Everybody looked at her feet; and when she stepped through the chancel-door on the church pavement, it seemed to her as if the old figures on the tombs—those portraits of old preachers and preachers’ wives, with stiff ruffs and long black dresses, fixed their eyes on her red shoes. And she thought only of them as the clergyman laid his hand upon her head, and spoke of the holy baptism, of the covenant with God, and how she should now become a true Christian; and the organ pealed so solemnly, the sweet children’s voices sang, and the old music-directors; but Karen thought only of her red shoes.
In the afternoon the old lady heard that the shoes had been red, and she said that it was very wrong of Karen, that it was not at all becoming, and that in future Karen should only go in black shoes to church, even when she should be older.
The next Sunday there was to be the sacrament, and Karen looked at the black shoes, then looked at the red ones,—looked at them again, and put on the red shoes.
The sun shone gloriously; Karen and the old lady walked along the path through the corn; it was rather dusty, and their shoes were covered.
At the church-door stood an old soldier with a crutch, and with a wonderful long beard which was more red than white, and he bowed to the ground and asked the old lady if he might dust her shoes; and Karen stretched out her little foot.
“See! what beautiful dancing-shoes!” said the soldier; “sit firm—you dance,” and he put his hand out towards the soles.
And the old lady gave the soldier an alms, and went into the church with Karen.
And all the people in the church looked at Karen’s red shoes, and all the pictures; and as Karen knelt before the altar and raised the cup to her lips, she only thought of the red shoes, and they seemed to swim in it; and she forgot to sing her psalm, and she forgot to pray, “Our Father, who art in heaven!”
Now all the people went out of the church, and the old lady got into the carriage. Karen raised her foot to get in after her, when the old soldier said—
“Look, what beautiful dancing-shoes!”
And Karen could not help dancing a step or two, and when she began, her feet continued to dance; it was just as if the shoes had power over them. She danced round the church-corner, she could not leave off; the coachman was obliged to run after and catch hold of her, and he lifted her into the carriage, but her feet continued to dance, so that she trod on the old lady dreadfully. At length she took off the shoes, and then her legs had peace.
The shoes were placed in a closet at home, but Karen could not help looking at them.
KAREN GROWS VAIN OF HER RED SHOES, AND IS FORCED TO DANCE OVER THE FIELDS, ACROSS THE BRIDGES, AND EVERY-WHERE.