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Hans Andersen's Fairy Tales and Wonder Stories by  Louis Rhead
Table of Contents


 

 

FIVE OUT OF ONE SHELL

[295]

T
HERE were five peas in one shell; they were green, and the pod was green, and so they thought all the world was green; and that was just as it should be! The shell grew, and the peas grew; they accommodated themselves to circumstances, sitting all in a row. The sun shone without and warmed the husk, and the rain made it clear and transparent; it was mild and agreeable in the bright day and in the dark night, just as it should be, and the peas as they sat there became bigger and bigger, and more and more thoughtful, for something they must do.

"Are we to sit here everlastingly?" asked one. "I'm afraid we shall become hard by long sitting. It seems to me there must be something outside; I have a kind of inkling of it."

And weeks went by. The peas became yellow, and the pod also.

"All the world's turning yellow," said they; and they had a right to say it.

Suddenly they felt a tug at the shell. The shell was torn off, passed through human hands, and glided down into the pocket of a jacket in company with other full pods.

"Now we shall soon be opened!" they said; and that is just what they were waiting for.

[296] "I should like to know who of us will get farthest!" said the smallest of the five. "Yes, now it will soon show itself."

"What is to be will be," said the biggest.

"Crack!" the pod burst, and all the five peas rolled out into the bright sunshine. There they lay in a child's hand. A little boy was clutching them, and said they were fine peas for his pea-shooter; and he put one in directly and shot it out.

"Now I'm flying out into the wide world. Catch me if you can!" And he was gone.

"I," said the second, "I shall fly straight into the sun. That's a shell worth looking at, and one that exactly suits me." And away he went.

"We'll go to sleep wherever we arrive," said the next two; "but we shall roll on all the same." And they certainly rolled and tumbled down on the ground before they got into the pea-shooter; but they were put in, for all that. "We shall go farthest," said they.

"What is to happen will happen," said the last as he was shot forth out of the pea-shooter; and he flew up against the old board under the garret window just into a crack which was filled up with moss and soft mold; and the moss closed round him; there he lay a prisoner indeed, but not forgotten by provident Nature.

"What is to happen will happen," said he.

Within, in the little garret, lived a poor woman who went out in the day to clean stoves, chop wood small, and to do other hard work of the same kind, for she was strong, and industrious, too. But she always remained poor; and at home in the garret lay her half-grown only daughter, who was very delicate and weak; for a whole year she had kept her bed, and it seemed as if she could neither live nor die.

"She is going to her little sister," the woman said. "I had only the two children, and it was not an easy thing to provide for both, but the good God provided for one of them by taking her home to Himself; now I should be glad to keep the other that was left me; but I suppose they are not to remain separated, and my sick girl will go to her sister in heaven."

But the sick girl remained where she was. She lay quiet [297] and patient all day long while her mother went to earn money out of doors. It was spring; and early in the morning, just as the mother was about to go out to work, the sun shone mildly and pleasantly through the little window and threw its rays across the floor, and the sick girl fixed her eyes on the lowest pane in the window.

"What may that green thing be that looks in at the window? It is moving in the wind."

And the mother stepped to the window and half opened it. "Oh!" said she, "on my word, that is a little pea which has taken root here and is putting out its little leaves. How can it have got here into the crack? That is a little garden with which you can amuse yourself."

And the sick girl's bed was moved nearer to the window so that she could always see the growing pea; and the mother went forth to her work.

"Mother, I think I shall get well," said the sick child, in the evening. "The sun shone in upon me to-day delightfully warm. The little pea is prospering famously, and I shall prosper, too, and get up and go out into the warm sunshine."

"God grant it!" said the mother, but she did not believe it would be; but she took care to prop with a little stick the green plant which had given her daughter the pleasant thoughts of life, so that it might not be broken by the wind; she tied a piece of string to the window-sill and to the upper part of the frame, so that the pea might have something round which it could twine when it shot up; and it did shoot up indeed—one could see how it grew every day.

"Really, here is a flower coming!" said the woman one day; and now she began to cherish hope that her sick daughter would recover. She remembered that lately the child had spoken much more cheerfully than before, that in the last few days she had risen up in bed of her own accord, and had sat upright, looking with delighted eyes at the little garden in which only one plant grew. A week afterward the invalid for the first time sat up for a whole hour. Quite happy, she sat there in the warm [298] sunshine; the window was opened, and outside before it stood a pink pea-blossom fully blown. The sick girl bent down and gently kissed the delicate leaves. This day was like a festival.

"The Heavenly Father Himself has planted that pea and caused it to prosper, to be a joy to you and to me also, my blessed child!" said the glad mother; and she smiled at the flower as if it had been a good angel.

But about the other peas? Why, the one who flew out into the wide world and said, "Catch me if you can," fell into the gutter on the roof and found a home in a pigeon's crop; the two lazy ones got just as far, for they, too, were eaten up by pigeons, and thus, at any rate, they were of some real use; but the fourth, who wanted to go into the sun, fell into the sink and lay there in the dirty water for weeks and weeks and swelled prodigiously.

"How beautifully fat I'm growing!" said the Pea. "I shall burst at last; and I don't think any pea can do more that that. I'm the most remarkable of all the five that were in the shell."

And the Sink said he was right.

But the young girl at the garret window stood there with gleaming eyes, with the roseate hue of health on her cheeks, and folded her thin hands over the pea-blossom, and thanked Heaven for it.

"I," said the Sink, "stand up for my own pea."


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