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The Daisy

from Hans Andersens Fairy Tales





NOW listen. Out in the country, close by the roadside, stood a pleasant
house; you have seen one like it, no doubt, very often. In front lay a
little fenced-in garden, full of blooming flowers. Near the hedge, in
the soft green grass, grew a little daisy. The sun shone as brightly and
warmly upon her as upon the large and beautiful garden flowers, so the
daisy grew from hour to hour. Every morning she unfolded her little
white petals, like shining rays round the little golden sun in the
center of the flower. She never seemed to think that she was unseen down
in the grass or that she was only a poor, insignificant flower. She felt
too happy to care for that. Merrily she turned toward the warm sun,
looked up to the blue sky, and listened to the lark singing high in the
air.

One day the little flower was as joyful as if it had been a great
holiday, although it was only Monday. All the children were at school,
and while they sat on their benches learning their lessons, she, on her
little stem, learned also from the warm sun and from everything around
her how good God is, and it made her happy to hear the lark expressing
in his song her own glad feelings. The daisy admired the happy bird who
could warble so sweetly and fly so high, and she was not at all
sorrowful because she could not do the same.

"I can see and hear," thought she; "the sun shines upon me, and the wind
kisses me; what else do I need to make me happy?"

Within the garden grew a number of aristocratic flowers; the less scent
they had the more they flaunted. The peonies considered it a grand thing
to be so large, and puffed themselves out to be larger than the roses.
The tulips knew that they were marked with beautiful colors, and held
themselves bolt upright so that they might be seen more plainly.

They did not notice the little daisy outside, but she looked at them
and thought: "How rich and beautiful they are! No wonder the pretty bird
flies down to visit them. How glad I am that I grow so near them, that I
may admire their beauty!"

Just at this moment the lark flew down, crying "Tweet," but he did not
go to the tall peonies and tulips; he hopped into the grass near the
lowly daisy. She trembled for joy and hardly knew what to think. The
little bird hopped round the daisy, singing, "Oh, what sweet, soft
grass, and what a lovely little flower, with gold in its heart and
silver on its dress!" For the yellow center in the daisy looked like
gold, and the leaves around were glittering white, like silver.

How happy the little daisy felt, no one can describe. The bird kissed
her with his beak, sang to her, and then flew up again into the blue air
above. It was at least a quarter of an hour before the daisy could
recover herself. Half ashamed, yet happy in herself, she glanced at the
other flowers; they must have seen the honor she had received, and would
understand her delight and pleasure.

But the tulips looked prouder than ever; indeed, they were evidently
quite vexed about it. The peonies were disgusted, and could they have
spoken, the poor little daisy would no doubt have received a good
scolding. She could see they were all out of temper, and it made her
very sorry.

At this moment there came into the garden a girl with a large,
glittering knife in her hand. She went straight to the tulips and cut
off several of them.

"O dear," sighed the daisy, "how shocking! It is all over with them
now." The girl carried the tulips away, and the daisy felt very glad to
grow outside in the grass and to be only a poor little flower. When the
sun set, she folded up her leaves and went to sleep. She dreamed the
whole night long of the warm sun and the pretty little bird.

The next morning, when she joyfully stretched out her white leaves once
more to the warm air and the light, she recognized the voice of the
bird, but his song sounded mournful and sad.

Alas! he had good reason to be sad: he had been caught and made a
prisoner in a cage that hung close by the open window. He sang of the
happy time when he could fly in the air, joyous and free; of the young
green corn in the fields, from which he would spring higher and higher
to sing his glorious song--but now he was a prisoner in a cage.

The little daisy wished very much to help him. But what could she do? In
her anxiety she forgot all the beautiful things around her, the warm
sunshine, and her own pretty, shining, white leaves. Alas! she could
think of nothing but the captive bird and her own inability to help him.

Two boys came out of the garden; one of them carried a sharp knife in
his hand, like the one with which the girl had cut the tulips. They went
straight to the little daisy, who could not think what they were going
to do.

"We can cut out a nice piece of turf for the lark here," said one of the
boys; and he began to cut a square piece round the daisy, so that she
stood just in the center.


lark's cage.]

"Pull up the flower," said the other boy; and the daisy trembled with
fear, for to pluck her up would destroy her life and she wished so
much to live and to be taken to the captive lark in his cage.

"No, let it stay where it is," said the boy, "it looks so pretty." So
the daisy remained, and was put with the turf in the lark's cage. The
poor bird was complaining loudly about his lost freedom, beating his
wings against the iron bars of his prison. The little daisy could make
no sign and utter no word to console him, as she would gladly have done.
The whole morning passed in this manner.

"There is no water here," said the captive lark; "they have all gone out
and have forgotten to give me a drop to drink. My throat is hot and dry;
I feel as if I had fire and ice within me, and the air is so heavy.
Alas! I must die. I must bid farewell to the warm sunshine, the fresh
green, and all the beautiful things which God has created." And then he
thrust his beak into the cool turf to refresh himself a little with the
fresh grass, and, as he did so, his eye fell upon the daisy. The bird
nodded to her and kissed her with his beak and said: "You also will
wither here, you poor little flower! They have given you to me, with
the little patch of green grass on which you grow, in exchange for the
whole world which was mine out there. Each little blade of grass is to
me as a great tree, and each of your white leaves a flower. Alas! you
only show me how much I have lost."

"Oh, if I could only comfort him!" thought the daisy, but she could not
move a leaf. The perfume from her leaves was stronger than is usual in
these flowers, and the bird noticed it, and though he was fainting with
thirst, and in his pain pulled up the green blades of grass, he did not
touch the flower.

The evening came, and yet no one had come to bring the bird a drop of
water. Then he stretched out his pretty wings and shook convulsively; he
could only sing "Tweet, tweet," in a weak, mournful tone. His little
head bent down toward the flower; the bird's heart was broken with want
and pining. Then the flower could not fold her leaves as she had done
the evening before when she went to sleep, but, sick and sorrowful,
drooped toward the earth.

Not till morning did the boys come, and when they found the bird dead,
they wept many and bitter tears. They dug a pretty grave for him and
adorned it with leaves of flowers. The bird's lifeless body was placed
in a smart red box and was buried with great honor.

Poor bird! while he was alive and could sing, they forgot him and
allowed him to sit in his cage and suffer want, but now that he was
dead, they mourned for him with many tears and buried him in royal
state.

But the turf with the daisy on it was thrown out into the dusty road. No
one thought of the little flower that had felt more for the poor bird
than had any one else and that would have been so glad to help and
comfort him if she had been able.





Next: The Pea Blossom

Previous: The Flax



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