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Main > Fairy tale > All authors > Andersen Hans Christian > Fairy tale "The Old Tombstone"

The Old Tombstone

Yes, they were a lovable old pair, Preben and Martha. When they sat on the bench at the top of the stone staircase, over which the old linden tree spread its branches, nodding friendly and gently to passers-by, it made you glad to see them.

"They were so wonderfully kind to the poor people! They gave them food and clothing, but there was good sense, and a true Christian spirit, in all their charity.

"She died first. I can remember that day very well, though I was only a little boy. My father took me to see old Preben right after she passed away; the old man was so heartbroken he cried like a child. The corpse of his wife lay in her bedroom, near where we were sitting. The old man told my father and a couple of his neighbors how lonely he would be now, how wonderful she had been and how many years they had spent together, and how they had first met and come to love each other.

"As I told you, I was only a child and stood by listening, but it touched me deeply to hear the old man and see how he grew more animated as he talked; a faint color came into his cheeks as he told us of the days of their courtship, how pretty she had been, and how many little tricks he had played to get to meet her. And when he told us about his wedding day his eyes really sparkled; he seemed to be living his happy hours again. Yet all the while she was lying dead near us in the bedroom, an old lady, and he was an old man who spoke of the days of hope! Yes, that's the way it goes! I was only a child then, and now I'm very, very old, as old as Preben Svane was.

"Yes, time and change come to all things. I can remember so clearly the day of the funeral, and Preben Svane following her coffin. A couple of years before, they had had their tombstone carved with names and inscriptions, just leaving the dates of their deaths blank; and that same evening the stone was set in its place on the grave. And only a year later the grave had to be reopened, for old Preben joined his wife again. It turned out that they were not so rich as people had thought, and the little they did leave went to distant relatives far away, to people who had never been heard of before.

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