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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On board the steamer was an elderly man with such a merry face that, if it did not belie him, he must have been the happiest fellow in creation. And, indeed, he declared he was the happiest man ; I heard it out of his own mouth. He was a Dane, a countryman of mine, and a travelling theatre director. He had all his company with him in a large box, for he was proprietor of a puppet-show. His inborn cheerfulness, he said, had been purified by a Polytechnic candidate, and the experiment had made him completely happy. I did not at first under­stand all this, but afterwards he explained the whole story to me, and here it is :
1 It was in the little town of Slagelse I gave a per­formance in the hall of the post-house, and had a brilliant audience, entirely a juvenile one, with the exception of two old ladies. All at once a person in black, of student-like appearance, came into the room and sat down; he laughed aloud at the telling parts, and applauded quite appro­priately. That was quite an unusual spectator for me ! I felt anxious to know who he was, and I heard he was a candidate from the Polytechnic Institution in Copen­hagen, who had been sent out to instruct the folks in the provinces. At eight o'clock my performance closed ; for children must go early to bed, and a manager must consult the convenience of his public. At nine o'clock the candi­date commenced his lecture, with experiments, and now I formed part of his audience. It was wonderful to hear and to see. The greater part of it went over my head and into the clergyman's, as one says ; but still it made me think that if we men can find out so much, we must be surely intended to last longer than the little span until we are hidden away in the earth. They were quite miracles in a small way that he showed, and yet altogether genuine, straight out of nature ! At the time of Moses and the prophets such a man would have been received among the sages of the land ; in the Middle Ages they would have burned him at a stake. All night long I could not go to sleep. And the next evening, when I gave another per-