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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ANNE LISBETH                          677
and go to the right or to the left, and that may be decisive ; for the little seed-corn perhaps is stirred^and it swells and shoots up, and it bursts, and pours its sap into all your blood, and then your career has commenced. There are tormenting thoughts, which one does not feel when one walks on with slumbering senses, but they are there, fer­menting in the heart. Anne Lisbeth walked on thus with her senses half in slumber, but the thoughts were fermenting within her. From one Shrove Tuesday to the next there comes much that weighs upon the heart—the reckoning of a whole year : much is forgotten, sins against Heaven in word and in thought, against our neighbour, and against our own conscience. We don't think of these things, and Anne Lisbeth did not think of them. She had committed no crime against the law of the land, she was very respect­able, an honoured and well-placed person, that she knew. And as she walked along by the margin of the sea, what was it she saw lying there ? An old hat, a man's hat. Now, where might that have been washed overboard ? She came nearer, and stopped to look at the hat. Ha ! what was lying there ? She shuddered ; but it was nothing save a heap of sea-grass and tangle flung across a long stone ; but it looked just like a real person ; it was only sea-grass and tangle, and yet she was frightened at it, and as she turned away to walk on much came into her mind that she had heard in her childhood—old superstitions of spectres by the sea-shore, of the ghosts of drowned but unburied people who have been washed up on the desert shore. The body, she had heard, could do harm to none, but the spirit could pursue the lonely wanderer, and attach itself to him, and demand to be carried to the churchyard that it might rest in consecrated ground. ' Hold fast! hold fast ! ' it cried ; and while Anne Lisbeth murmured the words to herself, her whole dream suddenly stood before her just as she had dreamed it, when the mothers clung to her and had repeated this word amid the crash of the world, when her sleeve was torn and she slipped out of the grasp of her child, who wanted to hold her up in that terrible hour. Her child, her own child, whom she had never loved, now lay buried in the sea, and might rise up like a spectre from the waters, and cry, ' Hold fast! carry me to con-