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The selfish giant

THE SELFISH GIANT

Every afternoon, as they were coming from school, the children used
to go and play in the Giant’s garden.

It was a large lovely garden, with soft green grass. Here and
there over the grass stood beautiful flowers like stars, and there
were twelve peach-trees that in the spring-time broke out into
delicate blossoms of pink and pearl, and in the autumn bore rich
fruit. The birds sat on the trees and sang so sweetly that the
children used to stop their games in order to listen to them. “How
happy we are here!” they cried to each other.

One day the Giant came back. He had been to visit his friend the
Cornish ogre, and had stayed with him for seven years. After the
seven years were over he had said all that he had to say, for his
conversation was limited, and he determined to return to his own
castle. When he arrived he saw the children playing in the garden.

“What are you doing here?” he cried in a very gruff voice, and the
children ran away.

“My own garden is my own garden,” said the Giant; “any one can
understand that, and I will allow nobody to play in it but myself.”
So he built a high wall all round it, and put up a notice-board.

TRESPASSERS
WILL BE
PROSECUTED

He was a very selfish Giant.

The poor children had now nowhere to play. They tried to play on
the road, but the road was very dusty and full of hard stones, and
they did not like it. They used to wander round the high wall when
their lessons were over, and talk about the beautiful garden
inside. “How happy we were there,” they said to each other.

Then the Spring came, and all over the country there were little
blossoms and little birds. Only in the garden of the Selfish Giant
it was still winter. The birds did not care to sing in it as there
were no children, and the trees forgot to blossom. Once a
beautiful flower put its head out from the grass, but when it saw
the notice-board it was so sorry for the children that it slipped
back into the ground again, and went off to sleep. The only people
who were pleased were the Snow and the Frost. “Spring has
forgotten this garden,” they cried, “so we will live here all the
year round.” The Snow covered up the grass with her great white
cloak, and the Frost painted all the trees silver. Then they
invited the North Wind to stay with them, and he came. He was
wrapped in furs, and he roared all day about the garden, and blew
the chimney-pots down. “This is a delightful spot,” he said, “we
must ask the Hail on a visit.” So the Hail came. Every day for
three hours he rattled on the roof of the castle till he broke most
of the slates, and then he ran round and round the garden as fast
as he could go. He was dressed in grey, and his breath was like
ice.

“I cannot understand why the Spring is so late in coming,” said the
Selfish Giant, as he sat at the window and looked out at his cold
white garden; “I hope there will be a change in the weather.”

But the Spring never came, nor the Summer. The Autumn gave golden
fruit to every garden, but to the Giant’s garden she gave none.
“He is too selfish,” she said. So it was always Winter there, and
the North Wind, and the Hail, and the Frost, and the Snow danced
about through the trees.

One morning the Giant was lying awake in bed when he heard some
lovely music. It sounded so sweet to his ears that he thought it
must be the King’s musicians passing by. It was really only a
little linnet singing outside his window, but it was so long since
he had heard a bird sing in his garden that it seemed to him to be
the most beautiful music in the world. Then the Hail stopped
dancing over his head, and the North Wind ceased roaring, and a
delicious perfume came to him through the open casement. “I
believe the Spring has come at last,” said the Giant; and he jumped
out of bed and looked out.

What did he see?

He saw a most wonderful sight. Through a little hole in the wall
the children had crept in, and they were sitting in the branches of
the trees. In every tree that he could see there was a little
child. And the trees were so glad to have the children back again
that they had covered themselves with blossoms, and were waving
their arms gently above the children’s heads. The birds were
flying about and twittering with delight, and the flowers were
looking up through the green grass and laughing. It was a lovely
scene, only in one corner it was still winter. It was the farthest
corner of the garden, and in it was standing a little boy. He was
so small that he could not reach up to the branches of the tree,
and he was wandering all round it, crying bitterly. The poor tree
was still quite covered with frost and snow, and the North Wind was
blowing and roaring above it. “Climb up! little boy,” said the
Tree, and it bent its branches down as low as it could; but the boy
was too tiny.

And the Giant’s heart melted as he looked out. “How selfish I have
been!” he said; “now I know why the Spring would not come here. I
will put that poor little boy on the top of the tree, and then I
will knock down the wall, and my garden shall be the children’s
playground for ever and ever.” He was really very sorry for what
he had done.

So he crept downstairs and opened the front door quite softly, and
went out into the garden. But when the children saw him they were
so frightened that they all ran away, and the garden became winter
again. Only the little boy did not run, for his eyes were so full
of tears that he did not see the Giant coming. And the Giant stole
up behind him and took him gently in his hand, and put him up into
the tree. And the tree broke at once into blossom, and the birds
came and sang on it, and the little boy stretched out his two arms
and flung them round the Giant’s neck, and kissed him. And the
other children, when they saw that the Giant was not wicked any
longer, came running back, and with them came the Spring. “It is
your garden now, little children,” said the Giant, and he took a
great axe and knocked down the wall. And when the people were
going to market at twelve o’clock they found the Giant playing with
the children in the most beautiful garden they had ever seen.

All day long they played, and in the evening they came to the Giant
to bid him good-bye.

“But where is your little companion?” he said: “the boy I put into
the tree.” The Giant loved him the best because he had kissed him.

“We don’t know,” answered the children; “he has gone away.”

“You must tell him to be sure and come here to-morrow,” said the
Giant. But the children said that they did not know where he
lived, and had never seen him before; and the Giant felt very sad.

Every afternoon, when school was over, the children came and played
with the Giant. But the little boy whom the Giant loved was never
seen again. The Giant was very kind to all the children, yet he
longed for his first little friend, and often spoke of him. “How I
would like to see him!” he used to say.

Years went over, and the Giant grew very old and feeble. He could
not play about any more, so he sat in a huge armchair, and watched
the children at their games, and admired his garden. “I have many
beautiful flowers,” he said; “but the children are the most
beautiful flowers of all.”

One winter morning he looked out of his window as he was dressing.
He did not hate the Winter now, for he knew that it was merely the
Spring asleep, and that the flowers were resting.

Suddenly he rubbed his eyes in wonder, and looked and looked. It
certainly was a marvellous sight. In the farthest corner of the
garden was a tree quite covered with lovely white blossoms. Its
branches were all golden, and silver fruit hung down from them, and
underneath it stood the little boy he had loved.

Downstairs ran the Giant in great joy, and out into the garden. He
hastened across the grass, and came near to the child. And when he
came quite close his face grew red with anger, and he said, “Who
hath dared to wound thee?” For on the palms of the child’s hands
were the prints of two nails, and the prints of two nails were on
the little feet.

“Who hath dared to wound thee?” cried the Giant; “tell me, that I
may take my big sword and slay him.”

“Nay!” answered the child; “but these are the wounds of Love.”

“Who art thou?” said the Giant, and a strange awe fell on him, and
he knelt before the little child.

And the child smiled on the Giant, and said to him, “You let me
play once in your garden, to-day you shall come with me to my
garden, which is Paradise.”

And when the children ran in that afternoon, they found the Giant
lying dead under the tree, all covered with white blossoms.