The Snow Man
T HE Snow Man stood very stiff and straight in the garden. He had two triangular pieces of tile in his head instead of eyes. His mouth was made of an old rake, so he had some very fine teeth. He had been born amid the happy shouts of little boys, and welcomed by the merry sound of sleigh bells and the snap of whips.
"It is so wonderfully cold that my whole body crackles," said the Snow Man. "This is the kind of weather to blow life into one. How the gleaming one, up yonder, is staring at me!"
(It was the sun he meant, which was just about to set.)
"He shall not make me wink. I shall manage to keep the pieces."
The sun went down and the moon rose clear and beautiful in the blue sky.
"If I only knew how to move from this place I should like so much to go," sighed the Snow Man. "If I could, I would slide along on the ice with the boys; but I don't understand sliding—I don't know how to run."
"Bow, wow," barked the Yard Dog, "the sun will teach you to run. It will come some morning, and it will make you run down into the ditch by the wall. We shall soon have a change in the weather. I feel it in my bones."
The weather really changed a little. Toward morning there was a thick fog over all the garden. Then came an icy wind, and when the sun rose—oh, was it not beautiful? The branches were covered with hoar frost, and they glistened like diamonds. Where the sun shone it looked as if big diamonds had been dropped upon the snowy carpet of earth.
"Bow, wow," barked the Yard Dog, creeping out of his kennel; "a fine morning."
"The cold is charming," said the Snow Man. "Tell me, did you always lie out here in the cold, fastened to a chain?"
"Bow, wow; no, indeed," barked the Yard Dog. "I used to lie in a chair covered with velvet up in master's house. From where you are standing you can see into the room. I had my own cushion, and there was a stove there—the finest thing in the world in cold weather. I went under the stove, and I could lie beneath it. Oh, I still sometimes dream of that stove. Bow, wow!"
"Does a stove look anything like me?" asked the Snow Man.
"It's quite different," said the Dog. "It's black as a crow, with a long neck and a brazen drum. It eats firewood, and the fire spurts out of its mouth. You can see the stove through the window there."
And the Snow Man looked and saw a bright polished thing with a brazen drum and the fire gleaming from the lower part of it. The Snow Man felt strangely and his teeth chattered.
"Why did you leave her?" he asked, for he thought the stove must surely be a lady.
"I was obliged to go," said the Yard Dog. "I bit the youngest master because he kicked my bone. That was the end of the matter. They chained me up out here. Bow, wow!"
But the Snow Man was looking in the window, and he did not hear the Yard Dog. He was looking at the stove standing there on its four iron legs.
"I want to go in and lean against her," he said, "if I have to break the window!"
"You'll never get in there," said the Yard Dog. "If you go near her, you'll break up."
"I'm nearly gone now," said the Snow Man.
The whole day the Snow Man stood peering in through the window. Toward night the stove looked pleasanter than ever, for it had been given some wood to eat. The red light shone out of the window and straight into the Snow Man's face.
"Oh," he said, "how beautiful she looks when she stretches out her tongue!"
Before long, though, the windows were covered with frost. There were the most wonderful snow flowers any snow man could want, but the Snow Man was unhappy. He could no longer see the stove.
In the morning the weather had changed a great deal. It began to thaw, and the warmer it grew the smaller grew the Snow Man. At last he broke down; and, behold! Where he had stood there was something like a broomstick standing up in the ground. It was the pole about which the boys had built him.
"I wonder why he liked the stove so much," said the Yard Dog, looking at the pool of water which lay where the Snow Man had stood; but he saw directly. There was a coal shovel fastened to the broomstick, and that had been the Snow Man's head. The Snow Man had a stove rake in his body, too.
"I see," said the Yard Dog. "Bow, wow!"
And nobody thought any more about the Snow Man.