Category Archives: ANDERSEN

THE LEAPING MATCH

THE LEAPING MATCH

Hans Christian Andersen

p129i

THE Flea, the Grasshopper, and the Frog once wanted to see which of them could jump the highest. They made a festival, and invited the whole world and every one else besides who liked to come and see the grand sight. Three famous jumpers they were, as all should say, when they met together in the room.

“I will give my daughter to him who shall jump highest,” said the King; “it would be too bad for you to have the jumping, and for us to offer no prize.”

The Flea was the first to come forward. He had most exquisite manners, and bowed to the company on every side; for he was of noble blood, and, besides, was accustomed to the society of man, and that, of course, had been an advantage to him.

Next came the Grasshopper. He was not quite so elegantly formed as the Flea, but he knew perfectly well how to conduct himself, and he wore the green uniform which belonged to him by right of birth. He said, moreover, that he came of a very ancient Egyptian family, and that in the house where he then lived he was much thought of.

The fact was that he had been just brought out of the fields and put in a card-house three stories high, and built on purpose for him, with the colored sides inwards, and doors and windows cut out of the Queen of Hearts. “And I sing so well,” said he, “that sixteen parlor-bred crickets, who have chirped from infancy and yet got no one to build them card-houses to live in, have fretted themselves thinner even than before, from sheer vexation on hearing me.”

It was thus that the Flea and the Grasshopper made the most of themselves, each thinking himself quite an equal match for the princess.
He made a sideways jump into the lap of the princess.

The Leapfrog said not a word; but people said that perhaps he thought the more; and the housedog who snuffed at him with his nose allowed that he was of good family. The old councilor, who had had three orders given him in vain for keeping quiet, asserted that the Leapfrog was a prophet, for that one could see on his back whether the coming winter was to be severe or mild, which is more than one can see on the back of the man who writes the almanac.

“I say nothing for the present,” exclaimed the King; “yet I have my own opinion, for I observe everything.”

And now the match began. The Flea jumped so high that no one could see what had become of him; and so they insisted that he had not jumped at all—which was disgraceful after all the fuss he had made.

The Grasshopper jumped only half as high; but he leaped into the King’s face, who was disgusted by his rudeness.

The Leapfrog stood for a long time, as if lost in thought; people began to think he would not jump at all.

“I’m afraid he is ill!” said the dog and he went to snuff at him again; when lo! he suddenly made a sideways jump into the lap of the princess, who sat close by on a little golden stool.

“There is nothing higher than my daughter,” said the King; “therefore to bound into her lap is the highest jump that can be made. Only one of good understanding would ever have thought of that. Thus the Frog has shown that he has sense. He has brains in his head, that he has.”

And so he won the princess.

“I jumped the highest, for all that,” said the Flea; “but it’s all the same to me. The princess may have the stiff-legged, slimy creature, if she likes. In this world merit seldom meets its reward. Dullness and heaviness win the day. I am too light and airy for a stupid world.”

And so the Flea went into foreign service.

The Grasshopper sat without on a green bank and reflected on the world and its ways; and he too said, “Yes, dullness and heaviness win the day; a fine exterior is what people care for nowadays.” And then he began to sing in his own peculiar way—and it is from his song that we have taken this little piece of history, which may very possibly be all untrue, although it does stand printed here in black and white.

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THE HAPPY FAMILY

THE HAPPY FAMILY

Hans Christian Andersen

p134iTHE largest green leaf in this country is certainly the burdock. Put one in front of your waist, and it is just like an apron; or lay it upon your head, and it is almost as good as an umbrella, it is so broad.

Burdock never grows singly; where you find one plant of the kind you may be sure that others grow in its immediate neighborhood. How magnificent they look!

And all this magnificence is food for snails—the great white snails, which grand people in olden times used to have dished up as fricassees, and of which, when they had eaten, they would say, “H’m, how nice!” for they really fancied them delicious. These snails lived on burdock leaves, and that was why burdock was planted.

Now there was an old estate where snails were no longer considered a delicacy. The snails had therefore died out, but the burdock still flourished. In all the alleys and in all the beds it had grown and grown, so that it could no longer be checked; the place had become a perfect forest of burdock.

Here and there stood an apple or plum tree to serve as a kind of token that there had been once a garden, but everything, from one end of the garden to the other, was burdock, and beneath the shade of the burdock lived the last two of the ancient snails.

They did not know themselves how old they were, but they well remembered the time when there were a great many of them, that they had descended from a family that came from foreign lands, and that this forest in which they lived had been planted for them and theirs. They had never been beyond the limits of the garden, but they knew that there was something outside their forest, called the castle, and that there one was boiled, and became black, and was then laid upon a silver dish—though what happened afterward they had never heard, nor could they exactly fancy how it felt to be cooked and laid on a silver dish. It was, no doubt, a fine thing, and exceedingly genteel.

Neither the cockchafer, nor the toad, nor the earthworm, all of whom they questioned on the matter, could give them the least information, for none of them had ever been cooked and served upon silver dishes.

The old white snails were the grandest race in the world; of this they were well aware. The forest had grown for their sake, and the castle or manor house too had been built expressly that in it they might be cooked and served.

Leading now a very quiet and happy life and having no children, they had adopted a little common snail, and had brought it up as their own child. But the little thing would not grow, for he was only a common snail, though his foster mother pretended to see a great improvement in him. She begged the father, since he could not perceive it, to feel the little snail’s shell, and to her great joy and his own, he found that his wife was right.

One day it rained very hard. “Listen!” said the Father Snail; “hear what a drumming there is on the burdock leaves—rum-dum-dum, rum-dum-dum!”

“There are drops, too,” said the Mother Snail; “they come trickling down the stalks. We shall presently find it very wet here. I’m glad we have such good houses, and that the youngster has his also. There has really been more done for us than for any other creatures. Every one must see that we are superior beings. We have houses from our very birth, and the burdock forest is planted on our account. I should like to know just how far it reaches, and what there is beyond.”

“There is nothing better than what we have here,” said the Father Snail. “I wish for nothing beyond.”

“And yet,” said the mother, “I should like to be taken to the castle, and boiled, and laid on a silver dish; that has been the destiny of all our ancestors, and we may be sure it is something quite out of the common way.”

“The castle has perhaps fallen to ruin,” said the Father Snail, “or it may be overgrown with burdock, so that its inmates are unable to come out. There is no hurry about the matter. You are always in such a desperate hurry, and the youngster there begins to take after you. He’s been creeping up that stem yonder these three days. It makes me quite dizzy to look at him.”

“But don’t scold him,” said the mother. “He creeps carefully. We old people have nothing else to live for, and he will be the joy of our old age. Have you thought how we can manage to find a wife for him? Do you not think that farther into the forest there may be others of our own species?”

“I dare say there may be black snails,” said the old father, “black snails, without a house at all; and they are vulgar, though they think so much of themselves. But we can employ the black ants, who run about so much—hurrying to and fro as if they had all the business of the world on their hands. They will certainly be able to find a wife for our young gentleman.”

“I know the fairest of the fair,” said one of the ants; “but I’m afraid it would not do, for she’s a queen.”

“She’s none the worse for that,” said both the old snails. “Has she a house?”

“She has a palace,” answered the ants; “the most splendid ant castle, with seven hundred galleries.”

“Thank you!” said the Mother Snail. “Our boy shall not go to live in an ant hill. If you know of nothing better, we will employ the white gnats, who fly both in rain and sunshine and know all the ins and outs of the whole burdock forest.”

“We have found a wife for him,” said the gnats. “A hundred paces from here there sits, on a gooseberry bush, a little snail with a house. She is all alone and is old enough to marry. It is only a hundred human steps from here.”

“Then let her come to him,” said the old couple. “He has a whole forest of burdock, while she has only a bush.”

So they went and brought the little maiden snail. It took eight days to perform the journey, but that only showed her high breeding, and that she was of good family.

And then the wedding took place. Six glow-worms gave all the light they could, but in all other respects it was a very quiet affair. The old people could not bear the fatigue of frolic or festivity. The Mother Snail made a very touching little speech. The father was too much overcome to trust himself to say anything.

They gave the young couple the entire burdock forest, saying what they had always said, namely, that it was the finest inheritance in the world, and that if they led an upright and honorable life, and if their family should increase, without doubt both themselves and their children would one day be taken to the manor castle and be boiled black and served as a fricassee in a silver dish.

And after this the old couple crept into their houses and never came out again, but fell asleep. The young pair now ruled in the forest and had a numerous family. But when, as time went on, none of them were ever cooked or served on a silver dish, they concluded that the castle had fallen to ruin and that the world of human beings had died out; and as no one contradicted them, they must have been right.

And the rain continued to fall upon the burdock leaves solely to entertain them with its drumming, and the sun shone to light the forest for their especial benefit, and very happy they were—they and the whole snail family—inexpressibly happy!

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THE GREENIES

THE GREENIES

Hans Christian Andersen

p141iA ROSE TREE stood in the window. But a little while ago it had been green and fresh, and now it looked sickly—it was in poor health, no doubt. A whole regiment was quartered on it and was eating it up; yet, notwithstanding this seeming greediness, the regiment was a very decent and respectable one. It wore bright-green uniforms. I spoke to one of the “Greenies.” He was but three days old, and yet he was already a grandfather. What do you think he said? It is all true—he spoke of himself and of the rest of the regiment. Listen!

“We are the most wonderful creatures in the world. At a very early age we are engaged, and immediately we have the wedding. When the cold weather comes we lay our eggs, but the little ones lie sunny and warm. The wisest of the creatures, the ant,—we have the greatest respect for him!—understands us well. He appreciates us, you may be sure. He does not eat us up at once; he takes our eggs, lays them in the family ant hill on the ground floor—lays them, labeled and numbered, side by side, layer on layer, so that each day a new one may creep out of the egg. Then he puts us in a stable, pinches our hind legs, and milks us till we die. He has given us the prettiest of names—’little milch cow.’

“All creatures who, like the ant, are gifted with common sense call us by this pretty name. It is only human beings who do not. They give us another name, one that we feel to be a great affront—great enough to embitter our whole life. Could you not write a protest against it for us? Could you not rouse these human beings to a sense of the wrong they do us? They look at us so stupidly or, at times, with such envious eyes, just because we eat a rose leaf, while they themselves eat every created thing—whatever grows and is green. And oh, they give us the most humiliating of names! I will not even mention it. Ugh! I feel it to my very stomach. I cannot even pronounce it—at least not when I have my uniform on, and that I always wear.

“I was born on a rose leaf. I and all the regiment live on the rose tree. We live off it, in fact. But then it lives again in us, who belong to the higher order of created beings.

“The human beings do not like us. They pursue and murder us with soapsuds. Oh, it is a horrid drink! I seem to smell it even now. You cannot think how dreadful it is to be washed when one was not made to be washed. Men! you who look at us with your severe, soapsud eyes, think a moment what our place in nature is: we are born upon the roses, we die in roses—our whole life is a rose poem. Do not, I beg you, give us a name which you yourselves think so despicable—the name I cannot bear to pronounce. If you wish to speak of us, call us ‘the ants’ milch cows—the rose-tree regiment—the little green things.'”

“And I, the man, stood looking at the tree and at the little Greenies (whose name I shall not mention, for I should not like to wound the feelings of the citizens of the rose tree), a large family with eggs and young ones; and I looked at the soapsuds I was going to wash them in, for I too had come with soap and water and murderous intentions. But now I will use it for soap bubbles. Look, how beautiful! Perhaps there lies in each a fairy tale, and the bubble grows large and radiant and looks as if there were a pearl lying inside it.

The bubble swayed and swung. It flew to the door and then burst, but the door opened wide, and there stood Dame Fairytale herself! And now she will tell you better than I can about (I will not say the name) the little green things of the rosebush.

“Plant lice!” said Dame Fairytale. One must call things by their right names. And if one may not do so always, one must at least have the privilege of doing so in a fairy tale.

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THE REAL PRINCESS

THE REAL PRINCESS

There was once a prince, and he wanted a princess, but then she must be a real Princess. He travelled right round the world to find one, but there was always something wrong. There were plenty of princesses, but whether they were real princesses he had great difficulty in discovering; there was always something which was not quite right about them. So at last he had to come home again, and he was very sad because he wanted a real princess so badly.

One evening there was a terrible storm; it thundered and lightened and the rain poured down in torrents; indeed it was a fearful night.

In the middle of the storm somebody knocked at the town gate, and the old King himself went to open it.

It was a princess who stood outside, but she was in a terrible state from the rain and the storm. The water streamed out of her hair and her clothes; it ran in at the top of her shoes and out at the heel, but she said that she was a real princess.

‘Well we shall soon see if that is true,’ thought the old Queen, but she said nothing. She went into the bedroom, took all the bedclothes off and laid a pea on the bedstead: then she took twenty mattresses and piled them on the top of the pea, and then twenty feather beds on the top of the mattresses. This was where the princess was to sleep that night. In the morning they asked her how she had slept.

‘Oh terribly badly!’ said the princess. ‘I have hardly closed my eyes the whole night! Heaven knows what was in the bed. I seemed to be lying upon some hard thing, and my whole body is black and blue this morning. It is terrible!’

She must be a real princess
She must be a real princess

They saw at once that she must be a real princess when she had felt the pea through twenty mattresses and twenty feather beds. Nobody but a real princess could have such a delicate skin.

So the prince took her to be his wife, for now he was sure that he had found a real princess, and the pea was put into the Museum, where it may still be seen if no one has stolen it.

Now this is a true story.

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THE LITTLE MATCH GIRL

THE LITTLE MATCH GIRL

Poor little girl
Poor little girl

IT was dreadfully cold; it was snowing fast, and was almost dark, as evening came on—the last evening of the year. In the cold and the darkness, there went along the street a poor little girl, bareheaded and with naked feet. When she left home she had slippers on, it is true; but they were much too large for her feet—slippers that her mother had used till then, and the poor little girl lost them in running across the street when two carriages were passing terribly fast. When she looked for them, one was not to be found, and a boy seized the other and ran away with it, saying he would use it for a cradle some day, when he had children of his own.

So on the little girl went with her bare feet, that were red and blue with cold. In an old apron that she wore were bundles of matches, and she carried a bundle also in her hand. No one had bought so much as a bunch all the long day, and no one had given her even a penny.

Poor little girl! Shivering with cold and hunger she crept along, a perfect picture of misery.

The snowflakes fell on her long flaxen hair, which hung in pretty curls about her throat; but she thought not of her beauty nor of the cold. Lights gleamed in every window, and there came to her the savory smell of roast goose, for it was New Year’s Eve. And it was this of which she thought.

In a corner formed by two houses, one of which projected beyond the other, she sat cowering down. She had drawn under her  little feet, but still she grew colder and colder; yet she dared not go home, for she had sold no matches and could not bring a penny of money. Her father would certainly beat her; and, besides, it was cold enough at home, for they had only the house-roof above them, and though the largest holes had been stopped with straw and rags, there were left many through which the cold wind could whistle.

Where the light fell upon the wall it became transparent
Where the light fell upon the wall it became transparent

And now her little hands were nearly frozen with cold. Alas! A single match might do her good if she might only draw it from the bundle, rub it against the wall, and warm her fingers by it. So at last she drew one out. Whisht! How it blazed and burned! It gave out a warm, bright flame like a little candle, as she held her hands over it. A wonderful little light it was. It really seemed to the little girl as if she sat before a great iron stove with polished brass feet and brass shovel and tongs. So blessedly it burned that the little maiden stretched out her feet to warm them also. How comfortable she was! But lo! The flame went out, the stove vanished, and nothing remained but the little burned match in her hand.

She rubbed another match against the wall. It burned brightly, and where the light fell upon the wall it became transparent like a veil, so that she could see through it into the room. A snow-white cloth was spread upon the table, on which was a beautiful china dinner-service, while a roast goose, stuffed with apples and prunes, steamed famously and sent forth a most savory smell. And what was more delightful still, and wonderful, the goose jumped from the dish, with knife and fork still in its breast, and waddled along the floor straight to the little girl.
But the match went out then, and nothing was left to her but the thick, damp wall.
She lighted another match. And now she was under a most beautiful Christmas tree, larger and far more prettily trimmed than the one she had seen through the glass doors at the rich merchant’s. Hundreds of wax tapers were burning on the green branches, and gay figures, such as she had seen in shop windows, looked down upon her. The child stretched out her hands to them; then the match went out.

Still the lights of the Christmas tree rose higher and higher. She saw them now as stars in heaven, and one of them fell, forming a long trail of fire.

“Now some one is dying,” murmured the child softly; for her grandmother, the only person who had loved her, and who was now dead, had told her that whenever a star falls a soul mounts up to God.

She struck yet another match against the wall, and again it was light; and in the brightness there appeared before her the dear old grandmother, bright and radiant, yet sweet and mild, and happy as she had never looked on earth.

“Oh, grandmother,” cried the child, “take me with you. I know you will go away when the match burns out. You, too, will vanish, like the warm stove, the splendid New Year’s feast, the beautiful Christmas tree.” And lest her grandmother should disappear, she rubbed the whole bundle of matches against the wall.

And the matches burned with such a brilliant light that it became brighter than noonday. Her grandmother had never looked so grand and beautiful. She took the little girl in her arms, and both flew together, joyously and gloriously, mounting higher and higher, far above the earth; and for them there was neither hunger, nor cold, nor care—they were with God.

But in the corner, at the dawn of day, sat the poor girl, leaning against the wall, with red cheeks and smiling mouth—frozen to death on the last evening of the old year. Stiff and cold she sat, with the matches, one bundle of which was burned.

“She wanted to warm herself, poor little thing,” people said. No one imagined what sweet visions she had had, or how gloriously she had gone with her grandmother to enter upon the joys of a new year.

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THE DARNING-NEEDLE

THE DARNING-NEEDLE

The darning-needle

THERE was once a Darning-needle who thought herself so fine that she came at last to believe that she was fit for embroidery.

“Mind now that you hold me fast,” she said to the Fingers that took her up. “Pray don’t lose me. If I should fall on the ground I should certainly be lost, I am so fine.”

“That’s more than you can tell,” said the Fingers, as they grasped her tightly by the waist.

“I come with a train, you see,” said the Darning-needle, as she drew her long thread after her; but there was no knot in the thread.

The Fingers pressed the point of the Needle upon an old pair of slippers, in which the upper leather had burst and must be sewed together. The slippers belonged to the cook.

“This is very coarse work!” said the Darning-needle. “I shall never get through alive. There, I’m breaking! I’m breaking!” and break she did. “Did I not say so?” said the Darning-needle. “I’m too delicate for such work as that.”

“Now it’s quite useless for sewing,” said the Fingers; but they still held her all the same, for the cook presently dropped some melted sealing wax upon the needle and then pinned her neckerchief in front with it.

“See, now I’m a breastpin,” said the Darning-needle. “I well knew that I should come to honor; when one is something, one always comes to something. Merit is sure to rise.” And at this she laughed, only inwardly, of course, for one can never see when a Darning-needle laughs. There she sat now, quite at her ease, and as proud as if she sat in a state carriage and gazed upon all about her.

“May I take the liberty to ask if you are made of gold?” she asked of the pin, her neighbor. “You have a splendid appearance and quite a remarkable head, though it is so little. You should do what you can to grow—of course it is not every one that can have sealing wax dropped upon her.”

And the Darning-needle drew herself up so proudly that she fell out of the neckerchief into the sink, which the cook was at that moment rinsing.

“Now I’m going to travel,” said the Darning-needle, “if only I don’t get lost.”

But that was just what happened to her.

“I’m too delicate for this world,” she said, as she found herself in the gutter. “But I know who I am, and there is always some little pleasure in that!” It was thus that the Darning-needle kept up her proud bearing and lost none of her good humor. And now all sorts of things swam over her—chips and straws and scraps of old newspapers.

“Only see how they sail along,” said the Darning-needle to herself. “They little know what is under them, though it is I, and I sit firmly here. See! There goes a chip! It thinks of nothing in the world but itself—of nothing in the world but a chip! There floats a straw; see how it turns and twirls about. Do think of something besides yourself or you may easily run against a stone. There swims a bit of a newspaper. What’s written upon it is forgotten long ago, yet how it spreads itself out and gives itself airs! I sit patiently and quietly here! I know what I am, and I shall remain the same—always.”

One day there lay something beside her that glittered splendidly. She thought it must be a diamond, but it was really only a bit of broken glass from a bottle. As it shone so brightly the Darning-needle spoke to it, introducing herself as a breastpin.

“You are a diamond, I suppose,” she said.

“Why, yes, something of the sort.”

So each believed the other to be some rare and costly trinket; and they began to converse together upon the world, saying how very conceited it was.

“Yes,” said the Darning-needle, “I have lived in a young lady’s box; and the young lady happened to be a cook. She had five fingers upon each of her hands, and anything more conceited and arrogant than those five fingers, I never saw. And yet they were only there that they might take me out of the box or put me back again.”

“Were they of high descent?” asked the Bit of Bottle. “Did they shine?”

“No, indeed,” replied the Darning-needle; “but they were none the less haughty. There were five brothers of them—all of the Finger family. And they held themselves so proudly side by side, though they were of quite different heights. The outermost, Thumbling he was called, was short and thick set; he generally stood out of the rank, a little in front of the others; he had only one joint in his back, and could only bow once; but he used to say that if he were cut off from a man, that man would be cut off from military service. Foreman, the second, put himself forward on all occasions, meddled with sweet and sour, pointed to sun and moon, and when the fingers wrote, it was he who pressed the pen. Middleman, the third of the brothers, could look over the others’ heads, and gave himself airs for that. Ringman, the fourth, went about with a gold belt about his waist; and little Playman, whom they called Peter Spielman, did nothing at all and was proud of that, I suppose. There was nothing to be heard but boasting, and that is why I took myself away.”

“And now we sit here together and shine,” said the Bit of Bottle.

At that very moment some water came rushing along the gutter, so that it overflowed and carried the glass diamond along with it.

“So he is off,” said the Darning-needle, “and I still remain. I am left here because I am too slender and genteel. But that’s my pride, and pride is honorable.” And proudly she sat, thinking many thoughts.

“I could almost believe I had been born of a sunbeam, I’m so fine. It seems as if the sunbeams were always trying to seek me under the water. Alas, I’m so delicate that even my own mother cannot find me. If I had my old eye still, which broke off, I think I should cry—but no, I would not; it’s not genteel to weep.”

One day a couple of street boys were paddling about in the gutter, hunting for old nails, pennies, and such like. It was dirty work, but they seemed to find great pleasure in it.

“Hullo!” cried one of them, as he pricked himself with the Darning-needle; “here’s a fellow for you!”

“I’m not a fellow! I’m a young lady!” said the Darning-needle, but no one heard it.

The sealing wax had worn off, and she had become quite black; “but black makes one look slender, and is always becoming.” She thought herself finer even than before.

“There goes an eggshell sailing along,” said the boys; and they stuck the Darning-needle into the shell.

“A lady in black, and within white walls!” said the Darning-needle; “that is very striking. Now every one can see me. I hope I shall not be seasick, for then I shall break.”

But the fear was needless; she was not seasick, neither did she break.

“Nothing is so good to prevent seasickness as to have a steel stomach and to bear in mind that one is something a little more than an ordinary person. My seasickness is all over now. The more genteel and honorable one is, the more one can endure.”

Crash went the eggshell, as a wagon rolled over both of them. It was a wonder that she did not break.

“Mercy, what a crushing weight!” said the Darning-needle. “I’m growing seasick, after all. I’m going to break!”

But she was not sick, and she did not break, though the wagon wheels rolled over her. She lay at full length in the road, and there let her lie.

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SUNSHINE STORIES

SUNSHINE STORIES

sunshine stories

I AM going to tell a story,” said the Wind.

“I beg your pardon,” said the Rain, “but now it is my turn. Have you not been howling round the corner this long time, as hard as ever you could?”

“Is this the gratitude you owe me?” said the Wind; “I, who in honor of you turn inside out—yes, even break—all the umbrellas, when the people won’t have anything to do with you.”

“I will speak myself,” said the Sunshine. “Silence!” and the Sunshine said it with such glory and majesty that the weary Wind fell prostrate, and the Rain, beating against him, shook him, as she said:

“We won’t stand it! She is always breaking through—is Madame Sunshine. Let us not  listen to her; what she has to say is not worth hearing.” And still the Sunshine began to talk, and this is what she said:

“A beautiful swan flew over the rolling, tossing waves of the ocean. Every one of its feathers shone like gold; and one feather drifted down to the great merchant vessel that, with sails all set, was sailing away.

“The feather fell upon the light curly hair of a young man, whose business it was to care for the goods in the ship—the supercargo he was called. The feather of the bird of fortune touched his forehead, became a pen in his hand, and brought him such luck that he soon became a wealthy merchant, rich enough to have bought for himself spurs of gold—rich enough to change a golden plate into a nobleman’s shield, on which,” said the Sunshine, “I shone.”

“The swan flew farther, away and away, over the sunny green meadow, where the little shepherd boy, only seven years old, had lain down in the shade of the old tree, the only one there was in sight.

“In its flight the swan kissed one of the leaves of the tree, and falling into the boy’s hand, it was changed to three leaves—to ten—to a whole book; yes, and in the book he read about all the wonders of nature, about his native language, about faith and knowledge. At night he laid the book under his pillow, that he might not forget what he had been reading.

“The wonderful book led him also to the schoolroom, and thence everywhere, in search of knowledge. I have read his name among the names of learned men,” said the Sunshine.

“The swan flew into the quiet, lonely forest, and rested awhile on the deep, dark lake where the lilies grow, where the wild apples are to be found on the shore, where the cuckoo and the wild pigeon have their homes.

“In the wood was a poor woman gathering firewood—branches and dry sticks that had fallen. She bore them on her back in a bundle, and in her arms she held her little child. She too saw the golden swan, the bird of fortune, as it rose from among the reeds on the shore. What was it that glittered so? A golden egg that was still quite warm. She laid it in her bosom, and the warmth remained. Surely there was life in the egg! She heard the gentle pecking inside the shell, but she thought it was her own heart that was beating.

“At home in her poor cottage she took out the egg.  ‘Tick! Tick!’ it said, as if it had been a gold watch, but it was not; it was an egg—a real, living egg.

“The egg cracked and opened, and a dear little baby swan, all feathered as with the purest gold, pushed out its tiny head. Around its neck were four rings, and as this woman had four boys—three at home, and this little one that was with her in the lonely wood—she understood at once that there was one for each boy. Just as she had taken them the little gold bird took flight.

“She kissed each ring, then made each of the children kiss one of the rings, laid it next the child’s heart awhile, then put it on his finger. I saw it all,” said the Sunshine, “and I saw what happened afterward.

The egg cracked and opened
The egg cracked and opened

“One of the boys, while playing by a ditch, took a lump of clay in his hand, then turned and twisted it till it took shape and was like Jason, who went in search of the Golden Fleece and found it.

“The second boy ran out upon the meadow, where stood the flowers—flowers of all imaginable colors. He gathered a handful and squeezed them so tightly that the juice flew into his eyes, and some of it wet the ring upon his hand. It cribbled and crawled in his brain and in his hands, and after many a day and many a year, people in the great city talked of the famous painter that he was.

“The third child held the ring in his teeth, and so tightly that it gave forth sound—the echo of a song in the depth of his heart. Then thoughts and feelings rose in beautiful sounds,—rose like singing swans,—plunged, too, like swans, into the deep, deep sea. He became a great musical composer, a master, of whom every country has the right to say, ‘He was mine, for he was the world’s.’

“And the fourth little one—yes, he was the ‘ugly duck’ of the family. They said he had the pip and must eat pepper and butter like a sick chicken, and that was what was given him; but of me he got a warm, sunny kiss,” said the Sunshine. “He had ten kisses for one. He was a poet and was first kissed, then buffeted all his life through.

“But he held what no one could take from him—the ring of fortune from Dame Fortune’s golden swan. His thoughts took wing and flew up and away like singing butterflies—emblems of an immortal life.”

“That was a dreadfully long story,” said the Wind.

“And so stupid and tiresome,” said the Rain. “Blow upon me, please, that I may revive a little.”

And while the Wind blew, the Sunshine said: “The swan of fortune flew over the lovely bay where the fishermen had set their nets. The very poorest one among them was wishing to marry—and marry he did.

“To him the swan brought a piece of amber. Amber draws things toward itself, and this piece drew hearts to the house where the fisherman lived with his bride. Amber is the most wonderful of incense, and there came a soft perfume, as from a holy place, a sweet breath from beautiful nature, that God has made. And the fisherman and his wife were happy and grateful in their peaceful home, content even in their poverty. And so their life became a real Sunshine Story.”

“I think we had better stop now,” said the Wind. “I am dreadfully bored. The Sunshine has talked long enough.”

“I think so, too,” said the Rain.

And what do we others who have heard the story say?

We say, “Now the story’s done.”

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