THE SNOW QUEEN 265
His games now became quite different from what they were before ; they became quite sensible. One winter's day when it snowed he came out with a great burning-glass, held up the blue tail of his coat, and let the snowflakes fall upon it.
' Now look at the glass, Gerda,' said he.
And every flake of snow was magnified, and looked like a splendid flower, or a star with ten points : it was beautiful to behold.
1 See how clever that is,' said Kay. ' That's much more interesting than real flowers ; and there is not a single fault in it—they're quite regular until they begin to melt.'
Soon after Kay came in thick gloves, and with his sledge upon his back. He called up to Gerda, ' I've got leave to go into the great square, where the other boys play,' and he was gone.
In the great square the boldest among the boys often tied their sledges to the country people's carts, and thus rode with them a good way. They went capitally. When they were in the midst of their playing there came a great sledge. It was painted quite white, and in it sat somebody wrapped in a rough white fur, and with a white rough cap on his head. The sledge drove twice round the square, and Kay bound his little sledge to it, and so he drove on with it. It went faster and faster, straight into the next street. The man who drove turned round and nodded in a friendly way to Kay ; it was as if they knew one another : each time when Kay wanted to cast loose his little sledge, the stranger nodded again, and then Kay remained where he was, and thus they drove out at the town gate. Then the snow began to fall so rapidly that the boy could not see a hand's breadth before him, but still he drove on. Now he hastily dropped the cord, so as to get loose from the great sledge, but that was no use, for his sledge was fast bound to the other, and they went on like the wind. Then he called out quite loudly, but nobody heard him ; and the snow beat down, and the sledge flew onward ; every now and then it gave a jump, and they seemed to be flying over hedges and ditches. The boy was quite frightened. He wanted to say his prayers, but could remember nothing but the multiplication: table.