Little Anders had a fine new cap. His mother had made it for him with her shining knitting needles and balls of bright yarn. Most of the cap was red, but Mother had used up all her red yarn before the cap was done. So she knit part of it green and made the tassel blue.
Anders was very proud of his new cap. He pulled it down over his ears and marched through the house. His brothers and sisters told him what a fine cap it was.
But caps, Anders knew, are made for out of doors. He must go for a walk at once, to show his beautiful cap of red and green and blue.
A farm boy was passing by leading his horse. He noticed Anders' beautiful cap of red and green and blue and made him a deep bow. How proud Anders felt!
Then he met a big boy he knew. The big boy wore high boots and he had a bright new jack-knife in his hand. The big boy stopped short to look at Anders' beautiful cap of red and green and blue. He even went up to Anders and felt the blue tassel.
"I like your cap," said the big boy. "I will give you mine for it and my new jack-knife too."
Now Anders had never had a jack-knife and he wanted that bright new one very much. He thought he would be almost grown-up if he owned a jack-knife. But of course, he would not give up his beautiful cap of red and green and blue that Mother had made, for all the jack-knives in the world. So he shook his head and walked on.
The next person he met was a little old lady. When she saw Anders' beautiful cap of red and green and blue, she spread out her skirts and made him a curtsy.
"How dressed up you are, little boy!" said the little old lady. "You look fine enough to go to the King's ball."
"Well, I will go," said Anders to himself. "My beautiful cap of red and green and blue that Mother made; is fine enough for any ball."
And off Anders started to the King's palace. At the gate stood two fierce looking soldiers, with guns over their shoulders and shiny steel helmets on their heads. They stopped Anders and one of them asked, "Where are you going, little boy?"
Anders smiled at them and said, "I am going to the King's ball."
"But you cannot do that," said the second soldier. "Everybody at the ball has to wear a uniform."
Just then the Princess happened to cross the courtyard. She was dressed for the ball in a beautiful gown of white satin, trimmed with golden ribbons.
"This little boy does not need a uniform," said the Princess, "he has such a fine cap of red and green and blue. I will take him to the ball.”
So Anders walked beside the Princess, up the white marble steps and into the King's palace. On every side there were ladies in beautiful dresses of silk, satin and velvet, and gentlemen in fine uniforms with gold braid and buttons. They all bowed deeply as Anders and the Princess passed by. Anders felt sure it was because of the beautiful cap of red and green and blue, that Mother had made.
At last Anders and the Princess came to a big hall, where there was a long table set with snowy white linen. The plates and goblets on it were of shining gold. There were great dishes piled high with rich cakes. There were bowls of shaking jellies, pink and green, and baskets of fruit of many kinds. The Princess sat down in a chair of gold and told Anders to sit in the one beside her.
"And now you must take off your cap, my dear little boy," said the Princess.
And then she took hold of Anders' beautiful cap of red and green and blue and tried to pull it off. But Anders was too quick for her and held on to his cap with both hands. How could he let his fine cap be taken away! He might never get it back again.
"Give me your cap," said the Princess, "and I will give you a kiss."
Now Anders knew that it was very kind of the pretty Princess, to kiss a little boy like him, but he just could not let her have the beautiful cap of red and green and blue, that Mother had made.
The Princess coaxed and coaxed. She filled Anders' pockets with cakes. She took her fine gold chain and slipped it around his neck and she gave him a kiss on each cheek.
"Please give me your cap," begged the Princess, but Anders still held it tightly with both hands.
Just then the doors at the end of the hall opened and in came the King himself. He wore a beautiful cloak of blue velvet trimmed with white fur. On his head rested a great golden crown. Beside him walked gentlemen in fine uniforms, carrying hats with long plumes.
The King stopped by Anders' chair. He smiled at his daughter, the pretty Princess, and he smiled at Anders.
"What a fine cap you have, my little fellow!" said the King.
"Yes," answered Anders proudly. "My mother knit this cap for me of her best yarn. Everybody seems to want my beautiful cap of red and green and blue."
"How would you like to change with me?" asked the King still smiling. He put his two hands up to his head and took off his golden crown. Then he came close to Anders. He held the golden crown in one hand and with the other he reached out to take Anders' beautiful cap of red and green and blue.
Quick as a flash Anders slipped down from his chair and ran through the long hall. He dashed down the steps and out into the yard. The cakes tumbled out of his pockets, but Anders did not stop to pick them up. The clasp of the beautiful gold chain, which the Princess had given him, unfastened and fell off, but still Anders did not stop.
His two hands clung to his cap. His beautiful cap of red and green and blue was safe on his head. Anders ran and ran until at last he was at home. He burst into the cottage all out of breath.
"Why, Anders," his mother cried out, "why are you running so fast? And tell me where you have been all this long time."
As soon as Anders could catch his breath, he told his mother all the strange things that had happened to him. His brothers and sisters crowded around to hear his story.
When he had finished, his big brother spoke up, "If I had been there, I would have taken the King's crown. You were silly not to take it, Anders. A King's crown is worth a lot of money. You could have sold it and bought high boots and a velvet jacket and a velvet cap with a long plume, much better than your knitted-cap."
Anders blue eyes sparkled and his cheeks grew very red.
"I was not silly," he answered. "All the money the King's crown could bring, would not buy me a finer cap than the beautiful cap of red and green and blue that Mother made me."
And Anders ran straight into his mother's arms and she gave him a big hug and many, many kisses.