THE SNOW QUEEN 269
' Come and tell me who you are, and how you came here,' said the old lady. And Gerda told her everything ; and the old woman shook her head, and said, ' Hem ! hem ! ' And when Gerda had told everything, and asked if she had not seen little Kay, the woman said that he had not yet come by, but that he probably would soon come. Gerda was not to be sorrowful, but to look at the flowers and taste the cherries, for they were better than any picture-book, for each one of them could tell a story. Then she took Gerda by the hand and led her into the little house, and the old woman locked the door.
The windows were very high, and the panes were red, blue, and yellow ; the daylight shone in a remarkable way, with different colours. On the table stood the finest cherries, and Gerda ate as many of them as she liked, for she had leave to do so. While she was eating them, the old lady combed her hair with a golden comb, and the hair hung in ringlets of pretty yellow round the friendly little face, which looked as blooming as a rose.
' I have long wished for such a dear little girl as you,' said the old lady. ' Now you shall see how well we shall live with one another.'
And as the ancient dame combed her hair, Gerda forgot her adopted brother Kay more and more ; for this old woman could conjure, but she was not a wicked witch. She only practised a little magic for her own amusement, and wanted to keep little Gerda. Therefore she went into the garden, stretched out her crutch towards all the rosebushes, and, beautiful as they were, they all sank into the earth, and one could not tell where they had stood. The old woman was afraid that if the little girl saw roses, she would think of her own, and remember little Kay, and run away.
Now Gerda was led out into the flower-garden. What fragrance was there, and what loveliness ! Every conceivable flower was there in full bloom ; there were some for every season : no picture-book could be gayer and prettier. Gerda jumped high for joy, and played till the sun went down behind the high cherry-trees ; then she was put into a lovely bed with red silk pillows stuffed with blue violets, and she slept there, and dreamed as gloriously as a Queen on her wedding-day.