Page:Fairy tales from Hans Christian Andersen (Walker).djvu/208

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170
ANDERSEN'S FAIRY TALES

court of justice. The litigants stepped forward and the plaintiff rehearsed his opponent's faults all in a bold and mocking manner; the rest meanwhile dancing to the music of the drum. The defendant replied in the same spirit, and the assemblage laughingly gave their judgment. Thunders resounded from the mountains when portions of the ice fields slipped away, and great masses broke off shivering into dust. It was a typical Greenland summer night.

"A hundred paces away, under a tent of skins, lay a sick man; life was still coursing through his veins, yet he was to die. He knew it himself, and those standing round him knew it too, so much so that his wife was already sewing up the skin robe around him so as not to have to touch the dead man later. She asked him, 'Will you be buried on the Fells, in the hard snow, or would you rather be sunk in the sea?' 'In the sea,' he whispered, and nodded with a sad smile. 'Yes, the sea is a cozy summer tent,' said the woman. 'Thousands of seals sport about in it and the walrus will sleep at your feet; the chase is certain and plenty of it.' The children howled and tore away the tightened skin from the window, so that the dying man might be borne down to the sea, the swelling ocean which gave him food in life, and now in death a resting-place! His headstone was the floating iceberg which changes from day to day. Seals slumber on the ice, and the albatross spreads its great wings above it."


TENTH EVENING

"I knew an old maid," said the moon; "she used to wear a yellow satin pelisse in winter. It was always new, and she never varied the fashion of it. Every summer she used to wear the same straw hat, and, I believe, a bluish gray dress. She only used to go and see one old friend, who lived across the street; but for the last few years she did not go, for her friend was dead. My old friend bustled about in her loneliness by her window, which was always full of beautiful flowers