The Complete Fairy Tales & Other Stories
By Hans Christian Andersen - online book

Oxford Complete Illustrated Edition all his stories written between 1835 and 1872.

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A Beginning
It was in Copenhagen, in East Street, and in one of the houses not far from the King's New Market, that a large company had assembled, for one must occasionally give a party, in order to be invited in return. Half of the company already sat at the card-tables, the other half awaited the result of the hostess's question, ' What shall we do now ? ' They had progressed so far, and the conversation went as best it could. Among other subjects the conversation turned upon the Middle Ages. Some considered that period much more interesting than our own times : yes, Councillor Knap defended this view so zealously that the lady of the house went over at once to his side ; and both loudly exclaimed against Oersted's treatise in the Almanac on old and modern times, in which the chief advantage is given to our own day. The councillor considered the times of the Danish King Hans as the noblest and happiest age.
While the conversation takes this turn, only interrupted for a moment by the arrival of a newspaper, which contains nothing worth reading, we will betake ourselves to the ante­chamber, where the cloaks, sticks, and goloshes had found a place. Here sat two maids—an old one and a young one. One would have thought they had come to escort their mistresses home ; but, on looking at them more closely, the observer could see that they were not ordinary servants : their hands were too fine for that, their bearing and all their movements too majestic, and the cut of their dresses too uncommon. They were two fairies. The younger was not Fortune, but lady's-maid to one of her ladies of the bed-chamber, who carry about the more trifling gifts of Fortune. The elder one looked somewhat more gloomy— she was Care, who always goes herself in her own exalted person to perform her business, for then she knows that it is well done.