LITTLE IDA'S FLOWERS
Y poor flowers are quite dead!" said little Ida. "They
were so pretty yesterday, and now all the leaves hang
withered. Why do they do that?" she asked the Student,
who sat on the sofa, for she liked him very much. He
knew the prettiest stories, and could cut out the most
amusing pictures—hearts, with little ladies in
them who danced; flowers, and great castles in which
one could open the doors; he was a merry student. "Why
do the flowers look so faded to-day?" she asked again,
and showed him a nosegay which was quite withered.
"Do you know what's the matter with them?" said the
Student. "The flowers have been at a ball last night,
and that's why they hang their heads.
"But flowers cannot dance!" cried little Ida.
"Oh yes," said the Student. "When is grows dark, and we
are asleep, they jump about merrily. Almost every night
they have a ball."
"Can children go to this ball?"
 "Yes," said the Student; "quite little daisies and
"Where do the beautiful flowers dance?" asked Ida.
"Have you not often been outside the town gate by the
great castle where the king lives in summer, and where
the beautiful garden is with all the flowers? You have
seen the swans which swim up to you when you want to
give them bread-crumbs? There are capital balls there,
"I was out there in the garden yesterday with my
mother," said Ida; "but all the leaves were off the
trees, and there was not one flower left. Where are
they? In the summer I saw so many."
"They are within, in the castle," replied the Student.
"You must know, as soon as the king and all the court
go to town, the flowers run out of the garden into the
castle and are merry. You should see that. The two most
beautiful roses seat themselves on the throne, and then
they are king and queen; all the red coxcombs range
themselves on either side and stand and bow; they are
the chamberlains. Then all the pretty flowers come, and
there is a great ball. The blue violets represent
little naval cadets; they dance with hyacinths and
crocuses, which they call young ladies; the tulips and
the great tiger-lilies are old ladies who keep watch
that the dancing is well done and that everything goes
on with propriety."
"But," asked little Ida, "is nobody there who hurts the
flowers for dancing in the king's castle?"
"There is nobody who really knows about it," answered
the Student. "Sometimes, certainly, the old steward of
the castle comes at night, and he has to watch there.
He has a great bunch of keys with him; but as soon as
the flowers hear the keys rattle they are quite quiet,
hide behind the curtains, and only poke their heads
out. Then the old steward says, 'I smell that there are
flowers here,' but he cannot see them."
"That is famous!" cried little Ida, clapping her hands.
"But should not I be able to see the flowers?"
"Yes," said the Student; "only remember when you go out
 again to peep through the window, then you will see
them. That is what I did to-day. There was a long
yellow lily lying on the sofa and stretching herself.
She was a court lady."
"Can the flowers out of the Botanical Garden get there?
Can they go the long distance?"
"Yes, certainly," replied the Student; "if they like,
they can fly. Have you not seen the beautiful
butterflies—red, yellow, and white: They look
almost like flowers; and that is what they have been.
They have flown off their stalks high into the air and
have beaten it with their leaves, as if these leaves
were little wings, and thus they flew. And because they
behaved themselves well they got leave to fly about in
the daytime, too, and were not obliged to sit still
upon their stalks at home; and thus at last the leaves
became real wings. That you have seen yourself. It may
be, however, that the flowers in the Botanical Garden
have never been in the king's castle, or that they
don't know of the merry proceedings there at night.
Therefore I will tell you something: he will be very
much surprised, the botanical professor, who lives
close by here. You know him, do you not? When you come
into his garden you must tell one of the flowers that
there is a great ball yonder in the castle. Then that
flower will tell it to all the rest, and then they will
fly away; when the professor comes out into the garden
there will not be a single flower left, and he won't be
able to make out where they are gone."
"But how can one flower tell it to another? For, you
know, flowers cannot speak."
"That they cannot, certainly," replied the Student;
"but then they make signs. Have you not noticed that
when the wind blows a little the flowers nod at one
another and move all their green leaves? They can
understand that just as well as we can when we speak
"Can the professor understand these signs?" asked Ida.
"Yes, certainly. He came one morning into his garden
and saw a great stinging-nettle standing there and
making signs to a beautiful red carnation with its
leaves. It was saying, 'You
 are so pretty, and I love you with all my heart.' But
the professor does not like that kind of thing, and he
directly slapped the stinging-nettle upon its leaves,
for those are its fingers; but he stung himself, and
since that time he has not dared to touch a
"That is funny," cried little Ida; and she laughed.
"How can any one put such notions into a child's head?"
said the tiresome Privy Councilor, who had come to pay
a visit and was sitting on the sofa. He did not like
the Student, and always grumbled when he saw him
cutting out the merry, funny pictures—sometimes a
man hanging on a gibbet and holding a heart in his hand
to show that he stole hearts; sometimes an old witch
riding on a broom and carrying her husband on her nose.
The Councilor could not bear this, and then he said
just as he did now, "How can any one put such notions
into a child's head? Those are stupid fancies!"
But to little Ida what the Student told about her
flowers seemed very droll; and she thought much about
it. The flowers hung their heads, for they were tired
because they had danced all night; They were certainly
ill. Then she went with them to her other toys which
stood on a pretty little table, and the whole drawer
was full of beautiful things. In the doll's bed lay her
doll Sophy, asleep; but little Ida said to her:
"You must really get up, Sophy, and manage to lie in
the drawer for to-night. The poor flowers are ill, and
they must lie in your bed; perhaps they will then get
And she at once took the doll out; but the doll looked
cross and did not say a single word; for she was cross
because she could not keep her own bed.
Then Ida laid the flowers in the doll's bed, pulled the
little coverlet quite up over them, and said they were
to lie still and be good and she would make them some
tea so that they might get well again and be able to
get up to-morrow. And she drew the curtains closely
around the little bed so that the sun should not shine
in their eyes. The whole evening through she could not
help thinking of what the Student had told her. And
 she was going to bed herself she was obliged first to
look behind the curtains which hung before the windows
where her mother's beautiful flowers
stood—hyacinths as well as tulips; then she
whispered, "I know you are going to the ball to-night!"
But the flowers made as if they did not understand a
word and did not stir a leaf; but still little Ida knew
what she knew.
When she was in bed she lay for a long time thinking
how pretty it must be to see the beautiful flowers
dancing out in the king's castle. "I wonder if my
flowers have really been there?" And then she fell
asleep. In the night she woke up again; she had dreamed
of the flowers and of the Student with whom the
Councilor found fault. It was quite quiet in the
bedroom where Ida lay; the night-lamp burned on the
table, and father and mother were asleep.
"I wonder if my flowers are still lying in Sophy's
bed?" she thought to herself. "How I should like to
know!" She raised herself a little and looked at the
door, which stood ajar; within lay the flowers and all
her playthings. She listened, and then it seemed to her
as if she heard some one playing on the piano in the
next room, but quite softly and prettily as she had
never heard it before.
"Now all the flowers are certainly dancing in there!"
thought she. "Oh, how glad I should be to see it!" But
she dared not get up, for she would have disturbed her
father and mother.
"If they would only come in!" thought she. But the
flowers did not come, and the music continued to play
beautifully; then she could not bear it any longer, for
it was too pretty; she crept out of her little bed and
went quietly to the door and looked into the room.
Oh, how splendid it was, what she saw!
There was no night-lamp burning, but still it was quite
light; the moon shone through the window into the
middle of the floor; it was almost like day. All the
hyacinths and tulips stood in two long rows in the
room; there were none at all left at the
window—there stood the empty flower-pots. On the
floor all the flowers were dancing very gracefully
round one another,
mak-  ing perfect turns and holding one another by the long
green leaves as they swung round. But at the piano sat
a great yellow lily which little Ida had certainly seen
in the summer, for she remembered how the Student had
said, "How like that one is to Miss Lina." Then he had
been laughed at by all; but now it seemed really to
little Ida as if the long, yellow flower looked like
the young lady; and it had just her manners in
playing*#8212;sometimes bending its long, yellow face to
one side, sometimes to the other, and nodding in tune
to the charming music! No one noticed little Ida. Then
she saw a great blue crocus hop into the middle of the
table where the toys stood and go to the doll's bed and
pull the curtains aside; there lay the sick flowers,
but they got up directly and nodded to the others, to
say that they wanted to dance, too. The old
Chimney-sweep doll whose underlip was broken off, stood
up and bowed to the pretty flowers; these did not look
at all ill now; they jumped down to the others and were
Then it seemed as if something fell down from the
table. Ida looked that way. It was the Birch Rod which
was jumping down! It seemed almost as if it belonged to
the flowers. At any rate, it was very neat. And a
little Wax Doll, with just such a broad hat on its head
as the Councilor wore, sat upon it. The Birch Rod
hopped about among the flowers on it's three legs and
stamped quite loud, for it was dancing the mazurka; and
the other flowers could not manage that dance, because
they were too light and unable to stamp like that.
The Wax Doll on the Birch Rod all at once became quite
great and long, turned itself over the Paper Flowers,
and said, "How can one put such things in a child's
head? Those are stupid fancies!" and then the Wax Doll
was exactly like the Councilor with the broad hat, and
looked just as yellow and cross as he. But the Paper
Flowers hit him on his thin legs, and then he shrank up
again and became quite a little wax doll. That was very
amusing to see; and little Ida could not restrain her
laughter. The Birch Rod went on dancing, and the
Councilor was obliged to dance too; it was no use, he
might make himself
 great and long or remain the little yellow Wax Doll
with the big black hat. Then the other flowers put in a
good word for him, especially those who had lain in the
Doll's bed, and then the Birch Rod gave over. At the
same moment there was a loud knocking at the drawer
inside where Ida's doll, Sophy, lay with many other
toys. The Chimney-sweep ran to the edge of the table,
lay flat down on his stomach, and began to pull the
drawer out a little. Then Sophy raised herself and
looked round, quite astonished.
"There must be a ball here," said she. "Why did nobody
"Will you dance with me?" asked the Chimney-sweep.
"You are a nice sort of fellow to dance!" she replied,
and turned her back upon him.
Then she seated herself upon the drawer and thought
that one of the flowers would come and ask her, but not
one of them came. Then she coughed, "Hem! hem! hem!"
but for all that not one came. The Chimney-sweep now
danced all alone, and that was not at all so bad.
As none of the flowers seemed to notice Sophy, she let
herself fall down from the drawer straight upon the
floor so that there was a great noise. The flowers now
all came running up to ask if she had hurt herself; and
they were all very polite to her, especially the
flowers that had lain in her bed. But she had not hurt
herself at all; and Ida's flowers all thanked her for
the nice bed, and were kind to her, took her into the
middle of the room, where the moon shone in, and danced
with her; and all the other flowers formed a circle
round her. Now Sophy was glad, and said they might keep
her bed; she did not at all mind lying in the drawer.
But the flowers said: "We thank you heartily, but in
any way we cannot live long. To-morrow we shall be
quite dead. But tell little Ida she is to bury us out
in the garden, where the canary lies; then we shall
wake up again in summer and be far more beautiful."
"No, you must not die," said Sophy; and she kissed the
 Then the room door opened, and a great number of
splendid flowers came dancing in. Ida could not imagine
whence they had come; these must certainly all be the
flowers from the king's castle yonder. First of all
came two glorious roses, and they had little gold
crowns on; they were a king and a queen. Then came the
prettiest stocks and carnations; and they bowed in all
directions. They had music with them. Great poppies and
peonies blew upon pea-pods till they were quite red in
the face. The blue hyacinths and the little white
snow-drops rang just as if they had been bells. That
was wonderful music! Then came many other flowers and
danced all together; the blue violets and the pink
primroses, daisies and the lilies-of-the-valley. And
all the flowers kissed one another. It was beautiful to
At last the flowers wished one another good night; then
little Ida, too, crept to bed, where she dreamed of all
she had seen.
When she rose next morning she went quickly to the
little table to see if the pretty flowers were still
there. She drew aside the curtains of the little bed;
there were they all, but they were quite faded, far
more than yesterday. Sophy was lying in the drawer
where Ida had laid her; she looked very sleepy.
"Do you remember what you were to say to me?" asked
But Sophy looked quite stupid, and did not say a single
"You are not good at all!" said Ida. "And yet they all
danced with you."
Then she took a little paper box, on which were painted
beautiful birds, and opened it, and laid the dead
flowers in it.
"That shall be your pretty coffin," said she, "and when
my cousins come to visit me by and by they shall help
me to bury you outside in the garden, so that you may
grow again in summer and become more beautiful than
These cousins were two merry boys. Their names were
Gustave and Adolphe; their father had given each of
them a new cross-bow, and they had brought these with
them to show to Ida. She told them about the poor
flowers which had died, and then they got leave to bury
them. The two boys went
 first, with their cross-bows on their shoulders, and
little Ida followed with the dead flowers in the pretty
box. Out in the garden a little grave was dug. Ida
first kissed the flowers, and then laid them in the
earth in the box, and Adolphe and Gustave shot with
their cross-bows over the grave, for they had neither
guns nor cannon.