After I got out of the army, I retained the habit of marching when I walked. Left-right! Left-right! It made me feel alive, marching down the road with my knapsack on my back and my sword at my side.

Things have changed a bit since then. I’ve been put behind bars and the king is about to have me hanged. A crowd has gathered outside, and everybody is excited to see the performance. Through the bars of my window I notice a boy who comes skipping along. Merry fellow. Reminds me of myself! He’s wearing fine shoes and an apron—must be a shoemaker’s apprentice. Oops! He’s lost his shoe right here by the grate.

When he bends down to pick it up, I say, “Oh, shoemaker’s boy, you needn’t be in such a hurry. There’s nothing going on till I arrive!”

Then it occurs to me that Fate has done me a favor. I can pay the lad to help me escape!

The Lively-Stepping Soldier in The Tinder Box, Hans Christian Andersen. Illustration by H.J. Ford.

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