The Little Match Seller – Pre-Intermediate Level
It was terribly cold and nearly dark on the last evening of the old year, and the snow was falling fast. In the cold and the darkness, a poor little girl walked through the streets. She had no covering for her hair and no shoes on her feet. She had been wearing shoes when she left home, but they were not of much use. They were her mother’s, and were very large. So large, that the poor little girl had lost them when running across the street between two carriages that were traveling too quickly. She could not find one of the shoes, and a boy picked up the other and ran away with it, saying that he could use it as a baby’s bed when he had children of his own. So the girl went on without shoes. Her little feet were quite red and blue with the cold. In her pockets were boxes of matches that she was trying to sell. She also carried one in her hands. No one had bought anything from her the whole day, or given her even a penny. Shivering with cold and hunger, she walked slowly along. The snow fell on her long fair hair, but she took no notice of it. The poor little child looked the picture of misery.
She could see lights in every window, and her mouth watered from the smell of roast goose, for tomorrow was New Year’s Day. Yes, she remembered that. In a corner between two houses, one of which came out a little further than the other towards the road, she sat down. She had pulled her little feet under her, but she could not keep out the cold. She was scared to go home, for she had sold no matches, and could not take home even a penny of money. Her father would certainly beat her. Besides, it was almost as cold at home as here. They had only a roof to cover them, which did nothing stop the wind. Her little hands were almost frozen with the cold. Ah! Perhaps a burning match might be some good, if only she could get one from the box and rub it against the wall, just to warm her fingers. She took one out and rubbed. Oh! How it burnt! It gave a warm, bright light, like a little candle, as she held her hand over it. It really was a wonderful light. It seemed to the little girl that she was sitting by a large fireplace. How the fire burned! It seemed so beautifully warm that the child put out her feet as if to warm them. Then, suddenly, the match went out. The fireplace disappeared, and she had only what was left of the burnt match in her hand.
She rubbed another match on the wall. It also burned brightly, and where its light fell upon the wall it was if she could see through the wall into the room. The table was covered with a snowy white cloth, on which stood a wonderful dinner. In the center of the table was a large roast goose. And what was still more wonderful, the goose jumped down from the table and walked across the floor, with a knife and fork still in it, towards the little girl. Then the match went out, and there was nothing left but the thick, wet, cold wall in front her.
She lighted another match, and then found herself sitting under a beautiful Christmas-tree. It was larger and had more things on it than the one which she had seen through the glass door at the house of the rich shop-keeper. Thousands of candles were burning upon it, and colored pictures, like those she had seen in the shop windows, looked down upon it all. The little one put out her hand towards them, and the match went out.
The Christmas lights seemed to go higher and higher, till they looked to her like the stars in the sky. Then she saw a star fall, leaving behind it a bright line of fire. “Some one is dying,” thought the little girl. Her old grandmother, the only one who had ever loved her, and who was now dead, had told her that when a star falls, a soul was going up to God.
She again rubbed a match on the wall, and the light was all around her. In it stood her old grandmother, looking kind and loving as she always did. “Grandmother,” cried the little one, “Oh , please take me with you! I know you will go away when the match burns out, like the warm fire, the roast goose, and the large, wonderful Christmas-tree.” And she quickly lighted a whole box of matches, for she wished to keep her grandmother there. The matches shone with a light that was brighter than a summer’s day, and her grandmother had never appeared so large or so beautiful. She took the little girl in her arms, and they both happily flew far above the earth. They went to a place where there was no cold or hunger or pain, for they were with God.
In the early morning light, there lay the poor little one, with white face and smiling mouth, sitting against the wall. She had been frozen to death on the last evening of the year. The New Year’s sun shone upon her body. She sat, in the cold stillness of death, holding the burnt matches in her hand. “She tried to warm herself,” said some. No-one knew of the beautiful things she had seen, or into what wonderful place she had gone with her grandmother, on that cold New Year’s day.