Out in the woods stood a nice little fir tree. The place he had was a very good one: the sun shone on him, there was enough of fresh air, and around him grew many large-sized comrades, pines and firs. Still he felt something was lacking somehow.
"Oh! Were I but a high tree as the others are," he sighed. "Then the birds would build nests among my branches! To grow and get older and be tall," thought the tree, "that is after all the most delightful thing."
Every autumn the wood-cutters always came and felled some of the largest trees. The fir thought, "Where do they go to? What will become of them?"
In spring the fir asked the storks and swallows that came from afar, "Don't you know where the big trees have been taken?"
The stork nodded and said, "Yes, on the ships are sturdy masts. They smelt of fir and stood there most majestically!"
But the fir did not understand it all.
When Christmas came, quite young trees were cut down. These young trees, and they were always the finest looking. They were laid on carts and the horses drew them out of the wood.
"Where are they going to?" asked the fir. "Where are they taken?"
"We know!" chirped the sparrows. "We peeped through the windows and saw them standing in the middle of warm rooms and ornamented with gilded apples, with toys, and many tiny lights! Oh, it was so beautiful."
The tree rejoiced, for he still did not understand. "That is even better than to cross the Red Sea!"
"Listen. Rejoice in us!" said the air and the sunlight. "Rejoice in your own fresh youth!"
But the tree did not understand. He grew and grew, and people started to say, "What a fine tree!" Then one day towards Christmas he was cut down.
The tree only came to himself when he was unloaded in a court-yard and heard a man say, "That one is splendid!." Two servants came in rich livery and the tree quivered! What would happen? The servants and the young ladies decorated it with sugarplums and gilded apples and walnuts, and little blue and white tapers were placed among the pines.
"Tonight!" the folks said. "How well it will look tonight!"
The tree grew impatient and thought. "If my tapers were but lighted!"
And later the candles were lighted, but set fire to the foliage. It blazed up.
"Help! Help!" cried the young ladies, and put out the fire.
But the trouble was only for a moment; then they shouted, sang and danced around the tree. Finally the children had permission to plunder the tree. They fell upon it so violently that many of its branches cracked.
The children danced about, and no one looked at the tree. But the fir though, "Tomorrow I will enjoy my splendour!"
In the morning the servant and the housemaid came in. "Now then the splendor will begin again," thought the fir. But they dragged him up the stairs into a dark corner where no daylight could enter, and left him.
"What?" thought the tree. "What?"
There stood the tree and felt completely forgotten. "Now it is winter and really cold and dry and lonely for me here! And in the wood the sun shines and birds sing." It wept till it was dried out.
One morning some people came and set to work in the loft. The tree felt the fresh air, the first sunbeam - and now he was out in the courtyard.
"Maybe now I shall begin to enjoy life at last," said he and wanted to spread out his branches; but they were withered. Unthinking children came running and dancing and trampled on his branches till they cracked where he lay in a dusty corner.
"Had I but rejoiced when I had reason to do so!" he saw at last, when all was over. [Retold]
❋ Many think twice too late in life.