THE FIR TREE 255
then they shouted till the room rang : they danced gleefully round the Tree, and one present after another was plucked from it.
' What are they about ? ' thought the Tree. ' What 's going to be done ? '
And the candles burned down to the twigs, and as they burned down they were extinguished, and then the children received permission to plunder the Tree. Oh ! they rushed in upon it, so that every branch cracked again : if it had not been fastened by the top and by the golden star to the ceiling, it would have fallen down.
The children danced about with their pretty toys. No one looked at the Tree except the old nursemaid, who came up and peeped among the branches, but only to see if a fig or an apple had not been forgotten.
1 A story ! a story ! ' shouted the children : and they drew a little fat man towards the Tree ; and he sat down just beneath it,—' for then we shall be in the green wood,' said he, ' and the tree may have the advantage of listening to my tale. But I can only tell one. Will you hear the story of Ivede-Avede, or of Humpty-Dumpty, who fell downstairs, and still was raised up to honour and married the Princess ? '
' Ivede-Avede ! ' cried some, ' Humpty-Dumpty ! ' cried others, and there was a great crying and shouting. Only the Fir Tree was quite silent, and thought, ' Shall I not be in it ? shall I have nothing to do in it ? ' But it had been in the evening's amusement, and had done what was required of it.
And the fat man told about Humpty-Dumpty, who fell downstairs, and yet was raised to honour and married the Princess. And the children clapped their hands, and cried, ' Tell another ! tell another ! ' for they wanted to hear about Ivede-Avede; but they only got the story of Humpty-Dumpty. The Fir Tree stood quite silent and thoughtful; never had the birds in the wood told such a story as that. Humpty-Dumpty fell downstairs, and yet came to honour and married the Princess !
1 Yes, so it happens in the world ! ' thought the Fir Tree, and believed it must be true, because that was such a nice man who told it. ' Well, who can know ? Perhaps I shall