252 THE FIR TREE
beautiful, kept all their branches ; they were put upon wagons, and horses dragged them away out of the wood.
* Where are they all going ? ' asked the Fir Tree. ' They are not greater than I—indeed, one of them was much smaller. Why do they keep all their branches ? Whither are they taken ? '
e We know that! We know that! ' chirped the Sparrows. 1 Yonder in the town we looked in at the windows. We know where they go. Oh ! they are dressed up in the greatest pomp and splendour that can be imagined. We have looked in at the windows, and have perceived that they are planted in the middle of the warm room, and adorned with the most beautiful things—gilt apples, honey-cakes, playthings, and many hundreds of candles.'
6 And then ? ' asked the Fir Tree, and trembled through all its branches. ' And then ? What happens then ? '
' Why, we have not seen anything more. But it was incomparable.'
c Perhaps I may be destined to tread this glorious path one day ! ' cried the Fir Tree rejoicingly. ' That is even better than travelling across the sea. How painfully I long for it! If it were only Christmas now ! Now I am great and grown up, like the rest who were led away last year. Oh, if I were only on the carriage ! If I were only in the warm room, among all the pomp and splendour ! And then ? Yes, then something even better will come, something far more charming, or else why should they adorn me so ? There must be something grander, something greater still to come ; but what ? Oh ! I'm suffering, I'm longing ! I don't know myself what is the matter with me ! '
' Rejoice in us,' said Air and Sunshine. ' Rejoice in thy fresh youth here in the woodland.'
But the Fir Tree did not rejoice at all, but it grew and grew ; winter and summer it stood there, green, dark green. The people who saw it said, ' That's a handsome tree ! 5 and at Christmas-time it was felled before any one of the others. The axe cut deep into its marrow, and the Tree fell to the ground with a sigh : it felt a pain, a sensation of faintness, and could not think at all of happiness, for it was sad at parting from its home, from the place where