"It is so cold," said the Snow Man, "that it makes my whole body crackle. How wonderful it is to be cold! But how that great red thing up in the sky is staring at me!"
He meant the sun. It was just setting.
The sun went down,and the full moon rose, shining in the deep blue night.
"There it comes again, from the other side," said the Snow Man, who thought the moon was the sun, showing himself once more. "If I only knew how to move away from this place. I would like to move. I would slide along on the ice as I have seen the boys do; but I don't know how; I don't even know how to run."
"Away, away," barked the old yard-dog. He was quite hoarse, and could not bark properly. He had once been an indoor dog, and lay by the fire, and he had been hoarse ever since. "The sun will make you run some day. I saw him, last winter, make the last snow man run, and the one before him. Away, away, they all have to go."
"I don't understand you," said the Snow Man. "Is that thing up yonder to teach me to run? I saw it running itself a little while ago, and now it has come creeping up from the other side."
"You know nothing at all," replied the yard-dog; "but then, you've only lately been patched up. What you see yonder is the moon, and the one before it was the sun. It will come again to-morrow, for I think the weather is going to change. I can feel such pricks and stabs in my left leg; I am sure there is going to be a change."
"I don't understand him," said the Snow Man to himself, "but I have a feeling that he is talking of something very disagreeable. The one who stared so just now, and whom he calls the sun, is not my friend; I can feel that too."
"Away, away," barked the yard-dog, and then he turned round three times, and crept into his kennel to sleep.
There was really a change in the weather. Towards morning, a thick fog covered the whole country round, and a keen wind arose, so that the cold seemed to freeze one's bones; but when the sun rose, the sight was splendid. Trees and bushes were covered with hoar frost, and looked like a forest of white coral; while on every twig glittered frozen dew-drops. Every twig glistened. The birch, waving in the wind, looked full of life, like trees in summer; and its appearance was beautiful. Where the sun shone, everything glittered and sparkled, as if diamond dust had been scattered; while the snowy carpet on the earth seemed to be covered with diamonds.
"This is really beautiful," said a young girl, who had come into the garden with a young man; and they both stood still near the Snow Man, and contemplated the glittering scene.
"Summer cannot show a more beautiful sight," she exclaimed, while her eyes sparkled.
"And we can't have such a fellow as this in the summertime," replied the young man, pointing to the Snow Man; "he is wonderful."
The girl laughed, and nodded at the Snow Man, and then ran away over the snow with her friend. The snow creaked and crackled beneath her feet.
"Who are these two?" the Snow Man asked the yard-dog."You have been here longer than I have; do you know them?"
"Of course I know them," she has stroked my back many times, and he has given me a bone of meat. I never bite those two."
"But what are they?"
"They are engaged to each other. They will go and live in the same kennel by-and-by, and gnaw at the same bone. Away, away!"
"Are they the same kind of beings as you and I?" asked the Snow Man.
"Well, they belong to the same master. My, people who were only born yesterday know very little. I can see that in you. I have age and experience. I know every one here in the house, and I know there was once a time when I did not lie out here in the cold, fastened to a chain. Away, away!"
"The cold is delightful. But tell me--why are you out here on a chain?"
"I'll tell you. They said I was a pretty little fellow once; then I used to lie in a velvet-covered chair, and sit in the mistress's lap. They used to kiss my nose, and wipe my paws with an embroidered handkerchief, and I was called 'Ami, dear Ami, sweet Ami.' But after a while I grew too big for them, and they sent me away to the housekeeper's room; so I came to live on the lower story. You can look into the room from where you stand, and see where I was master once. It was certainly a smaller room than those up stairs; but I was more comfortable; for I was not being continually taken hold of and pulled about by children. I ate food as good, or even better. I had my own cushion, and I used to go under the stove, and lie down beneath it. Ah, I still dream of that stove. Away, away!"
"Does a stove look beautiful?" asked the Snow Man. "Is it at all like me?"
"It is just the reverse of you. It's as black as a crow, and has a long neck and a brass knob; it eats firewood, so that fire spurts out of its mouth. We must keep on one side, or under it, to be comfortable. You can see it through the window from where you stand."
The Snow Man looked, and saw a bright polished thing with a fire gleaming from the lower part of it.
"Why did you leave her?" asked the Snow Man. "How could you give up such a comfortable place?"
"I had to. I bit the youngest of my master's sons in the leg because he kicked away the bone I was chewing. 'Bone for bone,' I thought; but they were so angry, and from that time I have been chained up, and I lost my bone. I can't bark any more like other dogs, I am so hoarse."
But the Snow Man was no longer listening. He was looking into the housekeeper's room, where the stove stood on its four iron legs, looking about the same size as the Snow Man himself.
"What a strange crackling I feel within me," he said. "How can I get in there? I want to go in there and lean against her, even if I have to break the window."
"You must never go in there," said the yard-dog, "for if you do, you'll melt away, away."
"I might as well go," said the Snow Man, "for I think I am breaking up as it is."
That whole day the Snow Man stood looking in the window. In the evening the room was even more inviting, for from the stove came a gentle glow, not like the sun or the moon; it was the bright light that gleams from a stove when it has been well fed. When the door of the stove was opened, the flames darted out of its mouth. The light of the flames fell directly on the face and breast of the Snow Man outside.
The night was long, but the Snow Man stood there watching the stove and crackling with the cold. In the morning, the window-panes of the housekeeper's room were covered with ice. They were the most beautiful ice-flowers any Snow Man could desire, but he could not see the stove because of them. The snow crackled and the wind whistled around him; it was just the kind of weather a Snow Man should enjoy. But he did not enjoy it; all he could think about was the stove.
"That is a terrible thing for a Snow Man to think about," said the yard-dog; "I suffered from it myself, but I got over it. Away, away," he barked and then he added, "the weather is going to change."
And the weather did change; it began to thaw. As the warmth increased, the Snow Man decreased. He said nothing and did not complain. One morning he broke, and sank down altogether; and, there where he had stood, something like a broomstick was sticking up in the ground. It was the pole around which the boys had built him up.
"Why, that's the stove shovel they used to build him! No wonder he felt so strongly about the stove. Away, away," barked the hoarseyard-dog.
But the girls in the house sang:
"Come from your fragrant home, green thyme;
Stretch your soft branches, willow-tree;
The months are bringing the sweet spring-time,
When the lark in the sky sings joyfully.
Come gentle sun, while the cuckoo sings,
And I'll mock his note in my wanderings."
And nobody thought any more of the Snow Man.