She has read all the newspapers in the world, and

forgotten them again, so clever is she.

Gerda was soon obliged to rest again. A big crow hopped on to the snow,

just in front of her. It had been sitting looking at her for a long time

and wagging its head. Now it said, 'Caw, caw; good-day, good-day,' as

well as it could; it meant to be kind to the little girl, and asked her

where she was going, alone in the wide world.

Gerda understood the word 'alone' and knew how much there was in it, and

she told the crow the whole story of her life and adventures, and asked

if it had seen Kay.

The crow nodded its head gravely and said, 'May be I have, may be I


'What, do you really think you have?' cried the little girl, nearly

smothering him with her kisses.

'Gently, gently!' said the crow. 'I believe it may have been Kay, but he

has forgotten you by this time, I expect, for the Princess.'

'Does he live with a Princess?' asked Gerda.

'Yes, listen,' said the crow; 'but it is so difficult to speak your

language. If you understand "crow's language,"[1] I can tell you about

it much better.'

'No, I have never learnt it,' said Gerda; 'but grandmother knew it, and

used to speak it. If only I had learnt it!'

'It doesn't matter,' said the crow. 'I will tell you as well as I can,

although I may do it rather badly.'

Then he told her what he had heard.

'In this kingdom where we are now,' said he, 'there lives a Princess who

is very clever. She has read all the newspapers in the world, and

forgotten them again, so clever is she. One day she was sitting on her

throne, which is not such an amusing thing to do either, they say; and

she began humming a tune, which happened to be

"Why should I not be married, oh why?"

"Why not indeed?" said she. And she made up her mind to marry, if she

could find a husband who had an answer ready when a question was put to

him. She called all the court ladies together, and when they heard what

she wanted they were delighted.

'"I like that now," they said. "I was thinking the same thing myself the

other day."

'Every word I say is true,' said the crow, 'for I have a tame

sweetheart who goes about the palace whenever she likes. She told me the

whole story.'

Of course his sweetheart was a crow, for 'birds of a feather flock

together,' and one crow always chooses another. The newspapers all came

out immediately with borders of hearts and the Princess's initials. They

gave notice that any young man who was handsome enough might go up to

the Palace to speak to the Princess. The one who spoke as if he were

quite at home, and spoke well, would be chosen by the Princess as her

husband. Yes, yes, you may believe me, it's as true as I sit here,' said

the crow. 'The people came crowding in; there was such running, and

crushing, but no one was fortunate enough to be chosen, either on the

first day, or on the second. They could all of them talk well enough in

the street, but when they entered the castle gates, and saw the guard in

silver uniforms, and when they went up the stairs through rows of

lackeys in gold embroidered liveries, their courage forsook them. When

they reached the brilliantly lighted reception-rooms, and stood in front

of the throne where the Princess was seated, they could think of nothing

to say, they only echoed her last words, and of course that was not what

she wanted.

'It was just as if they had all taken some kind of sleeping-powder,

which made them lethargic; they did not recover themselves until they

got out into the street again, and then they had plenty to say. There

was quite a long line of them, reaching from the town gates up to the


'I went to see them myself,' said the crow. 'They were hungry and

thirsty, but they got nothing at the Palace, not even as much as a glass

of tepid water. Some of the wise ones had taken sandwiches with them,

but they did not share them with their neighbours; they thought if the

others went in to the Princess looking hungry, that there would be more

chance for themselves.'

'But Kay, little Kay!' asked Gerda; 'when did he come? was he amongst

the crowd?'

'Give me time, give me time! we are just coming to him. It was on the

third day that a little personage came marching cheerfully along,

without either carriage or horse. His eyes sparkled like yours, and he

had beautiful long hair, but his clothes were very shabby.'

'Oh, that was Kay!' said Gerda gleefully; 'then I have found him!' and

she clapped her hands.

'He had a little knapsack on his back!' said the crow.

'No, it must have been his sledge; he had it with him when he went

away!' said Gerda.

'It may be so,' said the crow; 'I did not look very particularly; but I

know from my sweetheart, that when he entered the Palace gates, and saw

the life-guards in their silver uniforms, and the lackeys on the stairs

in their gold-laced liveries, he was not the least bit abashed. He just

nodded to them and said, "It must be very tiresome to stand upon the

stairs. I am going inside!" The rooms were blazing with lights. Privy

councillors and excellencies without number were walking about barefoot

carrying golden vessels; it was enough to make you solemn! His boots

creaked fearfully too, but he wasn't a bit upset.'

'Oh, I am sure that was Kay!' said Gerda; 'I know he had a pair of new

boots, I heard them creaking in grandmother's room.'

'Yes, indeed they did creak!' said the crow. 'But nothing daunted, he

went straight up to the Princess, who was sitting on a pearl as big as a

spinning-wheel. Poor, simple boy! all the court ladies and their

attendants; the courtiers, and their gentlemen, each attended by a page,

were standing round. The nearer the door they stood, so much the greater

was their haughtiness; till the footman's boy, who always wore slippers

and stood in the doorway, was almost too proud even to be looked at.'

'It must be awful!' said little Gerda, 'and yet Kay has won the


'If I had not been a crow, I should have taken her myself,

notwithstanding that I am engaged. They say he spoke as well as I could

have done myself, when I speak crow-language; at least so my sweetheart

says. He was a picture of good looks and gallantry, and then, he had not

come with any idea of wooing the Princess, but simply to hear her

wisdom. He admired her just as much as she admired him!'

'Indeed it was Kay then,' said Gerda; 'he was so clever he could do

mental arithmetic up to fractions. Oh, won't you take me to the Palace?'

'It's easy enough to talk,' said the crow; 'but how are we to manage it?

I will talk to my tame sweetheart about it; she will have some advice to

give us I daresay, but I am bound to tell you that a little girl like

you will never be admitted!'

'Oh, indeed I shall,' said Gerda; 'when Kay hears that I am here, he

will come out at once to fetch me.'

'Wait here for me by the stile,' said the crow, then he wagged his head

and flew off.

The evening had darkened in before he came back. 'Caw, caw,' he said,

'she sends you greeting. And here is a little roll for you; she got it

out of the kitchen where there is bread enough, and I daresay you are

hungry! It is not possible for you to get into the Palace; you have bare

feet; the guards in silver and the lackeys in gold would never allow you

to pass. But don't cry, we shall get you in somehow; my sweetheart knows

a little back staircase which leads up to the bedroom, and she knows

where the key is kept.'

Then they went into the garden, into the great avenue where the leaves

were dropping, softly one by one; and when the Palace lights went out,

one after the other, the crow led little Gerda to the back door, which

was ajar.

Oh, how Gerda's heart beat with fear and longing! It was just as if she

was about to do something wrong, and yet she only wanted to know if this

really was little Kay. Oh, it must be him, she thought, picturing to

herself his clever eyes and his long hair. She could see his very smile

when they used to sit under the rose-trees at home. She thought he would

be very glad to see her, and to hear what a long way she had come to

find him, and to hear how sad they had all been at home when he did not

come back. Oh, it was joy mingled with fear.

They had now reached the stairs, where a little lamp was burning on a

shelf. There stood the tame sweetheart, twisting and turning her head to

look at Gerda, who made a curtsy, as grandmother had taught her.

'My betrothed has spoken so charmingly to me about you, my little miss!'

she said; 'your life, "_Vita_," as it is called, is most touching! If

you will take the lamp, I will go on in front. We shall take the

straight road here, and we shall meet no one.'

'It seems to me that some one is coming behind us,' said Gerda, as she

fancied something rushed past her, throwing a shadow on the walls;

horses with flowing manes and slender legs; huntsmen, ladies and

gentlemen on horseback.

'Oh, those are only the dreams!' said the crow; 'they come to take the

thoughts of the noble ladies and gentlemen out hunting. That's a good

thing, for you will be able to see them all the better in bed. But don't

forget, when you are taken into favour, to show a grateful spirit.'

'Now, there's no need to talk about that,' said the crow from the woods.

They came now into the first apartment; it was hung with rose-coloured

satin embroidered with flowers. Here again the dreams overtook them, but

they flitted by so quickly that Gerda could not distinguish them. The

apartments became one more beautiful than the other; they were enough to

bewilder anybody. They now reached the bedroom. The ceiling was like a

great palm with crystal leaves, and in the middle of the room two beds,

each like a lily hung from a golden stem. One was white, and in it lay

the Princess; the other was red, and there lay he whom Gerda had come to

seek--little Kay! She bent aside one of the crimson leaves, and she saw

a little brown neck. It was Kay. She called his name aloud, and held the

lamp close to him. Again the dreams rushed through the room on

horseback--he awoke, turned his head--and it was not little Kay.

It was only the Prince's neck which was like his; but he was young and

handsome. The Princess peeped out of her lily-white bed, and asked what

was the matter. Then little Gerda cried and told them all her story, and

what the crows had done to help her.

'You poor little thing!' said the Prince and Princess. And they praised

the crows, and said that they were not at all angry with them, but they

must not do it again. Then they gave them a reward.

'Would you like your liberty?' said the Princess, 'or would you prefer

permanent posts about the court as court crows, with perquisites from

the kitchen?'

Both crows curtsied and begged for the permanent posts, for they thought

of their old age, and said 'it was so good to have something for the old

man,' as they called it.

The Prince got up and allowed Gerda to sleep in his bed, and he could

not have done more. She folded her little hands, and thought 'how good

the people and the animals are'; then she shut her eyes and fell fast

asleep. All the dreams came flying back again; this time they looked

like angels, and they were dragging a little sledge with Kay sitting on

it, and he nodded. But it was only a dream; so it all vanished when she


Next day she was dressed in silk and velvet from head to foot; they

asked her to stay at the Palace and have a good time, but she only

begged them to give her a little carriage and horse, and a little pair

of boots, so that she might drive out into the wide world to look for


They gave her a pair of boots and a muff. She was beautifully dressed,

and when she was ready to start, there before the door stood a new

chariot of pure gold. The Prince's and Princess's coat of arms were

emblazoned on it, and shone like a star. Coachman, footman, and

outrider, for there was even an outrider, all wore golden crowns. The

Prince and Princess themselves helped her into the carriage and wished

her joy. The wood crow, who was now married, accompanied her for the

first three miles; he sat beside Gerda, for he could not ride with his

back to the horses. The other crow stood at the door and flapped her

wings; she did not go with them, for she suffered from headache since

she had become a kitchen pensioner--the consequence of eating too much.

The chariot was stored with sugar biscuits, and there were fruit and

ginger nuts under the seat. 'Good-bye, good-bye,' cried the Prince and

Princess; little Gerda wept, and the crow wept too. At the end of the

first few miles the crow said good-bye, and this was the hardest parting

of all. It flew up into a tree and flapped its big black wings as long

as it could see the chariot, which shone like the brightest sunshine.

letters or syllables to every word, which is called 'crow's language.'

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