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Elf of the Rose by Hans Christian Andersen

IN the midst of a garden grew a rose-treein full blossomand in theprettiest of all the roses lived an elf. He was such a little wee thingthat nohuman eye could see him. Behind each leaf of the rose he had a sleeping chamber.He was as well formed and as beautiful as a little child could beand had wingsthat reached from his shoulders to his feet. Ohwhat sweet fragrance there wasin his chambers! and how clean and beautiful were the walls! for they were theblushing leaves of the rose.

During the whole day he enjoyed himself in the warm sunshineflew fromflower to flowerand danced on the wings of the flying butterflies. Then hetook it into his head to measure how many steps he would have to go through theroads and cross-roads that are on the leaf of a linden-tree. What we call theveins on a leafhe took for roads; ayand very long roads they were for him;for before he had half finished his taskthe sun went down: he had commencedhis work too late. It became very coldthe dew felland the wind blew; so hethought the best thing he could do would be to return home. He hurried himselfas much as he could; but he found the roses all closed upand he could not getin; not a single rose stood open. The poor little elf was very much frightened.He had never before been out at nightbut had always slumbered secretly behindthe warm rose-leaves. Ohthis would certainly be his death. At the other end ofthe gardenhe knew there was an arborovergrown with beautiful honey-suckles.The blossoms looked like large painted horns; and he thought to himselfhewould go and sleep in one of these till the morning. He flew thither; but "hush!"two people were in the arbor- a handsome young man and a beautiful lady. Theysat side by sideand wished that they might never be obliged to part. Theyloved each other much more than the best child can love its father and mother.

"But we must part" said the young man; "your brother does notlike our engagementand therefore he sends me so far away on businessovermountains and seas. Farewellmy sweet bride; for so you are to me."

And then they kissed each otherand the girl weptand gave him a rose; butbefore she did soshe pressed a kiss upon it so fervently that the floweropened. Then the little elf flew inand leaned his head on the delicatefragrant walls. Here he could plainly hear them say"Farewellfarewell;"and he felt that the rose had been placed on the young man's breast. Ohhow hisheart did beat! The little elf could not go to sleepit thumped so loudly. Theyoung man took it out as he walked through the dark wood aloneand kissed theflower so often and so violentlythat the little elf was almost crushed. Hecould feel through the leaf how hot the lips of the young man wereand the rosehad openedas if from the heat of the noonday sun.

There came another manwho looked gloomy and wicked. He was the wickedbrother of the beautiful maiden. He drew out a sharp knifeand while the otherwas kissing the rosethe wicked man stabbed him to death; then he cut off hisheadand buried it with the body in the soft earth under the linden-tree.

"Now he is goneand will soon be forgotten" thought the wickedbrother; "he will never come back again. He was going on a long journeyover mountains and seas; it is easy for a man to lose his life in such a journey.My sister will suppose he is dead; for he cannot come backand she will notdare to question me about him."

Then he scattered the dry leaves over the light earth with his footand wenthome through the darkness; but he went not aloneas he thought- the little elfaccompanied him. He sat in a dry rolled-up linden-leafwhich had fallen fromthe tree on to the wicked man's headas he was digging the grave. The hat wason the head nowwhich made it very darkand the little elf shuddered withfright and indignation at the wicked deed.

It was the dawn of morning before the wicked man reached home; he took offhis hatand went into his sister's room. There lay the beautifulbloominggirldreaming of him whom she loved soand who was nowshe supposedtravelling far away over mountain and sea. Her wicked brother stopped over herand laughed hideouslyas fiends only can laugh. The dry leaf fell out of hishair upon the counterpane; but he did not notice itand went to get a littlesleep during the early morning hours. But the elf slipped out of the witheredleafplaced himself by the ear of the sleeping girland told heras in adreamof the horrid murder; described the place where her brother had slain herloverand buried his body; and told her of the linden-treein full blossomthat stood close by.

"That you may not think this is only a dream that I have told you"he said"you will find on your bed a withered leaf."

Then she awokeand found it there. Ohwhat bitter tears she shed! and shecould not open her heart to any one for relief.

The window stood open the whole dayand the little elf could easily havereached the rosesor any of the flowers; but he could not find it in his heartto leave one so afflicted. In the window stood a bush bearing monthly roses. Heseated himself in one of the flowersand gazed on the poor girl. Her brotheroften came into the roomand would be quite cheerfulin spite of his baseconduct; so she dare not say a word to him of her heart's grief.

As soon as night came onshe slipped out of the houseand went into thewoodto the spot where the linden-tree stood; and after removing the leavesfrom the earthshe turned it upand there found him who had been murdered. Ohhow she wept and prayed that she also might die! Gladly would she have taken thebody home with her; but that was impossible; so she took up the poor head withthe closed eyeskissed the cold lipsand shook the mould out of the beautifulhair.

"I will keep this" said she; and as soon as she had covered thebody again with the earth and leavesshe took the head and a little sprig ofjasmine that bloomed in the woodnear the spot where he was buriedand carriedthem home with her. As soon as she was in her roomshe took the largestflower-pot she could findand in this she placed the head of the dead mancovered it up with earth

and planted the twig of jasmine in it.

"Farewellfarewell" whispered the little elf. He could not anylonger endure to witness all this agony of griefhe therefore flew away to hisown rose in the garden. But the rose was faded; only a few dry leaves stillclung to the green hedge behind it.

"Alas! how soon all that is good and beautiful passes away" sighedthe elf.

After a while he found another rosewhich became his homefor among itsdelicate fragrant leaves he could dwell in safety. Every morning he flew to thewindow of the poor girland always found her weeping by the flower pot. Thebitter tears fell upon the jasmine twigand each dayas she became paler andpalerthe sprig appeared to grow greener and fresher. One shoot after anothersprouted forthand little white buds blossomedwhich the poor girl fondlykissed. But her wicked brother scolded herand asked her if she was going mad.He could not imagine why she was weeping over that flower-potand it annoyedhim. He did not know whose closed eyes were therenor what red lips were fadingbeneath the earth. And one day she sat and leaned her head against theflower-potand the little elf of the rose found her asleep. Then he seatedhimself by her eartalked to her of that evening in the arborof the sweetperfume of the roseand the loves of the elves. Sweetly she dreamedand whileshe dreamther life passed away calmly and gentlyand her spirit was with himwhom she lovedin heaven. And the jasmine opened its large white bellsandspread forth its sweet fragrance; it had no other way of showing its grief forthe dead. But the wicked brother considered the beautiful blooming plant as hisown propertyleft to him by his sisterand he placed it in his sleeping roomclose by his bedfor it was very lovely in appearanceand the fragrance sweetand delightful. The little elf of the rose followed itand flew from flower toflowertelling each little spirit that dwelt in them the story of the murderedyoung manwhose head now formed part of the earth beneath themand of thewicked brother and the poor sister. "We know it" said each littlespirit in the flowers"we know itfor have we not sprung from the eyesand lips of the murdered one. We know itwe know it" and the flowersnodded with their heads in a peculiar manner. The elf of the rose could notunderstand how they could rest so quietly in the matterso he flew to the beeswho were gathering honeyand told them of the wicked brother. And the bees toldit to their queenwho commanded that the next morning they should go and killthe murderer. But during the nightthe first after the sister's deathwhilethe brother was sleeping in his bedclose to where he had placed the fragrantjasmineevery flower cup openedand invisibly the little spirits stole outarmed with poisonous spears. They placed themselves by the ear of the sleepertold him dreadful dreams and then flew across his lipsand pricked his tonguewith their poisoned spears. "Now have we revenged the dead" said theyand flew back into the white bells of the jasmine flowers. When the morning cameand as soon as the window was openedthe rose elfwith the queen beeand thewhole swarm of beesrushed in to kill him. But he was already dead. People werestanding round the bedand saying that the scent of the jasmine had killed him.Then the elf of the rose understood the revenge of the flowersand explained itto the queen beeand shewith the whole swarmbuzzed about the flower-pot.The bees could not be driven away. Then a man took it up to remove itand oneof the bees stung him in the handso that he let the flower-pot falland itwas broken to pieces. Then every one saw the whitened skulland they knew thedead man in the bed was a murderer. And the queen bee hummed in the airandsang of the revenge of the flowersand of the elf of the rose and said thatbehind the smallest leaf dwells Onewho can discover evil deedsand punishthem also. - -

THE END




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