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DOWN yonder, in the street, stood an old, old house. It was almost three hundred years old, for one could read as much on the beam, on which was carved the date of its erection, surrounded by tulips and trailing hops. There one could read entire verses in the characters of olden times, and over each window a face had been carved in the beam, and these made all kinds of strange grimaces. One story projected a long way above the other, and close under the roof was a leaden gutter with a dragon's head. The rain water was to run out of the dragon's mouth, but it ran out of the creature's body instead, for there was a hole in the pipe.

All the other houses in the street were still new and trim, with smooth walls and large windowpanes. One could easily see that they would have nothing to do with the old house. They thought perhaps,“How long is that old rubbish-heap to stand there, a scandal to the whole street? The parapet stands so far forward that no one can see out of our windows what is going on in that direction. The staircase is as broad as a castle staircase, and as steep as if it led to a church tower. The iron railing looks like the gate of a family vault, and there are brass bosses upon it. It's too ridiculous!”

Just opposite stood some more new neat houses that thought exactly like the rest; but here at the window sat a little boy, with fresh red cheeks, with clear sparkling eyes, and he was particularly fond of the old house, in sunshine as well as by moonlight. And when he looked down at the wall where the plaster had fallen off, then he could sit and fancy all kinds of pictures----how the street must have appeared in old times, with stairs, balconies, and pointed gables; he could see soldiers with halberds, and roof-gutters running about in the form of dragons and griffins. It was just a good house to look at; and in it lived an old man who went about in leather knee-breeches, and wore a coat with great brass buttons, and a wig which one could at once see was a real wig. Every morning an old man came to him, to clean his rooms and run on his errands. With this exception the old man in the leather kneebreeches was all alone in the old house. Sometimes he came to one of the windows and looked out, and the little boy nodded to him, and the old man nodded back, and thus they became acquainted and became friends, though they had never spoken to one another; but, indeed, that was not at all necessary.

The little boy heard his parents say,“The old man opposite is very well off, but he is terribly lonely.”

Next Sunday the little boy wrapped something in a piece of paper, went with it to the house door, and said to the man who ran errands for the old gentleman,

“Hark-ye, will you take this to the old gentleman opposite for me? I have two tin soldiers; this is one of them, and he shall have it, because I know that he is terribly lonely.”

And the old attendant looked quite pleased, and nodded, and carried the Tin Soldier into the old house. Afterwards he was sent over, to ask if the little boy would not like to come himself and pay a visit. His parents gave him leave; and so it was that he came to the old house.

The brass bosses on the staircase shone much more brightly than usual; one would have thought they had been polished in honour of his visit. And it was just as if the carved trumpeters----for on the doors there were carved trumpeters, standing in tulips----were blowing with all their might; their cheeks looked much rounder than before. Yes, they blew “Tan-ta-ra-ra! the little boy's coming! tan-tara-ra!”and then the door opened.

The whole of the hall was hung with old portraits of knights in armour and ladies in silk gowns; and the armour rattled and the silk dresses rustled; and then came a staircase that went up a great way and down a little way, and then one came to a balcony which was certainly in a very rickety state, with long cracks and great holes; but out of all these grew grass and leaves, for the whole balcony,the courtyurd, and the wall, were overgrown with so much green that it looked like a garden, but it was only a balcony. Here stood old flower-pots that had faces with asses'ears; but the flowers grew just as they chose. In one pot pinks were growing over on all sides; that is to say, the green stalks, sprout upon sprout, and they said quite plainly, “The air has caressed me and the sun has kissed me, and promised me a little flower for next Sunday, a little flower next Sunday !”

And then they came to a room where the walls were covered, with pig-skin, and golden flowers had been stamped on the leather.

“Flowers fade fast,

But pig-skin will last,”

said the walls. And there stood chairs with quite high backs, with carved work and elbows on each side.

“Sit down!”said they.“Oh, how it cracks inside me! Now I shall be sure to have the gout, like the old cupboard. Gout in my back, ugh!”

And then the little boy came to the room where the old man sat .

“Thank you for the Tin Soldier, my little friend,”said the old man.“and thank you for coming over to me.”

“Thanks! thanks!”or “Crick! crack!”said all the farniture; there were so many pieces that they almost stood in each other's way to see the little boy.

And in the middle, on the wall, hung a picture of a beautiful lady, young and cheerful in appearance, but dressed just like people of the old times, with powder in her hair and skirts that stuck out stiffly. She said neither “Thanks”nor “Crack”, but looked down upon the little boy with her mild eyes; and he at once asked the old man,

“Where did you get her from?”

“From the dealer opposite,”replied the old man. “Many pictures are always hanging there. No one knows them or troubles himself about them, for they are all buried. But many years ago I knew this lady, and now she's been dead and gone for half a century.”

And under the picture hung, behind glass, a nosegay of withered flowers; they were certainly also half a century old----at least they looked it ; and the pendulum of the great clock went to and from, and the hands turned round, and everything in the room grew older still, but no one noticed it.

“They say at home,”said the little boy,“that you are always terribly solitary.”

“Oh,”answered the old man,“old thoughts come, with all that they bring, to visit me; and now you come as well, I'm very well off. ”

And then he took from a shelf a book with pictures there were long processions of wonderful coaches, such as one never sees at the present day, soldiers like the knave of clubs, and citizens with waving flags. The tailors had a flag with shears on it held by two lions, and the shoemakers a flag, without boots, but with an eagle that had two heads; for among the shoemakers everything must be so arranged that they can say, “There's a pair.”Yes, that was a picture-book! And the old man went into the other room, to fetch preserves, and apples, and nuts. It was really glorious in that old house.

“I can't stand it,”said the Tin Soldier, who stood upon the shelf. “It is terribly lonely and dull here. When a person has been accustomed to family life, one cannot get accustomed to their existence here. I cannot stand it! The day is long enough, but the evening is longer still ! Here it is not at all as it was in your house opposite, where your father and mother were always conversing cheerfully together, and you and all the other dear children made a famous noise. How solitary it is here at the old man's ! Do you think he gets any kisses? Do you think he gets friendly looks, or a Christmas tree? He'll get nothing but a funeral ! I cannot stand it !”

“You must not look at it from the sorrowful side,”said the little boy. “To me it all appears remarkably pretty, and all the old thoughts, with all they bring with them, come to visit here.”

“Yes, bu............

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