Hans Christian Andersen: Andersen's Fairy Tales

14. THE SHADOW (continued)

* The word mahogany can be understood, in Danish, as having two meanings. In general, it means the reddish-brown wood itself; but in jest, it signifies "excessively fine," which arose from an anecdote of Nyboder, in Copenhagen, (the seamen's quarter.) A sailor's wife, who was always proud and fine, in her way, came to her neighbor, and complained that she had got a splinter in her finger. "What of?" asked the neighbor's wife. "It is a mahogany splinter," said the other. "Mahogany! It cannot be less with you!" exclaimed the woman-and thence the proverb, "It is so mahogany!"-(that is, so excessively fine)--is derived.

One night the stranger awoke--he slept with the doors of the balcony open--the curtain before it was raised by the wind, and he thought that a strange lustre came from the opposite neighbor's house; all the flowers shone like flames, in the most beautiful colors, and in the midst of the flowers stood a slender, graceful maiden--it was as if she also shone; the light really hurt his eyes. He now opened them quite wide--yes, he was quite awake; with one spring he was on the floor; he crept gently behind the curtain, but the maiden was gone; the flowers shone no longer, but there they stood, fresh and blooming as ever; the door was ajar, and, far within, the music sounded so soft and delightful, one could really melt away in sweet thoughts from it. Yet it was like a piece of enchantment. And who lived there? Where was the actual entrance? The whole of the ground-floor was a row of shops, and there people could not always be running through.

One evening the stranger sat out on the balcony. The light burnt in the room behind him; and thus it was quite natural that his shadow should fall on his opposite neighbor's wall. Yes! there it sat, directly opposite, between the flowers on the balcony; and when the stranger moved, the shadow also moved: for that it always does.

"I think my shadow is the only living thing one sees over there," said the learned man. "See, how nicely it sits between the flowers. The door stands half-open: now the shadow should be cunning, and go into the room, look about, and then come and tell me what it had seen. Come, now! Be useful, and do me a service," said he, in jest. "Have the kindness to step in. Now! Art thou going?" and then he nodded to the shadow, and the shadow nodded again. "Well then, go! But don't stay away."

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