282 THE SNOW QUEEN
' I want to go into the carriage,' said the little robber girl.
And she would have her own way, for she was spoiled, and very obstinate ; and she and Gerda sat in the carriage, and drove over stock and stone deep into the forest. The little robber girl was as big as Gerda, but stronger and more broad-shouldered; and she had a brown skin; her eyes were quite black, and they looked almost mournful. She clasped little Gerda round the waist, and said,
* They shall not kill you as long as I am not angry with you. I suppose you are a Princess ?'
( No,' replied Gerda. And she told all that had happened to her, and how fond she was of little Kay.
The robber girl looked at her seriously, nodded slightly, and said,
' They shall not kill you even if I do get angry with you, for then I will do it myself.'
And then she dried Gerda's eyes, and put her two hands into the beautiful muff that was so soft and warm.
Now the coach stopped, and they were in the courtyard of a robber castle. It had split from the top to the bottom; ravens and crows flew out of the great holes, and big bulldogs—each of which looked as if he could devour a man—jumped high up, but they did not bark, for that was forbidden.
In the great old smoky hall a bright fire burned upon the stone floor ; the smoke passed along under the ceiling, and had to seek an exit for itself. A great cauldron of soup was boiling and hares and rabbits were roasting on the spit.
' You shall sleep to-night with me and all my little animals,' said the robber girl.
They got something to eat and drink, and then went to a corner, where straw and carpets were spread out. Above these sat on laths and perches more than a hundred pigeons, that all seemed asleep, but they turned a little when the two little girls came.
c All these belong to me,' said the little robber girl; and she quickly seized one of the nearest, held it by the feet, and shook it so that it flapped its wings. ' Kiss it!' she cried, and beat it in Gerda's face. ' There sit the wood rascals,' she continued, pointing to a number of laths that had been nailed in front of a hole in the wall. ' Those are