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Nursery Rhymes . . . for children.

Once upon a time . . . . .  from our fabulous collection of Fairy Tales for children . . .  they lived happily ever after . . .

The Little Match-seller

IT was terribly cold and nearly dark on the last evening
of the old year, and the snow was falling fast. In the cold
and the darkness, a poor little girl, with bare head and naked
feet, roamed through the streets. It is true she had on a pair
of slippers when she left home, but they were not of much use.
They were very large, so large, indeed, that they had belonged
to her mother, and the poor little creature had lost them in
running across the street to avoid two carriages that were
rolling along at a terrible rate. One of the slippers she
could not find, and a boy seized upon the other and ran away
with it, saying that he could use it as a cradle, when he had
children of his own. So the little girl went on with her
little naked feet, which were quite red and blue with the
cold. In an old apron she carried a number of matches, and had
a bundle of them in her hands. No one had bought anything of
her the whole day, nor had any one given here even a penny.
Shivering with cold and hunger, she crept along; poor little
child, she looked the picture of misery. The snowflakes fell
on her long, fair hair, which hung in curls on her shoulders,
but she regarded them not.

Lights were shining from every window, and there was a
savory smell of roast goose, for it was New-year's eve- yes,
she remembered that. In a corner, between two houses, one of
which projected beyond the other, she sank down and huddled
herself together. She had drawn her little feet under her, but
she could not keep off the cold; and she dared not go home,
for she had sold no matches, and could not take home even a
penny of money. Her father would certainly beat her; besides,
it was almost as cold at home as here, for they had only the
roof to cover them, through which the wind howled, although
the largest holes had been stopped up with straw and rags. Her
little hands were almost frozen with the cold. Ah! perhaps a
burning match might be some good, if she could draw it from
the bundle and strike it against the wall, just to warm her
fingers. She drew one out-'scratch!' how it sputtered as it
burnt! It gave a warm, bright light, like a little candle, as
she held her hand over it. It was really a wonderful light. It
seemed to the little girl that she was sitting by a large iron
stove, with polished brass feet and a brass ornament. How the
fire burned! and seemed so beautifully warm that the child
stretched out her feet as if to warm them, when, lo! the flame
of the match went out, the stove vanished, and she had only
the remains of the half-burnt match in her hand.

She rubbed another match on the wall. It burst into a
flame, and where its light fell upon the wall it became as
transparent as a veil, and she could see into the room. The
table was covered with a snowy white table-cloth, on which
stood a splendid dinner service, and a steaming roast goose,
stuffed with apples and dried plums. And what was still more
wonderful, the goose jumped down from the dish and waddled
across the floor, with a knife and fork in its breast, to the
little girl. Then the match went out, and there remained
nothing but the thick, damp, cold wall before her.

She lighted another match, and then she found herself
sitting under a beautiful Christmas-tree. It was larger and
more beautifully decorated than the one which she had seen
through the glass door at the rich merchant's. Thousands of
tapers were burning upon the green branches, and colored
pictures, like those she had seen in the show-windows, looked
down upon it all. The little one stretched out her hand
towards them, and the match went out.

The Christmas lights rose higher and higher, till they
looked to her like the stars in the sky. Then she saw a star
fall, leaving behind it a bright streak of fire. 'Some one is
dying,' thought the little girl, for her old grandmother, the
only one who had ever loved her, and who was now dead, had
told her that when a star falls, a soul was going up to God.

She again rubbed a match on the wall, and the light shone
round her; in the brightness stood her old grandmother, clear
and shining, yet mild and loving in her appearance.
'Grandmother,' cried the little one, 'O take me with you; I
know you will go away when the match burns out; you will
vanish like the warm stove, the roast goose, and the large,
glorious Christmas-tree.' And she made haste to light the
whole bundle of matches, for she wished to keep her
grandmother there. And the matches glowed with a light that
was brighter than the noon-day, and her grandmother had never
appeared so large or so beautiful. She took the little girl in
her arms, and they both flew upwards in brightness and joy far
above the earth, where there was neither cold nor hunger nor
pain, for they were with God.

In the dawn of morning there lay the poor little one, with
pale cheeks and smiling mouth, leaning against the wall; she
had been frozen to death on the last evening of the year; and
the New-year's sun rose and shone upon a little corpse! The
child still sat, in the stiffness of death, holding the
matches in her hand, one bundle of which was burnt. 'She tried
to warm herself,' said some. No one imagined what beautiful
things she had seen, nor into what glory she had entered with
her grandmother, on New-year's day.

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