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HAVE you ever seen a very old wooden cupboard, quite black with age, and ornamented with carved foliage and arabesques? Just such a cupboard stood in a parlour: it had been a legacy from the great-grandmother, and was covered from top to bottom with carved roses and tulips. There were the quaintest flourishes upon it, and from among these peered forth little stags' heads with antlers. In the middle of the cupboard door an entire figure of a man had been cut out: he was certainly ridiculous to look at, and he grinned, for you could not call it laughing: he had goat's legs, little horns on his head, and a long beard. The children in the room always called him the Billygoate-legs-Lieutenant-and-Major-General-War-Com- mander-Sergeant; that was a difficult name to pronounce, and there are not many who obtain this title; but it was something to have cut him out. And there he was! He was always looking at the table under the mirror, for on this table stood a lovely little Shepherdess made of china. Her shoes were gilt, her dress was neatly caught up with a red rose, and besides this she had a golden hat and a shepherd's crook: she was very lovely. Close by her stood a little Chimney-Sweeper, black as a coal, but also made of porcelain: he was as clean and neat as any other man, for it was only make-believe that he was a sweep; the china-workers might just as well have made a prince of him, if they had been so minded.

There he stood very nattily with his ladder, and with a face as white and pink as a girl's; and that was really a fault, for he ought to have been a little black. He stood quite close to the Shepherdess: they had both been placed where they stood; but as they had been placed there they had become engaged to each other. They suited each other well. Both were young people, both made of the same kind of china, and both equally frail.

Close to them stood another figure, three times greater than they. This was an old Chinaman, who could nod. He was also of porcelain, and declared himself to be the grandfather of the little Shepherdess; but he could not prove his relationship. He declared he had authority over her, and that therefore he had nodded to Mr. Billygoatlegs-Lieutenant-and-Major-General-War-Commander- Sergeant, who was wooing her for his wife.

“Then you will get a husband!”said the old Chinaman, “a man who I verily believe is made of mahogany. He can make you Billygoat-legs-Lieutenant-and-Major-General-War-Commander-Sergeantess: he has the whole cupboard full of silver plate, besides what he hoards up in secret drawers.”

“I won't go into the dark cupboard!”said the little Shepherdess.“I have heard tell that he has eleven porcelain wives in there.”

“Then you may become the twelfth,”cried the Chinaman.“This night, so soon as it creaks in the old cupboard, you shall be married, as true as I am an old Chinaman!”

And with that he nodded his head and fell asleep. But the little Shepherdess wept and looked at her heart's beloved, the porcelain Chimney-Sweeper.

“I should like to beg of you,”said she,“to go out with me into the wide world, for we cannot remain here.”

“I'll do whatever you like,”replied the little Chimney-Sweeper.“Let us start directly! I think I can keep you by exercising my profession.”

“If we were only safely down from the table!” said she.“I shall not be happy until we are out in the wide world.”

And he comforted her, and showed her how she must place her little foot upon the carved corners and the gilded foliage down the leg of the table; he brought his ladder, too, to help her, and they were soon together upon the floor. But when they looked up at the old cupboard there was great commotion within: all the carved stag were stretching out their heads, rearing up their antlers, and turning their necks; and the Billygoat-legs-Lieutenant-and- Major-General-War-Commander-Sergeant sprang high in the air, and called across to the old Chinaman,

“Now they're running away! now they're running away!”

Then they were a little frightened, and jumped quickly into the drawer of the window-seat. Here were three or four packs of cards which were not complete, and a little puppet-show, which had been built up as well as it could be done. There plays were acted, and all the ladies, diamonds, clubs, hearts, and spades, sat in the first row, fanning themselves with their tulips; and behind them stood all the knaves, showing that they had a head above and below, as is usual in playing-cards. The play was about two people who were not to be married to each other, and the Shepherdess wept, because it was just like her own history.

“I cannot bear this!”said she.“I must go out of the drawer.”

But when they arrived on the floor, and looked up at the table, the old Chinaman was awake and was shaking over his whole body----for below he was all one lump.

“Now the old Chinaman's coming!”cried the little Shepherdess and she fell down upon her porcelain knee, so startled was she.


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