The Tree only came to himself when he was unloaded in a courtyard with the other trees, and heard a man say, "That one is splendid! we don't want the others." Then two servants came in rich livery and carried the Fir tree into a large and splendid drawing-room. Portraits were hanging on the walls, and near the white porcelain stove stood two large Chinese vases with lions on the covers. There, too, were large easy-chairs, silken sofas, large tables full of picture books, and full of toys worth hundreds and hundreds of crowns-at least the children said so. And the Fir tree was stuck upright in a cask that was filled with sand: but no one could see that it was a cask, for green cloth was hung all round it, and it stood on a large gayly colored carpet. Oh, how the Tree quivered! What was to happen? The servants, as well as the young ladies, decorated it. On one branch there hung little nets cut out of colored paper, and each net was filled with sugarplums; and among the other boughs gilded apples and walnuts were suspended, looking as though they had grown there, and little blue and white tapers were placed among the leaves. Dolls that looked for all the world like men -the Tree had never beheld such before-were seen among the foliage, and at the very top a large star of gold tinsel was fixed.
It was really splendid -beyond description splendid.
"This evening!" said they all; "how it will shine this evening!"
"Oh," thought the Tree, "if the evening were but come! If the tapers were but lighted! And then I wonder what will happen! Perhaps the other trees from the forest will come to look at me! Perhaps the sparrows will beat against the windowpanes! I wonder if I shall take root here, and winter and summer stand covered with ornaments!"
He knew very much about the matter! but he was so impatient that for sheer longing he got a pain in his back, and this with trees is the same thing as a headache with us.
The candles were now lighted. What brightness! What splendor! The Tree trembled so in every bough that one of the tapers set fire to the foliage. It blazed up splendidly.
"Help! help!" cried the young ladies, and they quickly put out the fire.
Now the Tree did not even dare tremble. What a state he was in! He was so uneasy lest he should lose something of his splendor, that he was quite bewildered amid the glare and brightness; when suddenly both folding doors opened, and a troop of children rushed in as if they would upset the Tree. The older persons followed quietly; the little ones stood quite still. But it was only for a moment; then they shouted so that the whole place reechoed with their rejoicing; they danced round the Tree, and one present after the other was pulled off.
"What are they about?" thought the Tree. "What is to happen now!" And the lights burned down to the very branches, and as they burned down they were put out one after the other, and then the children had permission to plunder the Tree. So they fell upon it with such violence that all its branches cracked; if it had not been fixed firmly in the cask, it would certainly have tumbled down.
The children danced about with their beautiful playthings; no one looked at the Tree except the old nurse, who peeped between the branches; but it was only to see if there was a fig or an apple left that had been forgotten.
"A story! a story!" cried the children, drawing a little fat man toward the Tree. He seated himself under it, and said: "Now we are in the shade, and the Tree can listen too. But I shall tell only one story. Now which will you have; that about IvedyAvedy, or about Klumpy-Dumpy who tumbled downstairs, and yet after all came to the throne and married the princess?"
"Ivedy-Avedy," cried some; "Klumpy-Dumpy," cried the others. There was such a bawling and screaming! -the Fir tree alone was silent, and he thought to himself, "Am I not to bawl with the rest?-am I to do nothing whatever?" for he was one of the company, and had done what he had to do.
And the man told about Klumpy-Dumpy that tumbled down, who notwithstanding came to the throne, and at last married the princess.
And the children clapped their hands, arid cried out, "Oh, go on! Do go on!" they waited to hear about Ivedy-Avedy too, but the little man only told them about Klumpy-Dumpy. The Fir tree stood quite still and absorbed in thought: the birds in the wood had never related the like of this. "Klumpy-Dumpy fell downstairs, and yet he married the princess! Yes, yes! that's the way of the world!" thought the Fir tree, and believed it all, because the man who told the story was so good-looking. "Well, well! who knows, perhaps I may fall downstairs too, and get a princess as wife!" And he looked forward with joy to the morrow, when he hoped to be decked out again with lights, play- things, fruits, and tinsel.
"I won't tremble to-morrow!" thought the Fir tree. "I will enjoy to the full all my splendor! To-morrow I shall hear again the story of Klumpy-Dumpy, and perhaps that of Ivedy-Avedy too." And the whole night the Tree stood still and in deep thought.
In the morning the servant and the housemaid came in.
"Now then the splendor will begin again," thought the Fir. But they dragged him out of the room, and up the stairs into the loft; and here, in a dark corner, where no daylight could enter, they left him.
"What's the meaning of this?" thought the Tree. "What am I to do here?
What shall I hear now, I wonder?" And he leaned against the wall lost in reverie. Time enough had he too for his reflections; for days and nights passed on, and nobody came up; and when at last somebody did come, it was only to put some great trunks in a corner out of the way.
There stood the Tree quite hidden; it seemed as if he had been entirely forgotten.
"'Tis now winter out-of-doors!" thought the Tree. "The earth is hard and covered with snow; men cannot plant me now, and therefore I have been put up here under shelter till the springtime comes! How thoughtful that is! How kind man is, after all! If it only were not so dark here, and so terribly lonely! Not even a hare. And out in the woods it was so pleasant, when the snow was on the ground, and the hare leaped by; yes-even when he jumped over me; but I did not like it then.
It is really terribly lonely here!"
"Squeak! squeak!" said a little Mouse at the same moment, peeping out of his hole. And then another little one came. They snuffed about the Fir tree, and rustled among the branches.
"It is dreadfully cold," said the Mouse. "But for that, it would be delightful here, old Fir, wouldn't it?"
"I am by no means old," said the Fir tree. "There's many a one considerably older than I am."
"Where do you come from," asked the Mice; "and what can you do?" They were so extremely curious. "Tell us about the most beautiful spot on the earth. Have you never been there? Were you never in the larder, where cheeses lie on the shelves, and hams hang from above; where one dances about on tallow candles; that place where one enters lean, and comes out again fat and portly?"
"I know no such place," said the Tree. "But I know the wood, where the sun shines, and where the little birds sing." And then he told all about his youth; and the little Mice had never heard the like before; and they listened and said:
"Well, to be sure! How much you have seen! How happy you must have been!"
"I!" said the Fir tree, thinking over what he had himself related.
"Yes, in reality those were happy times." And then he told about Christmas Eve, when he was decked out with cakes and candles.
"Oh," said the little Mice, "how fortunate you have been, old Fir tree!"
"I am by no means old," said he. "I came from the wood this winter; I am in my prime, and am only rather short for my age."
"What delightful stories you know!" said the Mice; and the next night they came with four other little Mice, who were to hear what the Tree recounted; and the more he related, the more plainly he remembered all himself; and it appeared as if those times had really been happy times.
"But they may still come-they may still come. Humpy-Dumpy fell downstairs, and yet he got a princess!" and he thought at the moment of a nice little Birch tree growing out in the woods; to the Fir, that would be a real charming princess.
"Who is Klumpy-Dumpy?" asked the Mice. So then the Fir tree told the whole fairy tale, for he could remember every single word of it; and the little Mice jumped for joy up to the very top of the Tree. Next night two more Mice came, and on Sunday two Rats, even; but they said the stories were not interesting, which vexed the little Mice; and they, too, now began to think them not so very amusing either.
"Do you know only one story?" asked the Rats.
"Only that one," answered the Tree. "I heard it on my happiest evening; but I did not then know how happy I was."
"It is a very stupid story! Don't you know one about bacon and tallow candles? Can't you tell any larder stories?"
"No," said the Tree.
"Then good-by," said the Rats and they went home.
At last the little Mice stayed away also; and the Tree sighed: "After all, it was very pleasant when the sleek little Mice sat round me and listened to what I told them. Now that too is over. But I will take good care to enjoy myself when I am brought out again."
But when was that to be? Why, one morning there came a quantity of people and set to work in the loft. The trunks were moved, the tree was pulled out and thrown-rather hard, it is true- down on the floor, but a man drew him toward the stairs, where the daylight shone.
"Now a merry life will begin again," thought the Tree. He felt the fresh air, the first sunbeam- and now he was out in the courtyard. All passed so quickly, there was so much going on around him, that the Tree quite forgot to look to himself. The court adjoined a garden, and all was in flower; the roses hung so fresh and odorous over the balustrade, the lindens were in blossom, the Swallows flew by, and said "Quirre- vit! my husband is come!" but it was not the Fir tree that they meant.
"Now, then, I shall really enjoy life," said he, exultingly, and spread out his branches; but, alas! they were all withered and yellow. It was in a corner that he lay, among weeds and nettles. The golden star of tinsel was still on the top of the Tree, and glittered in the sunshine.
In the courtyard some of the merry children were playing who had danced at Christmas round the Fir tree, and were so glad at the sight of him.
One of the youngest ran and tore off the golden star.
"Only look what is still on the ugly old Christmas tree!" said he, trampling on the branches, so that they all cracked beneath his feet.
And the Tree beheld all the beauty of the flowers, and the freshness in the garden; he beheld himself, and wished he had remained in his dark corner in the loft: he thought of his first youth in the wood, of the Merry Christmas Eve, and of the little Mice who had listened with so much pleasure to the story of Humpy-Dumpy.
"'Tis over-'tis past!" said the poor Tree. "Had I but rejoiced when I had reason to do so! But now 'tis past, 'tis past!"
And the gardener's boy chopped the Tree into small pieces; there was a whole heap lying there. The wood flamed up splendidly under the large brewing copper, and it sighed so deeply! Each sigh was like a shot.
The boys played about in the court, and the youngest wore the gold star on his breast which the Tree had had on the happiest evening of his life. However, that was over now-the Tree gone, the story at an end.
All, all was over; every tale must end at last.
THE FLYING TRUNK
By Hans Christian Andersen
THERE was once a merchant, who was so rich that he could pave the whole street with gold, and almost have enough left for a little lane. But he did not do that; he knew how to employ his money differently. When he spent a shilling he got back a crown, such a clever merchant was he; and this continued till he died.