How cold it was! It was snowing and getting dark; It was the last night of the year , the night of San Silvestre. Under that cold and in that darkness, a poor girl was passing through the street, barefoot and with her head uncovered … It is true that when she left her house she was wearing slippers, but what use were they to her! They were sneakers that her mother had worn lately, and they were so big for the little girl that she lost them when she ran across the street to get rid of two cars that were coming at full speed.
There was no way to find one of the slippers, and the other had been put on by a young man, who said he would make her cradle the day she had children. And so the poor thing walked barefoot with her naked little feet completely purple from the cold . In an old apron he carried a handful of matches, and a packet in one hand. In all the holy day no one had bought him anything, or given him a paltry shilling; she would go home hungry and half frozen, and she looked so downcast, the poor thing!
The snowflakes fell on her long blond hair, beautiful curls which covered his neck. At an angle formed by two houses – one more protruding than the other – she sat down on the ground and curled up in a ball . She huddled her little feet as much as possible, but the cold was creeping up on her, and, on the other hand, she didn’t dare to go home, for she hadn’t sold a match, nor picked up a sad penny. His father would beat him, besides the fact that it was cold at home too; only the roof covered them, and the wind blew in everywhere, despite the straw and rags with which they had tried to cover the gaps.
His little hands were almost frozen with cold . Oh, a match would surely relieve her! If you dare to take one out of the bundle, rub it against the wall and warm your fingers! And he pulled one out: ‘ritch!’ How it sparked and how it burned! It gave out a clear, warm flame, like a little light, when he protected it with his hand; a wonderful light. It seemed to the little girl that she was sitting by a large iron stove, with brass feet and bell; the fire burned magnificently inside her, and it heated so well! The girl stretched out her feet to warm them in turn , but the flame was extinguished, the stove disappeared, and she remained seated, with the rest of the spent match in her hand.
She lit another, which, when it burned and cast its light on the wall, returned to this transparent as if it were gauze, and the girl could see the interior of a room where the table was set, covered with a very white tablecloth and fine porcelain. A roast duck smoked deliciously, stuffed with plums and apples. And the best of the case was that the duck jumped out of the fountain and, waddling around the ground with a fork and a knife behind his back, he went towards the poor girl. But at that moment the match went out, leaving only the thick, cold wall visible.
The girl struck a third match, and found herself sitting under a beautiful Christmas tree . It was even taller and prettier than the one I saw last Christmas Eve, through the glass door, at the rich merchant’s house. Thousands of candles burned on the green branches, and from these hung painted pictures, similar to those that adorned the shop windows . The little girl raised both arms … and then the match went out.
All the little lights went up high, and she realized that they were the shining stars in the sky; one of them detached and traced a long trail of fire across the sky. – Someone is dying – thought the girl, becaus e her grandmother , the only person who had loved her, but who was already dead, had told her ‘When a star falls, a soul rises towards God’. -Granny! exclaimed the little girl. Take me with you! I know that you will also leave when the match goes out, just as the stove, the barbecue and the Christmas tree left .
She hastened to light the remaining matches, anxious not to lose her grandmother; and the matches glowed brighter than daylight. Granny had never been so tall and so beautiful; She took the girl in the arm and, both enveloped in a great glow, filled with joy, they took flight But in the corner of the house, the cold dawn discovered the little girl, her cheeks red, and her mouth smiling … Dead, freezing to death on the last night of the Old Year .
The first morning of the New Year lit the little corpse, sitting, with its matches, a small packet of which appeared almost completely consumed. ‘He wanted to warm up!’ People said.