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

Little Tuk

Now there was little Tuk; as a matter of fact his name was not Tuk at all, but before he could speak properly he called himself Tuk. He meant it for Carl, so it is just as well we should know that. He had to look after his sister Gustave, who was much smaller than he was, and then he had his lessons to do, but these two things were rather difficult to manage at the same time. The poor boy sat with his, little sister on his lap and sang all the songs he knew, at the same time glancing at his geography book which was open in front of him. Before the next morning he had to know all the towns in the island of Zealand by heart, and everything there was to know about them.

At last his mother came home, for she had been out, and then she took little Gustave. Tuk ran to the window and read as hard as ever he could, for it was getting dark, and mother could not afford to buy candles.

"There's the old washerwoman from the lane," said his mother, as she looked out of the window. "She can hardly carry herself, and yet she has to carry the pail from the pump; run down little Tuk and be a dear boy. Help the old woman!"

Tuk jumped up at once and ran to help her, but when he got home again it was quite dark, and it was useless to talk about candles, he had to go to bed. He had an old turn-up bed, and he lay in it thinking about his geography lesson, the island of Zealand, and all that the teacher had told him. He ought to have been learning the lesson, but of course he could not do that now. He put the geography book under his pillow, because he had heard that this would help him considerably to remember his lesson, but that can't be depended upon.

He lay there thinking and thinking, and then all at once it seemed just as if some one kissed him on his eyes and his mouth, and he fell asleep, yet he was not quite asleep either. It seemed to him as if the old washerwoman was looking at him with her kind eyes and saying: "It would be a great shame if you were not to know your lesson. You helped me, and now I will help you, and Our Lord will always help you." And all at once the book under his head went "cribble crabble."

"Cluck, cluck, cluck!" and there stood a hen from the town of Kioge. "I am a Mtge hen," and then it told him how many inhabitants there were, and about the battle which had taken place there, which after all was not a very important one.

"Cribble, crabble, bang!" something plumped down; it was a wooden bird which now made its appearance—the popinjay from the Shooting Association in Præstö. It told him that there were just as many inhabitants as it had nails in its body, and it was very proud of this. "Thorvaldsen used to live close by my corner; the situation is beautiful."

Now little Tuk no longer lay in bed, he was on horseback. Gallop a gallop he went. He was sitting in front of a splendidly dressed knight with a shining helmet and a waving plume. They rode through the woods to the old town of Vordingborg, and this was a big and populous town. The castle towered over the royal city, and the lights shone through the windows; there was dancing and singing within, and King Waldemar led out the stately young court ladies to the dance. Morning came, and as the sun rose the town sank away and the king's palace, one tower after the other; at last only one tower remained on the hill where the castle had stood, and the town had become tiny and very poor. The schoolboys came along with their books under their arms, and they said "two thousand inhabitants," but that was not true, there were not so many.

Little Tuk was still lying in his bed; first he thought he was dreaming, and then he thought he was not dreaming, but there was somebody close to him.

A sailor, a tiny little fellow, who might have been a cadet, but he was not a cadet, was saying to him, "Little Tuk! Little Tuk! I am to greet you warmly from Korsiier," which is a rising town. It is a flourishing town, which has steamers and coaches. At one time it used to be called a tiresome town, but that was an old-fashioned opinion. "I lie close to the sea," says Korstier. "I have good high roads and pleasure gardens, I have given birth to a poet who was amusing, and that is more than they all are. I wanted to send a ship round the world, I did not do it, but I might have done it; then there is the most delicious scent about me, because there are beautiful rose gardens close by the gates!"

Little Tuk saw them, the green and red flowering branches passed before his eyes; and then they vanished and changed into wooded heights, sloping to the clear waters Of the fiord. A stately old church towered over the fiord, with its twin spires. Springs of water flowed from the cliff and rushed down in rapid bubbling streams. Close by them sat an old king with a golden crown round his flowing locks; this was King Hroar of the Springs and Roeskilde, (Hroars-springs) is now the name of the town. Down over the slopes and past the springs, walked hand in hand all Denmark's kings and queens wearing their crowns. On and on they went into the old church, to the pealing music of the organ, and the rippling of the springs. "Don't forget the Estates of the Realm," said King Hroar. All at once everything vanished—where were they? Now an old peasant woman stood before Tuk; she was a weeding woman, and came from Sorä' where the grass grows on the market-place. She had put her grey linen apron over her head and shoulders, it was soaking wet, there must have been rain. "Yes, indeed, it has been raining," she said. She knew some of the comic parts of Holberg's plays, and she knew all about Waldemar and Absolom; just as she was going to tell him these stories she shrank up and wagged her head, it looked just as if she was about to take a leap. "Koax," she said, "it is wet, it is wet, it is dull as ditch water—in good old Sorö!" "She had become a frog, "koax," and then once more she was the old woman. "One must dress according to the weather!" said she. "It is wet, it is wet, my town is like a bottle, you get in by the neck, and you have to come out the same way again! I used to have beautiful fish there once, now I have rosycheeked boys down at the bottom of the bottle; they get a great deal of wisdom there; Greek! Greek! Hebrew! koax!" It was just like the croaking of frogs or the creaking of fishing boots when you walk in a swamp. It was always the same sound, so tiresome, so tiresome that little Tuk fell into a deep sleep, which was the best thing for him.

But even in this sound sleep he had a dream, or something of the sort. His little sister, Gustave, with the blue eyes and golden, curly hair, had all at once become a lovely grown up girl, and without having wings she could fly. They flew together right across Zealand, over the green woods and deep blue waters.

"Do you hear the cock crowing, little Tuk? Cock-a- doodle-doo. The hens come flying up from KiOge town. You shall have such a big, big chicken yard. You will be a rich and happy man! Your house shall hold up its head like King Waldemar's towers, and it shall be richly built up with marble statues, like those in Prestii. You understand me, I suppose. Your name will spread round the world with praise, like the ship which was to have sailed from Korsber; and it will be known in Roeskilde town."

"Remember the Estates of the Realm," said King Hroar.

"You shall speak well and wisely in Parliament, little Tuk; and when you are in your grave you shall sleep as quietly as——"

"As if I were in Sorö!" said little Tuk, and then he woke up. It was bright daylight, and he remembered nothing about his dream; but that was as it should be, one must not look into the future.

He sprang out of bed and read his book till he knew his lesson, which he did almost at once. The old washerwoman put her head in at the door, nodded to him, and said—

"Many thanks for your help yesterday, you dear child! May the Lord fulfil the dream of your heart!"

Little Tuk did not know a bit what he had dreamt, but One above knew all about it!

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