THE COMET 1025
the little boy must soon die, the shroud turned towards him. It was an old superstition, and she believed it.
The little boy was really destined to live many years on the earth, to live and see the comet, when it reappeared more than sixty years later.
He did not see the shroud in the candle, and had no thought for the comet, which for the first time in his life shone from the heavens. He sat with a mended slop-basin in front of him ; in it were some soap-suds, and he dipped the head of a clay-pipe down into it, put the stem in his mouth and blew soap-bubbles, great and small ; they swayed and floated with the most lovely colours, which changed from yellow to red, lilac and blue, and then became green, like the leaves of the forest when the sun shines through them.
' God grant thee as many years here on the earth as the bubbles thou blowest ! '
' So many, so many,' said the little one, ' the soap-suds can never be all used up ! ' and the little one blew bubble after bubble.
' There flies a year ! there flies a year ! see how they fly ! ' said he, with every bubble which got free and flew off. One or two went right into his eyes ; they smarted and burned, and the tears came into his eyes. In every bubble he saw a vision of the future, shining and glittering.
1 Now you can see the comet ! ' cried the neighbours. 1 Come out; don't sit inside there ! '
And the mother took the little boy by the hand ; he was obliged to lay aside the clay-pipe, and stop playing with the soap-bubbles ;—the comet was there.
And the little boy saw the shining ball of fire, with the radiant tail; some people said that it was three yards long, others that it was millions of yards long ; people see so differently. ' Children and grandchildren may be dead before it appears again ! ' people said.
Most of those who said it were really dead and gone before it reappeared; but the little boy for whom the shroud stood in the candle, and of whom the mother thought ' He will die soon ! ' still lived, old and white-haired. * White hair is the flower of age ! ' the proverb says, and he had many of the flowers ; he was now an old schoolmaster.
ANDERSEN L 1