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 Christmas Tale
In the forest, high up on the steep shore, hard by the open sea coast, stood a very old Oak Tree. It was exactly three hundred and sixty-five years old, but that long time was not more for the Tree than just as many days would be to us men. We wake by day and sleep through the night, and then we have our dreams : it is different with the Tree, which keeps awake through three seasons of the year, and does not get its sleep till winter comes. Winter is its time for rest, its night after the long day which is called spring, summer, and autumn.
On many a warm summer day the Ephemera, the fly that lives but for a day, had danced around his crown—had lived, enjoyed, and felt happy ; and then the tiny creature had rested for a moment in quiet bliss on one of the great fresh Oak leaves ; and then the Tree always said,
' Poor little thing ! Your whole life is but a single day ! How very short ! It 's quite melancholy.'
' Melancholy ! Why do you say that ? ' the Ephemera would then alwa}^s reply. ' It 's wonderfully bright, warm, and beautiful all around me, and that makes me rejoice.'
' But only one day, and then it 's all done ! '
' Done ! ' repeated the Ephemera. ' What 's the meaning of done ? Are you done, too ? '
' No ; I shall perhaps live for thousands of your days, and my day is whole seasons long ! It 's something so long, that you can't at all manage to reckon it out.'
' No ? then I don't understand you. You say you have thousands of my days ; but I have thousands of moments, in which I can be merry and happy. Does all the beauty of this world cease when you die ? '
' No,' replied the Tree ; ' it will certainly last much longer—far longer than I can possibly think.'
' Well, then, we have the same time, only that we reckon differently.'
And the Ephemera danced and floated in the air, and rejoiced in her delicate wings of gauze and velvet, and