Once there was a little boy who went out and got his feet wet and caught cold. Nobody could understand how it had happened, because the weather was very dry.
His mother undressed him, put him to bed, and had the tea urn brought in to make him a good cup of elder tea, for that keeps one warm.
At the same time there came in the door the funny old man who lived all alone on the top floor of the house. He had no wife or children of his own, but he was very fond of all children, and knew so many wonderful stories and tales that it was fun to listen to him.
Dark masses of clouds covered the sky, and the Moon did not come out at all. In my little chamber I stood more lonely than ever and gazed up into the sky where he should have appeared.
My thoughts flew far away, up to my great friend, who each evening showed me such lovely pictures and told me stories. What has he not experienced! He has floated above the waters of the Deluge, and smiled down on Noah's Ark, as now he does on me, and brought the consolation that a new world would bloom again. When the children of Israel wept beside the rivers of Babylon, he looked in sorrow through the willows where they had hung their harps. When Romeo climbed up the balcony and the kiss of love rose like a cherub's thought from the earth, the full Moon hung half hidden in the thin air behind the dark cypresses. He has seen the hero at St. Helena looking forth from the lonely cliff toward the ocean, while great thoughts stirred within him. Yes, indeed, what cannot the Moon tell? The history of humanity is to him a book of adventures. Tonight I cannot see you, old friend, and cannot sketch any picture in memory of your visit.
"I have told you about Pompeii," the Moon said, "that corpse of a city which is now once more listed among living cities. I know another, an even stranger one; it is not a corpse, but rather the phantom of a city. Whenever water splashes from fountains into marble basins, I seem to hear the tale of the floating city. Yes, the spouting water can tell about it. The waves of the sea sing about it.
"Over the face of the ocean there often hangs a mist - her widow's veil, for the bridegroom of the ocean is dead; his city and his palace are now but a mausoleum. Do you know this city? Never was the rattle of carriages or the clatter of horses' hoofs heard in its streets; only fish swim there, while the black gondola glides ghostlike over the green waters.
We're going to Paris to see the exposition!
Now we're there! It was a speedy journey, done completely without witchcraft - we went by steam, in a ship and on a railroad. Our time is indeed a time of fairy tales.
Now we are in a large hotel in the middle of Paris. The staircase is decorated with flowers, and soft carpets are spread over the steps. Our room is pleasant; the balcony door is open, and we can look out onto a large square. Down there is spring, which has come to Paris, having arrived at the same time we did, in the form of a big, young chestnut tree with delicate leaves beginning to open. How much more richly that tree is dressed in the beauty of spring than the other trees on the square! One of them has stepped out of the row of living trees and lies on the ground with its roots torn up. Where that tree stood the young chestnut will be planted, and there it will grow.
The days of the week once wanted to be free to get together and have a party. But each of the seven days was so occupied, the year around, that they had no time to spare. They wanted a whole extra day; but then they had that every four years, the intercalary day that comes in February for the purpose of keeping order in chronology.
On the intercalary day they would get together for a party, and, as February is the month of carnivals, they would come in costumes of each one's taste and choice; they would eat well, drink well, make speeches, and be complimentary and disagreeable to one another in unrestrained comradeship. While the vikings of olden times used to throw their gnawed-off bones at each other's heads during mealtime, the days of the week intended to throw jokes and sarcastic witticisms such as might be in keeping with the innocent carnival spirit.
Once upon a time there was a darning needle who imagined she was so fine that she really was a sewing needle.
"Be careful and hold me tightly!" she warned the fingers that picked her up. "Don't drop me! If I fall on the floor you may never find me again; that's how fine I am!"
"That's what you think!" replied the fingers, and squeezed her around the waist.
"Look, here I come with my train!" said the darning needle, and she drew a long thread behind her, but there was no knot in the thread.
Denmark is rich in old legends of heroes, of churches and manor houses, of hills and fields, and of the bottomless moorland. These stories date from the days of the great plague, from times of war, and from times of peace. They live on in books or on the tongues of people. They fly far about like a flock of birds, but they are as different, one from another, as the thrush is from the owl, and the wood pigeon from the gull. Listen to me, and I will tell you some of these legends.
In the olden days, when invaders were ravaging the Danish countryside, it happened that a pitched battle was fought, and the Danes won. That evening, many dead and many wounded men lay on the stricken field. One of these was an enemy, who had lost both his legs by a shot. Near-by a Danish soldier had just taken a flask filled with beer from his pocket and was about to put it to his mouth, when the desperately wounded man begged him for a drink. As the soldier bent down to give the bottle to his enemy, the wounded man discharged his pistol at him, but he missed his aim. The soldier took his bottle back, and drank half of it. As he handed the rest to his enemy, his only comment was, "You rascal, now you will get only half of it."
"Yes, this is a song for very small children!" declared Aunt Malle. "As much as I should like to, I cannot follow this 'Dance, Dance, Doll of Mine!' "
But little Amalie could; she was only three years old, played with dolls, and brought them up to be just as wise as Aunt Malle.
There was a student who came to the house to help her brothers with their lessons, and he frequently spoke to little Amalie and her dolls; he spoke differently from anyone else, and the little girl found him very amusing, although Aunt Malle said he didn't know how to converse with children - their little heads couldn't possibly grasp that silly talk. But little Amalie did. Yes, the student even taught her the whole song, "Dance, Dance, Doll of Mine!" and she sang it to her three dolls; two were new, one a girl doll and the other a boy doll, but the third doll was old; her name was Lise-moér. She also heard the song, and was even in it.
Now listen to this! Out in the country, close by the side of the road, there stood a country house; you yourself have certainly seen many just like it. In front of it was a little flower garden, with a painted fence around it. Close by the fence, in the midst of the most beautiful green grass beside a ditch, there grew a little daisy. The sun shone just as warmly and brightly on her as on the beautiful flowers inside the garden, and so she grew every hour. Until at last one morning she was in full bloom, with shining white petals spreading like rays around the little yellow sun in the center.
The daisy didn't think that she was a little despised flower that nobody would notice down there in the grass. No, indeed! She was a merry little daisy as she looked up at the warm sun and listened to the lark singing high in the sky.