396 THE HAPPY FAMILY
black, and laid upon a silver dish. And when the speech was finished, the old people crept into their houses and never came out again, for they slept.
The young snail pair now ruled in the forest, and had a numerous progeny. But as the young ones were never boiled and put into silver dishes, they concluded that the manor-house had fallen in, and that all the people in the world had died out. And as nobody contradicted them, they must have been right. And the rain fell down upon the burdock leaves to play the drum for them, and the sun shone to colour the burdock forest for them ; and they were happy, very happy—the whole family was happy, uncommonly happy !
THE STORY OF A MOTHER
A mother sat by her little child : she was very sorrowful, fearing that it would die. Its little face was pale, and its eyes were closed. The child drew its breath with difficulty, and sometimes as deeply as if it were sighing ; and then the mother looked more sorrowfully than before on the little creature.
There was a knock at the door, and a poor old man came in, wrapped up in something that looked like a great horse-cloth, for that keeps one warm ; and he needed it, for it was cold winter. Without, everything was covered with ice and snow, and the wind blew so sharply that it cut one's face.
And as the old man trembled with cold, and the child was quiet for a moment, the mother went and put some beer on the stove in a little pot, to warm it for him. The old man sat down and rocked the cradle, and the mother seated herself on a chair by him, looked at her sick child that drew its breath so painfully, and lifted the little hand.
' You think I shall keep it, do you not ? ' she asked, 4 The good God will not take it from me !'
And the old man—he was Death—nodded in such a strange way, that it might just as well mean yes as no. And the mother cast down her eyes, and tears rolled down