Little Ida's Flowers by Hans Christian Andersen
My poor flowers are quite dead" said little Ida"they were sopretty yesterday eveningand now all the leaves are hanging down quite withered.What do they do that for" she askedof the student who sat on the sofa;she liked him very muchhe could tell the most amusing storiesand cut out theprettiest pictures; heartsand ladies dancingcastles with doors that openedas well as flowers; he was a delightful student. "Why do the flowers lookso faded to-day?" she asked againand pointed to her nosegaywhich wasquite withered.
"Don't you know what is the matter with them?" said the student."The flowers were at a ball last nightand thereforeit is no wonder theyhang their heads."
"But flowers cannot dance?" cried little Ida.
"Yes indeedthey can" replied the student. "When it growsdarkand everybody is asleepthey jump about quite merrily. They have a ballalmost every night."
"Can children go to these balls?"
"Yes" said the student"little daisies and lilies of thevalley."
"Where do the beautiful flowers dance?" asked little Ida.
"Have you not often seen the large castle outside the gates of the townwhere the king lives in summerand where the beautiful garden is full offlowers? And have you not fed the swans with bread when they swam towards you?Wellthe flowers have capital balls therebelieve me."
"I was in the garden out there yesterday with my mother" said Ida"but all the leaves were off the treesand there was not a single flowerleft. Where are they? I used to see so many in the summer."
"They are in the castle" replied the student. "You must knowthat as soon as the king and all the court are gone into the townthe flowersrun out of the garden into the castleand you should see how merry they are.The two most beautiful roses seat themselves on the throneand are called theking and queenthen all the red cockscombs range themselves on each sideandbowthese are the lords-in-waiting. After that the pretty flowers come inandthere is a grand ball. The blue violets represent little naval cadetsand dancewith hyacinths and crocuses which they call young ladies. The tulips andtiger-lilies are the old ladies who sit and watch the dancingso thateverything may be conducted with order and propriety."
"But" said little Ida"is there no one there to hurt theflowers for dancing in the king's castle?"
"No one knows anything about it" said the student. "The oldsteward of the castlewho has to watch there at nightsometimes comes in; buthe carries a great bunch of keysand as soon as the flowers hear the keysrattlethey run and hide themselves behind the long curtainsand stand quitestilljust peeping their heads out. Then the old steward says'I smell flowershere' but he cannot see them."
"Oh how capital" said little Idaclapping her hands. "ShouldI be able to see these flowers?"
"Yes" said the student"mind you think of it the next timeyou go outno doubt you will see themif you peep through the window. I did soto-dayand I saw a long yellow lily lying stretched out on the sofa. She was acourt lady."
"Can the flowers from the Botanical Gardens go to these balls?"asked Ida. "It is such a distance!"
"Oh yes" said the student 'whenever they likefor they can fly.Have you not seen those beautiful redwhite. and yellow butterfliesthat looklike flowers? They were flowers once. They have flown off their stalks into theairand flap their leaves as if they were little wings to make them fly. Thenif they behave wellthey obtain permission to fly about during the dayinsteadof being obliged to sit still on their stems at homeand so in time theirleaves become real wings. It may behoweverthat the flowers in the BotanicalGardens have never been to the king's palaceandthereforethey know nothingof the merry doings at nightwhich take place there. I will tell you what todoand the botanical professorwho lives close by herewill be so surprised.You know him very welldo you not? Wellnext time you go into his gardenyoumust tell one of the flowers that there is going to be a grand ball at thecastlethen that flower will tell all the othersand they will fly away to thecastle as soon as possible. And when the professor walks into his gardentherewill not be a single flower left. How he will wonder what has become of them!"
"But how can one flower tell another? Flowers cannot speak?"
"Nocertainly not" replied the student; "but they can makesigns. Have you not often seen that when the wind blows they nod at one anotherand rustle all their green leaves?"
"Can the professor understand the signs?" asked Ida.
"Yesto be sure he can. He went one morning into his gardenand saw astinging nettle making signs with its leaves to a beautiful red carnation. Itwas saying'You are so prettyI like you very much.' But the professor did notapprove of such nonsenseso he clapped his hands on the nettle to stop it. Thenthe leaveswhich are its fingersstung him so sharply that he has neverventured to touch a nettle since."
"Oh how funny!" said Idaand she laughed.
"How can anyone put such notions into a child's head?" said atiresome lawyerwho had come to pay a visitand sat on the sofa. He did notlike the studentand would grumble when he saw him cutting out droll or amusingpictures. Sometimes it would be a man hanging on a gibbet and holding a heart inhis hand as if he had been stealing hearts. Sometimes it was an old witch ridingthrough the air on a broom and carrying her husband on her nose. But the lawyerdid not like such jokesand he would say as he had just said"How cananyone put such nonsense into a child's head! what absurd fancies thereare!"
But to little Idaall these stories which the student told her about theflowersseemed very drolland she thought over them a great deal. The flowersdid hang their headsbecause they had been
dancing all nightand were very tiredand most likely they were ill. Thenshe took them into the room where a number of toys lay on a pretty little tableand the whole of the table drawer besides was full of beautiful things. Her dollSophy lay in the doll's bed asleepand little Ida said to her"You mustreally get up Sophyand be content to lie in the drawer to-night; the poorflowers are illand they must lie in your bedthen perhaps they will get wellagain." So she took the doll outwho looked quite crossand said not asingle wordfor she was angry at being turned out of her bed. Ida placed theflowers in the doll's bedand drew the quilt over them. Then she told them tolie quite still and be goodwhile she made some tea for themso that theymight be quite well and able to get up the next morning. And she drew thecurtains close round the little bedso that the sun might not shine in theireyes. During the whole evening she could not help thinking of what the studenthad told her. And before she went to bed herselfshe was obliged to peep behindthe curtains into the garden where all her mother's beautiful flowers grewhyacinths and tulipsand many others. Then she whispered to them quite softly"I know you are going to a ball to-night." But the flowers appeared asif they did not understandand not a leaf moved; still Ida felt quite sure sheknew all about it. She lay awake a long time after she was in bedthinking howpretty it must be to see all the beautiful flowers dancing in the king's garden."I wonder if my flowers have really been there" she said to herselfand then she fell asleep. In the night she awoke; she had been dreaming of theflowers and of the studentas well as of the tiresome lawyer who found faultwith him. It was quite still in Ida's bedroom; the night-lamp burnt on the tableand her father and mother were asleep. "I wonder if my flowers are stilllying in Sophy's bed" she thought to herself; "how much I should liketo know." She raised herself a littleand glanced at the door of the roomwhere all her flowers and playthings lay; it was partly openand as shelistenedit seemed as if some one in the room was playing the pianobut softlyand more prettily than she had ever before heard it. "Now all the flowersare certainly dancing in there" she thought"oh how much I shouldlike to see them" but she did not dare move for fear of disturbing herfather and mother. "If they would only come in here" she thought; butthey did not comeand the music continued to play so beautifullyand was soprettythat she could resist no longer. She crept out of her little bedwentsoftly to the door and looked into the room. Oh what a splendid sight there wasto be sure! There was no night-lamp burningbut the room appeared quite lightfor the moon shone through the window upon the floorand made it almost likeday. All the hyacinths and tulips stood in two long rows down the roomnot asingle flower remained in the windowand the flower-pots were all empty. Theflowers were dancing gracefully on the floormaking turns and holding eachother by their long green leaves as they swung round. At the piano sat a largeyellow lily which little Ida was sure she had seen in the summerfor sheremembered the student saying she was very much like Miss Linaone of Ida'sfriends. They all laughed at him thenbut now it seemed to little Ida as if thetallyellow flower was really like the young lady. She had just the samemanners while playingbending her long yellow face from side to sideandnodding in time to the beautiful music. Then she saw a large purple crocus jumpinto the middle of the table where the playthings stoodgo up to the doll'sbedstead and draw back the curtains; there lay the sick flowersbut they got updirectlyand nodded to the others as a sign that they wished to dance with them.The old rough dollwith the broken mouthstood up and bowed to the prettyflowers. They did not look ill at all nowbut jumped about and were very merryyet none of them noticed little Ida. Presently it seemed as if something fellfrom the table. Ida looked that wayand saw a slight carnival rod jumping downamong the flowers as if it belonged to them; it washoweververy smooth andneatand a little wax doll with a broad brimmed hat on her headlike the oneworn by the lawyersat upon it. The carnival rod hopped about among the flowerson its three red stilted feetand stamped quite loud when it danced the Mazurka;the flowers could not perform this dancethey were too light to stamp in thatmanner. All at once the wax doll which rode on the carnival rod seemed to growlarger and tallerand it turned round and said to the paper flowers"Howcan you put such things in a child's head? they are all foolish fancies;"and then the doll was exactly like the lawyer with the broad brimmed hatandlooked as yellow and as cross as he did; but the paper dolls struck him on histhin legsand he shrunk up again and became quite a little wax doll. This wasvery amusingand Ida could not help laughing. The carnival rod went on dancingand the lawyer was obliged to dance also. It was no usehe might make himselfgreat and tallor remain a little wax doll with a large black hat; still hemust dance. Then at last the other flowers interceded for himespecially thosewho had lain in the doll's bedand the carnival rod gave up his dancing. At thesame moment a loud knocking was heard in the drawerwhere Ida's doll Sophy laywith many other toys. Then the rough doll ran to the end of the tablelaidhimself flat down upon itand began to pull the drawer out a little way.
Then Sophy raised himselfand looked round quite astonished"Theremust be a ball here to-night" said Sophy. "Why did not somebody tellme?"
"Will you dance with me?" said the rough doll.
"You are the right sort to dance withcertainly" said sheturning her back upon him.
Then she seated herself on the edge of the drawerand thought that perhapsone of the flowers would ask her to dance; but none of them came. Then shecoughed"Hemhema-hem;" but for all that not one came. The shabbydoll now danced quite aloneand not very badlyafter all. As none of theflowers seemed to notice Sophyshe let herself down from the drawer to thefloorso as to make a very great noise. All the flowers came round her directlyand asked if she had hurt herselfespecially those who had lain in her bed. Butshe was not hurt at alland Ida's flowers thanked her for the use of the nicebedand were very kind to her. They led her into the middle of the roomwherethe moon shoneand danced with herwhile all the other flowers formed a circleround them. Then Sophy was very happyand said they might keep her bed; she didnot mind lying in the drawer at all. But the flowers thanked her very muchandsaid-
"We cannot live long. To-morrow morning we shall be quite dead; and youmust tell little Ida to bury us in the gardennear to the grave of the canary;thenin the summer we shall wake up and be more beautiful than ever."
"Noyou must not die" said Sophyas she kissed the flowers.
Then the door of the room openedand a number of beautiful flowers dancedin. Ida could not imagine where they could come fromunless they were theflowers from the king's garden. First came two lovely roseswith little goldencrowns on their heads; these were the king and queen. Beautiful stocks andcarnations followedbowing to every one present. They had also music with them.Large poppies and peonies had pea-shells for instrumentsand blew into themtill they were quite red in the face. The bunches of blue hyacinths and thelittle white snowdrops jingled their bell-like flowersas if they
were real bells. Then came many more flowers: blue violetspurple heart's-easedaisiesand lilies of the valleyand they all danced togetherand kissed eachother. It was very beautiful to behold.
At last the flowers wished each other good-night. Then little Ida crept backinto her bed againand dreamt of all she had seen. When she arose the nextmorningshe went quickly to the little tableto see if the flowers were stillthere. She drew aside the curtains of the little bed. There they all laybutquite faded; much more so than the day before. Sophy was lying in the drawerwhere Ida had placed her; but she looked very sleepy.
"Do you remember what the flowers told you to say to me?" saidlittle Ida. But Sophy looked quite stupidand said not a single word.
"You are not kind at all" said Ida; "and yet they all dancedwith you."
Then she took a little paper boxon which were painted beautiful birdsandlaid the dead flowers in it.
"This shall be your pretty coffin" she said; "and by and bywhen my cousins come to visit methey shall help me to bury you out in thegarden; so that next summer you may grow up again more beautiful than ever."
Her cousins were two good-tempered boyswhose names were James and Adolphus.Their father had given them each a bow and arrowand they had brought them toshow Ida. She told them about the poor flowers which were dead; and as soon asthey obtained permissionthey went with her to bury them. The two boys walkedfirstwith their crossbows on their shouldersand little Ida followedcarrying the pretty box containing the dead flowers. They dug a little grave inthe garden. Ida kissed her flowers and then laid themwith the boxin theearth. James and Adolphus then fired their crossbows over the graveas they hadneither guns nor cannons. - -