Little Tuk by Hans Christian Andersen
YESthey called him Little Tukbut it was not his real name; he had calledhimself so before he could speak plainlyand he meant it for Charles. It wasall very well for those who knew himbut not for strangers.
Little Tuk was left at home to take care of his little sisterGustavawhowas much younger than himselfand he had to learn his lessons at the same timeand the two things could not very well be performed together. The poor boy satthere with his sister on his lapand sung to her all the songs he knewand nowand then he looked into his geography lesson that lay open before him. By thenext morning he had to learn by heart all the towns in Zealandand all thatcould be described of them.
His mother came home at lastand took little Gustava in her arms. Then Tukran to the windowand read so eagerly that he nearly read his eyes out; for ithad become darker and darker every minuteand his mother had no money to buy alight.
"There goes the old washerwoman up the lane" said the motherasshe looked out of the window; "the poor woman can hardly drag herself alongand now she had to drag a pail of water from the well. Be a good boyTukandrun across and help the old womanwon't you?"
So Tuk ran across quicklyand helped herbut when he came back into theroom it was quite darkand there was not a word said about a lightso he wasobliged to go to bed on his little truckle bedsteadand there he lay andthought of his geography lessonand of Zealandand of all the master had toldhim. He ought really to have read it over againbut he could not for want oflight. So he put the geography book under his pillowfor he had heard that thiswas a great help towards learning a lessonbut not always to be depended upon.He still lay thinking and thinkingwhen all at once it seemed as if some onekissed him on his eyes and mouth. He slept and yet he did not sleep; and itappeared as if the old washerwoman looked at him with kind eyes and said"Itwould be a great pity if you did not know your lesson to-morrow morning; youhelped meand now I will help youand Providence will always keep those whohelp themselves;" and at the same time the book under Tuk's pillow began tomove about. "Cluckcluckcluck" cried a hen as she crept towardshim. "I am a hen from Kjoge" and then she told him how manyinhabitants the town containedand about a battle that had been fought therewhich really was not worth speaking of.
"Crackcrack" down fell something. It was a wooden birdtheparrot which is used as a target as Prastoe. He said there were as manyinhabitants in that town as he had nails in his body. He was very proudandsaid"Thorwalsden lived close to meand here I am nowquite comfortable."
But now little Tuk was no longer in bed; all in a moment he found himself onhorseback. Gallopgallopaway he wentseated in front of a richly-attiredknightwith a waving plumewho held him on the saddleand so they rodethrough the wood by the old town of Wordingburgwhich was very large and busy.The king's castle was surrounded by lofty towersand radiant light streamedfrom all the windows. Within there were songs and dancing; King Waldemar and theyoung gayly-dressed ladies of the court were dancing together. Morning dawnedand as the sun rosethe whole city and the king's castle sank suddenly downtogether. One tower after another felltill at last only one remained standingon the hill where the castle had formerly been.
The town now appeared small and poorand the school-boys read in their bookswhich they carried under their armsthat it contained two thousand inhabitants;but this was a mere boastfor it did not contain so many.
And again little Tuk lay in his bedscarcely knowing whether he was dreamingor notfor some one stood by him.
"Tuk! little Tuk!" said a voice. It was a very little person whospoke. He was dressed as a sailorand looked small enough to be a middybut hewas not one. "I bring you many greetings from Corsor. It is a rising townfull of life. It has steamships and mail-coaches. In times past they used tocall it uglybut that is no longer true. I lie on the sea-shore" saidCorsor; "I have high-roads and pleasure-gardens; I have given birth to apoet who was witty and entertainingwhich they are not all. I once wanted tofit out a ship to sail round the worldbut I did not accomplish itthough mostlikely I might have done so. But I am fragrant with perfumefor close to mygates most lovely roses bloom."
Then before the eyes of little Tuk appeared a confusion of colorsred andgreen; but it cleared offand he could distinguish a cliff close to the baythe slopes of which were quite overgrown with verdureand on its summit stood afine old church with pointed towers. Springs of water flowed out of the cliff inthick waterspoutsso that there was a continual splashing. Close by sat an oldking with a golden crown on his white head. This was King Hroar of the Springsand near the springs stood the town of Roeskildeas it is called. Then all thekings and queens of Denmark went up the ascent to the old churchhand in handwith golden crowns on their headswhile the organ played and the fountains sentforth jets of water.
Little Tuk saw and heard it all. "Don't forget the names of these towns"said King Hroar.
All at once everything vanished; but where! It seemed to him like turningover the leaves of a book. And now there stood before him an old peasant womanwho had come from Soroe where the grass grows in the market-place. She had agreen linen apron thrown over her head and shouldersand it was quite wetasif it had been raining heavily. "Yesthat it has" said sheand thenjust as she was going to tell him a great many pretty stories from Holberg'scomediesand about Waldemar and Absalomshe suddenly shrunk up togetherandwagged her head as if she were a frog about to spring. "Croak" shecried; "it is always wetand as quiet as death in Soroe." Then littleTuk saw she was changed into a frog. "Croak" and again she was an oldwoman. "One must dress according to the weather" said she. "Itis wetand my town is just like a bottle. By the cork we must go inand
by the cork we must come out again. In olden times I had beautiful fishandnow I have freshrosy-cheeked boys in the bottom of the bottleand they learnwisdomHebrew and Greek."
"Croak." How it sounded like the cry of the frogs on the moororlike the creaking of great boots when some one is marching- always the sametoneso monotonous and wearingthat little Tuk at length fell fast asleepandthen the sound could not annoy him. But even in this sleep came a dream orsomething like it. His little sister Gustavawith her blue eyesand fair curlyhairhad grown up a beautiful maiden all at onceand without having wings shecould fly. And they flew together over Zealandover green forests and bluelakes.
"Harkso you hear the cock crowlittle Tuk. 'Cock-a-doodle-doo.' Thefowls are flying out of Kjoge. You shall have a large farm-yard. You shall neversuffer hunger or want. The bird of good omen shall be yoursand you shallbecome a rich and happy man; your house shall rise up like King Waldemar'stowersand shall be richly adorned with marble statueslike those at Prastoe.Understand me well; your name shall travel with fame round the world like theship that was to sail from Corsorand at Roeskilde- Don't forget the names ofthe townsas King Hroar said- you shall speak well and clearly little Tukandwhen at last you lie in your grave you shall sleep peacefullyas-"
"As if I lay in Soroe" said little Tuk awaking. It was brightdaylightand he could not remember his dreambut that was not necessaryforwe are not to know what will happen to us in the future. Then he sprang out ofbed quicklyand read over his lesson in the bookand knew it all at once quitecorrectly. The old washerwoman put her head in at the doorand nodded to himquite kindlyand said"Many thanksyou good childfor your helpyesterday. I hope all your beautiful dreams will come true."
Little Tuk did not at all know what he had dreamtbut One above did. - -