Ib and Little Christina

Author: Andersen Hans Christian | Genre: Tale | Year: | Catalogue: Global database Все варианты сказки на сайте

In the forest that extends from the banks of the Gudenau, in North Jutland, a long
way into the country, and not far from the clear stream, rises a great ridge of
land, which stretches through the wood like a wall. Westward of this ridge, and
not far from the river, stands a farmhouse, surrounded by such poor land that
the sandy soil shows itself between the scanty ears of rye and wheat which grow
in it. Some years have passed since the people who lived here cultivated these
fields; they kept three sheep, a pig, and two oxen; in fact they maintained themselves
very well, they had quite enough to live upon, as people generally have who are
content with their lot. They even could have afforded to keep two horses, but
it was a saying among the farmers in those parts, “The horse eats himself up;”
that is to say, he eats as much as he earns. Jeppe Jans cultivated his fields
in summer, and in the winter he made wooden shoes. He also had an assistant, a
lad who understood as well as he himself did how to make wooden shoes strong,
but light, and in the fashion. They carved shoes and spoons, which paid well;
therefore no one could justly call Jeppe Jans and his family poor people. Little
Ib, a boy of seven years old and the only child, would sit by, watching the workmen,
or cutting a stick, and sometimes his finger instead of the stick. But one day
Ib succeeded so well in his carving that he made two pieces of wood look really
like two little wooden shoes, and he determined to give them as a present to Little

“And who was Little Christina?” She was the boatman’s daughter, graceful and
delicate as the child of a gentleman; had she been dressed differently, no one
would have believed that she lived in a hut on the neighboring heath with her
father. He was a widower, and earned his living by carrying firewood in his
large boat from the forest to the eel-pond and eel-weir, on the estate of Silkborg,
and sometimes even to the distant town of Randers. There was no one under whose
care he could leave Little Christina; so she was almost always with him in his
boat, or playing in the wood among the blossoming heath, or picking the ripe
wild berries. Sometimes, when her father had to go as far as the town, he would
take Little Christina, who was a year younger than Ib, across the heath to the
cottage of Jeppe Jans, and leave her there. Ib and Christina agreed together
in everything; they divided their bread and berries when they were hungry; they
were partners in digging their little gardens; they ran, and crept, and played
about everywhere. Once they wandered a long way into the forest, and even ventured
together to climb the high ridge. Another time they found a few snipes’ eggs
in the wood, which was a great event. Ib had never been on the heath where Christina’s
father lived, nor on the river; but at last came an opportunity. Christina’s
father invited him to go for a sail in his boat; and the evening before, he
accompanied the boatman across the heath to his house. The next morning early,
the two children were placed on the top of a high pile of firewood in the boat,
and sat eating bread and wild strawberries, while Christina’s father and his
man drove the boat forward with poles. They floated on swiftly, for the tide
was in their favor, passing over lakes, formed by the stream in its course;
sometimes they seemed quite enclosed by reeds and water-plants, yet there was
always room for them to pass out, although the old trees overhung the water
and the old oaks stretched out their bare branches, as if they had turned up
their sleeves and wished to show their knotty, naked arms. Old alder-trees,
whose roots were loosened from the banks, clung with their fibres to the bottom
of the stream, and the tops of the branches above the water looked like little
woody islands. The water-lilies waved themselves to and fro on the river, everything
made the excursion beautiful, and at last they came to the great eel-weir, where
the water rushed through the flood-gates; and the children thought this a beautiful
sight. In those days there was no factory nor any town house, nothing but the
great farm, with its scanty-bearing fields, in which could be seen a few herd
of cattle, and one or two farm laborers. The rushing of the water through the
sluices, and the scream of the wild ducks, were almost the only signs of active
life at Silkborg. After the firewood had been unloaded, Christina’s father bought
a whole bundle of eels and a sucking-pig, which were all placed in a basket
in the stern of the boat. Then they returned again up the stream; and as the
wind was favorable, two sails were hoisted, which carried the boat on as well
as if two horses had been harnessed to it. As they sailed on, they came by chance
to the place where the boatman’s assistant lived, at a little distance from
the bank of the river. The boat was moored; and the two men, after desiring
the children to sit still, both went on shore. they obeyed this order for a
very short time, and then forgot it altogether. First they peeped into the basket
containing the eels and the sucking-pig; then they must needs pull out the pig
and take it in their hands, and feel it, and touch it; and as they both wanted
to hold it at the same time, the consequence was that they let it fall into
the water, and the pig sailed away with the stream.

Here was a terrible disaster. Ib jumped ashore, and ran a little distance from
the boat.

“Oh, take me with you,” cried Christina; and she sprang after him. In a few
minutes they found themselves deep in a thicket, and could no longer see the
boat or the shore. They ran on a little farther, and then Christina fell down,
and began to cry.

Ib helped her up, and said, “Never mind; follow me. Yonder is the house.” But
the house was not yonder; and they wandered still farther, over the dry rustling
leaves of the last year, and treading on fallen branches that crackled under
their little feet; then they heard a loud, piercing cry, and they stood still
to listen. Presently the scream of an eagle sounded through the wood; it was
an ugly cry, and it frightened the children; but before them, in the thickest
part of the forest, grew the most beautiful blackberries, in wonderful quantities.
They looked so inviting that the children could not help stopping; and they
remained there so long eating, that their mouths and cheeks became quite black
with the juice.

Presently they heard the frightful scream again, and Christina said, “We shall
get into trouble about that pig.”

  • “Oh, never mind,” said Ib; “we will go home to my father’s house. It is here
    in the wood.” So they went on, but the road led them out of the way; no house
    could be seen, it grew dark, and the children were afraid. The solemn stillness
    that reigned around them was now and then broken by the shrill cries of the
    great horned owl and other birds that they knew nothing of. At last they both
    lost themselves in the thicket; Christina began to cry, and then Ib cried too;
    and, after weeping and lamenting for some time, they stretched themselves down
    on the dry leaves and fell asleep.

    The sun was high in the heavens when the two children woke. They felt cold;
    but not far from their resting-place, on a hill, the sun was shining through
    the trees. They thought if they went there they should be warm, and Ib fancied
    he should be able to see his father’s house from such a high spot. But they
    were far away from home now, in quite another part of the forest. They clambered
    to the top of the rising ground, and found themselves on the edge of a declivity,
    which sloped down to a clear transparent lake. Great quantities of fish could
    be seen through the clear water, sparkling in the sun’s rays; they were quite
    surprised when they came so suddenly upon such an unexpected sight.

    Close to where they stood grew a hazel-bush, covered with beautiful nuts. They
    soon gathered some, cracked them, and ate the fine young kernels, which were
    only just ripe. But there was another surprise and fright in store for them.
    Out of the thicket stepped a tall old woman, her face quite brown, and her hair
    of a deep shining black; the whites of her eyes glittered like a Moor’s; on
    her back she carried a bundle, and in her hand a knotted stick. She was a gypsy.
    The children did not at first understand what she said. She drew out of her
    pocket three large nuts, in which she told them were hidden the most beautiful
    and lovely things in the world, for they were wishing nuts. Ib looked at her,
    and as she spoke so kindly, he took courage, and asked her if she would give
    him the nuts; and the woman gave them to him, and then gathered some more from
    the bushes for herself, quite a pocket full. Ib and Christina looked at the
    wishing nuts with wide open eyes.

    “Is there in this nut a carriage, with a pair of horses?” asked Ib.

    “Yes, there is a golden carriage, with two golden horses,” replied the woman.

    “Then give me that nut,” said Christina; so Ib gave it to her, and the strange
    woman tied up the nut for her in her handkerchief.

    Ib held up another nut. “Is there, in this nut, a pretty little neckerchief
    like the one Christina has on her neck?” asked Ib.

    “There are ten neckerchiefs in it,” she replied, “as well as beautiful dresses,
    stockings, and a hat and veil.”

    “Then I will have that one also,” said Christina; “and it is a pretty one too.”
    And then Ib gave her the second nut.

    The third was a little black thing. “You may keep that one,” said Christina;
    “it is quite as pretty.”

    “What is in it?” asked Ib.

    “The best of all things for you,” replied the gypsy. So Ib held the nut very

    Then the woman promised to lead the children to the right path, that they might
    find their way home: and they went forward certainly in quite another direction
    to the one they meant to take; therefore no one ought to speak against the woman,
    and say that she wanted to steal the children. In the wild wood-path they met
    a forester who knew Ib, and, by his help, Ib and Christina reached home, where
    they found every one had been very anxious about them. They were pardoned and
    forgiven, although they really had both done wrong, and deserved to get into
    trouble; first, because they had let the sucking-pig fall into the water; and,
    secondly, because they had run away. Christina was taken back to her father’s
    house on the heath, and Ib remained in the farm-house on the borders of the
    wood, near the great land ridge.

    The first thing Ib did that evening was to take out of his pocket the little
    black nut, in which the best thing of all was said to be enclosed. He laid it
    carefully between the door and the door-post, and then shut the door so that
    the nut cracked directly. But there was not much kernel to be seen; it was what
    we should call hollow or worm-eaten, and looked as if it had been filled with
    tobacco or rich black earth. “It is just what I expected!” exclaimed Ib. “How
    should there be room in a little nut like this for the best thing of all? Christina
    will find her two nuts just the same; there will be neither fine clothes or
    a golden carriage in them.”

    Winter came; and the new year, and indeed many years passed away; until Ib
    was old enough to be confirmed, and, therefore, he went during a whole winter
    to the clergyman of the nearest village to be prepared.

    One day, about this time, the boatman paid a visit to Ib’s parents, and told
    them that Christina was going to service, and that she had been remarkably fortunate
    in obtaining a good place, with most respectable people. “Only think,” he said,
    “She is going to the rich innkeeper’s, at the hotel in Herning, many miles west
    from here. She is to assist the landlady in the housekeeping; and, if afterwards
    she behaves well and remains to be confirmed, the people will treat her as their
    own daughter.”

    So Ib and Christina took leave of each other. People already called them “the
    betrothed,” and at parting the girl showed Ib the two nuts, which she had taken
    care of ever since the time that they lost themselves in the wood; and she told
    him also that the little wooden shoes he once carved for her when he was a boy,
    and gave her as a present, had been carefully kept in a drawer ever since. And
    so they parted.

    After Ib’s confirmation, he remained at home with his mother, for he had become
    a clever shoemaker, and in summer managed the farm for her quite alone. His
    father had been dead some time, and his mother kept no farm servants. Sometimes,
    but very seldom, he heard of Christina, through a postillion or eel-seller who
    was passing. But she was well off with the rich innkeeper; and after being confirmed
    she wrote a letter to her father, in which was a kind message to Ib and his
    mother. In this letter, she mentioned that her master and mistress had made
    her a present of a beautiful new dress, and some nice under-clothes. This was,
    of course, pleasant news.

    One day, in the following spring, there came a knock at the door of the house
    where Ib’s old mother lived; and when they opened it, lo and behold, in stepped
    the boatman and Christina. She had come to pay them a visit, and to spend the
    day. A carriage had to come from the Herning hotel to the next village, and
    she had taken the opportunity to see her friends once more. She looked as elegant
    as a real lady, and wore a pretty dress, beautifully made on purpose for her.
    There she stood, in full dress, while Ib wore only his working clothes. He could
    not utter a word; he could only seize her hand and hold it fast in his own,
    but he felt too happy and glad to open his lips. Christina, however, was quite
    at her ease; she talked and talked, and kissed him in the most friendly manner.
    Even afterwards, when they were left alone, and she asked, “Did you know me
    again, Ib?” he still stood holding her hand, and said at last, “You are become
    quite a grand lady, Christina, and I am only a rough working man; but I have
    often thought of you and of old times.” Then they wandered up the great ridge,
    and looked across the stream to the heath, where the little hills were covered
    with the flowering broom. Ib said nothing; but before the time came for them
    to part, it became quite clear to him that Christina must be his wife: had they
    not even in childhood been called the betrothed? To him it seemed as if they
    were really engaged to each other, although not a word had been spoken on the
    subject. They had only a few more hours to remain together, for Christina was
    obliged to return that evening to the neighboring village, to be ready for the
    carriage which was to start the next morning early for Herning. Ib and her father
    accompanied her to the village. It was a fine moonlight evening; and when they
    arrived, Ib stood holding Christina’s hand in his, as if he could not let her
    go. His eyes brightened, and the words he uttered came with hesitation from
    his lips, but from the deepest recesses of his heart: “Christina, if you have
    not become too grand, and if you can be contented to live in my mother’s house
    as my wife, we will be married some day. But we can wait for a while.”

    “Oh yes,” she replied; “Let us wait a little longer, Ib. I can trust you, for
    I believe that I do love you. But let me think it over.” Then he kissed her
    lips; and so they parted.

    On the way home, Ib told the boatman that he and Christina were as good as
    engaged to each other; and the boatman found out that he had always expected
    it would be so, and went home with Ib that evening, and remained the night in
    the farmhouse; but nothing further was said of the engagement. During the next
    year, two letters passed between Ib and Christina. They were signed, “Faithful
    till death;” but at the end of that time, one day the boatman came over to see
    Ib, with a kind greeting from Christina. He had something else to say, which
    made him hesitate in a strange manner. At last it came out that Christina, who
    had grown a very pretty girl, was more lucky than ever. She was courted and
    admired by every one; but her master’s son, who had been home on a visit, was
    so much pleased with Christina that he wished to marry her. He had a very good
    situation in an office at Copenhagen, and as she had also taken a liking for
    him, his parents were not unwilling to consent. But Christina, in her heart,
    often thought of Ib, and knew how much he thought of her; so she felt inclined
    to refuse this good fortune, added the boatman. At first Ib said not a word,
    but he became as white as the wall, and shook his head gently, and then he spoke,—“Christina
    must not refuse this good fortune.”

    “Then will you write a few words to her?” said the boatman.

    Ib sat down to write, but he could not get on at all. The words were not what
    he wished to say, so he tore up the page. The following morning, however, a
    letter lay ready to be sent to Christina, and the following is what he wrote:—

    “The letter written by you to your father I have read, and see from it that
    you are prosperous in everything, and that still better fortune is in store
    for you. Ask your own heart, Christina, and think over carefully what awaits
    you if you take me for your husband, for I possess very little in the world.
    Do not think of me or of my position; think only of your own welfare. You are
    bound to me by no promises; and if in your heart you have given me one, I release
    you from it. May every blessing and happiness be poured out upon you, Christina.
    Heaven will give me the heart’s consolation.

    Ever your sincere friend, IB.”

    This letter was sent, and Christina received it in due time. In the course of
    the following November, her banns were published in the church on the heath,
    and also in Copenhagen, where the bridegroom lived. She was taken to Copenhagen
    under the protection of her future mother-in-law, because the bridegroom could
    not spare time from his numerous occupations for a journey so far into Jutland.
    On the journey, Christina met her father at one of the villages through which
    they passed, and here he took leave of her. Very little was said about the matter
    to Ib, and he did not refer to it; his mother, however, noticed that he had
    grown very silent and pensive. Thinking as he did of old times, no wonder the
    three nuts came into his mind which the gypsy woman had given him when a child,
    and of the two which he had given to Christina. These wishing nuts, after all,
    had proved true fortune-tellers. One had contained a gilded carriage and noble
    horses, and the other beautiful clothes; all of these Christina would now have
    in her new home at Copenhagen. Her part had come true. And for him the nut had
    contained only black earth. The gypsy woman had said it was the best for him.
    Perhaps it was, and this also would be fulfilled. He understood the gypsy woman’s
    meaning now. The black earth—the dark grave—was the best thing for him now.

    Again years passed away; not many, but they seemed long years to Ib. The old
    innkeeper and his wife died one after the other; and the whole of their property,
    many thousand dollars, was inherited by their son. Christina could have the
    golden carriage now, and plenty of fine clothes. During the two long years which
    followed, no letter came from Christina to her father; and when at last her
    father received one from her, it did not speak of prosperity or happiness. Poor
    Christina! Neither she nor her husband understood how to economize or save,
    and the riches brought no blessing with them, because they had not asked for

    Years passed; and for many summers the heath was covered with bloom; in winter
    the snow rested upon it, and the rough winds blew across the ridge under which
    stood Ib’s sheltered home. One spring day the sun shone brightly, and he was
    guiding the plough across his field. The ploughshare struck against something
    which he fancied was a firestone, and then he saw glittering in the earth a
    splinter of shining metal which the plough had cut from something which gleamed
    brightly in the furrow. He searched, and found a large golden armlet of superior
    workmanship, and it was evident that the plough had disturbed a Hun’s grave.
    He searched further, and found more valuable treasures, which Ib showed to the
    clergyman, who explained their value to him. Then he went to the magistrate,
    who informed the president of the museum of the discovery, and advised Ib to
    take the treasures himself to the president.

    “You have found in the earth the best thing you could find,” said the magistrate.

    “The best thing,” thought Ib; “the very best thing for me,—and found in the
    earth! Well, if it really is so, then the gypsy woman was right in her prophecy.”

    So Ib went in the ferry-boat from Aarhus to Copenhagen. To him who had only
    sailed once or twice on the river near his own home, this seemed like a voyage
    on the ocean; and at length he arrived at Copenhagen. The value of the gold
    he had found was paid to him; it was a large sum—six hundred dollars. Then Ib
    of the heath went out, and wandered about in the great city.

    On the evening before the day he had settled to return with the captain of
    the passage-boat, Ib lost himself in the streets, and took quite a different
    turning to the one he wished to follow. He wandered on till he found himself
    in a poor street of the suburb called Christian’s Haven. Not a creature could
    be seen. At last a very little girl came out of one of the wretched-looking
    houses, and Ib asked her to tell him the way to the street he wanted; she looked
    up timidly at him, and began to cry bitterly. He asked her what was the matter;
    but what she said he could not understand. So he went along the street with
    her; and as they passed under a lamp, the light fell on the little girl’s face.
    A strange sensation came over Ib, as he caught sight of it. The living, breathing
    embodiment of Little Christina stood before him, just as he remembered her in
    the days of her childhood. He followed the child to the wretched house, and
    ascended the narrow, crazy staircase which led to a little garret in the roof.
    The air in the room was heavy and stifling, no light was burning, and from one
    corner came sounds of moaning and sighing. It was the mother of the child who
    lay there on a miserable bed. With the help of a match, Ib struck a light, and
    approached her.

    “Can I be of any service to you?” he asked. “This little girl brought me up
    here; but I am a stranger in this city. Are there no neighbors or any one whom
    I can call?”

    Then he raised the head of the sick woman, and smoothed her pillow. He started
    as he did so. It was Christina of the heath! No one had mentioned her name to
    Ib for years; it would have disturbed his peace of mind, especially as the reports
    respecting her were not good. The wealth which her husband had inherited from
    his parents had made him proud and arrogant. He had given up his certain appointment,
    and travelled for six months in foreign lands, and, on his return, had lived
    in great style, and got into terrible debt. For a time he had trembled on the
    high pedestal on which he had placed himself, till at last he toppled over,
    and ruin came. His numerous merry companions, and the visitors at his table,
    said it served him right, for he had kept house like a madman. One morning his
    corpse was found in the canal. The cold hand of death had already touched the
    heart of Christina. Her youngest child, looked for in the midst of prosperity,
    had sunk into the grave when only a few weeks old; and at last Christina herself
    became sick unto death, and lay, forsaken and dying, in a miserable room, amid
    poverty she might have borne in her younger days, but which was now more painful
    to her from the luxuries to which she had lately been accustomed. It was her
    eldest child, also a Little Christina, whom Ib had followed to her home, where
    she suffered hunger and poverty with her mother.

    “It makes me unhappy to think that I shall die, and leave this poor child,”
    sighed she. “Oh, what will become of her?” She could say no more.

    Then Ib brought out another match, and lighted a piece of candle which he found
    in the room, and it threw a glimmering light over the wretched dwelling. Ib
    looked at the little girl, and thought of Christina in her young days. For her
    sake, could he not love this child, who was a stranger to him? As he thus reflected,
    the dying woman opened her eyes, and gazed at him. Did she recognize him? He
    never knew; for not another word escaped her lips.

    In the forest by the river Gudenau, not far from the heath, and beneath the
    ridge of land, stood the little farm, newly painted and whitewashed. The air
    was heavy and dark; there were no blossoms on the heath; the autumn winds whirled
    the yellow leaves towards the boatman’s hut, in which strangers dwelt; but the
    little farm stood safely sheltered beneath the tall trees and the high ridge.
    The turf blazed brightly on the hearth, and within was sunlight, the sparkling
    light from the sunny eyes of a child; the birdlike tones from the rosy lips
    ringing like the song of a lark in spring. All was life and joy. Little Christina
    sat on Ib’s knee. Ib was to her both father and mother; her own parents had
    vanished from her memory, as a dream-picture vanishes alike from childhood and
    age. Ib’s house was well and prettily furnished; for he was a prosperous man
    now, while the mother of the little girl rested in the churchyard at Copenhagen,
    where she had died in poverty. Ib had money now—money which had come to him
    out of the black earth; and he had Christina for his own, after all.