Wisest and sweetest of all Anderson's many wise and sweet stories, is the story of the Nightingale. She was brought to sing before the king. The little brown bird was received with ceremony at the glittering court, and all the court and city went wild with delight. It says in the story, "when the two met each other in the street, one said, 'Nightin' and the other 'gale,' for nothing else was talked of."
Soon after her coming, another nightingale came to the court, a gift from the Emperor of Japan; this was a very gorgeous bird, covered with jewels, and sang very beautifully when wound up, for it was artificial. The two birds were to sing together; but when the court would have listened, lo! the little brown bird had slipped away; "very impolite," they said. But the mock bird stayed, and they were satisfied. To be sure, she always sang the same songs; but what matter? It is a good thing they thought to know just what is coming. But one day there came a great snap and whirr, and the songs stopped. Something had broken. After that, although skilfully mended, she could be allowed to sing only once a year with great care.
The king grew ill, he was dying; his courtiers left him, and Death came and sat at his bedside. He claimed the sceptre, he claimed the crown; and still he sat and stared at the king with hollow eyes; he would claim the life next.