276 THE SNOW QUEEN
Yes, yes,' said the Crow, * you may believe me. It's as true as I sit here. Young men came flocking in ; there was a great crowding and much running to and fro, but no one succeeded the first or second day. They could all speak well when they were out in the streets, but when they entered at the palace gates, and saw the guards standing in their silver lace, and went up the staircase, and saw the lackeys in their golden liveries, and the great lighted halls, they became confused. And when they stood before the throne itself, on which the Princess sat, they could do nothing but repeat the last word she had spoken, and she did not care to hear her own words again. It was just as if the people in there had taken some narcotic and fallen asleep, till they got into the street again, for not till then were they able to speak. There stood a whole row of them, from the town gate to the palace gate. I went in myself to see it,' said the Crow. * They were hungry and thirsty, but in the palace they did not receive so much as a glass of lukewarm water. A few of the wisest had brought bread and butter with them, but they would not share with their neighbours, for they thought ' Let him look hungry, and the Princess won't have him." '
' But Kay, little Kay 1 ' asked Gerda. ' When did he come ? Was he among the crowd ? '
c Wait, wait! We're just coming to him. It was on the third day that there came a little personage, without horse or carriage, walking quite merrily up to the castle ; his eyes sparkled like yours, he had fine long hair, but his clothes were shabby.'
' That was Kay !' cried Gerda, rejoicingly. ' Oh, then I have found him !' And she clapped her hands.
* He had a little knapsack on his back/ observed the Crow.
' No, that must certainly have been his sledge,' said Gerda, ' for he went away with a sledge.'
* That may well be,' said the Crow, ' for I did not look to it very closely. But this much I know from my tame sweetheart, that when he passed under the palace gate and saw the Life Guards in silver, and mounted the staircase and saw the lackeys in gold, he was not in the least embarrassed. He nodded, and said to them, " It must be