Hans Christian Andersen
The flax was in full bloom; it had pretty little blue flowers as delicate as the wings of a moth, or even more so. The sun shone, and the showers watered it; and this was just as good for the flax as it is for little children to be washed and then kissed by their mother. They look much prettier for it, and so did the flax.
“People say that I look exceedingly well,” said the flax, “and that I am so fine and long that I shall make a beautiful piece of linen. How fortunate I am; it makes me so happy, it is such a pleasant thing to know that something can be made of me. How the sunshine cheers me, and how sweet and refreshing is the rain; my happiness overpowers me, no one in the world can feel happier than I am.”
“Ah, yes, no doubt,” said the fern, “but you do not know the world yet as well as I do, for my sticks are knotty;” and then it sung quite mournfully—
“Snip, snap, snurre,
The song is ended.”
“No, it is not ended,” said the flax. “To-morrow the sun will shine, or the rain descend. I feel that I am growing. I feel that I am in full blossom. I am the happiest of all creatures.”
Well, one day some people came, who took hold of the flax, and pulled it up by the roots; this was painful; then it was laid in water as if they intended to drown it; and, after that, placed near a fire as if it were to be roasted; all this was very shocking. “We cannot expect to be happy always,” said the flax; “by experiencing evil as well as good, we become wise.” And certainly there was plenty of evil in store for the flax. It was steeped, and roasted, and broken, and combed; indeed, it scarcely knew what was done to it. At last it was put on the spinning wheel. “Whirr, whirr,” went the wheel so quickly that the flax could not collect its thoughts. “Well, I have been very happy,” he thought in the midst of his pain, “and must be contented with the past;” and contented he remained till he was put on the loom, and became a beautiful piece of white linen.
All the flax, even to the last stalk, was used in making this one piece. “Well, this is quite wonderful; I could not have believed that I should be so favored by fortune. The fern was not wrong with its song of
‘Snip, snap, snurre,
But the song is not ended yet, I am sure; it is only just beginning. How wonderful it is, that after all I have suffered, I am made something of at last; I am the luckiest person in the world—so strong and fine; and how white, and what a length! This is something different to being a mere plant and bearing flowers. Then I had no attention, nor any water unless it rained; now, I am watched and taken care of. Every morning the maid turns me over, and I have a shower-bath from the watering-pot every evening. Yes, and the clergyman’s wife noticed me, and said I was the best piece of linen in the whole parish. I cannot be happier than I am now.”
After some time, the linen was taken into the house, placed under the scissors, and cut and torn into pieces, and then pricked with needles. This certainly was not pleasant; but at last it was made into twelve garments of that kind which people do not like to name, and yet everybody should wear one. “See, now, then,” said the flax; “I have become something of importance. This was my destiny; it is quite a blessing. Now I shall be of some use in the world, as everyone ought to be; it is the only way to be happy. I am now divided into twelve pieces, and yet we are all one and the same in the whole dozen. It is most extraordinary good fortune.”
...To be continued.