were so afraid that he would nod his head. But he
could not, and it would have been beneath his dignity to have confessed
to having a rivet in his neck. So the young porcelain people always
remained together, and they blessed the grandfather's rivet and loved
each other till they were broken in pieces.
THE DROP OF WATER
YOU know, surely, what the microscope isthat wonderful little
glass which makes everything appear a hundred times larger than it
If you look through a microscope at a single drop of ditch water,
you will see a thousand odd-looking creatures, such as you never could
imagine dwelled in water. They do not look unlike a whole plateful of
shrimps, all jumping and crowding upon each other. So fierce are these
little creatures that they will tear off each other's arms and legs
without the least mercy, and yet after their fashion they look merry
Now there was once an old man, whom his neighbors called Cribbley
Crabbleya curious name, to be sure, which meant something like
creep-and-crawl. He always liked to make the most of everything, and
when he could not manage it in the ordinary way, he tried magic.
One day he sat looking through his microscope at a drop of water
that had been brought from a neighboring ditch. What a scene of
scrambling and swarming it was, to be sure! All the thousands of little
imps in the water jumped and sprang about, devouring each other, or
tearing each other to bits.
Upon my word this is really shocking. There must surely be some way
to make them live in peace and quiet, so that each attends only to his
own concerns. And he thought and thought, but still could not hit upon
any plan, so he must needs have recourse to conjuring.
I must give them color so that they may be seen more plainly, said
he. Accordingly he poured something that looked like a drop of red
winebut which in reality was witch's bloodupon the drop of water.
Immediately all the strange little creatures became red all over, and
looked for all the world like a whole town full of naked red Indians.
Why, what have you here? asked another old magician, who had no
name at all, which made him even more remarkable than Cribbley
If you can find out what it is, replied Cribbley Crabbley, I will
give it you; but I warn you you'll not do so easily.
The conjurer without a name looked through the microscope, and it
seemed to him that the scene before him was a whole town, in which the
people ran about naked in the wildest way. It was quite shocking! Still
more horrible was it to see how they kicked and cuffed, struggled and
fought, pecked, bit, tore, and swallowed, each his neighbor. Those that
were under wanted to be at the top, while those that chanced to be at
the top must needs thrust themselves underneath.
And now look, his leg is longer than mine, so off with it! one
seemed to be saying. Another had a little lump behind his ear,an
innocent little lump enough,but it seemed to pain him, and therefore
the others seemed determined that it should pain him more. So they
hacked at it, and dragged the poor thing about, and at last ate him up,
all on account of the little lump. One only of the creatures was quiet,
a modest little maid, who sat by herself evidently wishing for nothing
but peace and quietness. The others would not have it so, however. They
soon pulled the little damsel forward, cuffed and tore her, and then
ate her up.
This is uncommonly droll and amusing! said the nameless magician.
Yes. But what do you think it is? asked Cribbley Crabbley. Can
you make it out?
It is easy enough to guess, to be sure, was the reply of the
nameless magician; easy enough. It is either Paris or Copenhagen, or
some other great city; I don't know which, for they are all alike. It
is some great city, of course.
It is a drop of ditch-water, said Cribbley Crabbley.
THERE was once a poor prince who had a kingdom, but it was a very
small one. Still it was quite large enough to admit of his marrying,
and he wished to marry.
It was certainly rather bold of him to say, as he did, to the
emperor's daughter, Will you have me? But he was renowned far and
wide, and there were a hundred princesses who would have answered,
Yes, and, Thank you kindly. We shall see what this princess said.
It happened that where the prince's father lay buried there grew a
rose tree, a most beautiful rose tree, which blossomed only once in
five years, and even then bore only one flower. Ah, but that was a
rose! It smelled so sweet that all cares and sorrows were forgotten by
those who inhaled its fragrance!
Moreover, the prince had a nightingale that could sing in such a
manner that it seemed as if all sweet melodies dwelt in her little
throat. Now the princess was to have the rose and the nightingale; and
they were accordingly put into large silver caskets and sent to her.
The emperor had them brought into a large hall, where the princess
and the ladies of the court were playing at Visiting. When she saw
the caskets with the presents, the princess clapped her hands for joy.
Ah, if it should be a little pussy cat, exclaimed she. Instead,
the rose tree, with its beautiful rose, came to view.
Oh, how prettily it is made! said all the court ladies.
It is more than pretty, said the emperor; it is charming.
The princess touched it and was ready to cry. Fie, papa, said she,
it is not made at all. It is natural!
Fie, said all the court ladies; it is natural!
Let us see what the other casket contains before we get into bad
humor, proposed the emperor. So the nightingale came forth, and sang
so delightfully that at first no one could say anything ill-humored of
Superbe! charmant! exclaimed the ladies, for they all used
to chatter French, and each worse than her neighbor.
How much the bird reminds me of the musical box that belonged to
our blessed empress! remarked an old knight. Oh! yes, these are the
same tunes, the same execution.
Yes, yes! said the emperor, and at the remembrance he wept like a
I still hope it is not a real bird, said the princess.
Yes, it is a real bird, said those who had brought it.
Well, then, let the bird fly, returned the princess. And she
positively refused to see the prince.
However, he was not to be discouraged. He stained his face brown and
black, pulled his cap over his ears, and knocked at the door of the
Good day to my lord the emperor, said he. Can I have employment
here at the palace?
Why, yes, said the emperor. It just occurs to me that I want some
one to take care of the pigs, there are so many of them.
So the prince came to be the imperial swineherd.
He had a miserable little room, close by the pigsty, and here he was
obliged to stay; and he sat the whole day long and worked. By evening
he had made a pretty little saucepan. Little bells were hung all around
it; and when the pot was boiling, the bells tinkled in the most
charming manner, and played the old melody,
Ach, du lieber Augustin,
Alles ist weg, weg, weg.
But what was still more curious, whoever held his finger in the
smoke of this saucepan, at once smelled all the dishes that were
cooking on every hearth of the city. This, you see, was something quite
different from the rose.
Now the princess happened to walk that way with her court ladies,
and when she heard the tune she stood quite still and seemed pleased,
for she could play Dearest Augustine. It was the only piece she knew,
and she played it with one finger.
Why, that is the piece that I play on the piano! said the
princess. That swineherd must certainly have been well educated. Go in
and ask him the price of the instrument.
So one of the court ladies had to go in, but she drew on wooden
What will you take for the saucepan? inquired the lady.
I must have ten kisses from the princess, said the swineherd.
Heaven preserve us! exclaimed the maid of honor.
I cannot sell it for less, answered the swineherd.
Well, what does he say? asked the princess.
I cannot tell you, really, replied the lady. It is too dreadful.
Then you may whisper it. So the lady whispered it.
He is an impudent fellow, said the princess, and she walked on.
But when she had gone a little way, the bells again tinkled prettily,
Ah! thou dearest Augustine,
All is gone, gone, gone.
Stay! said the princess. Ask him if he will have ten kisses from
the ladies of my court.
No, thank you! answered the swineherd. Ten kisses from the
princess, or I keep the saucepan myself.
How tiresome! That must not be either! said the princess; but do
you all stand before me, that no one may see us.
The court ladies placed themselves in front of her, and spread out
their dresses. So the swineherd got ten kisses, and the princess got
That was delightful! The saucepan was kept boiling all the evening
and the whole of the following day. They knew perfectly well what was
cooking on every hearth in the city, from the chamberlain's to the
cobbler's. The court ladies danced and clapped their hands.
We know who has soup, and who has pancakes for dinner to-day; who
has cutlets, and who has eggs. How interesting!
Yes, but keep my secret, for I am an emperor's daughter.
The princethat is, the swineherd, for no one knew that he was
other than an ill-favored swineherdlet not a day pass without working
at something. At last he constructed a rattle, which, when it was swung
round and round, played all the waltzes and jig tunes which have been
heard since the creation of the world.
Ah, that is superbe! said the princess, when she passed by.
I have never heard prettier compositions. Go in and ask him the price
of the instrument. But mind, he shall have no more kisses.
He will have a hundred kisses from the princess, said the lady who
had been to ask.
He is not in his right senses, said the princess, and walked on.
But when she had gone a little way she stopped again. One must
encourage art, said she; I am the emperor's daughter. Tell him he
shall, as on yesterday, have ten kisses from me, and may take the rest
from the ladies of the court.
Oh, but we should not like that at all, said the ladies.
What are you muttering? asked the princess. If I can kiss him,
surely you can! Remember I give you food and wages.
A hundred kisses from the princess, said he, or else let every
one keep his own.
Stand round, said she, and all the ladies stood round as before.
What can be the reason for such a crowd close by the pigsty? asked
the emperor, who happened just then to step out on the balcony. He
rubbed his eyes and put on his spectacles.
They are the ladies of the court. I must go and see what they are
about. So he pulled up his slippers at the heel, for he had trodden
As soon as he had got into the courtyard he moved very softly, and
the ladies were so much engrossed with counting the kisses that they
did not perceive the emperor. He rose on his tiptoes.
What is all this? said he, when he saw what was going on, and he
boxed the princess's ear with his slipper, just as the swineherd was
taking the eighty-sixth kiss.
Be off with you! March out! cried the emperor, for he was very
angry. Both princess and swineherd were thrust out of the city, and the
princess stood and wept, while the swineherd scolded, and the rain
Alas, unhappy creature that I am! said the princess. If I had but
married the handsome young prince! Ah, how unfortunate I am!
The swineherd went behind a tree, washed the black and brown from
his face, threw off his dirty clothing, and stepped forth in his
princely robes. He looked so noble that the princess could not help
bowing before him.
I have come to despise thee, said he. Thou wouldst not have an
honorable prince! Thou couldst not prize the rose and the nightingale,
but thou wast ready to kiss the swineherd for the sake of a trumpery
plaything. Thou art rightly served.
He then went back to his own little kingdom, where he shut the door
of his palace before her very eyes. Now she might well sing,
Ah! thou dearest Augustine,
All is gone, gone, gone.
THE METAL PIG
IN THE city of Florence, not far from the Piazza del Granduca, runs
a little cross street called Porta Rosa. In this street, just in front
of the market place where vegetables are sold, stands a pig, made of
brass and curiously formed. The color has been changed by age to dark
green, but clear, fresh water pours from the snout, which shines as if
it had been polishedand so indeed it has, for hundreds of poor people
and children seize it in their hands as they place their mouths close
to the mouth of the animal to drink. It is quite a picture to see a
half-naked boy clasping the well-formed creature by the head as he
presses his rosy lips against its jaws. Every one who visits Florence
can very quickly find the place; he has only to ask the first beggar he
meets for the Metal Pig, and he will be told where it is.
It was late on a winter evening. The mountains were covered with
snow, but the moon shone brightly, and moonlight in Italy is as good as
the light of gray winter's day in the north. Indeed, it is better, for
the clear air seems to raise us above the earth; while in the north a
cold, gray, leaden sky appears to press us down to earth, even as the
cold, damp earth shall one day press on us in the grave.
In the garden of the grand duke's palace, under the roof of one of
the wings, where a thousand roses bloom in winter, a little ragged boy
had been sitting the whole day long. The boy might serve as a type of
Italy: lovely and smiling, and yet suffering. He was hungry and
thirsty, but no one gave him anything; and when it became dark and they
were about to close the gardens, the porter turned him out. A long time
he stood musing on the bridge which crosses the Arno and looking at the
glittering stars that were reflected in the water which flowed between
him and the wonderful marble bridge Delia Trinità. He then walked away
towards the Metal Pig, half knelt down, clasped it with his arms, and,
putting his mouth to the shining snout, drank deep draughts of the
fresh water. Close by lay a few salad leaves and two chestnuts, which
were to serve for his supper. No one was in the street but himself. It
belonged only to him. He boldly seated himself on the pig's back,
leaned forward so that his curly head could rest on the head of the
animal, and, before he was aware, fell asleep.
It was midnight. The Metal Pig raised himself gently, and the boy
heard him say quite distinctly, Hold tight, little boy, for I am going
to run; and away he started for a most wonderful ride. First they
arrived at the Piazza del Granduca, and the metal horse which bears the
duke's statue neighed aloud. The painted coats of arms on the old
council house shone like transparent pictures, and Michelangelo's
David swung his sling. It was as if everything had life. The metallic
groups of figures, among which were Perseus and The Rape of the
Sabines, looked like living persons, and cries of terror sounded from
them all across the noble square. By the Palazzo degli Uffizi, in the
arcade where the nobility assembled for the carnival, the Metal Pig
stopped. Hold fast, said the animal, hold fast, for I am going
The little boy said not a word. He was half pleased and half afraid.
They entered a long gallery, where the boy had been before. The walls
were resplendent with paintings, and here and there stood statues and
busts, all in a clear light as if it were day. The grandest sight
appeared when the door of a side room opened. The little boy could
remember what beautiful things he had seen there, but to-night
everything shone in its brightest colors. Here stood the figure of a
beautiful woman, as radiantly beautiful as nature and the art of one of
the great masters could make her. Her graceful limbs appeared to move;
dolphins sprang at her feet, and immortality shone from her eyes. The
world called her the Venus de' Medici. By her side were statues of
stone, in which the spirit of life breathed; figures of men, one of
whom whetted his sword and was named The Grinder; fighting
gladiators, for whom the sword had been sharpened, and who strove for
the goddess of beauty. The boy was dazzled by so much glitter, for the
walls were gleaming with bright colors. Life and movement were in
As they passed from hall to hall, beauty showed itself in whatever
they saw; and, as the Metal Pig went step by step from one picture to
another, the little boy could see it all plainly. One glory eclipsed
another; yet there was one picture that fixed itself on the little
boy's memory more especially, because of the happy children it
represented; for these the little boy had seen in daylight. Many pass
this picture with indifference, and yet it contains a treasure of
poetic feeling. It represents Christ descending into Hades. It is not
those who are lost that one sees, but the heathen of olden times.
The Florentine, Angiolo Bronzino, painted this picture. Most
beautiful is the expression on the faces of two children who appear to
have full confidence that they shall reach heaven at last. They are
embracing each other, and one little one stretches out his hand towards
another who stands below them, and points to himself as if he were
saying, I am going to heaven. The older people stand as if uncertain
yet hopeful, and bow in humble adoration to the Lord Jesus. On this
picture the boy's eyes rested longer than on any other, and the Metal
Pig stood still before it. A low sigh was heard. Did it come from the
picture or from the animal? The boy raised his hands toward the smiling
children, and then the pig ran off with him through the open vestibule.
Thank you, thank you, you beautiful animal, said the little boy,
caressing the Metal Pig as it ran down the steps.
Thanks to yourself also, replied the Metal Pig. I have helped you
and you have helped me, for it is only when I have an innocent child on
my back that I receive the power to run. Yes, as you see, I can even
venture under the rays of the lamp in front of the picture of the
Madonna, but I must not enter the church. Still, from without, and
while you are upon my back, I may look in through the open door. Do not
get down yet, for if you do, then I shall be lifeless, as you have seen
me in the daytime in the Porta Rosa.
I will stay with you, my dear creature, said the little boy. So
they went on at a rapid pace through the streets of Florence, till they
came to the square before the church of Santa Croce. The folding doors
flew open, and lights streamed from the altar, through the church, into
the deserted square. A wonderful blaze of light streamed from one of
the monuments in the left aisle, and a thousand moving stars formed a
kind of glory round it. Even the coat of arms on the tombstone shone,
and a red ladder on a blue field gleamed like fire. It was the grave of
Galileo. The monument is unadorned, but the red ladder is an emblem of
artsignifying that the way to glory leads up a shining ladder, on
which the great prophets rise to heaven like Elijah of old. In the
right aisle of the church every statue on the richly carved sarcophagi
seemed endowed with life. Here stood Michelangelo; there Dante, with
the laurel wreath around his brow; Alfieri and Machiavelli; for here,
side by side, rest the great men, the pride of Italy.
The church itself is very beautiful, even more beautiful than the
marble cathedral at Florence, though not so large. It seemed as if the
carved vestments stirred, and as if the marble figures which they
covered raised their heads higher to gaze upon the brightly colored,
glowing altar, where the white-robed boys swung the golden censers amid
music and song; and the strong fragrance of incense filled the church
and streamed forth into the square. The boy stretched out his hands
toward the light, and at the same moment the Metal Pig started again,
so rapidly that he was obliged to cling tightly to him. The wind
whistled in his ears. He heard the church door creak on its hinges as
it closed, and it seemed to him as if he had lost his senses; then a
cold shudder passed over him, and he awoke.
It was morning. The Metal Pig stood in its old place on the Porta
Rosa, and the boy found that he had nearly slipped off its back. Fear
and trembling came upon him as he thought of his mother. She had sent
him out the day before to get some money, but he had not been able to
get any, and now he was hungry and thirsty. Once more he clasped the
neck of his metal steed, kissed its nose, and nodded farewell to it.
Then he wandered away into one of the narrowest streets, where there
was scarcely room for a loaded donkey to pass. A great iron-bound door
stood ajar; and, passing through, he climbed a brick staircase with
dirty walls, and a rope for balustrade, till he came to an open gallery
hung with rags. From here a flight of steps led down to a court, where
from a fountain water was drawn up by iron rollers to the different
stories of the house. Many water buckets hung side by side. Sometimes
the roller and the bucket danced in the air, splashing the water all
over the court. Another broken-down staircase led from the gallery, and
two Russian sailors running down it almost upset the poor boy. They
were coming from their nightly carousal. A woman, not very young, with
an unpleasant face and a quantity of black hair, followed them. What
have you brought home? she asked when she saw the boy.
Don't be angry, he pleaded. I received nothing, I have nothing at
all; and he seized his mother's dress and would have kissed it. Then
they went into a little room. I need not describe it, but only say that
there stood in it an earthen pot with handles, made for holding fire,
which in Italy is called a marito. This pot she took in her lap,
warmed her fingers, and pushed the boy with her elbow.
Certainly you must have some money, she said. The boy began to
cry, and then she struck him till he cried aloud.
Be quiet, or I'll break your screaming head. She swung about the
fire pot which she held in her hand, while the boy crouched to the
earth and screamed. Then a neighbor came in, who also had a marito
under her arm. Felicita, she said, what are you doing to the child?
The child is mine, she answered; I can murder him if I like, and
you too, Giannina.
Then again she swung the fire pot about. The other woman lifted hers
up to defend herself, and the two pots clashed so violently that they
were dashed to pieces and fire and ashes flew about the room.
The boy rushed out at the sight, sped across the courtyard, and fled
from the house. The poor child ran till he was quite out of breath. At
last he stopped at the church the doors of which were opened to him the
night before, and went in. Here everything was bright, and the boy
knelt down by the first tomb on his right hand, the grave of
Michelangelo, and sobbed as if his heart would break. People came and
went; the service went on, but no one noticed the boy except an elderly
citizen, who stood still and looked at him for a moment and then went
away like the rest. Hunger and thirst overpowered the child, and he
became quite faint and ill. At last he crept into a corner behind the
marble monuments and went to sleep. Towards evening he was awakened by
a pull at his sleeve. He started up, and the same old citizen stood
Are you ill? Where do you live? Have you been here all day? were
some of the questions asked by the old man. After hearing his answers,
the old man took him to a small house in a back street close by. They
entered a glovemaker's shop, where a woman sat sewing busily. A little
white poodle, so closely shaved that his pink skin could plainly be
seen, frisked about the room and gamboled over the boy.
Innocent souls are soon intimate, said the woman, as she caressed
both the boy and the dog.
These good people gave the child food and drink, and said he should
stay with them all night, and that the next day the old man, who was
called Giuseppe, would go and speak to his mother. A simple little bed
was prepared for him, but to him who had so often slept on the hard
stones it was a royal couch, and he slept sweetly and dreamed of the
splendid pictures, and of the Metal Pig. Giuseppe went out the next
morning, and the poor child was not glad to see him go, for he knew
that the old man had gone to his mother, and that perhaps he would have
to return. He wept at the thought, and then played with the lively
little dog and kissed it, while the old woman looked kindly at him to
What news did Giuseppe bring back? At first the boy could not find
out, for the old man talked to his wife, and she nodded and stroked the
boy's cheek. Then she said, He is a good lad, he shall stay with us.
He may become a clever glovemaker, like you. Look what delicate fingers
he has. Madonna intended him for a glovemaker.
So the boy stayed with them, and the woman herself taught him to
sew. He ate well, and slept well, and became very merry. But at last he
began to tease Bellissima, as the little dog was called. This made the
woman angry, and she scolded him and threatened him, which made him
unhappy, and he went and sat in his own room, full of sad thoughts.
This chamber looked out upon the street, in which hung skins to dry,
and there were thick iron bars across his window. That night he lay
awake, thinking of the Metal Pig. Indeed, it was always in his
thoughts. Suddenly he fancied he heard feet outside going pitapat. He
sprang out of bed and went to the window. Could it be the Metal Pig?
But there was nothing to be seen. Whatever he had heard had passed
Go help the gentleman to carry his box of colors, said the woman
the next morning when their neighbor, the artist, passed by, carrying a
paint box and a large roll of canvas. The boy instantly took the box
and followed the painter. They walked on till they reached the picture
gallery, and mounted the same staircase up which he had ridden that
night on the Metal Pig. He remembered all the pictures and statues,
especially the marble Venus, and again he looked at the Madonna with
the Saviour and St. John. They stopped before the picture by Il
Bronzino, in which Christ is represented as standing in the lower
world, with the children smiling before him in the sweet expectation of
entering heaven. The poor boy smiled, too, for here was his heaven.
You may go home now, said the painter, while the boy stood
watching him till he had set up his easel.
May I see you paint? asked the boy. May I see you put the picture
on this white canvas?
I am not going to paint, replied the artist, bringing out a piece
of chalk. His hand moved quickly, and his eye measured the great
picture, and though nothing appeared but a faint line, the figure of
the Saviour was as clearly visible as in the colored picture.
Why don't you go? said the painter. Then the boy wandered home
silently, and seated himself on the table, and learned to sew gloves.
But all day long his thoughts were in the picture gallery, and so he
pricked his fingers and was awkward. But he did not tease Bellissima.
When evening came, and the house door stood open, he slipped out. It
was a bright, beautiful, starlight evening, but rather cold. Away he
went through the already deserted streets, and soon came to the Metal
Pig. He stooped down and kissed its shining nose, and then seated
himself on its back.
You happy creature, he said; how I have longed for you! We must
take a ride to-night.
But the Metal Pig lay motionless, while the fresh stream gushed
forth from its mouth. The little boy still sat astride its back, when
he felt something pulling at his clothes. He looked down, and there was
Bellissima, little smooth-shaven Bellissima, barking as if she would
have said, Here I am, too. Why are you sitting there?
A fiery dragon could not have frightened the little boy so much as
did the little dog in this place. Bellissima in the street and not
dressed! as the old lady called it. What would be the end of this? The
dog never went out in winter, unless she was attired in a little
lambskin coat, which had been made for her. It was fastened round the
little dog's neck and body with red ribbons, and decorated with
rosettes and little bells. The dog looked almost like a little kid when
she was allowed to go out in winter and trot after her mistress. Now,
here she was in the cold, and not dressed. Oh, how would it end? All
his fancies were quickly put to flight; yet he kissed the Metal Pig
once more, and then took Bellissima in his arms. The poor little thing
trembled so with cold that the boy ran homeward as fast as he could.
What are you running away with there? asked two of the police whom
he met, and at whom the dog barked. Where have you stolen that pretty
dog? they asked, and took it away from him.
Oh, I have not stolen it. Do give it back to me, cried the boy,
If you have not stolen it, you may say at home that they can send
to the watch-house for the dog. Then they told him where the
watch-house was, and went away with Bellissima.
Here was trouble indeed. The boy did not know whether he had better
jump into the Arno or go home and confess everything. They would
certainly kill him, he thought.
Well, I would gladly be killed, he reasoned; for then I should
die and go to heaven. And so he went home, almost hoping for death.
The door was locked, and he could not reach the knocker. No one was
in the street, so he took up a stone and with it made a tremendous
noise at the door.
Who is there? asked somebody from within.
It is I, said he. Bellissima is gone. Open the door, and then
Then, indeed, there was a great panic, for madam was so very fond of
Bellissima. She immediately looked at the wall where the dog's dress
usually hung; and there was the little lambskin.
Bellissima in the watch-house! she cried. You bad boy! How did
you entice her out? Poor little delicate thing, with those rough
policemen! And she'll be frozen with cold.
Giuseppe went off at once, while his wife lamented and the boy wept.
Several of the neighbors came in, and among them the painter. He took
the boy between his knees and questioned him. Soon he heard the whole
story, told in broken sentences, and also about the Metal Pig and the
wonderful ride to the picture gallery, which was certainly rather
incomprehensible. The painter, however, consoled the little fellow, and
tried to soften the woman's anger, but she would not be pacified till
her husband returned from the police with Bellissima. Then there was
great rejoicing, and the painter caressed the boy and gave him a number
Oh, what beautiful pictures those werefigures with funny heads!
And, best of all, the Metal Pig was there, too. Nothing could be more
delightful! By means of a few strokes it was made to appear on the
paper; and even the house that stood behind it had been sketched. Oh,
if he could only draw and paint! He who could do this could conjure all
the world before him. The first leisure moment during the next day the
boy got a pencil, and on the back of one of the other drawings he
attempted to copy the drawing of the Metal Pig, and he succeeded.
Certainly it was rather crooked, rather up and down, one leg thick, and
another thin. Still it was like the copy, and he was overjoyed at what
he had done. The pencil would not go quite as it ought, he had found,
but the next day he tried again. A second pig was drawn by the side of
the first, and this looked a hundred times better. The third attempt
was so good that everybody could see what it was meant to represent.
And now the glovemaking went on but slowly. The orders given by the
shops in the town were not finished quickly; for the Metal Pig had
taught the boy that all objects may be drawn upon paper, and Florence
is a picture book in itself for any one who chooses to turn over its
pages. On the Piazza della Trinità stands a slender pillar, and upon it
is the goddess of justice blindfolded, with her scales in her hand. She
was soon represented on paper, and it was the glovemaker's boy who
placed her there. His collection of pictures increased, but as yet they
were only copies of lifeless objects, when one day Bellissima came
gamboling before him. Stand still, cried he, and I will draw you
beautifully, to put in my collection.
Bellissima would not stand still, so she must be bound fast in one
position. He tied her head and tail, but she barked and jumped and so
pulled and tightened the string that she was nearly strangled. And just
then her mistress walked in.
You wicked boy! The poor little creature! was all she could utter.
She pushed the boy from her, thrust him away with her foot, called
him a most ungrateful, good-for-nothing, wicked boy, and forbade him to
enter her house again. Then she wept, and kissed her little
half-strangled Bellissima. At this moment the painter entered the
roomand here is the turning point of the story.
In the year 1834 there was an exhibition in the Academy of Arts at
Florence. Two pictures, placed side by side, attracted many people. The
smaller of the two represented a little boy sitting at a table drawing.
Before him was a little white poodle, curiously shaven, but as the
animal would not stand still, its head and tail had been fastened with
a string, to keep it in one position. The truthfulness and life in this
picture interested every one. The painter was said to be a young
Florentine, who had been found in the streets when a child by an old
glovemaker, who had brought him up. The boy had taught himself to draw.
It was also said that a young artist, now famous, had discovered this
talent in the child just as he was about to be sent away for having
tied up madam's favorite little dog to use as a model.
The glovemaker's boy had become a really great painter, as the
picture proved; but the larger picture by its side was a still greater
proof of his talent. It represented a handsome boy asleep, clothed in
rags and leaning against the Metal Pig, in the street of the Porta
Rosa. All the spectators knew the spot well. The child's arms were
round the neck of the Pig, and he was in a deep sleep. The lamp before
the picture of the Madonna threw a strong light on the pale, delicate
face of the child. It was a beautiful picture. A large gilt frame
surrounded it, and on one corner of the frame a laurel wreath had been
hung. But a black band, twined unseen among the green leaves, and a
streamer of crape hung down from it; for within the last few days the
young artist haddied.
THE FLYING TRUNK
THERE was once a merchant who was so rich that he could have paved a
whole street with gold, and would even then have had enough left for a
small alley. He did not do so; he knew the value of money better than
to use it in this way. So clever was he that every shilling he put out
brought him a crown, and so it continued as long as he lived.
His son inherited his wealth, and lived a merry life with it. He
went to a masquerade every night, made kites out of five-pound notes,
and threw pieces of gold into the sea instead of stones, making ducks
and drakes of them.
In this manner he soon lost all his money. At last he had nothing
left but a pair of slippers, an old dressing gown, and four shillings.
And now all his companions deserted him. They would not walk with him
in the streets, but one of them, who was very good-natured, sent him an
old trunk with this message, Pack up!
Yes, he said, it is all very well to say 'pack up.' But he had
nothing left to pack, therefore he seated himself in the trunk.
It was a very wonderful trunk, for no sooner did any one press on
the lock than the trunk could fly. He shut the lid and pressed the
lock, when away flew the trunk up the chimney, with him in it, right up
into the clouds. Whenever the bottom of the trunk cracked he was in a
great fright, for if the trunk had fallen to pieces, he would have
turned a tremendous somersault over the trees. However, he arrived
safely in Turkey. He hid the trunk in a wood under some dry leaves and
then went into the town. This he could do very well, for among the
Turks people always go about in dressing gowns and slippers, just as he
He happened to meet a nurse with a little child. I say, you Turkish
nurse, cried he, what castle is that near the town, with the windows
placed so high?
The Sultan's daughter lives there, she replied. It has been
prophesied that she will be very unhappy about a lover, and therefore
no one is allowed to visit her unless the king and queen are present.
Thank you, said the merchant's son. So he went back to the wood,
seated himself in his trunk, flew up to the roof of the castle, and
crept through the window into the room where the princess lay asleep on
the sofa. She awoke and was very much frightened, but he told her he
was a Turkish angel who had come down through the air to see her. This
pleased her very much. He sat down by her side and talked to her,
telling her that her eyes were like beautiful dark lakes, in which the
thoughts swam about like little mermaids; and that her forehead was a
snowy mountain which contained splendid halls full of pictures. He
related to her the story about the stork, who brings the beautiful
children from the rivers. These stories delighted the princess, and
when he asked her if she would marry him, she consented immediately.
[Illustration: Will you tell us a story? said the queen....]
But you must come on Saturday, she said, for then my parents will
take tea with me. They will be very proud when they find that I am
going to marry a Turkish angel. But you must think of some very pretty
stories to tell them, for they like to hear stories better than
anything. My mother prefers one that is deep and moral, but my father
likes something funny, to make him laugh.
Very well, he replied, I shall bring you no other marriage
portion than a story; and so they parted. But the princess gave him a
sword studded with gold coins, and these he could make useful.
He flew away to the town and bought a new dressing gown, and
afterwards returned to the wood, where he composed a story so as to be
ready by Saturday; and that was no easy matter. It was ready, however,
when he went to see the princess on Saturday. The king and queen and
the whole court were at tea with the princess, and he was received with
Will you tell us a story? said the queen; one that is instructive
and full of learning.
Yes, but with something in it to laugh at, said the king.
Certainly, he replied, and commenced at once, asking them to
There was once a bundle of matches that were exceedingly proud of
their high descent. Their genealogical treethat is, a great pine tree
from which they had been cutwas at one time a large old tree in the
wood. The matches now lay between a tinder box and an old iron saucepan
and were talking about their youthful days. 'Ah! then we grew on the
green boughs,' said they, 'and every morning and evening we were fed
with diamond drops of dew. Whenever the sun shone we felt his warm
rays, and the little birds would relate stories to us in their songs.
We knew that we were rich, for the other trees only wore their green
dresses in summer, while our family were able to array themselves in
green, summer and winter. But the woodcutter came like a great
disaster, and our family fell under the ax. The head of the house
obtained a situation as mainmast in a very fine ship and can sail round
the world whenever he will. Other branches of the family were taken to
different places, and our own office now is to kindle a light for
common people. This is how such highborn people as we came to be in a
'Mine has been a very different fate,' said the iron pot, which
stood by the matches. 'From my first entrance into the world I have
been used to cooking and scouring. I am the first in this house when
anything solid or useful is required. My only pleasure is to be made
clean and shining after dinner and to sit in my place and have a little
sensible conversation with my neighbors. All of us excepting the water
bucket, which is sometimes taken into the courtyard, live here together
within these four walls. We get our news from the market basket, but it
sometimes tells us very unpleasant things about the people and the
government. Yes, and one day an old pot was so alarmed that it fell
down and was broken in pieces.'
'You are talking too much,' said the tinder box; and the steel
struck against the flint till some sparks flew out, crying, 'We want a
merry evening, don't we?'
'Yes, of course,' said the matches. 'Let us talk about those who
are the highest born.'
'No, I don't like to be always talking of what we are,' remarked
the saucepan. 'Let us think of some other amusement; I will begin. We
will tell something that has happened to ourselves; that will be very
easy, and interesting as well. On the Baltic Sea, near the Danish
'What a pretty commencement!' said the plates. 'We shall all like
that story, I am sure.'
'Yes. Well, in my youth I lived in a quiet family where the
furniture was polished, the floors scoured, and clean curtains put up,
'What an interesting way you have of relating a story,' said the
carpet broom. 'It is easy to perceive that you have been a great deal
in society, something so pure runs through what you say.'
'That is quite true,' said the water bucket; and it made a spring
with joy and splashed some water on the floor.
Then the saucepan went on with its story, and the end was as good
as the beginning.
The plates rattled with pleasure, and the carpet broom brought some
green parsley out of the dust hole and crowned the saucepan. It knew
this would vex the others, but it thought, 'If I crown him to-day, he
will crown me to-morrow.'
'Now let us have a dance,' said the fire tongs. Then how they
danced and stuck one leg in the air! The chair cushion in the corner
burst with laughter at the sight.
'Shall I be crowned now?' asked the fire tongs. So the broom found
another wreath for the tongs.
'They are only common people after all,' thought the matches. The
tea urn was now asked to sing, but she said she had a cold and could
not sing unless she felt boiling heat within. They all thought this was
affectation; they also considered it affectation that she did not wish
to sing except in the parlor, when on the table with the grand people.
In the window sat an old quill pen, with which the maid generally
wrote. There was nothing remarkable about the pen, except that it had
been dipped too deeply in the ink; but it was proud of that.
'If the tea urn won't sing,' said the pen, 'she needn't. There's a
nightingale in a cage outside, that can sing. She has not been taught
much, certainly, but we need not say anything this evening about that.'
'I think it highly improper,' said the teakettle, who was kitchen
singer and half brother to the tea urn, 'that a rich foreign bird
should be listened to here. Is it patriotic? Let the market basket
decide what is right.'
'I certainly am vexed,' said the basket, 'inwardly vexed, more than
any one can imagine. Are we spending the evening properly? Would it not
be more sensible to put the house in order? If each were in his own
place, I would lead a game. This would be quite another thing.'
'Let us act a play,' said they all. At the same moment the door
opened and the maid came in. Then not one stirred; they remained quite
still, although there was not a single pot among them that had not a
high opinion of himself and of what he could do if he chose.
'Yes, if we had chosen,' each of them thought, 'we might have spent
a very pleasant evening.'
The maid took the matches and lighted them, and dear me, how they
spluttered and blazed up!
'Now then,' they thought, 'every one will see that we are the
first. How we shine! What a light we give!' But even while they spoke
their lights went out.
What a capital story! said the queen. I feel as if I were really
in the kitchen and could see the matches. Yes, you shall marry our
Certainly, said the king, thou shalt have our daughter. The king
said thou to him because he was going to be one of the family. The
wedding day was fixed, and on the evening before, the whole city was
illuminated. Cakes and sweetmeats were thrown among the people. The
street boys stood on tiptoe and shouted Hurrah, and whistled between
their fingers. Altogether it was a very splendid affair.
I will give them another treat, said the merchant's son. So he
went and bought rockets and crackers and every kind of fireworks that
could be thought of, packed them in his trunk, and flew up with it into
the air. What a whizzing and popping they made as they went off! The
Turks, when they saw the sight, jumped so high that their slippers flew
about their ears. It was easy to believe after this that the princess
was really going to marry a Turkish angel.
As soon as the merchant's son had come down to the wood after the
fireworks, he thought, I will go back into the town now and hear what
they think of the entertainment. It was very natural that he should
wish to know. And what strange things people did say, to be sure! Every
one whom he questioned had a different tale to tell, though they all
thought it very beautiful.
I saw the Turkish angel myself, said one. He had eyes like
glittering stars and a head like foaming water.
He flew in a mantle of fire, said another, and lovely little
cherubs peeped out from the folds.
He heard many more fine things about himself and that the next day
he was to be married. After this he went back to the forest to rest
himself in his trunk. It had disappeared! A spark from the fireworks
which remained had set it on fire. It was burned to ashes. So the
merchant's son could not fly any more, nor go to meet his bride. She
stood all day on the roof, waiting for him, and most likely she is
waiting there still, while he wanders through the world telling fairy
talesbut none of them so amusing as the one he related about the
THERE was once a butterfly who wished for a bride; and, as may be
supposed, he wanted to choose a very pretty one from among the flowers.
He glanced with a very critical eye at all the flower beds and found
that the flowers were seated quietly and demurely on their stalks, just
as maidens should sit. But there was a great number of them, and it
appeared as if making his choice would become very wearisome. The
butterfly did not like to take too much trouble, so he flew off on a
visit to the daisies.
The French call this flower Marguerite and say that it can prophesy.
Lovers pluck off the leaves, and as they pluck each leaf they ask a
question about their sweethearts, thus: Does he or she love me?
Dearly? Distractedly? Very much? A little? Not at all? and so on. Each
one speaks these words in his own language.
The butterfly came, also, to Marguerite to inquire, but he did not
pluck off her leaves; he pressed a kiss on each of them, for he thought
there was always more to be done by kindness.
Darling Marguerite daisy, he said to her, you are the wisest
woman of them all. Pray tell me which of the flowers I shall choose for
my wife. Which will be my bride? When I know, I will fly directly to
her and propose.
But Marguerite did not answer him. She was offended that he should
call her a woman when she was only a girl; there is a great difference.
He asked her a second time, and then a third, but she remained dumb,
answering him not at all. Then he would wait no longer, but flew away
to commence his wooing at once. It was in the early spring, when the
crocus and the snowdrop were in full bloom.
They are very pretty, thought the butterfly; charming little
lasses, but they are rather stiff and formal.
Then, as young lads often do, he looked out for the older girls. He
next flew to the anemones, but these were rather sour to his taste. The
violet was a little too sentimental; the lime blossoms were too
smalland, besides, there was such a large family of them. The apple
blossoms, though they looked like roses, bloomed to-day, but might fall
off to-morrow with the first wind that blew; and he thought a marriage
with one of them might last too short a time. The pea blossom pleased
him most of all. She was white and red, graceful and slender, and
belonged to those domestic maidens who have a pretty appearance, yet
can be useful in the kitchen. He was just about to make her an offer
when, close by her, he saw a pod, with a withered flower hanging at the
Who is that? he asked.
That is my sister, replied the pea blossom.
Oh, indeed! and you will be like her some day, said he. And at
once he flew away, for he felt quite shocked.
A honeysuckle hung forth from the hedge, in full bloom; but there
were so many girls like her, with long faces and sallow complexions!
No, he did not like her. But which one did he like?
Spring went by, and summer drew toward its close. Autumn came, but
he had not decided. The flowers now appeared in their most gorgeous
robes, but all in vainthey had not the fresh, fragrant air of youth.
The heart asks for fragrance even when it is no longer young, and there
is very little of that to be found in the dahlias or the dry
chrysanthemums. Therefore the butterfly turned to the mint on the
ground. This plant, you know, has no blossom, but is sweetness all
over; it is full of fragrance from head to foot, with the scent of a
flower in every leaf.
I will take her, said the butterfly; and he made her an offer. But
the mint stood silent and stiff as she listened to him. At last she
I can give you friendship if you like, nothing more. I am old, and
you are old, but we may live for each other just the same. As to
marrying, however, no! that would appear ridiculous at our age.
And so it happened that the butterfly got no wife at all. He had
been too long choosing, which is always a bad plan, and became what is
called an old bachelor.
It was late in the autumn, with rainy and cloudy weather. The cold
wind blew over the bowed backs of the willows, so that they creaked
again. It was not the weather for flying about in summer clothes, but
fortunately the butterfly was not out in it. By a happy chance he had
got a shelter. It was in a room heated by a stove and as warm as
summer. He could live here, he said, well enough.
But it is not enough merely to exist, said he. I need freedom,
sunshine, and a little flower for a companion.
So he flew against the window-pane and was seen and admired by those
in the room, who caught him and stuck him on a pin in a box of
curiosities. They could not do more for him.
Now I am perched on a stalk like the flowers, said the butterfly.
It is not very pleasant, certainly. I imagine it is something like
being married, for here I am stuck fast. And with this thought he
consoled himself a little.
That seems very poor consolation, said one of the plants in the
room, that grew in a pot.
Ah, thought the butterfly, one can't very well trust these plants
in pots; they have had too much to do with human beings.
THE GOBLIN AND THE HUCKSTER
THERE was once a regular student, who lived in a garret and had no
possessions. And there was also a regular huckster, to whom the house
belonged, and who occupied the ground floor. A goblin lived with the
huckster because at Christmas he always had a large dishful of jam,
with a great piece of butter in the middle. The huckster could afford
this, and therefore the goblin remained with himwhich was very shrewd
of the goblin.
One evening the student came into the shop through the back door to
buy candles and cheese for himself; he had no one to send, and
therefore he came himself. He obtained what he wished, and then the
huckster and his wife nodded good evening to him. The huckster's wife
was a woman who could do more than merely nod, for she usually had
plenty to say for herself. The student nodded also, as he turned to
leave, then suddenly stopped and began reading the piece of paper in
which the cheese was wrapped. It was a leaf torn out of an old book; a
book that ought not to have been torn up, for it was full of poetry.
Yonder lies some more of the same sort, said the huckster. I gave
an old woman a few coffee berries for it; you shall have the rest for
sixpence if you will.
Indeed I will, said the student. Give me the book instead of the
cheese; I can eat my bread and butter without cheese. It would be a sin
to tear up a book like this. You are a clever man and a practical man,
but you understand no more about poetry than that cask yonder.
This was a very rude speech, especially against the cask, but the
huckster and the student both laughed, for it was only said in fun. The
goblin, however, felt very angry that any man should venture to say
such things to a huckster who was a householder and sold the best
butter. As soon as it was night, the shop closed, and every one in bed
except the student, the goblin stepped softly into the bedroom where
the huckster's wife slept, and took away her tongue, which of course
she did not then want. Whatever object in the room he placed this
tongue upon, immediately received voice and speech and was able to
express its thoughts and feelings as readily as the lady herself could
do. It could only be used by one object at a time, which was a good
thing, as a number speaking at once would have caused great confusion.
The goblin laid the tongue upon the cask, in which lay a quantity of
Is it really true, he asked, that you do not know what poetry
Of course I know, replied the cask. Poetry is something that
always stands in the corner of a newspaper and is sometimes cut out.
And I may venture to affirm that I have more of it in me than the
student has, even if I am only a poor tub of the huckster's.
Then the goblin placed the tongue on the coffee mill, and how it did
go, to be sure! Then he put it on the butter-tub, and the cash-box, and
they all expressed the same opinion as the waste-paper tub. A majority
must always be respected.
Now I shall go and tell the student, said the goblin. With these
words he went quietly up the back stairs to the garret, where the
student lived. The student's candle was burning still, and the goblin
peeped through the keyhole and saw that he was reading in the torn book
which he had bought out of the shop. But how light the room was! From
the book shot forth a ray of light which grew broad and full like the
stem of a tree, from which bright rays spread upward and over the
student's head. Each leaf was fresh, and each flower was like a
beautiful female headsome with dark and sparkling eyes and others
with eyes that were wonderfully blue and clear. The fruit gleamed like
stars, and the room was filled with sounds of beautiful music. The
little goblin had never imagined, much less seen or heard of, any sight
so glorious as this. He stood still on tiptoe, peeping in, till the
light went out. The student no doubt had blown out his candle and gone
to bed, but the little goblin remained standing there, listening to the
music which still sounded, soft and beautifula sweet cradle song for
the student who had lain down to rest.
This is a wonderful place, said the goblin; I never expected such
a thing. I should like to stay here with the student. Then the little
man thought it over, for he was a sensible sprite. At last he sighed,
But the student has no jam! So he went downstairs again to the
huckster's shop, and it was a good thing he got back when he did, for
the cask had almost worn out the lady's tongue. He had given a
description of all that he contained on one side, and was just about to
turn himself over to the other side to describe what was there, when
the goblin entered and restored the tongue to the lady. From that time
forward, the whole shop, from the cash-box down to the pine-wood logs,
formed their opinions from that of the cask. They all had such
confidence in him and treated him with so much respect that when, in
the evening, the huckster read the criticisms on theatricals and art,
they fancied it must all come from the cask.
After what he had seen, the goblin could no longer sit and listen
quietly to the wisdom and understanding downstairs. As soon as the
evening light glimmered in the garret, he took courage, for it seemed
to him that the rays of light were strong cables, drawing him up and
obliging him to go and peep through the keyhole. While there, a feeling
of vastness came over him, such as we experience by the ever-moving sea
when the storm breaks forth, and it brought tears into his eyes. He did
not himself know why he wept, yet a kind of pleasant feeling mingled
with his tears. How wonderfully glorious it would be to sit with the
student under such a tree! But that was out of the question; he must
be content to look through the keyhole and be thankful for even that.
There he stood on the cold landing, with the autumn wind blowing
down upon him through the trapdoor. It was very cold, but the little
creature did not really feel it till the light in the garret went out
and the tones of music died away. Then how he shivered and crept
downstairs again to his warm corner, where he felt at home and
comfortable! And when Christmas came again and brought the dish of jam
and the great lump of butter, he liked the huckster best of all.
Soon after, the goblin was waked in the middle of the night by a
terrible noise and knocking against the window shutters and the house
doors and by the sound of the watchman's horn. A great fire had broken
out, and the whole street seemed full of flames. Was it in their house
or a neighbor's? No one could tell, for terror had seized upon all. The
huckster's wife was so bewildered that she took her gold earrings out
of her ears and put them in her pocket, that she might save something
at least. The huckster ran to get his business papers, and the servant
resolved to save her black silk mantle, which she had managed to buy.
All wished to keep the best things they had. The goblin had the same
wish, for with one spring he was upstairs in the student's room. He
found him standing by the open window and looking quite calmly at the
fire, which was raging in the house of a neighbor opposite.
The goblin caught up the wonderful book, which lay on the table, and
popped it into his red cap, which he held tightly with both hands. The
greatest treasure in the house was saved, and he ran away with it to
the roof and seated himself on the chimney. The flames of the burning
house opposite illuminated him as he sat with both hands pressed
tightly over his cap, in which the treasure lay. It was then that he
understood what feelings were really strongest in his heart and knew
exactly which way they tended. Yet, when the fire was extinguished and
the goblin again began to reflect, he hesitated, and said at last, I
must divide myself between the two; I cannot quite give up the
huckster, because of the jam.
This is a representation of human nature. We are like the goblin; we
all go to visit the huckster, because of the jam.
EVERYTHING IN ITS RIGHT PLACE
MORE than a hundred years ago, behind the wood and by a deep lake,
stood an old baronial mansion. Round it lay a deep moat, in which grew
reeds and rushes, and close by the bridge, near the entrance gate,
stood an old willow that bent itself over the moat.
From a narrow lane one day sounded the clang of horns and the
trampling of horses. The little girl who kept the geese hastened to
drive them away from the bridge before the hunting party came galloping
up to it. They came, however, with such haste that the girl was obliged
to climb up and seat herself on the parapet of the bridge, lest they
should ride over her. She was scarcely more than a child, with a
pretty, delicate figure, a gentle expression of face, and two bright
blue eyesall of which the baron took no note of; but as he galloped
past, he reversed the whip held in his hand, and in rough play gave the
little goose-watcher such a push with the butt end that she fell
backward into the ditch.
Everything in its right place, cried he. Into the puddle with
you! and then he laughed aloud at what he called his own wit, and the
rest joined with him. The whole party shouted and screamed, and the
dogs barked loudly.
Fortunately for herself, the poor girl in falling caught hold of one
of the overhanging branches of the willow tree, by which she was able
to keep herself from falling into the muddy pool. As soon as the baron,
with his company and his dogs, had disappeared through the castle gate,
she tried to raise herself by her own exertions; but the bough broke
off at the top, and she would have fallen backwards among the reeds if
a strong hand had not at that moment seized her from above. It was the
hand of a peddler, who, at a short distance, had witnessed the whole
affair and hastened up to give assistance.
Everything in its right place, he said, imitating the noble baron,
as he drew the little maiden up on dry ground. He would have restored
the bough to the place from which it had been broken off, but
everything in its right place is not always so easy to arrange, so he
stuck the bough in the soft earth. Grow and prosper as much as you
can, said he, till you produce a good flute for some of them over
there. With the permission of the noble baron and his family, I should
like them to hear my challenge.
So he betook himself to the castle, but not into the noble hall; he
was too humble for that. He went to the servants' apartments, and the
men and maids examined and turned over his stock of goods, while from
above, where the company were at table, came sounds of screaming and
shouting which they called singingand indeed they did their best.
Loud laughter, mingled with the howling of dogs, sounded through the
open windows. All were feasting and carousing. Wine and strong ale
foamed in the jugs and glasses; even the dogs ate and drank with their
masters. The peddler was sent for, but only to make fun for them. The
wine had mounted to their heads, and the sense had flown out. They
poured wine into a stocking for him to drink with themquickly, of
courseand this was considered a rare jest and occasioned fresh bursts
of laughter. At cards, whole farms, with their stock of peasants and
cattle, were staked on a card and lost.
Everything in its right place, said the peddler, when he at last
escaped from what he called the Sodom and Gomorrah up there. The open
highroad is my right place; that house did not suit me at all. As he
stepped along, he saw the little maiden keeping watch over the geese,
and she nodded to him in a friendly way.
Days and weeks passed, and it soon became evident that the willow
branch which had been stuck in the ground by the peddler, near to the
castle moat, had taken root, for it remained fresh and green and put
forth new twigs.
The little girl saw that the branch must have taken root, and she
was quite joyful about it. This tree, she said, must be my tree
The tree certainly flourished, but at the castle, what with feasting
and gambling, everything went to ruin; for these two things are like
rollers, upon which no man can possibly stand securely. Six years had
not passed away before the noble baron wandered out of the castle gate
a poor man, and the mansion was bought by a rich dealer. This dealer
was no other than the man of whom he had made fun and for whom he had
poured wine into a stocking to drink. But honesty and industry are like
favorable winds to a ship, and they had brought the peddler to be
master of the baron's estates. From that hour no more card playing was
The new proprietor took to himself a wife, and who should it be but
the little goose-watcher, who had always remained faithful and good,
and who looked as beautiful and fine in her new clothes as if she had
been a highly born lady. It would be too long a story in these busy
times to explain how all this came about, but it really did happen, and
the most important part is to come.
It was pleasant to live in the old court now. The mistress herself
managed the housekeeping within, and the master superintended the
estate. Their home overflowed with blessings, for where rectitude leads
the way, prosperity is sure to follow. The old house was cleaned and
painted, the moat dried up, and fruit trees planted in it. The floors
of the house were polished as smoothly as a draftboard, and everything
looked bright and cheerful.
During the long winter evenings the lady of the house sat with her
maidens at the spinning wheel in the great hall. Her husband, in his
old age, had been made a magistrate. Every Sunday evening he read the
Bible with his family, for children had come to him and were all
instructed in the best manner, although they were not all equally
cleveras is the case in all families. In the meantime, the willow
branch at the castle gate had grown into a splendid tree and stood free
That is our genealogical tree, said the old people, and the tree
must therefore be honored and esteemed, even by those who are not very
A hundred years passed away, and the place presented a much-changed
aspect. The lake had been converted into moorland, and the old baronial
castle had almost disappeared. A pool of water, the deep moat, and the
ruins of some of the walls were all that remained. Close by grew a
magnificent willow tree, with overhanging branchesthe same
genealogical tree of former times. Here it still stood, showing to what
beauty a willow can attain when left to itself. To be sure, the trunk
was split through, from the root to the top, and the storm had slightly
bent it; but it stood firm through all, and from every crevice and
opening into which earth had been carried by the wind, shot forth
blossoms and flowers. Near the top, where the large boughs parted, the
wild raspberry twined its branches and looked like a hanging garden.
Even the little mistletoe had here struck root, and flourished,
graceful and delicate, among the branches of the willow, which were
reflected in the dark waters beneath it. Sometimes the wind from the
sea scattered the willow leaves. A path led through the field, close by
On the top of a hill, near the forest, with a splendid prospect
before it, stood the new baronial hall, with panes of such transparent
glass in the windows that there appeared to be none. The grand flight
of steps leading to the entrance looked like a bower of roses and
broad-leaved plants. The lawn was as fresh and green as if each
separate blade of grass were cleaned morning and evening. In the hall
hung costly pictures. The chairs and sofas were of silk and velvet and
looked almost as if they could move of themselves. There were tables
with white marble tops, and books bound in velvet and gold. Here,
indeed, resided wealthy people, people of rankthe new baron and his
Each article was made to harmonize with the other furnishings. The
family motto still was, Everything in its right place. Therefore the
pictures which were once the honor and glory of the old house now hung
in the passage leading to the servants' hall. They were considered mere
lumber; especially two old portraits, one of a man in a wig and a
rose-colored coat, the other of a lady with frizzed and powdered hair,
holding a rose in her hand, each surrounded by a wreath of willow
leaves. Both the pictures had many holes in them, for the little barons
always set up the two old people as targets for their bows and arrows;
and yet these were pictures of the magistrate and his lady, from whom
the present family were descended. But they did not properly belong to
our family, said one of the little barons; he was a peddler, and she
kept the geese. They were not like papa and mamma. So the pictures,
being old, were considered worthless; and the motto being Each in its
right place, the great-grandfather and the great-grandmother of the
family were sent into the passage leading to the servants' hall.
The son of the clergyman of the place was tutor at the great house.
One day he was out walking with his pupilsthe little baronsand
their eldest sister, who had just been confirmed. They took the path
through the fields, which led past the old willow tree. While they
walked, the young lady made a wreath of hedge blossoms and wild
flowers, each in its right place, and the wreath was, as a whole,
very pretty. At the same time she heard every word uttered by the son
of the clergyman. She liked very much to hear him talk of the wonders
of nature and of the great men and women of history. She had a healthy
mind, with nobility of thought and feeling, and a heart full of love
for all God's creation.
The walking party halted at the old willow tree; the youngest of the
barons wanted a branch from it to make a flute, as he had already made
them from other willows. The tutor broke off a branch. Oh, don't do
that, exclaimed the young baroness; but it was already done. I am so
sorry, she continued; that is our famous old tree, and I love it very
much. They laugh at me for it at home, but I don't mind. There is a
story told about that tree.
Then she told him what we already know: about the old castle, and
about the peddler and the girl with the geese, who had met at this spot
for the first time and were the ancestors of the noble family to which
the young baroness belonged. The good old folks would not be
ennobled, said she. Their motto was 'Everything in its right place,'
and they thought it would not be right for them to purchase a title
with money. My grandfather, the first baron, was their son. He was a
very learned man, known and appreciated by princes and princesses, and
was present at all the festivals at court. At home, they all love him
best, but I scarcely know why. There seems to me something in the first
old pair that draws my heart towards them. How sociable, how
patriarchal, it must have been in the old house, where the mistress sat
at the spinning wheel with her maids while her husband read aloud to
them from the Bible!
They must have been charming, sensible people, said the tutor, and
then the conversation turned upon nobles and commoners. It was almost
as if the tutor did not belong to an inferior class, he spoke so wisely
upon the purpose and intention of nobility.
It is certainly good fortune to belong to a family that has
distinguished itself in the world, and to inherit the energy which
spurs us on to progress in everything noble and useful. It is pleasant
to bear a family name that is like a card of admission to the highest
circles. True nobility is always great and honorable. It is a coin
which has received the impression of its own value. It is a mistake of
the present day, into which many poets have fallen, to affirm that all
who are noble by birth must therefore be wicked or foolish, and that
the lower we descend in society the oftener we find great and shining
characters. I feel that this is quite false. In all classes can be
found men and women possessing kindly and beautiful traits.
My mother told me of one, and I could tell you of many more. She
was once on a visit to a nobleman's house in the town; my grandmother,
I believe, had been brought up in the family. One day, when my mother
and the nobleman happened to be alone, an old woman came limping into
the court on crutches. She was accustomed to come every Sunday and
always carried away a gift with her. 'Ah, there is the poor old woman,'
said the nobleman; 'what pain it is for her to walk!' And before my
mother understood what he said, he had left the room and run downstairs
to the old woman. Though seventy years old himself, the old nobleman
carried to the woman the gift she had come to receive, to spare her the
pain of walking any farther. This is only a trifling circumstance, but,
like the two mites given by the widow in the Bible, it wakes an echo in
These are subjects of which poets should write and sing, for they
soften and unite mankind into one brotherhood. But when a mere sprig of
humanity, because it has noble ancestors of good blood, rears up and
prances like an Arabian horse in the street or speaks contemptuously of
common people, then it is nobility in danger of decaya mere pretense,
like the mask which Thespis invented. People are glad to see such
persons turned into objects of satire.
This was the tutor's speechcertainly rather a long one, but he had
been busily engaged in cutting the flute while he talked.
There was a large party at the Hall that evening. The grand salon
was crowded with guestssome from the neighborhood, some from the
capital. There was a bevy of ladies richly dressed with, and without,
taste; a group of the clergy from the adjoining parishes, in a corner
together, as grave as though met for a funeral. A funeral party it
certainly was not, however; it was meant for a party of pleasure, but
the pleasure was yet to come. Music and song filled the rooms, first
one of the party volunteering, then another. The little baron brought
out his flute, but neither he nor his father, who tried it after him,
could make anything of it. It was pronounced a failure.
But you are a performer, too, surely, said a witty gentleman,
addressing the tutor. You are of course a flute player as well as a
flute maker. You are a universal genius, I hear, and genius is quite
the rage nowadaysnothing like genius. Come now; I am sure you will be
so good as to enchant us by playing on this little instrument. He
handed it over, announcing in a loud voice that the tutor was going to
favor the company with a solo on the flute.
It was easy to see that these people wanted to make fun of him, and
he refused to play. But they pressed him so long and so urgently that
at last, in very weariness, he took the flute and raised it to his
It was a strange flute! A sound issued from it, loud, shrill, and
vibrating, like that sent forth by a steam enginenay, far louder. It
thrilled through the house, through garden and woodland, miles out into
the country; and with the sound came also a strong, rushing wind, its
stormy breath clearly uttering the words, Everything in its right
Forthwith the baron, the master of the Hall, was caught up by the
wind, carried out at the window, and was shut up in the porter's lodge
in a trice. The porter himself was borne up, not into the drawing
roomno, for that he was not fitbut into the servants' hall, where
the proud lackeys in their silk stockings shook with horror to see so
low a person sit at table with them.
But in the grand salon the young baroness was wafted to the seat of
honor, where she was worthy to sit, and the tutor's place was by her
side. There they sat together, for all the world like bride and
bridegroom. An old count, descended from one of the noblest houses in
the land, retained his seat, not so much as a breath of air disturbing
him, for the flute was strictly just. The witty young gentleman, who
had been the occasion of all this tumult, was whirled out headforemost
to join geese and ganders in the poultry yard.
Half a mile out in the country the flute wrought wonders. The family
of a rich merchant, who drove with four horses, were all precipitated
from the carriage window. Two farmers, who had of late grown too
wealthy to know their nearest relations, were puffed into a ditch. It
was a dangerous flute. Luckily, at the first sound it uttered, it burst
and was then put safely away in the tutor's pocket. Everything in its
Next day no more was said about the adventure than as if it had
never happened. The affair was hushed up, and all things were the same
as before, except that the two old portraits of the peddler and the
goose girl continued to hang on the walls of the salon, whither the
wind had blown them. Here some connoisseur chanced to see them, and
because he pronounced them to be painted by a master hand, they were
cleaned and restored and ever after held in honor. Their value had not
been known before.
Everything in its right place! So shall it be, all in good time,
never fear. Not in this world, perhaps. That would be expecting rather
THE REAL PRINCESS
THERE was once a prince who wanted to marry a princess. But she must
be a real princess, mind you. So he traveled all round the world,
seeking such a one, but everywhere something was in the way. Not that
there was any lack of princesses, but he could not seem to make out
whether they were real princesses; there was always something not quite
satisfactory. Therefore, home he came again, quite out of spirits, for
he wished so much to marry a real princess.
One evening a terrible storm came on. It thundered and lightened,
and the rain poured down; indeed, it was quite fearful. In the midst of
it there came a knock at the town gate, and the old king went out to
It was a princess who stood outside. But O dear, what a state she
was in from the rain and bad weather! The water dropped from her hair
and clothes, it ran in at the tips of her shoes and out at the heels;
yet she insisted she was a real princess.
Very well, thought the old queen; that we shall presently see.
She said nothing, but went into the bedchamber and took off all the
bedding, then laid a pea on the sacking of the bedstead. Having done
this, she took twenty mattresses and laid them upon the pea and placed
twenty eider-down beds on top of the mattresses.
The princess lay upon this bed all the night. In the morning she was
asked how she had slept.
Oh, most miserably! she said. I scarcely closed my eyes the whole
night through. I cannot think what there could have been in the bed. I
lay upon something so hard that I am quite black and blue all over. It
It was now quite evident that she was a real princess, since through
twenty mattresses and twenty eider-down beds she had felt the pea. None
but a real princess could have such delicate feeling.
So the prince took her for his wife, for he knew that in her he had
found a true princess. And the pea was preserved in the cabinet of
curiosities, where it is still to be seen unless some one has stolen
And this, mind you, is a real story.
THE EMPEROR'S NEW CLOTHES
MANY years ago there was an emperor who was so fond of new clothes
that he spent all his money on them. He did not give himself any
concern about his army; he cared nothing about the theater or for
driving about in the woods, except for the sake of showing himself off
in new clothes. He had a costume for every hour in the day, and just as
they say of a king or emperor, He is in his council chamber, they
said of him, The emperor is in his dressing room.
Life was merry and gay in the town where the emperor lived, and
numbers of strangers came to it every day. Among them there came one
day two rascals, who gave themselves out as weavers and said that they
knew how to weave the most exquisite stuff imaginable. Not only were
the colors and patterns uncommonly beautiful, but the clothes that were
made of the stuff had the peculiar property of becoming invisible to
every person who was unfit for the office he held or who was
Those must be valuable clothes, thought the emperor. By wearing
them I should be able to discover which of the men in my empire are not
fit for their posts. I should distinguish wise men from fools. Yes, I
must order some of the stuff to be woven for me directly. And he paid
the swindlers a handsome sum of money in advance, as they required.
As for them, they put up two looms and pretended to be weaving,
though there was nothing whatever on their shuttles. They called for a
quantity of the finest silks and of the purest gold thread, all of
which went into their own bags, while they worked at their empty looms
till late into the night.
I should like to know how those weavers are getting on with the
stuff, thought the emperor. But he felt a little queer when he
reflected that those who were stupid or unfit for their office would
not be able to see the material. He believed, indeed, that he had
nothing to fear for himself, but still he thought it better to send
some one else first, to see how the work was coming on. All the people
in the town had heard of the peculiar property of the stuff, and every
one was curious to see how stupid his neighbor might be.
I will send my faithful old prime minister to the weavers, thought
the emperor. He will be best capable of judging of this stuff, for he
is a man of sense and nobody is more fit for his office than he.
So the worthy old minister went into the room where the two
swindlers sat working the empty looms. Heaven save us! thought the
old man, opening his eyes wide. Why, I can't see anything at all! But
he took care not to say so aloud.
Both the rogues begged him to step a little nearer and asked him if
he did not think the patterns very pretty and the coloring fine. They
pointed to the empty loom as they did so, and the poor old minister
kept staring as hard as he couldbut without being able to see
anything on it, for of course there was nothing there to see.
Heaven save us! thought the old man. Is it possible that I am a
fool? I have never thought it, and nobody must know it. Is it true that
I am not fit for my office? It will never do for me to say that I
cannot see the stuffs.
Well, sir, do you say nothing about the cloth? asked the one who
was pretending to go on with his work.
Oh, it is most elegant, most beautiful! said the dazed old man, as
he peered again through his spectacles. What a fine pattern, and what
fine colors! I will certainly tell the emperor how pleased I am with
We are glad of that, said both the weavers; and then they named
the colors and pointed out the special features of the pattern. To all
of this the minister paid great attention, so that he might be able to
repeat it to the emperor when he went back to him.
And now the cheats called for more money, more silk, and more gold
thread, to be able to proceed with the weaving, but they put it all
into their own pockets, and not a thread went into the stuff, though
they went on as before, weaving at the empty looms.
After a little time the emperor sent another honest statesman to see
how the weaving was progressing, and if the stuff would soon be ready.
The same thing happened with him as with the minister. He gazed and
gazed, but as there was nothing but empty looms, he could see nothing
Is not this an exquisite piece of stuff? asked the weavers,
pointing to one of the looms and explaining the beautiful pattern and
the colors which were not there to be seen.
I am not stupid, I know I am not! thought the man, so it must be
that I am not fit for my good office. It is very strange, but I must
not let it be noticed. So he praised the cloth he did not see and
assured the weavers of his delight in the lovely colors and the
exquisite pattern. It is perfectly charming, he reported to the
Everybody in the town was talking of the splendid cloth. The emperor
thought he should like to see it himself while it was still on the
loom. With a company of carefully selected men, among whom were the two
worthy officials who had been there before, he went to visit the crafty
impostors, who were working as hard as ever at the empty looms.
Is it not magnificent? said both the honest statesmen. See, your
Majesty, what splendid colors, and what a pattern! And they pointed to
the looms, for they believed that others, no doubt, could see what they
What! thought the emperor. I see nothing at all. This is
terrible! Am I a fool? Am I not fit to be emperor? Why nothing more
dreadful could happen to me!
Oh, it is very pretty! it has my highest approval, the emperor
said aloud. He nodded with satisfaction as he gazed at the empty looms,
for he would not betray that he could see nothing.
His whole suite gazed and gazed, each seeing no more than the
others; but, like the emperor, they all exclaimed, Oh, it is
beautiful! They even suggested to the emperor that he wear the
splendid new clothes for the first time on the occasion of a great
procession which was soon to take place.
Splendid! Gorgeous! Magnificent! went from mouth to mouth. All
were equally delighted with the weavers' workmanship. The emperor gave
each of the impostors an order of knighthood to be worn in their
buttonholes, and the title Gentleman Weaver of the Imperial Court.
Before the day on which the procession was to take place, the
weavers sat up the whole night, burning sixteen candles, so that people
might see how anxious they were to get the emperor's new clothes ready.
They pretended to take the stuff from the loom, they cut it out in the
air with huge scissors, and they stitched away with needles which had
no thread in them. At last they said, Now the clothes are finished.
The emperor came to them himself with his grandest courtiers, and
each of the rogues lifted his arm as if he held something, saying,
See! here are the trousers! here is the coat! here is the cloak, and
so on. It is as light as a spider's web. One would almost feel as if
one had nothing on, but that is the beauty of it!
Yes, said all the courtiers, but they saw nothing, for there was
nothing to see.
Will your Majesty be graciously pleased to take off your clothes so
that we may put on the new clothes here, before the great mirror?
The emperor took off his clothes, and the rogues pretended to put on
first one garment and then another of the new ones they had pretended
to make. They pretended to fasten something round his waist and to tie
on something. This they said was the train, and the emperor turned
round and round before the mirror.
How well his Majesty looks in the new clothes! How becoming they
are! cried all the courtiers in turn. That is a splendid costume!
The canopy that is to be carried over your Majesty in the
procession is waiting outside, said the master of ceremonies.
Well, I am ready, replied the emperor. Don't the clothes look
well? and he turned round and round again before the mirror, to appear
as if he were admiring his new costume.
The chamberlains, who were to carry the train, stooped and put their
hands near the floor as if they were lifting it; then they pretended to
be holding something in the air. They would not let it be noticed that
they could see and feel nothing.
So the emperor went along in the procession, under the splendid
canopy, and every one in the streets said: How beautiful the emperor's
new clothes are! What a splendid train! And how well they fit!
No one wanted to let it appear that he could see nothing, for that
would prove him not fit for his post. None of the emperor's clothes had
been so great a success before.
But he has nothing on! said a little child.
Just listen to the innocent, said its father; and one person
whispered to another what the child had said. He has nothing on; a
child says he has nothing on!
But he has nothing on, cried all the people. The emperor was
startled by this, for he had a suspicion that they were right. But he
thought, I must face this out to the end and go on with the
procession. So he held himself more stiffly than ever, and the
chamberlains held up the train that was not there at all.
GREAT CLAUS AND LITTLE CLAUS
IN A VILLAGE there once lived two men of the same name. Both of them
were called Claus. But because one of them owned four horses while the
other had but one, people called the one who had the four horses Big,
or Great, Claus and the one who owned but a single horse Little Claus.
Now I shall tell you what happened to each of them, for this is a true
All the days of the week Little Claus was obliged to plow for Great
Claus and to lend him his one horse; then once a week, on Sunday, Great
Claus helped Little Claus with his four horses, but always on a
Hurrah! How Little Claus would crack his whip over the five, for
they were as good as his own on that one day.
The sun shone brightly, and the church bells rang merrily as the
people passed by. The people were dressed in their best, with their
prayer books under their arms, for they were going to church to hear
the clergyman preach. They looked at Little Claus plowing with five
horses, and he was so proud and merry that he cracked his whip and
cried, Gee-up, my fine horses.
You mustn't say that, said Great Claus, for only one of them is
But Little Claus soon forgot what it was that he ought not to say,
and when any one went by he would call out, Gee-up, my fine horses.
I must really beg you not to say that again, said Great Claus as
he passed; for if you do, I shall hit your horse on the head so that
he will drop down dead on the spot, and then it will be all over with
I will certainly not say it again, I promise you, said Little
Claus. But as soon as any one came by, nodding good day to him, he was
so pleased, and felt so grand at having five horses plowing his field,
that again he cried out, Gee-up, all my horses.
I'll gee-up your horses for you, said Great Claus, and he caught
up the tethering mallet and struck Little Claus's one horse on the
head, so that it fell down dead.
Oh, now I haven't any horse at all! cried Little Claus, and he
began to weep. But after a while he flayed the horse and hung up the
skin to dry in the wind.
Then he put the dried skin into a bag, and hanging it over his
shoulder, went off to the next town to sell it. He had a very long way
to go and was obliged to pass through a great, gloomy wood. A dreadful
storm came up. He lost his way, and before he found it again, evening
was drawing on. It was too late to get to the town, and too late to get
home before nightfall.
Near the road stood a large farmhouse. The shutters outside the
windows were closed, but lights shone through the crevices and at the
top. They might let me stay here for the night, thought Little Claus.
So he went up to the door and knocked. The door was opened by the
farmer's wife, but when he explained what it was that he wanted, she
told him to go away; her husband, she said, was not at home, and she
could not let any strangers in.
Then I shall have to lie out here, said Little Claus to himself,
as the farmer's wife shut the door in his face.
Close to the farmhouse stood a tall haystack, and between it and the
house was a small shed with a thatched roof. I can lie up there, said
Little Claus, when he saw the roof. It will make a capital bed, but I
hope the stork won't fly down and bite my legs. A stork was just then
standing near his nest on the house roof.
So Little Claus climbed onto the roof of the shed and proceeded to
make himself comfortable. As he turned round to settle himself, he
discovered that the wooden shutters did not reach to the tops of the
windows. He could look over them straight into the room, in which a
large table was laid with wine, roast meat, and a fine, great fish. The
farmer's wife and the sexton were sitting at the table all by
themselves, and she was pouring out wine for him, while his fork was in
the fish, which he seemed to like the best.
If I could only get some too, thought Little Claus, and as he
stretched his neck toward the window he spied a large, beautiful cake.
Goodness! what a glorious feast they had before them.
At that moment some one came riding down the road towards the farm.
It was the farmer himself, returning. He was a good man enough, but he
had one very singular prejudicehe could not bear the sight of a
sexton, and if he came on one he fell into a terrible rage. This was
the reason that the sexton had gone to visit the farmer's wife during
his absence from home and that the good wife had put before him the
best she had.
When they heard the farmer they were frightened, and the woman
begged the sexton to creep into a large empty chest which stood in a
corner. He did so with all haste, for he well knew how the farmer felt
toward a sexton. The woman hid the wine and all the good things in the
oven, for if her husband were to see them, he would certainly ask why
they had been provided.
O dear! sighed Little Claus, on the shed roof, as he saw the good
Is any one up there? asked the farmer, looking up where Little
Claus was. What are you doing up there? You had better come with me
into the house.
Then Little Claus told him how he had lost his way, and asked if he
might have shelter for the night.
Certainly, replied the farmer; but the first thing is to have
something to eat.
The wife received them both in a friendly way, and laid the table,
bringing to it a large bowl of porridge. The farmer was hungry and ate
with a good appetite. But Little Claus could not help thinking of the
capital roast meat, fish, and cake, which he knew were hidden in the
He had put his sack with the hide in it under the table by his feet,
for, we must remember, he was on his way to the town to sell it. He did
not relish the porridge, so he trod on the sack and made the dried skin
squeak quite loudly.
Hush! said Little Claus to his bag, at the same time treading upon
it again, to make it squeak much louder than before.
Hollo! what's that you've got in your bag? asked the farmer.
Oh, it's a magician, said Little Claus, and he says we needn't
eat the porridge, for he has charmed the oven full of roast meat, fish,
What? cried the farmer, and he opened the oven with all speed and
saw all the nice things the woman had hidden, but which he believed the
magician had conjured up for their special benefit.
The farmer's wife did not say a word, but set the food before them;
and they both made a hearty meal of the fish, the meat, and the cake.
Little Claus now trod again upon his sack and made the skin squeak.
What does he say now? inquired the farmer.
He says, promptly answered Little Claus, that he has conjured up
three bottles of wine, which are standing in the corner near the
stove. So the woman was obliged to bring the wine which she had
hidden, and the farmer and Little Claus became right merry. Would not
the farmer like to have such a conjurer as Little Claus carried about
in his sack?
Can he conjure up the Evil One? inquired the farmer. I shouldn't
mind seeing him now, when I'm in such a merry mood.
Yes, said Little Claus, he will do anything that I please; and
he trod on the bag till it squeaked. You hear him answer, 'Yes, only
the Evil One is so ugly that you had better not see him.'
Oh, I'm not afraid. What will he look like?
Well, he will show himself to you in the image of a sexton.
Nay, that's bad indeed. You must know that I can't abide a sexton.
However, it doesn't matter, for I know he's a demon, and I shan't mind
so much. Now my courage is up! Only he mustn't come too close.
I'll ask him about it, said Little Claus, putting his ear down as
he trod close to the bag.
What does he say?
He says you can go along and open the chest in the corner, and
there you'll see him cowering in the dark. But hold the lid tight, so
that he doesn't get out.
Will you help me to hold the lid, asked the farmer, going along to
the chest in which his wife had hidden the sexton, who was shivering
The farmer opened the lid a wee little way and peeped in. Ha! he
cried, springing backward. I saw him, and he looks exactly like our
sexton. It was a shocking sight!
They must needs drink after this, and there they sat till far into
You must sell me your conjurer, said the farmer. Ask anything you
like for him. Nay, I'll give you a bushel of money for him.
No, I can't do that, said Little Claus. You must remember how
much benefit I can get from such a conjurer.
Oh, but I should so like to have him! said the farmer, and he went
on begging for him.
Well, said Little Claus at last, since you have been so kind as
to give me a night's shelter, I won't say nay. You must give me a
bushel of money, only I must have it full to the brim.
You shall have it, said the farmer; but you must take that chest
away with you. I won't have it in the house an hour longer. You could
never know that he might not still be inside.
So Little Claus gave his sack with the dried hide of the horse in it
and received a full bushel of money in return, and the measure was full
to the brim. The farmer also gave him a large wheelbarrow, with which
to take away the chest and the bushel of money.
Good-by, said Little Claus, and off he went with his money and the
chest with the sexton in it.
On the other side of the forest was a wide, deep river, whose
current was so strong that it was almost impossible to swim against it.
A large, new bridge had just been built over it, and when they came to
the middle of the bridge Little Claus said in a voice loud enough to be
heard by the sexton: What shall I do with this stupid old chest? It
might be full of paving stones, it is so heavy. I am tired of wheeling
it. I'll just throw it into the river. If it floats down to my home,
well and good; if not, I don't care. It will be no great matter. And
he took hold of the chest and lifted it a little, as if he were going
to throw it into the river.
No, no! let be! shouted the sexton. Let me get out.
Ho! said Little Claus, pretending to be frightened. Why, he is
still inside. Then I must heave it into the river to drown him.
Oh, no, no, no! shouted the sexton; I'll give you a whole
bushelful of money if you'll let me out.
Oh, that's another matter, said Little Claus, opening the chest.
He pushed the empty chest into the river and then went home with the
sexton to get his bushelful of money. He had already had one from the
farmer, you know, so now his wheelbarrow was quite full of money.
I got a pretty fair price for that horse, I must admit, said he to
himself, when he got home and turned the money out of the wheelbarrow
into a heap in the middle of the floor. What a rage Great Claus will
be in when he discovers how rich I am become through my one horse. But
I won't tell him just how it happened. So he sent a boy to Great Claus
to borrow a bushel measure.
What can he want with it? thought Great Claus, and he rubbed some
tallow on the bottom so that some part of whatever was measured might
stick to it. And so it did, for when the measure came back, three new
silver threepenny bits were sticking to it.
What's this! said Great Claus, and he ran off at once to Little
Claus. Where on earth did you get all this money? he asked.
Oh, that's for my horse's skin. I sold it yesterday morning.
That was well paid for, indeed, said Great Claus. He ran home,
took an ax, and hit all his four horses on the head; then he flayed
them and carried their skins off to the town.
Hides! hides! who'll buy my hides? he cried through the streets.
All the shoemakers and tanners in the town came running up and asked
him how much he wanted for his hides.
A bushel of money for each, said Great Claus.
Are you mad? they all said. Do you think we have money by the
Skins! skins! who'll buy them? he shouted again, and the
shoemakers took up their straps, and the tanners their leather aprons,
and began to beat Great Claus.
Hides! hides! they called after him. Yes, we'll hide you and tan
you. Out of the town with him, they shouted. And Great Claus made the
best haste he could to get out of the town, for he had never yet been
thrashed as he was being thrashed now.
Little Claus shall pay for this, he said, when he got home. I'll
kill him for it.
Little Claus's old grandmother had just died in his house. She had
often been harsh and unkind to him, but now that she was dead he felt
quite grieved. He took the dead woman and laid her in his warm bed to
see if she would not come to life again. He himself intended to sit in
a corner all night. He had slept that way before.
As he sat there in the night, the door opened and in came Great
Claus with his ax. He knew where Little Claus's bed stood, and he went
straight to it and hit the dead grandmother a blow on the forehead,
thinking it was Little Claus.
Just see if you'll make a fool of me again, said he, and then he
What a bad, wicked man he is! said Little Claus. He was going to
kill me. What a good thing that poor grandmother was dead already! He
would have taken her life.
He now dressed his grandmother in her best Sunday clothes, borrowed
a horse of his neighbor, harnessed it to a cart, and set his
grandmother on the back seat, so that she could not fall when the cart
moved. Then he started off through the woods. When the sun rose, he was
just outside a big inn, and he drew up his horse and went in to get
something to eat.
The landlord was a very rich man and a very good man, but he was
hot-tempered, as if he were made of pepper and snuff. Good morning!
said he to Little Claus; you have your best clothes on very early this
Yes, said Little Claus, I'm going to town with my old
grandmother. She's sitting out there in the cart; I can't get her to
come in. Won't you take her out a glass of beer? You'll have to shout
at her, she's very hard of hearing.
Yes, that I'll do, said the host, and he poured a glass and went
out with it to the dead grandmother, who had been placed upright in the
Here is a glass of beer your son has sent, said the landlord but
she sat quite still and said not a word.
Don't you hear? cried he as loud as he could. Here is a glass of
beer from your son.
But the dead woman replied not a word, and at last he became quite
angry and threw the beer in her faceand at that moment she fell
backwards out of the cart, for she was only set upright and not bound
Now! shouted Little Claus, as he rushed out of the inn and seized
the landlord by the neck, you have killed my grandmother! Just look at
the big hole in her forehead!
Oh! what a misfortune! cried the man, and all because of my quick
temper. Good Little Claus, I will pay you a bushel of money, and I will
have your poor grandmother buried as if she were my own, if only you
will say nothing about it. Otherwise I shall have my head cut offand
that is so dreadful.
So Little Claus again received a whole bushel of money, and the
landlord buried the old grandmother as if she had been his own.
When Little Claus got home again with all his money, he immediately
sent his boy to Great Claus to ask to borrow his bushel measure.
What! said Great Claus, is he not dead? I must go and see about
this myself. So he took the measure over to Little Claus himself.
I say, where did you get all that money? asked he, his eyes big
and round with amazement at what he saw.
It was grandmother you killed instead of me, said Little Claus. I
have sold her and got a bushel of money for her.
That's being well paid, indeed, said Great Claus, and he hurried
home, took an ax and killed his own old grandmother.
He then put her in a carriage and drove off to the town where the
apothecary lived, and asked him if he would buy a dead person.
Who is it and where did you get him? asked the apothecary.
It is my grandmother, and I have killed her so as to sell her for a
bushel of money.
Heaven preserve us! cried the apothecary. You talk like a madman.
Pray don't say such things, you may lose your head. And he told him
earnestly what a horribly wicked thing he had done, and that he
deserved punishment. Great Claus was so frightened that he rushed out
of the shop, jumped into his cart, whipped up his horse, and galloped
home through the wood. The apothecary and all the people who saw him
thought he was mad, and so they let him drive away.
You shall be paid for this! said Great Claus, when he got out on
the highroad. You shall be paid for this, Little Claus!
Directly after he got home, Great Claus took the biggest sack he
could find and went over to Little Claus.
You have deceived me again, he said. First I killed my horses,
and then my old grandmother. That is all your fault; but you shall
never have the chance to trick me again. And he seized Little Claus
around the body and thrust him into the sack; then he threw the sack
over his back, calling out to Little Claus, Now I'm going to the river
to drown you.
It was a long way that he had to travel before he came to the river,
and Little Claus was not light to carry. The road came close to the
church, and the people within were singing beautifully. Great Claus put
down his sack, with Little Claus in it, at the church door. He thought
it would be a very good thing to go in and hear a psalm before he went
further, for Little Claus could not get out. So he went in.
O dear! O dear! moaned Little Claus in the sack, and he turned and
twisted, but found it impossible to loosen the cord. Then there came by
an old drover with snow-white hair and a great staff in his hand. He
was driving a whole herd of cows and oxen before him, and they jostled
against the sack in which Little Claus was confined, so that it was
O dear, again sighed Little Claus, I'm so young to be going
directly to the kingdom of heaven!
And I, poor fellow, said the drover, am so old already, and
cannot get there yet.
Open the sack, cried Little Claus, and creep into it in my place,
and you'll be there directly.
With all my heart, said the drover, and he untied the sack for
Little Claus, who crept out at once. You must look out for the cattle
now, said the old man, as he crept in. Then Little Claus tied it up
and went his way, driving the cows and the oxen.
In a little while Great Claus came out of the church. He took the
sack upon his shoulders and thought as he did so that it had certainly
grown lighter since he had put it down, for the old cattle-drover was
not more than half as heavy as Little Claus.
How light he is to carry now! That must be because I have heard a
psalm in the church.
He went on to the river, which was both deep and broad, threw the
sack containing the old drover into the water, and called after him,
thinking it was Little Claus, Now lie there! You won't trick me
He turned to go home, but when he came to the place where there was
a crossroad he met Little Claus driving his cattle.
What's this? cried he. Haven't I drowned you?
Yes, said Little Claus, you threw me into the river, half an hour
But where did you get all those fine cattle? asked Great Claus.
These beasts are sea cattle, said Little Claus, and I thank you
heartily for drowning me, for now I'm at the top of the tree. I'm a
very rich man, I can tell you. But I was frightened when you threw me
into the water huddled up in the sack. I sank to the bottom
immediately, but I did not hurt myself, for the grass is beautifully
soft down there. I fell upon it, and the sack was opened, and the most
beautiful maiden in snow-white garments and a green wreath upon her
hair took me by the hand, and said to me, 'Have you come, Little Claus?
Here are cattle for you, and a mile further up the road there is
Then I saw that she meant the river and that it was the highway for
the sea folk. Down at the bottom of it they walk directly from the sea,
straight into the land where the river ends. Lovely flowers and
beautiful fresh grass were there. The fishes which swam there glided
about me like birds in the air. How nice the people were, and what fine
herds of cattle there were, pasturing on the mounds and about the
But why did you come up so quickly then? asked Great Claus. I
shouldn't have done that if it was so fine down there.
Why, that was just my cunning. You know, I told you that the
mermaid said there was a whole herd of cattle for me a mile further up
the stream. Well, you see, I know how the river bends this way and
that, and how long a distance it would have been to go that way. If you
can come up on the land and take the short cuts, driving across fields
and down to the river again, you save almost half a mile and get the
cattle much sooner.
Oh, you are a fortunate man! cried Great Claus. Do you think I
could get some sea cattle if I were to go down to the bottom of the
I'm sure you would, said Little Claus. But I cannot carry you. If
you will walk to the river and creep into a sack yourself, I will help
you into the water with a great deal of pleasure.
Thanks! said Great Claus. But if I do not find sea cattle there,
I shall beat you soundly, you may be sure.
Oh! do not be so hard on me.
And so they went together to the river. When the cows and oxen saw
the water, they ran to it as fast as they could. See how they hurry!
cried Little Claus. They want to get back to the bottom again.
Yes, but help me first or I'll thrash you, said Great Claus. He
then crept into a big sack, which had been lying across the back of one
of the cows. Put a big stone in or I'm afraid I shan't sink.
Oh, that'll be all right, said Little Claus, but he put a big
stone into the sack and gave it a push. Plump! and there lay Great
Claus in the river. He sank at once to the bottom.
I'm afraid he won't find the cattle, said Little Claus. Then he
drove homeward with his herd.