other and said " Eapp !" It was too witty ! And all the other Ducks
now began to notice the little Singing Bird.
" The Portuguese has certainly a greater command of language," they
said. " For our part, we don't care to fill our beaks with such long
words, but our sympathy is just as great. If we don't do anything for
you, we march about with you everywhere ; and AVC think that the best
thing we can do."
" You have a lovely voice," said one of the oldest. " It must be a
great satisfaction to be able to give so much pleasure as you are able to
impart. I certainly am no great judge of your song, and consequently
I keep my beak shut ; and even that is better than talking nonsense to
you, as others do."
"Don't plague him so," interposed the Portuguese Duck: "he requires
rest and nursing. My little Singing Bird, do you wish ine to prepare
another bath for you ? "
Stories for the Household.
" Oh, no ! pray let me be dry !" was the little Bird's petition.
" The water cure is the only remedy for me when I am unwell," quoth
the Portuguese. " Amusement is beneficial too. The neighbouring
fowls will soou come to pay their visit. There are two Cochin Chinese
among them. They wear feathers on their legs, are well educated, and
have been brought from afar, consequently they stand higher than the
others in my regard."
And the Fowls came, and the Cock came ; to-day he was polite enough
to abstain from being rude.
" You are a true Singing Bird," he said, " and you do as much with
your little voice as can possibly be done with it. But one requires a
little more shrillness, that every hearer may hear that one is a male."
THE LITTLE SINGING BIRD RECEIVES DISTINGUISHED PATRONAGE.
The two Chinese stood quite enchanted with the appearance of the
Singing Bird. He looked very much rumpled after his bath, so that he
seemed to them to have quite the appearance of a little Cochin China fowl.
"He's charming," they cried, and began a conversation with him,
speaking in whispers, and using the most aristocratic Chinese dialect.
" AVe are of your race," they continued. " The Ducks, even the
Portuguese, are swimming birds, as you cannot fail to have noticed.
You do not know us yet ; very few know us, or give themselves the
trouble to make our acquaintance not even any of the fowls, though
we are born to occupy a higher grade on the ladder than most of the
rest. But that does not disturb us : we quietly pursue our path amid
the others, whose principles are certainly not ours ; for we look at
things on the favourable side, and only speak of what is good, though
it is difficult sometimes to find something when nothing exists. Except
us two and the Cock, there's no one in the whole poultry-yard who is at
once talented and polite. It cannot even be said of the inhabitants of
In the Duck-Yard. 179
the ciuck-yard. We warn you, little Singing Bird: don't trust that one
yonder w'ith the short tail-feathers, for she's cunning. The pied one
there, with the crooked stripes on her wings, is a strife-seeker, and lets
nobody have the last word, though she 's always in the wrong. The fat
duck yonder speaks evil of every one, and that 's against our principles :
if we have nothing good to tell, we should hold our beaks. The Por-
tuguese is the only one who has any education, and with whom one can
associate, but she is passionate, and talks too much about Portugal."
" I wonder what those two Chinese are always whispering to one
another about ? " whispered one Duck to her friend. " They annoy me
we have never spoken to them."
Now the Drake came up. He thought the little Singing Bird was a
" Well, I don't understand the difference," he said ; " and indeed it 's
all the same thing. He ',s only a plaything, and if one has them, why,
one has them."
" Don't attach any value to what he says," the Portuguese whispered.
" He 's very respectable in business matters ; and with him business
takes precedence of everything. But now I shall lie down for a rest.
One owes that to oneself, that one may be nice and fat when one is to
be embalmed with apples and plums."
And accordingly she lay down in the sun, and winked with one eye ;
and she lay very comfortably, and she felt very comfortable, and she
slept very comfortably.
The little Singing Bird busied himself with his broken wing. At last
he lay down too, and pressed close to his protectress : the sun shone
warm and bright, and he had found a very good place.
But the neighbour's fowls were awake. They went about scratching
up the earth ; and, to tell the truth, they had paid the visit simply and
solely to find food for themselves. The Chinese were the first to leave
the duck-yard, and the other fowls soon followed them. The witty
little Duck said of the Portuguese that the old lady was becoming a
ducky dotard. At this the other Ducks laughed and cackled aloud.
" Ducky dotard," they whispered ; " that 's too witty ! " and then they
repeated the former joke about Portulak, and declared that it was vastly
amusing. And then they lay down.
They had been lying asleep for some time, when suddenly something
was thrown into the yard for them to eat. It came down with such a
thwack, that the whole company started up from sleep and clapped their
wings. The Portuguese awoke too, and threw herself over on the other
side, pressing the little Singing Bird very hard as she did so.
" Piep !" he cried ; " you trod very hard upon me, madam."
" Well, why do you lie in my way ?" the Duck retorted. " You must
not be so touchy. I have nerves of my own, but yet I never called out
" Don't be angry," said the little Bird ; " the ' piep ' came out of my
The Portuguese did not listen to him, but began eating as fast as she
180 Stories for the Household.
could, and made a good meal. AYhen this was ended, and she lay down
again, the little -Bird came up, and wanted to be amiable, and sang:
" Tillee-lilly lee,
Of the good spring-time
I'll sing so flue
As far away I flee."
" Xow I want to rest after my dinner," said the Portuguese. " You
must conform to the rules of the house while you 're here. I waut to
The little Singing Bird was quite taken aiack, for he had meant it
kindly. When Madam afterwards awoke, he stood before her again
with a little corn that he had found, and laid it at her feet ; but as she
had not slept well, she was naturally in a very bad humour.
"Give that to a chicken!" she said, "and don't be always standing
in my way."
'Why are you angry with me?" replied the little Singin" Bird.
"What have I done?"
" Cone ! " repeated the Portuguese Duck : " your mode of expression is
not exactly genteel; a fact to which I must call your attention."
"Yesterday it was sunshine here," said the little Bird, "but to-day
it's cloudy and the air is close."
" You don't know much about the weather, I fancy," retorted the
Portuguese. " The day is not done yet. Don't stand there looking so
" But you are looking at me just as the wicked eyes looked when I
fell into the yard yesterday."
" Impertinent creature ! " exclaimed the Portuguese Duck, " would you
compare me with the cat, that beast of prey ? There's not a drop of
malicious blood in me. I 've taken your part, and will teach you good
And so saying, she bit off the Singing Bird's head, and he lay dead on
"IS'ow, what's the meaning of this ?" she said, " could he not bear
even that ? Then certainly he was not made for this world. I 've been
like a mother to him, I know that, for I 've a good heart."
Then the neighbour's Cock stuck his head into the yard, and crowed
with steam-engine power.
" You '11 kill me with your crowing ! " she cried. " It 's all your fault.
He 's lost his head, and I am very near losing mine."
" There 's not much lying where he fell ! " observed the Cock.
"Speak of him with respect," retorted the Portuguese Duck, "for he
had song, manners, and education. He was affectionate and soft, and
that 's as good in animals as in your so-called human beings."
And all the Ducks came crowding round the little dead Singing Bird.
Ducks have strong passions, whether they feel envy or pity; and as
there was nothing here to envy, pity manifested itself, even in the two
" We shall never get such a singing bird again ; he was almost a
The Red Shoes. 181
Chinese," they whispered ; and they wept with a mighty clucking sound,
and all the fowls clucked too, but the Ducks went about with the redder
" We 've hearts of our own," they said ; " nobody can deny that."
"Hearts!" repeated the Portuguese, "yes, that we have, almost as
much as in Portugal."
" Let us think of getting something to satisfy our hunger," said the
Drake, "for that's the most important point. If one of our toys is
broken, why, we have plenty more ! "
THE RED SHOES.
THERE was once a little girl ; a very nice pretty little girl. But in
summer she had to go barefoot, because she was poor, and in winter
she wore thick wooden shoes, so that her little instep became quite red,
In the middle of the village lived an old shoemaker's wife : she sat,
and sewed, as well as she could, a pair of little shoes, of old strips of
red cloth ; they were clumsy enough, but well meant, and the little
girl was to have them. The little girl's name was Karen.
On the day when her mother was buried she received the red shoes
and wore them for the first time. They were certainly not suited for
mourning ; but she had no others, and therefore thrust her little bare
feet into them and walked behind the plain deal coffin.
Suddenly a great carriage came by, and in the carriage sab an old
lady : she looked at the little girl and felt pity for her, and said to the
" Give me the little girl, and I will provide for her."
Karen thought this was for the sake of the shoes ; but the old lady
declared they were hideous ; and they were burned. But Karen her-
self was clothed neatly and properly : she was taught to read and to
sew, and the people said she was agreeable. But her mirror said, " You
are much more than agreeable ; you are beautiful."
Once the Queen travelled through the country, and had her little
daughter with her ; and the daughter was a Princess. And the people
flocked towards the castle, and Karen too Avas among them ; and the
little Princess stood in a fine white dress at a window, and let herself
be gazed at. She had neither train nor golden crown, but she wore
splendid red morocco shoes ; they were certainly far handsomer than
those the shoemaker's wife had made for little Karen. Nothing in the
world can compare with red shoes !
Now Karen was old enough to be confirmed : new clothes were made
for her, and she was to have new shoes. The rich shoemaker in the
town took the measure of her little feet ; this was done in his own
house, in his little room, and there stood great glass cases with neat
182 Stories for the Household.
shoes and shining boots. It had quite a charming appearance, but the
old lady could not see well, and therefore took no pleasure in it. Among
the shoes stood a red pair, just like those which the Princess had worn.
How beautiful they were ! The shoemaker also said they had been made
for a Count's child, but they had not fitted.
" That must be patent leather," observed the old lady, " the shoes
shine so ! "
" Tes, they shine ! " replied Karen ; and they fitted her, and were
bought. But the old lady did not know that they were red; for she
would never have allowed Karen to go to her confirmation in red shoes;
and that is what Karen did.
Every one was looking at her shoes. And when she went across the
church porch, towards the door of the choir, it seemed to her as if the
old pictures on the tombstones, the portraits of clergymen and clergy-
men's wives, in their stiff collars and long black garments, fixed their
eyes upon her red shoes. And she thought of her shoes only, when
the priest laid his hand upon her head and spoke holy words. And the
organ pealed solemnly, the children sang with their fresh sweet voices,
and the old precentor sang too ; but Karen thought only of her red
In the afternoon the old lady was informed by every one that the
shoes were red ; and she said it was naughty and unsuitable, and that
when Karen Avent to church in future, she should always go in black
shoes, even if they were old.
Xext Sunday was Sacrament Sunday. And Karen looked at the
black shoes, and looked at the red ones looked at them again and
put on the red ones.
The sun shone gloriously ; Karen and the old lady went along the
foot-path through the fields, and it was rather dusty.
By the church door stood an old invalid soldier witli a crutch and a
long beard ; the beard was rather red than white, for it was red alto-
gether ; and he bowed down almost to the ground, and asked the old
lady if he might dust her shoes. And Karen also stretched out her
" Look, what pretty dancing-shoes ! " said the old soldier. " Fit so
tightly when you dance ! "
And he tapped the soles with his hand. And the old lady gave the
soldier an alms, and went into the church with Karen.
And every one in the church looked at Karen's red shoes, and all the
pictures looked at them. And while Karen knelt in the church she
only thought of her red shoes ; and she forgot to sing her psalm, and
forgot to say her prayer.
IS'ow all the people went out of church, and the old lady stepped
into her carriage. Karen lifted up her foot to step in too ; then the old
' Look, what beautiful dancing-shoes ! "
And Karen could not resist: she was obliged to dance a few steps;
aud when she once began, her legs went on dancing. It was just as
KAREN AND THE OLD SOLDIEE.
though the shoes had obtained power over her. She dancec 1 round the
corner of the church she could not help it ; the coachman was obliged
to run behind her and seize her : he lifted her into the carriage, but her
feet went on dancing, so that she kicked the good old lady violently.
At last they took oif her shoes, and her legs became quiet.
At home the shoes were put away in a cupboard ; but Karen could
not resist looking at them.
]S"ow the old lady became very ill, and it* was said she would not
recover. She had to be nursed and waited on ; and this was no one's
duty so much as Karen's. But there was to be a great ball in the
town, and Karen was invited. She looked at the old lady who could
not recover ; she looked at the red shoes, and thought there would be
no harm in it. She put on the shoes, and that she might very well
do ; but they went to the ball and began to dance.
But when she wished to go to the right hand, the shoes danced to the
left, and when she wanted to go upstairs the shoes danced downwards,
184 Stories for the Household.
down iuto the street and out at the town gate. She danced, and was
obliged to dance, straight out into the dark wood.
There was something glistening up among the trees, and she thought
it was the moon, for she saw a face. But it was the old soldier with
the red beard : he sat and nodded, and said,
" Look, what beautiful dancing-shoes ! "
Then she was frightened, and wanted to throw away the red shoes ;
but they clung fast to her. And she tore off her stockings ; but the
shoes had grown fast to her feet. And she danced and was compelled
to go dancing over field and meadow, in rain and sunshine, by night
and by day ; but it was most dreadful at night.
She danced out iuto the open churchyard ; but the dead there do not
dance ; they have far better things to do. She wished to sit down on
the poor man's grave, where the bitter fern grows ; but there was no
peace nor rest for her. And when she danced towards the open church
door, she saw there an angel in long white garments, with wings that
reached from his shoulders to his feet ; his countenance was serious and
stern, and in his hand he held a sword that was broad and gleaming.
" Thou shalt dance ! " he said " dance on thy red shoes, till thou art
pale and cold, and till thy body shrivels to a skeleton. Thou shalt dance
from door to door ; and where proud, haughty children dwell, shalt thou
knock, that they may hear thee, and be afraid of thee ! Thou shait
dance, dance ! "
" Mercy ! " cried Karen.
But she did not hear what the angel answered, for the shoes carried
her away carried her through the door on to the field, over stock and
stone, and she was always obliged to dance.
One morning she danced past a door which she knew well. There was
a sound of psalm-singing within, and a coffin was carried out, adorned
with flowers. Then she knew that the old lady was dead, and she felt
that she was deserted by all, and condemned by the angel of heaven.
She danced, and was compelled to dance to dance in the dark night.
The shoes carried her on over thorn and brier ; she scratched herself
till she bled ; she danced away across the heath to a little lonely house.
Here she knew the executioner dwelt ; and she tapped with her fingers
on the panes, and called,
" Come out, come out! I cannot come in, for I must dance ' "
And the executioner said,
" You probably don't. know who I am ? I cut off the bad people's
heads with my axe, and mark how my axe rings ! "
"Do not strike off my head," said Karen, "for if you do I cannot
repent of my sin. But strike off my feet with the red shoes ! "
And then she confessed all her sin, and the executioner cut off her
feet with the red shoes ; but the shoes danced away with the little feet
over the fields and into the deep forest.
And he cut her a pair of wooden feet, with crutches, and taught her
a psalm, which the criminals always sing ; and she kissed the hand that
had held the axe, and went away across the heath.
The Red Shoes.
"Now I have suffered pain enough for the red shoes," said she.
" Now I will go into the church, that they may see me."
And she went quickly towards the church door; but when she came
there the red shoes danced before her, so that she was frightened, and
The whole week through she was sorrowful, and wept many bitter
tears ; but when Sunday came, she said,
" Now I have suffered and striven enough ! I think that I am just as
good as many of those who sit in the church and carry their heads high."
And then she went boldly on ; but she did not g'et farther than the
churchyard gate before she saw the red shoes dancing along before her:
then she was seized with terror, and turned back, and repented of her
sin right heartily.
And she went to the parsonage, and begged to be taken there as a
servant. She promised to be industrious, and to do all she could ; she
did not care for wages, and only wished to be under a roof and with
good people. The clergyman's wife pitied her, and took her into her
service. And she was industrious and thoughtful. Silently she sat and
listened when in the evening the pastor read the Bible aloud. All the
little ones were very fond of her ; but when they spoke of dress and
splendour and beauty she would shake her head.
Next Sunday they all went to church, and she was asked if she wished
to go too ; but she looked sadly, with tears in her eyes, at her crutches.
And then the others went to hear God's word ; but she went alone
into her little room, Avhich was only large enough to contain her bed
and a chair. And here she sat with her hymn-book ; and as she read
it with a pious mind, the wind bore the notes of the organ over to her
from the church ; and she lifted up her face, wet with tears, and said,
" O Lord, help me ! "
186 Stories for the Household.
Then the sun shone so brightly ; and before her stood the angel in the
white garments, the same she had seen that night at the church door.
But he no longer grasped the sharp sword : he held a green branch
covered with roses ; and he touched the ceiling, and it rose up high, and
wherever he touched it a golden star gleamed forth ; and he touched
the walls, and they spread forth widely, and she saw the organ which
was pealing its rich sounds ; and she saw the old pictures of clergymen
and their wives ; and the congregation sat in the decorated seats, and
sang from their hymn-books. The church had come to the poor girl in
her narrow room, or her chamber had become a church. She sat in the
chair with the rest of the clergyman's people ; and when they had
finished the psalm, and looked up, they nodded and said,
" That was right, that you came here, Karen."
" It was mercy ! " said she.
And the organ sounded its glorious notes ; and the children's voices
singing in chorus sounded sweet and lovely ; the clear sunshine streamed
so warm through the window upon the chair in which Karen sat ; and
her heart became so filled with sunshine, peace, and joy, that it broke.
Her soul flew on the sunbeams to heaven ; and there was nobody who
asked after the BED SHOES !
SOUP ON A SAUSAGE-PEG.
" THAT was a remarkably fine dinner yesterday," observed an old
Mouse of the female sex to another who had not been at the festive
gathering. " I sat number twenty-one from the old Mouse King, so
that I was not badly placed. Should you like to hear the order of the
banquet ? The courses were very well arranged mouldy bread, bacon
rind, tallow candle, and sausage and then the same dishes over again
from the beginning : it was just as good as having two banquets in suc-
cession. There was as much joviality and agreeable jesting as in the
family circle. Nothing was left but the pegs at the ends of the sausages.
And "the discourse turned upon these ; and at last the expression, ' Soup
on sausage rinds,' or, as they have the proverb in the neighbouring
country, ' Soup on a sausage-peg,' was mentioned. Every one had heard
the proverb, but no one had ever tasted the sausage-peg soup, much
less prepared it. A capital toast was drunk to the inventor of the soup,
and it was said he deserved to be a relieving officer. Was not that
witty ? And the old Mouse King stood up, and promised that the young
female mouse who could best prepare that soup should be his queen ;
and a year was allowed for the trial."
' That was not at all bad," said the other Mouse; " but how does one
prepare this soup ? "
Soup on a Sausaye-Pey. 187
" Ah, how is it prepared ? That is just what all the young female
mice, and the old ones too, are asking. They would all very much like
to be queen ; but they don't want to take the trouble to go out into the
world to learn how to prepare the soup, and that they would certainly
have to do. But every one has not the gift of leaving the family circle
and the chimney corner. In foreign parts one can't get cheese rinds
and bacon every day. Xo, one must bear hunger, and perhaps be eaten
up alive by a cat."
Such were probably the considerations by which the majority were
deterred from going out into the wide world and gaining information.
Only four Mice announced themselves ready to depart. They were
young and brisk, but poor. Each of them wished to proceed to one
of the four quarters of the globe, and then it would become manifest
which of them was favoured by fortune. Every one took a sausage-peg,
so as to keep in mind the object of the journey. The stiff sausage-peg
was to be to them as a pilgrim's staff.
It was at the beginning of May that they set out, and they did not
return till the May of the following year ; and then only three of them
appeared. The fourth did not report herself, nor was there any intelli-
gence of her, though the day of trial was close at hand.
" Tes, there 's always some drawback in even the pleasantest affair,"
said the Mouse King.
And then he gave orders that all mice within a circuit of many
miles should be invited. They were to assemble in the kitchen, where
the three travelled Mice would stand up in a row, while a sausage-peg,
shrouded in crape, was set up as a memento of the fourth, who was
missing. No one was to proclaim his opinion till the Mouse King had
settled what was to be said. And now let us hear.
What tlie first little Mouse liad seen and learned in Jier travels.
"WHEN I went out into the wide world," said the little Mouse, "I
thought, as many think at my age, that I had already learned everything ;
but that was not the case. Tears must pass before one gets so far. I
went to sea at once. I went in a ship that steered towards the north.
They had told me that the ship's cook must know how to manage things
at sea ; but it is easy enough to manage things when one has plenty of