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came to visit the poor children, and in the dark night they awoke. Hansel comforted his sister by saying, "Only wait, Grethel, till the moon comes out; then we shall see the crumbs of bread which I have dropped, and they will show us the way home."
The moon shone and they got up, but they could not see any crumbs, for the thousands of birds which had been flying about in the woods and fields had picked them all up. Hansel kept saying to Grethel, "We will soon find the way;" but they did not, and they walked the whole night long and the next day, and still did not come out of the woods. They got very hungry, for they had nothing to eat but the berries which they found upon the bushes, and at last they grew so tired that they could not drag themselves along, but lay down under a tree and went to sleep.
On the third day they were still as far away as ever; indeed, it seemed to them that the longer they walked the deeper they got into the wood, and they began to be afraid that they would die of cold and hunger. But presently, when the midday sun was shining brightly, they noticed a snow-white bird singing so sweetly that they could not help but stay to listen. When the birdie's song was ended, he spread his wings and flew away.
The children followed him until they reached a little house, on the roof of which he perched. Then the children saw with surprise that the strange little house was built entirely of bread, roofed with cakes, and with windows of barley sugar.
"See, Grethel," cried Hansel, joyfully, "there is food for us a-plenty. You take one of the windows, while I eat a piece of the roof."
He stretched out his hand to help himself, and Grethel had already begun to nibble one of the window-panes, when suddenly they heard a voice call from within:
HANSEL AND fiRETHEL FOLLOWING THE BIRD
"Nibble, nibble, little mouse!
The children answered quickly:
"Tis my Lady Wind that blows.
Then they went on eating as though nothing had happened, for the cake of which the roof was made just suited Hansel's taste, while the sugar windowpanes were better than any sweet-meat Grethel had ever tasted before.
All at once the door of the cottage flew wide open, and out came an old, old woman, leaning upon a crutch. The children were so frightened that they dropped their food and clung to each other. The old woman nodded her head to them, and said,
"Who brought you here, my pets? Come inside, come inside; no one will hurt you."
She took their hands and led them into the house, and set before them all kinds of delicious foods— milk, sugared pancakes, apples, and nuts. When they had finished their meal she showed them two cozy little white beds, and soon Hansel and Grethel lay snugly tucked up in them.
Xow this old woman who had seemed so kind to them was really a wicked old witch, who had built the house of cake and candy to coax little children into her clutches. Then when she had them safely in the house, she killed and ate them with great joy.
Witches have red eyes and cannot see well, but they can smell very keenly, and this old woman had known all the time that Hansel and Grethel were coming. When she did see them, she said,
"Here are two dainty bits that will make a fine mouthful for me."
Then again in the morning before they awoke, when she went up and saw how soundly they were sleeping, and looked at their chubby pink cheeks and pretty red lips, she said,
"They will make a dainty meal, sure enough."
Then she caught Hansel in her great rough hand, carried him. into a little room and locked him in there behind an iron grating. Although he screamed loudly with fear, and kicked as hard as he could, the old witch paid no attention, but hurried back to the bedroom where she had left Grethel. She caught the little girl by the shoulder and shook her roughly, saying,
"Get up, you lazy thing, and fetch some water to cook something good for your brother. I've put him in a stall, and he must stay there till he gets fat, and when he is fat enough I shall eat him."
Grethel cried, but it was useless, and finally she had to do just as the old witch told her. She cooked the choicest food and carried it to Hansel, but she got nothing to eat but a crab's claw or an oyster shell.
Day by day the old woman visited the stall and called to Hansel to put his finger through the window-bars, that she might see if he were getting fat; but the little fellow held out a bone instead, and as her eyes were dim, she mistook the bone for the boy's finger, and thought how thin and lean he was.
When a whole month had passed without Hansel becoming the least bit fatter, the old witch lost patience and declared she would wait no longer.
"Hurry, Grethel," she said to the little girl; "fill the pot with water, for to-morrow, be he lean or fat, Hansel shall be cooked for my dinner."
How the poor little sister grieved! But there was nothing she could do except to cry out, while the tears ran down her cheeks,
"Dear, good God, help us now! If the beasts had only killed us in the forest we might at least have died together."
The old witch was now angrier than ever, and called out,
"Stop that noise! It will not help you a bit!"
Early in the morning Grethel was made to get up, go out and make the fire and fill the kettle.
"First we will bake," said the old woman. "I have heated the oven and kneaded the dough. Do you get into the oven and see if it is hot enough to bake the bread."