The shepherdess and the sweep


La pastora y el deshollinador

Have you ever seen an old wooden cupboard quite black with age, and ornamented with carved foliage and curious figures? Well, just such a cupboard stood in a parlor, and had been left to the family as a legacy by the great-grandmother. It was covered from top to bottom with carved roses and tulips; the most curious scrolls were drawn upon it, and out of them peeped little stags' heads, with antlers. In the middle of the cupboard door was the carved figure of a man most ridiculous to look at. He grinned at you, for no one could call it laughing. He had goat's legs, little horns on his head, and a long beard; the children in the room always called him, "Major general-field-sergeant-commander Billy-goat's-legs." It was certainly a very difficult name to pronounce, and there are very few who ever receive such a title, but then it seemed wonderful how he came to be carved at all; yet there he was, always looking at the table under the looking-glass, where stood a very pretty little shepherdess made of china. Her shoes were gilt, and her dress had a red rose or an ornament. She wore a hat, and carried a crook, that were both gilded, and looked very bright and pretty. Close by her side stood a little chimney-sweep, as black as coal, and also made of china. He was, however, quite as clean and neat as any other china figure; he only represented a black chimney-sweep, and the china workers might just as well have made him a prince, had they felt inclined to do so.

He stood holding his ladder quite handily, and his face was as fair and rosy as a girl's; indeed, that was rather a mistake, it should have had some black marks on it. He and the shepherdess had been placed close together, side by side; and, being so placed, they became engaged to each other, for they were very well suited, being both made of the same sort of china, and being equally fragile.

Close to them stood another figure, three times as large as they were, and also made of china. He was an old Chinaman, who could nod his head, and used to pretend that he was the grandfather of the shepherdess, although he could not prove it. He however assumed authority over her, and therefore when "Major-general-field-sergeant-commander Billy-goat's-legs" asked for the little shepherdess to be his wife, he nodded his head to show that he consented.

"You will have a husband," said the old Chinaman to her, "who I really believe is made of mahogany. He will make you a lady of Major-general-field-sergeant-commander Billy-goat's-legs. He has the whole cupboard full of silver plate, which he keeps locked up in secret drawers."

"I won't go into the dark cupboard," said the little shepherdess. "I have heard that he has eleven china wives there already."

"Then you shall be the twelfth," said the old Chinaman. "To-night as soon as you hear a rattling in the old cupboard, you shall be married, as true as I am a Chinaman;" and then he nodded his head and fell asleep.

Then the little shepherdess cried, and looked at her sweetheart, the china chimney-sweep.

"I must entreat you," said she, "to go out with me into the wide world, for we cannot stay here."

"I will do whatever you wish," said the little chimney-sweep; "let us go immediately: I think I shall be able to maintain you with my profession."

"If we were but safely down from the table!" said she; "I shall not be happy till we are really out in the world."

Then he comforted her, and showed her how to place her little foot on the carved edge and gilt-leaf ornaments of the table. He brought his little ladder to help her, and so they contrived to reach the floor. But when they looked at the old cupboard, they saw it was all in an uproar. The carved stags pushed out their heads, raised their antlers, and twisted their necks. The major-general sprung up in the air; and cried out to the old Chinaman, "They are running away! they are running away!"

The two were rather frightened at this, so they jumped into the drawer of the window-seat.

Here were three or four packs of cards not quite complete, and a doll's theatre, which had been built up very neatly. A comedy was being performed in it, and all the queens of diamonds, clubs, and hearts, and spades, sat in the first row fanning themselves with tulips, and behind them stood all the knaves, showing that they had heads above and below as playing cards generally have. The play was about two lovers, who were not allowed to marry, and the shepherdess wept because it was so like her own story.

"I cannot bear it," said she, "I must get out of the drawer;" but when they reached the floor, and cast their eyes on the table, there was the old Chinaman awake and shaking his whole body, till all at once down he came on the floor, "plump."

"The old Chinaman is coming," cried the little shepherdess in a fright, and down she fell on one knee.

"I have thought of something," said the chimney-sweep; "let us get into the great pot-pourri jar which stands in the corner; there we can lie on rose-leaves and lavender, and throw salt in his eyes if he comes near us."

"No, that will never do," said she, "because I know that the Chinaman and the pot-pourri jar were lovers once, and there always remains behind a feeling of good-will between those who have been so intimate as that. No, there is nothing left for us but to go out into the wide world."

"Have you really courage enough to go out into the wide world with me?" said the chimney-sweep; "have you thought how large it is, and that we can never come back here again?"

"Yes, I have," she replied.

When the chimney-sweep saw that she was quite firm, he said, "My way is through the stove and up the chimney. Have you courage to creep with me through the fire-box, and the iron pipe? When we get to the chimney I shall know how to manage very well. We shall soon climb too high for any one to reach us, and we shall come through a hole in the top out into the wide world."

So he led her to the door of the stove.

"It looks very dark," said she; still she went in with him through the stove and through the pipe, where it was as dark as pitch.

"Now we are in the chimney," said he; "and look, there is a beautiful star shining above it."

It was a real star shining down upon them as if it would show them the way. So they clambered, and crept on, and a frightful steep place it was; but the chimney-sweep helped her and supported her, till they got higher and higher. He showed her the best places on which to set her little china foot, so at last they reached the top of the chimney, and sat themselves down, for they were very tired, as may be supposed.

The sky, with all its stars, was over their heads, and below were the roofs of the town. They could see for a very long distance out into the wide world, and the poor little shepherdess leaned her head on her chimney-sweep's shoulder, and wept till she washed the gilt off her sash; the world was so different to what she expected.

"This is too much," she said; "I cannot bear it, the world is too large. Oh, I wish I were safe back on the table again, under the looking glass; I shall never be happy till I am safe back again. Now I have followed you out into the wide world, you will take me back, if you love me."

Then the chimney-sweep tried to reason with her, and spoke of the old Chinaman, and of the Major-general-field-sergeant-commander Billy-goat's legs; but she sobbed so bitterly, and kissed her little chimney-sweep till he was obliged to do all she asked, foolish as it was.

And so, with a great deal of trouble, they climbed down the chimney, and then crept through the pipe and stove, which were certainly not very pleasant places. Then they stood in the dark fire-box, and listened behind the door, to hear what was going on in the room. As it was all quiet, they peeped out. Alas! there lay the old Chinaman on the floor; he had fallen down from the table as he attempted to run after them, and was broken into three pieces; his back had separated entirely, and his head had rolled into a corner of the room. The major-general stood in his old place, and appeared lost in thought.

"This is terrible," said the little shepherdess. "My poor old grandfather is broken to pieces, and it is our fault. I shall never live after this;" and she wrung her little hands.

"He can be riveted," said the chimney-sweep; "he can be riveted. Do not be so hasty. If they cement his back, and put a good rivet in it, he will be as good as new, and be able to say as many disagreeable things to us as ever."

"Do you think so?" said she; and then they climbed up to the table, and stood in their old places.

"As we have done no good," said the chimney-sweep, "we might as well have remained here, instead of taking so much trouble."

"I wish grandfather was riveted," said the shepherdess. "Will it cost much, I wonder?"

And she had her wish. The family had the Chinaman's back mended, and a strong rivet put through his neck; he looked as good as new, but he could no longer nod his head.

"You have become proud since your fall broke you to pieces," said Major-general-field-sergeant-commander Billy-goat's-legs. "You have no reason to give yourself such airs. Am I to have her or not?"

The chimney-sweep and the little shepherdess looked piteously at the old Chinaman, for they were afraid he might nod; but he was not able: besides, it was so tiresome to be always telling strangers he had a rivet in the back of his neck. And so the little china people remained together, and were glad of the grandfather's rivet, and continued to love each other till they were broken to pieces.
¿Has visto alguna vez uno de estos armarios muy viejos, ennegrecidos por los años, adornados con tallas de volutas y follaje? Pues uno así había en una sala; era una herencia de la bisabuela, y de arriba abajo estaba adornado con tallas de rosas y tulipanes. Presentaba los arabescos más raros que quepa imaginar, y entre ellos sobresalían cabecitas de ciervo con sus cornamentas. En el centro, habían tallado un hombre de cuerpo entero; su figura era de verdad cómica, y en su cara se dibujaba una mueca, pues aquello no se podía llamar risa. Tenía patas de cabra, cuernecitos en la cabeza y una luenga barba. Los niños de la casa lo llamaban siempre el «Sargento-mayor-y-menor-mariscal-de-campo-pata-de-chivo»; era un nombre muy largo, y son bien pocos los que ostentan semejante titulo; ¡y no debió de tener poco trabajo, el que lo esculpió!
Y allí estaba, con la vista fija en la mesa situada debajo del espejo, en la que había una linda pastorcilla de porcelana, con zapatos dorados, el vestido graciosamente sujeto con una rosa encarnada, un dorado sombrerito en la cabeza y un báculo de pastor en la mano: era un primor. A su lado había un pequeño deshollinador, negro como el carbón, aunque asimismo de porcelana, tan fino y pulcro como otro cualquiera; lo de deshollinador sólo lo representaba: el fabricante de porcelana lo mismo hubiera podido hacer de él un príncipe, ¡qué más le daba!
He ahí, pues, al hombrecillo con su escalera, y unas mejillas blancas y sonrosadas como las de la muchacha, lo cual no dejaba de ser un contrasentido, pues un poquito de hollín le hubiera cuadrado mejor. Estaba de pie junto a la pastora; los habían colocado allí a los dos, y, al encontrarse tan juntos, se habían enamorado. Nada había que objetar: ambos eran de la misma porcelana e igualmente frágiles.
A su lado había aún otra figura, tres veces mayor que ellos: un viejo chino que podía agachar la cabeza. Era también de porcelana, y pretendía ser el abuelo de la zagala, aunque no estaba en situación de probarlo. Afirmaba tener autoridad sobre ella, y, en consecuencia, había aceptado, con un gesto de la cabeza, la petición que el «Sargento-mayor-y-menor-mariscal-de-campo-pata-de-chivo» le había hecho de la mano de la pastora.
- Tendrás un marido -dijo el chino a la muchacha- que estoy casi convencido, es de madera de ébano; hará de ti la «Sargenta­mayor-y-menor-mariscal-de-campo-pata-de-chivo». Su armario está repleto de objetos de plata, ¡y no digamos ya lo que deben contener los cajones secretos!
- ¡No quiero entrar en el oscuro armario! -protestó la pastorcilla-. He oído decir que guarda en él once mujeres de porcelana. - En este caso, tú serás la duodécima -replicó el chino-. Esta noche, en cuanto cruja el viejo armario, se celebrará la boda, ¡como yo soy chino! -. E, inclinando la cabeza, se quedó dormido.
La pastorcilla, llorosa, levantó los ojos al dueño de su corazón, el deshollinador de porcelana.
- Quisiera pedirte un favor. ¿Quieres venirte conmigo por esos mundos de Dios? Aquí no podemos seguir.
- Yo quiero todo lo que tú quieras -respondióle el mocito.- Vámonos enseguida, estoy seguro de que podré sustentarte con mi trabajo.
- ¡Oh, si pudiésemos bajar de la mesa sin contratiempo! -dijo ella-. Sólo me sentiré contenta cuando hayamos salido a esos mundos.
Él la tranquilizó, y le enseñó cómo tenía que colocar el piececito en las labradas esquinas y en el dorado follaje de la pata de la mesa; sirvióse de su escalera, y en un santiamén se encontraron en el suelo. Pero al mirar al armario, observaron en él una agitación; todos los ciervos esculpidos alargaban la cabeza y, levantando la cornamenta, volvían el cuello; el «Sargento-mayor-y-menor-mariscal-de-campo-pata-de-chivo» pegó un brinco y gritó al chino:
- ¡Se escapan, se escapan!
Los pobrecillos, asustados, se metieron en un cajón que había debajo de la ventana.
Había allí tres o cuatro barajas, aunque ninguna completa, y un teatrillo de títeres montado un poco a la buena de Dios. Precisamente se estaba representando una función y todas las damas, oros y corazones, tréboles y espadas, sentados en las primeras filas, se abanicaban con sus tulipanes; detrás quedaban las sotas, mostrando que tenían cabeza o, por decirlo mejor, cabezas, una arriba y otra abajo, como es costumbre en los naipes. El argumento trataba de dos enamorados que no podían ser el uno para el otro, y la pastorcilla se echó a llorar, por lo mucho que el drama se parecía al suyo.
- ¡No puedo resistirlo! -exclamó-. ¡Tengo que salir del cajón! -. Pero una vez volvieron a estar en el suelo y levantaron los ojos a la mesa, el viejo chino, despierto, se tambaleó con todo el cuerpo, pues por debajo de la cabeza lo tenía de una sola pieza.
- ¡Que viene el viejo chino! -gritó la zagala azorada, cayendo de rodillas.
- Se me ocurre una idea -dijo el deshollinador-. ¿Y si nos metiésemos en aquella gran jarra de la esquina? Estaremos entre rosas y espliego, y si se acerca le arrojaremos sal a los ojos.
- No serviría de nada -respondió ella-. Además, sé que el chino y la jarra estuvieron prometidos, y siempre queda cierta simpatía en semejantes circunstancias. No; el único recurso es lanzarnos al mundo.
- ¿De verdad te sientes con valor para hacerlo? -preguntó el deshollinador-. ¿Has pensado en lo grande que es y que nunca podremos volver a este lugar?
- Sí -afirmó ella.
El deshollinador la miró fijamente y luego dijo:
- Mi camino pasa por la chimenea. ¿De veras te sientes con ánimo para aventurarte en el horno y trepar por la tubería? Saldríamos al exterior de la chimenea; una vez allí, ya sabría yo apañármelas. Subiremos tan arriba, que no podrán alcanzarnos, y en la cima hay un orificio que sale al vasto mundo.
Y la condujo a la puerta del horno.
- ¡Qué oscuridad! -exclamó ella, sin dejar de seguir a su guía por la caja del horno y por el tubo, oscuro como boca de lobo.
- Estamos ahora en la chimenea -explicóle él-. Fíjate: allá arriba brilla la más hermosa de las estrellas.
Era una estrella del cielo que les enviaba su luz, exactamente como para mostrarles el camino. Y ellos venga trepar y arrastrarse. ¡Horrible camino, y tan alto! Pero el mozo la sostenía, indicándole los mejores agarraderos para apoyar sus piececitos de porcelana. Así llegaron al borde superior de la chimenea y se sentaron en él, pues estaban muy cansados, y no sin razón.
Encima de ellos extendíase el cielo con todas sus estrellas, y a sus pies quedaban los tejados de la ciudad. Pasearon la mirada en derredor, hasta donde alcanzaron los ojos; la pobre pastorcilla jamás habla imaginado cosa semejante; reclinó la cabecita en el hombro de su deshollinador y prorrumpió en llanto, con tal vehemencia que se le saltaba el oro del cinturón.
- ¡Es demasiado! -exclamó-. No podré soportarlo, el mundo es demasiado grande. ¡Ojalá estuviese sobre la mesa, bajo el espejo! No seré feliz hasta que vuelva a encontrarme allí. Te he seguido al ancho mundo; ahora podrías devolverme al lugar de donde salimos. Lo harás, si es verdad que me quieres.
El deshollinador le recordó prudentemente el viejo chino y el «Sargento-mayor-y-menor-mariscal-de-campo-pata-de-chivo», pero ella no cesaba de sollozar y besar a su compañerito, el cual no pudo hacer otra cosa que ceder a sus súplicas, aun siendo una locura.
Y así bajaron de nuevo, no sin muchos tropiezos, por la chimenea, y se arrastraron por la tubería y el horno. No fue nada agradable.
Una vez en la caja del horno, pegaron la oreja a la puerta para enterarse de cómo andaban las cosas en la sala. Reinaba un profundo silencio; miraron al interior y... ¡Dios mío!, el viejo chino yacía en el suelo. Se había caído de la mesa cuando trató de perseguirlos, y se rompió en tres pedazos; toda la espalda era uno de ellos, y la cabeza, rodando, había ido a parar a una esquina. El «Sargento-mayor-y-menor-mariscal-de-campo-pata-de-chivo» seguía en su puesto con aire pensativo.
- ¡Horrible! -exclamó la pastorcita-. El abuelo roto a pedazos, y nosotros tenemos la culpa. ¡No lo resistiré! -y se retorcía las manos.
- Aún es posible pegarlo -dijo el deshollinador-. Pueden pegarlo muy bien, tranquilízate; si le ponen masilla en la espalda y un buen clavo en la nuca quedará como nuevo; aún nos dirá cosas desagradables.
- ¿Crees? -preguntó ella. Y treparon de nuevo a la mesa.
- Ya ves lo que hemos conseguido -dijo el deshollinador-. Podíamos habernos ahorrado todas estas fatigas.
- ¡Si al menos estuviese pegado el abuelo! -observó la muchacha-. ¿Costará muy caro?
Pues lo pegaron, sí señor; la familia cuidó de ello. Fue encolado por la espalda y clavado por el pescuezo, con lo cual quedó como nuevo, aunque no podía ya mover la cabeza.
- Se ha vuelto usted muy orgulloso desde que se hizo pedazos -dijo el «Sargento-mayor-y-menor-mariscal-de-campo-pata-de­chivo» -. Y la verdad que no veo los motivos. ¿Me la va a dar o no?
El deshollinador y la pastorcilla dirigieron al viejo chino una mirada conmovedora, temerosos de que agachase la cabeza; pero le era imposible hacerlo, y le resultaba muy molesto tener que explicar a un extraño que llevaba un clavo en la nuca. Y de este modo siguieron viviendo juntas aquellas personitas de porcelana, bendiciendo el clavo del abuelo y queriéndose hasta que se hicieron pedazos a su vez.

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