Page images
PDF
EPUB

backward; the other. Crow stood in the doorway, flapping her wings; she did not go with them, for she suffered from headache that had come on since she had obtained a fixed position and was allowed to eat too much. The coach was lined with sugar biscuits, and in the seat there were gingerbread, nuts, and fruit.

“Farewell, farewell!” cried the prince and princess; and little Gerda wept, and the Crow wept.

So they went on for the first three miles, and then the Crow said good-bye, and that was the heaviest parting of all. The Crow flew up on a tree, and beat his black wings as long as he could see the coach, which glittered like the bright sunshine.

THE FIFTH STORY

The Little Robber Girl JOGOS HEY drove on through the thick

forest, but the coach gleamed like a torch. It dazzled the robbers' eyes, and they could not bear it.

“That is gold! that is gold!” cried w they; and they rushed forward, seized

the horses, killed the postilions, the coachmen, and the footmen, and then pulled little Gerda out of the carriage.

"She is fat-she is pretty—she is fed with nut kernels !” said the old robber woman, who had a very long matted beard and shaggy eyebrows that hung down over her eyes. “She's as good as a little pet lamb; how I shall relish her!”

And she drew out her shining knife, that gleamed in a horrible way.

[ocr errors]

"Oh!” screamed the old woman at the same moment: for her own daughter, who hung at her back, bit her ear in a very naughty and spiteful manner. “You ugly brat!” screamed the old woman; and she had not time to kill Gerda.

"She shall play with me!” said the little robber girl. “She shall give me her muff and her pretty dress, and sleep with me in my bed!"

And then the girl gave another bite, so that the woman jumped high up, and turned right round, and all the robbers laughed, and said:

“Look how she dances with her calf.”

“I want to go into the carriage,” said the little robber girl.

And she would have her own way, for she was spoiled and very obstinate; and she and Gerda sat in the carriage, and drove over stock and stone deep into the forest. The little robber girl was as big as Gerda, but stronger and more broad-shouldered, and she had a brown skin; her eyes were quite black, and they looked almost mournful. She clasped little Gerda round the waist, and said:

“They shall not kill you as long as I am not angry with you. I suppose you are a princess?”

“No,” replied Gerda. And she told all that had happened to her, and how fond she was of little Kay.

The robber girl looked at her seriously, nodded slightly, and said:

“They shall not kill you, even if I do get angry with you, for then I will do it myself.”

And then she dried Gerda's eyes, and put her two hands into the beautiful muff that was so soft and warm.

Now the coach stopped, and they were in the courtyard of a robber castle. It had burst from the top to the ground; ravens and crows flew out of the great holes, and big bulldogs—each of which looked as if he could devour a man-jumped high up, but did not bark, for that was forbidden.

In the great, old, smoky hall, a bright fire burned upon the stone floor; the smoke passed along under the ceiling, and had to seek an exit for itself. A great cauldron of soup was boiling and hares and rabbits were roasting on the spit.

“You shall sleep to-night with me and all my little animals,” said the robber girl.

They had something to eat and drink, and then went to a corner, where straw and carpets were spread out. Above these sat on laths and perches more than a hundred pigeons, and all seemed asleep, but they turned a little when the two little girls came.

“All these belong to me,” said the little robber girl; and she quickly seized one of the nearest, held it by the feet, and shook it so that it flapped its wings. “Kiss it!” she cried, and beat it in Gerda's face. “There sit the wood rascals,” she continued, pointing to a number of laths that had been nailed in front of a hole in the wall. “Those are wood rascals, those two; they fly away directly if one does not keep them well locked up. And here's my old sweetheart 'Ba.'” And she pulled out by the horn a Reindeer, that was tied up, and had a polished copper ring round its neck. “We're obliged to keep him tight, too, or he'd run away from us. Every evening I tickle his neck with a sharp knife, and he's badly frightened at that.”

And the little girl drew a long knife from a cleft in the wall, and let it glide over the Reindeer's neck; the poor creature kicked out its legs, and the little robber girl laughed, and drew Gerda into bed with her.

"Do you keep the knife while you're asleep?" asked Gerda, and looked at it in a frightened way.

“I always sleep with my knife,” replied the robber girl. “One does not know what may happen. But now tell me again what you told me just now about little Kay, and why you came out into the wide world.”

And Gerda told it again from the beginning; and the Wood Pigeons cooed above them in their cage, and the other pigeons slept. The little robber girl put her arm round Gerda's neck, held her knife in the other hand, and slept so that one could hear her; but Gerda could not close her eyes at all-she did not know whether she was to live or die.

The robbers sat round the fire, sang and drank, and the old robber woman tumbled about. It was quite terrible for a little girl to behold.

Then the Wood Pigeons said: “Cool coo! we have seen little Kay. A white owl was carrying his sledge; he sat in the Snow Queen's carriage, which drove close by the forest as we lay in our nests. She blew upon us young pigeons, and all died except us two. Coo! coo!”

“What are you saying there?” asked Gerda. “Whither was the Snow Queen traveling? Do you know anything about it?”

“She was probably journeying to Lapland, for there they have always ice and snow. Ask the Reindeer that is tied to the cord.”

[graphic][ocr errors][subsumed][ocr errors][ocr errors][subsumed][ocr errors][ocr errors][subsumed][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][subsumed][subsumed][merged small]

“There is ice and snow yonder, and it is glorious and fine,” said the Reindeer. “There one may run about free in great glittering plains. There the Snow Queen has her summer tent; but her strong castle is up toward the North Pole, on the island that's called Spitzbergen.”

« PreviousContinue »