Gateway to the Classics: Andersen's Fairy Tales by Alice Lucas
 
Andersen's Fairy Tales by  Alice Lucas


The Flying Trunk

There was once a merchant who was so rich that he might have paved the whole street, and a little alley besides, with silver money. But he didn't do it—he knew better how to use his money than that: if he laid out a penny, he got half a crown in return, such a clever man of business was he—and then he died.

His son got all the money, and he led a merry life; he used to go to masquerades every night, made kites of bank notes, and played ducks and drakes with gold coins instead of stones. In this way the money soon went. At last he had only a penny left, and no clothes except an old dressing-gown and a pair of slippers. His friends cared for him no longer, they couldn't walk about the streets with him; but one of them who was kind sent him an old trunk, and said, "Pack up." Now this was all very well, but he had nothing to pack, so he got into the trunk himself.

It was a most peculiar trunk. If you pressed the lock the trunk could fly and this is what happened: with a whiz it flew up the chimney, high above the clouds, further and further away. The bottom of it cracked ominously, and he was dreadfully afraid it would go to pieces, and a nice fall he would have had I Heaven preserve us! At last he arrived in the country of the Turks. He hid the trunk in a wood under the dead leaves, and walked into the town; he could easily do that, as all the Turks wear dressing-gowns and slippers, you know, just like his. He met a nurse with a baby. "I say, you Turkish nurse," said he, "what is that big palace close to the town, where all the windows are so high up?"

"That's where the king's daughter lives," said she; "it has been prophesied that she will be made very unhappy by a lover, so no one is allowed to visit her except when the king and the queen go with them."

"Thank you," said the merchant's son and then he went back to the wood and got into his trunk again, and flew on to the roof of the palace, from whence he crept in at the princess's window.

She was lying on a sofa, fast asleep. She was so very beautiful that the merchant's son was driven to kiss her. She woke up and was dreadfully frightened, but he said that he was the Prophet of the Turks and he had flown down through the air to see her, and this pleased her very much.

They sat side by side and he told her stories about her eyes; he said they were like the most beautiful deep, dark lakes, in which her thoughts floated like mermaids; and then he told her about her forehead, that it was like a snow mountain, adorned with a series of pictures. And he told her all about the storks, which bring beautiful little children up out of the rivers. No end of beautiful stories he told her, and then he asked her to marry him, and she at once said "Yes." "But you must come here on Saturday," she said, "when the king and the queen drink tea with me. They will be very proud when they hear I am to marry a prophet; but mmd you have a splendid story to tell them, for my parents are very fond of stories: my mother likes them to be grand and very proper, but my father likes them, to be merry, so that he can laugh at them."

"Well, a story will be my only wedding-gift!" he said, and then they separated: but the princess gave him a sword encrusted with gold. It was the kind of present he needed badly.

He flew away and bought himself a new dressing-gown, and sat down in the wood to make up a new story; it had to be ready by Saturday, and it is not always so easy to make up a story.

However he had it ready in time, and Saturday came.

The king, the queen and the whole court were waiting for him round the princess's tea-table. He had a charming reception.

"Now will you tell us a story," said the Queen, "one which is both thoughtful and instructive."

"But one that we can laugh at too," said the King.

"All right!" said he, and then he began; we must listen to his story attentively.

"There was once a bundle of matches, and they were frightfully proud because of their high origin. Their family tree, that is to say the great pine tree of which they were each a little splinter, had been the giant of the forest. The matches now lay on a shelf between a tinder box and an old iron pot, and they told the whole story of their youth to these two. 'Ah, when we were a living tree,' said they, we were indeed a green branch! Every morning and every evening we had diamond-tea, that was the dew-drops. In the day we had the sunshine, and all the little birds to tell us stories. We could see, too, that we were very rich, for most of the other trees were only clad in summer, but our family could afford to have green clothes both summer and winter. But then the wood-cutters came, and there was a great revolution, and our family was sundered. The head of the tribe got a place as mainmast on a splendid ship, which could sail round the world if it chose; the other branches were scattered in different directions, and it is now our task to give light to the common herd, that is how such aristocratic people as ourselves have got into this kitchen.'

" 'Now my lot has been different!' said the iron pot, beside which the matches lay. 'Ever since I came into the world I have passed the time in being scoured and boiled, over and over again I Everything solid comes to me, and in fact I am the most important person in the house. My pleasure is when the dinner is over, to lie clean and bright on the shelf, and to have a sensible chat with my companions; but with the exception of the water-bucket which sometimes goes down into the yard, we lead an indoor life. Our only newsmonger is the market-basket, and it talks very wildly about the Government and the People. Why the other day an old pot was so alarmed by the conversation, that it fell down and broke itself to pieces! It was a Liberal you see!'

" 'You are talking too much,' said the tinderbox, and the steel struck sparks on the flint. Let us have a merry evening.'

" 'Yes, pray let us settle which is the most aristocratic among us,' said the matches.

" 'No, I don't like talking about myself, said the earthen pipkin; let us have an evening entertainment! I will begin. I will tell you the kind of things we have all experienced; they are quite easy to understand, and that is what we all like: By the eastern sea and Danish beeches—'

" 'That's a nice beginning to make!' said all the plates; 'I am sure that will be a story I shall like!'

" 'Well, I passed my youth there, in a very quiet family; the furniture was bees-waxed, the floors washed, and clean curtains were put up once a fortnight!'

" 'What a good story-teller you are,' said the broom; one can tell directly that it's a woman telling a story, a vein of cleanliness runs through it!'

" 'Yes, one feels that,' said the water-pail, and for very joy it gave a little hop which clashed on the floor.

"The pipkin went on with its story, and the end was much the same as the beginning.

"All the plates clattered with joy, and the broom crowned the pipkin with a wreath of parsley, because it knew it would annoy the others; and it thought, If I crown her to-day, she will crown me to-morrow.'

" 'Now I will dance,' said the tongs, and began to dance; heaven help us, what a way into the air she could get her leg. The old chair-cover in the corner burst when she saw it! Mayn't I be crowned too,' said the tongs, so they crowned her.

" 'They're only a rabble after all,' said the matches.

"The tea-urn was called upon to sing now, but it had a cold, it said; it couldn't sing except when it was boiling; but that was all because it was stuck-up; it wouldn't  sing except when it was on the drawing-room table.

"There was an old quill pen, along on the window-sill, which the servant used to write with; there was nothing extraordinary about it, except that it had been dipped too far into the inkpot, but it was rather proud of that. 'If the tea-urn won't sing, it can leave it alone,' it said. 'There is a nightingale hanging outside in a cage, it can sing; it certainly hasn't learnt anything special, but we needn't mind that to-night.'

" 'I think it is most unsuitable,' said the kettle, which was the kitchen songster, and half-sister of the urn, that a strange bird like that should be listened to! Is it patriotic? I will let the, market-basket judge.'

" 'I am very much annoyed,' said the market-basket. 'I am more annoyed than any one can tell! Is this a suitable way to spend an evening? Wouldn't it be better to put the house to rights? Then everything would find its proper place, and I would manage the whole party. Then we should get on differently!'

" 'Yes, let us make a row!' they all said together.

"At that moment the door opened, it was the servant, and they all stood still, nobody uttered a sound. But not a pot among them which didn't know its capabilities, or how distinguished it was, If I  had chosen, we might have had a merry evening, and no mistake,' they all thought.

"The servant took the matches and struck a light; preserve us! how they spluttered and blazed up.

" 'Now everyone can see,' they thought, that we are the first. How brilliantly we shine! What a light we shed around!'—And then they were burnt out."

"That was a splendid story," said the Queen; "I quite felt that I was in the kitchen with the matches. Yes indeed you shall marry our daughter."

"Certainly!" said the King. "Thou shalt marry her on Monday!" They said "du" (thou) to him now, as they were to be related.

So the wedding was decided upon, and the evening before the town was illuminated. Buns and cakes were scattered broadcast; the street boys stood on tiptoe and shouted hurrah, and whistled through their fingers. Everything was most gorgeous.

"I suppose I shall have to do something too," said the merchant's son; so he bought a lot of rockets, squibs, and all sorts of fireworks, put them in his trunk, and flew up into the air with them.

All the Turks jumped at the sight, so that their slippers flew up into the air, they had never seen a flight of meteors like that before. They saw now without doubt that it was the prophet himself, who was about to marry the princess.

As soon as the merchant's son got down again into the wood with his trunk, he thought, "I will just go into the town to hear what was thought of the display," and it was quite reasonable that he should do so.

Oh, how every one talked, every single man he spoke to had his own opinion about it, but that it had been splendid was the universal opinion.

"I saw the prophet myself," said one; "his eyes were like shining stars, and his beard like foaming water."

"He was wrapped in a mantle of fire," said another. "The most beautiful angel's heads peeped out among the folds." He heard nothing but pleasant things, and the next day was to be his wedding-day. He went back to e wood to get into his trunk—but where was it? The trunk was burnt up. A spark from the fireworks had set fire to it and the trunk was burnt to ashes. He could not fly any more, or reach his bride. She stood all day on the roof waiting for him; she is waiting for him still, but he wanders round the world telling stories, only they are no longer so merry as the one he told about the matches.


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