The Little Match Girl
The Little Match Girl
It was a terribly cold and nearly dark evening, and the thick flakes of snow were falling fast. It was the last night of the year. In the cold and the darkness, a poor little girl, her head bare, roamed through the streets. The little girl went about with little naked feet, which were 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 any matches from her the whole day. Nobody had given her even a penny.
Shivering with cold and hunger, she crept along. The poor little child was miserable. The snowflakes fell on her long, blond hair, which hung in curls.
Lights were shining from every window, and there was a savory smell of roast goose, for it was New Year's Eve. In a corner, between two houses, she sank down and huddled, trying to warm herself. She had drawn her little feet under her, but she could not keep out the cold. She dared not go home, because she had sold no matches, and could not take home even a penny. Her father would certainly beat her. Besides, it was almost as cold at home as here. They had only the roof to cover them, and the wind howled through it, even though the largest holes had been stopped up with straw and rags.
Her little hands were almost frozen with the cold. Perhaps a burning match might do 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 and lit it. 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. The fire burned and seemed so warm that the child stretched out her feet as if to warm them. Then, though, the flame of the match went out, the stove vanished, and she had only the remains of the half-burned match in her hand.
She lit another match and it burst into flame, and where its light fell upon the wall, it became transparent and she could see into the room. The table was covered with a snowy white tablecloth, and had a splendid dinner service with 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 to the little girl. Then the match went out. And there remained nothing but the thick, damp, cold wall before her.
She lit another match and found herself sitting under a beautiful Christmas tree. It was larger and more beautifully decorated than the one that she had seen through the glass door at the rich merchant's. Thousands of candles were burning upon the green branches. The little one stretched out her hand toward them, and the match went out.
The Christmas lights rose higher and higher, until they looked to her like the stars in the sky. Then she saw a star fall, leaving behind it a bright streak of fire.
“Someone is dying,” thought the little girl, for her old grandmother, the only person who had ever loved her and who was now dead, had told her that when a star falls, a soul was going up to heaven.
She again lit a match, and the light shone round her. In the brightness stood her old, loving grandmother.
“Grandmother,” cried the little one, “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 hurried 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 midday sun, and her grandmother had never appeared so beautiful. She took the little girl in her arms, and they both flew in brightness and joy far above the earth, where there was neither cold nor hunger nor pain.
In the morning there lay the poor little one, with pale cheeks and smiling mouth, leaning against the wall. She had frozen to death on New Year's Eve. The child still sat, holding the matches in her hand, one bundle of which was burned.
“She tried to warm herself,” said some. No one could imagine what beautiful things she had seen or the wonderful place she had entered with her grandmother on that last day of the year.