The Frost King or The Power of Love, by Louisa May Alcott

THREE little Fairies sat in the fields eating their breakfast; each among the leaves of her favorite flower, Daisy, Primrose, and Violet, were happy as Elves need be.

The morning wind gently rocked them to and fro, and the sun shone warmly down upon the dewy grass, where butterflies spread their gay wings, and bees with their deep voices sung among the flowers; while the little birds hopped merrily about to peep at them.

On a silvery mushroom was spread the breakfast; little cakes of flower-dust lay on a broad green leaf, beside a crimson strawberry, which, with sugar from the violet, and cream from the yellow milkweed, made a fairy meal, and their drink was the dew from the flowers’ bright leaves.

“Ah me,” sighed Primrose, throwing herself languidly back, “how warm the sun grows! give me another piece of strawberry, and then I must hasten away to the shadow of the ferns. But while I eat, tell me, dear Violet, why are you all so sad? I have scarce seen a happy face since my return from Rose Land; dear friend, what means it?”

“I will tell you,” replied little Violet, the tears gathering in her soft eyes. “Our good Queen is ever striving to keep the dear flowers from the power of the cruel Frost-King; many ways she tried, but all have failed. She has sent messengers to his court with costly gifts; but all have returned sick for want of sunlight, weary and sad; we have watched over them, heedless of sun or shower, but still his dark spirits do their work, and we are left to weep over our blighted blossoms. Thus have we striven, and in vain; and this night our Queen holds council for the last time. Therefore are we sad, dear Primrose, for she has toiled and cared for us, and we can do nothing to help or advise her now.”

“It is indeed a cruel thing,” replied her friend; “but as we cannot help it, we must suffer patiently, and not let the sorrows of others disturb our happiness. But, dear sisters, see you not how high the sun is getting? I have my locks to curl, and my robe to prepare for the evening; therefore I must be gone, or I shall be brown as a withered leaf in this warm light.” So, gathering a tiny mushroom for a parasol, she flew away; Daisy soon followed, and Violet was left alone.

Then she spread the table afresh, and to it came fearlessly the busy ant and bee, gay butterfly and bird; even the poor blind mole and humble worm were not forgotten; and with gentle words she gave to all, while each learned something of their kind little teacher; and the love that made her own heart bright shone alike on all.

The ant and bee learned generosity, the butterfly and bird contentment, the mole and worm confidence in the love of others; and each went to their home better for the little time they had been with Violet.

Evening came, and with it troops of Elves to counsel their good Queen, who, seated on her mossy throne, looked anxiously upon the throng below, whose glittering wings and rustling robes gleamed like many-colored flowers.

At length she rose, and amid the deep silence spoke thus:—

“Dear children, let us not tire of a good work, hard though it be and wearisome; think of the many little hearts that in their sorrow look to us for help. What would the green earth be without its lovely flowers, and what a lonely home for us! Their beauty fills our hearts with brightness, and their love with tender thoughts. Ought we then to leave them to die uncared for and alone? They give to us their all; ought we not to toil unceasingly, that they may bloom in peace within their quiet homes? We have tried to gain the love of the stern Frost-King, but in vain; his heart is hard as his own icy land; no love can melt, no kindness bring it back to sunlight and to joy. How then may we keep our frail blossoms from his cruel spirits? Who will give us counsel? Who will be our messenger for the last time? Speak, my subjects.”

Then a great murmuring arose, and many spoke, some for costlier gifts, some for war; and the fearful counselled patience and submission.

Long and eagerly they spoke, and their soft voices rose high.

Then sweet music sounded on the air, and the loud tones were hushed, as in wondering silence the Fairies waited what should come.

Through the crowd there came a little form, a wreath of pure white violets lay among the bright locks that fell so softly round the gentle face, where a deep blush glowed, as, kneeling at the throne, little Violet said:—

“Dear Queen, we have bent to the Frost-King’s power, we have borne gifts unto his pride, but have we gone trustingly to him and spoken fearlessly of his evil deeds? Have we shed the soft light of unwearied love around his cold heart, and with patient tenderness shown him how bright and beautiful love can make even the darkest lot?

“Our messengers have gone fearfully, and with cold looks and courtly words offered him rich gifts, things he cared not for, and with equal pride has he sent them back.

“Then let me, the weakest of your band, go to him, trusting in the love I know lies hidden in the coldest heart.

“I will bear only a garland of our fairest flowers; these will I wind about him, and their bright faces, looking lovingly in his, will bring sweet thoughts to his dark mind, and their soft breath steal in like gentle words. Then, when he sees them fading on his breast, will he not sigh that there is no warmth there to keep them fresh and lovely? This will I do, dear Queen, and never leave his dreary home, till the sunlight falls on flowers fair as those that bloom in our own dear land.”

Silently the Queen had listened, but now, rising and placing her hand on little Violet’s head, she said, turning to the throng below:— “We in our pride and power have erred, while this, the weakest and lowliest of our subjects, has from the innocence of her own pure heart counselled us more wisely than the noblest of our train. All who will aid our brave little messenger, lift your wands, that we may know who will place their trust in the Power of Love.”

Every fairy wand glistened in the air, as with silvery voices they cried, “Love and little Violet.”

Then down from the throne, hand in hand, came the Queen and Violet, and till the moon sank did the Fairies toil, to weave a wreath of the fairest flowers. Tenderly they gathered them, with the night-dew fresh upon their leaves, and as they wove chanted sweet spells, and whispered fairy blessings on the bright messengers whom they sent forth to die in a dreary land, that their gentle kindred might bloom unharmed.

At length it was done; and the fair flowers lay glowing in the soft starlight, while beside them stood the Fairies, singing to the music of the wind-harps:—

We are sending you, dear flowers,
Forth alone to die,
Where your gentle sisters may not weep
O’er the cold graves where you lie;
But you go to bring them fadeless life
In the bright homes where they dwell,
And you softly smile that ‘t is so,
As we sadly sing farewell.

O plead with gentle words for us,
And whisper tenderly
Of generous love to that cold heart,
And it will answer ye;
And though you fade in a dreary home,
Yet loving hearts will tell
Of the joy and peace that you have given:
Flowers, dear flowers, farewell!”

The morning sun looked softly down upon the broad green earth, which like a mighty altar was sending up clouds of perfume from its breast, while flowers danced gayly in the summer wind, and birds sang their morning hymn among the cool green leaves. Then high above, on shining wings, soared a little form. The sunlight rested softly on the silken hair, and the winds fanned lovingly the bright face, and brought the sweetest odors to cheer her on.

Thus went Violet through the clear air, and the earth looked smiling up to her, as, with the bright wreath folded in her arms, she flew among the soft, white clouds.

On and on she went, over hill and valley, broad rivers and rustling woods, till the warm sunlight passed away, the winds grew cold, and the air thick with falling snow. Then far below she saw the Frost-King’s home. Pillars of hard, gray ice supported the high, arched roof, hung with crystal icicles. Dreary gardens ay around, filled with withered flowers and bare, drooping trees;
while heavy clouds hung low in the dark sky, and a cold wind murmured sadly through the wintry air.

With a beating heart Violet folded her fading wreath more closely to her breast, and with weary wings flew onward to the dreary palace.

Here, before the closed doors, stood many forms with dark faces and harsh, discordant voices, who sternly asked the shivering little Fairy why she came to them.

Gently she answered, telling them her errand, beseeching them to let her pass ere the cold wind blighted her frail blossoms. Then they flung wide the doors, and she passed in.

Walls of ice, carved with strange figures, were around her; glittering icicles hung from the high roof, and soft, white snow covered the hard floors. On a throne hung with clouds sat the Frost-King; a crown of crystals bound his white locks, and a dark mantle wrought with delicate frost-work was folded over his cold breast.

His stern face could not stay little Violet, and on through the long hall she went, heedless of the snow that gathered on her feet, and the bleak wind that blew around her; while the King with wondering eyes looked on the golden light that played upon the dark walls as she passed.

The flowers, as if they knew their part, unfolded their bright leaves, and poured forth their sweetest perfume, as, kneeling at the throne, the brave little Fairy said,—

“O King of blight and sorrow, send me not away till I have brought back the light and joy that will make your dark home bright and beautiful again. Let me call back to the desolate gardens the fair forms that are gone, and their soft voices blessing you will bring to your breast a never failing joy. Cast by your icy crown and sceptre, and let the sunlight of love fall softly on your heart.

“Then will the earth bloom again in all its beauty, and your dim eyes will rest only on fair forms, while music shall sound through these dreary halls, and the love of grateful hearts be yours. Have pity on the gentle flower-spirits, and do not doom them to an early death, when they might bloom in fadeless beauty, making us wiser by their gentle teachings, and the earth brighter by their lovely forms. These fair flowers, with the prayers of all Fairy Land, I lay before you; O send me not away till they are answered.”

And with tears falling thick and fast upon their tender leaves, Violet laid the wreath at his feet, while the golden light grew ever brighter as it fell upon the little form so humbly kneeling there.

The King’s stern face grew milder as he gazed on the gentle Fairy, and the flowers seemed to look beseechingly upon him; while their fragrant voices sounded softly in his ear, telling of their dying sisters, and of the joy it gives to bring happiness to the weak and sorrowing. But he drew the dark mantle closer over his breast and answered coldly,—

“I cannot grant your prayer, little Fairy; it is my will the flowers should die. Go back to your Queen, and tell her that I cannot yield my power to please these foolish flowers.”

Then Violet hung the wreath above the throne, and with weary foot went forth again, out into the cold, dark gardens, and still the golden shadows followed her, and wherever they fell, flowers bloomed and green leaves rustled.

Then came the Frost-Spirits, and beneath their cold wings the flowers died, while the Spirits bore Violet to a low, dark cell, saying as they left her, that their King was angry that she had dared to stay when he had bid her go.

So all alone she sat, and sad thoughts of her happy home came back to her, and she wept bitterly. But soon came visions of the gentle flowers dying in their forest homes, and their voices ringing in her ear, imploring her to save them. Then she wept no longer, but patiently awaited what might come.

Soon the golden light gleamed faintly through the cell, and she heard little voices calling for help, and high up among the heavy cobwebs hung poor little flies struggling to free themselves, while their cruel enemies sat in their nets, watching their pain.

With her wand the Fairy broke the bands that held them, tenderly bound up their broken wings, and healed their wounds; while they lay in the warm light, and feebly hummed their thanks to their kind deliverer.

Then she went to the ugly brown spiders, and in gentle words told them, how in Fairy Land their kindred spun all the elfin cloth, and in return the Fairies gave them food, and then how happily they lived among the green leaves, spinning garments for their neighbors. “And you too,” said she, “shall spin for me, and I will give you better food than helpless insects. You shall live in peace, and spin your delicate threads into a mantle for the stern King; and I will weave golden threads amid the gray, that when folded over his cold heart gentle thoughts may enter in and make it their home.”

And while she gayly sung, the little weavers spun their silken threads, the flies on glittering wings flew lovingly above her head, and over all the golden light shone softly down.

When the Frost-Spirits told their King, he greatly wondered and often stole to look at the sunny little room where friends and enemies worked peacefully together. Still the light grew brighter, and floated out into the cold air, where it hung like bright clouds above the dreary gardens, whence all the Spirits’ power could not drive it; and green leaves budded on the naked trees, and flowers bloomed; but the Spirits heaped snow upon them, and they bowed their heads and died.

At length the mantle was finished, and amid the gray threads shone golden ones, making it bright; and she sent it to the King, entreating him to wear it, for it would bring peace and love to dwell within his breast.

But he scornfully threw it aside, and bade his Spirits take her to a colder cell, deep in the earth; and there with harsh words they left her.

Still she sang gayly on, and the falling drops kept time so musically, that the King in his cold ice-halls wondered at the low, sweet sounds that came stealing up to him.

Thus Violet dwelt, and each day the golden light grew stronger; and from among the crevices of the rocky walls came troops of little velvet-coated moles, praying that they might listen to the sweet music, and lie in the warm light.

“We lead,” said they, “a dreary life in the cold earth; the flower-roots are dead, and no soft dews descend for us to drink, no little seed or leaf can we find. Ah, good Fairy, let us be your servants: give us but a few crumbs of your daily bread, and we will do all in our power to serve you.”

And Violet said, Yes; so day after day they labored to make a pathway through the frozen earth, that she might reach the roots of the withered flowers; and soon, wherever through the dark galleries she went, the soft light fell upon the roots of flowers, and they with new life spread forth in the warm ground, and forced fresh sap to the blossoms above. Brightly they bloomed and danced in the soft light, and the Frost-Spirits tried in vain to harm them, for when they came beneath the bright clouds their power to do evil left them.

From his dark castle the King looked out on the happy flowers, who nodded gayly to him, and in sweet colors strove to tell him of the good little Spirit, who toiled so faithfully below, that they might live. And when he turned from the brightness without, to his stately palace, it seemed so cold and dreary, that he folded Violet’s mantle round him, and sat beneath the faded wreath upon his ice-carved throne, wondering at the strange warmth that came from it; till at length he bade his Spirits bring the little Fairy from her dismal prison.

Soon they came hastening back, and prayed him to come and see how lovely the dark cell had grown. The rough floor was spread with deep green moss, and over wall and roof grew flowery vines, filling the air with their sweet breath; while above played the clear, soft light, casting rosy shadows on the glittering drops that lay among the fragrant leaves; and beneath the vines stood Violet, casting crumbs to the downy little moles who ran fearlessly about and listened as she sang to them.

When the old King saw how much fairer she had made the dreary cell than his palace rooms, gentle thoughts within whispered him to grant her prayer, and let the little Fairy go back to her friends and home; but the Frost-Spirits breathed upon the flowers and bid him see how frail they were, and useless to a King. Then the stern, cold thoughts came back again, and he harshly bid her follow him.

With a sad farewell to her little friends she followed him, and before the throne awaited his command. When the King saw how pale and sad the gentle face had grown, how thin her robe, and weak her wings, and yet how lovingly the golden shadows fell around her and brightened as they lay upon the wand, which, guided by patient love, had made his once desolate home so bright, he could not be cruel to the one who had done so much for him, and in kindly tone he said,—

“Little Fairy, I offer you two things, and you may choose between them. If I will vow never more to harm the flowers you may love, will you go back to your own people and leave me and my Spirits to work our will on all the other flowers that bloom? The earth is broad, and we can find them in any land, then why should you care what happens to their kindred if your own are safe? Will you do this?”

“Ah!” answered Violet sadly, “do you not know that beneath the flowers’ bright leaves there beats a little heart that loves and sorrows like our own? And can I, heedless of their beauty, doom them to pain and grief, that I might save my own dear blossoms from the cruel foes to which I leave them? Ah no! sooner would I dwell for ever in your darkest cell, than lose the love of those warm, trusting hearts.”

“Then listen,” said the King, “to the task I give you. You shall raise up for me a palace fairer than this, and if you can work that miracle I will grant your prayer or lose my kingly crown. And now go forth, and begin your task; my Spirits shall not harm you, and I will wait till it is done before I blight another flower.”

Then out into the gardens went Violet with a heavy heart; for she had toiled so long, her strength was nearly gone. But the flowers whispered their gratitude, and folded their leaves as if they blessed her; and when she saw the garden filled with loving friends, who strove to cheer and thank her for her care, courage and strength returned; and raising up thick clouds of mist, that hid her from the wondering flowers, alone and trustingly she began her work.

As time went by, the Frost-King feared the task had been too hard for the Fairy; sounds were heard behind the walls of mist, bright shadows seen to pass within, but the little voice was never heard. Meanwhile the golden light had faded from the garden, the flowers bowed their heads, and all was dark and cold as when the gentle Fairy came.

And to the stern King his home seemed more desolate and sad; for he missed the warm light, the happy flowers, and, more than all, the gay voice and bright face of little Violet. So he wandered through his dreary palace, wondering how he had been content to live before without sunlight and love.

And little Violet was mourned as dead in Fairy-Land, and many tears were shed, for the gentle Fairy was beloved by all, from the Queen down to the humblest flower. Sadly they watched over every bird and blossom which she had loved, and strove to be like her in kindly words and deeds. They wore cypress wreaths, and spoke of her as one whom they should never see again.

Thus they dwelt in deepest sorrow, till one day there came to them an unknown messenger, wrapped in a dark mantle, who looked with wondering eyes on the bright palace, and flower-crowned elves, who kindly welcomed him, and brought fresh dew and rosy fruit to refresh the weary stranger. Then he told them that he came from the Frost-King, who begged the Queen and all her subjects to come and see the palace little Violet had built; for the veil of mist would soon be withdrawn, and as she could not make a fairer home than the ice-castle, the King wished her kindred near to comfort and to bear her home. And while the Elves wept, he told them how patiently she had toiled, how her fadeless love had made the dark cell bright and beautiful.

These and many other things he told them; for little Violet had won the love of many of the Frost-Spirits, and even when they killed the flowers she had toiled so hard to bring to life and beauty, she spoke gentle words to them, and sought to teach them how beautiful is love. Long stayed the messenger, and deeper grew his wonder that the Fairy could have left so fair a home, to toil in the dreary palace of his cruel master, and suffer cold and weariness, to give life and joy to the weak and sorrowing. When the Elves had promised they would come, he bade farewell to happy Fairy-Land, and flew sadly home.

At last the time arrived, and out in his barren garden, under a canopy of dark clouds, sat the Frost-King before the misty wall, behind which were heard low, sweet sounds, as of rustling trees and warbling birds.

Soon through the air came many-colored troops of Elves. First the Queen, known by the silver lilies on her snowy robe and the bright crown in her hair, beside whom flew a band of Elves in crimson and gold, making sweet music on their flower-trumpets, while all around, with smiling faces and bright eyes, fluttered her loving subjects.

On they came, like a flock of brilliant butterflies, their shining wings and many-colored garments sparkling in the dim air; and soon the leafless trees were gay with living flowers, and their sweet voices filled the gardens with music. Like his subjects, the King looked on the lovely Elves, and no longer wondered that little Violet wept and longed for her home. Darker and more desolate seemed his stately home, and when the Fairies asked for flowers, he felt ashamed that he had none to give them.

At length a warm wind swept through the gardens, and the mist-clouds passed away, while in silent wonder looked the Frost-King and the Elves upon the scene before them.

Far as eye could reach were tall green trees whose drooping boughs made graceful arches, through which the golden light shone softly, making bright shadows on the deep green moss below, where the fairest flowers waved in the cool wind, and sang, in their low, sweet voices, how beautiful is Love.

Flowering vines folded their soft leaves around the trees, making green pillars of their rough trunks. Fountains threw their bright waters to the roof, and flocks of silver-winged birds flew singing among the flowers, or brooded lovingly above their nests. Doves with gentle eyes cooed among the green leaves, snow-white clouds floated in the sunny shy, and the golden light, brighter than before, shone softly down.

Soon through the long aisles came Violet, flowers and green leaves rustling as she passed. On she went to the Frost-King’s throne, bearing two crowns, one of sparkling icicles, the other of pure white lilies, and kneeling before him, said,—

“My task is done, and, thanks to the Spirits of earth and air, I have made as fair a home as Elfin hands can form. You must now decide. Will you be King of Flower-Land, and own my gentle kindred for your loving friends? Will you possess unfading peace and joy, and the grateful love of all the green earth’s fragrant children? Then take this crown of flowers. But if you can find no pleasure here, go back to your own cold home, and dwell in solitude and darkness, where no ray of sunlight or of joy can enter.

“Send forth your Spirits to carry sorrow and desolation over the happy earth, and win for yourself the fear and hatred of those who would so gladly love and reverence you. Then take this glittering crown, hard and cold as your own heart will be, if you will shut out all that is bright and beautiful. Both are before you. Choose.”

The old King looked at the little Fairy, and saw how lovingly the bright shadows gathered round her, as if to shield her from every harm; the timid birds nestled in her bosom, and the flowers grew fairer as she looked upon them; while her gentle friends, with tears in their bright eyes, folded their hands beseechingly, and smiled on her.

Kind thought came thronging to his mind, and he turned to look at the two palaces. Violet’s, so fair and beautiful, with its rustling trees, calm, sunny skies, and happy birds and flowers, all created by her patient love and care. His own, so cold and dark and dreary, his empty gardens where no flowers could bloom, no green trees dwell, or gay birds sing, all desolate and dim;—and while he gazed, his own Spirits, casting off their dark mantles, knelt before him and besought him not to send them forth to blight the things the gentle Fairies loved so much. “We have served you long and faithfully,” said they, “give us now our freedom, that we may learn to be beloved by the sweet flowers we have harmed so long. Grant the little Fairy’s prayer; and let her go back to her own dear home. She has taught us that Love is mightier than Fear. Choose the Flower crown, and we will be the truest subjects you have ever had.”

Then, amid a burst of wild, sweet music, the Frost-King placed the Flower crown on his head, and knelt to little Violet; while far and near, over the broad green earth, sounded the voices of flowers, singing their thanks to the gentle Fairy, and the summer wind was laden with perfumes, which they sent as tokens of their gratitude; and wherever she went, old trees bent down to fold their slender branches round her, flowers laid their soft faces against her own, and whispered blessings; even the humble moss bent over the little feet, and kissed them as they passed.

The old King, surrounded by the happy Fairies, sat in Violet’s lovely home, and watched his icy castle melt away beneath the bright sunlight; while his Spirits, cold and gloomy no longer, danced with the Elves, and waited on their King with loving eagerness. Brighter grew the golden light, gayer sang the birds, and the harmonious voices of grateful flowers, sounding over the earth, carried new joy to all their gentle kindred.

Brighter shone the golden shadows;
On the cool wind softly came
The low, sweet tones of happy flowers,
Singing little Violet’s name.
‘Mong the green trees was it whispered,
And the bright waves bore it on
To the lonely forest flowers,
Where the glad news had not gone.

Thus the Frost-King lost his kingdom,
And his power to harm and blight.
Violet conquered, and his cold heart
Warmed with music, love, and light;
And his fair home, once so dreary,
Gay with lovely Elves and flowers,
Brought a joy that never faded
Through the long bright summer hours.

Thus, by Violet’s magic power,
All dark shadows passed away,
And o’er the home of happy flowers
The golden light for ever lay.
Thus the Fairy mission ended,
And all Flower-Land was taught
The “Power of Love,” by gentle deeds
That little Violet wrought.

As Sunny Lock ceased, another little Elf came forward; and this was the tale “Silver Wing” told…

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Image by © Mina Chapman / Corbis

Flower Fables, by Louisa May Alcott

THE summer moon shone brightly down upon the sleeping earth, while far away from mortal eyes danced the Fairy folk. Fire-flies hung in bright clusters on the dewy leaves, that waved in the cool night-wind; and the flowers stood gazing, in very wonder, at the little Elves, who lay among the fern-leaves, swung in the vine-boughs, sailed on the lake in lily cups, or danced on the mossy ground, to the music of the hare-bells, who rung out their merriest peal in honor of the night.

Under the shade of a wild rose sat the Queen and her little Maids of Honor, beside the silvery mushroom where the feast was spread.

“Now, my friends,” said she, “to while away the time till the bright moon goes down, let us each tell a tale, or relate what we have done or learned this day. I will begin with you, Sunny Lock,” added she, turning to a lovely little Elf, who lay among the fragrant leaves of a primrose.

With a gay smile, “Sunny Lock” began her story.

“As I was painting the bright petals of a blue bell, it told me this tale.” …


The Frog Princess – A Russian Story, by Katharine Pyle

There was once a Tsar (king) who had three sons, and they were all dear to him, but the youngest, Ivan, was the dearest of them all.

When the Princes grew to manhood the Tsar began to talk and talk to them about getting married, but it so happened not one of the Princes had ever seen the girl he wished to have for a wife. There were many in the kingdom whom they might well have loved, but not one of them meant more to any of the Princes than another.

“Very well, then,” said the Tsar at last, “we will leave it to chance. Take your bows and arrows and come with me into the courtyard. You shall each shoot an arrow, and in whatever places your arrows fall, there shall you take your brides.”

The Princes were not greatly pleased with this plan, but still they dared not say no to their father. They took their bows and went with him into the courtyard.

First the eldest son shot his arrow, and he aimed it toward the east, where the sun rises. The arrow fell upon the balcony of a great nobleman’s house.

Well and good! The nobleman had a daughter, and she was so stately and handsome that the Prince was very glad to take her for a wife.

Then the second Prince shot an arrow and aimed it toward the west, where the sun is in its glory. He was no less lucky than his brother, for his arrow fell into the court of a rich merchant, and he also had a daughter who was a beauty. So the second son took her for a bride, and he was well content.

Last of all Prince Ivan shot his arrow, and he aimed neither toward the east nor the west, but straight up into the sky above him. Then a sudden gust of wind arose and caught the arrow and blew it away so that it fell in a great swamp. In this swamp were no rich nor beautiful ladies, but only a poor, green, croaking frog.

When the young Prince Ivan saw where his arrow had fallen he was in despair. “How can I marry a frog,” said he, “and have her rule with me as my Princess?”

“It is a great pity,” said the Tsar; “nevertheless what I have said I have said, and where your arrow fell there must you take your bride.”

So Prince Ivan was married to the frog, and the Tsar built a castle on the edge of the swamp for them to live in.

Now the Tsar was growing old, and he began to consider in his mind to which of his sons he would leave his kingdom. Gladly would he have left it to his youngest son, who was his favorite, but it did not seem right that a frog should ever rule over the kingdom as Queen.

At last he called the three Princes before him and said, “My sons, to-morrow let your wives bake me some soft white bread. I will eat of it, and in this way I will know which of you has the cleverest wife, and he who has the cleverest wife shall inherit my kingdom.”

After they had heard him the three Princes went away to their own homes, and Prince Ivan was very sad.

“What ails you, my dear husband,” said the frog, “that you hang your head and are so downcast?”

“It is no wonder I am downcast,” answered Prince Ivan. “My father has commanded that you shall make him a loaf of soft white bread to-morrow, and well I know that your webby fingers can never make bread that he would taste or even so much as look at.”

“Do not be too sure of that,” answered the frog. “Sleep in peace, and I promise that to-morrow I will provide a loaf that even the Tsar will be glad to eat of.”

The Prince did not believe this, but grief is heavy, so no sooner was he in bed than he fell into a deep sleep.

Then the frog arose from beside him and went into a far-off room and took off her frog-skin; for she was really a Princess who had been enchanted. She combed her hair and washed herself and then she went out on the balcony of the castle and cried, “Nurses dear, nurses dear, bring me a loaf of bread such as I used to have in the palace of my own dear father, the King.”

After she had called this three times three crows appeared, carrying among them a fine napkin embroidered with gold, and in this napkin was a loaf of bread. They laid the napkin before the Princess and bowed three times, croaking solemnly, and then they flew away again into the night.

The Princess took up the bread and went back into the room and put on her frog-skin again; after that she returned to her chamber and lay down beside her husband.

The next day when the Prince was ready to set out for the Tsar’s palace, the frog brought him the loaf of bread still wrapped in the napkin.

“Take this, dear husband,” said she, “and carry it to your father, the Tsar, but do not open it on the way lest the dust should spoil the fineness of the bread.”

The Prince took the loaf and rode away with it, but he could not forbear from peeping into the napkin to see what was there, and what he saw filled him with admiration and wonder. Quickly he rode on his way, and soon reached the Tsar’s palace.

The two older brothers were there, and each brought a loaf of fine white bread that his wife had made.

When Prince Ivan entered his brothers could not forbear from smiling. “Come!” said they, “show us quickly what kind of bread the Frog Princess has made. Does it smell of reeds and rushes?”

The young Prince made no answer but gave what he carried to his father.

When the Tsar saw the fineness of the napkin and the beautiful embroidery upon it he was very much surprised. But he was still more surprised when he opened the napkin and saw what it contained. Never before had he seen such bread. Not only was it soft and light and fine, but it was molded along the sides in cunning scenes, castles and cities, moats and bridges, and upon the top was the imprint of the royal eagle, perfect even to the claws and feathers.

The Tsar could not admire it enough. Still he was not willing to leave the kingdom to Prince Ivan and so make a queen of a frog.

“This is very beautiful, but a loaf of bread is soon eaten and forgotten,” said he. “I now wish each one of you to bring me a carpet to lay before my throne, and he who brings me the finest carpet, him will I make my heir.”

The Princes returned to their own homes, and the youngest one was very sad and sorrowful.

“What ails you, my dear husband?” asked the frog. “Why are you so downcast, and why do you hang your head. Was not the Tsar pleased with the bread you carried to him?”

“He was well pleased,” answered the Prince; “but now he has commanded each one of us to bring him a carpet, and to him who brings the finest carpet he will leave his kingdom. No wonder I am sad, for where, in this swamp, can I find a carpet such as I require?”

“Do not trouble yourself about that,” answered the frog. “Do you go and lie down and go quietly to sleep. I will supply you such a carpet as you need.”

The Prince did not believe her, but because grief is heavy he lay down and soon fell into a deep sleep.

Again as before the frog stole away to a distant chamber and laid aside her frog-skin. Then she went out on the balcony and cried aloud three times; “Nurses dear, nurses true, bring me a carpet such as lay before my bed in my own home.”

At once the three crows appeared, carrying among them a carpet rolled up and covered with a piece of embroidered velvet. They laid the roll before the Princess, bowed three times, and then flew away again.

The Princess carried the carpet back into the chamber and put on her frog-skin again, and then she went back and lay down quietly beside the Prince.

The next morning when the Prince was ready to set out, the frog brought the roll of carpet to him.

“Here,” said she; “carry this to your father, but do not open it upon the way lest the dust spoil its beauty.”

The Prince took the carpet and rode away. When he reached the Tsar’s palace his two brothers were already there, and each had brought with him a piece of carpet so fine and rich that it was difficult to say which of the two was the more beautiful.

When the older brothers saw Ivan they began to laugh. “Come!” said they. “Let us see what kind of a carpet he has brought from his swamp home. No doubt it is very wonderful.”

The Prince laid the roll of carpet upon the floor and opened it out and when they saw it every one was struck with wonder. The elder Princes had not a word to say. Never before had they seen such a carpet. Not only was it as thick and soft as eiderdown, but it shone with wondrous colors that changed as one looked at them, and it was embroidered with gold in strange designs.

The Tsar was filled with admiration. All the same he still was unwilling to have a frog reign in his kingdom.

“This is all very well,” said he, “and never before have I seen such a beautiful carpet. But now I wish you all to appear before me to-morrow with your wives. Let the Princesses wear their most beautiful dresses and their finest jewels, and whichever of you has the wife best fitted to be Queen, to him will I leave the kingdom.”

When the Prince Ivan heard this he was in despair. How could he ever bring the frog to court and present her to the Tsar as though she were a beautiful Princess?

When he went home the frog at once asked him why he was so sad and woebegone. “Is not the kingdom to be yours?” she asked.

“No,” answered the Prince, “for now my father, the Tsar, has demanded something else of us.” He then told her how the Tsar had bidden him and his brothers bring their wives to court, and had said that whichever of the Princesses was the finest and most beautiful should reign as Queen, and her husband should be the Tsar.

“Do not trouble over that,” said the frog. “Only go to bed and sleep quietly. The kingdom shall still be yours.”

Then the Prince went to bed, but he only closed his eyes and pretended to go to sleep, for he had grown very curious as to how the frog had been able to provide him with the wonderful loaf and the carpet.

The frog kept very still until she thought the Prince was asleep. Then she arose quietly from his side and slipped away, but the Prince also arose and followed her without her being aware of it. She went to the far-off chamber, and there she laid aside her frog-skin; and when the prince saw her in her human form he was amazed at her beauty, and his heart melted within him for love of her, for her hair was like spun gold, her eyes as blue as the sky, and her skin as white as milk. Never had he seen such a beauty.

The Princess went out on a balcony as she had before, and cried aloud three times, “Nurses dear, nurses true, bring me fine clothes and jewels to wear, richer than ever were seen before.”

At once the three crows appeared, carrying with them jewels and fine robes all encrusted with gems and embroidery. These they laid at the Princess’s feet and bowed three times, croaking hoarsely, and then they flew away.

The Princess took the robes and jewels back into the chamber to hide them, and while she was doing this Prince Ivan returned to his bed and lay down and closed his eyes as though he were asleep. When the frog came back she looked at him carefully, but he kept so still she never guessed that he had stirred from where he lay.

The next morning the frog bade Ivan ride away alone to the palace of the Tsar. “I will follow you,” she said, “and when you hear a great noise, say, ‘That is my little Froggie, driving up in her basket made of rushes.’”

The Prince promised to do this and then he rode away to the palace of the Tsar.

His brothers were already there, and their two wives were with them, both so handsome and so magnificently dressed that each looked finer than the other.

When Ivan came in they all began to laugh. “Where is thy dear frog?” they asked. “Is she still asleep among her reeds and rushes, or is she too hoarse to come?”

Even as they spoke there was a great noise outside,–a roaring and rumbling like thunder.

The palace shook until it seemed as though it would fall about their ears. Every one was terrified. Only Prince Ivan was calm.

“There is my little Froggie now,” he said; “she is driving up in her little basket of rushes.”

At once the noise ceased, the doors were flung open, and a magnificent Princess swept into the room. Never was such a beauty seen before. Her golden hair fell almost to the floor and was bound about with jewels. Her robes were stiff with embroidery and gems. The other Princesses paled before her as stars pale before the rising moon.

Prince Ivan took her by the hand and led her to the Tsar. “This is my dear Princess,” said he, “and surely it is she and she only who should reign over this land.”

Well, there were no two ways to that. The Tsar could hardly contain himself for joy over the beauty of Prince Ivan’s bride. A great feast was spread, and the Tsar himself led the Princess to the table. She sat at his right hand and drank from his jewelled cup, and all was joy and merriment. Only the older brothers and their wives were sad, for they knew they had missed all chance of gaining the kingdom.

Now while they were still at the table, all eating and drinking, Prince Ivan arose and made some excuse for leaving the room. He went quietly and mounted his horse and rode back to his own castle.

There he made haste to the room where his wife had left her frog-skin. He hunted about until he found it, and then he threw it into the fire, for he did not intend that she should ever hide herself away in it again.

At once a clap of thunder sounded, and the Princess stood before him. Her eyes were streaming with tears, and she wrung her hands in grief.

“Alas and woe is me!” she cried. “Why did you burn my frog-skin? A little longer, and I would have been free. Now I must go away and leave you forever.”

“But where are you going?” cried the Prince in despair. “Wherever it is I will follow and find you.”

“Seek me beyond the seven mountains, beyond the seven seas, in the kingdom of Koshchei the Deathless, for it is in his house I will be,” answered the Princess. Then she turned into a great white swan and flew out through the window and far, far away; so far the Prince could no longer see her.

Then Prince Ivan was filled with grief; and he neither stayed nor tarried but set out at once in search of his Princess.

He journeyed on and journeyed on a short way and a long way, and then he met an old man with a grey beard that hung down far below his belt.

“Good day, good youth,” said the old man.

“Good day, grandfather,” answered Ivan.

“Whither do you journey with so sad a face?” asked the stranger.

“I journey over land and over sea in search of the kingdom of Koshchei the Deathless,” answered Ivan.

“Then you have a long journey before you,” said the old man. “But why do you seek the kingdom of Koshchei the Deathless, that terrible man?”

“I seek it that I may find what is lost.” Then Ivan told the old man his story, all about his frog bride and how she had turned into a Princess,–how he had burned the frog-skin and how she had flown away as a swan, and that now life would be nothing but a burden to him until he could find her again.

The old man shook his head. “Alas! alas! You should never have burned the frog-skin!” he said. He then told Ivan that the name of the Princess was Vasilisa the Fair. “Her mother was the sister of Koshche the Deathless,” said the stranger, “and when she was born it was foretold that before she was eighteen Koshchei should lose his life because of her. It was for this reason that he changed her into a frog and set her in the midst of the lonely swamp. In a month and a day
from now the Princess would have been eighteen, and the danger to Koshchei would have been over. Then he would have allowed her to lay aside her frog-skin and take back her human shape. But now he is angry and has carried her away to his castle, and only by the grace of Heaven will you be able to find her and set her free.”

The old man then gave Prince Ivan a little ball. “Take this,” he said, “and roll it before you as you go. It will show you which way to travel, and with its help you may reach the kingdom of Koshchei.”

Ivan took the ball and thanked the old man and journeyed on. He rolled the ball before him, and in whichever direction it rolled he followed.

He went along and went along, until after a while he came to a forest, and there he saw a bear.

Prince Ivan would have shot it, but the bear cried to him, “Do not shoot me, Prince. Take me with you as a servant, and the time may come when I can help you.”

“Very well,” said the Prince. “Come with me”; so he journeyed on with the bear at his heels.

Presently he saw a wild duck and would have shot it, but the duck called to him, “Do not shoot me, dear Prince. Take me with you, and I will be a faithful servant. The time may come when you will need me.”

“Very well,” answered the Prince. “You also may come with us as a companion.”

So the Prince journeyed along with the bear at his heels and the duck flying overhead.

After a while they came to the edge of a river, and there lay a great fish, gasping out its life in the sunlight.

“Now at last I shall have a good meal,” said the Prince.

But the fish cried to him in a human voice, “Throw me back into the river, Prince, that I may live. The time may come when I can do you a good turn also.”

So the Prince had mercy on the fish and threw it back into the water.

After that he and his companions traveled on a long way. They journeyed over seven mountains and crossed seven seas, and so they came at last to the kingdom of Koshchei the Deathless.

There the Prince saw a little hut. It stood on hen’s legs and turned this way and that, whichever way the wind blew. There was no getting at the door. Then the Prince cried, “Little hut, stand the way my mother built you with your back away from me and your door before me.”

At once the hut whirled round and stood with the open door in front of him.

Prince Ivan entered in, and saw a bony-legged Baba Yaga lying on the stove with her grey hair over her face.

“Who are you? And what seek you here in the kingdom of Koshchei the Deathless?” she cried.

“Do not ask questions but rise up and give me food and drink,” said the Prince; “for I am both hungry and thirsty.”

The Baba Yaga arose and served him food and drink. He ate and gave part to the bear and the duck. Then he told the Baba Yaga why he had come there–that he was wandering in search of his dear wife, Vasilisa the Fair.

The old witch shook her head. “It will be a hard thing to rescue her,” she said. “Koshchei is very powerful. Only in one way can you overcome him. Not far from here stands a tree. It is as hard as rock, so that no ax can dent it, and so smooth that none can climb it. On the top of it is a nest. In the nest is an egg. A duck sits over the egg to guard it. In that egg is a needle, and only with that needle can you kill Koshchei the Deathless.”

The Baba Yaga then led Prince Ivan to the door and pointed out to him where the tree grew, and Prince Ivan hurried on toward it, with his two faithful servants, the bear and the duck.

But when he reached the tree he looked at it with despair. It was indeed very smooth and high,–as smooth as glass, and when he tried his hunting knife upon it the knife bent and crumpled in his hand.

“Master, now is the time that I can help you,” said the bear. He went to the tree and clasped it and shook it, so that its roots cracked, and it fell with a mighty noise.

At once the duck that was guarding the egg caught it up in its claws and flew away with it. But Ivan’s duck pursued so fiercely that the other was forced to drop the egg in order to defend itself.

Unfortunately they had both flown over a river, and into this river the egg dropped and was lost to sight.

Ivan sat down upon the bank of the river and wept. “Alas, alas!” he cried. “Now truly is my dear wife lost to me, for never can I recover the egg from the river.”

Hardly had he spoken when the fish he had thrown back into the river appeared, bearing the egg in its mouth.

Now Ivan’s grief was turned to rejoicing. He broke the egg and took out the needle. Then, with the little ball to lead him, he soon made his way to Koshchei’s palace.

The Deathless One rushed out to meet him, but Ivan attacked him with the point of the needle. It was in vain Koshchei tried to protect himself. Ivan drove the needle into him deeper and deeper, and presently Koshchei sank down dead before him, no better than a lump of clay.

Prince Ivan strode across him and on into the castle. From room to room he went, and in the deepest dungeon he found the Princess Vasilisa, his own dear wife. She threw herself into his arms, weeping with joy.

Then they went to Koshchei’s treasure room and took from it all the most precious jewels,–all that the faithful bear could carry they loaded upon his back and carried away with them.

After that they journeyed back to their own kingdom, and if any one was glad to see them it was the Tsar himself.

He built for them a castle close to his own, where they could not even see the swamp. There Ivan and his frog princess lived in the greatest love and happiness, and after the old Tsar’s death they themselves ruled over the kingdom as the Tsar and Tsaritsa.

The Talking Eggs – A Story from Louisiana, by Katharine Pyle

There was once a widow who had two daughters, one named Rose and the other Blanche.

Blanche was good and beautiful and gentle, but the mother cared nothing for her and gave her only hard words and harder blows; but she loved Rose as she loved the apple of her eye, because Rose was exactly like herself, coarse-looking, and with a bad temper and a sharp tongue.

Blanche was obliged to work all day, but Rose sat in a chair with folded hands as though she were a fine lady, with nothing in the world to do.

One day the mother sent Blanche to the well for a bucket of water. When she came to the well she saw an old woman sitting there. The woman was so very old that her nose and her chin met, and her cheeks were as wrinkled as a walnut.

“Good day to you, child,” said the old woman.

“Good day, auntie,” answered Blanche.

“Will you give me a drink of water?” asked the old woman.

“Gladly,” said Blanche. She drew the bucket full of water, and tilted it so the old woman could drink, but the crone lifted the bucket in her two hands as though it were a feather and drank and drank till the water was all gone. Blanche had never seen any one drink so much; not a drop was left in the bucket.

“May heaven bless you!” said the old woman, and then she went on her way.

And now Blanche had to fill the bucket again, and it seemed as though her arms would break, she was so tired.

When she went home her mother struck her because she had tarried so long at the well. Her blows made Blanche weep. Rose laughed when she saw her crying.

The very next day the mother became angry over nothing and gave Blanche such a beating that the girl ran away into the woods; she would not stay in the house any longer. She ran on and on, deeper and deeper into the forest, and there, in the deepest part, she met the old woman she had seen beside the well.

“Where are you going, my child? And why are you weeping so bitterly?” asked the crone.

“I am weeping because my mother beat me,” answered Blanche; “and now I have run away from her, and I do not know where to go.”

“Then come with me,” said the old woman. “I will give you a shelter and a bite to eat, and in return there is many a task you can do for me. Only, whatever you may see as we journey along together you must not laugh nor say anything about it.”

Blanche promised she would not, and then she trudged away at the old woman’s side.

After a while they came to a hedge so thick and wide and so set with thorns that Blanche did not see how they could pass it without being torn to pieces, but the old hag waved her staff, and the branches parted before them and left the path clear. Then, as they passed, the hedge closed together behind them.

Blanche wondered but said nothing.

A little further on they saw two axes fighting together with no hand to hold them. That seemed a curious thing, but still Blanche said nothing.

Further on were two arms that strove against each other without a sound. Still Blanche was silent.

Further on again two heads fought, butting each other like goats. Blanche looked and stared but said no word. Then the heads called to her. “You are a good girl, Blanche. Heaven will reward you.”

After that she and her companion came to the hut where the old woman lived. They went in, and the hag bade Blanche gather some sticks of wood and build a fire. Meanwhile she sat down beside the hearth and took off her head. She put it in her lap and began to comb her hair and twist it up.

Blanche was frightened, but she held her peace and built the fire as the old woman had directed. When it was burning the old woman put back her head in place, and told Blanche to look on the shelf behind the door. “There you will find a bone; put it on to boil for our dinners,” said she.

[Illustration: She sat down beside the hearth and took off her head.]

Blanche found the bone and put it on to boil, though it seemed a poor dinner.

The old woman gave her a grain of rice and bade her grind it in the mortar. Blanche put the rice in the mortar and ground it with the pestle, and before she had been grinding two minutes the mortar was full of rice, enough for both of them and to spare.

When it was time for dinner she looked in the pot and it was full of good, fresh meat. She and the old woman had all they could eat.

After dinner was over the old woman lay down on the bed. “Oh, my back! Oh, my poor back! How it does ache,” groaned she. “Come hither and rub it.”

Blanche came over and uncovered the old crone’s back, and she was surprised when she saw it; it was as hard and ridgy as a turtle’s. Still she said nothing but began to rub it. She rubbed and rubbed till the skin was all worn off her hand.

“That is good,” said the old woman. “Now I feel better.” She sat up and drew her clothes about her. Then she blew upon Blanche’s hand, and at once it was as well as ever.

Blanche stayed with the old woman for three days and served her well; she neither asked questions nor spoke of what she saw.

At the end of that time her mistress said to her, “My child, you have now been with me for three days, and I can keep you here no longer. You have served me well, and you shall not lack your reward. Go to the chicken-house and look in the nests. You will find there a number of eggs. Take all that say to you, ‘Take me,’ but those that say, ‘Do not take me,’ you must not touch.”

Blanche went out to the chicken-house and looked in the nests. There were ever so many eggs; some of them were large and beautiful and white and shining and so pretty that she longed to take them, but each time she stretched out her hand toward one it cried, “Do not take me.” Then she did not touch it. There were also some small, brown, muddy-looking eggs, and these called to her, “Take me!” So those were the ones she took.

When she came back to the house the old woman looked to see which ones she had taken. “You have done what was right,” said she, “and you will not regret it.” She then showed Blanche a path by which she could return to her own home without having to pass through the thorn hedge.

“As you go throw the eggs behind you,” she said, “and you will see what you shall see. One thing I can tell you, your mother will be glad enough to have you home again after that.”

Blanche thanked her for the eggs, though she did not think much of them, and started out. After she had gone a little way she threw one of the eggs over her shoulder. It broke on the path, and a whole bucket full of gold poured out from it. Blanche had never seen so much gold in all her life before.

She gathered it up in her apron and went a little farther, and then she threw another egg over her shoulder. When it broke a whole bucket full of diamonds poured out over the path. They fairly dazzled the eyes, they were so bright and sparkling.

Blanche gathered them up, and went on farther, and threw another egg over her shoulder. Out from it came all sorts of fine clothes, embroidered and set all over with gems. Blanche put them on, and then she looked like the most beautiful princess that ever was seen.

She threw the last egg over her shoulder, and there stood a magnificent golden coach drawn by four white horses, and with coachman and footman all complete. Blanche stepped into the coach, and away they rolled to the door of her mother’s house without her ever having to give an order or speak a word.

When her mother and sister heard the coach draw up at the door they ran out to see who was coming. There sat Blanche in the coach, all dressed in fine clothes, and with her lap full of gold and diamonds.

Her mother welcomed her in and then began to question her as to how she had become so rich and fine. It did not take her long to learn the whole story.

Nothing would satisfy her but that Rose should go out into the forest, and find the old woman, and get her to take her home with her as a servant.

Rose grumbled and muttered, for she was a lazy girl and had no wish to work for any one, whatever the reward, and she would rather have sat at home and dozed; but her mother pushed her out of the door, and so she had to go.

She slouched along through the forest, and presently she met the old woman. “Will you take me home with you for a servant?” asked Rose.

“Come with me if you will,” said the old woman, “but whatever you may see do not laugh nor say anything about it.”

“I am a great laugher,” said Rose, and then she walked along with the old woman through the forest.

Presently they came to the thorn hedge, and it opened before them just as it had when Blanche had journeyed there. “That is a good thing,” said Rose. “If it had not done that, not a step farther would I have gone.”

Soon they came to the place where the axes were fighting. Rose looked and stared, and then she began to laugh.

A little later they came to where the arms were striving together, and at that Rose laughed harder still. But when she came to where the heads were butting each other, she laughed hardest of all. Then the heads opened their mouths and spoke to her. “Evil you are, and evil you will be, and no luck will come through your laughter.”

Soon after they arrived at the old woman’s house. She pushed open the door, and they went in. The crone bade Rose gather sticks and build a fire; she herself sat down by the hearth, and took off her head, and began to comb and plait her hair.

Rose stood and looked and laughed. “What a stupid old woman you are,” she said, “to take off your head to comb your hair!” and she laughed and laughed.

The old woman was very angry. Still she did not say anything. She put on her head and made up the fire herself. Rose would not do anything. She would not even put the pot on the fire. She was as lazy at the old woman’s house as she was at home, and the old crone was obliged to do the work herself. At the end of three days she said to Rose. “Now you must go home, for you are of no use to anybody, and I will keep you here no longer.”

“Very well,” said Rose. “I am willing enough to go, but first pay me my wages.”

“Very well,” said the old woman. “I will pay you. Go out to the chicken-house and look for eggs. All the eggs that say, ‘Take me’, you may have, but if they say, ‘Do not take me’, then you must not touch them.”

Rose went out to the chicken-house and hunted about and soon found the eggs. Some were large and beautiful and white, and of these she gathered up an apronful, though they cried to her ever so loudly, “Do not take me.” Some of the eggs were small and ugly and brown. “Take me! Take me!” they cried.

“A pretty thing if I were to take you,” she cried. “You are fit for nothing but to be thrown out on the hillside.”

She did not return to the hut to thank the old woman or bid her good-by but set off for home the way she had come. When she reached the thorn thicket it had closed together again. She had to force her way through, and the thorns scratched her face and hands and almost tore the clothes off her back. Still she comforted herself with the thought of all the riches she would get out of the eggs.

She went a little farther, and then she took the eggs out of her apron. “Now I will have a fine coach to travel in the rest of the way,” said she, “and gay clothes and diamonds and money,” and she threw the eggs down in the path, and they all broke at once. But no clothes, nor jewels, nor fine coach, nor horses came out of them. Instead snakes and toads sprang forth, and all sorts of filth that covered her up to her knees and bespattered her clothing.

Rose shrieked and ran, and the snakes and toads pursued her, spitting venom, and the filth rolled after her like a tide.

She reached her mother’s house, and burst open the door, and ran in, closing it behind her. “Look what Blanche has brought on me,” she sobbed. “This is all her fault.”

The mother looked at her and saw the filth, and she was so angry she would not listen to a word Blanche said. She picked up a stick to beat her, but Blanche ran away out of the house and into the forest. She did not stop for her clothes or her jewels or anything.

She had not gone very far before she heard a noise behind her. She looked over her shoulder, and there was her golden coach rolling after her. Blanche waited until it caught up to her, and then she opened the door and stepped inside, and there were all her diamonds and gold lying in a heap. Her mother and Rose had not been able to keep any of them.

Blanche rode along for a long while, and then she came to a grand castle, and the King and Queen of the country lived there. The coach drew up at the door, and every one came running out to greet her. They thought she must be some great Princess come to visit them, but Blanche told them she was not a Princess, but only the daughter of a poor widow, and that all the fine things she had, had come out of some eggs an old woman had given her.

When the people heard this they were very much surprised. They took her in to see the King and Queen, and the King and Queen made her welcome. She told them her story, and they were so sorry for her they declared she should live there with them always and be as a daughter to them.

So Blanche became a grand lady, and after a while she was married to the Prince, the son of the old King and Queen, and she was beloved by all because she was so good and gentle.

But when Blanche’s mother and sister heard of the good fortune that had come to her, and how she had become the bride of the Prince, they were ready to burst with rage and spite. Moreover they turned quite green with envy, and green they may have remained to the end of their lives, for all that I know to the contrary.

The Elderbush, by Hans Christian Andersen


Once upon a time there was a little boy who had taken cold. He had gone out and got his feet wet; though nobody could imagine how it had happened, for it was quite dry weather. So his mother undressed him, put him to bed, and had the tea-pot brought in, to make him a good cup of Elderflower tea. Just at that moment the merry old man came in who lived up a-top of the house all alone; for he had neither wife nor children—but he liked children very much, and knew so many fairy tales, that it was quite delightful.

“Now drink your tea,” said the boy’s mother; “then, perhaps, you may hear a fairy tale.”

“If I had but something new to tell,” said the old man. “But how did the child get his feet wet?”

“That is the very thing that nobody can make out,” said his mother.

“Am I to hear a fairy tale?” asked the little boy.

“Yes, if you can tell me exactly—for I must know that first—how deep the gutter is in the little street opposite, that you pass through in going to school.”

“Just up to the middle of my boot,” said the child; “but then I must go into the deep hole.”

“Ah, ah! That’s where the wet feet came from,” said the old man. “I ought now to tell you a story; but I don’t know any more.”

“You can make one in a moment,” said the little boy. “My mother says that all you look at can be turned into a fairy tale: and that you can find a story in everything.”

“Yes, but such tales and stories are good for nothing. The right sort come of themselves; they tap at my forehead and say, ‘Here we are.’”

“Won’t there be a tap soon?” asked the little boy. And his mother laughed, put some Elder-flowers in the tea-pot, and poured boiling water upon them.

“Do tell me something! Pray do!”

“Yes, if a fairy tale would come of its own accord; but they are proud and haughty, and come only when they choose. Stop!” said he, all on a sudden. “I have it! Pay attention! There is one in the tea-pot!”

And the little boy looked at the tea-pot. The cover rose more and more; and the Elder-flowers came forth so fresh and white, and shot up long branches. Out of the spout even did they spread themselves on all sides, and grew larger and larger; it was a splendid Elderbush, a whole tree; and it reached into the very bed, and pushed the curtains aside. How it bloomed! And what an odour! In the middle of the bush sat a friendly-looking old woman in a most strange dress. It was quite green, like the leaves of the elder, and was trimmed with large white Elder-flowers; so that at first one could not tell whether it was a stuff, or a natural green and real flowers.

“What’s that woman’s name?” asked the little boy.

“The Greeks and Romans,” said the old man, “called her a Dryad; but that we do not understand. The people who live in the New Booths [*] have a much better name for her; they call her ‘old Granny’—and she it is to whom you are to pay attention. Now listen, and look at the beautiful Elderbush.

* A row of buildings for seamen in Copenhagen.

“Just such another large blooming Elder Tree stands near the New Booths. It grew there in the corner of a little miserable court-yard; and under it sat, of an afternoon, in the most splendid sunshine, two old people; an old, old seaman, and his old, old wife. They had great-grand-children, and were soon to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of their marriage; but they could not exactly recollect the date: and old Granny sat in the tree, and looked as pleased as now. ‘I know the date,’ said she; but those below did not hear her, for they were talking about old times.

“‘Yes, can’t you remember when we were very little,’ said the old seaman, ‘and ran and played about? It was the very same court-yard where we now are, and we stuck slips in the ground, and made a garden.’

“‘I remember it well,’ said the old woman; ‘I remember it quite well. We watered the slips, and one of them was an Elderbush. It took root, put forth green shoots, and grew up to be the large tree under which we old folks are now sitting.’

“‘To be sure,’ said he. ‘And there in the corner stood a waterpail, where I used to swim my boats.’

“‘True; but first we went to school to learn somewhat,’ said she; ‘and then we were confirmed. We both cried; but in the afternoon we went up the Round Tower, and looked down on Copenhagen, and far, far away over the water; then we went to Friedericksberg, where the King and the Queen were sailing about in their splendid barges.’

“‘But I had a different sort of sailing to that, later; and that, too, for many a year; a long way off, on great voyages.’

“‘Yes, many a time have I wept for your sake,’ said she. ‘I thought you were dead and gone, and lying down in the deep waters. Many a night have I got up to see if the wind had not changed: and changed it had, sure enough; but you never came. I remember so well one day, when the rain was pouring down in torrents, the scavengers were before the house where I was in service, and I had come up with the dust, and remained standing at the door—it was dreadful weather—when just as I was there, the postman came and gave me a letter. It was from you! What a tour that letter had made! I opened it instantly and read: I laughed and wept. I was so happy. In it I read that you were in warm lands where the coffee-tree grows. What a blessed land that must be! You related so much, and I saw it all the while the rain was pouring down, and I standing there with the dust-box. At the same moment came someone who embraced me.’

“‘Yes; but you gave him a good box on his ear that made it tingle!’

“‘But I did not know it was you. You arrived as soon as your letter, and you were so handsome—that you still are—and had a long yellow silk handkerchief round your neck, and a bran new hat on; oh, you were so dashing! Good heavens! What weather it was, and what a state the street was in!’

“‘And then we married,’ said he. ‘Don’t you remember? And then we had our first little boy, and then Mary, and Nicholas, and Peter, and Christian.’

“‘Yes, and how they all grew up to be honest people, and were beloved by everybody.’

“‘And their children also have children,’ said the old sailor; ‘yes, those are our grand-children, full of strength and vigor. It was, methinks about this season that we had our wedding.’

“‘Yes, this very day is the fiftieth anniversary of the marriage,’ said old Granny, sticking her head between the two old people; who thought it was their neighbor who nodded to them. They looked at each other and held one another by the hand. Soon after came their children, and their grand-children; for they knew well enough that it was the day of the fiftieth anniversary, and had come with their gratulations that very morning; but the old people had forgotten it, although they were able to remember all that had happened many years ago. And the Elderbush sent forth a strong odour in the sun, that was just about to set, and shone right in the old people’s faces. They both looked so rosy-cheeked; and the youngest of the grandchildren danced around them, and called out quite delighted, that there was to be something very splendid that evening—they were all to have hot potatoes. And old Nanny nodded in the bush, and shouted ‘hurrah!’ with the rest.”

“But that is no fairy tale,” said the little boy, who was listening to the story.

“The thing is, you must understand it,” said the narrator; “let us ask old Nanny.”

“That was no fairy tale, ’tis true,” said old Nanny; “but now it’s coming. The most wonderful fairy tales grow out of that which is reality; were that not the case, you know, my magnificent Elderbush could not have grown out of the tea-pot.” And then she took the little boy out of bed, laid him on her bosom, and the branches of the Elder Tree, full of flowers, closed around her. They sat in an aerial dwelling, and it flew with them through the air. Oh, it was wondrous beautiful! Old Nanny had grown all of a sudden a young and pretty maiden; but her robe was still the same green stuff with white flowers, which she had worn before. On her bosom she had a real Elderflower, and in her yellow waving hair a wreath of the flowers; her eyes were so large and blue that it was a pleasure to look at them; she kissed the boy, and now they were of the same age and felt alike.

Hand in hand they went out of the bower, and they were standing in the beautiful garden of their home. Near the green lawn papa’s walking-stick was tied, and for the little ones it seemed to be endowed with life; for as soon as they got astride it, the round polished knob was turned into a magnificent neighing head, a long black mane fluttered in the breeze, and four slender yet strong legs shot out. The animal was strong and handsome, and away they went at full gallop round the lawn.

“Huzza! Now we are riding miles off,” said the boy. “We are riding away to the castle where we were last year!”

And on they rode round the grass-plot; and the little maiden, who, we know, was no one else but old Nanny, kept on crying out, “Now we are in the country! Don’t you see the farm-house yonder? And there is an Elder Tree standing beside it; and the cock is scraping away the earth for the hens, look, how he struts! And now we are close to the church. It lies high upon the hill, between the large oak-trees, one of which is half decayed. And now we are by the smithy, where the fire is blazing, and where the half-naked men are banging with their hammers till the sparks fly about. Away! away! To the beautiful country-seat!”

And all that the little maiden, who sat behind on the stick, spoke of, flew by in reality. The boy saw it all, and yet they were only going round the grass-plot. Then they played in a side avenue, and marked out a little garden on the earth; and they took Elder-blossoms from their hair, planted them, and they grew just like those the old people planted when they were children, as related before. They went hand in hand, as the old people had done when they were children; but not to the Round Tower, or to Friedericksberg; no, the little damsel wound her arms round the boy, and then they flew far away through all Denmark. And spring came, and summer; and then it was autumn, and then winter; and a thousand pictures were reflected in the eye and in the heart of the boy; and the little girl always sang to him, “This you will never forget.” And during their whole flight the Elder Tree smelt so sweet and odorous; he remarked the roses and the fresh beeches, but the Elder Tree had a more wondrous fragrance, for its flowers hung on the breast of the little maiden; and there, too, did he often lay his head during the flight.

“It is lovely here in spring!” said the young maiden. And they stood in a beech-wood that had just put on its first green, where the woodroof [*] at their feet sent forth its fragrance, and the pale-red anemony looked so pretty among the verdure. “Oh, would it were always spring in the sweetly-smelling Danish beech-forests!”

* Asperula odorata.

“It is lovely here in summer!” said she. And she flew past old castles of by-gone days of chivalry, where the red walls and the embattled gables were mirrored in the canal, where the swans were swimming, and peered up into the old cool avenues. In the fields the corn was waving like the sea; in the ditches red and yellow flowers were growing; while wild-drone flowers, and blooming convolvuluses were creeping in the hedges; and towards evening the moon rose round and large, and the haycocks in the meadows smelt so sweetly. “This one never forgets!”

“It is lovely here in autumn!” said the little maiden. And suddenly the atmosphere grew as blue again as before; the forest grew red, and green, and yellow-colored. The dogs came leaping along, and whole flocks of wild-fowl flew over the cairn, where blackberry-bushes were hanging round the old stones. The sea was dark blue, covered with ships full of white sails; and in the barn old women, maidens, and children were sitting picking hops into a large cask; the young sang songs, but the old told fairy tales of mountain-sprites and soothsayers. Nothing could be more charming.

“It is delightful here in winter!” said the little maiden. And all the trees were covered with hoar-frost; they looked like white corals; the snow crackled under foot, as if one had new boots on; and one falling star after the other was seen in the sky. The Christmas-tree was lighted in the room; presents were there, and good-humor reigned. In the country the violin sounded in the room of the peasant; the newly-baked cakes were attacked; even the poorest child said, “It is really delightful here in winter!”

Yes, it was delightful; and the little maiden showed the boy everything; and the Elder Tree still was fragrant, and the red flag, with the white cross, was still waving: the flag under which the old seaman in the New Booths had sailed. And the boy grew up to be a lad, and was to go forth in the wide world-far, far away to warm lands, where the coffee-tree grows; but at his departure the little maiden took an Elder-blossom from her bosom, and gave it him to keep; and it was placed between the leaves of his Prayer-Book; and when in foreign lands he opened the book, it was always at the place where the keepsake-flower lay; and the more he looked at it, the fresher it became; he felt as it were, the fragrance of the Danish groves; and from among the leaves of the flowers he could distinctly see the little maiden, peeping forth with her bright blue eyes—and then she whispered, “It is delightful here in Spring, Summer, Autumn, and Winter”; and a hundred visions glided before his mind.

Thus passed many years, and he was now an old man, and sat with his old wife under the blooming tree. They held each other by the hand, as the old grand-father and grand-mother yonder in the New Booths did, and they talked exactly like them of old times, and of the fiftieth anniversary of their wedding. The little maiden, with the blue eyes, and with Elder-blossoms in her hair, sat in the tree, nodded to both of them, and said, “To-day is the fiftieth anniversary!” And then she took two flowers out of her hair, and kissed them. First, they shone like silver, then like gold; and when they laid them on the heads of the old people, each flower became a golden crown. So there they both sat, like a king and a queen, under the fragrant tree, that looked exactly like an elder: the old man told his wife the story of “Old Nanny,” as it had been told him when a boy. And it seemed to both of them it contained much that resembled their own history; and those parts that were like it pleased them best.

“Thus it is,” said the little maiden in the tree, “some call me ‘Old Nanny,’ others a ‘Dryad,’ but, in reality, my name is ‘Remembrance’; ’tis I who sit in the tree that grows and grows! I can remember; I can tell things! Let me see if you have my flower still?”

And the old man opened his Prayer-Book. There lay the Elder-blossom, as fresh as if it had been placed there but a short time before; and Remembrance nodded, and the old people, decked with crowns of gold, sat in the flush of the evening sun. They closed their eyes, and—and—! Yes, that’s the end of the story!

The little boy lay in his bed; he did not know if he had dreamed or not, or if he had been listening while someone told him the story. The tea-pot was standing on the table, but no Elder Tree was growing out of it! And the old man, who had been talking, was just on the point of going out at the door, and he did go.

“How splendid that was!” said the little boy. “Mother, I have been to warm countries.”

“So I should think,” said his mother. “When one has drunk two good cupfuls of Elder-flower tea, ’tis likely enough one goes into warm climates”; and she tucked him up nicely, least he should take cold. “You have had a good sleep while I have been sitting here, and arguing with him whether it was a story or a fairy tale.”

“And where is old Nanny?” asked the little boy.

“In the tea-pot,” said his mother; “and there she may remain.”

The Snow Queen, by Hans Christian Andersen

FIRST STORY. Which Treats of a Mirror and of the Splinters

Now then, let us begin. When we are at the end of the story, we shall know more than we know now: but to begin.

Once upon a time there was a wicked sprite, indeed he was the most mischievous of all sprites. One day he was in a very good humor, for he had made a mirror with the power of causing all that was good and beautiful when it was reflected therein, to look poor and mean; but that which was good-for-nothing and looked ugly was shown magnified and increased in ugliness. In this mirror the most beautiful landscapes looked like boiled spinach, and the best persons were turned into frights, or appeared to stand on their heads; their faces were so distorted that they were not to be recognised; and if anyone had a mole, you might be sure that it would be magnified and spread over both nose and mouth.

“That’s glorious fun!” said the sprite. If a good thought passed through a man’s mind, then a grin was seen in the mirror, and the sprite laughed heartily at his clever discovery. All the little sprites who went to his school—for he kept a sprite school—told each other that a miracle had happened; and that now only, as they thought, it would be possible to see how the world really looked. They ran about with the mirror; and at last there was not a land or a person who was not represented distorted in the mirror. So then they thought they would fly up to the sky, and have a joke there. The higher they flew with the mirror, the more terribly it grinned: they could hardly hold it fast. Higher and higher still they flew, nearer and nearer to the stars, when suddenly the mirror shook so terribly with grinning, that it flew out of their hands and fell to the earth, where it was dashed in a hundred million and more pieces. And now it worked much more evil than before; for some of these pieces were hardly so large as a grain of sand, and they flew about in the wide world, and when they got into people’s eyes, there they stayed; and then people saw everything perverted, or only had an eye for that which was evil. This happened because the very smallest bit had the same power which the whole mirror had possessed. Some persons even got a splinter in their heart, and then it made one shudder, for their heart became like a lump of ice. Some of the broken pieces were so large that they were used for windowpanes, through which one could not see one’s friends. Other pieces were put in spectacles; and that was a sad affair when people put on their glasses to see well and rightly. Then the wicked sprite laughed till he almost choked, for all this tickled his fancy. The fine splinters still flew about in the air: and now we shall hear what happened next.

SECOND STORY. A Little Boy and a Little Girl

In a large town, where there are so many houses, and so many people, that there is no roof left for everybody to have a little garden; and where, on this account, most persons are obliged to content themselves with flowers in pots; there lived two little children, who had a garden somewhat larger than a flower-pot. They were not brother and sister; but they cared for each other as much as if they were. Their parents lived exactly opposite. They inhabited two garrets; and where the roof of the one house joined that of the other, and the gutter ran along the extreme end of it, there was to each house a small window: one needed only to step over the gutter to get from one window to the other.

The children’s parents had large wooden boxes there, in which vegetables for the kitchen were planted, and little rosetrees besides: there was a rose in each box, and they grew splendidly. They now thought of placing the boxes across the gutter, so that they nearly reached from one window to the other, and looked just like two walls of flowers. The tendrils of the peas hung down over the boxes; and the rose-trees shot up long branches, twined round the windows, and then bent towards each other: it was almost like a triumphant arch of foliage and flowers. The boxes were very high, and the children knew that they must not creep over them; so they often obtained permission to get out of the windows to each other, and to sit on their little stools among the roses, where they could play delightfully. In winter there was an end of this pleasure. The windows were often frozen over; but then they heated copper farthings on the stove, and laid the hot farthing on the windowpane, and then they had a capital peep-hole, quite nicely rounded; and out of each peeped a gentle friendly eye—it was the little boy and the little girl who were looking out. His name was Kay, hers was Gerda. In summer, with one jump, they could get to each other; but in winter they were obliged first to go down the long stairs, and then up the long stairs again: and out-of-doors there was quite a snow-storm.

“It is the white bees that are swarming,” said Kay’s old grandmother.

“Do the white bees choose a queen?” asked the little boy; for he knew that the honey-bees always have one.

“Yes,” said the grandmother, “she flies where the swarm hangs in the thickest clusters. She is the largest of all; and she can never remain quietly on the earth, but goes up again into the black clouds. Many a winter’s night she flies through the streets of the town, and peeps in at the windows; and they then freeze in so wondrous a manner that they look like flowers.”

“Yes, I have seen it,” said both the children; and so they knew that it was true.

“Can the Snow Queen come in?” said the little girl.

“Only let her come in!” said the little boy. “Then I’d put her on the stove, and she’d melt.”

And then his grandmother patted his head and told him other stories.

In the evening, when little Kay was at home, and half undressed, he climbed up on the chair by the window, and peeped out of the little hole. A few snow-flakes were falling, and one, the largest of all, remained lying on the edge of a flower-pot.

The flake of snow grew larger and larger; and at last it was like a young lady, dressed in the finest white gauze, made of a million little flakes like stars. She was so beautiful and delicate, but she was of ice, of dazzling, sparkling ice; yet she lived; her eyes gazed fixedly, like two stars; but there was neither quiet nor repose in them. She nodded towards the window, and beckoned with her hand. The little boy was frightened, and jumped down from the chair; it seemed to him as if, at the same moment, a large bird flew past the window.

The next day it was a sharp frost—and then the spring came; the sun shone, the green leaves appeared, the swallows built their nests, the windows were opened, and the little children again sat in their pretty garden, high up on the leads at the top of the house.

That summer the roses flowered in unwonted beauty. The little girl had learned a hymn, in which there was something about roses; and then she thought of her own flowers; and she sang the verse to the little boy, who then sang it with her:

“The rose in the valley is blooming so sweet,
And angels descend there the children to greet.”

And the children held each other by the hand, kissed the roses, looked up at the clear sunshine, and spoke as though they really saw angels there. What lovely summer-days those were! How delightful to be out in the air, near the fresh rose-bushes, that seem as if they would never finish blossoming!

Kay and Gerda looked at the picture-book full of beasts and of birds; and it was then—the clock in the church-tower was just striking five—that Kay said, “Oh! I feel such a sharp pain in my heart; and now something has got into my eye!”

The little girl put her arms around his neck. He winked his eyes; now there was nothing to be seen.

“I think it is out now,” said he; but it was not. It was just one of those pieces of glass from the magic mirror that had got into his eye; and poor Kay had got another piece right in his heart. It will soon become like ice. It did not hurt any longer, but there it was.

“What are you crying for?” asked he. “You look so ugly! There’s nothing the matter with me. Ah,” said he at once, “that rose is cankered! And look, this one is quite crooked! After all, these roses are very ugly! They are just like the box they are planted in!” And then he gave the box a good kick with his foot, and pulled both the roses up.

“What are you doing?” cried the little girl; and as he perceived her fright, he pulled up another rose, got in at the window, and hastened off from dear little Gerda.

Afterwards, when she brought her picture-book, he asked, “What horrid beasts have you there?” And if his grandmother told them stories, he always interrupted her; besides, if he could manage it, he would get behind her, put on her spectacles, and imitate her way of speaking; he copied all her ways, and then everybody laughed at him. He was soon able to imitate the gait and manner of everyone in the street. Everything that was peculiar and displeasing in them—that Kay knew how to imitate: and at such times all the people said, “The boy is certainly very clever!” But it was the glass he had got in his eye; the glass that was sticking in his heart, which made him tease even little Gerda, whose whole soul was devoted to him.

His games now were quite different to what they had formerly been, they were so very knowing. One winter’s day, when the flakes of snow were flying about, he spread the skirts of his blue coat, and caught the snow as it fell.

“Look through this glass, Gerda,” said he. And every flake seemed larger, and appeared like a magnificent flower, or beautiful star; it was splendid to look at!

“Look, how clever!” said Kay. “That’s much more interesting than real flowers! They are as exact as possible; there is not a fault in them, if they did not melt!”

It was not long after this, that Kay came one day with large gloves on, and his little sledge at his back, and bawled right into Gerda’s ears, “I have permission to go out into the square where the others are playing”; and off he was in a moment.

There, in the market-place, some of the boldest of the boys used to tie their sledges to the carts as they passed by, and so they were pulled along, and got a good ride. It was so capital! Just as they were in the very height of their amusement, a large sledge passed by: it was painted quite white, and there was someone in it wrapped up in a rough white mantle of fur, with a rough white fur cap on his head. The sledge drove round the square twice, and Kay tied on his sledge as quickly as he could, and off he drove with it. On they went quicker and quicker into the next street; and the person who drove turned round to Kay, and nodded to him in a friendly manner, just as if they knew each other. Every time he was going to untie his sledge, the person nodded to him, and then Kay sat quiet; and so on they went till they came outside the gates of the town. Then the snow began to fall so thickly that the little boy could not see an arm’s length before him, but still on he went: when suddenly he let go the string he held in his hand in order to get loose from the sledge, but it was of no use; still the little vehicle rushed on with the quickness of the wind. He then cried as loud as he could, but no one heard him; the snow drifted and the sledge flew on, and sometimes it gave a jerk as though they were driving over hedges and ditches. He was quite frightened, and he tried to repeat the Lord’s Prayer; but all he could do, he was only able to remember the multiplication table.

The snow-flakes grew larger and larger, till at last they looked just like great white fowls. Suddenly they flew on one side; the large sledge stopped, and the person who drove rose up. It was a lady; her cloak and cap were of snow. She was tall and of slender figure, and of a dazzling whiteness. It was the Snow Queen.

“We have travelled fast,” said she; “but it is freezingly cold. Come under my bearskin.” And she put him in the sledge beside her, wrapped the fur round him, and he felt as though he were sinking in a snow-wreath.

“Are you still cold?” asked she; and then she kissed his forehead. Ah! it was colder than ice; it penetrated to his very heart, which was already almost a frozen lump; it seemed to him as if he were about to die—but a moment more and it was quite congenial to him, and he did not remark the cold that was around him.

“My sledge! Do not forget my sledge!” It was the first thing he thought of. It was there tied to one of the white chickens, who flew along with it on his back behind the large sledge. The Snow Queen kissed Kay once more, and then he forgot little Gerda, grandmother, and all whom he had left at his home.

“Now you will have no more kisses,” said she, “or else I should kiss you to death!”

Kay looked at her. She was very beautiful; a more clever, or a more lovely countenance he could not fancy to himself; and she no longer appeared of ice as before, when she sat outside the window, and beckoned to him; in his eyes she was perfect, he did not fear her at all, and told her that he could calculate in his head and with fractions, even; that he knew the number of square miles there were in the different countries, and how many inhabitants they contained; and she smiled while he spoke. It then seemed to him as if what he knew was not enough, and he looked upwards in the large huge empty space above him, and on she flew with him; flew high over the black clouds, while the storm moaned and whistled as though it were singing some old tune. On they flew over woods and lakes, over seas, and many lands; and beneath them the chilling storm rushed fast, the wolves howled, the snow crackled; above them flew large screaming crows, but higher up appeared the moon, quite large and bright; and it was on it that Kay gazed during the long long winter’s night; while by day he slept at the feet of the Snow Queen.

THIRD STORY. Of the Flower-Garden At the Old Woman’s Who Understood Witchcraft

But what became of little Gerda when Kay did not return? Where could he be? Nobody knew; nobody could give any intelligence. All the boys knew was, that they had seen him tie his sledge to another large and splendid one, which drove down the street and out of the town. Nobody knew where he was; many sad tears were shed, and little Gerda wept long and bitterly; at last she said he must be dead; that he had been drowned in the river which flowed close to the town. Oh! those were very long and dismal winter evenings!

At last spring came, with its warm sunshine.

“Kay is dead and gone!” said little Gerda.

“That I don’t believe,” said the Sunshine.

“Kay is dead and gone!” said she to the Swallows.

“That I don’t believe,” said they: and at last little Gerda did not think so any longer either.

“I’ll put on my red shoes,” said she, one morning; “Kay has never seen them, and then I’ll go down to the river and ask there.”

It was quite early; she kissed her old grandmother, who was still asleep, put on her red shoes, and went alone to the river.

“Is it true that you have taken my little playfellow? I will make you a present of my red shoes, if you will give him back to me.”

And, as it seemed to her, the blue waves nodded in a strange manner; then she took off her red shoes, the most precious things she possessed, and threw them both into the river. But they fell close to the bank, and the little waves bore them immediately to land; it was as if the stream would not take what was dearest to her; for in reality it had not got little Kay; but Gerda thought that she had not thrown the shoes out far enough, so she clambered into a boat which lay among the rushes, went to the farthest end, and threw out the shoes. But the boat was not fastened, and the motion which she occasioned, made it drift from the shore. She observed this, and hastened to get back; but before she could do so, the boat was more than a yard from the land, and was gliding quickly onward.

Little Gerda was very frightened, and began to cry; but no one heard her except the sparrows, and they could not carry her to land; but they flew along the bank, and sang as if to comfort her, “Here we are! Here we are!” The boat drifted with the stream, little Gerda sat quite still without shoes, for they were swimming behind the boat, but she could not reach them, because the boat went much faster than they did.

The banks on both sides were beautiful; lovely flowers, venerable trees, and slopes with sheep and cows, but not a human being was to be seen.

“Perhaps the river will carry me to little Kay,” said she; and then she grew less sad. She rose, and looked for many hours at the beautiful green banks. Presently she sailed by a large cherry-orchard, where was a little cottage with curious red and blue windows; it was thatched, and before it two wooden soldiers stood sentry, and presented arms when anyone went past.

Gerda called to them, for she thought they were alive; but they, of course, did not answer. She came close to them, for the stream drifted the boat quite near the land.

Gerda called still louder, and an old woman then came out of the cottage, leaning upon a crooked stick. She had a large broad-brimmed hat on, painted with the most splendid flowers.

“Poor little child!” said the old woman. “How did you get upon the large rapid river, to be driven about so in the wide world!” And then the old woman went into the water, caught hold of the boat with her crooked stick, drew it to the bank, and lifted little Gerda out.

And Gerda was so glad to be on dry land again; but she was rather afraid of the strange old woman.

“But come and tell me who you are, and how you came here,” said she.

And Gerda told her all; and the old woman shook her head and said, “A-hem! a-hem!” and when Gerda had told her everything, and asked her if she had not seen little Kay, the woman answered that he had not passed there, but he no doubt would come; and she told her not to be cast down, but taste her cherries, and look at her flowers, which were finer than any in a picture-book, each of which could tell a whole story. She then took Gerda by the hand, led her into the little cottage, and locked the door.

The windows were very high up; the glass was red, blue, and green, and the sunlight shone through quite wondrously in all sorts of colors. On the table stood the most exquisite cherries, and Gerda ate as many as she chose, for she had permission to do so. While she was eating, the old woman combed her hair with a golden comb, and her hair curled and shone with a lovely golden color around that sweet little face, which was so round and so like a rose.

“I have often longed for such a dear little girl,” said the old woman. “Now you shall see how well we agree together”; and while she combed little Gerda’s hair, the child forgot her foster-brother Kay more and more, for the old woman understood magic; but she was no evil being, she only practised witchcraft a little for her own private amusement, and now she wanted very much to keep little Gerda. She therefore went out in the garden, stretched out her crooked stick towards the rose-bushes, which, beautifully as they were blowing, all sank into the earth and no one could tell where they had stood. The old woman feared that if Gerda should see the roses, she would then think of her own, would remember little Kay, and run away from her.

She now led Gerda into the flower-garden. Oh, what odour and what loveliness was there! Every flower that one could think of, and of every season, stood there in fullest bloom; no picture-book could be gayer or more beautiful. Gerda jumped for joy, and played till the sun set behind the tall cherry-tree; she then had a pretty bed, with a red silken coverlet filled with blue violets. She fell asleep, and had as pleasant dreams as ever a queen on her wedding-day.

The next morning she went to play with the flowers in the warm sunshine, and thus passed away a day. Gerda knew every flower; and, numerous as they were, it still seemed to Gerda that one was wanting, though she did not know which. One day while she was looking at the hat of the old woman painted with flowers, the most beautiful of them all seemed to her to be a rose. The old woman had forgotten to take it from her hat when she made the others vanish in the earth. But so it is when one’s thoughts are not collected. “What!” said Gerda. “Are there no roses here?” and she ran about amongst the flowerbeds, and looked, and looked, but there was not one to be found. She then sat down and wept; but her hot tears fell just where a rose-bush had sunk; and when her warm tears watered the ground, the tree shot up suddenly as fresh and blooming as when it had been swallowed up. Gerda kissed the roses, thought of her own dear roses at home, and with them of little Kay.

“Oh, how long I have stayed!” said the little girl. “I intended to look for Kay! Don’t you know where he is?” she asked of the roses. “Do you think he is dead and gone?”

“Dead he certainly is not,” said the Roses. “We have been in the earth where all the dead are, but Kay was not there.”

“Many thanks!” said little Gerda; and she went to the other flowers, looked into their cups, and asked, “Don’t you know where little Kay is?”

But every flower stood in the sunshine, and dreamed its own fairy tale or its own story: and they all told her very many things, but not one knew anything of Kay.

Well, what did the Tiger-Lily say?

“Hearest thou not the drum? Bum! Bum! Those are the only two tones. Always bum! Bum! Hark to the plaintive song of the old woman, to the call of the priests! The Hindoo woman in her long robe stands upon the funeral pile; the flames rise around her and her dead husband, but the Hindoo woman thinks on the living one in the surrounding circle; on him whose eyes burn hotter than the flames—on him, the fire of whose eyes pierces her heart more than the flames which soon will burn her body to ashes. Can the heart’s flame die in the flame of the funeral pile?”

“I don’t understand that at all,” said little Gerda.

“That is my story,” said the Lily.

What did the Convolvulus say?

“Projecting over a narrow mountain-path there hangs an old feudal castle. Thick evergreens grow on the dilapidated walls, and around the altar, where a lovely maiden is standing: she bends over the railing and looks out upon the rose. No fresher rose hangs on the branches than she; no appleblossom carried away by the wind is more buoyant! How her silken robe is rustling!

“‘Is he not yet come?’”

“Is it Kay that you mean?” asked little Gerda.

“I am speaking about my story—about my dream,” answered the Convolvulus.

What did the Snowdrops say?

“Between the trees a long board is hanging—it is a swing. Two little girls are sitting in it, and swing themselves backwards and forwards; their frocks are as white as snow, and long green silk ribands flutter from their bonnets. Their brother, who is older than they are, stands up in the swing; he twines his arms round the cords to hold himself fast, for in one hand he has a little cup, and in the other a clay-pipe. He is blowing soap-bubbles. The swing moves, and the bubbles float in charming changing colors: the last is still hanging to the end of the pipe, and rocks in the breeze. The swing moves. The little black dog, as light as a soap-bubble, jumps up on his hind legs to try to get into the swing. It moves, the dog falls down, barks, and is angry. They tease him; the bubble bursts! A swing, a bursting bubble—such is my song!”

“What you relate may be very pretty, but you tell it in so melancholy a manner, and do not mention Kay.”

What do the Hyacinths say?

“There were once upon a time three sisters, quite transparent, and very beautiful. The robe of the one was red, that of the second blue, and that of the third white. They danced hand in hand beside the calm lake in the clear moonshine. They were not elfin maidens, but mortal children. A sweet fragrance was smelt, and the maidens vanished in the wood; the fragrance grew stronger—three coffins, and in them three lovely maidens, glided out of the forest and across the lake: the shining glow-worms flew around like little floating lights. Do the dancing maidens sleep, or are they dead? The odour of the flowers says they are corpses; the evening bell tolls for the dead!”

“You make me quite sad,” said little Gerda. “I cannot help thinking of the dead maidens. Oh! is little Kay really dead? The Roses have been in the earth, and they say no.”

“Ding, dong!” sounded the Hyacinth bells. “We do not toll for little Kay; we do not know him. That is our way of singing, the only one we have.”

And Gerda went to the Ranunculuses, that looked forth from among the shining green leaves.

“You are a little bright sun!” said Gerda. “Tell me if you know where I can find my playfellow.”

And the Ranunculus shone brightly, and looked again at Gerda. What song could the Ranunculus sing? It was one that said nothing about Kay either.

“In a small court the bright sun was shining in the first days of spring. The beams glided down the white walls of a neighbor’s house, and close by the fresh yellow flowers were growing, shining like gold in the warm sun-rays. An old grandmother was sitting in the air; her grand-daughter, the poor and lovely servant just come for a short visit. She knows her grandmother. There was gold, pure virgin gold in that blessed kiss. There, that is my little story,” said the Ranunculus.

“My poor old grandmother!” sighed Gerda. “Yes, she is longing for me, no doubt: she is sorrowing for me, as she did for little Kay. But I will soon come home, and then I will bring Kay with me. It is of no use asking the flowers; they only know their own old rhymes, and can tell me nothing.” And she tucked up her frock, to enable her to run quicker; but the Narcissus gave her a knock on the leg, just as she was going to jump over it. So she stood still, looked at the long yellow flower, and asked, “You perhaps know something?” and she bent down to the Narcissus. And what did it say?

“I can see myself—I can see myself! Oh, how odorous I am! Up in the little garret there stands, half-dressed, a little Dancer. She stands now on one leg, now on both; she despises the whole world; yet she lives only in imagination. She pours water out of the teapot over a piece of stuff which she holds in her hand; it is the bodice; cleanliness is a fine thing. The white dress is hanging on the hook; it was washed in the teapot, and dried on the roof. She puts it on, ties a saffron-colored kerchief round her neck, and then the gown looks whiter. I can see myself—I can see myself!”

“That’s nothing to me,” said little Gerda. “That does not concern me.” And then off she ran to the further end of the garden.

The gate was locked, but she shook the rusted bolt till it was loosened, and the gate opened; and little Gerda ran off barefooted into the wide world. She looked round her thrice, but no one followed her. At last she could run no longer; she sat down on a large stone, and when she looked about her, she saw that the summer had passed; it was late in the autumn, but that one could not remark in the beautiful garden, where there was always sunshine, and where there were flowers the whole year round.

“Dear me, how long I have staid!” said Gerda. “Autumn is come. I must not rest any longer.” And she got up to go further.

Oh, how tender and wearied her little feet were! All around it looked so cold and raw: the long willow-leaves were quite yellow, and the fog dripped from them like water; one leaf fell after the other: the sloes only stood full of fruit, which set one’s teeth on edge. Oh, how dark and comfortless it was in the dreary world!

FOURTH STORY. The Prince and Princess

Gerda was obliged to rest herself again, when, exactly opposite to her, a large Raven came hopping over the white snow. He had long been looking at Gerda and shaking his head; and now he said, “Caw! Caw!” Good day! Good day! He could not say it better; but he felt a sympathy for the little girl, and asked her where she was going all alone. The word “alone” Gerda understood quite well, and felt how much was expressed by it; so she told the Raven her whole history, and asked if he had not seen Kay.

The Raven nodded very gravely, and said, “It may be—it may be!”

“What, do you really think so?” cried the little girl; and she nearly squeezed the Raven to death, so much did she kiss him.

“Gently, gently,” said the Raven. “I think I know; I think that it may be little Kay. But now he has forgotten you for the Princess.”

“Does he live with a Princess?” asked Gerda.

“Yes—listen,” said the Raven; “but it will be difficult for me to speak your language. If you understand the Raven language I can tell you better.”

“No, I have not learnt it,” said Gerda; “but my grandmother understands it, and she can speak gibberish too. I wish I had learnt it.”

“No matter,” said the Raven; “I will tell you as well as I can; however, it will be bad enough.” And then he told all he knew.

“In the kingdom where we now are there lives a Princess, who is extraordinarily clever; for she has read all the newspapers in the whole world, and has forgotten them again—so clever is she. She was lately, it is said, sitting on her throne—which is not very amusing after all—when she began humming an old tune, and it was just, ‘Oh, why should I not be married?’ ‘That song is not without its meaning,’ said she, and so then she was determined to marry; but she would have a husband who knew how to give an answer when he was spoken to—not one who looked only as if he were a great personage, for that is so tiresome. She then had all the ladies of the court drummed together; and when they heard her intention, all were very pleased, and said, ‘We are very glad to hear it; it is the very thing we were thinking of.’ You may believe every word I say,” said the Raven; “for I have a tame sweetheart that hops about in the palace quite free, and it was she who told me all this.

“The newspapers appeared forthwith with a border of hearts and the initials of the Princess; and therein you might read that every good-looking young man was at liberty to come to the palace and speak to the Princess; and he who spoke in such wise as showed he felt himself at home there, that one the Princess would choose for her husband.

“Yes, Yes,” said the Raven, “you may believe it; it is as true as I am sitting here. People came in crowds; there was a crush and a hurry, but no one was successful either on the first or second day. They could all talk well enough when they were out in the street; but as soon as they came inside the palace gates, and saw the guard richly dressed in silver, and the lackeys in gold on the staircase, and the large illuminated saloons, then they were abashed; and when they stood before the throne on which the Princess was sitting, all they could do was to repeat the last word they had uttered, and to hear it again did not interest her very much. It was just as if the people within were under a charm, and had fallen into a trance till they came out again into the street; for then—oh, then—they could chatter enough. There was a whole row of them standing from the town-gates to the palace. I was there myself to look,” said the Raven. “They grew hungry and thirsty; but from the palace they got nothing whatever, not even a glass of water. Some of the cleverest, it is true, had taken bread and butter with them: but none shared it with his neighbor, for each thought, ‘Let him look hungry, and then the Princess won’t have him.’”

“But Kay—little Kay,” said Gerda, “when did he come? Was he among the number?”

“Patience, patience; we are just come to him. It was on the third day when a little personage without horse or equipage, came marching right boldly up to the palace; his eyes shone like yours, he had beautiful long hair, but his clothes were very shabby.”

“That was Kay,” cried Gerda, with a voice of delight. “Oh, now I’ve found him!” and she clapped her hands for joy.

“He had a little knapsack at his back,” said the Raven.

“No, that was certainly his sledge,” said Gerda; “for when he went away he took his sledge with him.”

“That may be,” said the Raven; “I did not examine him so minutely; but I know from my tame sweetheart, that when he came into the court-yard of the palace, and saw the body-guard in silver, the lackeys on the staircase, he was not the least abashed; he nodded, and said to them, ‘It must be very tiresome to stand on the stairs; for my part, I shall go in.’ The saloons were gleaming with lustres—privy councillors and excellencies were walking about barefooted, and wore gold keys; it was enough to make any one feel uncomfortable. His boots creaked, too, so loudly, but still he was not at all afraid.”

“That’s Kay for certain,” said Gerda. “I know he had on new boots; I have heard them creaking in grandmama’s room.”

“Yes, they creaked,” said the Raven. “And on he went boldly up to the Princess, who was sitting on a pearl as large as a spinning-wheel. All the ladies of the court, with their attendants and attendants’ attendants, and all the cavaliers, with their gentlemen and gentlemen’s gentlemen, stood round; and the nearer they stood to the door, the prouder they looked. It was hardly possible to look at the gentleman’s gentleman, so very haughtily did he stand in the doorway.”

“It must have been terrible,” said little Gerda. “And did Kay get the Princess?”

“Were I not a Raven, I should have taken the Princess myself, although I am promised. It is said he spoke as well as I speak when I talk Raven language; this I learned from my tame sweetheart. He was bold and nicely behaved; he had not come to woo the Princess, but only to hear her wisdom. She pleased him, and he pleased her.”

“Yes, yes; for certain that was Kay,” said Gerda. “He was so clever; he could reckon fractions in his head. Oh, won’t you take me to the palace?”

“That is very easily said,” answered the Raven. “But how are we to manage it? I’ll speak to my tame sweetheart about it: she must advise us; for so much I must tell you, such a little girl as you are will never get permission to enter.”

“Oh, yes I shall,” said Gerda; “when Kay hears that I am here, he will come out directly to fetch me.”

“Wait for me here on these steps,” said the Raven. He moved his head backwards and forwards and flew away.

The evening was closing in when the Raven returned. “Caw—caw!” said he. “She sends you her compliments; and here is a roll for you. She took it out of the kitchen, where there is bread enough. You are hungry, no doubt. It is not possible for you to enter the palace, for you are barefooted: the guards in silver, and the lackeys in gold, would not allow it; but do not cry, you shall come in still. My sweetheart knows a little back stair that leads to the bedchamber, and she knows where she can get the key of it.”

And they went into the garden in the large avenue, where one leaf was falling after the other; and when the lights in the palace had all gradually disappeared, the Raven led little Gerda to the back door, which stood half open.

Oh, how Gerda’s heart beat with anxiety and longing! It was just as if she had been about to do something wrong; and yet she only wanted to know if little Kay was there. Yes, he must be there. She called to mind his intelligent eyes, and his long hair, so vividly, she could quite see him as he used to laugh when they were sitting under the roses at home. “He will, no doubt, be glad to see you—to hear what a long way you have come for his sake; to know how unhappy all at home were when he did not come back.”

Oh, what a fright and a joy it was!

They were now on the stairs. A single lamp was burning there; and on the floor stood the tame Raven, turning her head on every side and looking at Gerda, who bowed as her grandmother had taught her to do.

“My intended has told me so much good of you, my dear young lady,” said the tame Raven. “Your tale is very affecting. If you will take the lamp, I will go before. We will go straight on, for we shall meet no one.”

“I think there is somebody just behind us,” said Gerda; and something rushed past: it was like shadowy figures on the wall; horses with flowing manes and thin legs, huntsmen, ladies and gentlemen on horseback.

“They are only dreams,” said the Raven. “They come to fetch the thoughts of the high personages to the chase; ’tis well, for now you can observe them in bed all the better. But let me find, when you enjoy honor and distinction, that you possess a grateful heart.”

“Tut! That’s not worth talking about,” said the Raven of the woods.

They now entered the first saloon, which was of rose-colored satin, with artificial flowers on the wall. Here the dreams were rushing past, but they hastened by so quickly that Gerda could not see the high personages. One hall was more magnificent than the other; one might indeed well be abashed; and at last they came into the bedchamber. The ceiling of the room resembled a large palm-tree with leaves of glass, of costly glass; and in the middle, from a thick golden stem, hung two beds, each of which resembled a lily. One was white, and in this lay the Princess; the other was red, and it was here that Gerda was to look for little Kay. She bent back one of the red leaves, and saw a brown neck. Oh! that was Kay! She called him quite loud by name, held the lamp towards him—the dreams rushed back again into the chamber—he awoke, turned his head, and—it was not little Kay!

The Prince was only like him about the neck; but he was young and handsome. And out of the white lily leaves the Princess peeped, too, and asked what was the matter. Then little Gerda cried, and told her her whole history, and all that the Ravens had done for her.

“Poor little thing!” said the Prince and the Princess. They praised the Ravens very much, and told them they were not at all angry with them, but they were not to do so again. However, they should have a reward. “Will you fly about here at liberty,” asked the Princess; “or would you like to have a fixed appointment as court ravens, with all the broken bits from the kitchen?”

And both the Ravens nodded, and begged for a fixed appointment; for they thought of their old age, and said, “It is a good thing to have a provision for our old days.”

And the Prince got up and let Gerda sleep in his bed, and more than this he could not do. She folded her little hands and thought, “How good men and animals are!” and she then fell asleep and slept soundly. All the dreams flew in again, and they now looked like the angels; they drew a little sledge, in which little Kay sat and nodded his head; but the whole was only a dream, and therefore it all vanished as soon as she awoke.

The next day she was dressed from head to foot in silk and velvet. They offered to let her stay at the palace, and lead a happy life; but she begged to have a little carriage with a horse in front, and for a small pair of shoes; then, she said, she would again go forth in the wide world and look for Kay.

Shoes and a muff were given her; she was, too, dressed very nicely; and when she was about to set off, a new carriage stopped before the door. It was of pure gold, and the arms of the Prince and Princess shone like a star upon it; the coachman, the footmen, and the outriders, for outriders were there, too, all wore golden crowns. The Prince and the Princess assisted her into the carriage themselves, and wished her all success. The Raven of the woods, who was now married, accompanied her for the first three miles. He sat beside Gerda, for he could not bear riding backwards; the other Raven stood in the doorway, and flapped her wings; she could not accompany Gerda, because she suffered from headache since she had had a fixed appointment and ate so much. The carriage was lined inside with sugar-plums, and in the seats were fruits and gingerbread.

“Farewell! Farewell!” cried Prince and Princess; and Gerda wept, and the Raven wept. Thus passed the first miles; and then the Raven bade her farewell, and this was the most painful separation of all. He flew into a tree, and beat his black wings as long as he could see the carriage, that shone from afar like a sunbeam.

FIFTH STORY. The Little Robber Maiden

They drove through the dark wood; but the carriage shone like a torch, and it dazzled the eyes of the robbers, so that they could not bear to look at it.

“‘Tis gold! ‘Tis gold!” they cried; and they rushed forward, seized the horses, knocked down the little postilion, the coachman, and the servants, and pulled little Gerda out of the carriage.

“How plump, how beautiful she is! She must have been fed on nut-kernels,” said the old female robber, who had a long, scrubby beard, and bushy eyebrows that hung down over her eyes. “She is as good as a fatted lamb! How nice she will be!” And then she drew out a knife, the blade of which shone so that it was quite dreadful to behold.

“Oh!” cried the woman at the same moment. She had been bitten in the ear by her own little daughter, who hung at her back; and who was so wild and unmanageable, that it was quite amusing to see her. “You naughty child!” said the mother: and now she had not time to kill Gerda.

“She shall play with me,” said the little robber child. “She shall give me her muff, and her pretty frock; she shall sleep in my bed!” And then she gave her mother another bite, so that she jumped, and ran round with the pain; and the Robbers laughed, and said, “Look, how she is dancing with the little one!”

“I will go into the carriage,” said the little robber maiden; and she would have her will, for she was very spoiled and very headstrong. She and Gerda got in; and then away they drove over the stumps of felled trees, deeper and deeper into the woods. The little robber maiden was as tall as Gerda, but stronger, broader-shouldered, and of dark complexion; her eyes were quite black; they looked almost melancholy. She embraced little Gerda, and said, “They shall not kill you as long as I am not displeased with you. You are, doubtless, a Princess?”

“No,” said little Gerda; who then related all that had happened to her, and how much she cared about little Kay.

The little robber maiden looked at her with a serious air, nodded her head slightly, and said, “They shall not kill you, even if I am angry with you: then I will do it myself”; and she dried Gerda’s eyes, and put both her hands in the handsome muff, which was so soft and warm.

At length the carriage stopped. They were in the midst of the court-yard of a robber’s castle. It was full of cracks from top to bottom; and out of the openings magpies and rooks were flying; and the great bull-dogs, each of which looked as if he could swallow a man, jumped up, but they did not bark, for that was forbidden.

In the midst of the large, old, smoking hall burnt a great fire on the stone floor. The smoke disappeared under the stones, and had to seek its own egress. In an immense caldron soup was boiling; and rabbits and hares were being roasted on a spit.

“You shall sleep with me to-night, with all my animals,” said the little robber maiden. They had something to eat and drink; and then went into a corner, where straw and carpets were lying. Beside them, on laths and perches, sat nearly a hundred pigeons, all asleep, seemingly; but yet they moved a little when the robber maiden came. “They are all mine,” said she, at the same time seizing one that was next to her by the legs and shaking it so that its wings fluttered. “Kiss it,” cried the little girl, and flung the pigeon in Gerda’s face. “Up there is the rabble of the wood,” continued she, pointing to several laths which were fastened before a hole high up in the wall; “that’s the rabble; they would all fly away immediately, if they were not well fastened in. And here is my dear old Bac”; and she laid hold of the horns of a reindeer, that had a bright copper ring round its neck, and was tethered to the spot. “We are obliged to lock this fellow in too, or he would make his escape. Every evening I tickle his neck with my sharp knife; he is so frightened at it!” and the little girl drew forth a long knife, from a crack in the wall, and let it glide over the Reindeer’s neck. The poor animal kicked; the girl laughed, and pulled Gerda into bed with her.

“Do you intend to keep your knife while you sleep?” asked Gerda; looking at it rather fearfully.

“I always sleep with the knife,” said the little robber maiden. “There is no knowing what may happen. But tell me now, once more, all about little Kay; and why you have started off in the wide world alone.” And Gerda related all, from the very beginning: the Wood-pigeons cooed above in their cage, and the others slept. The little robber maiden wound her arm round Gerda’s neck, held the knife in the other hand, and snored so loud that everybody could hear her; but Gerda could not close her eyes, for she did not know whether she was to live or die. The robbers sat round the fire, sang and drank; and the old female robber jumped about so, that it was quite dreadful for Gerda to see her.

Then the Wood-pigeons said, “Coo! Coo! We have seen little Kay! A white hen carries his sledge; he himself sat in the carriage of the Snow Queen, who passed here, down just over the wood, as we lay in our nest. She blew upon us young ones; and all died except we two. Coo! Coo!”

“What is that you say up there?” cried little Gerda. “Where did the Snow Queen go to? Do you know anything about it?”

“She is no doubt gone to Lapland; for there is always snow and ice there. Only ask the Reindeer, who is tethered there.”

“Ice and snow is there! There it is, glorious and beautiful!” said the Reindeer. “One can spring about in the large shining valleys! The Snow Queen has her summer-tent there; but her fixed abode is high up towards the North Pole, on the Island called Spitzbergen.”

“Oh, Kay! Poor little Kay!” sighed Gerda.

“Do you choose to be quiet?” said the robber maiden. “If you don’t, I shall make you.”

In the morning Gerda told her all that the Wood-pigeons had said; and the little maiden looked very serious, but she nodded her head, and said, “That’s no matter—that’s no matter. Do you know where Lapland lies!” she asked of the Reindeer.

“Who should know better than I?” said the animal; and his eyes rolled in his head. “I was born and bred there—there I leapt about on the fields of snow.”

“Listen,” said the robber maiden to Gerda. “You see that the men are gone; but my mother is still here, and will remain. However, towards morning she takes a draught out of the large flask, and then she sleeps a little: then I will do something for you.” She now jumped out of bed, flew to her mother; with her arms round her neck, and pulling her by the beard, said, “Good morrow, my own sweet nanny-goat of a mother.” And her mother took hold of her nose, and pinched it till it was red and blue; but this was all done out of pure love.

When the mother had taken a sup at her flask, and was having a nap, the little robber maiden went to the Reindeer, and said, “I should very much like to give you still many a tickling with the sharp knife, for then you are so amusing; however, I will untether you, and help you out, so that you may go back to Lapland. But you must make good use of your legs; and take this little girl for me to the palace of the Snow Queen, where her playfellow is. You have heard, I suppose, all she said; for she spoke loud enough, and you were listening.”

The Reindeer gave a bound for joy. The robber maiden lifted up little Gerda, and took the precaution to bind her fast on the Reindeer’s back; she even gave her a small cushion to sit on. “Here are your worsted leggins, for it will be cold; but the muff I shall keep for myself, for it is so very pretty. But I do not wish you to be cold. Here is a pair of lined gloves of my mother’s; they just reach up to your elbow. On with them! Now you look about the hands just like my ugly old mother!”

And Gerda wept for joy.

“I can’t bear to see you fretting,” said the little robber maiden. “This is just the time when you ought to look pleased. Here are two loaves and a ham for you, so that you won’t starve.” The bread and the meat were fastened to the Reindeer’s back; the little maiden opened the door, called in all the dogs, and then with her knife cut the rope that fastened the animal, and said to him, “Now, off with you; but take good care of the little girl!”

And Gerda stretched out her hands with the large wadded gloves towards the robber maiden, and said, “Farewell!” and the Reindeer flew on over bush and bramble through the great wood, over moor and heath, as fast as he could go.

“Ddsa! Ddsa!” was heard in the sky. It was just as if somebody was sneezing.

“These are my old northern-lights,” said the Reindeer, “look how they gleam!” And on he now sped still quicker—day and night on he went: the loaves were consumed, and the ham too; and now they were in Lapland.

SIXTH STORY. The Lapland Woman and the Finland Woman

Suddenly they stopped before a little house, which looked very miserable. The roof reached to the ground; and the door was so low, that the family were obliged to creep upon their stomachs when they went in or out. Nobody was at home except an old Lapland woman, who was dressing fish by the light of an oil lamp. And the Reindeer told her the whole of Gerda’s history, but first of all his own; for that seemed to him of much greater importance. Gerda was so chilled that she could not speak.

“Poor thing,” said the Lapland woman, “you have far to run still. You have more than a hundred miles to go before you get to Finland; there the Snow Queen has her country-house, and burns blue lights every evening. I will give you a few words from me, which I will write on a dried haberdine, for paper I have none; this you can take with you to the Finland woman, and she will be able to give you more information than I can.”

When Gerda had warmed herself, and had eaten and drunk, the Lapland woman wrote a few words on a dried haberdine, begged Gerda to take care of them, put her on the Reindeer, bound her fast, and away sprang the animal. “Ddsa! Ddsa!” was again heard in the air; the most charming blue lights burned the whole night in the sky, and at last they came to Finland. They knocked at the chimney of the Finland woman; for as to a door, she had none.

There was such a heat inside that the Finland woman herself went about almost naked. She was diminutive and dirty. She immediately loosened little Gerda’s clothes, pulled off her thick gloves and boots; for otherwise the heat would have been too great—and after laying a piece of ice on the Reindeer’s head, read what was written on the fish-skin. She read it three times: she then knew it by heart; so she put the fish into the cupboard—for it might very well be eaten, and she never threw anything away.

Then the Reindeer related his own story first, and afterwards that of little Gerda; and the Finland woman winked her eyes, but said nothing.

“You are so clever,” said the Reindeer; “you can, I know, twist all the winds of the world together in a knot. If the seaman loosens one knot, then he has a good wind; if a second, then it blows pretty stiffly; if he undoes the third and fourth, then it rages so that the forests are upturned. Will you give the little maiden a potion, that she may possess the strength of twelve men, and vanquish the Snow Queen?”

“The strength of twelve men!” said the Finland woman. “Much good that would be!” Then she went to a cupboard, and drew out a large skin rolled up. When she had unrolled it, strange characters were to be seen written thereon; and the Finland woman read at such a rate that the perspiration trickled down her forehead.

But the Reindeer begged so hard for little Gerda, and Gerda looked so imploringly with tearful eyes at the Finland woman, that she winked, and drew the Reindeer aside into a corner, where they whispered together, while the animal got some fresh ice put on his head.

“‘Tis true little Kay is at the Snow Queen’s, and finds everything there quite to his taste; and he thinks it the very best place in the world; but the reason of that is, he has a splinter of glass in his eye, and in his heart. These must be got out first; otherwise he will never go back to mankind, and the Snow Queen will retain her power over him.”

“But can you give little Gerda nothing to take which will endue her with power over the whole?”

“I can give her no more power than what she has already. Don’t you see how great it is? Don’t you see how men and animals are forced to serve her; how well she gets through the world barefooted? She must not hear of her power from us; that power lies in her heart, because she is a sweet and innocent child! If she cannot get to the Snow Queen by herself, and rid little Kay of the glass, we cannot help her. Two miles hence the garden of the Snow Queen begins; thither you may carry the little girl. Set her down by the large bush with red berries, standing in the snow; don’t stay talking, but hasten back as fast as possible.” And now the Finland woman placed little Gerda on the Reindeer’s back, and off he ran with all imaginable speed.

“Oh! I have not got my boots! I have not brought my gloves!” cried little Gerda. She remarked she was without them from the cutting frost; but the Reindeer dared not stand still; on he ran till he came to the great bush with the red berries, and there he set Gerda down, kissed her mouth, while large bright tears flowed from the animal’s eyes, and then back he went as fast as possible. There stood poor Gerda now, without shoes or gloves, in the very middle of dreadful icy Finland.

She ran on as fast as she could. There then came a whole regiment of snow-flakes, but they did not fall from above, and they were quite bright and shining from the Aurora Borealis. The flakes ran along the ground, and the nearer they came the larger they grew. Gerda well remembered how large and strange the snow-flakes appeared when she once saw them through a magnifying-glass; but now they were large and terrific in another manner—they were all alive. They were the outposts of the Snow Queen. They had the most wondrous shapes; some looked like large ugly porcupines; others like snakes knotted together, with their heads sticking out; and others, again, like small fat bears, with the hair standing on end: all were of dazzling whiteness—all were living snow-flakes.

Little Gerda repeated the Lord’s Prayer. The cold was so intense that she could see her own breath, which came like smoke out of her mouth. It grew thicker and thicker, and took the form of little angels, that grew more and more when they touched the earth. All had helms on their heads, and lances and shields in their hands; they increased in numbers; and when Gerda had finished the Lord’s Prayer, she was surrounded by a whole legion. They thrust at the horrid snow-flakes with their spears, so that they flew into a thousand pieces; and little Gerda walked on bravely and in security. The angels patted her hands and feet; and then she felt the cold less, and went on quickly towards the palace of the Snow Queen.

But now we shall see how Kay fared. He never thought of Gerda, and least of all that she was standing before the palace.

SEVENTH STORY. What Took Place in the Palace of the Snow Queen, and what Happened Afterward.

The walls of the palace were of driving snow, and the windows and doors of cutting winds. There were more than a hundred halls there, according as the snow was driven by the winds. The largest was many miles in extent; all were lighted up by the powerful Aurora Borealis, and all were so large, so empty, so icy cold, and so resplendent! Mirth never reigned there; there was never even a little bear-ball, with the storm for music, while the polar bears went on their hind legs and showed off their steps. Never a little tea-party of white young lady foxes; vast, cold, and empty were the halls of the Snow Queen. The northern-lights shone with such precision that one could tell exactly when they were at their highest or lowest degree of brightness. In the middle of the empty, endless hall of snow, was a frozen lake; it was cracked in a thousand pieces, but each piece was so like the other, that it seemed the work of a cunning artificer. In the middle of this lake sat the Snow Queen when she was at home; and then she said she was sitting in the Mirror of Understanding, and that this was the only one and the best thing in the world.

Little Kay was quite blue, yes nearly black with cold; but he did not observe it, for she had kissed away all feeling of cold from his body, and his heart was a lump of ice. He was dragging along some pointed flat pieces of ice, which he laid together in all possible ways, for he wanted to make something with them; just as we have little flat pieces of wood to make geometrical figures with, called the Chinese Puzzle. Kay made all sorts of figures, the most complicated, for it was an ice-puzzle for the understanding. In his eyes the figures were extraordinarily beautiful, and of the utmost importance; for the bit of glass which was in his eye caused this. He found whole figures which represented a written word; but he never could manage to represent just the word he wanted—that word was “eternity”; and the Snow Queen had said, “If you can discover that figure, you shall be your own master, and I will make you a present of the whole world and a pair of new skates.” But he could not find it out.

“I am going now to warm lands,” said the Snow Queen. “I must have a look down into the black caldrons.” It was the volcanoes Vesuvius and Etna that she meant. “I will just give them a coating of white, for that is as it ought to be; besides, it is good for the oranges and the grapes.” And then away she flew, and Kay sat quite alone in the empty halls of ice that were miles long, and looked at the blocks of ice, and thought and thought till his skull was almost cracked. There he sat quite benumbed and motionless; one would have imagined he was frozen to death.

Suddenly little Gerda stepped through the great portal into the palace. The gate was formed of cutting winds; but Gerda repeated her evening prayer, and the winds were laid as though they slept; and the little maiden entered the vast, empty, cold halls. There she beheld Kay: she recognised him, flew to embrace him, and cried out, her arms firmly holding him the while, “Kay, sweet little Kay! Have I then found you at last?”

But he sat quite still, benumbed and cold. Then little Gerda shed burning tears; and they fell on his bosom, they penetrated to his heart, they thawed the lumps of ice, and consumed the splinters of the looking-glass; he looked at her, and she sang the hymn:

“The rose in the valley is blooming so sweet, And angels descend there the children to greet.”

Hereupon Kay burst into tears; he wept so much that the splinter rolled out of his eye, and he recognised her, and shouted, “Gerda, sweet little Gerda! Where have you been so long? And where have I been?” He looked round him. “How cold it is here!” said he. “How empty and cold!” And he held fast by Gerda, who laughed and wept for joy. It was so beautiful, that even the blocks of ice danced about for joy; and when they were tired and laid themselves down, they formed exactly the letters which the Snow Queen had told him to find out; so now he was his own master, and he would have the whole world and a pair of new skates into the bargain.

Gerda kissed his cheeks, and they grew quite blooming; she kissed his eyes, and they shone like her own; she kissed his hands and feet, and he was again well and merry. The Snow Queen might come back as soon as she liked; there stood his discharge written in resplendent masses of ice.

They took each other by the hand, and wandered forth out of the large hall; they talked of their old grandmother, and of the roses upon the roof; and wherever they went, the winds ceased raging, and the sun burst forth. And when they reached the bush with the red berries, they found the Reindeer waiting for them. He had brought another, a young one, with him, whose udder was filled with milk, which he gave to the little ones, and kissed their lips. They then carried Kay and Gerda—first to the Finland woman, where they warmed themselves in the warm room, and learned what they were to do on their journey home; and they went to the Lapland woman, who made some new clothes for them and repaired their sledges.

The Reindeer and the young hind leaped along beside them, and accompanied them to the boundary of the country. Here the first vegetation peeped forth; here Kay and Gerda took leave of the Lapland woman. “Farewell! Farewell!” they all said. And the first green buds appeared, the first little birds began to chirrup; and out of the wood came, riding on a magnificent horse, which Gerda knew (it was one of the leaders in the golden carriage), a young damsel with a bright-red cap on her head, and armed with pistols. It was the little robber maiden, who, tired of being at home, had determined to make a journey to the north; and afterwards in another direction, if that did not please her. She recognised Gerda immediately, and Gerda knew her too. It was a joyful meeting.

“You are a fine fellow for tramping about,” said she to little Kay; “I should like to know, faith, if you deserve that one should run from one end of the world to the other for your sake?”

But Gerda patted her cheeks, and inquired for the Prince and Princess.

“They are gone abroad,” said the other.

“But the Raven?” asked little Gerda.

“Oh! The Raven is dead,” she answered. “His tame sweetheart is a widow, and wears a bit of black worsted round her leg; she laments most piteously, but it’s all mere talk and stuff! Now tell me what you’ve been doing and how you managed to catch him.”

And Gerda and Kay both told their story.

And “Schnipp-schnapp-schnurre-basselurre,” said the robber maiden; and she took the hands of each, and promised that if she should some day pass through the town where they lived, she would come and visit them; and then away she rode. Kay and Gerda took each other’s hand: it was lovely spring weather, with abundance of flowers and of verdure. The church-bells rang, and the children recognised the high towers, and the large town; it was that in which they dwelt. They entered and hastened up to their grandmother’s room, where everything was standing as formerly. The clock said “tick! tack!” and the finger moved round; but as they entered, they remarked that they were now grown up. The roses on the leads hung blooming in at the open window; there stood the little children’s chairs, and Kay and Gerda sat down on them, holding each other by the hand; they both had forgotten the cold empty splendor of the Snow Queen, as though it had been a dream. The grandmother sat in the bright sunshine, and read aloud from the Bible: “Unless ye become as little children, ye cannot enter the kingdom of heaven.”

And Kay and Gerda looked in each other’s eyes, and all at once they understood the old hymn:

“The rose in the valley is blooming so sweet, And angels descend there the children to greet.”

There sat the two grown-up persons; grown-up, and yet children; children at least in heart; and it was summer-time; summer, glorious summer!

The Real Princess, by Hans Christian Andersen

There was once a Prince who wished to marry a Princess; but then she must be a real Princess. He travelled all over the world in hopes of finding such a lady; but there was always something wrong. Princesses he found in plenty; but whether they were real Princesses it was impossible for him to decide, for now one thing, now another, seemed to him not quite right about the ladies. At last he returned to his palace quite cast down, because he wished so much to have a real Princess for his wife.

One evening a fearful tempest arose, it thundered and lightened, and the rain poured down from the sky in torrents: besides, it was as dark as pitch. All at once there was heard a violent knocking at the door, and the old King, the Prince’s father, went out himself to open it.

It was a Princess who was standing outside the door. What with the rain and the wind, she was in a sad condition; the water trickled down from her hair, and her clothes clung to her body. She said she was a real Princess.

“Ah! we shall soon see that!” thought the old Queen-mother; however, she said not a word of what she was going to do; but went quietly into the bedroom, took all the bed-clothes off the bed, and put three little peas on the bedstead. She then laid twenty mattresses one upon another over the three peas, and put twenty feather beds over the mattresses.

Upon this bed the Princess was to pass the night.

The next morning she was asked how she had slept. “Oh, very badly indeed!” she replied. “I have scarcely closed my eyes the whole night through. I do not know what was in my bed, but I had something hard under me, and am all over black and blue. It has hurt me so much!”

Now it was plain that the lady must be a real Princess, since she had been able to feel the three little peas through the twenty mattresses and twenty feather beds. None but a real Princess could have had such a delicate sense of feeling.

The Prince accordingly made her his wife; being now convinced that he had found a real Princess. The three peas were however put into the cabinet of curiosities, where they are still to be seen, provided they are not lost.

Wasn’t this a lady of real delicacy?

Holiday Adventures, by Margaret Arndt


O it was so hot, so hot; the earth was well-nigh parched up, and moreover the use of water was restricted in the town where the children lived. The flowers in the little garden were drooping for want of moisture, and the trees began to shed their leaves as if it were already autumn instead of July. The schools were obliged to close early; the children came home at eleven o’clock instead of at one, and announced that they had heat holidays. For there is a regulation in Germany, if the thermometer is over a certain degree in the shade, the school is closed for the rest of the day. The high schools do not have classes in the afternoon; the children have six hours lessons in the morning, with intervals of course for recreation and drilling. Some headmasters douche the walls of the school-building with cold water, and then examine the thermometer; but children as well as teachers think this a very mean thing to do.

The school holidays commence at the beginning of July, not in August, as is the case in England. This year the two little girls, Trudel and Lottchen, and their mother were going to stay at a farm, which was situated high up in the midst of the most lovely woods. Trudel, I must tell you, was ten years old, and Lottchen eight; they both went to the same school. This farm was an inn at the same time; but very few people visited it during the week, and by nine o’clock the house was empty of guests; for the woodways were hardly safe at night. It was easy to get lost in those vast forests where one path so closely resembles the other.

It was a long climb up from the station; the children began to flag, and mother was tired. Father had come with them to settle them in; but he could not stay longer than the first day or two; for his holidays did not begin till August. He invented all sorts of games for getting along quicker; he deposited chocolate on stones or tree-stumps by the wayside, which was discovered by the children with a shout of joy. Then just as Lottchen’s legs were beginning to ache badly, and she was nearly crying, he helped them on by telling the story of the assassination of Julius Cæsar. Trudel had read about it in her history-book at school; but it was written in such dreadfully historical language that she had not understood the story; she found it thrillingly interesting as father told it. Lottchen said that she could never have treated her little friend Hansi so cruelly, and that she hated that man Brutus.

At last they reached the end of the woodpath, and there lay Waldheim—for so the farm was called—before them. A big dog sprang out to meet them. Mother and Lottchen shrank back from his rough welcome; but Trudel was soon ordering him about, and did not seem in the least surprised when he obeyed her. His name was Bruno. The farm consisted of a group of buildings; two houses, one for the farm labourers and the maids, the other for guests. There were also large barns which had been newly erected, and a pond.

Round the houses were fields belonging to the farm, and then everywhere woods, woods, woods. Blue mountain-crests were visible above and beyond the woods.

The children partly unpacked the boxes themselves; for mother was still so tired. They even took off her boots and put on her shoes for her, like kind little daughters, and Trudel put away their clothes neatly in the cupboard. Then they all went downstairs joyfully to a cosy tea, which, I need hardly say, they enjoyed very much after their long walk and journey.

After tea all fatigue vanished, and the children flew out to inspect the premises for themselves. The farmer had two boys of about the same age as Trudel and Lottchen. Their names were Hermann and Fritz. Hermann was very shy; he hid himself at first and peeped out at the strange girls from corners of the yard or barns, rushing away when they caught sight of him. However Trudel soon coaxed him out, and they all played ball together.

Then Hermann and Fritz took the girls round the farm. They went first into the cow-shed; there were fourteen cows, seven calves and a bull. The cow-herd was a strange, uncanny-looking fellow with a great shock of red hair, and a very red face. He shouted at the children in a dreadful hoarse voice; they felt frightened of him at first, and thought he was mad; but they soon found out that the poor fellow was only deaf and dumb. The cows were his intimate friends. He had christened each one of them when they were born: Sophie, Emma, and so on. After they had gone home again, the children learnt to their pride that he had named two new calves after them, Trudel and Lotty.

There were four horses that were used for driving and ploughing. Lottchen was especially fond of horses. She liked to see them come home from the field by themselves and walk straight into the stable with a noble air, like a lord returning to his castle. Her favourite horse was called Hector. Lotty noticed one day that he was left alone in the stable, whilst the other horses were ploughing in the field. The stable-door was open, and after a while to her surprise he walked out. “What is he going to do? I hope he will not run away and get lost,” thought Lotty anxiously. But no, he just walked leisurely up to the field where the other horses were hard at work and looked on! It was evidently dull in the stable and he wanted a little distraction. When he was tired of watching his friends, he returned to the stable, where he was found innocently munching hay as if nothing had happened.

Pigs of course were there too in plenty; they ran about everywhere, grunting and snorting; also geese and chickens. Trudel liked to drive the geese into the water; she was fond of commanding, as her little sister sometimes knew to her cost.

The maids were two peasant girls who wore very short full skirts and a great many petticoats. Their dress was a modification of the wonderful Hessen peasant costume. These girls were ready to do anything for the children. Gustel, who was chief waitress and chambermaid at the same time, said that she had never seen such pretty “kindersche” (little children) in all her life before!

The only other guest in the house at this time was a Herr Baron; he told wonderful stories of his adventures in South America.

“Drought,” he said, “yes, that’s very bad, but floods may be worse. I have known years of labour destroyed in one night by a flood. All the beautiful fields of grain, our sole wealth. I lived at that time with my married sister and her family, and we had only just time to rescue ourselves and the children. I was the last to leave the house which we were never to see again. I could not decide which of my possessions to take with me, so I seized up the skin of a puma that I had shot on another memorable occasion, and bore it off on my shoulder, like Jason carrying the golden fleece, and that was all that was left of my personal property. Ah! it needs patience to conquer the elements,” he said.

Altogether the Herr Baron was a wonderful character; he seemed as if he were not real, but had stepped out of a book of romance. He delighted in reading English stories; he was especially fond of “She” and “King Solomon’s Mines.” The children believed that he smoked day and night; for they had never seen him without a cigarette, except at meal-times.

He told father and mother the story of how he had had a bullet extracted from his side that he had carried about with him for years. It had struck him during one of the revolutions that so frequently go on in South America. The bullet had recently set up inflammation, and a dangerous operation was necessary to remove it. “Chloroform! not if I know it,” he said to the doctors. “Just you let me smoke my cigar, and I shall be all right. I won’t say ‘Oh!’”

The doctors were naturally very astonished and demurred at this new method of treatment; but he persisted in his determination, and the cigar never left his mouth till the painful business was successfully over!

The Herr Baron was a mysterious person; why he lived for months together in that lonely spot, no one knew. True, he was fond of hunting, and went out at nights with the landlord to hunt the stag.

There were hunting-boxes made of logs of wood, with steps that led up into them, placed in different positions in the woods near the inn.

The children loved to climb up into them. A hunting-box made such a nice airy room, they said; but mother was glad when they were down again without broken limbs.

Mother was surprised when she entered the inn-parlour to find the Herr Baron engaged in a game of quartette with Trudel and Lottchen and Fritz. Indeed he was so sociable and kind and fond of children that she thought it was a pity that he had none of his own.

On the pond near the house were two most remarkable-looking boats. These Hermann and Fritz had made themselves with the aid, I believe, of the Herr Baron. They had a long stick and punted about in them on the water, and they managed them quite cleverly. To Trudel and Lottchen they seemed to suggest Robinson Crusoe and all sorts of fine adventures.

One day when mother was reading a book which absorbed her attention, and so was safe not to interfere with them, they thought, the children stole down to the pond. Hermann and Fritz were waiting for them. It was a pre-conceived plan. “Come along and get in,” they shouted to the girls.

“I daren’t,” said Lottchen. “Mother would be so cross; she has forbidden us to go near the water.”

“You are surely not going to spoil the fun,” said Trudel. “Come along; I’m going to get in first. I can swim, you know!”

“But not in mud and water-weeds,” said Lottchen wisely.

The boys began to laugh at them.

“Why, you’re funky, I do believe; the pond isn’t really deep anywhere,” they said.

So with beating hearts the children got into the boats, Trudel with Fritz, and Hermann, who was the eldest of the party, with Lottchen. It was splendid, quite a real adventure.

“Sit still in the middle of the boat,” said Fritz; “I think we had better keep near the bank.”

“It’s going down on my side; O dear, what shall I do?” said Trudel. “I don’t like it! I want to get out.”

“You’re a bit too heavy and upset the balance,” said Fritz. “Very well, then, get out!”

Trudel tried to do so; but the boat was very wobbly. It was not so easy; her foot slipped, and in she stepped with one foot into the deep mud. She grasped convulsively hold of a willow bush that grew on the bank.

Meanwhile Hermann, seeing the predicament they were in, jumped out of his boat, leaving poor Lottchen quite alone. She began to scream with all her might and main, and she could make a fine noise when she chose.

Mother heard the cries though she was some way off and flew to the pond.

The maids who were bleaching the linen in the meadow, came running to the rescue as well, as fast as their legs could carry them.

Lotty was soon helped out of the boat. Trudel had rescued herself with Hermann’s assistance, and she looked very red and ashamed of herself. She said she did not wish for any more Robinson Crusoe adventures of that sort. Mother naturally gave the children a good talking to; but she thought they had been punished enough this time for their disobedience, by the fright they had had.

The Tree Man

There was a tree in the garden that was ideal to climb, and mother allowed the children to do so, for she had been very fond of climbing herself when she was a child.

They wore old serge skirts and jerseys that they could not spoil.

This tree made a splendid arbour, or house with a suite of rooms. Lottchen sat up in the branches like a little bird, and like a little bird she sang all the songs she knew. From this tree you could see the mountain called the Stellerskuppe and the blue sky through the tree-stems on the summit. At sunset time, the sky behind the trees turned a golden colour, till it looked like a picture of fairyland.

It was a fine view, but still you could not see from here the famous oak-tree, where the little green tree man lived. This was ten minutes’ walk from the farm.

Trudel and Lottchen saw him first on a wet day when they had set out for a walk in spite of the rain, with their green waterproof cloaks on with hoods over their heads, looking for all the world like wood-goblins themselves. They were walking down a narrow green path, and mother was some distance behind.

“Do just look, Trudel,” said Lottchen. “I believe there is a little man in that hollow tree!”

“So there is, he is smiling and bowing to us, let’s go and visit him,” said Trudel, always enterprising.

Lottchen hung back, feeling a little afraid; she was always on the look-out for the unexpected, and yet was surprised when something really happened.

“Come along, darling,” said Trudel, grasping her smaller sister by the hand.

They both distinctly saw the little man; they said they could have drawn him afterwards, and indeed they attempted to do so as well as they could. But as they approached the venerable oak, the little man vanished, and all they saw was a strange green stain on the inside of the tree, resembling a dwarf with a peaked hood on.

“Just look at this Gothic window,” said Lottchen, proud of her knowledge of the word “Gothic.” “How nicely this tree-room is carved. I am sure he lives here; where are his little chairs and tables? I should love to see them.”

They peeped through a window or hole in the old tree and saw their mother approaching.

“Mother, mother, here lives a real tree man; we saw him—didn’t you?”

Mother smiled—what the children called her mysterious smile.

“You look like two little wood-men yourselves,” she said. “Lottchen, stand up straight in the hole and look at me.”

Lottchen stood up just fitting into the green mark on the tree behind her. She made a pretty picture, her laughing brown eyes with the long eyelashes, her rosy cheeks, and the wind-blown hair straying from under her hood.

“O look, Lottchen, here is a little basin of holy water, just like we saw in the cathedral,” said Trudel.
“Wood water,
Nice and brown,
In a little cup.
Wood water,
Wood wine,
Won’t you drink it up?”

said a tiny voice that sounded like that of a wood-bird.

“Mother! did you hear anything, mother?”

“Yes, darlings, the birds are singing so sweetly now the rain is over. I have brought my camp-stool. I shall sit here and sketch the tree,” said mother.

“Do draw him,” said Trudel, whose blue eyes were open wider than usual.

“Him! Whom do you mean?” said mother.

“Why, the tree man, of course.”

“Hum,” said mother mysteriously, “we’ll see,” and she settled herself down to sketch.

The children collected huge acorns, and laid them on a leaf in the hollow tree. Then they stirred up the brackish “holy” water and put their fingers in it.

“It smells like lavender and roses,” said Lottchen.

“Well, you’ve got a funny nose; it smells to me like blackberry and apple-tart,” said Trudel.

“Ha—ha—he!” said a little voice again. Somebody was laughing. Where could he be? Glancing round quickly the children saw a little man about three feet high, dressed in green, wearing a long peaked cap with a wreath of tiny oak-leaves around it. He looked very strong, although he was small, and he stuck his arms out akimbo in a curious angular way like the branches of an oak-tree.

“How did you know that trees were alive?” he asked the children.

They were embarrassed by the question.

“Why, of course we know they are not dead, unless they are cut down,” they said.

The little man shuddered; then he began to wave his arms about wildly.

“Let them try to cut me down, I’ll knock them down. I’ll fall on them and crush their bones. I’ll smash them like this stone!” Here he gave a stone that stood near by, such a tremendous whack that sparks flew out of it.

“Don’t smash us, please, Mr Tree Man,” said Lottchen trembling.

“No fear, little Miss Lottchen, no fear, you’re a nice little thing, you are; one can see that to look at you. You would never cut me down, would you?”

“Why, of course not,” said Lotty.

“I should not dream of such a thing either,” said Trudel. “But may we ask who you are?” Trudel continued, “You are surely not a tree?”

“Well, it’s like this,” said the little man; “I’m a tree, and the tree’s me!”

“I,” said Trudel, correcting him, “would be more correct.”

“Rubbish,” said the little man, “Pedantic rot!—the tree’s me, I repeat. Every tree has its gnome or elf; they used to call us dryads in old times; but nowadays people are getting so cock-sure of knowing everything, that they can’t see what is going on right under their noses. Trees are never still,” he continued; “they are always moving.
“‘Where there is movement, there is life,
Where there is life, there is thought,
Where there is thought, there is individuality.’

“Do you follow me? That is logically expressed.”

“You forget we are only children, Mr Tree Man; you are talking too grown-upy for us. Father talks like that sometimes; but then we don’t listen,” they replied.

“Well,” continued the gnome, “in every tree there either lives a jolly fellow like me or a lovely lady fairy. Yes,” he said in a sentimental tone, “I, too, old and tough though I am, I, too, have known love.”

“Who is she?” asked Trudel eagerly.

“Alas! I can never reach her; my old bones are too stiff and unbendable. She is a graceful larch-tree in all the glory of her youth. You may see her yonder!” He sat down and sighed deeply.

The children looked in the direction that the gnome had indicated, and there they saw a larch-tree on which the sunlight had just fallen. It was exquisitely dressed in a robe of delicate green and—was it only fancy?—for one moment the children thought that they saw a lovely lady with flowing tresses that gleamed golden in the sunlight, and large starry eyes. As they gazed, she melted into the blue mist which shimmers always between the forest trees.

“Now we must go home, children,” mother called out, “before it begins to rain again.”

The children glanced round; their little friend had vanished, and no trace was to be seen of the lady of the larch-tree. So they turned reluctantly from the tree-house fully determined to come again very soon to this enchanted spot.

“Mother, may we see your sketch?”

“Not now,” said mother, “it’s going to be a surprise.”

“Did mother see him too?”

“Do you think so?” said Lottchen. “Mother’s a fairy herself.”

“I think,” said Trudel, “she sees all sorts of queer things; but she won’t tell us everything she sees.”

“It spoils some things to tell about them,” said Lottchen. “I shan’t tell Hermann and Fritz about the tree man.”

However, when she got home again, she could not contain herself. “Do you believe in fairies and tree men?” she said to the boys.

“Of course not, that’s all rot,” said Hermann. “Like Santa Claus and such things, just invented to stuff us up!”

“Santa Claus will never come to you any more if you talk like that; he is quite true, I know. Trudel saw him come in last year when she was in bed, and she heard him filling our stockings. Of course she did not dare to turn round and look at him,” said Lottchen.

“I don’t say it isn’t nice to believe such things,” said Hermann conscientiously, “but it isn’t true; it’s superstitious. You know quite well, Trudel, who Santa Claus really is.”

Trudel was silent; she was ten years old, and she had her doubts.

“But I’ve seen a tree man to-day,” said Lotty.

The boys laughed.

“Don’t try to stuff us up with such nonsense; we’re not so green as your tree man,” they said.

Gustel, the maid, came in, and joined in the conversation. She supported the boys’ view.

“I don’t care,” said Lottchen, now in a high state of excitement. “My mother knows a man—a very clever Irishman—a poet and a painter as well, and he has often seen the fairies.”

“Yes,” said Trudel, “it’s true he draws them just as he sees them with rainbow-coloured wings.”

“Well I never, you don’t expect me to believe such things, do you?” said Gustel. “Why, that’s all lies, and it is very wicked to tell a lie!”

Lotty flew into a perfect tantrum. “How dare you say we tell lies; I will tell my mother of you,” she screamed, and threw herself on the floor crying violently.

Mother rushed in, not knowing what had happened. “Lotty, get up at once; tell me what’s the matter, darling!”

“Booh!—booh—booh!—Gustel won’t believe—booh, booh, booh—that you know a man who has seen the fairies!”

Mother could not help laughing. “Don’t be so absurd, Lotty. Of course Gustel does not understand what you mean. Gustel,” she said, “you are a Catholic and believe in the saints; they saw very queer things too, sometimes, didn’t they?”

“O yes, you’re right; of course, ma’am,” said Gustel, feeling embarrassed; for she had no arguments to support her disbelief in fairies.

“Some people can see more than others,” continued mother. “Now if I were to tell you that I could see the old poacher or wild huntsman who used to live in this house, riding through the yard on a moonlight night, what would you say?”

“Lor, ma’am, if I saw him, I should die of fright,” said Gustel, turning pale.

“But you know that there are no such things as ghosts and fairies!”

“Yes, ma’am, very true, ma’am, it’s rather confusing what you say,” said poor Gustel, feeling her head in a whirl.

It was a wonderful moonlight night. As father was still away, mother sat by herself in the big bedroom, whilst the children slept in the little room adjoining. There was a very high wind; the window-panes rattled; the wooden shutters blew to and fro; the branches of the trees made weird patterns on the ground. The moonlight was so white that the fields and paths looked almost as if they were covered with snow. The Stellerskuppe stood out black against the sky. As mother gazed, it seemed to her as if strange creatures were abroad that night, driven to and fro by that tireless hunter, the wind. Wild forms passed by and gazed at her with deathless eyes; for a while she remained there motionless, as under a spell. Then suddenly she remembered her joke about the old huntsman of evil repute, who had formerly lived in this farmhouse. Did his ghost haunt it still? Mother shivered; the nights were cold up in the mountains, though it was such a hot summer. She opened the door of the children’s room and peeped in. To tell the truth, she felt a little creepy, and longed for human companionship. There were her darlings, sleeping soundly; but as she entered the room Trudel turned round and flung herself on the other side of the bed, saying: “Go away, go away, do not come near me!”

“Whom do you mean, darling?” said mother anxiously.

Then Trudel groaned and spoke again in her sleep. She uttered the following deep and mystic words: “Gustel, bring in the shark, please; mother can’t eat the thimble.”

Now, wasn’t that a funny thing for a little girl to say in her sleep. Mother was so amused that she wrote the words down on the spot, so as not to forget them, and she troubled her head no more with thoughts of the wild huntsman; indeed the spectres of the night vanished as they always do vanish at a joke!

Some days passed, before the children visited the oak-tree again. When they did so, they found that an enormous branch had been broken off, and lay across the green pathway.

“O dear me,” said Lottchen, “our poor little man. I hope it hasn’t hurt him!”

“It must have happened on that windy night,” said Trudel.

“It was my own fault, it was entirely my own fault,” said a queer little voice, and there was the oak-tree man sitting in his house smoking a reed pipe. His arm was bound up with green fern leaves. “Yes, it was my own fault; the wind excited me, and stirred my sap (that’s my blood you know)—I stretched out my arms towards her—one embrace—one blessed moment in which to call her mine—and here you see me a cripple for ever!”

“O poor thing, we are so sorry for you,” said the children.

“Never mind, it heals easily,” said the oak man, “but, alas, my beauty and my symmetry are gone for ever!”

“Your leaves are so nice and fresh; and your house is so pretty; why, you have got furniture in it,” said the children in astonishment.

“Such a pretty oak table and beautifully carved chairs; where did you get them from?” asked Lottchen.

“I made them myself out of my own wood; it cheered me up a bit,” said the little man. “One must do something, you know; looks snug, doesn’t it? Ah, well—I have known love, that is something to be proud of; I have experienced the most pleasing of human emotions. Have you ever been in love?” he said inquisitively, looking at Trudel, who looked big enough in his eyes.

“Why no, not exactly, we’re only kiddies; but still we do love lots of people, of course,” said she.

“Your day will come, your day will come. Do not desire the unattainable, but content yourself with the reachable,” he said; “and yet ”Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all,’ as the dear old poem says.”

“He’s getting grand in his language again; he is a funny little man,” said Trudel in a whisper to Lottchen.

“Stay,” said the tree man, “I have a good idea; I will give you a card of introduction to her, my beloved Lady Larch-tree.”

He gave them an oak leaf with the words: “Edle Eiche,” printed on it, which is in English Noble Oak.

“You need not say anything; she will know it comes from me,” he said, sighing sentimentally.

Full of curiosity, the children turned to go to the larch-tree, which was only a few steps further down the green pathway. The ardent lover watched the children from the window of his little house. They knocked three times on the bark of the larch-tree; and they were very pleased when a door opened in the tree, and a lovely lady was revealed to them. Her dress was of green, looped up with tiny pink flowers such as grow on the larches in early spring; her hair streamed down like a soft veil about her. She hardly seemed to see the children at first, when they presented their cards. She took the oak-leaf cards and pressed them to her heart.

“Heart of oak! King of the forest! for ever mine,” she murmured, and her words were like the sound that a little brook makes when it trickles beneath dark forest trees.

“He sends you his love,” said the children politely.

“You dear little things,” said Lady Larch; “it was so kind of you to come and call on me. So you understand trees and their language, dear, dear, so young and so clever! Would you like some wood wine?”

“Not if it is dirty water with caterpillars in it,” said Trudel.

“O dear no, it is purified and refined; it is most delicious.” So saying, she handed each of them a large acorn cup full; and they drank the contents.

“It does taste nice, dear fairy,” said the children, “like what we make ourselves at a doll’s feast. May we ask you for some more?”

“No, no, it is very strong, and would get into your heads, and you would find out all about…. No, I’m sorry … but——”

“Children,” said mother’s voice, “where are you? I have been looking for you.”

“We have only been to call on Lady Larch, mother; she has shut her door tight again or we would have introduced you to her,” said Lotty.


They came home rather late that evening and found the farm in a great state of commotion. The red-haired cow-herd was shouting and crying in an unintelligible way; the house seemed to be deserted. They met the Herr Baron also preparing to set out in a hurry.

“What’s the matter? Where is everybody?” said mother.

“The silly old cow-herd has lost one of the best cows; it has strayed off among the bushes, and may die if it is exposed all night. Who knows where the poor creature may have got to in these vast woods?”

The search went on till late at night; the men, including the Herr Baron, walked miles with their lanterns, but in vain. The deaf mute was in a dreadful state of mind and kept crying out in his harsh, disagreeable voice: “Not my fault—Schimmel’s fault.” (Schimmel was the cow.)

It was difficult enough to sleep that night; but when mother had at last dropped into a light doze, it must have been about four o’clock in the morning, she and the children were aroused by a great shouting and disturbance in the house. They looked out of the window and—what do you think?—there was the lost cow, who had returned after all of her own accord. And with her a dear little black and white calf, who frisked and bounded along as if it thought it was fine fun to be in the world on this lovely morning. Now wasn’t that a queer thing, children, queerer than all the fairy stories you have read? for this story is quite true, you must know!

It was an exceptionally fine Sunday, and as father had come down to spend the week-end, mother and the children were in the seventh heaven of joy. It was not possible to go to church; for the nearest town was two hours’ walk away, and would be partly over fields that were exposed to the heat of the midday sun. So father and mother and their two little daughters went to the great woodland cathedral.

The service was on the Stellerskuppe; surely no one could wish for a more beautiful place of worship. Mountain after mountain ranged in the distance, some with rounded or knolled heads, others rising to a peak. Lottchen called the most pointed one Mesuvius, because she always forgot the “V.”

As the children sat there and sang hymns, with their white Sunday frocks on, mother fancied that eyes were peering at them from out the forest depths. If they were merely those of the gentle deer, or if stranger creatures still were watching them as if fascinated, she did not know: she felt there were lookers-on. There is the old story of the God Pan who played so divinely that all living things came to listen to him. Perhaps there may be a stirring at times in the souls of the mysterious dwellers in the forest that makes them yearn for immortality and gives them a fuller sense of existence. So that all the woodland sang too at that Sunday service.

On Sunday afternoon, father and mother wanted to go for a longer walk than usual; but the lazy children petitioned to be left behind.

“You will promise not to go near the pond,” said mother. “Remember it is Sunday, and you have your best frocks on; you must not romp or climb trees.”

“O no, mother, of course not,” said Trudel. “We’ll stay in the garden and promise to be very good.”

When father and mother returned from their walk, the first thing they saw was Lottchen staggering along with a stand of empty beer-bottles.

“Whatever are you doing, Lottchen?”

“Oh, mother, there are such heaps of people here this afternoon, and there are not enough waitresses to serve them; so Trudel and I are helping. Trudel has got such a lot of tips already; she has bought chocolate with the money. Do tell her to divide it fairly with me!”

Mother looked round. The whole place was covered with tables and benches; a number of gaily dressed people from the neighbouring town were drinking coffee and eating cake or waffeln, a kind of pancake for which the inn was celebrated.

“Mother, don’t speak to me, I’m too busy,” said Trudel. “I’ve been waiting on those gentlemen; the maids were shy of them, so I said I would go and ask what they wanted.” She pointed out some young men in officers’ uniform, who had come from a military school. “I’ve got 6d. in tips, and I spent it on chocolate.”

“Well I never!” said mother, astonished at her daughter’s prowess—”you have turned into a waitress, and on Sunday afternoon too. Whatever would your aunts say?”

“I think I had better tell you what the young men said to me,” said Trudel seriously. “They said I was a sweet little thing, and that if I were older, they would fall in love with me. I laughed of course; I could see they were only silly old stupid heads. I told them they had not much taste; for their military school was the ugliest building in all the town. They quite agreed with me about this, however, and then they asked me who my father was, and when I said he was a professor, they laughed till I thought they would burst. But now you must excuse me, really, mother darling. I have promised to go into the kitchen and wash up cups and saucers!”

The landlady could not praise Trudel enough. Such a useful little girl, she does everything in a most orderly way and wipes down the table when she has finished! “If ever you want her to learn housekeeping, pray send her to me, I should be delighted to teach her,” she said.

“Yes,” thought mother, “and make a nice little slavey of her into the bargain. No, no, our Trudel is not going to turn into a housemaid!”

If Trudel had been some years older, father and mother might have objected to these experiences; but, as it was, they only laughed.


As the world is full of fact and fancy, so is this story. Whether it is based mostly on fact or on fancy we will leave to the German philosophers to decide, but I have heard that they are doubtful on this point, with regard to the world, I mean.

It was a magical evening. Trudel was so engrossed in a game of cards with the boys that she could not be induced to come out; moreover she had a slight cold and the evenings were chilly. A glorious sunset glow illumined the sky as mother and Lottchen set out for their never-to-be-forgotten walk.

“We will go up and see the fire on the heath; I love the smell of dry pine wood burning,” said mother.

“I love to see the fire dancing and crackling,” said Lottchen. “How still everything is.”

“It is the calm of twilight. The wind usually drops in the evening,” said mother.

“Look, look, over there by those dark woods there is something moving,” said Lotty. “I think it is a white cat.”

“A white cat! How queer that she should have strayed so far; she does not belong to the farm, I know.”

“Hush! perhaps she is not a cat at all—then she will vanish.” And lo and behold when they looked again, there was no cat there, though they had distinctly seen it a minute before on the field at the wood’s edge.

“She is really a witch, I believe,” said mother, with the curious expression on her face that Lotty knew so well.

Going further up the hill, they saw a wonderful sight. Twenty or more peasant girls were busy working, hacking the ground, their faces illuminated by the wonderful sunset glow. They wore short full peasant skirts edged with bright-coloured ribbons, and each had a gaily coloured scarf pinned round the neck and bodice.

We learned afterwards that they were preparing the ground to plant young fir-trees on a clearing. Germans are so careful of their woods, they replant what has been cut down, so that they have a great wealth in wood that we cannot boast of in England. I believe that they would like to cut off all the dead branches in order to make the woods quite tidy! But this would be rather too big a job even for the German nation to accomplish!

A man dressed in green with a feather in his cap, and a gun over his shoulder stood by watching the girls at their work.

He was a forester and seemed to act as overseer. He gave the signal to stop work as the strangers (mother and Lotty) approached. The women hid their tools under the dry heather until the next day, and then strapped on the big baskets they carried on their backs, without which they hardly felt properly dressed. They then marched along together, singing a melodious song in unison. As they came to the cross-roads they parted company; some went this way, some that; all kept up the tune, which echoed farther and farther, fainter and fainter in the distance.

Before long Lottchen and her mother were alone; but they felt that the ground they stood on, was enchanted. Mother said it was like a scene from the opera. They watched the fire; how the flames leaped and crackled; yet they were dying down. The fire made a bright contrast to the dark fir-woods which formed the background to the picture. The glory died from the sky; but yet it was strangely light; darker and darker grew the woods near the fire. Suddenly Lotty espied bright sparks among the trees.

“I do believe they have set the wood on fire,” said mother.

“O no, mother, don’t you see; let us crouch down and hide; it is the fairies: they are coming to the fire.”

The air was suddenly full of bright beings.
“There is a wood fire on the hill;
High on the heath it glimmers still.
Who are these beings in the air
With gauzy robes and flowing hair?
Is it the wreathing smoke I see
That forms itself so curiously?

Nay, they alight: they form a ring,
Around the flickering fire spring,
And from those embers burning low
They light their wands, they gleam, they glow,
Like firework stars of rainbow hue,
Green, yellow, orange, lilac, blue!

Ah what a scene, how wild, how strange!
The stars each moment break and change
In thousand colours; look on high:
Each slender wand points to the sky,
Then waves and trembles: lo afar
On lonely woods falls many a star!”

And all this Trudel had missed. It seemed too great a pity, with that silly old card playing.

Spellbound mother and Lotty watched the fairies at their revels, till Lottchen began to shiver.

“We really must go home,” whispered mother. “Trudel will be anxious.”

“Oh, but mother I want to dance round the fire with the fairies, and I want a fairy wand with shooting stars,” said Lotty almost aloud.

Suddenly it seemed as if the fairies became aware that they were observed. They vanished away, and all became dark. Lottchen said she could hear the sound of little feet stamping out the fire.

“Fairies, dear fairies, come again, do,” said Lotty.

No answer, perfect stillness, not even a leaf stirred.

“Well, you are not so polite as our tree man, not half,” said Lotty, “though you are so pretty. Good night,” she shouted.

There was a sound of suppressed laughter; then from hill and dale the word “good night” was echoed all around. Spellbound, as if in a trance, they moved toward the farm. Trudel was wild with herself when she heard what she had missed.

“To-morrow,” she said, but to-morrow is sometimes a long, long way off, and the fairies did not show themselves again during these holidays.

One of Lottchen’s favourite walks was the echo walk, but she usually came home quite hoarse after having been this way. The path wound below the fairy heath on the incline of the hill; further down still were the fir-woods through which the light shone.

“Angel-pet!” “Cherry-ripe!” “Cheeky fellow!” “You’re another!” So Lotty shouted the whole time, and the echoes came back so surprisingly distinct that Lotty was sure it must be really the fairies answering her. When you turned the corner of the hill, the echoes ceased. It was too queer.

The next day Trudel distinguished herself again. Two great cart-loads of swedes arrived that were to be stored up as fodder for the cattle in the winter. Now the joy was to throw these through a hole in the wall into the cellar. Hermann stood in the cart and Trudel threw the swedes to him as the bricklayers throw the bricks to one another. Fritz and Lottchen helped too; they had to take their turn and be very quick, as the hole was small. Hour after hour this went on, till the children were as black as chimney sweeps, and yet Trudel’s energy did not fail. At last the carts were empty, and only then did the little workers leave off, dead tired.

Hermann could make curious heads out of the swedes, with eyes and nose and mouth. If you put an old candle-end inside, they looked ghastly, like some Chinese god. Lotty declared that they rolled about in the yard at night and grinned at her, and that she did not like “heads without people.”

“But they are so funny, Lottchen,” said mother, and then she laughed at them and was not frightened any more.

In the fields grew nice little buttony mushrooms. No one knew better than the Herr Baron where they were to be found and how to prepare them. Apparently he had lived on mushrooms in the wilds of South America. He was very kind in helping the children to fill their baskets to take home with them; for, alas, even the pleasantest of holidays must come to an end; and there was only one day left. He discovered a treasure in the field, a little mother-of-pearl knife, very old and rusty, and presented it to Trudel. He told her to soak it in petroleum to clean it. That knife was more trouble than all the rest of the luggage on the way back, for Trudel made such a fuss about it, and dissolved in tears several times when she thought that she had lost it.

To leave the beautiful cool woods, the fairies, the tree man and his sweetheart, the cows and the geese and all the marvels of the country, yes, it was hard; but home is home, and always turns a smiling face to us after a long absence. How nice to rediscover one’s playthings and dolls. Trudel’s first thought was always for her doll babies, and she would rush upstairs, and embrace each one tenderly.

As the children drove to the station from the farm, they passed the famous oak-tree, but no little man was to be seen.

“He’s shy of the coachman, of course,” said the children.

Looking back, they caught a glimpse of him in the distance, and shouted and waved their handkerchiefs.

Hermann and Fritz were very sorry to say “good-bye” to their little friends; but school began the next day, and they would not have so much time for play then.

The landlady told the children a great secret before they left. “The Herr Baron is going to be married next week,” she said.

“Well, I am glad,” said mother. “I hope she is very nice,” and the children echoed the wish warmly.

“She has lots of money, and is a countess, I believe,” continued the landlady.

“Well, I do hope she does not object to smoking,” said Trudel, and they all laughed.

“Mother, you have never shown us your sketch,” said Trudel during the unpacking.

Mother laughed. “Where’s Lottchen? I suppose she wants to see it too?”

“Here I am,” said Lotty. “Oh, do be quick and show it to us!”

Mother held up the sketch. There was the hollow oak-tree, and standing in it the little tree man himself just as the children had first seen him, with his green peaked hood on.

“So mother really did see him too!” said the children.

Now this story disproves the common fallacy that only children can see the fairies and forest folk; for how could mother have painted the tree gnome unless she had seen him?

The Witch’s Granddaughter, by Margaret Arndt


In a green valley between two mountain-slopes lay a little village crowned by the Castle of Eppenhain, that stood on the mountain-side, built on projecting slabs of rock.

The quaint old houses of the village with their red, slanting roofs, and black-beamed walls, made a pretty picture in the May sunshine as Count Karl of Eppenhain rode through the stone-paved highway, mounted on his white steed decked with scarlet fringes. The lilac bushes were in flower, the air was sweet with their scent, the laburnums hung out their “gold rain” between the houses, the cherry-trees in the little gardens shed their blossoms like snow.

At the farther end of the village was a house somewhat larger than the peasant’s cottages, with many gables and corners. This house was surrounded on all sides by a thick briar hedge. The Count knew that it had belonged to an old woman who was said to be a witch. There she had lived all alone, save for her seven cats, her seven ravens, her poultry—famous for the remarkable size of the eggs—and her little granddaughter, Babette.

Count Karl had heard that the old woman was dead; for there had been a great fuss about her burial. The villagers had said that as she was a notorious witch, she ought not to be buried in consecrated ground; but as the old lady had left money to the church, her tombstone was erected after all in the little churchyard. The village boys declared that they had seen her riding on a broomstick over the church spire; but the Count did not believe such tales. He wondered what had become of the child; she was the prettiest, as well as the most mischievous and ill-behaved child in the village.

As the Count came up to the house, he heard voices shouting and scolding. Then he saw a strange hunting scene. The hunters were not men, but women with sticks and brooms, and the creature pursued was neither a hare nor a fox, but just a little girl.

Yes, it was little Babette, the witch’s granddaughter. She was leading the fat peasant women a fine dance. They were quite unused to running, and were obliged to stop every few minutes to pant; then Babette danced just before them, made naughty faces, and (oh, fie!) stuck out her little red tongue. Her hair blew over her head in the fresh breeze, till she looked like some tall flower with curling petals. Sometimes she stopped and shook her little fist at her pursuers; then off she flew again. She knew every nook and corner of the garden, and that was to her advantage.

The Count paused, laughed, then blew a blast from his horn.

Instantly everyone stood still as if they were living pictures.

“Hi! Ho! Come here, good folk!” he cried.

The women came at once, wiping their hot faces with the corner of their aprons, puffing and blowing like so many fat seals. Babette stood at a safe distance, but near enough to hear all that went on.

“Please sir,” said one of the women with a curtsy, “as your Lordship knows, the child’s granny is dead and buried. Four days has the child lived here all alone, never a bite or sup has she had; she will die of starvation. (Here Babette laughed.) She hides in the bushes like the wild cat that she is!”

“Babette, little Babette, come here, child,” he called, interrupting the old woman’s narrative.

She came at once in obedience to his gentle command. She gave him one glance out of her deep brown eyes, lifting up her long black lashes, and his heart was captured at once. He was very fond of children, but he had none of his own. Here was a beautiful child that seemed ready made for him. Not one of the women before him really wished to keep her; for they feared her, and the supposed power of her dead grandmother.

Meanwhile the child stood by the Count, and began to stroke his fine embroidered sleeve; finally she slipped her little hand into his. This settled the matter.

“Well, well, we must see what is to be done for the child. Meanwhile I shall take her up with me to the Castle. She seems to have made you all rather hot,” he remarked mischievously to the reddest and stoutest of the women.

“A devil’s brat, I call her!” she muttered in return, between her teeth.

“Hush,” said my Lord indignantly, “she looks more like a little angel,” and, indeed, at his kind words her small face had become very sweet.

As he mounted his horse again and lifted Babette to place her before him, she began to cry bitterly.

“Why, little one, what ails you?” he said. “Are you frightened?”

“No-o-o-o-o-o,” said Babette, “but I don’t want to go away from my beau-ti-ful home!”

“You shall have a far more beautiful home, and everything that you can want, shall be yours,” he said. “Why, you would have starved there alone, you poor little thing!”

“Oh no!” said Babette, “for Lucky—she is my pet hen you know—always laid the biggest eggs for me; then I make a little hole and suck them so. (She tossed back her curly head.) Then I am never hungry or thirsty. O, who will feed Lucky, and all the baby chickens; and my cats?” she continued, and began to cry again.

“We will fetch them all up to the Castle,” said his Lordship consolingly.

The road wound upwards and upwards, until they reached at length the gateway of the Castle. The heavy gates stood open to receive them. There was a pretty terraced garden in the front, where peacocks strutted up and down, who nodded their heads as if they knew Babette.

A dog sprang out barking to meet his master. Count Karl patted his head; then he lifted Babette from his horse, and led her by the hand into the Castle. “Welcome to Eppenhain, my little maid,” he said, formally, but kindly.

Her little heart beat fast; for she was timid, like all wild, untamed creatures, and did not know what might happen to her next. The Count drew back the heavy curtain that hung before the entrance to a room; and there in a deep window niche sat a lady dressed in a rich green velvet dress with puffed sleeves, and a gold chain round her neck. She was working at embroidery on a frame. She sprang up at once, as her husband (for it was the Countess herself) entered the room, and uttered a cry of surprise as she saw the child.

“Why, what dirty little thing have you picked up? Send her away again at once,” she said imperiously. “Don’t touch me, child,” as Babette attempted to stroke her grand dress.

Now the Count had not noticed that Babette was very dirty, that her red pinafore hung in rags, and her hair had not been combed for many a day. He was somewhat taken aback, and saw that he had been rash.

“She shall be washed and properly dressed, and then you will see,” he said. He dared not tell her his plans at once. He sent for his old nurse, who had brought him up as a boy, and gave the child into her care.

The poor woman soon had her hands full, I can tell you! You might as well have tried to dress a hare as Babette! She would not stand still for a second, and as for a bath, she seemed to be quite afraid of it. However, several maids were called, and Babette was bathed in spite of kicks and screams. She was no sooner in the water than she began to splash about like a baby, and to enjoy herself finely. It was almost as difficult to get her out as to put her in! Some old clothes that had belonged to the Count’s sister, were produced. Babette thought them very fine, and seemed quite pleased, she stroked the old nurse’s cheek, chucked her under the chin, and sprang up and down violently on her knee, “nearly cracking my old bones,” as nurse related afterwards. Her curls were the most trouble; it would take more than one day’s brushing to set them in order.

Meanwhile Count Karl had been explaining to his wife that he meant to adopt Babette, and bring her up as his own daughter.

“A witch’s offspring without a family pedigree,” exclaimed his wife, “must I be mother to a witch’s brat?”

Just then the “witch’s brat” entered the room, making a funny bobbing curtsy, as nurse had taught her to do, just outside the door. Very pretty she looked in her low-necked, white-embroidered frock, with the cherry-coloured sash, her face flushed after the bath. Even her Ladyship was bound to acknowledge that she was quite a lovely child.

“What is your name, child?” she said condescendingly.

“I don’t love you,” said Babette, and stuck out her tongue.

“Babette,” said the Count sternly, “if you are a good little girl, and do as you are told, you may stay here with us, and this lady will be your mother, and I your father. Then you will be brought up as a lady instead of becoming a little heathen and wild girl of the woods.”

Babette stood still a moment, as if she were considering the matter; then she gravely kissed his Lordship’s hand. The Countess extended her lily-white fingers, and Babette kissed them as well, but timidly; for she feared a rebuff.

Just at this moment a noise of scratching and miewing was heard at the window.

Babette flew to open it, and in walked—what do you think?—seven cats with their tails in the air rubbing themselves comfortably against the window-pane.

“O my dear Fotchen, dear Silverpaws, how glad I am to see you!” exclaimed Babette, and she kissed them all.

“What next?” said the poor Countess, holding up her hands in horror!

In a few minutes there came a rap at the window, seven times repeated. These were the ravens. However, they did not venture into the room; they were afraid of the big gun that stood in the corner. They flew straight up into a tall fir-tree, and there they chattered away as usual, hidden by the dark branches.

The funniest sight of all was the arrival of the poultry. The cocks walked first with an air of importance and authority; the baby bantams sat on their mothers’ backs; the whole procession toiled up the hill to the Castle and entered by the yard gate. The servants watched them with astonishment; they too said: “What next?” However, no one grumbled, not even the Countess when she heard of it; for such guests were welcome. The old witch’s hens were renowned for the size of their eggs; they had often been bought for use at the Castle.

Now the clock struck seven.

“High time for little girls to have their supper and go to bed,” said her Ladyship, and nurse was called, and carried Babette off again.

A beautiful wooden cot, painted white and gold, stood in the room where Babette was to sleep. It was still called the nursery; for the Count and his sister had slept there as children.

Nurse persuaded her to let five of the cats sleep outside in the barn; but she begged so hard to have Fotchen and Silverpaws that nurse sent for a bundle of hay, and the two pussies slept in a corner of the room to keep her from feeling homesick.

Babette stole out of her bed at six o’clock the next morning. She dressed herself in haste; she was so anxious to see her new surroundings. It seemed to her like a wonderful dream, or like one of the fairy stories that her old grandmother had so often narrated to her.

Yesterday, little, wild Babette, whom no one cared for, and everyone scorned; to-day, the Count’s own daughter. She would try and be so good, never naughty any more. She smoothed her hair a little with her fingers; washing she did not think necessary. Then she went down the big oak staircase followed by her two pussies. When the young servants saw her, they began to tease her unmercifully and to pull the cats’ tails.

Then Babette grew very angry. “Leave my cats alone, will you?” she said. She stamped her little foot, made ugly faces, and used bad words. Finally she escaped from her persecutors into the garden. Here she was alone. She sat down and cried with rage and sorrow. She had meant to be so good; but it was very hard when people were so horrid!

However she heard a cock-a-doodle-do from the hen-house, and ran off there, forgetting her troubles. She was greeted by a chorus of melodious voices. They made such a noise that they woke my Lady out of her comfortable early-morning doze. Lucky had laid an immense egg. She rolled it with pride to the feet of her young mistress, who promptly began to suck its contents. The ravens flew down to greet her, and she stroked their glossy plumage.

The five cats were still shut up and miewed bitterly. Babette luckily met one of the gardeners who opened the door of the barn and freed the captives. They followed her into the big kitchen with the shining copper pans, purring and rubbing themselves against her legs. Babette coaxed the cook till he gave her seven saucers of milk; then there was a great smacking of lips.

When nurse awoke as usual at seven o’clock, she was frightened to find that her little charge had vanished. “What a child to look after in my old age!” she groaned. “And yet she is taking too! How sweet she looked curled up in the old cot.” She soon found out from the servants what Babette had been doing; so the child was seized upon, washed and brushed again, and dressed in a stiff frock with white frills.

Quite sober and respectable our little wild girl looked when she went downstairs after breakfast to see my Lord and Lady in the dining-room.

She sat on the high, straight-backed sofa, and played with the carved lions’ heads, and had never a word to say for herself until the Count produced a doll that he had rummaged out from among some old treasures. It was yellow from age; but its frock was of satin, and it had on little gold shoes. To Babette, who had never had a doll of her own, it seemed very lovely indeed. “Is it really for me?” she asked in tones of ecstasy.

She was perfectly good all the morning, playing with it, washing its face, dressing and undressing it, and putting it to bed as little girls love to do.

At dinner she shocked the polite company by putting her food into her mouth with her fingers; forks and spoons she did not know how to manage. So she was sent to have dinner with the servants who made fine fun of her again, till she flew into a passion and declared with many tears that she would run away. Then they were frightened lest my Lord should hear the noise, and soothed and petted her till she was quiet again. They did not mean to be unkind; they were only stupid, and thought her tempers amusing.

Well, the days went on, and Babette became more gentle and docile, and gave up many of her wild ways. She saw but little of the Countess, but she grew to admire the grave, silent lady, and to long for some response to her affection. My Lord was Babette’s best friend and protector in all her childish troubles. Everyone said that he was quite infatuated with the child. He would play ball with her in the garden, “regardless of his knightly dignity,” as his wife remarked.

Babette knew all the animals about the Castle and ruled over them like a little queen.

She would go up to the proud peacocks and say imperiously: “Spread out your tails, or I will smack your silly heads!” and they obeyed her meekly at once.

She had a pet frog in the pond, and once when the gardener was scolding her for breaking some of his beautiful lilies, she popped it down his neck, to his horror and disgust! For this she was whipped and put to bed. I think she richly deserved it—don’t you?

The garden at the back of the Castle led into the dense forest by which the mountains were covered. Babette would sit on the stone wall and gaze into the deep shades, as if she could see things there that were invisible to others. She knew how to call the deer. One day she enticed a fine stag into the garden. She made a garland of cornflowers and ox-eye daisies, and threw it over his antlers; then she sprang on his back, holding a red foxglove in her hand for a whip, and galloped round the garden, singing and shouting: “Look at me, look at me! I am the Queen of the fairies!”

The Countess herself owned that she had never seen a prettier sight; but then she sighed deeply, and said to her husband she feared all was not right with the child.

The Count shared her fears to some extent, and nurse had orders never to let her out of her sight.

Nurse had several times seen a strange man watching Babette from over the wall as she played alone in the garden. She too felt nervous and anxious about her little charge.


Years passed by, Babette grew into a tall and charming maiden. She learned to read and write, and to play on the harp. She could even speak a little French, which was the fashionable language of the Court in those days. So that with these accomplishments she was considered a fine lady, far above the village children, who had formerly despised her.

One fine evening (she was then about sixteen years of age) she was walking with her old nurse in the forest, not far from the Castle, picking bilberries, and singing to herself songs of her own composing. The wood was very still; not a leaf stirred. The setting sun shone out behind a beech-tree, making a brilliant star of iridescent colours that dazzled her eyes. She heard a sudden noise as of a cough: the bushes near her rustled. She felt frightened and called out: “Nurse, nurse,” in trembling tones.

As she spoke, a man sprang out of the wood and seized her by the arm. Nurse began to scream; but the man raised the stick he had in his hand, and she stood as if turned to stone.

Babette’s courage always rose to emergencies. She looked the man over from head to foot. He was dressed in green, with a red feather in his cap. His hair was dark and curly; his eyes were large and would have been beautiful, but that they had a wild and sinister look that Babette did not like, and squinted slightly. She seemed to remember his face; but where or when she had seen him before, she did not know. Her first thought was that he must be a wizard like one of those her grandmother had told her stories about.

“Who are you?” he said, shaking her slightly.

“I am Babette, daughter of Count Karl of Eppenhain,” said Babette proudly.

“A Count’s daughter—a fine tale—the witch’s granddaughter you mean,” he said with emphasis, and Babette shuddered. “Come along with me, child!” he continued, “you must follow me now, and serve me well and cook my dinners. I knew your old grandmother and have often seen you as a child; a little imp you were,” he said. “Now it is high time you learnt to be useful; they will only turn your head, and teach you rubbish up there at the Castle; you must come along with me now.” Then he turned to the poor nurse, and said, “In half an hour you will be free to return to the Castle. Adieu!” He fixed his strange eyes on the nurse, who swooned away, and thus she was found exactly half an hour afterwards by the housemaid, who had followed her to say that supper was ready.

You may imagine the consternation at the Castle. The poor Countess who had been so cold to Babette, seemed to feel it most. She sat and cried: “O Babette, come back, come back, my dear, and I will be a real mother to you, indeed I will.”

The Count immediately took steps to recover her. The forests were searched through and through by his men; but not the slightest trace could they discover.

The seven ravens said: “Caw, caw,” and set off at once in search of her.

The next day Fotchen and Silverpaws and the other cats disappeared. Lucky and several of the old witch’s hens were also missed.

It was evident that they had all followed Babette, and that she must be alive somewhere; but where, that was the question. Where there is magic at work, it is always a difficult matter.

One clever youth remarked that if one could find her pets, why, then one might find Babette.

But this brilliant idea was not of much use, as they were all lost.

Meanwhile Babette followed her strange guide with many misgivings and sad sinkings of the heart. They had not gone far when they came to a cottage in the forest, surrounded, like her granny’s garden, by a briar hedge.

Now I must tell you that Babette had fallen into the power of a reputed wizard, and he had the power of making everything within this briar hedge invisible and intangible to those outside. So that poor Babette would be more safely imprisoned there than in an iron-barred fortress. She did not realise this at first; she grew to understand it later, when she became more acquainted with the wizard (or Mr Squint-eyes, as Babette called him) and his ways. The hedge was so thick and high, and the thorns were so huge, that it would have been impossible for Babette to think of squeezing herself through it, and running away.

The wizard parted this hedge with his wand; it closed up thick and close behind them as they entered.

The cottage garden was laid out in patches of vegetables. Not a flower was to be seen in it; but there were fruit-trees with ripe apples, and pears, plums and medlars; for it was the early autumn. They entered into the little parlour which seemed dark and gloomy to Babette. Mr Squint-eyes tossed off a mug of beer that stood on the table, and told her to be off to bed. The poor girl was hungry; for bilberries are not very satisfying and it was supper time; but she crept up the narrow stairs, too much frightened to say a word. She found a tiny room with a white bed in it, a looking-glass, very dim and old and uncanny-looking, with candlesticks on either side, also a primitive washing-stand.

As she began to undress, a sense of fear and loneliness came over her. She thought of her happy home at Eppenhain, and of the Count, and hot tears began to fall. However, she was accustomed to look at the cheerful side of things. “They are sure to find me to-morrow,” she said to herself; she knew she could not be far away.

The next morning she was awakened by a loud knocking at the door. The horrid man who had stolen her, poked his head in, “Get up, get up, you lazy bones,” he said, “and see about my breakfast.”

Babette hurried downstairs and found a small kitchen, with a door leading into the garden. There was a heap of dried wood just outside the door, and, after many attempts, she succeeded in making the fire.

She filled the heavy iron kettle from the pump in the yard, making her pretty frock quite black.

“That’s right, that’s the way that women should work,” said the wizard coolly.

Babette felt indignant and thought that he might offer to help her, but not a bit of it. There he stood, leaning against the door, smoking his long pipe, the picture of laziness.

“Please where is the coffee?” said Babette.

“Use your eyes and you will find it,” said her polite host.

Then she saw a jar on a shelf labelled “Coffee,” and near it the coffee-mill.

Babette ground the beans till she was red in the face. Then she waited for the water to boil. Whilst she was attending to the coffee, rolls and butter appeared on the table and a blue and white china coffee service. The table seemed to have laid itself; for Babette was sure that the man had never moved from the door. Now breakfast was ready. They sat down together, the wizard saying never a word, but lifting one eyebrow at times in a peculiar way that made Babette feel very uncomfortable.

After breakfast he went out of the house saying: “Clean the house, make the beds, cook the dinner.”

“But there is no dinner to cook,” said poor Babette.

“Find it,” was all the reply she could get out of him.

Now Babette had not been remarkable for obedience and docility, and if anyone had spoken to her like that at home, she would have rebelled at once; but she felt instinctively that her safety here lay in doing exactly as she was told. The man was half-mad she feared, and if she aroused his wrath, he might do her bodily harm.

The tears came into her eyes; she felt quite in despair; but she was a brave girl and determined to make the best of things.

The vegetables in the garden occurred to her. She would cook some carrots; that was easy. Stewed plums would do for pudding; but what about the soup and the joint?

At this point of her deliberations a hare was thrown over the hedge. This settled the question. Evidently the man did not wish to starve.

“But how shall I get its fur off?” thought Babette. “Bah! I shall never be able to skin the creature!”

Just then she heard to her joy a “caw caw,” seven times repeated, and there she saw her dear ravens sitting on a tree just outside the garden.

Now the limit of invisibility did not exist for the witch’s favourites. They flew at once to Babette; she told them her troubles, and showed them the hare.

“That is an easy matter,” said the ravens, “the hare has seven skins; we are seven ravens, each of us will take off one skin, and may we have the pickings?” said the greedy fellows.

“Anything, anything you like! Please take it away and bring it back again all ready to pop in the pot!” said Babette.

“Potted or jugged hare famous!” said the ravens, and they laughed hoarsely.

“Be quiet, be quiet, or the wizard will catch you!” she said in a warning tone.

Now the dinner was all ready on the stove. Potatoes she had dug out of the garden. “Hare and carrots and stewed plums, what can anyone want more?” she thought, and felt very proud. But suddenly soup occurred to her. How could she make soup? She had heard that soup was made of bones and water; but she had no bones, and those nice little halfpenny packets for making soup out of nothing were not invented in those days.

She put on some hot water with a few carrots and a little chopped parsley in it and plenty of pepper and salt. She tasted it, as a good cook should, and said to herself: “Not bad, I have tasted worse.”

She laid the table, and punctually at one o’clock the man came in. Babette trembled. He proceeded at once to business; that is, he sat down to dinner.

Soup came first, which was unfortunate. “Bah!” he said, making a horribly wry face, “what stuff, child, do you want to make me sick?”

“No-o-o,” said poor Babette.

“Never make such soup again, or I shall fetch my sister, and she will cook you,” he said with a terrible look.

However the hare was tender, and when a pot of red-currant jelly produced itself, seemingly from nowhere, it was quite a fine dinner.

The carrots were hard, and “not scraped,” as the wizard said severely. “Plums too much sugar.”

But in spite of all this grumbling she felt immensely proud of her morning’s work. The house was not cleaned; neither were the beds made; but this he did not seem to notice. He lay on the sofa by the window, covered himself up with a bear skin, and snored loudly with his mouth open.

Babette made up the fire, and put the kettle on to boil for tea. Then she strolled out into the garden. She climbed up into a pear-tree. From her perch in its branches she could see far into the woods. She wondered when her friends would come and rescue her.

Then she saw to her delight Lucky and some of her favourite cocks and hens wandering about in search of her. They came scuttling up at once. She held up one finger to enjoin silence. She feared that her capturer might take a fancy for roast fowl if he should see them. So they hid under the hedge.

“Now I can make scrambled eggs for supper,” thought Babette joyfully.

Fotchen and Silverpaws had likewise no rest when their mistress was gone, and they too set out in search of her. When they reached the briar hedge, Babette was indoors making tea. They began to miew and made a great noise.

“The old woman’s cats, by Thor!” said the wizard. “They know a thing or two. I’ll go and let them in.” So saying he again parted the hedge with his wand, and let them through. Although Babette was very pleased to see them, she felt a little anxious as to their welfare.

However the wizard scratched their heads, and was quite affectionate to them. He had, it seemed, a partiality for cats.

Babette felt a little happier now that her pets were with her; yet her heart was sore. She thought of her lovely house, of her kind, good foster-father, and of all her friends, and the tears stood in her eyes.

Several weeks passed away, and Babette cooked and scrubbed every day in fear and trembling, like a regular little Cinderella. Being German, she was used to helping in the household, and was not so inexperienced as many English girls would have been. But never a word of praise did she get from her queer companion; but if anything were amiss, then he opened his mouth and scolded the poor girl roughly.


A young man was returning home after a day’s hunting. He was the son of the knight of a neighbouring castle, and his name was Sir Rudolf of Ruppertshain. It was a hot afternoon; the sunlight made a chequered pattern through the forest trees. His bag was heavy with game, and he whistled merrily as he strode between the oak-trees and bracken fern. He had a light heart and an easy conscience, few enemies and many friends, and added to these advantages was the exhilarating feeling of youth and perfect health.

Suddenly he stopped and looked around him, startled. He heard a sweet voice singing. The notes were clear and distinct as those of a bird, and yet it was no bird. Who could it be in this lonely spot? He could distinguish the words of the song as he held his breath to listen:
“A lonely maiden, I,
Sit here and sob and sigh;
No man my face can see,
Ah, who will rescue me?
O lack-a-daisy-me!

O wasted life of mine!
Here must I sadly pine;
My young life hid must be
From all humanity.
O lack-a-daisy me!

O were a knight so bold,
As in the time of old,
In days of chivalry,
He would deliver me!
O lack-a-daisy-me!”

Rudolf’s eyes were trained by hunting. He searched the woods carefully round that place, and peered behind every bush and tree; but nothing was to be seen. His heart beat fast, this was a real adventure. Surely if a wood-nymph or fairy were to appear to him here in this lonely forest, it would hardly seem strange.

So he summoned up his courage and addressed the wood-spirit as he thought. “Who are you? Where are you?” he said. “Be you wood-sprite or fairy, I fear you not. I am ready to do your bidding; for your sweet voice and your distress have touched my heart: appear, O appear!”

Babette (for of course it was she) trembled with excitement. This was really a chance of escape. She had seen the young huntsman from her perch in the pear-tree, and had made up the impromptu song. She thought it was even more original than her cooking. Now she answered eagerly:

“Alas it is impossible for me to appear unto you; for I am as invisible as if I had on Siegfried’s cap of darkness. I was stolen by a horrid wizard when I was walking in the forest with my nurse. Surely you have heard of me?”

Now of course Sir Rudolf had heard of Babette,—the story of whose kidnapping was told all over the country, and became more wonderful with every telling. Some people said that the devil himself had carried her off; this was really unkind; for Babette, though lively, was not a bad girl, as we know.

“Are you Babette, the witch’s granddaughter?” said the young man hesitatingly.

“O don’t, don’t say that, I want to forget that!” said Babette, and he heard a slight sob. “I am the adopted daughter of Count Karl of Eppenhain, and O, a wicked wizard holds me here invisible under a powerful spell. Just think,” said Babette crying again, “I slave for him all day and cook and do all the house-work, and never a kind word or look do I get from him in return. It is a shame. O dear! O dear!”

“Please don’t cry, I really cannot bear it, when I cannot even see you to comfort you,” said Rudolf tenderly. “Tell me what to do! Shall I shoot the wizard?”

“No, of course not; besides, he is invisible, too. You might walk through us all, and notice no difference, so subtle is the spell,” said Babette.

Rudolf was one of those specially gifted mortals in whom the sense of things unseen is as clearly developed as the senses of sight and hearing. He never doubted Babette’s reality, though I think a more up-to-date youth would certainly have done so, and have thought that his imagination was playing tricks with him. He felt much distressed and perplexed, but could think of no way out of this strange dilemma.

But an inspiration came to Babette.

“Go to Mother Holle,” she said, “if you really wish to help me. She was an intimate friend of my grandmother’s, and she is a powerful fairy and can perhaps help us. What is your name, brave youth?” she continued. “Sir Rudolf of Ruppertshain,” he answered. “Why, then, I know your mother quite well; but you were away travelling with your father, when I visited your castle. But quick, we must not delay matters by conversation, though it is dreadfully nice to talk to a real human being again.” Her voice sounded near and yet far away; “a curious kind of conversation,” Rudolf thought it was.

“Where can I find Mother Holle?” said Rudolf. “And will she not drop pitch on my head? I should be no good at shaking feather beds, you see!”

“Nonsense, she won’t expect you to do anything of the sort. She is very kind and friendly; she lives on the Rossert Mountain, quite near to your Castle. Hush, hush, go now! my tyrant is waking up; if he were to suspect us! Go!—go!”

A complete and somewhat unnatural silence followed, like one of those awkward pauses in the conversation when we entertain stiff callers for the first time.

Then Rudolf took the precaution of marking the position of the trees in that part of the woods.

Three tall fir-trees raised their heads among the beech and oaks. He cut a cross swastika thus, on each one of them, because trees are so deceptive. This mark is the old symbol of the Mithras cult, two axes placed sideways signifying the striking of fire. It is an old sign known and respected by the fairies; so he hoped that the good folk would see it and further his quest.

On one of the firs the ravens were assembled. They caw-cawed seven times to indicate their willingness to lend Rudolf their aid.

The wizard looked at Babette closely that evening. The new-born hope, perhaps, too, the sight of the handsome stranger had given an extra colour to her cheeks. “I may have trouble with her yet!” he said to himself, and cleared his throat with a rumbling sound.

I must tell you that the cocks and hens had betrayed themselves. They were silent all through the night, but when the dawn broke, they could not resist one cock-a-doodle-doo! Then the wizard chuckled and brought them in; but nothing had happened to them as yet.

Babette lived during the next days in a state of suppressed excitement. She felt that something must happen for good or evil; but she did not know what. Patient waiting! a hard lesson for all of us to learn, but harder still for a maiden of seventeen years who had been kept so long in that dull hole. She had passed her birthday in that horrid place! just think of it, and not one birthday present did she get. She made up for it afterwards by having two birthdays at once; but it was not quite so nice.

Meanwhile Sir Rudolf had turned homewards pondering on his strange adventure, and fully determined to seek Mother Holle’s aid. Should he go first to the Castle of Eppenhain and tell Babette’s foster-parents that he had found out where Babette was imprisoned? He felt that, credulous though they were in those days, they would only laugh at him, and consider the story as outside the range of possibility. They might even suggest that a cask of Rhine wine had clouded his intelligence; no, he would go home to Ruppertshain Castle and have supper, and think it over. So he returned home, and was so silent and dreamy, and his appetite, which was usually of heroic proportions, was so small that his mother felt quite anxious about him.

“You are not bewitched, Rudie dear?” she asked anxiously, just as we might inquire if he were a little upset.

“I am not sure, mother, maybe I am!” he answered to the good lady’s dismay.

After sprinkling him with various herbs, she insisted on his drinking some nasty aromatic tea when he went to bed. As she had put some spider’s legs in it and a few choice things of that sort, Rudolf asked to be allowed to take it upstairs with him. Then I regret to say he deceived the good lady by pouring it out of the window. I rather think that you or I might have done the same thing under the circumstances, though it was undoubtedly wrong.

The full moon was shining into the little window in the gable of the turret. He shook off the very natural sleepiness and fatigue consequent on his night’s hunting, took off his soiled clothes, and dressed himself in his fine velvet Court suit with the beautiful lace on the collar.

He opened the little window, squeezed himself (it was lucky that he was slight for a German knight) through the iron bars, and climbed on to the roof with some difficulty, not to say danger. Then he crawled noiselessly along the Castle walls, fearing to be challenged by the warder of the Castle on his nightly rounds. But the warder was just enjoying his seventh glass of lager beer, and was not very keen on the look-out.

As he dropped outside the walls, his favourite dog began to bark and beg to go with him; but Rudolf did not dare to let him out for fear of creating a disturbance.

He soon gained the little path which led through Eppenhain, and then through fields to the woods that clothed the Rossert. Great clouds had obscured the moon; but he was not afraid; he was so used to the woods and could distinguish one creature from another simply by its movements.

In his hand he carried a dark lantern. A rough path covered with rocks and stones led to the summit of the mountain. As he walked cautiously along, a bat hit him in the face as it blundered along. “Hi, ho, steady there, old fellow!” said Rudolf. He now entered the part of the woods where the beeches and oaks grow so closely together that at midday the sky seems green, rather than blue. The moon shone out suddenly, and he saw by its light a gruesome-looking head without a body that seemed to grin at him from among the undergrowth. His heart stood still for a moment, and then he laughed at his fears; for he saw that it was only a grotesque old tree-stump, such as one so often sees in the woods.

Suddenly he saw a bright light through the trees, as if one of the bushes were on fire, or was it merely the brilliant moonbeams shining on a wet clearing?

For a moment all was still; then lightning played across his path, revealing a huge clumsy-looking giant who stood with club uplifted in the way, looking as if he would dash his brains out. Brave though Rudolf was, he did not wish to court danger; so he turned aside into the woods hoping to find another path before long that was not thus barricaded. Then voices seemed to mock him and to laugh at him, and he had the unpleasant sensation of dark shadows, moving as he moved, shadows unaccompanied by substance.

The rain came down, pouring, drenching rain, such as the forests love. In a few minutes he was wet to the skin, as wet as if he had plunged into the river with his clothes on. Naturally his vanity was to blame for this; in his stout hunting clothes and thick leather boots even a deluge could not have wetted him through. To add to this, the air was close and stifling, and he had lost his way. All this for the sake of an unseen maiden. What if she were as old and ugly as Fräulein Kunigunde of whom Heinrich von Kleist has written? Somehow he felt that was impossible; but even if it had been so, his natural gallantry would not have deserted him, and we will hope that he would still have sought to deliver her.

A Christian knight is ready to help all women, be they young or old, rich or poor, plain or pretty.

The rain had ceased; but there was a sense of something oppressive in the atmosphere. An owl with eyes that looked like live coals glared at him from the branch of an oak-tree, vanishing as he approached. A fox? No, it was too large for a fox; it was a wolf (there were really wolves in the Taunus woods in those days!) came up to him snarling. Rudolf had his gun ready, but the creature moved away into the darkest shades, snarling and growling as it went.

Altogether I cannot say it was a pleasant walk. I do not think any one of us would have enjoyed it all alone at the dead of night, do you?

At this moment came a flash of lightning that struck down a tree just before Rudolf’s eyes. He crossed himself involuntarily and muttered a paternoster.

A lull followed the storm; the heavens were clear again. Rudolf made out by the light of his lantern a triangular spot made by three footpaths crossing. It was bare of all vegetation; black ashes were heaped up in the middle as if gipsies had lately lit a fire there.

An irresistible impulse made him enter this triangle, though he felt as if long ghostly arms were trying to hold him back.

No sooner had he stepped on to this spot than he fell into a deep sleep or faint. When he awoke, he saw a wonderful light near him, and in the midst of the light which seemed to radiate from her presence, was a beautiful lady, with long rippling fair hair.

“You are safe now in my kingdom,” she said. “You have passed the boundary between the good and evil powers, and have left the dangers of the night behind you.”

“O can you tell me where to find Mother Holle, beautiful fairy?” he said.

“Easily enough, for I am Mother Holle!” she answered. “I know why you have come here, and I am ready to help you.” She took him by the hand, and he leapt to his feet, making a low bow to the lovely lady. All the evil dreams that had perplexed him, fled as the night before the day, and he could have shouted hurrah! for joy and gladness.

He had the unshaken confidence in the final victory of good over evil, that is so necessary to help us to any measure of success in this world with its chequered lights.

He walked with Mother Holle a little way, till they came to an arbour made of honeysuckle and wild roses, surrounded by banks of evening primroses, round which luminous moths were fluttering. Into this they entered, and she sat down and gazed at him, till he was quite overwhelmed with her beauty. He had expected to see an old witch hobbling along with a stick and to have feather beds to make! Feather pillows, indeed, there were in the arbour, very cosy and soft. It was delightful to have a chat with such a woman in such a place, even if there were no Babette in the world.

Mother Holle began to speak, her voice sounded like the murmur of the fir-trees.

“I have heard that pretty little Babette has fallen into the power of a bad man. He stole the magic book from her grandmother’s house at a time when the old lady was ill and feeble, shortly before her death. He has been only able to make out a few of the spells—that, for instance, for rendering things invisible. He is not a real wizard, so that if you obtain the book, the power will be yours. But I strongly advise you to have nothing to do with magic; it is very dangerous; but to return the book to me, to whom, in fact, it rightfully belongs.”

“Have no fear of that,” laughed Rudolf. “I don’t want it, I would not touch it with the tongs if I could help it.”

“Now listen carefully to my instructions! At the foot of one of the fir-trees, grows a red toadstool, spotted with white. On it sits an ugly old toad. Take this handkerchief (she gave him a lovely gauze scarf), wrap the toad in it, and cast it to the ground. Pull up the toadstool. Then the whole place will become visible, and you will be able to consult with Babette as to how to overcome old Squint-eyes, as she calls him.

“Hold this candle alight in your hand”—she gave him the young pointed top of a fir-tree—”it will keep off evil spells. When you have overcome the man, bind him with this grass.” So saying, she gave him a bundle of silvery woodland grass. “Then tie him up to the tallest of the three fir-trees and leave him to us. We will punish him according to his deserts, and teach him to behave better in the future.”

“Can you tell me anything about the fair young lady herself? Is she really the granddaughter of a witch? I could well believe it; for verily she has bewitched me; but who were her parents? I wish to know for her own sake,” asked Rudolf anxiously.

“The old woman was really her nurse,” said Mother Holle. “It is true that the woman had fairy blood in her veins and was learned in magic, but she never used her powers for any evil purposes, and as for riding on a broomstick, she abhorred such practices. Babette is the granddaughter of the great Baron of Siebenbergen. The Baron brought his children up strictly as became their rank; but his youngest son ran away from home, and married a village maiden much beneath him in rank.

“His father was exceedingly angry and refused to acknowledge her. The young wife died when Babette was born. The father went off in despair to the wars. He entrusted the tiny baby to the care of an old woman who had formerly been his own nurse. This old woman, who was spoken of later as Babette’s grandmother, had been nurse to the children in Siebenbergen Castle for many years; but she had been dismissed suddenly in her old age, because evil tongues had denounced her as a witch. The Baron did not believe in the charge, but, nevertheless, he was obliged to send her away. He had his own reputation in the country to think of, and the charge of witchcraft was no light one in those days, and not so easy to disprove. He gave her a handsome pension, and a comfortable house and troubled himself no more about her.

“Babette’s father lost interest in life on the death of his dearly beloved peasant wife. He fought recklessly in the front of the battle, and fell, covered with many wounds. His body was brought home for burial and there was a grand funeral in Siebenbergen. Everyone praised his heroism, and lamented his early death, but no one inquired after his peasant wife, or knew of the existence of his baby daughter.

“The notice of the marriage and the certificate of Babette’s birth are to be found in the church of Eppenhain, all duly registered and complete.

“The old nurse became very feeble and was hardly fitted to bring up such a wild, high-spirited child as Babette. That is all I can tell you; you must find the papers, and test the accuracy of the story for yourself.”

Rudolf was deeply interested; his heart beat fast. Babette became more and more interesting, wrapped round in a web of romance. He wanted to ask more questions of Mother Holle; but she faded slowly away. As she vanished, a voice said: “Adieu, follow the light path, and nothing can molest you.”

A long stream of light shone out from where she had stood and illumined the way through the woods. It shone on and on in one great bright path, like the moon shining over the sea. Rudolf reached home walking like one in a dream, his head full of strange and marvellous fancies.


Rudolf awoke rather later than usual; for he was thoroughly tired out. His mother did not feel so concerned about him when she saw the amount of breakfast he consumed; but he was still silent and abstracted. His adventures seemed to him like a wild dream. It seemed almost absurd to seek for the three firs; but yet an irresistible longing led him thither.

On the stroke of twelve at midday he stood beneath them, and recognised his own sign, and O joy! saw the toadstool with the toad sitting on it.

Without a moment’s hesitation he took the handkerchief (“which was in itself a proof of the reality of the story,” he said to himself) and seized the horrid shiny toad (how it wriggled and squirmed like some evil thing!) and cast it to the ground where it sprang into a thousand pieces. These pieces took root in the earth, so to speak, and came up again as a multitude of toadstools quite wonderful to behold. Perhaps you may see them if you ever come across this spot in your excursions to the Taunus Mountains.

Then Rudolf took hold of the red and white toadstool on which the toad had sat. Surely never before had a fungus been so firmly planted in the earth! The whole ground seemed to shake and tremble as he tugged at it; trees were uprooted in the forest; the earth moved up and down like the waves of the sea. At last it was out, and bump down fell Rudolf. One of the great fir-trees fell as well, luckily in another direction, or he might have been crushed beneath it.

When he got up again, he saw to his joy a little red-roofed house and a pretty maiden sitting in a pear-tree.

Babette had been watching him all the time; but she could not make out what he was doing. She had nearly fallen off the tree as he pulled up the toadstool. Now she climbed carefully down and came to the hedge and their eyes met. Need I say that they fell in love, or, at any rate, Rudolf did, at first sight. The hedge parted to let him through. Perhaps this was caused by the fairy candle, or perhaps it was Mother Holle’s doing—who knows?

“Hush, he is asleep, you have come just at the right moment,” said Babette.

“We must secure the magic book first of all,” said Rudolf, holding the fir-branch firmly in his hand, “and would you kindly light this candle for me?”

Babette laughed. “A funny candle,” she said.

“A fairy candle,” he whispered, “to keep off evil spells. Mother Holle recommended it.”

Babette felt inclined to dance for joy. “Can you really see me?” she whispered. “O how untidy and ragged I am, you must think me a perfect fright!”

“I think you are the most beautiful lady I have ever seen,” said Rudolf sincerely, and Babette blushed at the compliment, and felt very grown-up and important.

“I will light the candle for you at the kitchen fire. Come, we will go together softly and try and get the magic book. I know where it is. It is under the sofa where Old Squint-eyes is asleep. Follow me. Throw all that grass away,” she said in her old imperious way.

“Let me give it to you to hold,” said Rudolf. “It is also a gift from Mother Holle, and may come in useful.”

They walked together towards the house, Babette holding the bunch of silvery grass, and entered the kitchen. Here Babette lit the fir-branch.

“It smells just like Christmas; there must be good times coming for poor little me,” she said.

Then they peeped into the parlour, and there was Mr Wizard fast asleep in spite of the earthquake. Rudolf could hardly help laughing; he looked such a funny sight with his mouth wide open, his nose very red, and his hair hanging over his face.

Babette lifted up the bear-skin rug and pulled out the heavy book; but, as soon as she touched the book, the wizard awoke and seized her by the arm and sprang to his feet with many curses.

When he saw Rudolf, he let go of Babette’s arm and tried to seize the young man. Rudolf was fully prepared and threw him off with all his force. A wrestling match began, and it might have ended badly for Rudolf; for his adversary was tremendously strong and agile, but that he had unexpected assistance. The ravens flew in at the window, and beat themselves against Rudolf’s opponent, nearly blinding him. The cats stood on the cupboard, with their backs up and hair bristling ready to spring if necessary. The cocks and hens crowded on the window-sill in war-like attitudes.

Meanwhile the fumes of the fir-candle which Babette had lit, filled the room, and Mr Squint-eyes could not abide the smell of burning fir. He grew weaker and weaker, and more and more confused, and at last Rudolf threw him down with such force that he was partially stunned.

Rudolf then took the woodland grass from Babette, and as he touched it, it wound itself in his hands into strong cord. He bound the man up with Babette’s assistance, and gagged him with Mother Holle’s handkerchief.

The two of them then lugged him into the wood, and tied him up to the biggest of the fir-trees as Mother Holle had directed. Then they fetched the magic book and placed it under the uprooted fir-tree, which instantly stood up again as if nothing had happened, burying the book beneath its roots.

They looked at the man they had tied up, bound like a martyr to the tree. He could not curse and swear as his mouth was stopped up; but he rolled his eyes and squinted so violently that he was horrible to look at.

Then Rudolf and Babette ran off together. Breathlessly they ran and ran. Babette was afraid Old Squint-eyes might wriggle out after all; he was so thin and wiry, and she had no fancy for serving him any more. Not until they came to a main road through the woods leading to Eppenhain Castle, did they pause to look at one another.

Then impetuous Babette (she was half a child still, you must remember) flew at Sir Rudolf and gave him a kiss. She turned red and white when she realised, what she had done. “I couldn’t help it,” she said. “You are such a dear. I am so very, very grateful to you for all you have done for me, an unknown and even unseen maiden.”

“Please, don’t apologise, dearest lady,” he said. “I liked it very, very much. Won’t you give me another?”

“Never,” said Babette firmly. Subsequent events however caused her to revoke this determination.

Rudolf did not answer, but offered her his arm, which she took shyly, glancing at him from time to time out of her deer-like eyes with the long-fringed lashes. Ragged and untidy as she was, she looked like a princess; and he in his fine clothes, soiled and torn as they were, looked nevertheless like a real fairy-tale prince!

He took her straight home to Eppenhain Castle, and you may imagine the excitement there! The Count clasped Babette in his arms and could hardly speak for emotion. Then he turned to Rudolf saying: “We shall never be able to reward you enough.”

“I shall only want one reward, and that is the little maiden herself,” said Rudolf.

The Countess wept and cried over her darling child, and said she would never scold her any more.

Nurse said: “Well, Miss Babette, you do look a fine sight to be sure—and to come home with such a pretty young man, too! Come upstairs with me, and let me make you clean and tidy.” And this Babette was only too glad to do.

A great company of retainers were sent out by the Count to capture the so-called wizard; but they were unable to find either the fir-trees with the mark on them or the man, or the wood cottage. Neither Babette nor Rudolf set eyes on them since that day. I cannot say that they were altogether sorry.

The papers proving Babette’s parentage were found to be in order, and her father’s name and fortune became hers, so that she was not poor, despised Babette any more—the witch’s granddaughter—but a maiden of good rank and birth with pin-money of her own.

A short time afterwards there was a grand wedding in Eppenhain, and two happier mortals never lived than Rudolf and Babette on that day, and, let us hope, for ever afterwards!

King Reinhold, by Margaret Arndt

There are villages in the heart of the Taunus Mountains that are little altered by this progressive age; no railway, not even the post-chaise reaches them, and motor-cars are only to be seen as they whirr past occasionally on the high road.

Such a village is Elhalten; it lies in a green valley, rich with many flowers; a lovely little brook runs through it, disappearing suddenly under houses to reappear again triumphant farther down the road. This brook is called the Silber Bach or Silver Brook, on account of the clearness of its water. On either side of the valley rise up steep mountain-slopes with wild woods and rough pathways. One good road joins the village with Vockenhausen, and so with the well-known town of Eppstein.

On the farther side of the Küppel (the steep peak that rises behind Elhalten) is a forester’s cottage, a lonely and deserted-looking dwelling in the middle of the forest. There I once nursed a huge friendly cat who was so delighted to see a stranger that she quite persecuted me with her affection.

On the top of the Küppel is an airy tower; anyone who wishes to try what flying is like, and cannot afford to go in the Zeppelin airship, can form an idea of it here. There is a most expansive view of the Taunus Range, and very little underneath the feet.

In the forester’s hut lived a little boy named Hugo. He was the son of the forester, a fine little fellow of nearly six years. Hugo had few story-books; but he did not need them; for he lived in the forest, and the forest tells its own tales to the children who live there. The birds would chatter to him, and tell him their family histories; the silent, sweet-eyed deer came to the forestry to be fed in the cold winter, and so he learnt to know their ways. The little flowers would whisper tales of the strange sights they had seen in the forest, when they had by chance forgotten to close their petals for the night.

Hugo had seen much for a five year’s old boy; but he longed to see more. He had heard stories of wood-goblins, of fairies and nixies, and of the busy dwarfs who live underground. He thirsted for adventure.

Now I must tell you that just about this time the news had come from Elhalten that a child had been lost from the village, a dear little girl of four years. She had strayed by herself in the woods of the Küppel, and though her parents and Hugo’s father, indeed all the villagers had sought for her, no trace could they find, save strips of her little blue pinafore, and a hair ribbon on the brambles in a remote spot near an old quarry. You can imagine what a stir this made in the quiet life of the neighbourhood.

Some people spoke of gipsies, some of deep holes or pools in the woods; others did not say much, but they thought of the wood-spirits and fairies and shook their heads. Hugo had many a time played with pretty baby Elsa; her father and the forester were friends, and she had spent the day sometimes in the forestry on the Küppel. You may imagine that the children were more strictly watched over than usual. Hugo’s mother kept a sharp eye on him; for she knew that his little head was full of all sorts of queer notions.

It happened that, about a fortnight after these events, Hugo’s father went out for a night’s hunting. His mother had been busy all the afternoon; the weather was hot and sultry. At last drowsiness overcame her and she fell asleep with her head on the kitchen table. Now she was certainly not given to falling asleep in the afternoon, she was generally much too busy for that; so I really think she must have been bewitched. The fairies sometimes put sleeping draughts into people’s coffee; then it is all up with them.

Now was Hugo’s opportunity. He hastily took up the brown (or grey as it is called in Germany) rye-bread and sausage that stood ready for his supper, packed it into a beautiful green case, with two May-bugs painted on it, snatched up his toy gun in case of accidents, and set out with a brave heart to look for little Elsa.

I must tell you that he had dreamt of her repeatedly since her disappearance. She seemed to look at him with her wistful blue eyes, and to implore his help. A rhyme rang constantly in his head that seemed to have reference to her; but he could not quite make out what it meant:
“King Reinhold found a little maid
Alone within the forest glade;
She wept and cried in sore distress,
All torn and tattered was her dress;
He set her on a golden throne,
He gave her playthings for her own.
But still she wept the livelong day,
She would not laugh, and would not play.
‘This is most tiresome to behold;
What shall I do?’ said King Reinhold.”

The little maid was probably Elsa; but where was she? Who was King Reinhold? How could Hugo deliver her? He could not answer these questions. “I must trust to luck, and hope that the fairies will help me. Heigho for adventures!”

It was the twilight hour; the sky was of a delicate grey-green tint, the birds called to their roving mates to come home to bed, a few faint stars appeared in the sky; mystery hung in the air.

On Hugo went—following a circle of green and gold that was marked on the trees and seemed to show him the way. He sang and shouted merrily to keep up his spirits; it was supper-time, and the night air had made him hungry; so he unpacked his bread and sausage and made a good meal. The moon had risen, and threw a glimmer of light through the trees; the lingering shades of twilight vanished. On one side of the little path was the dark fir-wood, impenetrable in its gloom, on the other, beeches and oaks. Little harebells, and pink centaury bordered the pathway. There was a lovely woody smell in the late summer night, a smell of damp earth, and fungi and flowers, or rather a combined perfume still more subtle and indescribable.

The stillness and loneliness began to oppress our hero a little for the first time. If he had been a town child he would have been horribly frightened long before this; but he was as used to the silence of the woods, as you may be to the noise and bustle of the street.

Suddenly a muffled sound broke the silence: knock, knock, knock, like the blow of hammers when the workmen are busy at some distance. Hugo’s brave little heart began to beat; for he knew that the noise must be made by the Kobolds at work on their anvils deep underground.

Then he was aware of footsteps behind him: tramp, tramp, tramp. Was it his father come to fetch him home? He rather hoped that it might be so; but when he plucked up courage to turn round, there was no one there! An owl screeched; a bush rustled near him; he turned round sharply, and there he saw a little old man with a huge key in his hand sitting on a felled tree-trunk. His bright blue eyes gleamed strangely in the moonshine, and his shaggy grey hair stood up on either side of his red-peaked cap. He wore a jacket of green, lined with scarlet, and had on heavy wooden shoes such as the peasants wear in some parts of Germany. He plucked a dandelion clock that grew by the way and held it up to the moon.

“One, two, three,” up to nine the little man counted.

“Nine o’clock! Come along hurry up,” said he, and he took Hugo by the hand.

Instantly the child was able to see many things in the forest which he had not observed before; strange fairy forms came floating by and gazed at him with sad, sweet eyes; then a stream of laughing elves passed him in wild frolic. Yes, once he thought that through the trees he saw the gigantic form of the Old King himself, throned on his mountain.

Down, down a narrow bypath they clambered, over stones and through brambles, and interlaced branches. Then they crossed a trout stream silver clear in the moonlight. The trout were asleep; but when the dwarf leant over the little stone bridge and whispered a few words—flash and they were off, far far down the stream; they hid under the rushes and tree-roots by the banks and quaked for fear. They dreaded the dwarfs and with reason.

“Boiled trout with a fine butter sauce, that is my favourite dish,” said the little man to Hugo and smacked his lips greedily.

They walked along the beautifully overshadowed pathway by the trout stream, watching the moonlight on the rippling water, till they left the brook behind, and came to a green meadow in the centre of which stood a venerable oak-tree, which still bore green leaves though its trunk was completely hollow.

The tree was lit from within by a brilliant glow of rosy light. The dwarf approached on tiptoe, taking off his clumsy shoes, and beckoning to Hugo to follow him quietly. They peeped through the holes in the trunk of the tree, and O what a sight they saw!

Twenty or more of the tiniest children, scarcely bigger than my finger, sat or danced or rolled on the green mossy carpet of the tree-room. These were the fairy babies, and this was the fairies’ nursery. Each little girl had a dolly made of the loveliest flowers, and a cradle of green oak leaves, sewed together by grass blades.

The tiny Fee babies lay on their backs and kicked and crowed for joy, and the biggest of all the fairies present gave them their bottles, filled with moonshine and honey-dew on which the babies thrive. The boy elves made the most noise; they had captured a field mouse, a huge creature it seemed in comparison with them, and they were all trying to ride on its back at once.

Hugo was so delighted with the lovely sight that he could not resist calling out “Oh!” in tones of ecstasy. In an instant, puff! the light went out; a cold fog arose; Hugo saw his dwarf companion change into a big black bear terrible to behold. Just as our hero thought he was going to be eaten up, the Kobold resumed his natural form.

“Be silent if you would be wise,” he said, and that was all.

They followed the little pathway further through the meadow and into the woods again, until they came suddenly on a great pile of rocks, picturesquely heaped up amongst the trees, such as are so common in the Taunus Mountains. The dwarf went up to the rock, key in hand, and searched about until he had found a secret door. Then he fitted the key into the lock and turned it, then tugged and tugged to open the door. Suddenly it swung open, creaking noisily, and the dwarf lay on his back. Up he got grumbling and scolding. “They ought to have oiled the hinges, the lazy louts,” he said.

As the door opened, Hugo saw a long corridor before him, lit by stars of light, and countless mirrors reflected the stars in every direction. The effect was rather too dazzling after the dark night, and Hugo’s eyes blinked. Down, down, down, the corridor gradually descended and seemed never-ending. “However shall I get out again?” thought Hugo anxiously. He did not know you see that there are many ways out of magic land.

At last they came to another door, made of crystal glass, and entered a large hall with a sparkling roof of rock crystal. In the centre was a fountain, a more wonderful creation fairyland does not contain. Hugo held his breath for fear of saying “Oh!” again. Strange gnomes and fairies seemed to be alive in it, and the element it contained, was not water, but fire. The most marvellous display of fireworks that you have ever seen, would be nothing in comparison.

Sometimes it illustrated well-known fairy tales: Snowdrop in her glass coffin, Cinderella trying on the shoe and so on. Hugo could have watched it for ages, and left it reluctantly, looking back all the time. Then they passed through an arched doorway, and a new scene met their view.

Multitudes of little dwarf men dressed in Court attire stood round the room. Facing them, on a throne of gold, with a tiny crown of gold starred with bright-eyed diamonds on her head sat a real little human girl, with a shabby old dolly in her arms. She was a very pretty little girl, grandly dressed in a frock of blue silk embroidered with white daisies, little blue socks and shoes with diamond buckles. But her face was sad and pale, and her eyes red from crying, and her fair hair hung in tangled locks over her shoulders. She held her dolly clasped tight in her arms and repeated over and over again: “I want my mamma, I want to go home to my mamma.”

As the dwarf, followed by Hugo, entered the room the dwarfs or Kobolds, as they are also called, bowed down with their heads to the ground, and sang in a gruff chorus:
“Hail, thrice hail, to King Reinhold,
We his subjects true and bold
Bow in homage to our king,
Each his cap on high must fling!”

With that each Kobold threw his peaked cap up to the roof and caught it again on his head, or his foot, or on his nose as the case might be. Then they all shouted “Hurrah!” and it was as if a mighty flock of ravens were to croak all together. The little girl put her hands up to her ears, and was about to cry again when she saw Hugo. Then she jumped up eagerly with a cry of joy and sprang down the golden steps.

“O you dear, good Hugo,” she said, “have you come to fetch me home? I knew you would come,” she continued, “for I have dreamt of you so often.”

Hugo looked into the sweet little face before him and, in spite of her fine clothes and diamond crown, he recognised little Elsa, his lost playmate. He remembered his dreams, and all seemed to grow clear. He felt himself very big and strong and important all at once. Putting his arms protectingly round the little girl, he said facing the whole assembly: “I have come to take this little girl, Miss Elsa, home to her mamma.”

King Reinhold (for it was the king of the dwarfs himself who had accompanied Hugo) took up a heavy crown that lay on a cushion beside him, put it on, and then took it off again, grumbling that it was too heavy and did not fit him properly.

Then he cleared his throat and addressed his courtiers in these words: “Hum! Hum! Hum! My esteemed subjects! I found this little girl some weeks ago in the woods, within the magic circle of my domain. She was crying bitterly, and seemed very frightened. I comforted her as best I could. I gave her strings of pretty beads and a tiny fan of blue jay’s feathers. I promised to take her with me, and give her a crown of gold, to set her on a golden throne, and make her Queen of all the dwarfs. I even condescended to offer her a kiss; but I am sorry to say the ungrateful child smacked me in the face (cries of “shame.”) There she sits, look at her! how has she repaid me for all my kindness and for all the honours I have conferred on her?” (Here Elsa began to cry again and to clutch tight hold of Hugo’s hand.) “She does nothing but blubber all day, and cuddle her dolly, and say she wants to go home to her mamma! I appeal to you, my Kobolds, is such a baby worthy to be Queen of our realm, of a people more ancient than the mountains, older indeed than mankind; for we were the first inhabitants of the earth, we are Primitive Man!”

A roar of applause met this speech and cries of “She is not worthy, let her be deposed,” were heard. “She is really too young, she is but a baby still,” said one kindly looking old grandpapa Kobold.

King Reinhold raised his hand to command silence, and continued in a loud, harsh voice: “When she is older, she will become too big for us; mortals have the strange habit of growing. No, I have thought the matter over. Young birds are after all safest in the nest. But this baby would never be able to find the way home, not even down her own street. So I have chosen this brave young man to take her home.” Here he gave Hugo a slap on the back that nearly knocked him down, for dwarfs are very strong in spite of their smallness, you know.

Elsa’s face began to beam, and she would have danced for joy; but the King’s uncomplimentary remarks hurt her a little. She was quite sure that she could find her way home, a big girl of four years ought certainly to know her own house. She knew exactly where it stood. Near the rushing silver brook, a low, red-roofed house, and a barn with black beams, also cocks and hens and geese strutting about in the little yard. It was quite near the water-mill; she could hear the rushing of the water as she lay in her little bed under her big feather sack, with only her little nose and ears peeping out. A fir-tree with a very tall stem and a thick bushy head stood at the back of the house.

Yes, she was sure that she could find it.

Meanwhile some of the dwarfs were marshalled off to get the carriage ready for the children. Then Hugo summoned up courage to address the King.

“O King!” he said, “I have heard of the wonders of your kingdom and of the marvellous skill of you workmen”—here he stammered a little and his oratory gave way—”I should so much like to see something of it,” he said shyly.

“Certainly, certainly, with the greatest pleasure,” said King Reinhold, and looked much gratified. “Intelligent child,” he muttered. “Ho, Dickkopf, bring me a torch, and lead the way to the workshop,” he said.

Off he marched with majestic tread, and Hugo followed with Elsa, her little warm hand clasped tight in his own; through dark passages and caves lit by a pale light; through store-rooms where masses of minerals were piled up gleaming in wonderful colours; through the treasure-houses containing gold and silver and precious stones in huge quantities.

The children’s eyes grew round in their heads as they saw all this wealth; but they did not understand much about the value of these treasures; toys or sweeties would have been more to their taste.

At last they reached a long, narrow hall where thousands of little men, with leather aprons on, sat busy at work. Each was employed in adorning and completing some work of art: costly goblets, beautiful chain rings, and necklaces were there, such as were never seen in the finest shops of Paris, Berlin or London.

The “joy of the making” was written on every countenance; for the artist is always happy when at work.

One dwarf was illuminating a book, and a beautiful design of grasses and butterflies grew up under his clever fingers.

“Take the book,” said King Reinhold to Hugo. “It is only a tiny chapter from the great book of Nature that has neither beginning nor end. But if you study it carefully and earnestly, it will always bring you hope and happiness, whatever your learned men may say to the contrary. Hold the pages to the light, and you will see that they are transparent.”

As Hugo did so with the deepest interest, behold! the pictures became alive; the butterflies changed into fairies and laughed, and nodded at him in a friendly way.

“Look through the book of Nature till you find the soul of things,” said King Reinhold.

Although this sounded very deep and mysterious, Hugo seemed to understand. Do you, I wonder, little children, who read this story? Or are you like the boy in the kindergarten to whom I was telling a fairy story and who interrupted me contemptuously with the remark: “Fairies don’t exist!”

“O don’t they my little man!” said I. “Well you think so.”

Presently we read of a ball that grew, and he spoke again with great energy: “Balls don’t grow.”

“Oh, Oh!” said I, “Have you ever seen a little green apple.” Then I tried to show him what wonderful things are always happening in this world of ours, if only we have eyes to see them. I do not think I convinced him; for he was very pig-headed and had a great opinion of himself; and such people big or little are very difficult to argue with.

To Elsa, Reinhold gave a handful of exquisite roses. “In fairyland roses mean love and happiness,” he said. “Little girls should be happy all the day long, and not wet the world with their tears. There are tears enough already”—he said ponderingly—”tears in the centre of the earth.”

Opening out of the hall on either side were huge furnaces. Here the Kobolds were busy smelting the ore, and preparing the materials for the more skilled workmen. Here too were little cupboards with shelves into which the costly vases were put, in order to be burnt hard like china.

The heat was so intense that Hugo and Elsa could only just peep in. It seemed to them as if the little men must be roasted alive; but the Kobolds were used to it, and found it quite cool and pleasant. They swung their hammers and chattered away at the same time, the busier the merrier; they were never idle or tired of their work.

A young dwarf page entered the hall and announced that the carriage was ready. In another moment Hugo and Elsa found themselves standing in the forest in the moonlight. A carriage stood ready for them drawn by six stags. King Reinhold had dispensed with the ceremony of leave-taking; he hated fusses, and wanted to smoke his pipe in peace.

Hugo recognised the stags; he had fed them in the winter from the windows of the forestry; they knew him too, and nodded their gentle heads.

O what a ride that was home through the warm September night! They saw neither spirit nor goblin; no fairy marvel was revealed to them; only the strong, sweet scent of the firs, the dark, weird shape of the trees, and the stars that shone through the branches!

They held one another tight by the hand, and leaned back on the soft cushions; they said nothing, they felt as if they were in a dream.

Presently they heard the noise of a little brook that was hidden in the dark trees, and shortly afterwards they turned a corner and saw the little village of Elhalten before them, peaceful and still in the early morning light.

Elsa recognised her home after all, and called to the stags to stop. Then she kissed Hugo and laid her little cheek against his and said: “Good-bye, darling,” and then she slipped into her house, and it all seemed quite natural. You may imagine how delighted Elsa’s mother was to have her baby girl in her arms again. There was such a kissing and hugging as never was before!

Meanwhile Hugo drove up the steep side of the Küppel in the rosy light of the early morning; luckily he met no one on that lonely way. Once he thought he saw a white form standing at the end of the path, like a tall woman who waved her arms and beckoned. But when he looked more closely, it was but the growing light of day through the trees, and not Mother Holle, or the Wood-woman, as he had imagined. The stags galloped along swiftly in spite of the rough road, and soon stopped before the door of the forestry. There everyone seemed still asleep; not a sound was to be heard. Hugo stroked the gentle heads of the stags and bade them good-bye, and they vanished suddenly in the thicket of the Küppel.

With the first rays of the sun Hugo’s mother awoke, and was most astonished to find that she had slept all night in the kitchen.

“That’s what happens, when one’s husband is away,” she said stretching herself and shaking her clothes. “What has become of Hugo?” she thought suddenly, and felt anxious. She went quickly upstairs to the bedroom, but there lay Hugo snugly curled up in bed with rosy cheeks and tumbled curls, his nose buried deeply in his pillow.

As she came in, he roused himself and said: “Mother, I have been to fetch little Elsa. She is home again”—then he turned round and fell fast asleep.

The next day the news reached them that little Elsa had really been found.

“Why, how curious, my boy dreamt it last night,” said Mrs Forester.

“She was left at her parents’ house at about four in the morning, so I heard,” said her husband, who had just come home.

Elsa’s parents always believed that she had been stolen by the gipsies; it was strange that they should have sent her back so soon, without asking for a reward. Moreover the child was richly dressed; that was also a queer thing; her clothes were the wonder and admiration of the whole village. A blue silk frock, and shoes with shining buckles; never had such a finely dressed child been seen in Elhalten before.

The simple folk never dreamt that the buckles were real diamonds and worth a large sum of money.

When Hugo and Elsa met again on the following Sunday, you may be sure that they had much to talk about, at least when they were left alone undisturbed by grown-ups!

Although the fairy gifts were invisible to all save the children themselves, it seems that they had an influence on them as they grew older.

Elsa became a sweet, loving little person, the sunshine of her home—so she was called—and very, very seldom did anyone see her crying.

Hugo was a quiet, shy boy; but he seemed to observe everything and people said of him: “Hugo has his eyes open; he will make his mark in the world some day.” So the children grew up happy and good, and what can you want to know more about them than that?

The Nixi Lake, by Margaret Arndt

In one of the wildest and most romantic parts of Germany, there is a high mountain which is as renowned for the strange stories that are told about it, as for its many natural peculiarities. It is flat on the top, falling off precipitously on every side. In recent times a high tower has been built on the very edge of the rock. Curious to say, the ground on the summit of this mountain is a bog or morass; flat slabs of stone have been placed on it to enable bold tourists to reach the tower without sinking in unawares. There is a bronze ring on a balcony surrounding the tower, with darts pointing in different directions, showing where London, Paris, and St Petersburg, for instance, are situated. I need hardly say that these towns are not visible, but that if a straight line could be drawn from this spot, it would reach them.

Not far below the summit there is a mysterious-looking lake, which it is strange indeed to find at so high a level. A huge cliff formed of boulders of rock rises on the one side of the lake; it falls like a great wall straight into the water; only daring little ferns and plants have a foothold on it; the lake is inaccessible from this direction. A narrow pathway winding in and out edged with water-reeds leads by it on the other side. This lake is said to be so deep that it is unfathomable; it is dark brown in colour, bitter and brackish to the taste. No fish can live in it. Learned men, called geologists, who study the crust of the earth, have decided that this region is not volcanic in origin as it would appear at first sight, but that the lake is fed by water from the morass.

This mountain is constantly visited by sudden violent atmospheric disturbances, great winds and heavy thunderstorms, that spring up at a moment’s notice, striking terror into the hearts of any travellers who may be caught in them.

Now several centuries ago, before the time of railways and steamboats, a mighty king of the water-sprites lived in this lake with his three beautiful daughters, the famed nixies of the lake.

The King was a majestic old man with long white beard and hair; his eyes were black and sinister, and when he drew his eyebrows together in a straight line over his eyes, his frown was terrible to behold. The thunderstorms which devastated the country round, were attributed to him. In his fits of rage, the village folk declared, he would hurl stones and thunderbolts down from the mountain, heedless of what or whom he might destroy.

The day would be fine, the sky blue, and in a moment a storm wind would arise, clouds would cover the heavens, and lightning shoot forth; how could this be accounted for by natural agency?

The nixies were much to be pitied, if the truth were known, for their father was a stern old tyrant, and interfered constantly with their harmless amusements, also prohibiting their leaving the lake to frolic at midnight with the wood-spirits, whom he considered as beneath them in rank.

On a warm day in the lovely month of June (which is the favourite month of all the year for the water-nixies, for then the white and yellow water lilies are in flower, and the yellow irises shine among the water-reeds) the three sisters were swimming lazily to and fro, plunging under the water like seals, to reappear like seals on the look-out for something to happen. But nothing ever did happen but one of their father’s tempers, and of these they were tired enough as you may imagine. They had not fishes’ tails like their cousins the mermaids, but slender limbs of dazzling whiteness. Their hair resembled beautiful seaweed as they dived under the water, or when it spread out like a fan on the surface.

The eldest, Clothilde, was dark; she was beautiful, but haughty, and looked as if she had inherited her father’s temper.

The youngest was very fair; she had the golden hair of a fairy, her eyes were blue, but meaningless; there was little sense in their depths. Her name was Elfrida.

The second sister, Lenore, was of a different type, and might have been mistaken for a mortal maiden. Her hair was neither dark nor fair, neither red nor brown, it was of a pale hazel colour and fell in straight masses nearly to her feet. Her eyes were of a deep grey fringed with dark lashes; they had a mysterious and pathetic look—a look caused by longing after something indefinite and yet desired, or by a prescience perhaps of coming disaster.

Lenore rose to the surface of the water. “Sisters,” she called, “sisters, listen to me,” and she swam towards the shade of the rock, and seated herself on a stony seat, half in half out of the water. “I can bear the monotony of our existence no longer. I tire of this life of ceaseless dancing, swimming, drifting. I want to visit the homes of men who live in the village that lies below us at the foot of the mountain, to hear stories of the world from which we are shut out, to share as far as it is possible for us in the simple and homely amusements of mortals.”

“I am willing to go with you,” said Clothilde, frowning discontentedly. “I am tired too of this melancholy lake; the eternal nothingness of our life oppresses me too.” She tore a water-lily to pieces as she spoke.

“O do not do that!” said Lenore, almost as if in pain, “the flowers can feel too!”

“What if they can!” said Clothilde scornfully; for the cruelty of the nixies coursed through her veins.

“And you Elfrida,” said Lenore, turning to her fairer sister, “will you come with us?”

“Ah!” said Elfrida, “I prefer to stay here among the water-lilies. I have no aspirations, I could live here for ever sleeping through the winter months, dreaming through the summer ones, yet if you go, I will go too; for we three have never been separated, and I should be afraid if I were left alone with my father.” As she spoke she placed a water-lily in her golden hair; the sunbeams struck through the fir-trees by the lake and fell on her, till she looked like some wonderful fairy princess, too exquisite to be real.

A young man happened to be passing the lake just at this moment; he caught the entrancing picture as if it were a vision from Heaven; his brain reeled, his breath failed him, he would have fallen in a swoon; but then he met Lenore’s eyes, grave, calm, and searching. A wild longing and deep melancholy seized on him. He rushed towards the lake, and clutched hold of the branches of a young willow, only just in time to prevent himself from falling into those treacherous depths.

With a weird cry and their white arms raised over their heads, the nixies disappeared in the lake. The young man gazed as one bewitched; crossed himself in fear; and gazed again. All was silent: no living creature stirred; only the sunbeams fell athwart the lake, and little cascades of water fell over the surface of the rock.

“I have seen the nixies of the pool,” thought the young man, who was the son of a rich peasant farmer in the village. “Surely that means that I shall die ere long. I should not fear death,” he continued, “if I were to die in battle in honourable and open conflict; but to die young, stricken by some awful and unaccountable fate, that would be terrible.”

As he turned homewards, a wind arose that nearly hurled him into the lake; so violent was the gust, and a storm burst forth, the like of which he had never experienced before. Branches were torn from the trees, and hurled in his path; the lightning was continuous and nearly blinded him. Glancing fearfully back at the lake, the waters seemed to have arisen in great waves, and he thought he saw the nixy King himself raging and roaring like a wild creature, casting the storm winds forth from their fortresses in the rocks, holding the lightning like fireworks in his long fingers, and hurling it across the land. Terrified, half-stunned by the thunder, and stupefied by the hail and rain, he at last reached home, where his mother awaited him in great anxiety. However he soon had off his wet, torn clothes, and casting himself on his bed fell into a profound slumber. He slept for nearly a night and a day, and when he awoke his adventures seemed to him a wild dream, and like a dream were half-forgotten although they exerted a subtle influence on his waking thoughts that he was unaware of.

Meanwhile the nixies, and especially Lenore, had been anxious as to his fate. Not until she had sent their dwarf messenger into the village to make inquiries as to his welfare, could she be at rest. Her wish to visit the homes of men became a passion, a burning desire that could not be quenched. She called on her dread father; three times she cried out to him, and her sisters echoed the call. Then he arose from the depths, majestic and so terrible to behold that Lenore almost lost the courage to address him. But he listened to her request in silence, brooding, while great ravens whirled and swooped in the sky above their heads. Then he spoke:

“It is decreed that no one can alter the path of fate, or avoid the doom that is written in the stars. The hour has come: I have foreseen this day; go, my daughters, go. But remember there is one condition which you must strictly obey. One night in the week you may be absent from the lake; but as the hour strikes twelve, you must be back again in these waters. I shall send a messenger to fetch you, the dwarf Hunold, beware lest you keep him waiting! If you disobey, destruction will overtake you, and your home will know you no more.” He sank gloomily into the lake; the day was oppressive; no rain fell and the evening brought no relief. Strange and uneasy were the dreams of many that night in the little village.

Some young people returning late from a social gathering, reported that they had seen a bright, uncanny light in the sky, like a fire, or some said like a golden hand, at midnight over the ill-omened mountain.

In those days when it was so difficult to travel from place to place, the villagers were obliged to depend on themselves for amusement and entertainment. In the villages round about the mountain it was the custom for the young people to meet together at each other’s houses on Saturday evenings. Those who had rooms large enough, took it in turns to invite all the rest; the girls brought their spinning-wheels, and the room where they met was called the spinning-room. The girls were busy and merry at the same time. Stories were told, and songs were sung, the young men smoked and drank wine, and not infrequently the spinning-wheels were cleared away and there was dancing. Strangers were welcome; for the peasants were renowned for their hospitality; but seldom did it happen that travellers passed that way; some young fellow perhaps might drop in who was wandering about for a year or so before settling down to the work of his life as the German custom is; but tourists were few when roads were bad and money scarce.

One lovely summer’s evening at the end of June the full moon was shining in the sky, the latticed windows of the peasant’s house where the young folk were assembled, were wide open; the air was laden with the scent of the white lilies and roses that grew in the garden at the back of the cottage. There was no light as yet but that of the moon in the parlour; the spinning-wheels too were silent; for stories were being told; one more marvellous than the other, of ghosts and goblins, of dwarfs and mountain-spirits, and naturally enough awful tales of the neighbouring nixy King, and of his three daughters who lived in the enchanted lake.

Hermann, the young man who had been overtaken by the thunderstorm, was present this evening; he was silent and glum, though the most charming village maidens chaffed him and tried to captivate him, and the peasant girls in this part of Germany are renowned for their beauty and their grace. The melancholy which was not so much part of his natural disposition as due to the adventures of that evening, fell on him again like a dark cloud oppressing his brain. The girls who had been listening to the stories, were by this time worked up to a state of feeling which can only be described by the words creepy, or eerie. Most of them experienced that unaccountable sensation which Germans call Gänsehaut (goose-flesh). So that a sudden knock at the door caused them to cry out in fear and clutch hold of their sweethearts. The knock was repeated three times before anyone summoned up courage to open the door. Then the assembled company fell back in astonishment as three beautiful young girls entered the room, each holding a spinning-wheel under her arm. They walked erect like princesses, everyone was sure they must be of high rank. They wore dresses of some shimmering material such as the village folk had never seen before, and necklaces of pearls, silken hose and silver shoes.

Hermann’s heart beat to bursting as he beheld them: where had he seen them before? Surely they were the nixies of the magic pool, and his doom had fallen upon him. Never, never, had he been able to forget Lenore’s eyes. Their mournful beauty haunted his dreams. He met them now, as his breath came and went in great gasps; and there was a flash of recognition between them. “What heavenly beauty, what a noble air she has,” he thought, hardly regarding her sisters who were strictly speaking far more beautiful.

The three nixies, for of course it was they, put forth all their fascinating arts to ingratiate themselves with the young people assembled there.

“You are pleased to see us, are you not?” they said. “We have heard of the fame of your spinning-evenings, and have come from a far country to take part in them. You shall see how we can spin.”

“Very gratifying for us, I am sure,” murmured the officiating president of the club.

“Now do not let us disturb you, you were telling stories I believe as we entered,” said Lenore, who, being the most human, took the lead in the conversation.

But no one dared to open his mouth, even those who had been the most eager to narrate wild tales before, seemed stricken with dumbness now.

“You could tell us a story, I believe,” she said, turning to Hermann, who could only shake his head. “Then I must tell one myself,” she said with a little sigh. She poured forth an extraordinary story to which the peasants listened open-mouthed, the tale of a terrible doom that overtook a faithless lover.

“A mortal man,” she said, “had made love to a beautiful nixy, and won her affection in return. But because she was not human, he did not think of marrying her, but became engaged to a village maiden who was good and sweet, if not so beautiful as the nixy. But the nixy had her revenge. She swam under the bridge where the little river ran through the fields, and one day as the two were walking in the dewy meadows, she caused the waters to rise suddenly in a great flood, and tore her lover away from his human bride down with her in the stream, choking him under the water till he was dead. Then she sat with his head on her lap, and stroked his beautiful dark curls, and wept until she dissolved in tears, and became part of the water, which has been slightly salt from that day. The village maiden was married to a rich old peasant not long afterwards; so much for human fidelity,” said Lenore, fixing her sad eyes on Hermann.

“He well-deserved his fate,” said Hermann, “who chose the lesser when he might have had the greater love.”

“I think the nixy was a mean, wicked thing,” said a young girl, almost a child, called Brigitte, with soft, dark eyes, and a sweet expression on her face. “She could not really have cared for her lover, or she would have wanted him to be happy with the village girl, as she knew she could not marry him herself.”

“Never,” said Hermann, excitedly, whose blood was coursing like fire in his veins, “better death in the arms of the beloved, than a contented life with lower aims!”

The men laughed.

“Now who would have thought that Hermann was so romantic!” they said. “And he has the fattest pigs and the biggest casks of wine in the village!”

Songs were proposed; everyone joined in; the voices of the nixies were heard above all, clear and beautiful as a bell. They began with one of the best-known songs in the German language which is always sung on especially jovial occasions, it begins:
“I cannot tell why or wherefore
A legend of olden times
Deep in my heart is singing,
In mournful rhythmic rhymes.”

After several songs had been sung in unison, Hermann begged the young man who was the host that evening to ask the beautiful strangers to sing a song alone and of their own choosing, he longed to hear their voices, unspoilt by those of others.

The nixy maidens readily complied: was not singing their most natural mode of expressing themselves? They sang these verses to a weird, haunting melody:
“The wild-fowl are calling: come back to the lake!
O nixies come back, or your proud hearts must break;
The moonbeams are glancing, the fairies are dancing,
Come back.

The grey mists are rising! Beware, O beware!
For though you are slender and though you are fair,
Your treacherous waters, O nixy king’s daughters,
Can slay.

Beware the king’s anger—O tempt not your fate,
The white water-lilies your coming still wait;
Wide open each flower until the twelfth hour—

The old pendulum clock on the wall struck eleven. How fast the time had flown! The three beautiful maidens rose up hastily and departed, wishing a courteous “good night” and “good luck to you” to the company.

As Hermann opened the door for them, he saw a little dwarf with a lighted lantern waiting for them outside the door, and much as he wished to accompany them home, he did not dare to do so.

When they had left the room, a storm of conjecture burst forth; at last everyone agreed that they must be the nixies of the lake.

“We did not like the look of their eyes; they were so cold and treacherous,” said some of the girls who were jealous of a beauty that they felt they could never attain to.

“You are ill-natured things, not fit to sweep the floor for such exquisite creatures,” said Hermann angrily; and the whole company began to jeer and to laugh at him, saying:

“Hermann has fallen in love with the nixies. Many a wet kiss will he have from them—ha—ha!—but cold water will be his bridal bed, and death the groomsman—ha, ha!”

“Do not be so cruel,” said kind little Brigitte, who had blamed the nixy in the story. “See how pale Hermann looks, he will faint in another minute; he has never been strong since he was out in that awful storm.”

Hermann could bear the conversation no longer; hastily saying good night he went home with wild thoughts in his head, and, alas! wild, ungovernable love in his heart.

For the next few weeks on Saturday evenings the same thing happened. There was the usual social gathering, no one was absent; the little room could hardly hold the thronging guests. Then there was the eagerly looked for knock at the door, and the three lovely maidens entered and shared so naturally in what was going on that the young people gradually lost somewhat of their awe of them. Who could spin so fast and so finely as the three strangers; who could sing such entrancing songs; who could tell more wonderful stories!

Hermann generally managed to sit by Lenore, and to hold her hand, and he knew his love was returned.

Naturally the exquisite Elfrida, and the stately Clothilde had their admirers as well.

“Soon they will have taken all our sweethearts away from us, the nasty creatures,” whispered some of the village girls under their breath, “and they cannot marry all the lads in the country round. The men are bewitched, that is certain—no good can come of it. Most of the men realise it, however, and will come back to us in time; all except Hermann. He is so far gone that it is quite hopeless to try and influence him.”

“I am sorry for Lenore,” said little Brigitte, “I would do anything I could to help her; she looks so very unhappy!”

On the night of the 9th of September the spinning evening was to be at Hermann’s house, which was a splendid building in its way, like a great wooden castle. He was feverish with excitement. He bought and gathered all the flowers he could get together, and decked the house as for a wedding-feast. His mother could not bake cakes that were fine enough to suit his taste; the furniture seemed to him clumsy and old-fashioned. He would gladly have strewn rose-leaves, instead of rushes, on the floor for his lady-love to tread on. All the time a voice was telling him to desist: that such love could never be hallowed; that his bride was but a myth, a dream that would vanish away. His mother was terribly troubled about him, and feared that the boy had lost his wits in the thunderstorm.

“You shall see my bride to-night, mother,” he said. “Ah, there is no one like her!”

But the old woman trembled and shook and crossed herself, she knew not why. She felt a presentiment of coming evil.

“She shall not escape from me so soon to-night,” thought Hermann to himself. “I know what I will do: I shall put the clock an hour back, so that when it is really twelve o’clock, they will think it is only eleven. One hour, one blessed hour more in her company, snatched in defiance of fate!”

Never had Hermann been more charming as a host than he was to-night. He bade his guests heartily welcome and shook them warmly by the hand. True, he was somewhat distracted and gave strange answers to questions that were put to him. His eyes were constantly on the door. It opened at last, and the three entered; they looked lovelier than ever; they had on golden shoes and wore golden girdles. Their dresses were white edged with pale green like water-lilies with a green calyx. There was to be no spinning to-night. Hermann had provided for music and dancing; he became giddy and his senses failed him almost at the thought of dancing with the lovely Lenore.

Ah what light little feet! They hardly seemed to touch the ground as they flew round; but the time too sped by with great rushing wings, though Hermann had striven to check its headlong course. They paid no heed to the dwarf and his constant warning taps on the door; the three sisters were too engrossed in the delights of the dance. But suddenly Lenore glanced at the clock; it pointed to eleven.

“A few moments more, my belovèd,” she said, “and then we must part. But why are you so pale?” she asked of Hermann, whose heart was beating fast enough to suffocate him; for he was afraid now of the consequences of his deed.

“Lenore,” he said chokingly, “it is midnight; I hope I have not done wrong. I put back the clock. I wanted to keep you all longer at my house.”

Lenore turned deadly pale, then she told her sisters of the fatal trick that Hermann had played on them, and they too turned white as the chalk on the walls; well they knew their father and what his revenge might be!

Murmuring a sad farewell Lenore gazed for the last time in Hermann’s eyes, and then the dark night swallowed her up for ever.

The dwarf’s lantern could be seen from time to time among the forest trees like a will-o’-the-wisp; then that too vanished.

The dancing and feasting went on for some time; but Hermann’s heart was sick within him; he had no spirit left for the revelry. An indescribable feeling of terror and anxiety possessed him. The clock struck twelve; the guests dispersed. They had hardly left the house when a terrific storm broke forth, appalling in its awful violence; the house shook, trees were uprooted, lightning blazed continually. The tempest was nothing, however, compared to that in Hermann’s breast; he could not rest or sleep; fearful visions assailed him: he seemed to hear his beloved Lenore calling him, or begging for mercy from her cruel father.

Towards morning the storm had somewhat abated though it was by no means over. Hermann rushed out of the house, taking a wild pleasure in battling with the fierce elements. Up and up with a certain step he went towards that lake where all his anguish had begun, and yet where all his hopes and desires were centred. As he approached the lake through the fir-wood, the sky over the great cliff was rosy in the early dawn, the birds were singing, the harebells raised their dew-drenched heads and looked at him. No motion—no sound—the lake was cruel it seemed to him in its indifference to his grief. “Lenore,” he cried, “Lenore!”

Then the waters of the lake stirred and three waves arose, each one greater than the last, and in the third was the nixy king with a cruel expression on his face.

“Ah, call for Lenore,” he said mockingly, “but you will never see her again!—Behold, the doom of the disobedient daughters is fulfilled.” As he spoke the lake stirred again, the waters whirled round, three exquisite rose-leaves rose from the depths of the lake and floated on the surface of the water. “Never again will you or any mortal man behold the nixies of the pool; they are changed into rose-leaves; this was their punishment,” he said, “a poetical punishment—ha, ha!” and he vanished with a tremendous clap of thunder.

More than half-mad Hermann stumbled home; for weeks he lingered between life and death.

The kind little Brigitte would have liked to have taken care of him, and would have made him a good wife; but because of his consuming love for Lenore, he slowly pined away, until one day he was found lying dead beside the fatal lake.

The Dragon’s Tail, by Margaret Arndt

I wonder if the girls and boys who read these stories, have heard of the charming and romantic town of Eisenach? I suppose not, for it is a curious fact that few English people visit the place, though very many Americans go there. Americans are well known to have a special interest in old places with historical associations, because they have nothing of the sort in America; moreover many of them are Germans by birth, and have heard stories of the Wartburg, that beautiful old castle, which from the summit of a hill, surrounded by woods, overlooks the town of Eisenach.

The Wartburg is quaintly built with dear little turrets and gables, and high towers, a long curving wall with dark beams like the peasant cottages, and windows looking out into the forest. It belongs at present to the Grand duke of Sachsen-Weimar-Eisenach.

Every stone and corner of the Wartburg is connected with some old story or legend.

For instance there is the hall with the raised dais at one end and beautiful pillars supporting the roof where minnesingers of old times used to hold their great “musical festivals” as we should say nowadays. There was keen competition for the prizes that were offered in reward for the best music and songs.

In the castle are also the rooms of St Elizabeth, that sweet saint who was so good to the poor, and who suffered so terribly herself in parting from her husband and children.

Then there is the lion on the roof who could tell a fine tale if he chose; the great banqueting hall and the little chapel.

On the top of the tower is a beautiful cross that is lit up at night by electric light and can be seen from a great distance in the country round. This is of course a modern addition.

But the most interesting room in the castle is that where Dr Martin Luther spent his time translating the Bible. A reward had been offered to anyone who should kill this arch-heretic; so his friends brought him disguised as a knight to the Wartburg, and very few people knew of his whereabouts.

As you look through the latticed windows of that little room, the exquisite blue and purple hills of the Thüringen-Wald stretch away in the distance, and no human habitation is to be seen. There too you may see the famous spot on the wall where Luther threw the inkpot at the devil. To be correct you can see the hole where the ink-stain used to be; for visitors have cut away every trace of the ink, and even portions of the old wooden bedstead. There is the writing-desk with the translation of the Bible, and the remarkable footstool that consisted of the bone of a mammoth.

Those were the days in which a man risked his life for his faith; but they were the days also, we must remember, of witchcraft and magic.

One other story of the Wartburg I must narrate in order to give you some idea of the interest that still surrounds the place, and influences the children who grow up there. It was in the days of the old Emperor Barbarossa (Redbeard).

The sister of the Emperor whose name was Jutta, was married to the Landgraf Ludwig of Thüringen, and they lived at the Wartburg.

One day when Barbarossa came to visit them, he observed that the castle had no outer walls round it, as was usual in those days.

“What a pity,” he said, “that such a fine castle should be unprotected by walls and ramparts, it ought to be more strongly fortified.”

“Oh,” said Landgraf Ludwig, “if that is all the castle needs, it can soon have them.”

“How soon?” said the Emperor, mockingly.

“In the space of three days,” answered his brother-in-law.

“That could only be possible with the aid of the devil,” said Barbarossa, “otherwise it could not be done.”

“Wait and see for yourself,” said the Landgraf.

On the third day of his visit, Ludwig said to the Emperor: “Would you care to see the walls? They are finished now.”

Barbarossa crossed himself several times, and prepared for some fearful manifestation of black magic; but what was his surprise to see a living wall round the castle of stout peasants and burghers, ready armed, with weapons in their hands; the banners of well-known knights and lords waved their pennants in the wind where battlements should have been.

The Emperor was much astonished, and called out: “Many thanks, brother-in-law, for your lesson; stronger walls I have never seen, nor better fitted together.”

“Rough stones they may some of them be,” said the Landgraf, “yet I can rely on them, as you see.”

Now as you may imagine, the children who grow up in this town, must have their heads full of these tales, and many poets and artists have been inspired by the beauties of Eisenach. The natural surroundings of the town are so wonderful, that they also provide rich material for the imagination.

Helmut was a boy who lived in Eisenach. He was eight years old, and went to a day school. He lived outside the town, not far from the entrance to the forest. He was a pale, fair-haired little boy, and did not look the tremendous hero he fancied himself in his dreams; not even when he buckled on helmet, breast-plate and sword, and marched out into the street to take his part in the warfare that went on constantly there, between the boys of this neighbourhood, and the boys who belonged to another part of the town.

Now the Dragon’s Gorge is a most marvellous place; it is surrounded on all sides by thick forests, and you come on it suddenly when walking in the woods. It is a group of huge green rocks like cliffs that stand picturesquely piled close together, towering up to the sky. There is only a very narrow pathway between them.

Helmut had often been there with his father and mother or with other boys. After heavy rain or thawing snow it became impassable; at the best of times it was advisable for a lady not to put on her Sunday hat, especially if it were large and had feathers; for the rocks are constantly dripping with water. The great boulders are covered with green moss or tiny ferns; and in the spring time, wood sorrel grows on them in great patches, the under side of the leaves tinged an exquisite violet or pink colour. The entrance to the Dragon’s Gorge is through these rocks; they narrow and almost meet overhead, obscuring the sky, till it seems as if one were walking under the sea. Two persons cannot walk side by side here. In some parts, indeed, one can only just squeeze through; the way winds in and out in the most curious manner; there are little side passages too, that you could hardly get into at all.

In some places you can hear the water roaring under your feet; then the rocks end abruptly and you come out into the forest again, and hear the birds singing and see the little brook dancing along by the side of the way. Altogether it is the most fascinating, wet and delightful walk that you could imagine.

Helmut had long been planning an expedition to these rocks in company with other boy friends, in order to slay the dragon. He dreamt of it day and night, until he brought home a bad mark for “attention” in his school report. He told his mother about it; she laughed and said he might leave the poor old fellow alone; there were plenty of dragons to slay at home, self-will, disobedience, inattention, and so on! She made a momentary impression on the little boy, who always wanted to be good but found it difficult at times, curious to say, to carry out his intention.

He looked thoughtful and answered: “Of course, mother, I know; but this time I want to slay a ‘really and truly’ dragon, may I? Will you let me go with the other boys, it would be such fun?”

The Dragon’s Gorge was not far off, and mother did not think that Helmut could do himself any harm, except by getting wet and dirty, and that he might do as well in the garden at home.

“If you put on your old suit and your thick boots, I think you may go. Keep with the other boys and promise me not to get lost!”

“Oh, I say, won’t it be fine fun! I’ll run off and tell the other fellows. Hurrah!” and Helmut ran off into the street. Soon four heads were to be seen close together making plans for the next day.

“We’ll start quite early at six o’clock,” they said, “and take our second breakfast with us.” (In Germany eleven o’clock lunch is called second breakfast.) However it was seven o’clock a.m. before the boys had had their first breakfast, and met outside the house.

How mother and father laughed to see the little fellows, all dressed in the most warlike costumes like miniature soldiers, armed with guns and swords.

Mother was a little anxious and hoped they would come to no harm; but she liked her boy to be independent, and knew how happy children are if left to play their pretence games alone. She watched the four set off at a swinging march down the street. Soon they had recruits, for it was a holiday, and there were plenty of boys about.

Helmut was commanding officer; the boys shouldered their guns, or presented arms as he directed. They passed the pond and followed the stream through the woods, until they came to the Dragon’s Gorge, where the rocks rise up suddenly high and imposing looking. Here they could only proceed in single file. Helmut headed the band feeling as courageous as in his dreams; his head swam with elation. Huge walls towered above them; the rocks dropped water on their heads. As yet they had seen or heard nothing of the dragon. Yet as they held their breath to listen, they could hear something roaring under their feet.

“Don’t you tell me that that is only water,” said Helmut, “A little brook can’t make such a row as that—that’s the dragon.”

The other boys laughed, they were sceptical as to the dragon, and were only pretending, whereas Helmut was in earnest.

“I’m hungry,” said one boy, “supposing we find a dry place and have our lunch!”

They came to where the path wound out again into the open air, and sat down on some stones, which could hardly be described as dry. Here they ate bread and sausage, oranges and bananas.

“Give me the orange peel, you fellows. Mother hates us to throw it about; it makes the place so untidy.” So saying Helmut pushed his orange peel right into a crevice of the rock and covered it with old leaves. But the other boys laughed at him, and chucked theirs into the little stream, which made Helmut very angry.

“I won’t be your officer any more, if you do not do as I say,” he said, and they began to quarrel.

“We’re not going to fight your old dragon, we’re going home again to play football, that will be far better fun,” said the boys who had joined as recruits, and they went off home, till only Helmut’s chums were left. They were glad enough to get rid of the other boys.

“We have more chance of seeing the dragon without those stupid fellows,” they said.

They finished their lunch, shouldered their guns again, and entered the second gorge, which is even more picturesque and narrow than the first.

Suddenly Helmut espied something round, and slimy, and long lying on the path before him like a blind worm, but much thicker than blind worms generally are. He became fearfully excited, “Come along you fellows, hurry up,” he said, “I do believe it is the dragon’s tail!”

They came up close behind him and looked over his shoulders; the gorge was so narrow here that they could not pass one another.

“Good gracious!” they said, “whatever shall we do now?”

They all felt frightened at the idea of a real dragon, but they stood to their guns like men, all but the youngest, Adolf, who wanted to run away home; but the others would not let him.

“Helmut catch hold of it, quick now,” whispered Werner and Wolf, the other two boys.

Helmut stretched out his hand courageously; perhaps it was only a huge, blind worm after all; but as he tried to catch it, the thing slipped swiftly away. They all followed it, running as fast as they could through the narrow gorge, bumping themselves against the walls, scratching themselves and tearing their clothes, but all the time Helmut never let that tail (if it was a tail) out of his sight.

“If we had some salt to put on it,” said he, “we might catch it like a dicky bird.”

“It would be a fine thing to present to a museum,” said Wolf.

Well, that thing led them a fine dance. It would stop short, and then when they thought they had got it, it started off again, until they were all puffing and blowing.

“We’ve got to catch it somehow,” said Helmut, who thought the chase fine sport. At that moment the gorge opened out again into the woods, and the tail gave them the slip; for it disappeared in a crevice of the rock where there was no room for a boy to follow it.

“It was a blind worm you see,” said Werner.

Presently, however, they heard a noise as of thunder, and looking down the path they saw a head glaring at them out of the rocks, undeniably a dragon’s head, with a huge jaw, red tongue, and rows of jagged teeth.

The boys stared aghast: they were in for an adventure this time, and no mistake. Slowly the dragon raised himself out of the rocks, so that they saw his whole scaly length, like a huge crocodile. Then he began to move along the path away from them. He moved quite slowly now, so there was no difficulty in keeping up with him; but his tail was so slimy and slippery that they could not keep hold of it; moreover it wriggled dreadfully whenever they tried to seize it. But Helmut had inherited the cool courage of the Wartburg knights, and he was not going to be overcome by difficulties.

With a wild Indian whoop he sprang on the dragon’s back, and all the other boys followed his example, except little Adolf who was timid and began to set up a howl for his mother, I’m sorry to say. No sooner were the boys on his back than the dragon set off at a fine trot up and down the Dragon’s Gorge, they had to hold on tight and to duck whenever the rock projected overhead, or when they went sharply round a corner.

“Hurrah,” cried Helmut waving a flag, “this is better than a motor ride. Isn’t he a jolly old fellow?”

At this remark the jolly old fellow stopped dead and began to snort out fire and smoke, that made the boys cough and choke.

“Now stop that, will you!” said Helmut imperatively, “or we shall have to slay you after all, that’s what we came out for you know.” He pointed his gun at the head of the dragon as he spoke like a real hero.

The dragon began to tremble, and though they could only see his profile, they thought he turned pale.

“Where’s that other little boy?” he asked in a hollow voice. “If you will give him to me for my dinner, I will spare you all.”

Helmut laughed scornfully, “Thanks, old fellow,” he said—”you’re very kind, I’m sure Adolf would be much obliged to you. I expect he’s run home to his mother long ago; he’s a bit of a funk, we shan’t take him with us another time.”

“He looked so sweet and juicy and tender,” said the dragon sighing, “I never get a child for dinner nowadays! Woe is me,” he sniffed.

“You are an old cannibal,” said the boys horrified, and mistaking the meaning of the word cannibal. “Hurry up now and give us another ride, it’s first-rate fun this!”

The dragon groaned and seemed disinclined to stir, but the boys kicked him with their heels, and there was nothing for it but to gee-up.

After he had been up and down several times, and the boys’ clothes were nearly torn to pieces, he suddenly turned into a great crevice in the rocks that led down into a dark passage, and the boys felt really frightened for the first time. Daylight has a wonderfully bracing effect on the nerves.

In a moment, however, a few rays of sunshine penetrated the black darkness, and they saw that they were in a small cave. The next thing they experienced was that the dragon shook himself violently, and the small boys fell off his back like apples from a tree on to the wet and sloppy floor. They picked themselves up again in a second, and there they saw the dragon before them, panting after his exertions and filling the cavern with a poisonous-smelling smoke. Helmut and Wolf and Werner stood near the cracks which did the duty of windows, and held their pistols pointed at him. Luckily he was too stupid to know that they were only toy guns, and when they fired them off crack-crack, they soon discovered that he was in a terrible fright.

“What have I done to you, young sirs?” he gasped out. “What have I done to you, that you should want to shoot me? Yet shoot me! yes, destroy me if you will and end my miserable existence!” He began to groan until the cavern reverberated with his cries.

“What’s the matter now, old chappie?” said Helmut, who, observing the weakness of the enemy, had regained his courage.

“I am an anachronism,” said the dragon, “don’t you know what that is?—well, I am one born out of my age. I am a survival of anything but the fittest. You are the masters now, you miserable floppy-looking race of mankind. You can shoot me, you can blow me up with dynamite, you can poison me, you can stuff me—Oh, oh—you can put me into a cage in the Zoological Gardens, you have flying dragons in the sky who could drop on me suddenly and crush me. You have the power. We great creatures of bygone ages have only been able to creep into the rocks and caves to hide from your superior cleverness and your wily machinations. We must perish while you go on like the brook for ever.” So saying he began to shed great tears, that dropped on the floor splash, splash, like the water from the rocks.

The boys felt embarrassed: this was not their idea of manly conduct, and considerably lowered their opinion of dragons in general.

“Do not betray me, young sirs,” went on the dragon in a pathetic and weepy voice, “I have managed so far to lie here concealed though multitudes of people have passed this way and never perceived me.”

“I tell you what,” said Helmut touched by the dragon’s evident terror, “let’s make friends with him, boys; he’s given us a nice ride for nothing; we will present him with the flag of truce.”

Turning to the dragon he said: “Allow us to give you a banana and a roll in token of our friendship and esteem.”

“O,” said the dragon brightening up, “I like bananas. People often throw the skins away here. I prefer them to orange peel. I live on such things, you must know, the cast-off refuse of humanity,” he said, becoming tragic again.

They presented him with the banana, and he ate it skin and all, it seemed to give him an appetite. He appeared to recover his spirits, and the boys thought it would be better to look for the way out. The cavern seemed quite smooth and round, except for the cracks through which the daylight came; they could not discover the passage by which they had entered. The dragon’s eyes were beginning to look bloodthirsty; remembrances of his former strength shot across his dulled brains. He could crush and eat these little boys after all and nobody would be the wiser. Little boys tasted nicer than bananas even.

Meanwhile Wolf and Werner had stuck their flags through the holes in the rocks, so that they were visible from the outside.

Now little Adolf had gone straight home, and had told awful tales of the games the others were up to, and he conducted the four mothers to the Dragon’s Gorge where they wandered up and down looking for their boys. Adolf observed the flags sticking up on the rocks, and drew attention to them. The Dragon’s Gorge resounded with the cries of “Helmut! Wolf! Werner!”

The dragon heard the voices as well; his evil intentions died away; the chronic fear of discovery came upon him again. He grew paler and paler; clouds of smoke came from his nostrils, until he became invisible. At the same moment Helmut groping against the wall that lay in shadow, found the opening of the passage through which they had come. Through this the three boys now crawled, hardly daring to breathe, for fear of exciting the dragon again. Soon a gleam of light at the other end told of their deliverance. Their tender mothers fell on their necks, and scolded them at the same time. Truly, never did boys look dirtier or more disreputable.

“We feel positively ashamed to go home with you,” their mothers said to them.

“Well, for once I was jolly glad you did come, mother,” said Helmut. “That treacherous old dragon wanted to turn on us after all; he might have devoured us, if you had not turned up in the nick of time. Not that I believe that he really would have done anything of the sort, he was a coward you know, and when we levelled our guns at him he was awfully frightened. Still he might have found out that our guns were not properly loaded, and then it would have been unpleasant.”

Mother smiled, she did not seem to take the story quite so seriously as Helmut wished.

“We had a gorgeous ride on his back, mother dear; would you like to see him? You have only to lie down flat and squeeze yourself through that crack in the rocks till you come to his cave.”

“No thank you,” said mother, “I think I can do without seeing your dragon.”

“Oh, we have forgotten our flags!” called out Wolf and Werner, “wait a minute for us,” and they climbed up over the rocks and rescued the flags. “He’s still in there,” they whispered to Helmut in a mysterious whisper.

“Mother,” said Helmut that evening when she came to wish him good night, “do you know, if you stand up to a dragon like a man, and are not afraid of him, he is not so difficult to vanquish after all.”

“I’m glad you think so,” said mother, “‘Volo cum Deo’—there is a Latin proverb for you; it means, that with God’s help, will-power is the chief thing necessary; this even dragons know. Thus a little boy can conquer even greater dragons than the monsters vast of ages past.”

“Hum!” said Helmut musingly, “mother, dear, I was a real hero to-day, I think you would have been proud of me; but I must confess between ourselves, that the old dragon was a bit of a fool!”