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The Snow Queen

from Boys And Girls Bookshelf - OLD-FASHIONED STORIES





Once upon a time there was a little boy called Kay. And there was a
little girl. Her name was Gerda.

They were not brother and sister, this little boy and girl, but they
lived in tiny attics next door to one another.

When they were not playing together, Gerda spent her time peeping at
Kay, through one of the little panes in her window. And Kay peeped back
at Gerda.

Outside each attic was a tiny balcony, just big enough to hold two
little stools and a window-box. Often Gerda would step out of her attic
window into the balcony, carrying with her a three-legged wooden stool.
Then she would climb over the low wall that separated her from Kay.

And there in Kay's balcony the two children would sit and play together,
or tell fairy tales, or tend the flowers that bloomed so gaily in the
window-box.

At other times it was Kay who would bound over the low wall into Gerda's
balcony, and there, too, the little boy and girl were as happy as though
they had been in Fairyland.

In each little window-box grew a rose-bush, and the bloom and the scent
of the red roses they bore gave Kay and Gerda more delight than you can
imagine; and all her life long a red rose remained little Gerda's
favorite flower.

But it was not always summer-time, and when cold, frosty winter came,
and the Snow Queen sailed down on the large white snowflakes from a gray
sky, then no flowers bloomed in the window-boxes. And the balcony was so
slippery that the children dared not venture to step out of their attic
windows, but had to run down one long flight of stairs and up another to
be able to play together.

Sometimes, though, Kay stayed in his own little room and Gerda stayed
in hers, gazing and gazing at the lovely pictures of castles, and
mountains, and sea, and flowers that the Snow Queen had drawn on the
window-panes as she passed.

But now that the little panes of glass were covered with pictures, how
could Kay and Gerda peep at each other from the attic windows?

Ah, they had a plan, and a very good plan, too. Kay would heat a penny
on the stove, and then press it against the window-pane, and so make
little round peep-holes. Then he would put his eye to one of these
little rounds and--what did he see? A bright black eye peeping from
Gerda's attic, for she, too, had heated a penny and made peep-holes in
her window.

It was in winter, too, when the children could not play together on the
balcony, that Gerda's grandmother told them stories of the Snow Queen.

One night, as Kay was undressing to go to bed, he climbed on a chair and
peeped out of one of his little round holes, and there, on the edge of
the window-box, were a few big snowflakes. And as the little boy watched
them, the biggest grew bigger and bigger, until it grew into a white
lady of glittering, dazzling ice. Her eyes shone like two bright stars.

"It must be the Snow Queen," thought Kay, and at that moment the white
lady nodded to him, and waved her hand, and as he jumped from his chair,
he fancied she flew past the window. "It must be the Snow Queen." Would
he ever see her again?

At last the white winter melted away and green spring burst upon the
earth. Then once more summer--warm, bright, beautiful summer.

It was at five o'clock, one sunny afternoon, that Kay and Gerda sat
together on their little stools in the balcony, looking at a
picture-book.

"Oh!" cried Kay suddenly, "oh, there is something sharp in my eye, and I
have such a pain in my heart!"

Gerda put her arms round Kay's neck and looked into his eye.

"I can see nothing, Kay dear."

"Oh! it is gone now," said the boy, and they turned again to the
picture-book.

But something had flown into Kay's eye, and it was not gone; a little
bit had reached his heart, and it was still there. Listen, and I will
tell you what had happened.

There was about this time a most marvelous mirror in the world. It
belonged to the worst hobgoblin that ever lived, and had been made by
his wicked little demons.

Those who looked into this mirror saw reflected there all the mean and
ugly people and things in the world, and not one beautiful sight could
they see. And the thoughts of those who looked into this mirror became
as mean and ugly as the people and things they saw.

This delighted the hobgoblin, who ordered his little demons to carry the
mirror all over the world and to do as much mischief with it as they
could.

But one day, when they had traveled far, the mirror slipped from the
hands of the little imps, and fell to earth, shivered into hundreds of
thousands of millions of bits. Then it did more harm than ever, for
the tiny pieces, some no bigger than a grain of sand, were blown all
over the world, and often flew in people's eyes, and sometimes even
found their way into their hearts.



And when a big person or a child had a little bit of this magic mirror
in his eye, he saw only what was mean and ugly; and if the tiniest grain
of the glass reached his heart, alas! alas! it froze all the kindness
and gentleness and love that was there, and the heart became like a lump
of ice.

This is what had happened to poor little Kay. One tiny bit of the magic
mirror had flown into his eye; another had entered his heart.

"How horrid you look, Gerda. Why are you crying? And oh, see the worm in
that rose. Roses are ugly, and so are window-boxes." And Kay kicked the
window-box, and knocked two roses from the rose-bush.

"Kay dear, what is the matter?" asked Gerda.

The little boy did not answer, but broke off another rose, and then,
without saying good-by, stepped in at his own window, leaving Gerda
alone.

The next time the little girl brought out the picture-book, Kay tore the
leaves, and when the grandmother told them a story, he interrupted her
and made ugly faces. And he would tread on Gerda's toes and pull her
hair, and make faces at her, too.

"How cruel little Kay grows," said his friends; for he mocked the old
people and ill-treated those who were weak. And all through the blue
summer and the yellow autumn Kay teased little Gerda, or left her that
he might play with the bigger children in the town.

But it was when winter came, and the big white snowflakes once more fell
from a gray sky, that Gerda felt loneliest, for Kay now drew on his
thick gloves, slung his little sledge across his back, and marched off
alone. "I am going to ride in the square," he shouted in her ear as he
passed. But Gerda could not answer; she could only think of the winters
that had gone, when she and Kay always sat side by side in that same
little sledge. How happy they had been! Oh, why, why had he not taken
her with him?

Kay walked briskly to the square, and there he watched the bolder of the
boys tie their sledges to the farmers' carts. With what glee they felt
themselves being drawn over the snow-covered ground! When they reached
the town gates they would jump out, unfasten their sledges, and return
to the square to begin the fun all over again.

Kay was thinking how much he would like to tie his little sledge behind
a cart, when a big sledge, painted white, drove by. In it sat some one
muffled in a white fur coat and cap. Twice the sledge drove round the
square.

As it passed Kay the second time, he quickly fastened on his little
sledge behind, and in a moment found himself flying through the streets.
What fun! On and on through snowdrifts, bounding over ditches, rushing
down hills, faster and faster they flew.

Little Kay grew frightened. Twice he tried to unfasten the string that
tied his sledge to the other, but both times the white driver turned
round and nodded to him to sit still. At last they had driven through
the town gates. The snow fell so heavily that it blinded him. Now he
could not see where they were going, and Kay grew more frightened still.
He tried to say his prayers, but could only remember the multiplication
table. Bigger and bigger grew the snowflakes, till they seemed like
large white birds. Then, suddenly, the sledge stopped. The driver stood
up. She was a tall lady, dazzlingly white. Her eyes shone like two
stars. She was the Snow Queen.

"It is cold," said the white lady; "come into my sledge. Now, creep
inside my furs."

Kay did as he was told, but he felt as if he had fallen into a
snowdrift.

"You are still cold," said the Snow Queen, and she kissed his forehead.
Her lips were like ice, and Kay shivered and felt the old pain at his
heart. But only for a minute, for the Snow Queen kissed him again,
and then he forgot the pain, and he forgot Gerda, and he forgot his
grandmother and his old home, and had not a thought for anything or any
one but the Snow Queen.

He had no fear of her now, no, not although they flew up and up on a
dark cloud, away over woods and lakes, over rivers, islands, and seas.
No, he was not afraid, although the cold wind whistled around them, and
beneath the wild wolves howled. Kay did not care.

Above them the moon shone bright and clear. All night long the boy would
gaze at it and the twinkling stars, but by day he slept at the feet of
the Snow Queen.

* * *

But what of little Gerda?

Poor child, she watched and she waited and she wondered, but Kay did not
come, and nobody could tell her where he was. The boys had seen him
drive out of the town gates behind a big sledge painted white. But no
one had heard of him since.

Little Gerda cried bitterly. Perhaps Kay was drowned in the river. Oh,
what a long, cold winter that was! But spring came at last, bright
spring with its golden sunshine and its singing birds.

"Kay is dead," said Gerda.

"Kay dead? It is not true," said the sunshine.

"Kay dead? We do not believe it," twittered the swallows.

And neither did little Gerda believe it.

"I will put on my new red shoes," said the child one morning, "and go to
the river and ask it about Kay." So she put on her little red shoes, and
kissed her old grandmother who was still asleep, and wandered alone, out
beyond the town gates, and down to the river-bank.

"Have you taken my little playfellow?" she asked. "I will give you these
if you will bring him back to me," and she flung her little shoes into
the river.

They fell close to the bank and the little waves tossed them back on to
the dry pebbles at her feet. "We do not want you, we will keep Kay,"
they seemed to say.

"Perhaps I did not throw them far enough," thought Gerda; and, stepping
into a boat that lay among the rushes, she flung the red shoes with all
her might into the middle of the river.

But the boat was not fastened and it glided out from among the rushes.
Soon it was drifting faster and faster down the river. The little shoes
floated behind.

"Perhaps I am going to little Kay," thought Gerda, as she was carried
farther and farther down the river. How pretty it was! Trees waved and
flowers nodded on its banks. Sheep grazed and cattle browsed, but not
one soul, big or little, was to be seen.

After a long time Gerda came to a cherry-garden which stretched down to
the river-bank. At the end of this garden stood a tiny cottage with a
thatched roof, and with red, blue, and yellow glass windows.

On either side of the door stood a wooden soldier. Gerda thought the
soldiers were alive, and shouted to them.

The wooden soldiers, of course, did not hear, but an old, old woman, who
lived in the tiny house, wondered who it could be that called. She
hobbled out, leaning on her hooked stick. On her head she wore a big
sun-hat, and on it were painted beautiful flowers.

"You poor child," said the old, old woman, walking straight into the
river, and catching hold of the boat with her hooked stick; "you poor
dear!" And she pulled the boat ashore and lifted out little Gerda on to
the green grass.

Gerda was delighted to be on dry land again, but she was a little bit
afraid of the old, old woman, who now asked her who she was and where
she came from.

"I am looking for Kay, little Kay. Have you seen him?" began Gerda, and
she went on to tell the old, old woman the whole story of her playmate
and his strange disappearance. When she had finished, she asked again,
"Have you seen him?"

"No," said the old, old woman, "but I expect him. Come in," and she took
little Gerda by the hand. "Come to my house and taste my cherries." And
when they had gone into the cottage, the old, old woman locked the door.
Then she gave Gerda a plate of the most delicious cherries, and while
the little girl ate them, the old, old woman combed her hair with a
golden comb.

Now this old, old woman was a witch, and the comb was a magic comb, for
as soon as it touched her hair, Gerda forgot all about Kay. And this was
just what the witch wished, for she was a lonely old woman, and would
have liked Gerda to become her own little girl and stay with her always.

Gerda did enjoy the red cherries, and, while she was still eating them,
the old, old woman stole out to the garden and waved her hooked stick
over the rose-bushes and they quickly sank beneath the brown earth.
For Gerda had told her how fond Kay had once been of their little
rose-bushes in the balcony, and the witch was afraid the sight of roses
would remind the little girl of her lost playmate. But now that the
roses had vanished, Gerda might come into the garden.

How the child danced for joy past the lilies and bluebells, how she
suddenly fell on her knees to smell the pinks and mignonette, and then
danced off again, in and out among the sunflowers and hollyhocks!

Gerda was perfectly happy now, and played among the flowers until the
sun sank behind the cherry-trees. Then the old, old woman again took her
by the hand, and led her to the little house. And she undressed her and
put her into a little bed of white violets, and there the little girl
dreamed sweet dreams.

The next day and the next again and for many more Gerda played among the
flowers in the garden.

One morning, as the old woman sat near, Gerda looked at her hat with the
wonderful painted flowers. Prettiest of all was a rose.

"A rose! Why, surely I have seen none in the garden," thought Gerda, and
she danced off in search.

But she could find none, and in her disappointment hot tears fell. And
they fell on the very spot where the roses had grown, and as soon as
the warm drops moistened the earth, the rose-bushes sprang up.

"You are beautiful, beautiful," she said; but in a moment the tears fell
again, for she thought of the rose-bushes in the balcony, and she
remembered Kay.

"Oh Kay, dear, dear Kay, is he dead?" she asked the roses.

"No, he is not dead," they answered, "for we have been beneath the brown
earth, and he is not there."

"Then where, oh, where is he?" and she went from flower to flower
whispering, "Have you seen little Kay?"

But the flowers stood in the sunshine, dreaming their own dreams, and
these they told the little maiden gladly, but of Kay they could not tell
her, for they knew nothing.

Then the little girl ran down the garden path until she came to the
garden gate. She pressed the rusty latch. The gate flew open, and Gerda
ran out on her little bare feet into the green fields. And she ran, and
she ran, until she could run no longer. Then she sat down on a big stone
to rest.

"Why, it must be autumn," she said sorrowfully, as she looked around.
And little Gerda felt sorry that she had stayed so long in the magic
garden, where it was always summer.

"Why have I not been seeking little Kay?" she asked herself, and she
jumped up and trudged along, on and on, out into the great wide world.

* * *

At last the cold white winter came again, and still little Gerda was
wandering alone through the wide world, for she had not found little
Kay.

"Caw, caw," said a big raven that hopped on the stone in front of her.
"Caw, caw."

"Have you seen little Kay?" asked Gerda, and she told the bird her sad
story.

"It may have been Kay," said the raven, "I cannot tell. But if it was,
he will have forgotten you now that he lives with the princess."

"Does he live with a princess?" asked Gerda.

"Yes, he does. If you care to listen, I will tell you how it came about.
In this kingdom lives a princess so clever that she has read all the
newspapers in the world, and forgotten them again. Last winter she made
up her mind to marry. Her husband, she said, must speak well. He must
know the proper thing to say, and say it prettily. Otherwise she would
not marry. I assure you what I say is perfectly true, for I have a tame
sweetheart who lives at court, and she told me the whole story.

"One day it was published in the newspapers that any handsome young man
might go to the palace to speak to the princess. The one who spoke most
prettily and answered most wisely should be chosen as her husband. What
a stir there was! Young men flocked to the palace in crowds, chattering
as they came. But when they saw the great staircase, and the soldiers
in their silver uniform, and the grand ladies in velvet and lace, they
could only talk in whispers. And when they were led before the beautiful
princess, who was seated on a pearl as big as a spinning-wheel, they
were silent. She spoke to them, but they could think of nothing to say,
so they repeated her last words over and over again. The princess did
not like that, and she----"

"But Kay, little Kay, did he come?" interrupted Gerda.

"You are in too great a hurry," said the raven; "I am just coming to
that. On the third day came a boy with sparkling eyes and golden hair,
but his clothes were shabby. He----"

"Oh, that would be Kay. Dear, dear Kay, I have found him at last."

"He had a knapsack on his back, and----"

"No, it must have been a sledge," again interrupted Gerda.

"I said he had a knapsack on his back, and he wore boots that creaked,
but----"

"Oh, then it must be Kay, for he had new boots. I heard them creak
through our attic wall when----"

"Little girl, do not interrupt, but listen to me. He wore boots that
creaked, but even that did not frighten him. He creaked up the great
staircase, he passed the soldiers in silver uniform, he bowed to the
ladies in velvet and lace, and still he was quite at his ease. And when
he was led before the beautiful princess who was seated on a pearl as
big as a spinning-wheel, he answered so prettily and spoke so wisely
that she chose him as her husband."

"Indeed, indeed it was Kay," said little Gerda. "He was so clever. He
could do arithmetic up to long division. Oh, take me to him."

"I will see what can be done," said the raven. "I will talk about it to
my tame sweetheart. She will certainly be able to advise us. Wait here
by the stile," and the raven wagged his head and flew off.

It was growing dark before he returned. "Here is a roll my tame
sweetheart sent you. 'The little maiden must be hungry,' she said.
As for your going to the palace with those bare feet--the thing is
impossible. The soldiers in silver uniform would not let you go up
the great stair. But do not cry. My sweetheart knows a little back
staircase. She will take you to the prince and princess. Follow me."

On tiptoe little Gerda followed the raven, as he hopped across the
snow-covered field and up the long avenue that led to the palace garden.
And in the garden they waited silently until the last light had gone
out. Then they turned along the bare walk that led to the back door. It
stood wide open.

Oh, how little Gerda's heart beat, as on the tips of her little bare
toes she followed the raven up the dimly lighted back staircase!

On the landing at the top burned a small lamp. Beside it stood the tame
sweetheart.

Gerda curtsied as her grandmother had taught her.

"He," said the tame sweetheart, nodding to the raven of the field, "he
has told me your story. It has made me sad. But if you carry the lamp, I
will lead the way, and then we shall see----"

"We shall see little Kay," murmured Gerda.

"Hush! we shall see what we shall see," said the tame sweetheart.

Through room after room Gerda followed her strange guide, her heart
thumping and thumping so loudly that she was afraid some one in the
palace would hear it and wake.

At last they came to a room in which stood two little beds, one white
and one red. The tame sweetheart nodded to the little girl.

Poor Gerda! she was trembling all over, as she peeped at the little head
that rested on the pillow of the white bed.

Oh! that was the princess.

Gerda turned to the little red bed. The prince was lying on his face,
but the hair, surely it was Kay's hair. She drew down the little red
coverlet until she saw a brown neck. Yes! it was Kay's neck, she felt
sure.

"Kay, Kay, it is I, little Gerda, wake, wake."

And the prince awoke. He turned his head. He opened his eyes--and--alas!
alas! it was not little Kay.

Then Gerda cried and cried as if her heart would break. She cried until
she awoke the princess, who started up bewildered.

"Who are you, little girl, and where do you come from, and what do you
want?"

"Oh, I want Kay, little Kay, do you know where he is?" And Gerda told
the princess all her story, and of what the ravens had done to help her.

"Poor little child," said the princess, "how sad you must feel!"

"And how tired," said the prince, and he jumped out of his little red
bed, and made Gerda lie down.

The little girl was grateful indeed. She folded her hands and was soon
fast asleep.

And Gerda dreamed of Kay. She saw him sitting in his little sledge, and
it was dragged by angels. But it was only a dream, and, when she awoke,
her little playmate was as far away as ever.

The ravens were now very happy, for the princess said that, although
they must never again lead any one to the palace by the back staircase,
this time they should be rewarded. They should for the rest of their
lives live together in the palace garden, and be known as the court
ravens, and be fed from the royal kitchen.

When little Gerda awoke from her dreams, she saw the sunbeams stealing
across her bed. It was time to get up.

The court ladies dressed the little girl in silk and velvet, and the
prince and princess asked her to stay with them at the palace. But Gerda
begged for a little carriage, and a horse, and a pair of boots, that she
might again go out into the great wide world to seek little Kay.

So they gave her a pair of boots and a muff, and when she was dressed,
there before the door stood a carriage of pure gold. The prince himself
helped Gerda to step in, and the princess waved to her as she drove off.

But although Gerda was now a grand little girl, she was very lonely. The
coachman and footman in the scarlet and gold livery did not speak a
word. She was glad when the field raven flew to the carriage and perched
by her side. He explained that his wife, for he was now married, would
have come also, but she had eaten too much breakfast and was not well.
But at the end of three miles the raven said good-by, and flapping his
shiny black wings, flew into an elm. There he watched the golden
carriage till it could no longer be seen.

Poor Gerda was lonely as ever! There were gingernuts and sugar-biscuits
and fruit in the carriage, but these could not comfort the little girl.

When would she find Kay?

* * *

In a dark forest lived a band of wild robbers. Among them was an old
robber-woman, with shaggy eyebrows and no teeth. She had one little
daughter.

"Look, look! what is that?" cried the little robber-girl one afternoon,
as something like a moving torch gleamed through the forest. It was
Gerda's golden carriage. The robbers rushed toward it, drove away the
coachman and the footman, and dragged out the little girl.

"How plump she is! You will taste nice, my dear," the old woman said to
Gerda, as she drew out her long, sharp knife. It glittered horribly.
"Now, just stand still, so, and--oh! stop, I say, stop," screamed the
old woman, for at that moment her daughter sprang upon her back and bit
her ear. And there she hung like some savage little animal. "Oh, my ear,
my ear, you bad, wicked child!" But the woman did not now try to kill
Gerda.

Then the robber-child said, "Little girl, I want you myself, and I want
to ride beside you." So together they stepped into the golden carriage
and drove deep into the wood. "No one will hurt you now, unless I get
angry with you," said the robber-girl, putting her arm round Gerda. "Are
you a princess?"

"No," said Gerda, and she told the robber-girl all her story. "Have you
seen little Kay?" she ended.

"Never," said the robber-girl, "never." Then she looked at Gerda and
added, "No one shall kill you even if I am angry with you. I shall do it
myself." And she dried Gerda's eyes. "Now this is nice," and she lay
back, her red hands in Gerda's warm, soft muff.

At last the carriage stopped at a robber's castle. It was a ruin. The
robber-girl led Gerda into a large, old hall and gave her a basin of hot
soup. "You shall sleep there to-night," she said, "with me and my pets."

Gerda looked where the robber-girl pointed, and saw that in one corner
of the room straw was scattered on the stone floor.

"Yes, you shall see my pets. Come, lie down now."

And little Gerda and the robber-girl lay down together on their straw
bed. Above, perched on poles, were doves.

"Mine, all mine," said the little robber-girl. Jumping up, she seized
the dove nearest her by the feet and shook it till its wings flapped.
Then she slung it against Gerda's face. "Kiss it," she said. "Yes, all
mine; and look," she went on, "he is mine, too;" and she caught by the
horn a reindeer that was tied to the wall. He had a bright brass collar
round his neck. "We have to keep him tied or he would run away. I tickle
him every night with my sharp knife, and then he is afraid;" and the
girl drew from a hole in the wall a long knife, and gently ran it across
the reindeer's neck. The poor animal kicked, but the little robber-girl
laughed, and then again lay down on her bed of straw.

"But," said Gerda, with terror in her eyes, "you are not going to sleep
with that long, sharp knife in your hand?"

"Yes, I always do," replied the robber-girl; "one never knows what may
happen. But tell me again all about Kay, and about your journey through
the wide world."

And Gerda told all her story over again. Then the little robber-girl put
one arm round Gerda's neck, and with her long knife in the other, she
fell sound asleep.

But Gerda could not sleep. How could she, with that sharp knife close
beside her? She would try not to think of it. She would listen to the
doves. "Coo, coo," they said. Then they came nearer.

"We have seen little Kay," they whispered. "He floated by above our nest
in the Snow Queen's sledge. She blew upon us as she passed, and her icy
breath killed many of us."

"But where was little Kay going? Where does the Snow Queen live?" asked
Gerda.

"The reindeer can tell you everything," said the doves.

"Yes," said the reindeer, "I can tell you. Little Kay was going to the
Snow Queen's palace, a splendid palace of glittering ice, away in
Lapland."

"Oh, Kay, little Kay!" sighed Gerda.

"Lie still, or I shall stick my knife into you," said the little
robber-girl.

And little Gerda lay still, but she did not sleep. In the morning she
told the robber-girl what the doves and the reindeer had said.

The little robber-girl looked very solemn and thoughtful. Then she
nodded her head importantly. At last she spoke, not to Gerda, but to the
reindeer.

"I should like to keep you here always, tied by your brass collar to
that wall. Then I should still tickle you with my knife, and have the
fun of seeing you kick and struggle. But never mind. Do you know where
Lapland is?"

Lapland! of course the reindeer knew. Had he not been born there? Had he
not played in its snow-covered fields? As the reindeer thought of his
happy childhood, his eyes danced.

"Would you like to go back to your old home?" asked the robber-girl.

The reindeer leaped into the air for joy.

"Very well, I will soon untie your chain. Mother is still asleep. Come
along, Gerda. Now, I am going to put this little girl on your back, and
you are to carry her safely to the Snow Queen's palace. She must find
her little playfellow." And the robber-girl lifted Gerda up and tied her
on the reindeer's back, having first put a little cushion beneath her.
"I must keep your muff, Gerda, but you can have mother's big, black
mittens. Come, put your hands in. Oh, they do look ugly."

"I am going to Kay, little Kay," and Gerda cried for joy.

"There is nothing to whimper about," said the robber-girl. "Look! here
are two loaves and a ham." Then she opened wide the door, loosened the
reindeer's chain, and said, "Now run."

And the reindeer darted through the open door, Gerda waving her
blackmittened hands, and the little robber-girl calling after the
reindeer, "Take care of my little girl."

On and on they sped, over briers and bushes, through fields and forests
and swamps. The wolves howled and the ravens screamed. But Gerda was
happy. She was going to Kay.

* * *

The loaves and the ham were finished, and Gerda and the reindeer were in
Lapland.

They stopped in front of a little hut. Its roof sloped down almost to
the ground, and the door was so low that to get into the hut one had to
creep on hands and knees. How the reindeer squeezed through I cannot
tell, but there he was in the little hut, telling an old Lapp woman who
was frying fish over a lamp, first his own story and then the sad story
of Gerda and little Kay.

"Oh, you poor creatures," said the Lapp woman, "the Snow Queen is not
in Lapland at present. She is hundreds of miles away at her palace in
Finland. But I will give you a note to a Finn woman, and she will direct
you better than I can." And the Lapp woman wrote a letter on a dried
fish, as she had no paper.

Then, when Gerda had warmed herself by the lamp, the Lapp woman tied her
on to the reindeer again, and they squeezed through the little door and
were once more out in the wide world.

On and on they sped through the long night, while the blue northern
lights flickered in the sky overhead, and the crisp snow crackled
beneath their feet.

At last they reached Finland and knocked on the Finn woman's chimney,
for she had no door at all. Then they squeezed down the chimney and
found themselves in a very hot little room.

The old woman at once loosened Gerda's things, and took off her mittens
and boots. Then she put ice on the reindeer's head. Now that her
visitors were more comfortable she could look at the letter they
brought. She read it three times and then put it in the fish-pot, for
this old woman never wasted anything.

There was silence for five minutes, and then the reindeer again told his
story first, and afterward the sad story of Gerda and little Kay.

Once more there was silence for five minutes, and then the Finn woman
whispered to the reindeer. This is what she whispered: "Yes, little Kay
is with the Snow Queen, and thinks himself the happiest boy in the
world. But that is because a little bit of the magic mirror is still in
his eye, and another tiny grain remains in his heart. Until they come
out, he can never be the old Kay. As long as they are there, the Snow
Queen will have him in her power."

"But cannot you give Gerda power to overcome the Snow Queen?" whispered
the reindeer.

"I cannot give her greater power than she has already. Her own loving
heart has won the help of bird and beast and robber-girl, and it is
that loving heart that will conquer the Snow Queen. But this you can do.
Carry little Gerda to the palace garden. It is only two miles from here.
You will see a bush covered with red berries. Leave Gerda there and
hurry back to me."

Off sped the reindeer.

"Oh, my boots and my mittens!" cried Gerda.

But the reindeer would not stop. On he rushed through the snow until he
came to the bush with the red berries. There he put Gerda down and
kissed her, while tears trickled down his face. Then off he bounded,
leaving the little girl standing barefoot on the crisp snow.

Gerda stepped forward. Huge snowflakes were coming to meet her. They did
not fall from the sky. No, they were marching along the ground. And what
strange shapes they took! Some looked like white hedgehogs, some like
polar bears. They were the Snow Queen's soldiers.

Gerda grew frightened. But she did not run away. She folded her hands
and closed her eyes. "Our Father which art in heaven," she began, but
she could get no further. The cold was so great that she could not go
on. She opened her eyes, and there, surrounding her, was a legion of
bright little angels. They had been formed from her breath, as she
prayed, "Our Father which art in heaven." And the bright little angels
shivered into a hundred pieces the snowflake army, and Gerda walked on
fearlessly toward the palace of the Snow Queen.

* * *

Little Kay sits alone in the great ice hall. He does not know that he is
blue with cold, for the Snow Queen has kissed away the icy shiverings
and left his heart with no more feeling than a lump of ice.

And this morning she has flown off to visit the countries of the south,
where the grapes and the lemons grow.

"It is all so blue there," she had said, "I must go and cast my veil of
white across their hills and meadows." And away she flew.

So Kay sits in the great ice hall alone. Chips of ice are his only
playthings, and now he leaves them on the ice-floor and goes to the
window to gaze at the snowdrifts in the palace garden. Great gusts of
wind swirl the snow past the windows. Kay can see nothing. He turns
again to his ice toys.

Outside, little Gerda struggles through the biting wind, then, saying
her morning prayer, she enters the vast hall. At a glance she sees the
lonely boy. In a twinkling she knows it is Kay. Her little bare feet
carry her like wings across the ice floor. Her arms are round his neck.

"Kay, dear, dear Kay!"

But Kay does not move. He is still and cold as the palace walls.

Little Gerda bursts into tears, hot, scalding tears. Her arms are yet
round Kay's neck, and her tears fall upon his heart of ice. They thaw
it. They reach the grain of glass, and it melts away.

And now Kay's tears fall hot and fast, and as they pour, the tiny bit of
glass passes out of his eye, and he sees, he knows, his long-lost
playmate.

"Little Gerda, little Gerda!" he cries, "where have you been, where have
you been, where are we now?" and he shivers as he looks round the vast
cold hall.

But Gerda kisses his white cheeks, and they grow rosy; she kisses his
eyes, and they shine like stars; she kisses his hands and feet, and he
is strong and glad.

Hand in hand they wander out of the ice palace. The winds hush, the sun
bursts forth. They talk of their grandmother, of their rose-trees.

The reindeer has come back, and with him there waits another reindeer.
They stand by the bush with the red berries.

The children bound on to their backs, and are carried first to the hut
of the Finn woman, and then on to Lapland. The Lapp woman has new
clothes ready for them, and brings out her sledge. Once more Kay and
Gerda are sitting side by side. The Lapp woman drives, and the two
reindeer follow. On and on they speed through the white-robed land. But
now they leave it behind. The earth wears her mantle of green.

"Good-by," they say to the kind Lapp woman; "good-by" to the gentle
reindeer.

Together the children enter a forest. How strange and how sweet the song
of the birds!

A young girl on horseback comes galloping toward them. She wears a
scarlet cap, and has pistols in her belt. It is the robber-girl.

"So you have found little Kay."

Gerda smiles a radiant smile, and asks for the prince and princess.

"They are traveling far away."

"And the raven?"

"Oh, the raven is dead. But tell me what you have been doing, and where
you found little Kay."

The three children sit down under a fir-tree, and Gerda tells of her
journey through Lapland and Finland, and how at last she had found
little Kay in the palace of the Snow Queen.

"Snip, snap, snorra!" shouts the robber-girl, which is her way of saying
"Hurrah!" Then, promising that if ever she is near their town, she will
pay them a visit, off she gallops into the wide world.

On wander the two children, on and on. At last they see the tall towers
of the old town where they had lived together. Soon they come to the
narrow street they remember so well. They climb the long, long stair,
and burst into the little attic.

The rose-bush is in bloom, and the sun pours in upon the old
grandmother, who reads her Bible by the open window.

Kay and Gerda take their two little stools and sit down one on either
side of her, and listen to the words from the Good Book. As they listen,
a great peace steals into their souls.

And outside it is summer--warm, bright, beautiful summer.





Next: The Master-maid

Previous: The Little Old Woman Who Lived In A Vinegar-bottle



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