Out in the woods stood a nice little Pine tree. The place he had was a very good one; the sun shone on him, and round him grew many large-sized comrades, firs as well as pines. But the little Pine wanted so very much to be a grown-up tree. The children ran about him and prattled when they were in the woods looking for wild strawberries. They often came with a pan full of berries and sat down near the young tree, and said, "Oh, how pretty he is! what a nice little Pine!"
At the end of a year he had shot up a good deal, and after another year he was another long bit taller. "Oh, were I but such a high tree as the others are!" sighed he. "Then I should be able to spread out my branches, and the birds would build their nests in them." Neither the sunbeams, nor the birds, nor the beautiful clouds which sailed above him, gave the little tree any pleasure.
In the autumn, the wood-cutter came and felled some of the largest trees. The little Pine then trembled at the sight; the big trees fell to the earth with a noise, the branches were lopped off, and then they were laid into carts, and the horses dragged them out of the wood. The Pine wondered what would become of them, and in spring when the swallows and storks returned, he asked them if they could tell him.
The swallows did not know anything about, it; but a, wise stork nodded his head, and said, "Yes, I think I know, I met many ships as I was flying hither from Egypt, and noticed that the magnificent masts were made of the tall trees."
"Oh, I wish I was old enough to go across the sea! How does the sea look? What is it like?"
"It would take too long to explain," said the stork, and with these words off he went.
When Christmas came, young trees were cut down, laid in the carts, and the horses drew them out of the woods.
"Where are they going to?" asked the Pine. "Why do they retain all their branches?"
"We know! we know!" chirped the sparrows, "we peeped in at the windows in the town below! we saw them planted in the middle of a warm room and ornamented with the most splendid things—with gilded apples, with toys, with gingerbread, and many hundred lights!"
"And then?" asked the Pine tree, trembling in every bough, "What happened then?"
"We did not see anything more; it was very beautiful."
"Were Christmas but come! I am very tall and my branches spread like the trees that were carried off last year! Oh, were I in the warm room with all the splendor!"
The tree grew and grew, and was green both winter and summer. People that saw him said, "What a fine tree!" When Christmas came he was one of the first that was cut down. The axe struck deep; the tree fell to the earth with a sigh. Although he had wished to go, he could not think of happiness, for he was sad to leave his home and all his dear old comrades. He would never again see the little bushes and flowers, and perhaps not even the dear little birds. The departure was not at all agreeable.
He heard a man say, "That one is splendid! carry that Pine tree into the large drawing room." Oh, how the tree quivered! What was to happen? He was stuck upright into a cask that was filled with sand. Then the servants, as well as the young ladies, decorated it. On one branch they hung little chains made of colored paper; among the other branches gilded apples and walnuts were suspended, and little blue and white tapers were placed among the leaves. Dolls were seen among the foliage, and at the very top, a large star of gold was fixed. It was really splendid—beyond description.
"This evening!" said they all, "how it will shine this evening."
"Oh, if evening were but come!" thought the tree. "If the tapers were but lighted! And then I wonder what will happen!" He was so impatient that for sheer longing he got a pain in his back.
Evening came at last; the candles were lighted. What splendor! Suddenly both folding doors were opened, and a troop of children rushed in as though they would upset the tree. The older persons followed quietly, and then the little ones stood quite still. But it was only for a moment; then they shouted and danced round the tree, and one present after another was pulled off. Every evening for a week the tapers were lighted, and the little Pine began to think this splendor should last forever. But no, he was mistaken.
When the lights were burned down to the branches, they were put out, one after another, and then the children had permission to plunder the tree. The next day he was dragged out of the room, and up stairs into the loft; and here in a dark corner they left him.
"What does this mean?" thought the tree. "What am I to do here?"
Days and nights passed, and nobody came up, and when somebody did come, it was only to put some trunks in a corner out of the way. It seemed as if the little tree had been entirely forgotten.
"Oh, how happy I was in the wood, only I did not know it!" said the tree. "If I could only see the sunshine and the flowers and hear the birds sing. I am so lonely here, if only some one would come! But I'll take care to enjoy myself when I'm brought out again." But when was that to be?
Why, one morning many people came and set to work in the loft. The trunks were moved, the tree was pulled out and thrown down on the floor, and then a man drew him towards the stair, where he could at least see the daylight.
"Now a merry life; will begin again," thought the tree. He felt the fresh air, the first sunbeams,—and now he was out in the yard.
All passed so quickly that the tree quite forgot to look to himself. In the garden all was in flower; the roses hung so fresh and odorous over the trellis, the lindens were in bloom, the swallows flew by and said,
"Quirre-rit, quirre-rit, spring has come!"
"Now then, I shall really enjoy life," said the tree, and spread out his branches; but, alas! they were all withered and yellow.
It was in a corner that he lay, among weeds and nettles. The golden star of tinsel was still on the top of the tree, and glittered in the sunshine. Some of the children who had danced round him at Christmas time were in the yard, and were glad at the sight of him.
The tree beheld all the beauty round him, and then as he beheld himself, he wished he had remained in the dark corner in the loft. He thought of his first youth in the wood, and of the merry Christmas Eve.
"'Tis over—'tis past!" said the poor tree. "Had I but rejoiced when I had reason to do so! But now 'tis past, 'tis past!"
The gardener's son chopped the tree into small pieces; there was a whole heap lying there. The wood flamed up splendidly under the large brewing copper, and it sighed deeply! Each sigh was like a shot. All, all was over; every tale must end at last.
The Pine Tree
A Fictional Short Story by
Agnes Taylor Ketchum & Ida M. Jorgensen