Subject:FICTION Scarica il testo

The Juniper Tree

A LONG, while ago, perhaps as much as two thousand years, there was a rich man
who had a wife of whom he was very fond; but they had no children. Now in the
garden before the house where they lived there stood a juniper tree; and one
winter’s day as the lady was standing under the juniper tree, paring an apple,
she cut her finger, and the drops of blood trickled down upon the snow. ‘Ah!’
said she, sighing deeply and looking down upon the blood, ‘how happy should I
be if I had a little child as white as snow and as red as blood!’ And as she
was saying this, she grew quite cheerful, and was sure her wish would be
fulfilled. And after a little time the snow went away, and soon afterwards the
fields began to look green. Next the spring came, and the meadows were dressed
with flowers; the trees put forth their green leaves; the young branches shed
their blossoms upon the ground; and the little birds sung through the groves.
And then came summer, and the sweet-smelling flowers of the juniper tree began
to unfold; and the lady’s heart leaped within her, and she fell on her knees
for joy. But when autumn drew near, the fruit was thick upon the trees. Then
the lady plucked the red berries from the juniper tree, and looked sad and
sorrowful; and she called her husband to her, and said, ‘If I die, bury me
under the juniper tree.’ Not long after this a pretty little child was born;
it was, as the lady wished, as red as blood, and as white as snow; and as soon
as she had looked upon it, her joy overcame her, and she fainted away and
Then her husband buried her under the juniper tree, and wept and mourned over
her; but after a little while he grew better, and at length dried up his
tears, and married another wife.
Time passed on, and he had a daughter born; but the child of his first wife,
that was as red as blood, and as white as snow, was a little boy. The mother
loved her daughter very much, but hated the little boy, and bethought herself
how she might get all her husband’s money for her own child; so she used the
poor fellow very harshly, and was always pushing him about from one corner of
the house to another, and thumping him one while and pinching him another, so
that he was for ever in fear of her, and when be came home from school, could
never find a place in the house to play in.
Now it happened that once when the mother was going into her store-room, the
little girl came up to her, and said, ‘Mother, may I have an apple?’ ‘Yes, my
dear,’ said she, and gave her a nice rosy apple out of the chest. Now you must
know that this chest had a very thick heavy lid, with a great sharp iron lock
upon it. ‘Mother,’ said the little girl, ‘pray give me one for my little
brother too.’ Her mother did not much like this; however, she said, ‘Yes, my
child; when he comes from school, he shall have one too.’ As she was speaking,
she looked out of the window and saw the little boy coming; so she took the
apple from her daughter, anal threw it back into the chest and shut the lid,
telling her that she should have it again when her brother came home. When the
little boy came to the door, this wicked woman said to him with a kind voice,
‘Come in, my dear, and I will give you an apple.’ ‘How kind you are, mother!’
said the little boy; ‘I should like to have an apple very much.’ ‘Well, come
with me then,’ said she. So she took him into the store-room and lifted up the
cover of the chest, and said, ‘There, take one out yourself;’ and then, as the
little boy stooped down to reach one of the apples out of the chest, bang! she
let the lid fall, so hard that his head fell off amongst the apples. When she
found what she had done, she was very much frightened, and did not know how
she should get the blame off her shoulders. However, she went into her
bed-room, and took a white handkerchief out of a drawer, and then fitted the
little boy’s head upon his neck, and tied the handkerchief round it, so that
no one could see what had happened, and seated him on a stool before the door
with the apple in his hand.
Soon afterwards Margery came into the kitchen to her mother, who was standing
by the fire, and stirring about some hot water in a pot. ‘Mother,’ said
Margery, ‘my brother is sitting before the door with in apple in his hand; I
asked him to give it me, but he did not say a word, and looked so pale, that I
was quite frightened.’ ‘Nonsense!’ said her mother; ‘go back again, and if he
won’t answer you, give him a good box on the ear.’ Margery went back, and
said, ‘Brother, give me that apple.’ But he answered not a word; so she gave
him a, box on the ear; and immediately his head fell off. At this, you may be
sure she was sadly frightened, and ran screaming out to her mother, that she
had knocked off her brother’s head, and cried as if her heart would break. ‘O
Margery!’ said her mother, ‘what have you been doing? However, what is done
cannot be undone; so we had better put him out of the way, and say nothing to
any one about it.’
When the father came home to dinner, he said, ‘Where is my little boy?’ And
his wife said nothing, but put a large dish of black soup upon the table; and
Margery wept bitterly all the time, and could not hold up her head. And the
father asked after his little boy again. ‘Oh!’ said his wife, ‘I should think
he is gone to his uncle’s.’ ‘What business could he have to go away without
bidding me good-bye?’ said his father. ‘I know he wished very much to go,’
said the woman; ‘and begged me to let him stay there some time; he will be
well taken care of there.’ ‘Ah!’ said the father, ‘I don’t like that; he ought
not to have gone away without wishing me good-bye.’ And with that he began to
eat; but he seemed still sorrowful about his son, and said, ‘Margery, what do
you cry so for? your brother will come back again, I hope.’ But Margery by and
by slipped out of the room and went to her drawers and took her best silk
handkerchief out of them, and tying it round her little brother’s bones,
carried them out of the house weeping bitterly all the while, and laid them
under the juniper tree; and as soon as she had done this, her heart felt
lighter, and she left off crying; Then the juniper tree began to move itself
backwards and forwards, and to stretch its branches out, one from another, and
then bring them together again, just like a person clapping hands for joy: and
after this, a kind of cloud came from the tree, and in the middle of the cloud
was a burning fire, and out of the fire came a pretty bird, that flew away
into the air, singing merrily. And as soon as the bird was gone, the
handkerchief and the little boy were gone too, and the tree looked just as it
had done before; but Margery felt quite happy and joyful within herself; just
as if she had known that her brother had been alive again, and went into the
house and ate her dinner.
But the bird flew away, and perched upon the roof of a goldsmith’s house, and
‘My mother slew her little son;
My father thought me lost and gone:
But pretty Margery pitied me,
And laid me under the juniper tree;
And now I rove so merrily,
As over the hills and dales l fly:
O what a fine bird am I!’
The goldsmith was sitting in his shop finishing a gold chain; and when he
heard the bird singing on the housetop, he started up so suddenly that one of
his shoes slipped off; however, without stopping to put it on again, he ran
out into the street with his apron on, holding his pincers in one hand, and
the gold chain in the other. And when ...