POULTRY MEG'S FAMILY 1006
little damaged after all. Marie Grubbe called him her Soren—that was a great favour, and it was a good thing for his father, poor John ; he had committed a fault one day, and was to be punished by riding the wooden horse. It stood in the yard, with four poles for legs, and a single narrow plank for a back ; on this John hod to ride astride, and have some heavy bricks fastened to his legs, so that he might not sit too comfortably ; he made horrible grimaces, and Soren wept and implored little Marie to interfere ; immediately she ordered that Soren's father should be taken down, and when they did not obey her she stamped on the stone pavement, and pulled her father's coat sleeve till it was torn. She would have her way, and she got it, and Soren's father was taken down.
The Lady Grubbe, who now came up, stroked her little daughter's hair, and looked at her affectionately; Marie did not understand why. She would go to the hounds, and not with her mother, who went into the garden, down to the lake, where the white and yellow water-lilies bloomed, and the bulrushes nodded amongst the reeds. She looked at all this luxuriance and freshness. ' How pleasant!' said she. There stood in the garden a rare tree which she herself had planted ; it was called a ' copper-beech ', a kind of blackamoor amongst the other trees, so dark brown were the leaves ; it must have strong sunshine, otherwise in continual shade it would become green like the other trees and so lose its distinctive character. In the high chestnut-trees were many birds' nests, as well as in the bushes and the grassy meadows. It seemed as if the birds knew that they were protected here, for here no one dared to fire a gun.
The little Marie came here with Soren; he could climb, as we know, and he fetched both eggs and young downy birds. The birds flew about in terror and anguish, little ones and big ones ! Peewits from the field, rooks, crows, and jackdaws from the high trees, screamed and shrieked; it was a shriek exactly the same as their descendants shriek in our own day.
c What are you doing, children ? ' cried the gentle lady. ' This is ungodly work ! '
Soren stood ashamed, and even the high-born little girl