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Carolyn Sherwin Bailey

The Candles

T HERE was a great Wax Candle that knew well enough what it was.

"I am born in wax," it said. "I give more light and burn longer than any other light. My place is in a silver candlestick."

"That must be a charming life," said the little Tallow Candle. "I am only a tallow dip; but then, I comfort myself it is better than to be a mere taper that is dipped only two times. I am dipped eight times to get a decent thickness. I am satisfied. It would have been finer to be born in wax, and be put in a glass candlestick. I live in the kitchen, but that is a good place, too; they get up all the dishes in the house there."

"There is a party this evening," said the Wax Candle. "I shall soon be sent for."

Just then the Wax Candle was sent for—but the Tallow Candle, too. The mistress took it in her delicate hand and took it out to the kitchen. There stood a little boy with a basket full of potatoes and a few apples in it, too. The mistress had given all these to the poor little boy.

"Here is a tallow candle for you, too," she said. "Your mother sits up and works far into the night—and she can use it."

The mistress' little girl stood near, and she said, eagerly: "And I'm going to sit up till night, too! We're going to have a party, and I'm to wear big, red bows for it."

How her eyes shone! No wax candle could shine like the child's eyes.

"That is a blessed thing to see," thought the Tallow Candle. "I shall never forget it."

So the Tallow Candle was laid in the basket under the cover, and the boy took it away. And so the candle came to the poor people—a mother with three children—in a little, low house right over opposite the rich house.

"God bless the good lady for what she gave," said the mother. "It is a splendid candle, and it will burn far into the night."

And the candle was lighted. Across the street the wax lights were lighted. The carriages rumbled up to the rich house with the guests for the party dressed so finely. The band struck up.

"Now, they're beginning," thought the Tallow Candle, and remembered the little rich girl's bright face, which was brighter than all the wax lights. "That sight I shall never see any more."

Then the smallest of the children in the poor house came—she was a very little girl—and she put her arms around her brother's and sister's necks. She had a secret to whisper to them.

"We're going to have this evening—just think—we're going to have warm potatoes!" And her face shone with happiness. The Tallow Candle shone right in her eyes and saw that she was as happy as the other child who said: "We are going to have a party this evening, and I shall wear some big, red bows."

"Is it such a fine thing to get warm potatoes?" thought the Tallow Candle, and it sputtered to think of it, and more than that no candle can do.

The table was spread, the potatoes eaten. Such a feast as it was! And each child had an apple besides, and the smallest child sang a little song:

"Now thanks, dear Lord, I give to Thee,

That Thou again hast filled me."

And the children went to bed, gave the mother a good-night kiss, and fell asleep right away; but the mother sat and sewed and sewed away into the night to earn a living for them; while from the rich house the music sounded and the lights shone. The stars twinkled over both houses—the rich and the poor one—just as clearly and just as kindly.

"This has been a fine evening," said the Tallow Candle. "I should like to know, before I am burned out, if the Wax Candle, in his silver candlestick, has had any better time?"

And it remembered the faces of the two happy little girls; one lighted by a wax candle and the other by a tallow dip.

— Adapted from Hans Christian Andersen
by Carolyn Sherwin Bailey