The last pearl
By Hans Christian Andersen
It was a rich, a happy house ; all were
cheerful and full of joy, master, servants,
and friends of the family ; for on this day
an heir, a son, had been born, and mother
and child were doing exceedingly well.
The lamp in the bed-chamber had been partly
shaded, and the windows were guarded by
heavy curtains of some costly silken fabric.
The carpet was thick and soft as a mossy
lawn, and everything invited to slumber was
charmingly suggestive of repose ; and the
nurse found that,
for she slept ; and here she might sleep,
for everything was good and blessed. The
guardian spirit of the house leaned against
the head of the bed ; over the child at the
mother's breast there spread as it were a
net of shining stars in endless number, and
each star was a pearl of happiness. All the
good fairies of life had brought their gifts
to the new-born one ; here sparkled health,
wealth, fortune, and love in short,
everything that man can wish for on earth. '
Everything has been presented here/ said the
c No, not everything,' said a voice near
him, the voice of the child's good angel. '
One fairy has not yet brought her gift ; but
she will do so some day ; even if years
should elapse first, she will bring her
gift. The last pearl is yet wanting.'
' Wanting ! here nothing should be wanting ;
but if it should be the case, let me go and
seek the powerful fairy ; let us betake
ourselves to her ! '
' She comes ! she will come some day
unsought ! Her pearl must be there, so that
the complete crown may be won.'
' Where is she to be found ? Where does she
dwell ? Tell it me, and I will procure the
You will do that ? ' said the good angel of
the child. ' I will lead you to her
directly, wherever^ she maybe. She has no
abiding-place sometimes she comes to the
Emperor's palace, sometimes you will find
her in the peasant's humble cot ; she goes
by no person without leaving a trace :
she brings her gift to all, be it a world or
a trifle ! To this child also she must come.
You think the time is equally long, but not
equally profitable. Well, then, let us go
for this pearl, the last pearl in all this
And hand in hand they floated towards the
spot where the fairy was now lingering.
It was a great house, with dark windows and
empty rooms, and a peculiar stillness
reigned therein ; a whole row of windows had
been opened, so that the rough air could
penetrate at its pleasure : the long white
hanging curtains moved to and fro in the
current of wind.
In the middle of the room was placed an open
coffin, and in this rested the body of a
woman, still in her best years. Fresh roses
were scattered over her, so that only the
delicate folded hands and the noble face,
glorified in death by the solemn look of
consecration and entrance to the
better world, were visible.
Around the coffin stood the husband and the
children, a whole troop : the youngest child
rested on the father's arm, and all bade
their mother the last farewell ; the husband
kissed her hand, the hand which now was as a
withered leaf, but which a short time ago
had been working
and striving in diligent love for them all.
Tears of sorrow fell in heavy drops to the
floor ; but not a word was spoken. The
silence which reigned here expressed a world
of grief. With silent footsteps and with
many a sob they quitted the room.
A burning light stands in the room, and the
long red wick peers out high above the flame
that flickers in the current of air. Strange
men come in, and lay the lid on the coffin
over the dead one, and drive the nails
firmly in, and the blows of the hammer
resound through the house,
and echo in the hearts that are bleeding.
* Whither art thou leading me ? ' asked the
guardian spirit. ' Here dwells no fairy
whose pearl might be counted among the best
gifts for life ! '
Here she dwells ; here in this sacred hour,'
said the angel, and pointed to a corner of
the room ; and there, where in her lifetime
the mother had taken her seat amid flowers
and pictures ; there, whence, like the
beneficent fairy of the house, she had
greeted husband, children, and friends ;
whence, like the sunbeams, she had spread
joy and cheerfulness, and been the centre
and the heart of all there sat a strange
woman, clad in long garments. It was Sorrow,
now mistress and mother here in the dead
lady's place. A hot tear rolled down into
her lap, and formed itself into a pearl
glowing with all the colours of the rainbow.
The angel seized it, and the pearl shone
a star of sevenfold radiance.
The pearl of Sorrow, the last, which must
not be wanting ! it heightens the lustre and
the power of the other pearls. Do you see
the sheen of the rainbow of the bow that
unites heaven and earth ? For each of our
dear ones who dies and leaves us, we have
one friend more in Heaven to
long for. Through the earthly night we gaze
upward to the stars, looking for perfection.
Contemplate it, the pearl of Sorrow, for it
hides within itself the wings that shall
carry us to the better world.