Andersen's Fairy Tales
The Old House
In the street, up there, was an old, a very old house-it was almost three hundred years old,
for that might be known by reading the great beam on which the date of the year was
carved: together with tulips and hop-binds there were whole verses spelled as in former
times, and over every window was a distorted face cut out in the beam. The one story stood
forward a great way over the other; and directly under the eaves was a leaden spout with a
dragon's head; the rain-water should have run out of the mouth, but it ran out of the belly,
for there was a hole in the spout.
All the other houses in the street were so new and so neat, with large window panes and
smooth walls, one could easily see that they would have nothing to do with the old house:
they certainly thought, "How long is that old decayed thing to stand here as a spectacle in
the street? And then the projecting windows stand so far out, that no one can see from our
windows what happens in that direction! The steps are as broad as those of a palace, and as
high as to a church tower. The iron railings look just like the door to an old family vault,
and then they have brass tops--that's so stupid!"
On the other side of the street were also new and neat houses, and they thought just as the
others did; but at the window opposite the old house there sat a little boy with fresh rosy
cheeks and bright beaming eyes: he certainly liked the old house best, and that both in
sunshine and moonshine. And when he looked across at the wall where the mortar had
fallen out, he could sit and find out there the strangest figures imaginable; exactly as the
street had appeared before, with steps, projecting windows, and pointed gables; he could
see soldiers with halberds, and spouts where the water ran, like dragons and serpents. That
was a house to look at; and there lived an old man, who wore plush breeches; and he had a
coat with large brass buttons, and a wig that one could see was a real wig. Every morning
there came an old fellow to him who put his rooms in order, and went on errands;
otherwise, the old man in the plush breeches was quite alone in the old house. Now and
then he came to the window and looked out, and the little boy nodded to him, and the old
man nodded again, and so they became acquaintances, and then they were friends, although
they had never spoken to each other--but that made no difference. The little boy heard his
parents say, "The old man opposite is very well off, but he is so very, very lonely!"
The Sunday following, the little boy took something, and wrapped it up in a piece of paper,
went downstairs, and stood in the doorway; and when the man who went on errands came
past, he said to him--
"I say, master! will you give this to the old man over the way from me? I have two pewter
soldiers--this is one of them, and he shall have it, for I know he is so very, very lonely."
And the old errand man looked quite pleased, nodded, and took the pewter soldier over to
the old house. Afterwards there came a message; it was to ask if the little boy himself had
not a wish to come over and pay a visit; and so he got permission of his parents, and then
went over to the old house.