THE MAIL-COACH PASSENGERS
BY HANS CHRISTIAN ANDERSEN (ADAPTED)
IT was bitterly cold. The sky glittered with stars, and not
a breeze stirred. "Bump,"—an old pot was thrown at a
neighbor's door; and, "Bang! Bang!" went the guns, for they
were greeting the New Year.
 It was New Year's Eve, and the church clock was striking
twelve. "Tan-ta-ra-ra, tan-ta-ra-ra!" sounded the horn, and
the mail-coach came lumbering up. The clumsy vehicle stopped
at the gate of the town; all the places had been taken, for
there were twelve passengers in the coach.
"Hurrah! Hurrah!" cried the people in the town; for in every
house the New Year was being welcomed; and, as the clock
struck, they stood up, the full glasses in their hands, to
drink success to the newcomer. "A happy New Year," was the
cry; "a pretty wife, plenty of money, and no sorrow or
The wish passed round, and the glasses clashed together till
they rang again; while before the town-gate the mail-coach
stopped with the twelve strange passengers. And who were
these strangers? Each of them had his passport and his
luggage with him; they even brought presents for me, and for
you, and for all the people in the town. Who were they? What
did they want? And what did they bring with them?
"Good-morning!" they cried to the sentry at the town-gate.
"Good-morning," replied the sentry, for the clock had struck
"Your name and profession?" asked the sentry of the one who
alighted first from the carriage.
"See for yourself in the passport," he replied.
 "I am myself!"—and a famous fellow he looked, arrayed in
bearskin and fur boots. "Come to me to-morrow, and I will
give you a New Year's present. I throw shillings and pence
among the people. I give balls every night, no less than
thirty-one; indeed, that is the highest number I can spare
for balls. My ships are often frozen in, but in my offices
it is warm and comfortable. My name is January. I am a
merchant, and I generally bring my accounts with me."
Then the second alighted. He seemed a merry fellow. He was a
director of a theater, a manager of masked balls, and a
leader of all the amusements we can imagine. His luggage
consisted of a great cask.
"We'll dance the bung out of the cask at carnival-time,"
said he. "I'll prepare a merry tune for you and for myself,
too. Unfortunately I have not long to live,—the shortest
time, in fact, of my whole family,—only twenty-eight
days. Sometimes they pop me in a day extra; but I trouble
myself very little about that. Hurrah!"
"You must not shout so," said the sentry.
"Certainly I may shout," retorted the man.
"I'm Prince Carnival, traveling under the name of February."
The third now got out. He looked the personification of
fasting; but he carried his nose very high, for he was a
weather prophet. In his
button-  hole he wore a little bunch of violets, but they were very
"March, March!" the fourth passenger called after him,
slapping him on the shoulder, "don't you smell something
good? Make haste into the guard-room, they are feasting in
there. I can smell it already! Forward, Master March!'
But it was not true. The speaker only wanted to make an
April Fool of him, for with that fun the fourth stranger
generally began his career. He looked very jovial, and did
"If the world were only more settled!" said he; "but
sometimes I'm obliged to be in a good humor, and sometimes a
bad one. I can laugh or cry according to circumstances. I
have my summer wardrobe in this box here, but it would be
very foolish to put it on now!"
After him a lady stepped out of the coach. She called
herself Miss May. She wore a summer dress and overshoes. Her
dress was light green, and there were anemones in her hair.
She was so scented with wild thyme that it made the sentry
"Your health, and God bless you!" was her greeting.
How pretty she was! and such a singer! Not a theater singer
nor a ballad-singer; no, but a singer of the woods. For she
wandered through the gay, green forest, and had a concert
there for her own amusement.
 Now comes the young lady," said those in the coach; and out
stepped a young dame, delicate, proud, and pretty. It was
Mistress June. In her service people become lazy and fond of
sleeping for hours. She gives a feast on the longest day of
the year, that there may be time for her guests to partake
of the numerous dishes at her table. Indeed, she keeps her
own carriage, but still she travels by the mail-coach with
the rest because she wishes to show that she is not proud.
But she was not without a protector; her younger brother,
July, was with her. He was a plump, young fellow, clad in
summer garments, and wearing a straw hat. He had very little
luggage because it was so cumbersome in the great heat. He
had, however, swimming-trousers with him, which are nothing
Then came the mother herself, Madame August, a wholesale
dealer in fruit, proprietress of a large number of
fish-ponds, and a land-cultivator. She was fat and warm, yet
she could use her hands well, and would herself carry out
food to the laborers in the field. After work, came the
recreations, dancing and playing in the greenwood, and the
"harvest home." She was a thorough housewife.
After her a man stepped out of the coach. He is a painter, a
master of colors, and is named September. The forest on his
arrival has to change
 its colors, and how beautiful are those he chooses! The
woods glow with red, and gold, and brown. This great master
painter can whistle like a blackbird. There he stood with
his color-pot in his hand, and that was the whole of his
A landowner followed, who in the month for sowing seed
attends to his ploughing and is fond of field sports. Squire
October brought his dog and his gun with him, and had nuts
in his game-bag.
"Crack! Crack!" He had a great deal of luggage, even a
plough. He spoke of farming, but what he said could scarcely
be heard for the coughing and sneezing of his neighbor.
It was November, who coughed violently as he got out. He had
a cold, but he said he thought it would leave him when he
went out woodcutting, for he had to supply wood to the whole
parish. He spent his evenings making skates, for he knew, he
said, that in a few weeks they would be needed.
At length the last passenger made her appearance,—Old
Mother December! The dame was very aged, but her eyes
glistened like two stars. She carried on her arm a
flower-pot, in which a little fir tree was growing. "This
tree I shall guard and cherish," she said, "that it may grow
large by Christmas Eve, and reach from the floor to the
ceiling, to be adorned with lighted candles, golden apples,
and toys. I shall sit by the fireplace, and bring a
story-book out of my pocket,
 and read aloud to all the little children. Then the toys on
the tree will become alive, and the little waxen Angel at
the top will spread out his wings of gold leaf, and fly down
from his green perch. He will kiss every child in the room,
yes, and all the little children who stand out in the street
singing a carol about the 'Star of Bethlehem.' "
"Well, now the coach may drive away," said the sentry; "we
will keep all the twelve months here with us."
"First let the twelve come to me," said the Captain on duty,
"one after another. The passports I will keep here, each of
them for one month. When that has passed, I shall write the
behavior of each stranger on his passport. Mr. January, have
the goodness to come here."
And Mr. January stepped forward.
When a year has passed, I think I shall be able to tell you
what the twelve passengers have brought to you, to me, and
to all of us. Just now I do not know, and probably even they
do not know themselves, for we live in strange times.