THE FLYING TRUNK 43
When he had it ready it was Saturday.
The sultan, the sultana, and the whole court were at tea with the princess.
He was most graciously received.
'Will you tell us a story?' said the sultana; 'one that is thoughtful and instructive?'
' But something that we can laugh at,' said the sultan.
' Oh, certainly,' he replied, and began: ' Now, listen attentively. There was once a box of matches which lay between a tinder-box and an old iron pot, and they told the story of their youth.
' " We used to be on the green fir-boughs. Every morning and evening we had diamond-tea, which was the dew, and the whole day long we had sunshine, and the little birds used to tell us stories. We were very rich, because the other trees only dressed in summer, but we had green dresses in summer and in winter. Then the woodcutter came, and our family was split up. We have now the task of making light for the lowest people. That is why we grand people are in the kitchen."
' " My fate was quite different," said the iron pot, near which the matches lay.
' " Since I came into the world I have been many times scoured, and have cooked much. My only pleasure is to have a good chat with my companions when I am lying nice and clean in my place after dinner."
' " Now you are talking too fast," spluttered the fire.
' "Yes, let us decide who is the grandest! " said the matches.
' " No, I don't like talking about myself," said the pot.
' " Let us arrange an evening's entertainment. I will tell the story of my life.
' " On the Baltic by the Danish shore-----"
'"What a beautiful beginning!" said all the plates. " That's a story that will please us all."
' And the end was just as good as the beginning. All the plates clattered for joy.