THE NEIGHBOURING FAMILIES 359
it may have happened, before she was aware of it, she was entangled in a noose of horse-hair which some boys had fastened to the branches. The horse-hair wound itself fast round her legs, as fast as if it would cut the leg through. What pain, what a fright she was in !
The boys came running up, and seized the bird ; and indeed, roughly enough.
1 It's only a Sparrow,' said they; but they did not let her go, but took her home with them. And whenever she cried, they tapped her on the beak.
In the farm-house stood an old man, who understood making soap for shaving and washing, in cakes as well as in balls. He was a merry, wandering old man. When he saw the Sparrow, which the boys had brought, and for which they said they did not care, he said,
' Shall we make it very beautiful ? '
The Mother-Sparrow felt an icy shudder pass through her.
Out of the box, in which were the most brilliant colours, the old man took a quantity of shining gold leaf, and the boys were sent for some white of egg, with which the Sparrow was completely smeared ; the gold leaf was stuck upon that, ancl there was the Mother-Sparrow gilded all over. She did not think of the adornment, but trembled all over. And the soap-man tore off a fragment from the red lining of his old jacket, cut notches in it, so that it looked like a cock's comb, and stuck it on the bird's head.
1 Now you shall see the gold bird fly,' said the old man ; and he released the Sparrow, which flew away in deadly fear, with the sunlight shining upon her.
How it glittered ! All the Sparrows, and even a Crow, a knowing old boy, were startled at the sight; but still they flew after her, to know what kind of strange bird this might be.
' From where, from where ? ' cried the Crow.
' Wait a bit, wait a bit! ' said the Sparrows, but it would not wait.
Driven by fear and horror, she flew homeward ; she was nearly sinking powerless to the earth ; the flock of pursuing birds increased, and some even tried to peck at her.
' Look at her ! look at her ! ' they all cried.
' Look at her ! look at her !' cried the young ones,