Adapted from Hans Christian Andersen
The Emperor's palace was the most beautiful in the world.
In the garden were to be seen wonderful flowers, and to the costliest of these silver bells were tied, which rang, so that nobody should pass by without noticing the garden. It extended so far that the gardener himself did not know where the end was. If one went on and on, one came toa glorious forest. The wood extended straight down to the sea, and in the trees lived a Nightingale. It sang so splendidly that even the poor fisherman, who had many other things to do, stopped still and listened, when he had gone out at night to throw his nets, to hear the Nightingale.
From all the countries of the world travellers came to admire the Emperor's palace and his garden, but whenthey heard the Nightingale they said, "That is the best of all!"
At last their words came to the Emperor.
"What's that?" he exclaimed. "I don't know the Nightingale at all. Is there such a bird in my empire, and even in my garden? I've never heard of that. I command that he shall appear this evening and sing before me!"
But where was the Nightingale to be found? The court had not heard of iteither. There was a great inquiry after the wonderful Nightingale which all the world knew except the people at the palace. At last they met a poor little girl in the kitchen who said,
"Yes, I know the Nightingale well. It can sing gloriously. Every evening I get leave to carry my mother the scraps from the table. She lives down by the stream, and when I get back, and am tired, and rest in the wood,then I hear the Nightingale sing. It is just as if my mother kissed me."
So the little girl led the way out into the wood. Half the court went, and the child pointed at last to a little gray bird up in the boughs.
"It can't be possible," they said. "How dull it looks; but it may have lost its color at seeing such grand people around."
"Little Nightingale," called the kitchen maid, "our graciousEmperor wishes you to sing before him."
"My song sounds best in the greenwood," replied the Nightingale; still it came willingly when it knew what the Emperor wished.
The palace was festively adorned for it. The walls and the flooring, which were of porcelain, gleamed in the rays of thousands of golden lamps. The most glorious flowers, which could ring clearly, had been placed in all thepassages. In the great hall there had been placed a golden perch on which the Nightingale sat. The little kitchen girl had received permission to stand by the door. All the court was in full dress, and all looked at the little gray bird to which the Emperor nodded.
Then the Nightingale sang so gloriously that the tears came into the Emperor's eyes, and the song went straight to his heart.
It was toremain at the palace now, the Emperor decided; to have its own cage, with liberty to go out twice every day and once at night. Twelve servants were appointed when the Nightingale went out, each of whom had a silken string fastened to the bird's leg which he held very tightly. There was really no pleasure in an excursion of that kind. The whole city spoke of the wonderful bird. When two people met,one said "Nightin," and the other said "gale" which was all that was necessary. Eleven peddlers' children were named after the bird, but not one of them could sing a note.
One day the Emperor received a large parcel, marked "The Nightingale."
He thought it was a present for the bird but when he opened it, he found a box. Inside the box was an artificial nightingale, brilliantly ornamented withdiamonds, rubies, and sapphires. As soon as this artificial bird was wound up, its tail moved up and down, and shone with silver and gold. It sang very well, too, in its own way. Three and thirty times over did it sing the same waltz, and yet was not tired. The Emperor said that the living Nightingale ought to be shown this wonder.
But where was it?
None had noticed that it had flown away out of...