268 THE SNOW QUEEN
thought she had not thrown the shoes far enough out; so she crept into a boat that lay among the reeds; she went to the other end of the boat, and threw the shoes from thence into the water ; but the boat was not bound fast, and at the movement she made it glided away from the shore. She noticed it, and hurried to get back, but before she reached the other end the boat was a yard from the bank, and it drifted away faster than before.
Then little Gerda was very much frightened, and began to cry; but no one heard her except the Sparrows, and they could not carry her to land; but they flew along by the shore, and sang, as if to console her, ' Here we are ! here we are !' The boat drove on with the stream, and little Gerda sat quite still, with only her stockings on her feet; her little red shoes floated along behind her, but they could not come up to the boat, for that made more way.
It was very pretty on both shores. There were beautiful flowers, old trees, and slopes with sheep and cows ; but not one person was to be seen.
' Perhaps the river will carry me to little Kay/ thought Gerda.
And then she became more cheerful, and rose up, and for many hours she watched the charming green banks ; then she came to a great cherry orchard, in which stood a little house with remarkable blue and red windows ; it had a thatched roof, and without stood two wooden soldiers, who presented arms to those who sailed past.
Gerda called to them, fo she thought they were alive, but of course they did not answer. She came quite close to them ; the river carried the boat towards the shore.
Gerda called still louder, and then there came out of the house an old, old woman leaning on a crutch : she had on a great sun-hat, painted over with the finest flowers.
' You poor little child !' said the old woman, ' how did you manage to come on the great rolling river, and to float thus far out into the world ?'
And then the old woman went quite into the water, seized the boat with her crutch-stick, drew it to land, and lifted little Gerda out. And Gerda was glad to be on dry land again, though she felt a little afraid of the strange old woman.