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Carolyn Sherwin Bailey

The Old Street Lamp

T HERE was once a very honest old Street Lamp that had done its work for many, many years; but now it hung for the last time to its post, and gave light to the street. To-morrow it was to appear in the council house, and the Mayor and all his council were to inspect it, and say if it were worn out or not.

And the lamp was afraid. Perhaps it would be melted down in a factory. Oh, it would be sorry to go away from the old watchman who had always tended it, and cleaned it, and fed it oil, and who had come along every night with his ladder to light it!

On the bridge of the gutter stood three persons who wished to speak to the old lamp, for they thought they might be set up there on the post in his place. One was a herring's head. He thought it would be a great saving of oil if they put him up on the post, for he knew how to glimmer in the dark quite alone. One was a piece of rotten wood, which also glimmers in the dark. The third person was a glow-worm; but the herring's head and the rotten wood said the glow-worm would never do for the street light, for she only shone at certain times.

At that moment the Wind came careering around the street corner and blew through the broken panes of the old Street Lamp.

"What's this I hear?" asked the Wind. "So you're going away to-morrow? I must make you a present before you go. I will blow in your brain-box, and make you remember,  and see,  like a real person."

"Thank you, heartily," said the old Street Lamp. "I only hope I shall not be melted down."

"I am very sure you will not be," said the Wind, and then he blew; and at that moment the Moon stepped forth from behind the clouds.

"What will you  give the old Street Lamp?" asked the Wind of the Moon.

"I'll give nothing," said the Moon. "I am on the wane, and the lamps never lighted me." Then the Moon hurried off and hid herself behind the clouds.

Just then a bright shooting star fell down, forming a long bright stripe.

"What was that?" asked the herring's head. "Did not a star fall? I really think it went into the lamp! Certainly we had best say good night and go home."

And so they did—all three. But the old lamp shed a marvelously strong light around.

"That was a glorious present," it said. "The bright stars which have always shone as I never could shine have noticed me and given me a present."

"I hope you may sometime shine with a wax light," said the Wind. "But I will go down now." And he went down.

"Wax lights!" exclaimed the lamp. "I shall never have one of them. Oh, I hope I may not be melted down!"

The next morning the Lamp sat in a grandfather's chair! And guess where? In the old watchman's house. The watchman had asked the Mayor if he might keep the faithful old Street Lamp; so it was not melted down, but went home with him. It leaned over toward the warm stove. It felt very big, sitting in a chair all alone.

It was only a cellar where the old watchman and his wife lived, but it was clean and neat. There were curtains round the bed and the little windows. On the window-sill stood two curious flower-pots, made of clay in the shape of two elephants. The backs of the elephants were cut off, and from the inside of one there bloomed chives—that was the kitchen garden; and from the other a red geranium—that was the flower garden. Yes; the old Street Lamp could see it all quite well.

So it sat and looked about, and then, after supper, the old watchman seated himself beside it and spoke of how they had gone through the rain and fog together in the short, bright summer nights, and then the winter nights, when the snow beat down upon them. Yes; it was as the Wind had said it would be—the old Street Lamp could remember everything quite well.

So the Lamp lived in the cellar, and was kept neat and clean, and stood, all shining, in a corner. Strangers thought it a bit of old rubbish, but the old people did not care for that; they loved the Lamp.

One day—it was the watchman's birthday—the old woman smiled to herself and said: "I'll make a light to-day."

The Lamp rattled its cover. "Now I shall have a wax light inside of me," it said; but only some oil was brought, and the Lamp burned merrily with that all through the evening, in honor of the watchman's birthday.

And when the old man had gone to bed, the Lamp had a dream—about being put into a furnace and melted into an iron candlestick, as fair a candlestick as you would wish, one to hold wax lights. The candlestick was set in a beautiful room which was all hung with pictures of forests, and meadows where the storks strutted about, and the blue sky with all the stars.

"How very wonderful!" said the Street Lamp, as it awoke. "It was not so bad to be melted. I held a wax light, and yet here I am in the old watchman's cellar once more, all cleaned and full of oil, which is quite as fine."

And the honest old Street Lamp was very happy, as it well deserved to be.

— Adapted from Hans Christian Andersen
by Carolyn Sherwin Bailey