Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Steadfast Tin Soldier”

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There were once five-and-twenty tin soldiers. They were all brothers, born of the same old tin spoon. They shouldered their muskets and looked straight ahead of them, splendid in their uniforms, all red and blue.

The very first thing in the world that they heard was, “Tin soldiers!” A small boy shouted it and clapped his hands as the lid was lifted off their box on his birthday. He immediately set them up on the table.

All the soldiers looked exactly alike except one. He looked a little different as he had been cast last of all. The tin was short, so he had only one leg. But there he stood, as steady on one leg as any of the other soldiers on their two. But just you see, he’ll be the remarkable one.

On the table with the soldiers were many other playthings, and one that no eye could miss was a marvelous castle of cardboard. It had little windows through which you could look right inside it. And in front of the castle were miniature trees around a little mirror supposed to represent a lake. The wax swans that swam on its surface were reflected in the mirror. All this was very pretty but prettiest of all was the little lady who stood in the open doorway of the castle. Though she was a paper doll, she wore a dress of the fluffiest gauze. A tiny blue ribbon went over her shoulder for a scarf, and in the middle of it shone a spangle that was as big as her face. The little lady held out both her arms, as a ballet dancer does, and one leg was lifted so high behind her that the tin soldier couldn’t see it at all, and he supposed she must have only one leg, as he did.

“That would be a wife for me,” he thought. “But maybe she’s too grand. She lives in a castle. I have only a box, with four-and-twenty roommates to share it. That’s no place for her. But I must try to make her acquaintance.” Still as stiff as when he stood at attention, he lay down on the table behind a snuffbox, where he could admire the dainty little dancer who kept standing on one leg without ever losing her balance.

When the evening came the other tin soldiers were put away in their box, and the people of the house went to bed. Now the toys began to play among themselves at visits, and battles, and at giving balls. The tin soldiers rattled about in their box, for they wanted to play too, but they could not get the lid open. The nutcracker turned somersaults, and the slate pencil squeaked out jokes on the slate. The toys made such a noise that they woke up the canary bird, who made them a speech, all in verse. The only two who stayed still were the tin soldier and the little dancer. Without ever swerving from the tip of one toe, she held out her arms to him, and the tin soldier was just as steadfast on his one leg. Not once did he take his eyes off her.

Then the clock struck twelve and – clack! – up popped the lid of the snuffbox. But there was no snuff in it, no-out bounced a little black bogey, a jack-in-the-box.

“Tin soldier,” he said. “Will you please keep your eyes to yourself?” The tin soldier pretended not to hear.

The bogey said, “Just you wait till tomorrow.”

But when morning came, and the children got up, the soldier was set on the window ledge. And whether the bogey did it, or there was a gust of wind, all of a sudden the window flew open and the soldier pitched out headlong from the third floor. He fell at breathtaking speed and landed cap first, with his bayonet buried between the paving stones and his one leg stuck straight in the air. The housemaid and the little boy ran down to look for him and, though they nearly stepped on the tin soldier, they walked right past without seeing him. If the soldier had called, “Here I am!” they would surely have found him, but he thought it contemptible to raise an uproar while he was wearing his uniform.

Soon it began to rain. The drops fell faster and faster, until they came down by the bucketful. As soon as the rain let up, along came two young rapscallions.

“Hi, look!” one of them said, “there’s a tin soldier. Let’s send him sailing.”

They made a boat out of newspaper, put the tin soldier in the middle of it, and away he went down the gutter with the two young rapscallions running beside him and clapping their hands. High heavens! How the waves splashed, and how fast the water ran down the gutter. Don’t forget that it had just been raining by the bucketful. The paper boat pitched, and tossed, and sometimes it whirled about so rapidly that it made the soldier’s head spin. But he stood as steady as ever. Never once flinching, he kept his eyes front, and carried his gun shoulder-high. Suddenly the boat rushed under a long plank where the gutter was boarded over. It was as dark as the soldier’s own box.

“Where can I be going?” the soldier wondered. “This must be that black bogey’s revenge. Ah! if only I had the little lady with me, it could be twice as dark here for all that I would care.”

Out popped a great water rat who lived under the gutter plank.

“Have you a passport?” said the rat. “Hand it over.”

The soldier kept quiet and held his musket tighter. On rushed the boat, and the rat came right after it, gnashing his teeth as he called to the sticks and straws:

“Halt him! Stop him! He didn’t pay his toll. He hasn’t shown his passport. “But the current ran stronger and stronger. The soldier could see daylight ahead where the board ended, but he also heard a roar that would frighten the bravest of us. Hold on! Right at the end of that gutter plank the water poured into the great canal. It was as dangerous to him as a waterfall would be to us.

He was so near it he could not possibly stop. The boat plunged into the whirlpool. The poor tin soldier stood as staunch as he could, and no one can say that he so much as blinked an eye. Thrice and again the boat spun around. It filled to the top – and was bound to sink. The water was up to his neck and still the boat went down, deeper, deeper, deeper, and the paper got soft and limp. Then the water rushed over his head. He thought of the pretty little dancer whom he’d never see again, and in his ears rang an old, old song:

“Farewell, farewell, O warrior brave,

Nobody can from Death thee save.”

And now the paper boat broke beneath him, and the soldier sank right through. And just at that moment he was swallowed by a most enormous fish.

My! how dark it was inside that fish. It was darker than under the gutter-plank and it was so cramped, but the tin soldier still was staunch. He lay there full length, soldier fashion, with musket to shoulder.

Then the fish flopped and floundered in a most unaccountable way. Finally it was perfectly still, and after a while something struck through him like a flash of lightning. The tin soldier saw daylight again, and he heard a voice say, “The Tin Soldier!” The fish had been caught, carried to market, bought, and brought to a kitchen where the cook cut him open with her big knife.

She picked the soldier up bodily between her two fingers, and carried him off upstairs. Everyone wanted to see this remarkable traveler who had traveled about in a fish’s stomach, but the tin soldier took no pride in it. They put him on the table and-lo and behold, what curious things can happen in this world-there he was, back in the same room as before. He saw the same children, the same toys were on the table, and there was the same fine castle with the pretty little dancer. She still balanced on one leg, with the other raised high. She too was steadfast. That touched the soldier so deeply that he would have cried tin tears, only soldiers never cry. He looked at her, and she looked at him, and never a word was said. Just as things were going so nicely for them, one of the little boys snatched up the tin soldier and threw him into the stove. He did it for no reason at all. That black bogey in the snuffbox must have put him up to it.

The tin soldier stood there dressed in flames. He felt a terrible heat, but whether it came from the flames or from his love he didn’t know. He’d lost his splendid colors, maybe from his hard journey, maybe from grief, nobody can say.

He looked at the little lady, and she looked at him, and he felt himself melting. But still he stood steadfast, with his musket held trim on his shoulder.

Then the door blew open. A puff of wind struck the dancer. She flew like a sylph, straight into the fire with the soldier, blazed up in a flash, and was gone. The tin soldier melted, all in a lump. The next day, when a servant took up the ashes she found him in the shape of a little tin heart. But of the pretty dancer nothing was left except her spangle, and it was burned as black as a coal.

 

I know this story doesn’t have the best ending, but it’s my favorite HCA story right behind The Snow Queen. I hope you all enjoyed it, and if you like the artwork, you can CLICK HERE to visit the artist’s deviantart page. For new fairy tale updates every Wednesday and Saturday, follow this blog!

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Lewis Carroll’s “Facts”

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WERE I to take an iron gun,

And fire it off towards the sun;

I grant ‘twould reach its mark at last,

But not till many years had passed.

 

But should that bullet change its force,

And to the planets take its course,

‘Twould never reach the nearest star,

Because it is so very far.

 

For new fairy tale updates every Wednesday and Saturday, follow this blog!

FREE BOOK!

Hello everyone! If you  like fairy tales, fantasy, adventure, the brothers Grimm, and The Snow Queen, you’re going to love The Prince of Prophecy series. The first book in the series (Destined) was just released this past summer, and if you haven’t got the chance to pick it up yet, you can enter for a chance to win a copy of The Prince of Prophecy Vol. I: Destined RIGHT HERE!

Here are some things that people are saying about Destined:

“The Prince of Prophecy Vol. I: Destined is one of the best young adult fantasy books I’ve read since the Harry Potter series. It is a fun and exciting twist on fairy tales and incorporates humor, bravery, friendship, and love. The author has created her own fantasy world and has combined her world with the classic tales that we all grew up with. I would recommend this book for anyone who is interested in classic fairy tales and fantasy/adventure stories. This is only the first book in the series, and I can’t wait to read more and find out what happens to Prince Destan and all of his friends.”

“Amazing! I was intrigued by the setting and characters alone, but by the time little Destan wanders into the past and through dusty corridors I neck-deep in nostalgia. Captivated by the intertwining of fairy tales old and new, I couldn’t have asked for a better way to revisit the mass of books I had read way back in primary school. Fo reals.
Quite the ride and delivers a happy ending as only pen and paper can.”

“The Prince of Prophecy: Destined,” is a great story for anyone with an interest in fairy tale twists, as well as those who enjoy the fantasy genre. The book is a bildungsroman tied together with mystery, whimsy, and magic. Recommended for both the young and young at heart.”

“This book is the best fantasy novel I’ve read in a while! All of the characters are vivid and fun, and the main character (Destan) develops beautifully over the course of the book. I loved the fairy tale elements as well as the fact that the Grimm brothers were included in the story (they were really funny). I recommended this book to both the young, and the young at heart.”

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For new Prince of Prophecy and fairy tale updates every Wednesday and Saturday, follow this blog!

I’m not dead and I’ve got PRIZES!

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Hey guys! Long time, no post … sorry about that. I just begun working on publishing the second book in The Prince of Prophecy series, Cursed! It’s been a lot of fun so far, but it’s also been extremely time-consuming. The Prince of Prophecy Vol. II: Cursed will be launching in this December!

Also, my editor is hosting a Destined giveaway on her website. Enter if you’d like to win a copy of The Prince of Prophecy Vol. I: Destined. I’ve offered to give away two copies, so there’s TWO chances for you to win! CLICK HERE to enter the contest!  Come on, guys, who doesn’t like free stuff? CRAZY PEOPLE DON’T LIKE FREE STUFF! So swing on by and enter to win!

We should be back to our regular scheduling by Saturday. I owe you guys lots of fairy tale, so look forward to that come the weekend!

 

For new Prince of Prophecy and fairy tale updates every Wednesday and Saturday, follow this blog! Thanks for your support, everyone!

Rudyard Kipling’s “Rikki-Tikki-Tavi”

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At the hole where he went in
Red-Eye called to Wrinkle-Skin.
Hear what little Red-Eye saith:
“Nag, come up and dance with death!”

Eye to eye and head to head,
(Keep the measure, Nag.)
This shall end when one is dead;
(At thy pleasure, Nag.)
Turn for turn and twist for twist-
(Run and hide thee, Nag.)
Hah! The hooded Death has missed!
(Woe betide thee, Nag!)

This is the story of the great war that Rikki-tikki-tavi fought single-handed, through the bath-rooms of the big bungalow in Segowlee cantonment. Darzee, the tailor-bird, helped him, and Chuchundra, the musk-rat, who never comes out into the middle of the floor, but always creeps round by the wall, gave him advice; but Rikki-tikki did the real fighting.

He was a mongoose, rather like a little cat in his fur and his tail, but quite like a weasel in his head and his habits. His eyes and the end of his restless nose were pink; he could scratch himself anywhere he pleased, with any leg, front or back, that he chose to use; he could fluff up his tail till it looked like a bottle-brush, and his war-cry, as he scuttled through the long grass, was: “Rikk-tikk-tikki-tikki-tchk!”

One day, a high summer flood washed him out of the burrow where he lived with his father and mother, and carried him, kicking and clucking, down a roadside ditch. He found a little wisp of grass floating there, and clung to it till he lost his senses. When he revived, he was lying in the hot sun on the middle of a garden path, very draggled indeed, and a small boy was saying: “Here’s a dead mongoose. Let’s have a funeral.”

“No,” said his mother; “let’s take him in and dry him. Perhaps he isn’t really dead.”

They took him into the house, and a big man picked him up between his finger and thumb, and said he was not dead but half choked; so they wrapped him in cotton-wool, and warmed him, and he opened his eyes and sneezed.

“Now,” said the big man (he was an Englishman who had just moved into the bungalow); “don’t frighten him, and we’ll see what he’ll do.”

It is the hardest thing in the world to frighten a mongoose, because he is eaten up from nose to tail with curiosity. The motto of all the mongoose family is “Run and find out”; and Rikki-tikki was a true mongoose. He looked at the cotton-wool, decided that it was not good to eat, ran all around the table, sat up and put his fur in order, scratched himself, and jumped on the small boy’s shoulder.

“Don’t be frightened, Teddy,” said his father. “That’s his way of making friends.”

“Ouch! He’s tickling under my chin,” said Teddy.

Rikki-tikki looked down between the boy’s collar and neck, snuffed at his ear, and climbed down to the floor, where he sat rubbing his nose.

“Good gracious,” said Teddy’s mother, “and that’s a wild creature! I suppose he’s so tame because we’ve been kind to him.”

“All mongooses are like that,” said her husband. “If Teddy doesn’t pick him up by the tail, or try to put him in a cage, he’ll run in and out of the house all day long. Let’s give him something to eat.”

They gave him a little piece of raw meat. Rikki-tikki liked it immensely, and when it was finished he went out into the verandah and sat in the sunshine and fluffed up his fur to make it dry to the roots. Then he felt better.

“There are more things to find out about in this house,” he said to himself, “than all my family could find out in all their lives. I shall certainly stay and find out.”

He spent all that day roaming over the house. He nearly drowned himself in the bath-tubs, put his nose into the ink on a writing table, and burnt it on the end of the big man’s cigar, for he climbed up in the big man’s lap to see how writing was done. At nightfall he ran into Teddy’s nursery to watch how kerosene-lamps were lighted, and when Teddy went to bed Rikki-tikki climbed up too; but he was a restless companion, because he had to get up and attend to every noise all through the night, and find out what made it. Teddy’s mother and father came in, the last thing, to look at their boy, and Rikki-tikki was awake on the pillow. “I don’t like that,” said Teddy’s mother; “he may bite the child.” “He’ll do no such thing,” said the father. “Teddy’s safer with that little beast than if he had a bloodhound to watch him. If a snake came into the nursery now — ”

But Teddy’s mother wouldn’t think of anything so awful.

Early in the morning Rikki-tikki came to early breakfast in the verandah riding on Teddy’s shoulder, and they gave him banana and some boiled egg; and he sat on all their laps one after the other, because every well-brought-up mongoose always hopes to be a house-mongoose some day and have rooms to run about in, and Rikki-tikki’s mother (she used to live in the General’s house at Segowlee) had carefully told Rikki what to do if ever he came across white men.

Then Rikki-tikki went out into the garden to see what was to be seen. It was a large garden, only half cultivated, with bushes as big as summer-houses of Marshal Niel roses, lime and orange trees, clumps of bamboos, and thickets of high grass. Rikki-tikki licked his lips. “This is a splendid hunting-ground,” he said, and his tail grew bottle-brushy at the thought of it, and he scuttled up and down the garden, snuffing here and there till he heard very sorrowful voices in a thorn-bush.

It was Darzee, the tailor-bird, and his wife. They had made a beautiful nest by pulling two big leaves together and stitching them up the edges with fibres, and had filled the hollow with cotton and downy fluff. The nest swayed to and fro, as they sat on the rim and cried.

“What is the matter?” asked Rikki-tikki.

“We are very miserable,” said Darzee. “One of our babies fell out of the nest yesterday, and Nag ate him.”

“H’m!” said Rikki-tikki, “that is very sad — but I am a stranger here. Who is Nag?”

Darzee and his wife only cowered down in the nest without answering, for from the thick grass at the foot of the bush there came a low hiss — a horrid cold sound that made Rikki-tikki jump back two clear feet. Then inch by inch out of the grass rose up the head and spread hood of Nag, the big black cobra, and he was five feet long from tongue to tail. When he had lifted one-third of himself clear of the ground, he stayed balancing to and fro exactly as a dandelion-tuft balances in the wind, and he looked at Rikki-tikki with the wicked snake’s eyes that never change their expression, whatever the snake may be thinking of.

“Who is Nag?” said he. ”I am Nag. The great god Brahm put his mark upon all our people when the first cobra spread his hood to keep the sun off Brahm as he slept. Look, and be afraid!”

He spread out his hood more than ever, and Rikki-tikki saw the spectacle-mark on the back of it that looks exactly like the eye part of a hook-and-eye fastening. He was afraid for the minute; but it is impossible for a mongoose to stay frightened for any length of time, and though Rikki-tikki had never met a live cobra before, his mother had fed him on dead ones, and he knew that all a grown mongoose’s business in life was to fight and eat snakes. Nag knew that too, and at the bottom of his cold heart he was afraid.

“Well,” said Rikki-tikki, and his tail began to fluff up again, “marks or no marks, do you think it is right for you to eat fledglings out of a nest?”

Nag was thinking to himself, and watching the least little movement in the grass behind Rikki-tikki. He knew that mongooses in the garden meant death sooner or later for him and his family, but he wanted to get Rikki-tikki off his guard. So he dropped his head a little, and put it on one side.

“Let us talk,” he said. “You eat eggs. Why should not I eat birds?”

“Behind you! Look behind you!” sang Darzee.

Rikki-tikki knew better than to waste time in staring. He jumped up in the air as high as he could go, and just under him whizzed by the head of Nagaina, Nag’s wicked wife. She had crept up behind him as he was talking, to make an end of him; and he heard her savage hiss as the stroke missed. He came down almost across her back, and if he had been an old mongoose he would have know that then was the time to break her back with one bite; but he was afraid of the terrible lashing return-stroke of the cobra. He bit, indeed, but did not bite long enough, and he jumped clear of the whisking tail, leaving Nagaina torn and angry.

“Wicked, wicked Darzee!” said Nag, lashing up as high as he could reach toward the nest in the thornbush; but Darzee had built it out of reach of snakes, and it only swayed to and fro.

Rikki-tikki felt his eyes growing red and hot (when a mongoose’s eyes grow red, he is angry), and he sat back on his tail and hind legs like a little kangaroo, and looked all round him, and chattered with rage. But Nag and Nagaina had disappeared into the grass. When a snake misses its stroke, it never says anything or gives any sign of what it means to do next. Rikki-tikki did not care to follow them, for he did not feel sure that he could manage two snakes at once. So he trotted off to the gravel path near the house, and sat down to think. It was a serious matter for him.

If you read the old books of natural history, you will find they say that when the mongoose fights the snake and happens to get bitten, he runs off and eats some herb that cures him. That is not true. The victory is only a matter of quickness of eye and quickness of foot, — snake’s blow against mongoose’s jump, — and as no eye can follow the motion of a snake’s head when it strikes, that makes things much more wonderful than any magic herb. Rikki-tikki knew he was a young mongoose, and it made him all the more pleased to think that he had managed to escape a blow from behind. It gave him confidence in himself, and when Teddy came running down the path, Rikki-tikki was ready to be petted.

But just as Teddy was stooping, something flinched a little in the dust, and a tiny voice said: “Be careful. I am death!” It was Karait, the dusty brown snakeling that lies for choice on the dusty earth; and his bite is as dangerous as the cobra’s. But he is so small that nobody thinks of him, and so he does the more harm to people.

Rikki-tikki’s eyes grew red again, and he danced up to Karait with the peculiar rocking, swaying motion that he had inherited from his family. It looks very funny, but it is so perfectly balanced a gait that you can fly off from it at any angle you please; and in dealing with snakes this is an advantage. If Rikki-tikki had only known, he was doing a much more dangerous thing that fighting Nag, for Karait is so small, and can turn so quickly, that unless Rikki bit him close to the back of the head, he would get the return-stroke in his eye or lip. But Rikki did not know: his eyes were all red, and he rocked back and forth, looking for a good place to hold. Karait struck out. Rikki jumped sideways and tried to run in, but the wicked little dusty gray head lashed within a fraction of his shoulder, and he had to jump over the body, and the head followed his heels close.

Teddy shouted to the house: “Oh, look here! Our mongoose is killing a snake”; and Rikki-tikki heard a scream from Teddy’s mother. His father ran out with a stick, but by the time he came up, Karait had lunged out once too far, and Rikki-tikki- had sprung, jumped on the snake’s back, dropped his head far between his fore-legs, bitten as high up the back as he could get hold, and rolled away. That bite paralysed Karait, and Rikki-tikki was just going to eat him up from the tail, after the custom of his family at dinner, when he remembered that a full meal makes a slow mongoose, and if wanted all his strength and quickness ready, he must keep himself thin.

He went away for a dust-bath under the castor-oil bushes, while Teddy’s father beat the dead Karait. “What is the use of that?” thought Rikki-tikki. “I have settled it all”; and then Teddy’s mother picked him up from the dust and hugged him, crying that he had saved Teddy from death, and Teddy’s father said that he was a providence, and Teddy looked on with big scared eyes. Rikki-tikki was rather amused at all the fuss, which, of course, he did not understand. Teddy’s mother might just as well have petted Teddy for playing in the dust. Rikki was thoroughly enjoying himself.

That night, at dinner, walking to and fro among the wine-glasses on the table, he could have stuffed himself three times over with nice things; but he remembered Nag and Nagaina, and though it was very pleasant to be patted and petted by Teddy’s mother, and to sit on Teddy’s shoulder, his eyes would get red from time to time, and he would go off into his long war-cry of “Rikk-tikk-tikki-tikki-tchk!”

Teddy carried him off to bed, and insisted on Rikki-tikki sleeping under his chin. Rikki-tikki was too well bred to bite or scratch, but as soon as Teddy was asleep he went off for his nightly walk round the house, and in the dark he ran up against Chuchundra, the muskrat, creeping round by the wall. Chuchundra is a broken-hearted little beast. He whimpers and cheeps all the night, trying to make up his mind to run into the middle of the room, but he never gets there.

“Don’t kill me,” said Chuichundra, almost weeping. “Rikki-tikki, don’t kill me.”

“Do you think a snake-killer kills musk-rats?” said Rikki-tikki scornfully.

“Those who kill snakes get killed by snakes,” said Chuchundra, more sorrowfully than ever. “And how am I to be sure that Nag won’t mistake me for you some dark night?”

“There’s not the least danger,” said Rikki-tikki; “but Nag is in the garden, and I know you don’t go there.”

“My cousin Chua, the rat, told me –” said Chuchundra, and then he stopped.

“Told you what?”

“H’sh! Nag is everywhere, Rikki-tikki. You should have talked to Chua in the garden.”

“I didn’t — so you must tell me. Quick Chuchundra, or I’ll bite you!”

Chuchundra sat down and cried till the tears rolled off his whiskers. “I am a very poor man,” he sobbed. “I never had spirit enough to run out into the middle of the room. H’sh! I musn’t tell you anything. Can’t you hear, Rikki-tikki?”

Rikki-tikki listened. The house was as still as still, but he thought he could just catch the faintest scratch-scratch in the world, — a noise as faint as that of a wasp walking on a window-pane, — the dry scratch of a snake’s scales on brick-work.

“That’s Nag or Nagaina,” he said to himself; “and he is crawling into the bath-room sluice. You’re right Chuchundra; I should have talked to Chua.”

He stole off to Teddy’s bath-room, but there was nothing there, and then to Teddy’s mother’s bathroom. At the bottom of the smooth plaster wall there was a brick pulled out to make a sluice for the bath-water, and as Rikki-tikki stole in by the masonry curb where the bath is put, he heard Nag and Nagaina whispering together outside in the moonlight.

“When the house is emptied of people,” said Nagaina to her husband, “he will have to go away, and then the garden will be our own again. Go in quietly, and remember that the big man who killed Karait is the first one to bite. Then come out and tell me, and we will hunt for Rikki-tikki together.”

“But are you sure that there is anything to be gained by killing the people?” said Nag.

“Everything. When there were no people in the bungalow, did we have any mongoose in the garden? So long as the bungalow is empty, we are king and queen of the garden; and remember that as soon as our eggs in the melon-bed hatch (as they may to-morrow), our children will need room and quiet.”

“I had not thought of that,” said Nag. “I will go, but there is no need that we should hunt for Rikki-tikki afterward. I will kill the big man and his wife, and the child if I can, and come away quietly. The the bungalow will be empty, and Rikki-tikki will go.”

Rikki-tikki tingled all over with rage and hatred at this, and then Nag’s head came through the sluice, and his five feet of cold body followed it. Angry as he was, Rikki-tikki was very frightened as he saw the size of the big cobra. Nag coiled himself up, raised his head, and looked into the bath-room in the dark, and Rikki could see his eyes glitter.

“Now, if I kill him here, Nagaina will know; and if I fight him on the open floor, the odds are in his favour. What am I to do?” said Rikki-tikki-tavi.

Nag waved to and fro, and then Rikki-tikki heard him drinking from the biggest water-jar that was used to fill the bath. “That is good,” said the snake. “Now, when Karait was killed, the big man had a stick. He may have that stick still, but when he comes in to bathe in the morning he will not have a stick. I shall wait here till he comes. Nagaina — do you hear me? — I shall wait here in the cool till daytime.”

There was no answer from outside, so Rikki-tikki knew Nagaina had gone away. Nag coiled himself down, coil by coil, round the bulge at the bottom of the water-jar, and Rikki-tikki stayed still as death. After an hour he began to move, muscle by muscle, toward the jar. Nag was asleep, and Rikki-tikki looked at his big back, wondering which would be the best place for a good hold. “If I don’t break his back at the first jump,” said Rikki, “he can still fight; and if he fights — O Rikki!” He looked at the thickness of the neck below the hood, but that was too much for him; and a bite near the tail would only make Nag savage.

“It must be the head,” he said at last; “the head above the hood; and when I am once there, I must not let go.”

Then he jumped. The head was lying a little clear of the water-jar, under the curve of it; and, as his teeth met, Rikki braced his back against the bulge of the red earthenware to hold down the head. This gave him just one second’s purchase, and he made the most of it. Then he was battered to and fro as a rat is shaken by a dog — to and fro on the floor, up and down, and round in great circles; but his eyes were red, and he held on as the body cart-whipped over the floor, upsetting the tin dipper and the soap-dish and the flesh-brush, and banged against the tin side of the bath. As he held he closed his jaws tighter and tighter, for he made sure he would be banged to death, and, for the honour of his family, he preferred to be found with his teeth locked. He was dizzy, aching, and felt shaken to pieces when something went off like a thunderclap just behind him; a hot wind knocked him senseless, and red fire singed his fur. The big man had been wakened by the noise, and had fired both barrels of a shot-gun into Nag just behind the hood.

Rikki-tikki held on with his eyes shut, for now he was quite sure he was dead; but the head did not move, and the big man picked him up and said: “It’s the mongoose again, Alice; the little chap has saved our lives now.” Then Teddy’s mother came in with a very white face, and saw what was left of Nag, and Rikki-tikki dragged himself to Teddy’s bedroom and spent half the rest of the night shaking himself tenderly to find out whether he was really broken into forty pieces, as he fancied.

When morning came he was very stiff, but well pleased with his doings. “Now I have Nagaina to settle with, and she will be worse than five Nags, and there’s no knowing when the eggs she spoke of will hatch. Goodness! I must go and see Darzee,” he said.

Without waiting for breakfast, Rikki-tikki ran to the thorn-bush where Darzee was singing a song of triumph at the top of his voice. The news of Nag’s death was all over the garden, for the sweeper had thrown the body on the rubbish-heap.

“Oh, you stupid tuft of feathers!” said Rikki-tikki angrily. “Is this the time to sing?”

“Nag is dead — is dead — is dead!” sang Darzee. “The valiant Rikki-tikki caught him by the head and held fast. The big man brought the bang-stick, and Nag fell in two pieces! He will never eat my babies again.”

“All that’s true enough; but where’s Nagaina?” said Rikki-tikki, looking carefully round him.

“Nagaina came to the bath-room sluice and called for Nag,” Darzee went on; “and Nag came out on the end of a stick — the sweeper picked him up on the end of a stick and threw him upon the rubbish-heap. Let us sing about the great, the red-eyed Rikki-tikki!” and Darzee filled his throat and sang.

“If I could get up to your nest, I’d roll all your babies out!” said Rikki-tikki. “You don’t know when to do the right thing at the right time. You’re safe enough in your nest there, but it’s war for me down here. Stop singing a minute, Darzee.”

“For the great, the beautiful Rikki-tikki’s sake I will stop,” said Darzee. “What is it, O Killer of the terrible Nag?”

“Where is Nagaina, for the third time?”

“On the rubbish-heap by the stables, mourning for Nag. Great is Rikki-tikki with the white teeth.”

“Bother my white teeth! Have you ever heard where she deeps her eggs?”

“In the melon-bed, on the end nearest the wall, where the sun strikes nearly all day. She hid them there weeks ago.”

“And you never thought it worth while to tell me? The end nearest the wall, you said?”

“Rikki-tikki, you are not going to eat her eggs?”

“Not eat exactly; no. Darzee, if you have a grain of sense you will fly off to the stables and pretend that your wing is broken, and let Nagaina chase you away to this bush. I must get to the melon-bed, and if I went there now she’d see me.”

Darzee was a feather-brained little fellow who could never hold more than one idea at a time in his head; and just because he knew that Nagaina’s children were born in eggs like his own, he didn’t think at first that it was fair to kill them. But his wife was a sensible bird, and she knew that cobra’s eggs meant young cobras later on; so she flew off from the nest, and left Darzee to keep the babies warm, and continue his song about the death of Nag. Darzee was very like a man in some ways.

She fluttered in front of Nagaina by the rubbish heap, and cried out, “Oh, my wing is broken! The boy in the house threw a stone at me and broke it.” Then she fluttered more desparately than ever.

Nagaina lifted up her head and hissed, “You warned Rikki-tikki when I would have killed him. Indeed and truly, you’ve chosed a bad place to be lame in.” And she moved toward Darzee’s wife, slipping along over the dust.

“The boy broke it with a stone! shrieked Darzee’s wife.

“Well! It may be some consolation to you when you’re dead to know that I shall settle accounts with the boy. My husband lies on the rubbish-heap this morning, but before the night the boy in the house will lie very still. What is the use of running away? I am sure to catch you. Little fool, look at me!”

Darzee’s wife knew better than to do that, for a bird who looks at a snake’s eyes gets so frightened that she cannot move. Darzee’s wife fluttered on, piping sorrowfully, and never leaving the ground, and Nagaina quickened her pace.

Rikki-tikki heard them going up the path from the stables, and he raced for the end of the melon-patch near the wall. There, in the warm litter about the melons, very cunningly hidden, he found twenty-five eggs, about the size of a bantam’s eggs, but with whitish skin instead of shell.

“I was not a day too soon,” he said; for he could see the baby cobras curled up inside the skin, and he knew that the minute they were hatched they could each kill a man or a mongoose. He bit off the tops of the eggs as fast as he could, taking care to crush the young cobras, and turned over the litter from time to time to see whether he had missed any. At last there were only three eggs left, and Rikki-tikki began to chuckle to himself, when he heard Darzee’s wife screaming:

“Rikki-tikki, I led Nagaina toward the house, and she has gone into the verandah, and — oh, come quickly — she means killing!”

Rikki-tikki smashed two eggs, and tumbled backward down the melon-bed with the third egg in his mouth, and scuttled to the verandah as hard as he could put foot to the ground. Teddy and his mother and father were there at early breakfast; but Rikki-tikki saw that they were not eating anything. They sat stone-still, and their faces were white. Nagaina was coiled up on the matting by Teddy’s chair, within easy striking-distance of Teddy’s bare leg, and she was swaying to and fro singing a song of triumph.

“Son of the big man that killed Nag,” she hissed, “stay still. I am not ready yet. Wait a little. Keep very still, all you three. If you move I strike, and if you do not move I strike. Oh, foolish people, who killed my Nag!”

Teddy’s eyes were fixed on his father, and all his father could do was to whisper, “Sit still, Teddy. You mustn’t move. Teddy, keep still.”

Then Rikki-tikki came up and cried: “Turn round Nagaina; turn and fight!”

“All in good time,” said she, without moving her eyes. “I will settle my account with you presently. Look at your friends, Rikki-tikki. They are still and white; they are afraid. They dare not move, and if you come a step nearer I strike.”

“Look at your eggs,” said Rikki-tikki, “in the melon-bed near the wall. Go and look, Nagaina.”

The big snake turned half round, and saw the egg on the verandah. “Ah-h! Give it to me,” she said.

Rikki-tikki put his paws one on each side of the egg, and his eyes were blood-red. “What price for a snake’s egg? For a young cobra? For a young king-cobra? For the last — the very last of the brood? The ants are eating all the others down by the melon-bed.”

Nagaina spun clear round, forgetting everything for the sake of the one egg; and Rikki-tikki saw Teddy’s father shoot out a big hand, catch Teddy by the shoulder, and drag him across the little table with the teacups, safe and out of reach of Nagaina.

“Tricked! Tricked! Tricked! Rikk-tchk-tchk!” chuckled Rikki-tikki. “The boy is safe, and it was I — I — I that caught Nag by the hood last night in the bathroom.” Then he began to jump up and down, all four feet together, his head close to the floor. “He threw me to and fro, but he could not shake me off. He was dead before the big man belw him in two. I did it. Rikki-tikki-tchk-tchk! Come then, Nagaina, Come and fight with me. You shall not be a widow long.”

Nagaina saw that she had lost her chance of killing Teddy, and the egg lay between Rikki-tikki’s paws. “Give me the egg, Rikki-tikki. Give me the last of my eggs, and I will go away and never come back,” she said, lowering her hood.

“Yes, you will go away, and you will never come back; for you will go to the rubbish-heap with Nag. Fight, widow! The big man has gone for his gun! Fight!”

Rikki-tikki was bounding all round Nagaina, keeping just out of reach of her stroke, his little eyes like hot coals. Nagaina gathered herself together, and flung out at him. Rikki-tikki jumped up and backward. Again and again and again she struck, and each time her head came with a whack on the matting of the verandah, and she gathered herself together like a watch-spring. Then Rikki-tikki danced in a a circle to get behind her, and Nagaina spun round to keep her head to his head, so that the rustle of her tail on the matting sounded like dry leaves blown along by the wind.

He had forgotten the egg. It still lay on the verandah, and Nagaina came nearer and nearer to it, till at last, while Rikki-tikki was drawing breath, she caught it in her mouth, turned to the verandah steps, and flew like an arrow down the path, with Rikki-tikki behind her. When the cobra runs for her life, she goes like a whip-lash flicked across as horse’s neck.

Rikki-tikki knew that he must catch her, or all the trouble would begin again. She headed straight for the long grass by the thorn-bush, and as he was running Rikki-tikki heard Darzee still singing his foolish little song of triumph. But Darzee’s wife was wiser. She flew off her nest as Nagaina came along, and flapped her wings about Nagaina’s head. If Darzee had helped they might have turned her; but Nagaina only lowered her hood and went on. Still, the instant’s delay brough Rikki-tikki up to her, and as she plunged into the rat-hole where she and Nag used to live, his little white teeth were clenched on her tail, and he went down with her — and very few mongooses, however wise and old they may be, care to follow a cobra into its hole. It was dark in the hole; and Rikki-tikki never knew when it might open out and give Nagaina room to turn and strike at him. He held on savagely, and struck out his feet to act as brakes on the dark slope of the hot, moist earth.

Then the grass by the mouth of the hole stopped waving, and Darzee said: “It is all over with Rikki-tikki! We must sing his death song. Valiant Rikki-tikki is dead! For Nagaina will surely kill him underground.”

So he sang a very mournful song that he made up on the spur of the minute, and just as he got to the most touching part the grass quivered again, and Rikki-tikki, covered with dirt, dragged himself out of the hole leg by leg, licking his whiskers. Darzee stopped with a little shout. Rikki-tikki shook some of the dust out of his fur and sneezed. “It is all over,” he said. “The widow will never come out again.” And the red ants that live between the grass stems heard him, and began to troop down one after another to see if he had spoken the truth.

Rikki-tikki curled himself up in the grass and slept where he was — slept and slept till it was late in the afternoon, for he had done a hard day’s work.

“Now,” he said, when he awoke, “I will go back to the house. Tell the Coppersmith, Darzee, and he will tell the garden that Nagaina is dead.”

The Coppersmith is a bird who makes a noise exactly like the beating of a little hammer on a copper pot; and the reason he is always making it is because he is the town-crier to every Indian garden, and tells all the news to everybody who cares to listen. As Rikki-tikki went up the path, he heard his “attention” notes like a tiny dinner-gong; and then the steady “Ding-dong-tock! Nag is dead — dong! Nagaina is dead! Ding-dong-tock!” That set all the birds in the garden singing, and frogs croaking; for Nag and Nagaina used to eat frogs as well as little birds.

When Rikki got to the house, Teddy and Teddy’s mother (she still looked very white, for she had been fainting) and Teddy’s father came out and almost cried over him; and that night he ate all that was givn him till he could eat no more, and went to bed on Teddy’s shoulder, where Teddy’s mother saw him when she came to look late at night.

“He saved our lives and Teddy’s life,” she said to her husband. “Just think, he saved all our lives!”

Rikki-tikki woke up with a jump, for all the mongooses are light sleepers.

“Oh, it’s you,” said he. “What are you bothering for? All the cobras are dead; and if they weren’t, I’m here.”

Rikki-tikki had a right to be proud of himself; but he did not grow too proud, and he kept that garden as a mongoose should keep it, with tooth and jump and spring and bit, till never a cobra dared show its head inside the walls.

 

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Jacob and Wilhelm’s “Old Hildebrand”

Gebr¸der Grimm. Quelle: PG 0681f866

Once upon a time lived a peasant and his wife, and the parson of the village had a fancy for the wife, and had wished for a long while to spend a whole day happily with her. The peasant woman, too, was quite willing. One day, therefore, he said to the woman, “Listen, my dear friend, I have now thought of a way by which we can for once spend a whole day happily together. I’ll tell you what; on Wednesday, you must take to your bed, and tell your husband you are ill, and if you only complain and act being ill properly, and go on doing so until Sunday when I have to preach, I will then say in my sermon that whosoever has at home a sick child, a sick husband, a sick wife, a sick father, a sick mother, a sick brother or whosoever else it may be, and makes a pilgrimage to the Göckerli hill in Italy, where you can get a peck of laurel-leaves for a kreuzer, the sick child, the sick husband, the sick wife, the sick father, or sick mother, the sick sister, or whosoever else it may be, will be restored to health immediately.”

“I will manage it,” said the woman promptly. Now therefore on the Wednesday, the peasant woman took to her bed, and complained and lamented as agreed on, and her husband did everything for her that he could think of, but nothing did her any good, and when Sunday came the woman said, “I feel as ill as if I were going to die at once, but there is one thing I should like to do before my end I should like to hear the parson’s sermon that he is going to preach to-day.” On that the peasant said, “Ah, my child, do not do it — thou mightest make thyself worse if thou wert to get up. Look, I will go to the sermon, and will attend to it very carefully, and will tell thee everything the parson says.”

“Well,” said the woman, “go, then, and pay great attention, and repeat to me all that thou hearest.” So the peasant went to the sermon, and the parson began to preach and said, if any one had at home a sick child, a sick husband, a sick wife, a sick father a sick mother, a sick sister, brother or any one else, and would make a pilgimage to the Göckerli hill in Italy, where a peck of laurel-leaves costs a kreuzer, the sick child, sick husband, sick wife, sick father, sick mother, sick sister, brother, or whosoever else it might be, would be restored to health instantly, and whosoever wished to undertake the journey was to go to him after the service was over, and he would give him the sack for the laurel-leaves and the kreuzer.

Then no one was more rejoiced than the peasant, and after the service was over, he went at once to the parson, who gave him the bag for the laurel-leaves and the kreuzer. After that he went home, and even at the house door he cried, “Hurrah! dear wife, it is now almost the same thing as if thou wert well! The parson has preached to-day that whosoever had at home a sick child, a sick husband, a sick wife, a sick father, a sick mother, a sick sister, brother or whoever it might be, and would make a pilgrimage to the Göckerli hill in Italy, where a peck of laurel-leaves costs a kreuzer, the sick child, sick husband, sick wife, sick father, sick mother, sick sister, brother, or whosoever else it was, would be cured immediately, and now I have already got the bag and the kreuzer from the parson, and will at once begin my journey so that thou mayst get well the faster,” and thereupon he went away. He was, however, hardly gone before the woman got up, and the parson was there directly.

But now we will leave these two for a while, and follow the peasant, who walked on quickly without stopping, in order to get the sooner to the Göckerli hill, and on his way he met his gossip. His gossip was an egg-merchant, and was just coming from the market, where he had sold his eggs. “May you be blessed,” said the gossip, “where are you off to so fast?”

“To all eternity, my friend,” said the peasant, “my wife is ill, and I have been to-day to hear the parson’s sermon, and he preached that if any one had in his house a sick child, a sick husband, a sick wife, a sick father, a sick mother, a sick sister, brother or any one else, and made a pilgrimage to the Göckerli hill in Italy, where a peck of laurel-leaves costs a kreuzer, the sick child, the sick husband, the sick wife, the sick father, the sick mother, the sick sister, brother or whosoever else it was, would be cured immediately, and so I have got the bag for the laurel-leaves and the kreuzer from the parson, and now I am beginning my pilgrimage.” “But listen, gossip,” said the egg-merchant to the peasant, “are you, then, stupid enough to believe such a thing as that? Don’t you know what it means? The parson wants to spend a whole day alone with your wife in peace, so he has given you this job to do to get you out of the way.”

“My word!” said the peasant. “How I’d like to know if that’s true!”

“Come, then,” said the gossip, “I’ll tell you what to do. Get into my egg-basket and I will carry you home, and then you will see for yourself.” So that was settled, and the gossip put the peasant into his egg-basket and carried him home.

When they got to the house, hurrah! but all was going merry there! The woman had already had nearly everything killed that was in the farmyard, and had made pancakes, and the parson was there, and had brought his fiddle with him. The gossip knocked at the door, and woman asked who was there. “It is I, gossip,” said the egg-merchant, “give me shelter this night; I have not sold my eggs at the market, so now I have to carry them home again, and they are so heavy that I shall never be able to do it, for it is dark already.”

“Indeed, my friend,” said the woman, “thou comest at a very inconvenient time for me, but as thou art here it can’t be helped, come in, and take a seat there on the bench by the stove.” Then she placed the gossip and the basket which he carried on his back on the bench by the stove. The parso, however, and the woman, were as merry as possible. At length the parson said, “Listen, my dear friend, thou canst sing beautifully; sing something to me.” “Oh,” said the woman, “I cannot sing now, in my young days indeed I could sing well enough, but that’s all over now.”

“Come,” said the parson once more, “do sing some little song.”

On that the woman began and sang,

“I’ve sent my husband away from me
To the Göckerli hill in Italy.”
Thereupon the parson sang,

“I wish ’twas a year before he came back,
I’d never ask him for the laurel-leaf sack.”
Hallelujah.
Then the gossip who was in the background began to sing (but I ought to tell you the peasant was called Hildebrand), so the gossip sang,

“What art thou doing, my Hildebrand dear,
There on the bench by the stove so near?”
Hallelujah.
And then the peasant sang from his basket,

“All singing I ever shall hate from this day,
And here in this basket no longer I’ll stay.”
Hallelujah.
And he got out of the basket, and drove the parson out of the house.

 

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Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Daisy”

Hans Christian Andersen's Gåseurt (1838) Vilhelm Pedersen

Now listen! In the country, close by the high road, stood a farmhouse; perhaps you have passed by and seen it yourself. There was a little flower garden with painted wooden palings in front of it; close by was a ditch, on its fresh green bank grew a little daisy; the sun shone as warmly and brightly upon it as on the magnificent garden flowers, and therefore it thrived well. One morning it had quite opened, and its little snow-white petals stood round the yellow centre, like the rays of the sun. It did not mind that nobody saw it in the grass, and that it was a poor despised flower; on the contrary, it was quite happy, and turned towards the sun, looking upward and listening to the song of the lark high up in the air.

The little daisy was as happy as if the day had been a great holiday, but it was only Monday. All the children were at school, and while they were sitting on the forms and learning their lessons, it sat on its thin green stalk and learnt from the sun and from its surroundings how kind God is, and it rejoiced that the song of the little lark expressed so sweetly and distinctly its own feelings. With a sort of reverence the daisy looked up to the bird that could fly and sing, but it did not feel envious. “I can see and hear,” it thought; “the sun shines upon me, and the forest kisses me. How rich I am!”

In the garden close by grew many large and magnificent flowers, and, strange to say, the less fragrance they had the haughtier and prouder they were. The peonies puffed themselves up in order to be larger than the roses, but size is not everything! The tulips had the finest colours, and they knew it well, too, for they were standing bolt upright like candles, that one might see them the better. In their pride they did not see the little daisy, which looked over to them and thought, “How rich and beautiful they are! I am sure the pretty bird will fly down and call upon them. Thank God, that I stand so near and can at least see all the splendour.” And while the daisy was still thinking, the lark came flying down, crying “Tweet,” but not to the peonies and tulips—no, into the grass to the poor daisy. Its joy was so great that it did not know what to think. The little bird hopped round it and sang, “How beautifully soft the grass is, and what a lovely little flower with its golden heart and silver dress is growing here.” The yellow centre in the daisy did indeed look like gold, while the little petals shone as brightly as silver.

How happy the daisy was! No one has the least idea. The bird kissed it with its beak, sang to it, and then rose again up to the blue sky. It was certainly more than a quarter of an hour before the daisy recovered its senses. Half ashamed, yet glad at heart, it looked over to the other flowers in the garden; surely they had witnessed its pleasure and the honour that had been done to it; they understood its joy. But the tulips stood more stiffly than ever, their faces were pointed and red, because they were vexed. The peonies were sulky; it was well that they could not speak, otherwise they would have given the daisy a good lecture. The little flower could very well see that they were ill at ease, and pitied them sincerely.

Shortly after this a girl came into the garden, with a large sharp knife. She went to the tulips and began cutting them off, one after another. “Ugh!” sighed the daisy, “that is terrible; now they are done for.”

The girl carried the tulips away. The daisy was glad that it was outside, and only a small flower—it felt very grateful. At sunset it folded its petals, and fell asleep, and dreamt all night of the sun and the little bird.

On the following morning, when the flower once more stretched forth its tender petals, like little arms, towards the air and light, the daisy recognised the bird’s voice, but what it sang sounded so sad. Indeed the poor bird had good reason to be sad, for it had been caught and put into a cage close by the open window. It sang of the happy days when it could merrily fly about, of fresh green corn in the fields, and of the time when it could soar almost up to the clouds. The poor lark was most unhappy as a prisoner in a cage. The little daisy would have liked so much to help it, but what could be done? Indeed, that was very difficult for such a small flower to find out. It entirely forgot how beautiful everything around it was, how warmly the sun was shining, and how splendidly white its own petals were. It could only think of the poor captive bird, for which it could do nothing. Then two little boys came out of the garden; one of them had a large sharp knife, like that with which the girl had cut the tulips. They came straight towards the little daisy, which could not understand what they wanted.

“Here is a fine piece of turf for the lark,” said one of the boys, and began to cut out a square round the daisy, so that it remained in the centre of the grass.

“Pluck the flower off” said the other boy, and the daisy trembled for fear, for to be pulled off meant death to it; and it wished so much to live, as it was to go with the square of turf into the poor captive lark’s cage.

“No let it stay,” said the other boy, “it looks so pretty.”

And so it stayed, and was brought into the lark’s cage. The poor bird was lamenting its lost liberty, and beating its wings against the wires; and the little daisy could not speak or utter a consoling word, much as it would have liked to do so. So the forenoon passed.

“I have no water,” said the captive lark, “they have all gone out, and forgotten to give me anything to drink. My throat is dry and burning. I feel as if I had fire and ice within me, and the air is so oppressive. Alas! I must die, and part with the warm sunshine, the fresh green meadows, and all the beauty that God has created.” And it thrust its beak into the piece of grass, to refresh itself a little. Then it noticed the little daisy, and nodded to it, and kissed it with its beak and said: “You must also fade in here, poor little flower. You and the piece of grass are all they have given me in exchange for the whole world, which I enjoyed outside. Each little blade of grass shall be a green tree for me, each of your white petals a fragrant flower. Alas! you only remind me of what I have lost.”

“I wish I could console the poor lark,” thought the daisy. It could not move one of its leaves, but the fragrance of its delicate petals streamed forth, and was much stronger than such flowers usually have: the bird noticed it, although it was dying with thirst, and in its pain tore up the green blades of grass, but did not touch the flower.

The evening came, and nobody appeared to bring the poor bird a drop of water; it opened its beautiful wings, and fluttered about in its anguish; a faint and mournful “Tweet, tweet,” was all it could utter, then it bent its little head towards the flower, and its heart broke for want and longing. The flower could not, as on the previous evening, fold up its petals and sleep; it dropped sorrowfully. The boys only came the next morning; when they saw the dead bird, they began to cry bitterly, dug a nice grave for it, and adorned it with flowers. The bird’s body was placed in a pretty red box; they wished to bury it with royal honours. While it was alive and sang they forgot it, and let it suffer want in the cage; now, they cried over it and covered it with flowers. The piece of turf, with the little daisy in it, was thrown out on the dusty highway. Nobody thought of the flower which had felt so much for the bird and had so greatly desired to comfort it.

 

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