It was very cold. The snow fell and it was almost dark.
It was the last day of the year.
A little match girl was running in the street. Her name was Gretchen. She had no hat on.
Her feet were bare. When she left home, she had on some big slippers of her mama's. But they were so large that she lost them when she ran across the street.
Gretchen had a lot of matches in her old apron.
She had a little bunch in her hand.
But she could not sell her matches. No one would buy them.
Poor little Gretchen!
She was cold and hungry.
The snow fell on her curly hair. But she did not think about that.
She saw lights in the houses.
She smelled good things cooking.
She said to herself, "This is the last night of the year."
Gretchen got colder and colder.
She was afraid to go home. She knew her papa would whip her, if she did not take some money to him.
It was as cold at home as in the street. They were too poor to have a fire. They had to put rags in the windows to keep out the windxx.
Gretchen did not even have a bed. She had to sleep on a pile of rags.
She sat down on a door step.
Her little hands were almost frozen.
She took a match and lighted it to warm her hands. The match looked like a little candle.
Gretchen thought she was sitting by a big stove. It was so bright.
She put the match near her feet, to warm them. Then the light went out. She did not think that she was by the stove any more.
Gretchen lighted another match.
Now she thought she could look into a room. In this room was a table.
A white cloth and pretty dishes were on the table. There was a roast turkey, too. It was cooked and ready to eat. The knife and fork were in his back. The turkey jumped from the dish and ran to the little girl.
The light went out and she was in the cold and dark again.
Gretchen lighted another match. Then she thought she was sitting by a Christmas tree. Very many candles were on the tree. It was full of pretty things.
Gretchen put up her little hands. The light went out.
The lights on the Christmas tree went up, up--until she saw they were the stars.
Then she saw a star fall.
"Some one is dying," said little Gretchen.
Her grandma had been very good to the little girl. But she was dead.
The grandma had said, "When a star falls some one is going to God."
The little girl lighted another match. It made a big light.
Gretchen thought she saw her grandma. She never looked so pretty before. She looked so sweet and happy.
"O grandma," said the little girl, "take me. When the light goes out you will go away. The stove and the turkey and the Christmas tree all went away."
Then Gretchen lighted a bunch of matches. She wanted to keep her grandma with her. The matches made it very light.
The grandma took the little girl in her arms. They went up, up--where they would never be cold or hungry.
They were with God.
The next day came.
Some men found a little girl in the street. She was dead.
In her hand were the burned matches.
They said, "Poor little thing, she froze to death."
They did not know how happy she was in heaven.