IB AND CHRISTINE 509
' There are ten neckerchiefs in it,' answered the woman. ' There are beautiful dresses in it, and stoekings, and a hat.'
* Then I will have that one too/ cried little Christine.
And lb gave her the second nut also. The third was a little black thing.
1 That one you can keep,' said Christine ; ' and it is a pretty one too.'
' What is in it ? ' inquired lb.
' The best of all things for you,' replied the gipsy woman.
And lb held the nut very tight. The woman promised to lead the children into the right path, so that they might find their way home ; and now they went forward, certainly in quite a different direction from the path they should have followed. But that is no reason why we should suspect the gipsy woman of wanting to steal the children. In the wild wood-path they met the forest bailiff, who knew lb ; and by his help, lb and Christine both arrived at home, where their friends had been very anxious about them. They were pardoned and forgiven, although they had indeed both deserved to get into trouble; firstly, because they had let the sucking-pig fall into the water, and secondly, because they had run away.
Christine was taken back to her father on the heath, and lb remained in the farm-house by the wood. The first thing he did in the evening was to bring forth out of his pocket the nut, in which ' the best thing of all' was said to be enclosed. He placed it carefully between the door and the door-frame, and then shut the door so as to break the nut; but there was not much kernel in it. The nut looked as if it were filled with snuff or black rich earth ; it was what we call hollow, or worm-eaten.
' Yes, that's exactly what I thought,' said lb. ' How could the very best thing be contained in this little nut ? And Christine will get just as little out of her two nuts, and will have neither fine clothes nor golden carriage.'
And winter came on, and the new year began ; indeed, several years went by.
lb was now to be confirmed, and the clergyman lived a long way off. About this time the boatman one day visited Ib's parents, and told them that Christine was now