262 THE SNOW QUEEN
bound ; but in the winter they had to go down and up the long staircase, while the snow was pelting without.
1 Those are the white bees swarming,' said the old grandmother.
* Have they a Queen-bee ? ' asked the little boy. For he knew that there is one among the real bees.
1 Yes, they have one,' replied grandmamma. * She always flies where they swarm thickest. She is the largest of them all, and never remains quiet upon the earth; she flies up again into the black cloud. Many a midnight she is flying through the streets of the town, and looks in at the windows, and then they freeze in such a strange way, and look like flowers.'
' Yes, I've seen that!' cried both the children ; and now they knew that it was true.
' Can the Snow Queen come in here ? ' asked the little girl.
* Only let her come,' cried the boy; * I'll set her upon the warm stove, and then she'll melt,'
But grandmother smoothed his hair, and told some other tales.
In the evening, when little Kay was at home and half undressed, he clambered upon the chair by the window, and looked through the little hole. A few flakes of snow were falling outside, and one of them, the largest of them all, remained lying on the edge of one of the flower-boxes. The snowflake grew larger and larger, and at last became a maiden clothed in the finest white gauze, made out of millions of starry flakes. She was beautiful and delicate, but of ice—of shining, glittering ice. Yet she was alive ; her eyes flashed like two clear stars, but there was no peace or rest in them. She nodded towards the window, and beckoned with her hand. The little boy was frightened, and sprang down from the chair ; then it seemed as if a great bird flew by outside, in front of the window.
Next day there was a clear frost, then there was a thaw, and then the spring came ; the sun shone, the green sprouted forth, the swallows built nests, the windows were opened, and the little children again sat in their garden high up in the roof, over all the floors.
How splendidly the roses bloomed this summer ! The little girl had learned a psalm, in which mention was made