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Main > Fairy tale > All authors > Andersen Hans Christian > Fairy tale "A Story"

A Story

The man kept fumbling in his ragged pockets, where he had sewn more gold, and his clammy fingers trembled.

"He is ill; it is insanity, a dreadful insanity. Haunted by terrors and evil dreams!"

Swiftly they left the miser's room, and stood before a dormitory of a jail, where the prisoners slept close together in long rows. Suddenly one of them started up in his sleep and uttered the terrible cry of a wild beast! With his pointed elbow, he gave his companion a ferocious blow, and the latter turned around sleepily: "Shut up, you beast, and go to sleep! You go on like this every night!"

"Every night!" the man repeated. "Yes, every night he howls and torments me like this. I have committed many wrongs because of the passionate temper with which I was born. Twice my wicked temper has brought me here, but if I have done wrong, I am certainly being punished for it.

"There is only one thing I have not confessed. The last time I went out from here and passed by my master's farm, evil thoughts rose within me. I struck a match against the wall; it came a bit too close to the thatched roof. The heat seized onto the straw, as it often seizes onto me, and everything was burned. I helped to rescue the house property and the animals; no living creature perished, except a flock of pigeons which flew right into the fire, and also the yard dog, which was chained up. I had not thought of him. One could hear him howl, and that howl I can still hear when I want to sleep, and when I do fall asleep, the dog comes also. He is very large, with thick, shaggy fur, and he lies on me and howls and squeezes me until I am nearly choked. Now listen to what I tell you! You all can sleep and snore the whole night, but I can sleep for only a short quarter of an hour." And the blood rose to the head of the tormented; he threw himself upon his comrade and struck him in the face with his clenched fist.

"The madman is raging again!" everyone cried. Then the other criminals threw themselves on him, wrestled with him, bent his body down until his head was forced between his legs, and then bound him so tightly that the blood seemed about to burst from his eyes and his pores.

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