THE STORY OF A MOTHER 397
her cheeks. Her head became heavy : for three days and three nights she had not closed her eyes ; and now she slept, but only for a minute ; then she started up and shivered with cold.
* What is that ? ' she asked, and looked round on all sides ; but the old man was gone, and her little child was gone ; he had taken it with him. And there in the corner the old clock was humming and whirring ; the heavy leaden weight ran down to the floor—plump !— and the clock stopped.
But the poor mother rushed out of the house crying for her child.
Out in the snow sat a woman in long black garments, and she said, ' Death has been with you in your room ; I saw him hasten away with your child : he strides faster than the wind, and never brings back what he has taken away.'
1 Only tell me which way he has gone,' said the mother. 1 Tell me the way, and I will find him.'
' I know him,' said the woman in the black garments ; 1 but before I tell you, you must sing me all the songs that you have sung to your child. I love those songs ; I have heard them before. I am Night, and I saw your tears when you sang them.'
' I will sing them all, all ! ' said the mother. ' But do not detain me, that I may overtake him, and find my child.'
But Night sat dumb and still. Then the mother wrung her hands, and sang and wept. And there were many songs, but yet more tears, and then Night said, * Go to the right into the dark fir wood ; for I saw Death take that path with your little child.'
Deep in the forest there was a cross-road, and she did not know which way to take. There stood a thorn bush, with not a leaf nor a blossom upon it; for it was in the cold winter-time, and icicles hung from the twigs.
1 Have you not seen Death go by, with my little child ? '
' Yes,' replied the Bush, * but I shall not tell you which way he went unless you warm me on your bosom. I'm freezing to death here, I'm turning to ice.'
And she pressed the thorn bush to her bosom, quite