128 THE HARDY TIN SOLDIER
which was to represent a clear lake. Waxen swans swam on this lake, and were mirrored in it. This was all very pretty; but the prettiest of all was a little lady, who stood at the open door of the castle : she was also cut out in paper, but she had a dress of the clearest gauze, and a little narrow blue ribbon over her shoulders, that looked like a scarf ; and in the middle of this ribbon was a shining tinsel rose as big as her whole face. The little lady stretched out both her arms, for she was a dancer ; and then she lifted one leg so high that the tin soldier could not see it at all, and thought that, like himself, she had but one leg.
' That would be the wife for me/ thought he ; s but she is very grand. She lives in a castle, and I have only a box, and there are five and twenty of us in that. It is no place for her. But I must try to make acquaintance with her.'
And then he lay down at full length behind a snuff-box which was on the table ; there he could easily watch the little dainty lady, who continued to stand on one leg without losing her balance.
When the evening came, all the other tin soldiers were put into their box, and the people in the house went to bed. Now the toys began to play at ' visiting,' and at 1 war,' and *' giving balls.' The tin soldiers rattled in their box, for they wanted to join, but could not lift the lid. The nutcracker threw somersaults, and the pencil amused itself on the table : there was so much noise that the canary woke up, and began to speak too, and even in verse. The only two who did not stir from their places were the tin soldier and the dancing lady: she stood straight up on the point of one of her toes, and stretched out both her arms ; and he was just as enduring on his one leg ; and he never turned his eyes away from her.
Now the clock struck twelve—and, bounce !—the lid flew off the snuff-box ; but there was not snuff in it, but a little black goblin : you see it was a trick.
1 Tin soldier !' said the goblin, ' will you keep your eyes to yourself % '
But the tin soldier pretended not to hear him.
1 Just you wait till to-morrow ! ' said the goblin.
But when the morning came, and the children got up,