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The Frozen Hearth-fairy

from The Old-fashioned Fairy Book





Once upon a time, there were a poor couple who lived in a little cottage
overgrown with vines. From roof-tree to cellar, their home was as clean
as hands could make it, and the table and chairs were scoured every day
till they were as white as snow. The man went out into the woods to tie
up fagots, and the woman kept a few bees, and sold the honey. In this
way they managed to live, and were happy, till a great storm came, and
swept off the roof of their house; then the lightning set it on fire,
and it was soon burned to the ground. The man came running from the
forest, and found his wife crying as if her heart would break, beside
her bee-hives, which the wind had upset, scattering all their busy
inmates, and destroying the honey.

"Where shall we sleep to-night?" said the wife.

"Let us search till we find," answered the husband. So they set off and
wandered into the woods, while the storm raged over them. Long did they
stray, until night came. At last they saw a ruined hut, left by some
charcoal-burners, and thankfully entered it. There was dry straw in one
corner, and here the poor woman laid down, half dead with fright and
fatigue. Both of them were hungry, and the man putting his hand in his
pouch was glad to find there a bit of bread, which he was about to give
to his wife, when a queer little black object sprang down the wall and
seized the crust, running nimbly off with it.

"Who are you?" cried the poor man.

"I'm a lost hearth-fairy," said the little creature, in a piping voice.
"If you had made me a fire to warm my poor bones, I should not have
taken your food."

The hearth-fairy's teeth were chattering, and the man pulled together
some sticks and straw, and lighted them with his flint and steel. The
smoke curled up, the flames sparkled merrily. The hearth-fairy slid down
and warmed himself.

"Hallo there! give me back my crust," said the poor man, whose wife kept
pulling him by the sleeve, to remind him of her hunger.

"Now that I think of it, I want this crust myself," said the
hearth-fairy. "I am off on a journey to seek a warm fireside, and I need
something to strengthen me. But here is a duck instead, only you had
better not kill her!"

A fine fat duck tumbled at the poor man's feet. The hearth-fairy
vanished in the smoke. Oh! how the poor couple longed to kill and eat
that duck. Their mouths watered as they thought of onion-sauce, and of
breadcrumbs, and of sage. Faint and starving, they fell asleep in a
corner of the hut. When day broke the poor man rose up, and went to the
door. The storm had ceased and the duck was quacking on the door-sill.
She waddled away, and left behind her a large egg of purest gold. Just
then the lord of the forest rode by with his huntsman. They saw the
shining prize in the poor man's hand, and offered to buy it of him.

"I will give it for a loaf of brown bread and a sausage," he said, "for
my wife lies starving, within."

The huntsman gave him food and drink; and the lord of the forest, after
hearing his story, had the poor couple taken to a nice empty cottage
near by, and told them they should have it for their own. The golden egg
was sold, and the man and his wife lived in comfort all their days from
the money it fetched. They never saw either the hearth-fairy or the
magic duck again, but the good wife soon went to bee-keeping, which made
her very happy.





Next: Rosy's Stay-at-home Parties

Previous: The Wild Woodsman



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