Hans Andersen's fairy tales (Robinson)/The Snow Queen
THE SNOW QUEEN
IN SEVEN PARTS
PART THE FIRST
WHICH TREATS OF THE MIRROR AND ITS FRAGMENTS
LISTEN! We are beginning our story! When we arrive at the end of it we shall, it is to be hoped, know more than we do now. There was once a magician! a wicked magician!! a most wicked magician!!! Great was his delight at having constructed a mirror possessing this peculiarity, viz.:—that everything good and beautiful, when reflected in it, shrank up almost to nothing, whilst those things that were ugly and useless were magnified, and made to appear ten times worse than before. The loveliest landscapes reflected in this mirror looked like boiled spinach; and the handsomest persons appeared odious, or as if standing upon their heads, their features being so distorted that their friends could never have recognised them. Moreover, if one of them had a freckle, he might be sure that it would seem to spread over the nose and mouth; and if a good or pious thought glanced across his mind, a wrinkle was seen in the mirror. All this the magician thought highly entertaining, and he chuckled with delight at his own clever invention. Those who frequented the school of magic where he taught spread abroad the fame of this wonderful mirror, and declared that by its means the world and its inhabitants might be seen now for the first time as they really were. They carried the mirror from place to place, till at last there was no country nor person that had not been misrepresented in it. Its admirers now must needs fly up to the sky with it, to see if they could carry on their sport even there. But the higher they flew the more wrinkled did the mirror become; they could scarcely hold it together. They flew on and on, higher and higher, till at last the mirror trembled so fearfully that it escaped
HE CHUCKLED WITH DELIGHT
from their hands, and fell to the earth, breaking into millions, billions, and trillions of pieces. And then it caused far greater unhappiness than before, for fragments of it, scarcely so large as a grain of sand, would be flying about in the air, and sometimes get into people's eyes, causing them to view everything the wrong way, or to have eyes only for what was perverted and corrupt; each little fragment having retained the peculiar properties of the entire mirror. Some people were so unfortunate as to receive a little splinter into their hearts—that was terrible! The heart became cold and hard, like a lump of ice. Some pieces were large enough to be used as window panes, but it was of no use to look at one's friends through such panes as those. Other fragments were made into spectacles, and then what trouble people had with setting and re-setting them!
The wicked magician was greatly amused with all this, and he laughed till his sides ached.
There are still some little splinters of this mischievous mirror flying about in the air. We shall hear more about them very soon.
PART THE SECOND
A LITTLE BOY AND A LITTLE GIRL
IN a large town, where there are so many houses and inhabitants that there is not room enough for all the people to possess a little garden of their own, and therefore many are obliged to content themselves with keeping a few plants in pots, there dwelt two poor children, whose garden was somewhat larger than a flower-pot. They were not brother and sister, but they loved each other as much as if they had been, and their parents lived in two attics exactly opposite. The roof of one neighbour's house nearly joined the other, the gutter ran along between, and there was in each roof a little window, so that you could stride across the gutter from one window to the other. The parents of each child had a large wooden box in which grew herbs for kitchen use, and they had placed these boxes upon the gutter, so near that they almost touched each other. A beautiful little rose-tree grew in each box, scarlet runners entwined their long shoots over the windows, and, uniting with the branches of the rose-trees, formed a flowery arch across the street. The boxes were very high, and the children knew that they might not climb over them, but they often obtained leave to sit on their little stools, under the rose-trees, and thus they passed many a delightful hour.
But when winter came there was an end to these pleasures. The windows were often quite frozen over, and then they heated halfpence on the stove, held the warm copper against the frozen pane, and thus made a little round peep-hole, behind which would sparkle a bright gentle eye, one from each window.
The little boy was called Kay, the little girl's name was Gerda. In summer-time they could get out of window and jump over to each other; but in winter there were stairs to run down, and stairs to run up, and sometimes the wind roared, and the snow fell without-doors.
'Those are the white bees swarming there!' said the old grandmother.
'Have they a Queen bee?' asked the little boy, for he knew that the real bees have one.
'They have,' said the grandmother. 'She flies yonder where they swarm so thickly; she is the largest of them, and never remains upon the earth, but flies up again into the black cloud. Sometimes on a winter's night she flies through the streets of the town, and breathes with her frosty breath upon the windows, and then they are covered with strange and beautiful forms, like trees and flowers.'
'Yes, I have seen them!' said both the children—they knew that this was true.
'Can the Snow Queen come in here?' asked the little girl.
'If she do come in,' said the boy, 'I will put her on the warm stove and then she will melt.'
And the grandmother stroked his hair and told him some stories.
That same evening, after little Kay had gone home, and was half undressed, he crept upon the chair by the window and peeped through the little round hole. Just then a few snow-flakes fell outside, and one, the largest of them, remained lying on the edge of one of the flower-pots. The snow-flake appeared larger and larger, and at last took the form of a lady dressed in the finest white crape, her attire being composed of millions of star-like particles. She was exquisitely fair and delicate, but entirely of ice, glittering, dazzling ice; her eyes gleamed like two bright stars, but there was no rest or repose in them. She nodded at the window, and beckoned with her hand. The little boy was frightened and jumped down from the chair; he then fancied he saw a large bird fly past the window.
There was a clear frost next day, and soon afterwards came spring the trees and flowers budded, the swallows built their nests, the windows were opened, and the little children sat once more in their little garden upon the gutter that ran along the roofs of the houses.
The roses blossomed beautifully that summer, and the little girl had learned a hymn in which there was something about roses; it reminded her of her own. So she sang it to the little boy, and he sang it with her.
'Our roses bloom and fade away,
Our Infant Lord abides alway;
May we be blessed His face to see,
And ever little children be!'
And the little ones held each other by the hand, kissed the roses, and looked up into the blue sky, talking away all the time. What glorious summer days were those! how delightful it was to sit under those rose-trees which seemed as if they never intended to leave off blossoming! One day Kay and Gerda were sitting looking at their picture-book full of birds and animals, when suddenly—the clock on the old church tower was just striking five—Kay exclaimed, 'Oh, dear! what was that shooting pain in my heart: and now again, something has certainly got into my eye!'
The little girl turned and looked at him. He winked his eyes; no, there was nothing to be seen.
'I believe it is gone,' said he; but gone it was not. It was one of those glass splinters from the Magic Mirror, the wicked glass which made everything great and good reflected in it to appear little and hateful, and which magnified everything ugly and mean. Poor Kay had also received a splinter in his heart; it would now become hard and cold like a lump of ice. He felt the pain no longer, but the splinter was there.
'Why do you cry?' asked he; 'you look so ugly when you cry! there is nothing the matter with me. Fie!' exclaimed he again, 'this rose has an insect in it, and just look at this! After all, they are ugly roses! and it is an ugly box they grow in!' then he kicked the box, and tore off the roses.
'O Kay, what are you doing?' cried the little girl, but when he saw how it grieved her, he tore off another rose, and jumped down through his own window, away from his once dear little Gerda.
Ever afterwards when she brought forward the picture-book, he called it a baby's book, and when her grandmother told stories, he interrupted her with a 'but,' and sometimes, whenever he could manage it, he would get behind her, put on her spectacles, and speak just as she did; he did this in a very droll manner, and so people laughed at him. Very soon he could mimic everybody in the street. All that was singular and awkward about them could Kay imitate, and his neighbours said, 'What a remarkable head that boy has!' But no, it was the glass splinter which had fallen into his eye, the glass splinter which had pierced into his heart—it was these which made him regardless whose feelings he wounded, and even made him tease the little Gerda who loves him so fondly.
His games were now quite different from what they used to be, they were so rational! One winter's day when it was snowing, he came out with a large burning-glass in his hand, and holding up the skirts of his blue coat let the snow-flakes fall upon them. 'Now look through the glass, Gerda!' said he, returning to the house. Every snow-flake seemed much larger, and resembled a splendid flower, or a star with ten points; they were quite beautiful. 'See, how curious!' said Kay, 'these are far more interesting than real flowers, there is not a single blemish in them; they would be quite perfect if only they did not melt.'
Soon after this Kay came in again, with thick gloves on his hands, and his sledge slung across his back. He called out to Gerda, 'I have got leave to drive on the great square where the other boys play!' and away he went.
The boldest boys in the square used to fasten their sledges firmly to the wagons of the country people, and thus drive a good way along with them; this they thought particularly pleasant. Whilst they were in the midst of their play, a large sledge painted white passed by; in it sat a person wrapped in a rough white fur, and wearing a rough white cap. When the sledge had driven twice round the square, Kay bound to it his little sledge, and was carried on with it. On they went, faster and faster, into the next street. The person who drove the large sledge turned round and nodded kindly to Kay, just as if they had been old acquaintances, and every time Kay was going to loose his little sledge turned and nodded again, as if to signify that he must stay. So Kay sat still, and they passed through the gates of the town. Then the snow began to fall so thickly that the little boy could not see his own hand, but he was still carried on. He tried hastily to unloose the cords and free himself from the large sledge, but it was of no use; his little carriage could not be unfastened, and glided on swift as the wind. Then he cried out as loud as he could, but no one heard him, the snow fell and the sledge flew; every now and then it made a spring as if driving over hedges and ditches. He was very much frightened; he would have repeated 'Our Father,' but he could remember nothing but the multiplication table.
The snow-flakes seemed larger and larger, at last they looked like great white fowls. All at once they fell aside, the large sledge stopped, and the person who drove it arose from the seat. He saw that the cap and coat were entirely of snow, that it was a lady, tall and slender, and dazzlingly white—it was the Snow Queen!
'We have driven fast!' said she, 'but no one likes to be frozen; creep under my bear-skin,' and she seated him in the sledge by her side, and spread her cloak around him—he felt as if he were sinking into a drift of snow.
'Are you still cold?' asked she, and then she kissed his brow. Oh! her kiss was colder than ice. It went to his heart, although that was half frozen already; he thought he should die. It was, however, only for a moment; directly afterwards he was quite well, and no longer felt the intense cold around.
'My sledge! do not forget my sledge!'—he thought first of that—it was fastened to one of the white fowls which flew behind with it on his back. The Snow Queen kissed Kay again, and he entirely forgot little Gerda, her grandmother, and all at home.
'Now you must have no more kisses!' said she, 'else I should kiss thee to death.'
Kay looked at her, she was so beautiful; a more intelligent, more lovely countenance, he could not imagine; she no longer appeared to him ice, cold ice as at the time when she sat outside the window and beckoned to him; in his eyes she was perfect; he felt no fear. He told her how well he could reckon in his head, even fractions; that he knew the number of square miles of every country, and the number of the inhabitants contained in different towns. She smiled, and then it occurred to him that, after all, he did not yet know so very much. He looked up into the wide, wide space, and she flew with him high up into the black cloud while the storm was raging; it seemed now to Kay as though singing songs of olden time.
They flew over woods and over lakes, over sea and over land; beneath them the cold wind whistled, the wolves howled, the snow glittered, and the black crow flew cawing over the plain, whilst above them shone the moon, so clear and tranquil.
Thus did Kay spend the long, long winter night; all day he slept at the feet of the Snow Queen.
SHE WORE A LARGE HAT, WITH MOST BEAUTIFUL FLOWERS PAINTED ON IT
PART THE THIRD
THE ENCHANTED FLOWER-GARDEN
BUT how fared it with little Gerda when Kay never returned? Where could he be? No one knew, no one could give any account of him. The boy said that they had seen him fasten his sledge to another larger and very handsome one which had driven into the street, and thence through the gates of the town. No one knew where he was, and many were the tears that were shed; little Gerda wept much and long, for the boys said he must be dead, he must have been drowned in the river that flowed not far from the town. Oh, how long and dismal the winter days were now! At last came the spring, with its warm sunshine.
'Alas, Kay is dead and gone,' said little Gerda.
'That I do not believe,' said the sunshine.
'He is dead and gone,' said she to the swallows.
'That we do not believe,' returned they, and at last little Gerda herself did not believe it.
'I will put on my new red shoes,' said she one morning, 'those which Kay has never seen, and then I will go down to the river and ask after him.'
It was quite early. She kissed her old grandmother, who was still sleeping, put on her red shoes, and went alone through the gates of the town towards the river.
'Is it true,' said she, 'that thou hast taken my little playfellow away? I will give thee my red shoes if thou wilt restore him to me!'
And the wavelets of the river flowed towards her in a manner which she fancied was unusual; she fancied that they intended to accept her offer, so she took off her red shoes—though she prized them more than anything else she possessed—and threw them into the stream; but they fell near the shore, and the little waves bore them back to her, as though they would not take from her what she most prized, as they had not got little Kay. However, she thought she had not thrown the shoes far enough, so she stepped into a little boat which lay among the reeds by the shore, and, standing at the farthest end of it, threw them from thence into the water. The boat was not fastened, and her movements in it caused it to glide away from the shore. She saw this, and hastened to get out, but by the time she reached the other end of the boat it was more than a yard distant from the land; she could not escape, and the boat glided on.
Little Gerda was much frightened and began to cry, but no one besides the sparrows heard her, and they could not carry her back to the land; however, they flew along the banks, and sang, as if to comfort her, 'Here we are, here we are!' The boat followed the stream. Little Gerda sat in it quite still; her red shoes floated behind her, but they could not overtake the boat, which glided along faster than they did.
Beautiful were the shores of that river; lovely flowers, stately old trees, and bright green hills dotted with sheep and cows, were seen in abundance, but not a single human being.
'Perhaps the river may bear me to my dear Kay,' thought Gerda, and then she became more cheerful, and amused herself for hours with looking at the lovely country around her. At last she glided past a large cherry-garden, wherein stood a little cottage with thatched roof and curious red and blue windows; two wooden soldiers stood at the door, who presented arms when they saw the little vessel approach.
Gerda called to them, thinking that they were alive, but they, naturally enough, made no answer. She came close up to them, for the stream drifted the boat to the land.
Gerda called still louder, whereupon an old lady came out of the house, supporting herself on a crutch; she wore a large hat, with most beautiful flowers painted on it.
'Thou poor little child!' said the old woman, 'the mighty flowing river has indeed borne thee a long, long way,' and she walked right into the water, seized the boat with her crutch, drew it to land, and took out the little girl.
Gerda was glad to be on dry land again, although she was a little afraid of the strange old lady.
'Come and tell me who thou art, and how thou camest hither,' said she.
And Gerda told her all, and the old lady shook her head, and said, 'Hem! hem!' And when Gerda asked if she had seen little Kay, the lady said that he had not arrived there yet, but that he would be sure to come soon, and that in the meantime Gerda must not be sad; that she might stay with her, might eat her cherries, and look at her flowers, which were prettier than any picture-book, and could each tell her a story.
She then took Gerda by the hand; they went together into the cottage, and the old lady shut the door. The windows were very high and their panes of different coloured glass, red, blue, and yellow, so that when the bright daylight streamed through them, various and beautiful were the hues reflected upon the room. Upon a table in the centre was placed a plate of very fine cherries, and of these Gerda was allowed to eat as many as she liked. And whilst she was eating them, the old dame combed her hair with a golden comb, and the bright flaxen ringlets fell on each side of her pretty, gentle face, which looked as round and as fresh as a rose.
'I have long wished for such a dear little girl,' said the old lady. 'We shall see if we cannot live very happily together.' And, as she combed little Gerda's hair, the child thought less and less of her foster-brother Kay, for the old lady was an enchantress. She did not, however, practise magic for the sake of mischief, but merely for her own amusement. And now she wished very much to keep little Gerda, to live with her; so, fearing that if Gerda saw her roses, she would be reminded of her own flowers and of little Kay, and that then she might run away, she went out into the garden, and extended her crutch over all her rose-bushes, upon which, although they were full of leaves and blossoms, they immediately sank into the black earth, and no one would have guessed that such plants had ever grown there.
Then she led Gerda into this flower-garden. Oh how beautiful and how fragrant it was! Flowers of all seasons and all climes grew there in fulness of beauty—certainly no picture-book could be compared with it. Gerda bounded with delight, and played among the flowers till the sun set behind the tall cherry-trees; after which a pretty little bed, with crimson silk cushions, stuffed with blue violet leaves, was prepared for her, and here she slept so sweetly and had such dreams as a queen might have on her bridal eve.
The next day she again played among the flowers in the warm sunshine, and many more days were spent in the same manner. Gerda knew every flower in the garden, but, numerous as they were, it seemed to her that one was wanting, she could not tell which. She was sitting one day, looking at her hostess's hat, which had flowers painted on it, and, behold, the loveliest among them was a rose! The old lady had entirely forgotten the painted rose on her hat, when she made the real roses to disappear from her garden and sink into the ground. This is often the case when things are done hastily.
'What,' cried Greda, 'are there no roses in the garden?' And she ran from one bed to another, sought and sought again, but no rose was to be found. She sat down and wept, and it so chanced that her tears fell on a spot where a rose-tree had formerly stood, and as soon as her warm tears had moistened the earth, the bush shot up anew, as fresh and as blooming as it was before it had sunk into the ground; and Gerda threw her arms around it, kissed the blossoms, and immediately recalled to memory the beautiful roses at home, and her little playfellow Kay. 'Oh, how could I stay here so long!' exclaimed the little maiden. 'I left my home to seek for Kay. Do you know where he is?' she asked of the roses; 'think you that he is dead?'
'Dead he is not,' said the roses. 'We have been down in the earth; the dead are there, but not Kay.'
'I thank you,' said little Gerda, and she went to the other flowers, bent low over their cups, and asked, 'Know you not where little Kay is?'
But every flower stood in the sunshine dreaming its own little tale. They related their stories to Gerda, but none of them knew anything of Kay.
'And what think you?' said the tiger-lily.'Listen to the drums beating, boom! boom! They have but two notes, always boom! boom! Listen to the dirge the women are singing! Listen to the chorus of priests! Enveloped in her long red robes stands the Hindoo wife on the funeral pile; the flames blaze around her and her dead husband, but the Hindoo wife thinks not of the dead. She thinks only of the living, and the anguish which consumes her spirit is keener than the fire which will soon reduce her body to ashes.
The swing moves and the bubbles fly upward with bright, ever-changing colours
Can the flame of the heart expire amid the flames of the funeral pile?'
'I do not understand that at all!' said little Gerda.
'That is my tale!' said the tiger-lily.
'What says the convolvulus?'
'Hanging over a narrow mountain causeway, behold an ancient, baronial castle. Thick evergreens grow amongst the time stained walls, their leafy branches entwine about the balcony, and there stands a beautiful maiden; she bends over the balustrades and fixes her eyes with eager expectation on the road winding beneath. The rose hangs not fresher and lovelier on its stem than she; the apple-blossom which the wind threatens every moment to tear from its branch is not more fragile and trembling. Listen to the rustling of her rich silken robe! Listen to her half-whispered words, "He comes not yet"'
'Is it Kay you mean?' asked little Gerda.
'I do but tell you my tale—my dream,' replied the convolvulus.
'What says the little snowdrop?'
'Between two trees hangs a swing. Two pretty little maidens, their dress as white as snow, and long green ribbands fluttering from their hats, sit and swing themselves in it. Their brother stands up in the swing, he has thrown his arms round the ropes to keep himself steady, for in one hand he holds a little cup, in the other a pipe made of clay; he is blowing soap bubbles. The swing moves and the bubbles fly upwards with bright, ever-changing colours; the last hovers on the edge of the pipe, and moves with the wind. The swing is still in motion, and the little black dog, almost as light as the soap bubbles, rises on his hind feet and tries to get into the swing also; away goes the swing, the dog falls, is out of temper, and barks; he is laughed at, and the bubbles burst. A swinging board, a frothy, fleeting image is my song.'
'What you describe may be all very pretty, but you speak so mournfully, and there is nothing about Kay.'
'What say the hyacinths?'
'There were three fair sisters, transparent and delicate they were; the kirtle of the one was red, that of the second blue, of the third pure white; hand in hand they danced in the moonlight beside the quiet lake; they were not fairies, but daughters of men. Sweet was the fragrance when the maidens vanished into the wood; the fragrance grew stronger; three biers, whereon lay the fair sisters, glided out from the depths of the wood, and floated upon the lake; the glow-worms flew shining around like little hovering lamps. Sleep the dancing maidens, or are they dead? The odour from the flowers tells us they are corpses, the evening bells peal out their dirge.'
'You make me quite sad,' said little Gerda. 'Your fragrance is so strong I cannot help thinking of the dead maidens. Alas! and is little Kay dead? The roses have been under the earth, and they say no!'
'Ding dong! ding dong!' rang the hyacinth bells. 'We toll not for little Kay, we know him not! We do but sing our own song, the only one we know!'
And Gerda went to the buttercup, which shone so brightly from among her smooth green leaves.
'Thou art like a little bright sun,' said Gerda; 'tell me, if thou canst, where I may find my playfellow.'And the buttercup glittered so brightly, and looked at Gerda. What song could the buttercup sing? Neither was hers about Kay. 'One bright spring morning, the sun shone warmly upon a little court-yard. The bright beams streamed down the white walls of a neighbouring house, and close by
GERDA KNEW EVERY FLOWER IN THE GARDEN
grew the first yellow flower of spring, glittering like gold in the warm sunshine. An old grandmother sat without in her arm-chair, her grand-daughter, a pretty, lowly maiden, had just returned home from a short visit; she kissed her grand-mother; there was gold, pure gold, in that loving kiss:
'Gold was the flower!
Gold the fresh, bright, morning hour!'
'That is my little story,' said the buttercup.
'My poor old grandmother!' sighed Gerda; 'yes, she must be wishing for me, just as she wished for little Kay. But I shall soon go home again, and take Kay with me. It is of no use to ask the flowers about him; they only know their own song, they can give me no information.' And she folded her little frock round her, that she might run the faster; but, in jumping over the narcissus, it caught her foot, as if wishing to stop her, so she turned and looked at the tall yellow flower, 'Have you any news to give me?' She bent over the narcissus, waiting for an answer.
And what said the narcissus?
'I can look at myself! I can see myself! Oh, how sweet is my fragrance!' Up in the little attic-chamber stands a little dancer. She rests sometimes on one leg, sometimes on two. She has trampled the whole world under her feet; she is nothing but an illusion. She pours water from a tea-pot upon a piece of cloth she holds in her hand—it is her bodice; cleanliness is a fine thing! Her white dress hangs on the hook, that has also been washed by the water from the teapot, and dried on the roof of the house. She puts it on, and wraps a saffron-coloured handkerchief round her neck; it makes the dress look all the whiter. With one leg extended, there she stands, as though on a stalk. 'I can look at myself!—I see myself!'
'I don't care if you do!' said Gerda. 'You need not have told me that!' and away she ran to the end of the garden.
The gate was closed, but she pressed upon the rusty lock till it broke. The gate sprang open, and little Gerda, with bare feet, ran out into the wide world. Three times she looked back, there was no one following her; she ran till she could run no longer, and then sat down to rest upon a large stone. Casting a glance around, she saw that the summer was past, that it was now late in the autumn. Of course, she had not remarked this in the enchanted garden, where there were sunshine and flowers all the year round.
'How long I must have stayed there!' said little Gerda. 'So, it is now autumn! Well, then, there is no time to lose!' and she rose to pursue her way.
Oh, how sore and weary were her little feet; and all around looked so cold and barren. The long willow-leaves had already turned yellow, and the dew trickled down from them like water. The leaves fell off the trees, one by one; the sloe alone bore fruit, and its berries were so sharp and bitter! Cold, and grey, and sad seemed the world to her that day.
PART THE FOURTH
THE PRINCE AND THE PRINCESS
GERDA was again obliged to stop and take rest. Suddenly a large raven hopped upon the snow in front of her, saying, 'Caw!—Caw!—Good-day!—Good-day!' He sat for some time on the withered branch of a tree just opposite, eyeing the little maiden, and wagging his head, and he now came forward to make acquaintance and to ask her whither she was going all alone. That word ' alone ' Gerda understood right well—she felt how sad a meaning it has. She told the raven the history of her life and fortunes, and asked if he had seen Kay.
And the raven nodded his head, half doubtfully, and said, 'That is possible—possible.'
'Do you think so?' exclaimed the little girl, and she kissed the raven so vehemently that it is a wonder she did not squeeze him to death.
'More moderately!—moderately!' said the raven. 'I think I know. I think it may be little Kay; but he has certainly forsaken thee for the princess.'
'Dwells he with a princess?' asked Gerda.
'Listen to me,' said the raven, 'but it is so difficult to speak your language! Do you understand Ravenish? If so, I can tell you much better.'
'No! I have never learned Ravenish,' said Gerda, 'but my grandmother knew it, and Pye-language also. Oh, how I wish I had learned it!'
'Never mind,' said the raven, 'I will relate my story in the best manner I can, though bad will be the best '; and he told all he knew.
'In the kingdom wherein we are now sitting, there dwells a princess, a most uncommonly clever princess. All the newspapers in the world has she read, and forgotten them again, so clever is she. It is not long since she ascended the throne, which I have heard is not quite so agreeable a situation as one would fancy; and immediately after she began to sing a new song, the burden of which was this, "Why should I not marry me?' "There is some sense in this song!" said she, and she determined she would marry, but at the same time declared that the man whom she would choose must be able to answer sensibly whenever people spoke to him, and must be good for something else besides merely looking grand and stately. The ladies of the court were then all drummed together, in order to be informed of her intentions, whereupon they were highly delighted, and one exclaimed, "That is just what I wish"; and another, that she had lately been thinking of the very same thing. Believe me,' continued the raven, 'every word I say is true, for I have a tame beloved who hops at pleasure about the palace, and she has told me all this.'
Of course the 'beloved' was also a raven, for birds of a feather flock together.
'Proclamations, adorned with borders of hearts, were immediately issued, wherein, after enumerating the style and titles of the princess, it was set forth that every well-favoured youth was free to go to the palace and converse with the princess, and that whoever should speak in such wise as showed that he felt himself at home, there would be the one the princess would choose for her husband.
'Yes, indeed,' continued the raven, 'you may believe me; all this is as true as that I sit here. The people all crowded to the palace; there was famous pressing and squeezing; but it was all of no use, either the first or the second day; the young men could speak well enough while they were outside the palace gates, but when they entered, and saw the royal guard in silver uniform, and the lackeys on the staircase in gold, and the spacious saloon, all lighted up, they were quite confounded. They stood before the throne where the princess sat, and when she spoke to them, they could only repeat the last word she had uttered, which, you know, it was not particularly interesting for her to hear over again. It was just as though they had been struck dumb the moment they entered the palace, for as soon as they got out, they could talk fast enough. There was a regular procession constantly moving from the gates of the town to the gates of the palace. I was there, and saw it with my own eyes,' said the raven. 'They grew both hungry and thirsty whilst waiting at the palace, but no one could get even so much as a glass of water; to be sure, some of them, wiser than the rest, had brought with them slices of bread and butter, but none would give any to his neighbour, for he thought to himself, "Let him look hungry, and then the princess will be sure not to choose him."'
'But Kay, little Kay, when did he come?' asked Gerda; 'was he among the crowd?'
'Presently, presently; we have just come to him. On the third day arrived a youth with neither horse nor carriage; gaily he marched up to the palace; his eyes sparkled like yours; he had long beautiful hair, but was very meanly clad.' 'That was Kay!' exclaimed Gerda. 'Oh then I have found him,' and she clapped her hands with delight.
'He carried a knapsack on his back,' said the raven.
'No, not a knapsack,' said Gerda, 'a sledge, for he had a sledge with him when he left home.'
'It is possible,' rejoined the raven, 'I did not look very closely, but this I heard from my beloved, that when he entered the palace gates and saw the royal guard in silver, and the lackeys in gold upon the staircase, he did not seem in the least confused, but nodded pleasantly and said to them, "It must be very tedious standing out here; I prefer going in." The halls glistened with light, cabinet councillors and excellencies were walking about bare-footed and carrying golden keys—it was just a place to make a man solemn and silent—and the youth's boots creaked horribly, yet he was not at all afraid.'
'That most certainly was Kay!' said Gerda; 'I know he had new boots; I have heard them creak in my grandmother's room.'
'Indeed they did creak,' said the raven, 'but merrily went he up to the princess, who was sitting upon a pearl as large as a spinning-wheel, whilst all the ladies of the court, with the maids of honour and their handmaidens, ranged in order, stood on one side, and all the gentlemen in waiting, with their gentlemen, and their gentlemen's gentlemen, who also kept pages, stood ranged in order on the other side, and the nearer they were to the door the prouder they looked. The gentlemen's gentlemen's page, who always wears slippers, one dare hardly look at, so proudly he stands at the door.'
'That must be dreadful!' said little Gerda. 'And has Kay really won the princess?'
'Had I not been a raven I should have won her myself,
SUDDENLY A LARGE RAVEN HOPPED UPON THE SNOW IN FRONT OF HER
"He did not come to woo her," he said, "he had only come to hear the wisdom of the Princess"
notwithstanding my being betrothed. The young man spoke as well as I speak when I converse in Ravenish; that I have heard from my tame beloved. He was handsome and lively—"He did not come to woo her," he said, "he had only come to hear the wisdom of the princess," and he liked her much, and she liked him in return.'
'Yes, to be sure, that was Kay,' said Gerda; 'he was so clever, he could reckon in his head, even fractions! Oh, will you not take me into the palace?'
'Ah! that is easily said,' replied the raven, 'but how is it to be done? I will talk it over with my tame beloved; she will advise us what to do, for I must tell you that such a little girl as you are will never gain permission to enter publicly.'
'Yes, I shall!' cried Gerda. 'When Kay knows that I am here, he will immediately come out and fetch me.'
'Wait for me at the trellis yonder,' said the raven. He wagged his head and away he flew.
The raven did not return till late in the evening. 'Caw, caw,' said he. 'My tame beloved greets you kindly, and sends you a piece of bread which she took from the kitchen; there is plenty of bread there, and you must certainly be hungry. It is not possible for you to enter the palace, for you have bare feet; the royal guard in silver uniform, and the lackeys in gold, would never permit it; but do not weep, thou shalt go there. My beloved knows a little back staircase leading to the sleeping apartments, and she knows also where to find the key.'
And they went into the garden, down the grand avenue, where the leaves dropped upon them as they passed along, and, when the lights in the palace one by one had all been extinguished, the raven took Gerda to a back-door which stood half open. Oh, how Gerda's heart beat with fear and expectation! It was just as though she was about to do something wrong, although she only wanted to know whether Kay was really there—yes, it must be he, she remembered so well his bright eyes and long hair. She would see if his smile were the same as it used to be when they sat together under the rose-trees. He would be so glad to see her, to hear how far she had come for his sake, how all his home mourned his absence. Her heart trembled with fear and joy.
They went up the staircase. A small lamp placed on a cabinet gave a glimmering light; on the floor stood the tame raven, who first turned her head on all sides, and then looked at Gerda, who made her curtsy, as her grandmother had taught her.
'My betrothed has told me much about you, my good young maiden,' said the tame raven; 'your adventures, too, are extremely interesting! If you will take the lamp, I will show you the way. We are going straight on, we shall not meet any one now.'
'It seems to me as if some one were behind us,' said Gerda; and in fact there was a rushing sound as of something passing; strange-looking shadows flitted rapidly along the wall, horses with long, slender legs and fluttering manes, huntsmen, knights, and ladies.
'These are only dreams!' said the raven; 'they come to amuse the great personages here at night; you will have a better opportunity of looking at them when you are in bed. I hope that when you arrive at honours and dignities you will show a grateful heart.'
'Do not talk of that!' said the wood-raven.
They now entered the first saloon; its walls were covered with rose-coloured satin, embroidered with gold flowers. The Dreams rustled past them, but with such rapidity that Gerda could not see them. The apartments through which they passed vied with each other in splendour, and at last they reached the sleeping-hall. In the centre of this room stood a pillar of gold resembling the stem of a large palm-tree, whose leaves of glass, costly glass, formed the ceiling, and depending from the tree, hung near the door, on thick golden stalks, two beds in the form of lilies—the one was white, wherein reposed the princess, the other was red, and here must Gerda seek her playfellow, Kay. She bent aside one of the red leaves and saw a brown neck. Oh, it must be Kay! She called him by his name aloud, held the lamp close to him, the Dreams again rushed by—he awoke, turned his head, and behold! it was not Kay.
CABINET COUNCILLORS WERE WALKING ABOUT BAREFOOTED
The prince resembled him only about the throat; he was, however, young and handsome; and the princess looked out from the white lily petals, and asked what was the matter. Then little Gerda wept and told her whole story, and what the ravens had done for her. 'Poor child!' said the prince and princess; and they praised the ravens, and said they were not at all angry with them. Such liberties must never be taken again in their palace, but this time they should be rewarded.
'Would you like to fly away free to the woods?' asked the princess, addressing the ravens, 'or to have the appointment secured to you as Court-Ravens with the perquisites belonging to the kitchen, such as crumbs and leavings?'
And both the ravens bowed low and chose the appointment at Court, for they thought of old age, and said it would be so comfortable to be well provided for in their declining years. Then the prince arose and made Gerda sleep in his bed; and she folded her little hands, thinking, 'How kind both men and animals are to me!' She closed her eyes and slept soundly and sweetly, and all the Dreams flitted about her; they looked like angels from heaven., and seemed to be drawing a sledge whereon Kay sat and nodded to her. But this was only fancy, for as soon as she awoke all the beautiful visions had vanished.
The next day she was dressed from head to foot in silk and velvet. She was invited to stay at the palace and enjoy all sorts of diversions, but she begged only for a little carriage and a horse, and a pair of little boots,—all she desired was to go again into the wide world to seek Kay.
And they gave her the boots and a muff besides; she was dressed so prettily. And as soon as she was ready there drove up to the door a new carriage of pure gold with the arms of the prince and princess glittering upon it like a star, the coachman, the footman, and outriders, all wearing gold crowns. The prince and princess themselves helped her into the carriage and wished her success. The wood-raven, who was now married, accompanied her the first three miles; he sat by her side, for riding backwards was a thing he could not bear. The other raven stood at the door flapping her wings; she did not go with them on account of a headache she had felt ever since she had received her appointment, in consequence of eating too much. The carriage was well provided with sugar-plums, fruit, and gingerbread nuts.
'Farewell! farewell!' cried the prince and princess. Little Gerda wept, and the raven wept out of sympathy. But his farewell was a far sorer trial; he flew up to the branch of a tree and flapped his black wings at the carriage till it was out of sight.
PART THE FIFTH
THE LITTLE ROBBER MAIDEN
THEY drove through the dark, dark forest; the carriage shone like a torch. Unfortunately its brightness attracted the eyes of the robbers who dwelt in the forest-shades; they could not bear it.
'That is gold! gold!' cried they. Forward they rushed, seized the horses, stabbed the outriders, coachman, and footmen to death, and dragged little Gerda out of the carriage.
'She is plump, she is pretty, she has been fed on nut-kernels,' said the old robber-wife, who had a long, bristly beard, and eyebrows hanging like bushes over her eyes. 'She is like a little fat lamb, and how smartly she is dressed!' and she drew out her bright dagger, glittering most terribly.
'Oh, oh!' cried the woman, for at the very moment she had lifted her dagger to stab Gerda, her own wild and wilful daughter jumped upon her back and bit her ear violently. 'You naughty child!' said the mother.
'She shall play with me,' said the little robber-maiden, 'she shall give me her muff and her pretty frock, and sleep with me in my bed!' And then she bit her mother again, till the robber-wife sprang up and shrieked with pain, whilst the robbers all laughed, saying, 'Look at her playing with her young one!'
'I will get into the carriage,' and so spoiled and wayward was the little robber-maiden that she always had her own way, and she and Gerda sat together in the carriage, and drove over stock and stone farther and farther into the wood. The little robber-maiden was about as tall as Gerda, but much stronger; she had broad shoulders, and a very dark skin; her eyes were quite black, and had an expression almost melancholy. She put her arm round Gerda's waist, and said, 'She shall not kill thee so long as I love thee! Art thou not a princess?'
'No!' said Gerda; and then she told her all that had happened to her, and how much she loved little Kay.
The robber-maiden looked earnestly in her face, shook her head, and said, 'She shall not kill thee even if I do quarrel with thee; then, indeed, I would rather do it myself!' And she dried Gerda's tears, and put both her hands into the pretty muff that was so soft and warm.
The carriage at last stopped in the middle of the courtyard of the robbers' castle. This castle was half-ruined; crows and ravens flew out of the openings, and some fearfully large bull-dogs, looking as if they could devour a man in a moment, jumped round the carriage; they did not bark, for that was forbidden.
The maidens entered a large, smoky hall, where a tremendous fire was blazing on the stone floor; the smoke rose up to the ceiling, seeking a way of escape, for there was no chimney; a large caldron full of soup was boiling over the fire, whilst hares and rabbits were roasting on the spit.
'Thou shalt sleep with me and my little pets to-night!' said the robber-maiden. Then they had some food, and afterwards went to the corner wherein lay straw and a piece of carpet. Nearly a hundred pigeons were perched on staves and laths around them; they seemed to be asleep, but were startled when the little maidens approached.
'These all belong to me,' said Gerda's companion, and seizing hold of one of the nearest, she held the poor bird by the feet and swung it. 'Kiss it,' said she, flapping it into Gerda's face. 'The rabble from the wood sit up there,' continued she, pointing to a number of laths fastened across a hole in the wall; 'those are wood-pigeons, they would fly away if I did not keep them shut up. And here is my old favourite!' She pulled forward by the horn a reindeer who wore a bright copper ring round his neck, by which he was fastened to a large stone. 'We are obliged to chain him up, or he would run away from us; every evening I tickle his neck with my sharp dagger; it makes him fear me so much!' and the robber-maiden drew out a long dagger from a gap in the wall, and passed it over the reindeer's throat; the poor animal struggled and kicked, but the girl laughed, and then she pulled Gerda into bed with her.
'Will you keep the dagger in your hand whilst you sleep?' asked Gerda, looking timidly at the dangerous plaything.'I always sleep with my dagger by my side,' replied the little robber-maiden; 'one never knows what may happen. But now tell me all over again what you told me before about
AND THE NEARER THEY WERE TO THE DOOR THE PROUDER THEY LOOKED
Kay, and the reason of your coming into the wide world all by yourself.'
And Gerda again related her history, and the wood-pigeons imprisoned above listened, but the others were fast asleep. The little robber-maiden threw one arm round Gerda's neck, and holding the dagger with the other, was also soon asleep; one could hear her heavy breathing, but Gerda could not close her eyes throughout the night—she knew not what would become of her, whether she would even be suffered to live. The robbers sat round the fire drinking and singing. Oh, it was a dreadful night for the poor little girl!
Then spoke the wood-pigeons, 'Coo, coo, coo! we have seen little Kay. A white fowl carried his sledge, he himself was in the Snow Queen's chariot, which passed through the wood whilst we sat in our nest. She breathed upon us young ones as she passed, and all died of her breath excepting us two,—coo, coo, coo!'
'What are you saying?' cried Gerda; 'where was the Snow Queen going? Do you know anything about it?'
'She travels most likely to Lapland, where ice and snow abide all the year round. Ask the reindeer bound to the rope there.'
'Yes, ice and snow are there all through the year; it is a glorious land!' said the reindeer. 'There, free and happy, one can roam through the wide sparkling valleys! There the Snow Queen has her summer-tent; her strong castle is very far off, near the North Pole, on the island called Spitsbergen.'
'O Kay, dear Kay!' sighed Gerda.
'You must lie still,' said the robber-maiden, 'or I will thrust my dagger into your side.'
When morning came Gerda repeated to her what the wood-pigeons had said, and the little robber-maiden looked grave for a moment, then nodded her head, saying, 'No matter! no matter! Do you know where Lapland is?' asked she of the reindeer.
'Who should know but I?' returned the animal, his eyes kindling. 'There was I born and bred, there how often have I bounded over the wild icy plains!'
'Listen to me!' said the robber-maiden to Gerda. 'You see all our men are gone; my mother is still here and will remain, but towards noon she will drink a little out of the great flask, and after that she will sleep—then I will do something for you!' And so saying she jumped out of bed, sprang upon her mother, pulled her by the beard, and said, 'My own dear mam, good morning!' and the mother caressed her so roughly that she was red and blue all over; however, it was from pure love. When her mother was fast asleep, the robber-maiden went up to the reindeer, and said, 'I should have great pleasure in stroking you a few more times with my sharp dagger, for then you look so droll, but never mind, I will unloose your chain and help you to escape, on condition that you run as fast as you can to Lapland, and take this little girl to the castle of the Snow Queen, where her playfellow is. You must have heard her story, for she speaks loud enough, and you know well how to listen.'
The reindeer bounded with joy, and the robber-maiden lifted Gerda on his back, taking the precaution to bind her on firmly, as well as to give her a little cushion to sit on. 'And here,' said she, 'are your fur boots, you will need them in that cold country; the muff I must keep myself, it is too pretty to part with; but you shall not be frozen. Here are my mother's huge gloves, they reach up to the elbow; put them on—now your hands look as clumsy as my old mother's!'
And Gerda shed tears of joy.
'I cannot bear to see you crying!' said the little robbermaiden, l you ought to look glad; see, here are two loaves and a piece of bacon for you, that you may not be hungry on the way.' She fastened this provender also on the reindeer's back, opened the door, called away the great dogs, and then cutting asunder with her dagger the rope which bound the reindeer, shouted to him, 'Now then, run! but take good care of the little girl.'
And Gerda stretched out her hands to the robber-maiden and bade her farewell, and the reindeer fleeted through the forest, over stock and stone, over desert and heath, over meadow and moor. The wolves howled and the ravens shrieked. 'Isch! Isch!' a red light flashed—one might have fancied the sky was sneezing.
'Those are my dear old Northern Lights!' said the reindeer; 'look at them, how beautiful they are!' And he ran faster than ever, night and day he ran—the loaves were eaten, so was the bacon—at last they were in Lapland.
AND FLAPPED HIS BLACK WINGS AT THE CARRIAGE TILL IT WAS OUT OF SIGHT
PART THE SIXTH
THE LAPLAND WOMAN AND THE FINLAND WOMAN
THEY stopped at a little hut, a wretched hut it was; the roof very nearly touched the ground, and the door was so low that whoever wished to go either in or out was obliged to crawl upon hands and knees. No one was at home except the old Lapland woman, who was busy boiling fish over a lamp filled with train oil. The reindeer related to her Gerda's whole history, not, however, till after he had made her acquainted with his own, which appeared to him of much more importance. Poor Gerda, meanwhile, was so overpowered by the cold that she could not speak.
'Ah, poor things!' said the Lapland woman, 'you have still a long way before you! You have a hundred miles to run before you can arrive in Finland: the Snow Queen dwells there, and burns blue lights every evening. I will write for you a few words on a piece of dried stock-fish—paper I have none—and you may take it with you to the wise Finland woman who lives there; she will advise you better than I can.'
So when Gerda had well warmed herself and taken some food, the Lapland woman wrote a few words on a dried stock-fish, bade Gerda take care of it, and bound her once more firmly on the reindeer's back.
Onwards they sped, the wondrous Northern Lights, now of the loveliest, brightest blue colour, shone all through the night, and amidst these splendid illuminations they arrived in Finland, and knocked at the chimney of the wise-woman, for door to her house she had none.
Hot, very hot was it within—so much so that the wise-woman wore scarcely any clothing; she was low in stature and very dirty. She immediately loosened little Gerda's dress, took off her fur boots and thick gloves, laid a piece of ice on the reindeer's head, and then read what was written on the stock-fish. She read it three times. After the third reading she knew it by heart, and threw the fish into the porridge-pot, for it might make a very excellent supper, and she never wasted anything.
The reindeer then repeated his own story, and when that was finished he told of little Gerda's adventures, and the wise-woman twinkled her wise eyes, but spoke not a word.
'Thou art so powerful,' continued the reindeer, 'that I know thou canst twist all the winds of the world into a thread, of which if the pilot loosen one knot he will have a favourable wind; if he loosen the second it will blow sharp, and if he losen the third, so tremendous a storm will arise that the trees of the forest will be uprooted, and the ship wrecked. Wilt thou not mix for this little maiden that wonderful draught which will give her the strength of twelve men, and thus enable her to overcome the Snow Queen?'
'The strength of twelve men!' repeated the wise-woman, 'that would be of much use to be sure!' and she walked away drew forth a large parchment roll from a shelf and began to read. What strange characters were seen inscribed on the scroll as the wise-woman slowly unrolled it! She read so intently that the perspiration ran down her forehead.
But the reindeer pleaded so earnestly for little Gerda, and Gerda's eyes were raised so entreatingly and tearfully, that at last the wise-woman's eyes began to twinkle again out of sympathy, and she drew the reindeer into a corner, and putting a fresh piece of ice upon his head, whispered thus:
THE LITTLE ROBBER-MAIDEN
'But canst thou not give something to little Gerda whereby she may overcome all these evil influences?'
'I can give her no power so great as that which she already possesses. Seest thou not how strong she is? Seest thou not that both men and animals must serve her—a poor little girl wandering bare-foot through the world? Her power is greater than ours; it proceeds from her heart, from her being a loving and innocent child. If this power which she already possesses cannot give her access to the Snow Queen's palace, and enable her to free Kay's eye and heart from the glass fragment, we can do nothing for her! Two miles hence is the Snow Queen's garden; thither thou canst carry the little maiden. Put her down close by the bush bearing red berries and half covered with snow: lose no time, and hasten back to this place!'
And the wise-woman lifted Gerda on the reindeer's back, and away they went.
'Oh, I have left my boots behind! I have left my gloves behind,' cried little Gerda, when it was too late. The cold was piercing, but the reindeer dared not stop; on he ran until he reached the bush with the red berries. Here he set Gerda down, kissed her, the tears rolling down his cheeks the while, and ran fast back again—which was the best thing he could do. And there stood poor Gerda, without shoes, without gloves, alone in that barren region, that terribly icy-cold Finland.
She ran on as fast as she could; a whole regiment of snowflakes came to meet her. They did not fall from the sky, which was cloudless and bright with the Northern Lights; they ran straight along the ground, and the farther Gerda advanced the larger they grew. Gerda then remembered how large and curious the snow-flakes had appeared to her when one day she had looked at them through a burning-glass; these, however, were very much larger, they were living forms, they were in fact the Snow Queen's guards. Their shapes were the strangest that could be imagined; some looked like great ugly porcupines, others like snakes rolled into knots with their heads peering forth, and others like little fat bears with bristling hair—all, however, were alike dazzlingly white—all were living snow-flakes. Little Gerda began to repeat ' Our Father ': meanwhile, the cold was so intense that she could see her own breath, which, as it escaped her mouth, ascended into the air like vapour; the cold grew intense, the vapour more dense, and at length took the forms of little bright angels which, as they touched the earth, became larger and more distinct. They wore helmets on their heads, and carried shields and spears in their hands; their number increased so rapidly that, by the time Gerda had finished her prayer, a whole legion stood around her. They thrust with their spears against the horrible snow-flakes, which fell into thousands of pieces, and little Gerda walked on unhurt and undaunted. The angels touched her hands and feet, and then she scarcely felt the cold, and boldly approached the Snow Queen's palace.
But before we accompany her there, let us see what Kay is doing. He is certainly not thinking of little Gerda; least of all can he imagine that she is now standing at the palace gate.
PART THE SEVENTH
WHICH TREATS OF THE SNOW QUEEN'S PALACE, AND OF WHAT CAME TO PASS THEREIN
THE walls of the palace were formed of the driven snow, its doors and windows of the cutting winds. There were above a hundred halls, the largest of them many miles in extent, all illuminated by the Northern Lights, all alike vast, empty, icily cold, and dazzlingly white. No sounds of mirth ever resounded through these dreary spaces; no cheerful scene refreshed the sight—not even so much as a bear's ball, such as one might imagine sometimes takes place, the tempest forming a band of musicians, and the polar bears standing on their hind paws and exhibiting themselves in the oddest positions. Nor was there ever a card-assembly, wherein the cards might be held in the mouth and dealt out by paws; nor even a small select coffee-party for the white young lady foxes. Vast, empty, and cold were the Snow Queen's chambers, and the Northern Lights flashed, now high, now low, in regular gradations. In the midst of the empty, interminable snow saloon lay a frozen lake; it was broken into a thousand pieces, but these pieces so exactly resembled each other, that the breaking of them might well be deemed a work of more than human skill. The Snow Queen, when at home, always sat in the centre of this lake; she used to say that she was then sitting on the Mirror of Reason, and that hers was the best, indeed the only one, in the world.
Little Kay was quite blue, nay, almost black with cold, but he did not observe it, for the Snow Queen had kissed away the shrinking feeling he used to experience, and his heart was like a lump of ice. He was busied among the sharp icy fragments, laying and joining them together in every possible way, just as people do with what are called Chinese puzzles. Kay could form the most curious and complete figures—this was the ice-puzzle of reason—and in his eyes these figures were of the utmost importance. He often formed whole words, but there was one word he could never succeed in forming—it was Eternity. The Snow Queen had said to him, 'When thou canst put that figure together, thou shalt become thine own master and I will give thee the whole world, and a new pair of skates besides.'
But he could never do it.
'Now I am going to the warm countries,' said the Snow Queen. 'I shall flit through the air, and look into the black caldrons'—she meant the burning mountains, Etna and Vesuvius. 'I shall whiten them a little; that will be good for the citrons and vineyards.' So away flew the Snow Queen, leaving Kay sitting all alone in the large empty hall of ice. He looked at the fragments, and thought and thought till his head ached. He sat so still and so stiff that one might have fancied that he too was frozen.
Cold and cutting blew the winds when little Gerda passed through the palace gates, but she repeated her evening prayer, and they immediately sank to rest. She entered the large, cold, empty hall: she saw Kay, she recognised him, she flew upon his neck, she held him fast, and cried, 'Kay! dear, dear Kay! I have found thee at last!'
But he sat still as before, cold, silent, motionless; his unkindness wounded poor Gerda deeply. Hot and bitter were the tears she shed; they fell upon his breast, they reached his heart, they thawed the ice and dissolved the tiny splinter of glass within it. He looked at her whilst she sang her hymn—
'Our roses bloom and fade away,
Our Infant Lord abides alway;
May we be blessed His face to see,
And ever little children be!'
Then Kay burst into tears. He wept till the glass splinter floated in his eye and fell with his tears; he knew his old companion immediately, and exclaimed with joy, 'Gerda, my dear little Gerda, where hast thou been all this time?—and where have I been?'
He looked around him. 'How cold it is here! how wide and empty!' and he embraced Gerda, whilst she laughed and wept by turns. Even the pieces of ice took part in their joy; they danced about merrily, and when they were wearied and lay down they formed of their own accord the mystical letters of which the Snow Queen had said that when Kay could put them together he should be his own master, and that she would give him the whole world, with a new pair of skates besides.
And Gerda kissed his cheeks, whereupon they became fresh and glowing as ever; she kissed his eyes, and they sparkled like her own; she kissed his hands and feet, and he was once more healthy and merry. The Snow Queen might now come
SHE RAN ON AS FAST AS SHE COULD
home as soon as she liked—it mattered not; Kay's charter of freedom stood written on the mirror in bright icy characters.
They took each other by the hand, and wandered forth out of the palace, talking meanwhile about the aged grandmother and the rose-trees on the roof of their houses; and as they walked on, the winds were hushed into a calm, and the sun burst forth in splendour from among the dark storm-clouds. When they arrived at the bush with the red berries, they found the reindeer standing by awaiting their arrival; he had brought with him another and younger reindeer, whose udders were full, and who gladly gave her warm milk to refresh the young travellers.
The old reindeer and the young hind now carried Kay and Gerda on their backs, first to the little hot room of the wise-woman of Finland, where they warmed themselves, and received advice how to proceed in their journey home, and afterwards to the abode of the Lapland woman, who made them some new clothes and provided them with a sledge.
The whole party now ran on together till they came to the boundary of the country; but just where the green leaves began to sprout, the Lapland woman and the two reindeers took their leave. 'Farewell! farewell!' said they all. And the first little birds they had seen for many a long day began to chirp, and warble their pretty songs; and the trees of the forest burst upon them full of rich and variously tinted foliage. Suddenly the green boughs parted asunder, and a spirited horse galloped up. Gerda knew it well, for it was the one which had been harnessed to her gold coach; and on it sat a young girl wearing a bright scarlet cap, and with pistols on the holster before her. It was indeed no other than the robber-maiden, who, weary of her home in the forest, was going on her travels, first to the north and afterwards to other parts of the world. She at once recognised Gerda, and Gerda had not forgotten her. Most joyful was their greeting.
'A fine gentleman you are, to be sure, you graceless young truant!' said she to Kay. 'I should like to know if you deserved that any one should be running to the end of the world on your account!'
SHE ENTERED THE LARGE, COLD, EMPTY HALL
But Gerda stroked her cheeks, and asked after the prince and princess.
'They are gone travelling into foreign countries,' replied the robber-maiden.
'And the raven?' asked Gerda.
'Ah! the raven is dead,' returned she. 'The tame beloved has become a widow; so she hops about with a piece of worsted wound round her leg; she moans most piteously, and chatters more than ever! But tell me now all that has happened to you, and how you managed to pick up your old playfellow.'
And Gerda and Kay told their story.
'Snip-snap-snurre-basselurre!' said the robber-maiden. She pressed the hands of both, promised that if ever she passed through their town she would pay them a visit, and then bade them farewell, and rode away out into the wide world.
Kay and Gerda walked on hand in hand, and wherever they went it was spring, beautiful spring, with its bright flowers and green leaves.
They arrived at a large town, the church bells were ringing merrily, and they immediately recognised the high towers rising into the sky—it was the town wherein they had lived. Joyfully they passed through the streets, joyfully they stopped at the door of Gerda's grandmother. They walked up the stairs and entered the well-known room. The clock said 'Tick, tick!' and the hands moved as before. Only one alteration could they find, and that was in themselves, for they saw that they were now full-grown persons. The rose-trees on the roof blossomed in front of the open window, and there beneath them stood the children's stools. Kay and Gerda went and sat down upon them, still holding each other by the hands; the cold, hollow splendour of the Snow Queen's palace they had forgotten, it seemed to them only an unpleasant dream. The grandmother meanwhile sat amid God's bright sunshine, and read from the Bible these words: 'Unless ye become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.'
And Kay and Gerda gazed on each other; they now understood the words of their hymn
'Our roses bloom and fade away,
Our Infant Lord abides alway;
May we be blessed His face to see,
And ever little children be!'
There they sat, those two happy ones, grown-up and yet children children in heart, while all around them glowed bright summer, warm, glorious summer.