THE HAPPY FAMILY 395
Don't you think that farther in the wood there may be some more of our kind ? ' •>*
' There may be black snails there, I think,' said the old man, ' black snails without houses ! but they're too vulgar. And they're conceited, for all that. But we can give the commission to the ants : they run to and fro, as if they had business ; they're sure to know of a wife for our young gentleman.'
11 certainly know the most beautiful of brides,' said one of the Ants ; ' but I fear she would not do, for she is the Queen ! '
' That does not matter,' said the two old Snails. ' Has she a house ? '
' She has a castle ! ' replied the Ant. ' The most beautiful ant's castle, with seven hundred passages.'
1 Thank you,' said the Mother-Snail; ' our boy shall not go into an ant-hill. If you know of nothing better, we'll give the commission to the white gnats ; they fly far about in rain and sunshine, and they know the burdock wood, inside and outside.'
1 We have a wife for him/ said the Gnats. ' A hundred man-steps from here a little snail with a house is sitting on a gooseberry bush, she is quite alone, and old enough to marry. It's only a hundred man-steps from here.'
: Yes, let her come to him,' said the old people. * He has a whole burdock forest, and she has only a bush.'
And so they brought the little maiden snail. Eight days passed before she arrived, but that was the rare circumstance about it, for by this one could see that she was of the right kind.
And then they had a wedding. Six glow-worms lighted as well as they could : with this exception it went very quietly, for the old snail people could not bear feasting and dissipation. But a capital speech was made by the Mother-Snail. The father could not speak, he was so much moved. Then they gave the young couple the whole burdock forest for an inheritance, and said, what they had always said, namely—that it was the best place in the world, and that the young people, if they lived honourably, and increased and multiplied, would some day be taken with their children to the manor-house, and boiled