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said the child, and he trod on the branches till they cracked under his boots.
And the Tree looked at all the blooming flowers and the splendor of the garden, then looked at itself, and wished it had remained in the dark corner of the garret; it thought of its fresh youth in the wood, of the merry Christmas Eve, and of the little Mice which had listened so pleasantly to the story of Klumpey-Dumpey.
“Past! past!” said the old Tree. “Had I but rejoiced when I could have done so! Past! past!”
And the servant came and chopped the Tree into little pieces; a whole bundle lay there; it blazed brightly under the great brewing copper, and it sighed deeply, and each sigh was like a little shot; and the children, who were at play there, ran up, seated themselves by the fire, looked into it, and cried "Puff! puff!” But at each explosion, which was a deep sigh, the Tree thought of a summer day in the woods, or of a winter night there, when the stars beamed; he thought of Christmas Eve and of Klumpey-Dumpey, the only story he had ever heard or knew how to tell; and thus the Tree was burned.
The boys played in the garden, and the youngest had on his breast a golden star, which the Tree had worn on its happiest evening. Now that was past, and the Tree's life was past, and the story is past, too: past! past!—and that's the way with all stories.
HANS CHRISTIAN ANDERSEN
HEN a man writes as beautiful and as interesting stories as Hans Christian Andersen has written for children, we like to know something about him;
and we find that nothing that he ever 6 wrote was much more interesting than
his own life. Certainly no one who knew him while he was a child could have thought that he would ever have much chance of becoming a famous man.
He was born on April 2nd, 1805, in the city of Odense, in Denmark. The room in which he was born was kitchen, parlor, bedroom and workshop for the whole family, for the family of Andersen liad little to do with, and little knowledge of how to make the best of what they had. The father was a cobbler, but a cobbler who was much more interested in other things than he was in his trade, into which he had been forced quite contrary to his own wishes. The mother was a careless, easy-going person, who was kind to her child, but had not the slightest idea of training him, or of restraining any of his odd tastes. These tastes were determined more or less by his father, who was a great reader, particularly of plays; and we see the results of this early introduction to the drama in Hans Christian Andersen throughout his life.
Little Hans Christian was a most extraordinary child. He was ugly, as he remained all his life; for his body and neck were too long and too thin, his feet and his hands were too large and too bony, his nose was large and hooked, and his eyes were small and set like a Chinaman's. However, it was not his looks, but his oddity, which cut him off from other children. He would sit all day and make doll clothes, or cut dolls and animals out of paper; and these were not things which would be likely to make other boys like him and admire him. He had little schooling, and even when he was a grown man he knew none too much of the grammar of his own language.
After his father's death, when he himself was about eleven, little Hans Christian was more solitary than before, and shut himself up still more with his doll's clothes, his toy theaters, and his books, for he was, like his father, very fond of reading. Especially did he like those books which had anything about ghosts or witches or fairies in them. While he was but a child, he wrote a play of his own, in which most of the characters were kings and queens and princesses; and because he felt that it could not be possible that such lofty personages would talk the same language as ordinary people, he picked out from a dictionary, which he managed somehow to get hold of, French words, German words, English words, and high-sounding Danish words, and strung them all together to make up the conversation of his characters.
It was no more than natural that such a strange, unattractive-looking child should be made fun of by the prosaic, commonplace people of his neighborhood, and this was untold pain to the sensitive boy. There were, however, in the town, people of a
higher class, who perceived in the boy something beyond the ordinary, and who interested themselves in his behalf. They had him sent to school, but he preferred to dream away his time rather than to study, and his short period of schooling really taught him nothing.
His mother, careless as she was, began to see that matters must change—that the boy could not go on all his life in this aimless fashion; but since he steadily declined to be a tailor or a cobbler, or indeed to take up any trade, it seemed no easy question to settle. However, in 1818, there came to Odense a troupe of actors who gave plays and operas. Young Andersen, who by making acquaintance with the billposter was allowed to witness the performances from behind the scenes, decided at once that he was cut out to be an actor. There was no demand for actors in his native town, and he therefore decided to go to Copenhagen, the capital of Denmark, there to seek his fortune.
With about five dollars in his pocket, Andersen reached Copenhagen in September, 1819, but he found that a fortune was by no means as easily made as he had fancied. He himself felt convinced that he should be a famous actor, but how was he to convince any one else of this fact? From one actor to another, from one theater manager to another he went, but all told him that for one reason or another he was not fitted for the stage. Particularly did Andersen resent the excuse of one manager, who told him that he was too thin. This fault Andersen assured him that he was only too willing to remedy, if he would only give him a chance and a salary; but still the manager refused. Finally the boy was destitute of money and knew not where to turn for more, for he was too proud to go back to his native town. However, an Italian singing teacher, Siboni, into whose home Andersen had almost forced himself while a dinner party was in progress, became interested in him, and with some friends provided him with enough to live on. He also gave him singing lessons until the boy's voice gave out. Other influential people gradually became interested in the strange creature, who certainly did appear to have some talent, but who had even more obvious defects; and so he lived on, supported in the most meager fashion.
Determined to write plays if he could not play them, Andersen composed drama after drama. He would rush into the house of a total stranger, of whom perhaps he had heard as a patron of genius, declaim some scenes from his plays, and then rush out, leaving his auditor in gasping amazement. Finally he made the acquaintance of one of the directors of the Royal Theatre, Jonas Collin, who was ever afterward his best friend. Through the influence of this kindly man, Andersen was sent to school at Slagelse, and as he said later, the days of his degradation were over once and for all.
Andersen did not have an entirely pleasant time at school. He loved systematic study no more than he had early in his life, and he did not fall in very readily with his young companions. However, he persisted, for he was ashamed to disappoint his patron, Collin, and by the time he left school in 1827, he had an education of which he needed not to be ashamed. After his return to Copenhagen, he was able to pass his examinations satisfactorily.