292 THE SNOW QUEEN
leave of the two reindeer and the Lapland woman. ' Farewell ! ' said all. And the first little birds began to twitter, the forest was decked with green buds, and out of it on a beautiful horse (which Gerda knew, for it was the same that had drawn her golden coach) a young girl came riding, with a shining red cap on her head and a pair of pistols in the holsters. This was the little robber girl, who had grown tired of staying at home, and wished to go first to the north, and if that did not suit her, to some other region. She knew Gerda at once, and Gerda knew her too ; and it was a right merry meeting.
* You are a fine fellow to gad about! ' she said to little Kay. * I should like to know if you deserve that one should run to the end of the world after you ? '
But Gerda patted her cheeks, and asked after the Prince and Princess.
* They've gone to foreign countries,' said the robber girl. c But the Crow ? ' said Gerda.
' Why, the Crow is dead,' answered the other. ' The tame one has become a widow, and goes about with an end of black worsted thread round her leg. She complains most lamentably, but it's all talk. But now tell me how you have fared, and how you caught him.'
And Gerda and Kay told their story.
1 Snip-snap-snurre-basse-lurre ! * said the robber girl.
And she took them both by the hand, and promised that if she ever came through their town, she would come up and pay them a visit. And then she rode away into the wide world. But Gerda and Kay went hand in hand, and as they went it became beautiful spring, with green and with flowers. The church bells sounded, and they recognized the high steeples and the great town : it was the one in which they lived ; and they went to the grandmother's door, and up the stairs, and into the room, where everything remained in its usual place. The big clock was going ' Tick ! tack ! ' and the hands were turning ; but as they went through the rooms they noticed that they had become grown-up people. The roses out on the roof gutter were blooming in at the open window, and there stood the little children's chairs, and Kay and Gerda sat each upon their own, and held each other by the hand. They had forgotten