The Naughty Boy – The Saucy Boy – Illustration
By Hans Christian Andersen (1835)
There was once an old poet, such a good, honest old poet! He was sitting alone in his own little room on a very stormy evening; the wind was roaring without, and the rain poured down in torrents. But the old man sat cosily by his warm stove, the fire was blazing brightly, and some apples were roasting in front of it.
‘Those poor people who have no roof to shelter them to-night will, most assuredly, not have a dry thread left on their skin,’ said the kind-hearted old man.
‘Oh, open the door ! open the door ! I am so cold, and quite wet through besides — Open the door !’ cried a voice from without. The voice was like a child’s, and seemed half-choked with sobs. ‘Rap, rap, rap!’ it went on knocking at the door, whilst the rain still kept streaming down from the clouds, and the wind rattled among the window-panes.
‘Poor thing !’ said the old poet; and he arose and opened the door. There stood a little boy, almost naked; the water trickled down from his long flaxen hair; he was shivering with cold, and had he been left much longer out in the street, he must certainly have perished in the storm.
‘Poor boy !’ said the old poet again, taking him by the hand, and leading him into his room. Come to me, and we’ll soon make thee warm again, and I will give thee some wine, and some roasted apples for thy supper, my pretty child ! ‘
And, of a truth, the boy was exceedingly pretty. His eyes shone as bright as stars, and his hair, although dripping with water, curled in beautiful ringlets. He looked quite like a little cherub, but he was very pale, and trembled in every limb with cold. In his hand he held a pretty little cross-bow, but it seemed entirely spoilt by the rain, and the colours painted on the arrows all ran one into another.
The old poet sat down again beside the stove, and took the little boy in his lap ; he wrung the water out of his streaming hair, warmed the child’s hands within his own, and gave him mulled wine to drink. The boy soon became himself again, the rosy colour returned to his cheeks, he jumped down from the old man’s lap, and danced around him on the floor.
‘Thou art a merry fellow !’ said the poet. ‘Thou must tell me thy name.’
‘They call me Cupid,’ replied the boy. ‘Don’t you know me ? There lies my bow ; ah, you can’t think how capitally I can shoot ! See, the weather is fine again now; the moon is shining bright.’
‘But thy bow is spoilt,’ said the old man.’
‘That would be a sad disaster, indeed,’ remarked the boy, as he took the bow in his hand and examined it closely. ‘Oh, it is quite dry by this time, and it is not a bit damaged ; the string, too, is quite strong enough, I think. However, I may as well try it !’ He then drew his bow, placed an arrow before the string, took his aim, and shot direct into the old poet’s heart. ‘Now you may be sure that my cross-bow is not spoilt !’ cried he, as, with a loud laugh, he ran away.
The naughty boy ! This was, indeed, ungrateful of him, to shoot to the heart the good old man who had so kindly taken him in, warmed him, and dried his clothes, given him sweet wine, and nice roasted apples for supper !
The poor poet lay groaning on the ground, for the arrow had wounded him sorely. ‘Fie, for shame, Cupid !’ cried he, thou art a wicked boy ! I will tell all good children how thou hast treated me, and bid them take heed and never play with thee, for thou wilt assuredly do them a mischief, as thou hast done to me.’
All the good boys and girls to whom he related this story were on their guard against the wicked boy, Cupid; but, notwithstanding, he made fools of them again and again, he is so terribly cunning ! When the students are returning home from lecture, he walks by their side, dressed in a black gown, and with a book under his arm. They take him to be a fellow- student, and so they suffer him to walk arm-in-arm with them, just as if he were one of their intimate friends. But whilst they are thus familiar with him, all of a sudden he thrusts his arrows into their bosoms. Even when young girls are going to church, he will follow and watch for his opportunity : he is always waylaying people. In the theatre, he sits in the great chandelier, and kindles such a bright, hot flame, men fancy it a lamp, but they are soon undeceived. He wanders about in the royal gardens and all the public walks, making mischief every- where; nay, once he even shot thy father and mother to the heart ! Only ask them, dear child, and they will certainly tell thee all about it. In fine, this fellow, this Cupid, is a very wicked boy ! Do not play with him ! He waylays everybody, boys and girls, youths and maidens, men and women, rich and poor, old and young. Only think of this: he once shot an arrow into thy good old grandmother’s heart ! It happened a long time ago, and she has recovered from the wound, but she will never forget him, depend upon it.
Fie, for shame ! wicked Cupid ! Is he not a mischievous boy ?
Beware of him, beware of him, dear child !