Page:Fairy tales and other stories (Andersen, Craigie).djvu/35

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23
LITTLE IDA'S FLOWERS

student. 'The flowers have been at a ball last night, and that's why they hang their heads.'

'But flowers cannot dance!' cried little Ida.

'Oh, yes,' said the student, 'when it grows dark, and we are asleep, they jump about merrily. Almost every night they have a ball.'

'Can no children go to this ball?'

'Yes,' said the student, 'quite little daisies, and lilies of the valley.'

'Where do the most beautiful flowers dance?' asked little Ida.

'Have you not often been outside the town-gate, by the great castle, where the king lives in summer, and where the beautiful garden is, with all the flowers? You have seen the swans, which swim up to you when you want to give them bread crumbs? There are capital balls there, believe me.'

'I was out there in the garden yesterday, with my mother,' said Ida; 'but all the leaves were off the trees, and there was not one flower left. Where are they? In the summer I saw so many.'

'They are within, in the castle,' replied the student. 'You must know, as soon as the king and all the court go to town, the flowers run out of the garden into the castle, and are merry You should see that. The two most beautiful roses seat themselves on the throne, and then they are king and queen; all the red coxcombs range themselves on either side, and stand and bow; they are the chamberlains. Then all the pretty flowers come, and there is a great ball. The blue violets represent little naval cadets: they dance with hyacinths and crocuses, which they call young ladies; the tulips and the great tiger-lilies are old ladies who keep watch that the dancing is well done, and that everything goes on with propriety.'

'But,' asked little Ida, 'does nobody do anything to the flowers, for dancing in the king's castle?'

'There is nobody who really knows about it,' answered the student. 'Sometimes, certainly, the old steward of the castle comes at night, and he has to watch there. He has a great bunch of keys with him; but as soon as the flowers hear the keys rattle they are quite quiet, hide behind the