Hans Andersen's Fairy Tales/A Great Sorrow

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Hans Andersen's Fairy Tales (1888) - p. 21.png


A GREAT SORROW.


This story has two parts. The first part might be left out; but it explains a few particulars, we will relate it.

I was staying once for a few days at a gentleman’s house in the country while the master was absent. In the meantime, a lady called from the next town to see him, as she wished, she said, to dispose of shares in her tan-yard. She had her papers with her, and I advised her to put them in an envelope, and address them to the “General Commissary of War, Knight, etc.” She listened attentively, and then seized the pen; hesitated, and then begged me to repeat the address more slowly. I did so, and she began to write, but when she got half through the words, she stopped and sighed deeply, and said, “I am only a woman.” She had a pug dog with her, and while she wrote Puggie seated himself on the ground and growled. She had brought him for his health and amusement, and it was not quite polite to offer a visitor only the bare floor to sit upon. Puggie had a snub nose, and he was very fat, “He doesn’t bite,” said the lady; “he has no teeth; he is like one of the family, very faithful, but sometimes glumpy. That is the fault of my grandchildren, they teaze him so; when they play at having a wedding, they want to make him the bride’s-maid, and he does not like it, poor old fellow.” Then she finished her writing, gave up her papers, and went away, taking Puggie on her arm. And this ends the first part of the story.

Puggie died. And that begins the second part.

I arrived at the town about a week afterwards, and put up at an inn. The windows of the inn looked into a courtyard, which was divided into two parts by a wooden partition; in one half hung a quantity of skins and hides, both raw and tanned. It was evidently a tan-yard, containing all the materials required for tanning, and it belonged to the widow lady, Puggie’s mistress. Puggie had died the morning I arrived there, and was to be buried in the yard. The grandchildren of the widow, that is to say, the tanner’s widow, for Puggie had never been married, filled up the grave. It was a beautiful grave, and must have been quite pleasant to lie in. They bordered the grave with pieces of flower-pots, and strewed it over with sand. In the centre they stuck half a beer bottle, with the neck uppermost, which certainly was not allegorical. Then the children danced round the grave, and the eldest of the boys among them, a practical youngster of seven years, proposed that there should be an exhibition of Puggie’s burial place, for all who lived in the lane. The price of admission was to be a trouser button, which every boy was sure to have, as well as one to spare for a little girl. This proposal was agreed to with great exclamations of pleasure. All the children from the street, and even from the narrow lane at the back, came flocking to the place, and each gave a button, and many were seen during the afternoon going about with their trousers held up by only one brace, but then they had seen Puggie’s grave, and that was a sight worth much more. But in front of the tan-yard, close to the entrance, stood a very pretty little girl clothed in rags, with curly hair, and eyes so blue and clear it was a pleasure to look into them. The child spoke not a word, nor did she cry; but each time the little door opened, she gave a long, lingering look into the yard. She had not a button, she knew that too well, and therefore she remained standing sorrowfully outside, till all the other children had seen the grave, and were gone away, then she sat down, covered her eyes with her little brown hands, and burst into tears. She was the only one who had not seen Puggie’s grave. It was as great a grief to her as any grown person could experience. I saw this from above; and how many a grief of our own and others can make us smile, if looked at from above?

This is the story: and whoever does not understand it may go and purchase a share in the widow’s tan-yard.