The Pine Tree

WHEN THE PINE TREE WAS LITTLE

Out in the woods stood such a nice little Pine Tree: he had a good place; the sun could get at him; there was fresh air enough; and round him grew many big comrades, both pines and firs. But the little Pine wanted so very much to be a grown-up tree.

He did not think of the warm sun and of the fresh air, he did not care for the little cottage-children who ran about and prattled when they were looking for wild strawberries and raspberries.

Often they came with a whole jug full, or had their strawberries strung on a straw, and sat down near the little Tree and said, "Oh, what a nice little fellow!" This was what the Tree could not bear to hear.

The year after he had shot up a good deal, and the next year after he was still bigger; for with pine trees one can always tell by the shoots how many years old they are.

"Oh, were I but such a big tree as the others are," sighed the little Tree. "Then I could spread my branches so far, and with the tops look out into the wide world! Birds would build nests among my branches; and when there was a breeze, I could nod as grandly as the others there."

He had no delight at all in the sunshine, or in the birds, or the red clouds which morning and evening sailed above him.

When now it was winter and the snow all around lay glittering white, a hare would often come leaping along, and jump right over the little pine tree. Oh, that made him so angry! But two winters went by, and with the third the Tree was so big that the hare had to go round it. "Oh, to grow, to grow, to become big and old, and be tall," thought the Tree: "that, after all, is the most delightful thing in the world!"

In autumn the wood-cutters always came and felled some of the largest trees. This happened every year, and the young Pine Tree, that was now quite well grown, trembled at the sight; for the great stately trees fell to the earth with noise and cracking, the branches were lopped off, and the trees looked quite bare, they were so long and thin; you would hardly know them for trees, and then they were laid on carts, and horses dragged them out of the wood.

Where did they go to? What became of them?

In spring, when the Swallow and the Stork came, the Pine Tree asked them, "Don't you know where they have been taken? Have you not met them anywhere?"

The Swallow did not know anything about it; but the Stork looked doubtful, nodded his head, and said, "Yes; I have it; I met many new ships as I was flying from Egypt; on the ships were splendid masts, and I dare say it was they that smelt so of pine. I wish you joy, for they lifted themselves on high in fine style!"

"Oh, were I but old enough to fly across the sea! How does the sea really look? and what is it like?"

"Aye, that takes a long time to tell," said the Stork, and away he went.

"Rejoice in thy youth!" said the Sunbeams, "rejoice in thy hearty growth, and in the young life that is in thee!"

And the Wind kissed the Pine Tree, and the Dew wept tears over him, but the Pine Tree understood it not.

CHRISTMAS IN THE WOODS

When Christmas came, quite young trees were cut down; trees which were not even so large or of the same age as this Pine Tree, who had no rest or peace, but always wanted to be off. These young trees, and they were always the finest looking, always kept their branches; they were laid on carts, and the horses drew them out of the wood.

"Where are they going to?" asked the Pine Tree. "They are not taller than I; there was one, indeed, that was much shorter;—and why do they keep all their branches? Where are they carrying them to?"

"We know! we know!" chirped the Sparrows. "We have peeped in at the windows down there in the town. We know where they are carrying them to. Oh, they are going to where it is as bright and splendid as you can think! We peeped through the windows, and saw them planted in the middle of the warm room, and dressed with the most splendid things,—with gilded apples, with gingerbread, with toys and many hundred lights!"

"And then?" asked the Pine Tree, and he trembled in every bough. "And then? What happens then?"

"We did not see anything more: it beat everything!"

"I wonder if I am to sparkle like that!" cried the Pine Tree, rejoicing. "That is still better than to go over the sea! How I do suffer for very longing! Were Christmas but come! I am now tall, and stretch out like the others that were carried off last year! Oh, if I were already on the cart! I wish I were in the warm room with all the splendor and brightness. And then? Yes; then will come something better, something still grander, or why should they dress me out so? There must come something better, something still grander,—but what? Oh, how I long, how I suffer! I do not know myself what is the matter with me!"

"Rejoice in us!" said the Air and the Sunlight; "rejoice in thy fresh youth out here in the open air!"

But the Pine Tree did not rejoice at all; he grew and grew; and he stood there in all his greenery; rich green was he winter and summer. People that saw him said, "That's a fine tree!" and toward Christmas he was the first that was cut down. The axe struck deep into the very pith; the Pine Tree fell to the earth with a sigh: he felt a pang—it was like a swoon; he could not think of happiness, for he was sad at being parted from his home, from the place where he had sprung up. He well knew that he should never see his dear old comrades, the little bushes and flowers around him, any more; perhaps not even the birds! The setting off was not at all pleasant.

The Pine Tree only came to himself when he was unloaded in a courtyard with other trees, and heard a man say, "That one is splendid! we don't want the others." Then two servants came in rich livery and carried the Pine Tree into a large and splendid room. Portraits were hanging on the walls, and near the white porcelain stove stood two large Chinese vases with lions on the covers. There, too, were large easy-chairs, silken sofas, large tables full of picture-books, and full of toys worth a hundred times a hundred dollars—at least so the children said. And the Pine Tree was stuck upright in a cask filled with sand: but no one could see that it was a cask, for green cloth was hung all around it, and it stood on a gayly colored carpet. Oh, how the Tree quivered! What was to happen? The servants, as well as the young ladies, dressed it. On one branch there hung little nets cut out of colored paper; each net was filled with sugar-plums; gilded apples and walnuts hung as though they grew tightly there, and more than a hundred little red, blue, and white tapers were stuck fast into the branches. Dolls that looked for all the world like men—the Tree had never seen such things before—fluttered among the leaves, and at the very top a large star of gold tinsel was fixed. It was really splendid—splendid beyond telling.

"This evening!" said they all; "how it will shine this evening!"

"Oh," thought the Pine Tree, "if it were only evening! If the tapers were but lighted! And then I wonder what will happen! I wonder if the other trees from the forest will come to look at me! I wonder if the sparrows will beat against the window-panes! I wonder if I shall take root here, and stand dressed so winter and summer!"

Aye, aye, much he knew about the matter! but he had a real back-ache for sheer longing, and a back-ache with trees is the same thing as a head-ache with us.

CHRISTMAS IN THE HOUSE

The candles were now lighted. What brightness! What splendor! The Tree trembled so in every bough that one of the tapers set fire to a green branch. It blazed up splendidly.

Now the Pine Tree did not even dare to tremble. That was a fright! He was so afraid of losing something of all his finery, that he was quite confused amidst the glare and brightness; and now both folding-doors opened, and a troop of children rushed in as if they would tip the whole Tree over. The older folks came quietly behind; the little ones stood quite still, but only for a moment, then they shouted so that the whole place echoed their shouts, they danced round the Tree, and one present after another was pulled off.

"What are they about?" thought the Tree. "What is to happen now?" And the lights burned down to the very branches, and as they burned down they were put out one after the other, and then the children had leave to plunder the Tree. Oh, they rushed upon it so that it cracked in all its limbs; if its tip-top with the gold star on it had not been fastened to the ceiling, it would have tumbled over.

The children danced about with their pretty toys; no one looked at the Tree except the old nurse, who peeped in among the branches; but it was only to see if there was a fig or an apple that had been forgotten.

"A story! a story!" cried the children, and they dragged a little fat man toward the Tree. He sat down under it, and said, "Now we are in the shade, and the Tree can hear very well too. But I shall tell only one story. Now which will you have: that about Ivedy-Avedy, or about Klumpy-Dumpy who tumbled downstairs, and came to the throne after all, and married the princess?"

"Ivedy-Avedy," cried some; "Klumpy-Dumpy," cried the others. There was such a bawling and screaming!—the Pine Tree alone was silent, and he thought to himself, "Am I not to bawl with the rest?—am I to do nothing whatever?"—for he was one of them, and he had done what he had to do.

And the man told about Klumpy-Dumpy who tumbled downstairs, and came to the throne after all, and married the princess. And the children clapped their hands, and cried out, "Go on, go on!" They wanted to hear about Ivedy-Avedy too, but the little man only told them about Klumpy-Dumpy. The Pine Tree stood quite still and thoughtful: the birds in the wood had never told anything like this. "Klumpy-Dumpy fell downstairs, and yet he married the princess! Yes, yes, that's the way of the world!" thought the Pine Tree, and he believed it all, because it was such a nice man who told the story.

"Well, well! who knows, perhaps I may fall downstairs, too, and so get a princess!" And he looked forward with joy to the next day when he should be decked out with lights and toys, fruits and tinsel.

"Tomorrow I won't tremble!" thought the Pine Tree. "I will enjoy to the full all my splendor! Tomorrow I shall hear again the story of Klumpy-Dumpy, and perhaps that of Ivedy-Avedy too."

And the whole night the Tree stood still in deep thought.

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