The Mail Coach Passengers
Hans Christian Andersen - Fairy Tales
It was bitterly cold. The sky glittered
and not a breeze stirred. "Bump,' an old pot
was thrown at a neighbor's door - and, "Bang!
Bang!'' went the guns, for they were greeting the
It was New Year's Eve, and the church
clock was striking twelve. "Tan-ta-ra-ra, tan-ta-ra-
ra!'' sounded the horn, and the mail-coach came
lumbering up. The clumsy vehicle stopped at the
gate of the town - all the places had been taken,
for there were twelve passengers in the coach.
"Hurrah! Hurrah!'' cried the people in the
town - for in every house the New Year was being
welcomed - and, as the clock struck, they stood
up, the full glasses in their hands, to drink
success to the newcomer. "A happy New Year,''
was the cry - "a pretty wife, plenty of money, and
no sorrow or care!''
The wish passed round, and the glasses clashed
together till they rang again - while before the
town-gate the mail-coach stopped with the
twelve strange passengers. And who were these
strangers? Each of them had his passport and
his luggage with him - they even brought presents
for me, and for you, and for all the people in the
town. Who were they? What did they want?
And what did they bring with them?
"Good-morning!'' they cried to the sentry at
"Good-morning,'' replied the sentry, for the
clock had struck twelve.
"Your name and profession?'' asked the sentry
of the one who alighted first from the carriage.
"See for yourself in the passport,'' he replied.
"I am myself!' and a famous fellow
he looked, arrayed in bearskin and fur boots. "Come to
me tomorrow, and I will give you a New Year
present. I throw shillings and pence among the
people. I give balls every night, no less than
thirty-one. Indeed, that is the highest number
I can spare for balls. My ships are often frozen
in, but in my offices it is warm and comfortable.
MY NAME IS JANUARY. I am a merchant, and I
generally bring my accounts with me.''
Then the second alighted. He seemed a merry
fellow. He was a director of a theater, a manager
of masked balls, and a leader of all the amusements
we can imagine. His luggage consisted of
a great cask.
"We'll dance the bung out of the cask
at carnival-time,'' said he. "I'll prepare a merry tune
for you and for myself, too. Unfortunately I
have not long to live, the shortest time, in fact,
of my whole family - only twenty-eight days.
Sometimes they pop me in a day extra - but I
trouble myself very little about that. Hurrah!''
"You must not shout so,'' said the sentry.
"Certainly I may shout,'' retorted the man.
"I'm Prince Carnival, traveling under THE NAME OF FEBRUARY.''
The third now got out. He looked the
personification of fasting - but he carried his nose very
high, for he was a weather prophet. In his buttonhole
he wore a little bunch of violets, but they
were very small.
"MARCH, MARCH!'' the fourth passenger called
after him, slapping him on the shoulder, "don't
you smell something good? Make haste into the
guard-room, they are feasting in there. I can
smell it already! FORWARD, MASTER MARCH!''
But it was not true. The speaker only wanted
to make an APRIL FOOL of him, for with that fun
the fourth stranger generally began his career. He
looked very jovial, and did little work.
"If the world were only more settled!'' said
he - "but sometimes I'm obliged to be in a good
humor, and sometimes a bad one. I can laugh or
cry according to circumstances. I have my summer
wardrobe in this box here, but it would be
very foolish to put it on now!''
After him a lady stepped out of the coach. SHE
CALLED HERSELF MISS MAY. She wore a summer dress
and overshoes. Her dress was light green, and there
were anemones in her hair. She was so scented
with wild thyme that it made the sentry sneeze.
"Your health, and God bless you!'' was her
How pretty she was! and such a singer! Not
a theater singer nor a ballad-singer - no, but a
singer of the woods. For she wandered through
the gay, green forest, and had a concert there for
her own amusement.
"Now comes the young lady,'' said those
in the coach - and out stepped a young dame, delicate,
proud, and pretty. IT WAS MISTRESS JUNE. In her
service people become lazy and fond of sleeping
for hours. She gives a feast on the longest day
of the year, that there may be time for her guests
to partake of the numerous dishes at her table.
Indeed, she keeps her own carriage, but still she
travels by the mail - coach with the rest because
she wishes to show that she is not proud.
But she was not without a protector - her
younger brother, JULY, was with her. He was a
plump, young fellow, clad in summer garments,
and wearing a straw hat. He had very little
luggage because it was so cumbersome in the
great heat. He had, however, swimming-trousers
with him, which are nothing to carry.
Then came the mother herself, MADAME AUGUST,
a wholesale dealer in fruit, proprietress of
a large number of fish-ponds, and a land-cultivator.
She was fat and warm, yet she could use
her hands well, and would herself carry out food
to the laborers in the field. After work, came the
recreations, dancing and playing in the greenwood,
and the "harvest home.'' She was a thorough housewife.
After her a man stepped out of the coach. He
is a painter, a master of colors, and is NAMED SEPTEMBER.
The forest on his arrival has to change
its colors, and how beautiful are those he chooses!
The woods glow with red, and gold, and brown.
This great master painter can whistle like a
blackbird. There he stood with his color-pot in
his hand, and that was the whole of his luggage.
A landowner followed, who in the month for
sowing seed attends to his ploughing and is fond
of field sports. SQUIRE OCTOBER brought his dog and
his gun with him, and had nuts in his game-bag.
"Crack! Crack!'' He had a great deal of luggage,
even a plough. He spoke of farming, but what
he said could scarcely be heard for the coughing
and sneezing of his neighbor.
It WAS NOVEMBER, who coughed violently as he
got out. He had a cold, but he said he thought
it would leave him when he went out woodcutting,
for he had to supply wood to the whole parish.
He spent his evenings making skates, for he knew,
he said, that in a few weeks they would be needed.
At length the last passenger made her
appearance - OLD MOTHER DECEMBER! The dame was
very aged, but her eyes glistened like two stars.
She carried on her arm a flower-pot, in which a
little fir tree was growing. "This tree I shall
guard and cherish,'' she said, "that it may grow
large by Christmas Eve, and reach from the floor
to the ceiling, to be adorned with lighted candles,
golden apples, and toys. I shall sit by the fireplace,
and bring a story-book out of my pocket,
and read aloud to all the little children. Then the
toys on the tree will become alive, and the little
waxen Angel at the top will spread out his wings
of gold leaf, and fly down from his green perch.
He will kiss every child in the room, yes, and all
the little children who stand out in the street
singing a carol about the `Star of Bethlehem.' ''
"Well, now the coach may drive away,'' said
the sentry - "we will keep all the twelve months
here with us.''
"First let the twelve come to me,'' said the
Captain on duty, "one after another. The passports
I will keep here, each of them for one
month. When that has passed, I shall write the
behavior of each stranger on his passport. MR. JANUARY,
have the goodness to come here.''
And MR. JANUARY stepped forward.
When a year has passed, I think I shall be able
to tell you what the twelve passengers have
brought to you, to me, and to all of us. Just now
I do not know, and probably even they do not
know themselves, for we live in strange times.