1092 THE CRIPPLE
* How you are enjoying yourselves !' said he, * that is something new in this house. Have you won a prize in the lottery ?'
1 No, we are not of that kind/ said Ole. ' It is Hans who has been reading his story-book to us, about " The man without sorrow or want", and the fellow had no shirt. One's eyes get moist when one hears such things, and that from a printed book. Every one has his load to draw, one is not alone in that. That is always a comfort.'
* Where did you get that book ?' asked the schoolmaster.
1 Our Hans got it more than a year ago at Christmastime. The master and mistress gave it to him. They know that he likes reading so much, and he is a cripple. We would rather have seen him get two linen shirts at the time. But the book is wonderful, it can almost answer one's thoughts.'
The schoolmaster took the book and opened it.
1 Let us have the same story again !' said Ole, * I have not quite taken it in yet. Then he must also read the other about the wood-cutter !'
These two stories were enough for Ole. They were like two sunbeams coming into the poor room, into the stunted thought which made him so cross and ill-natured. Hans had read the whole book, read it many times. The stories carried him out into the world, there, where he could not go, because his legs would not carry him.
The schoolmaster sat by his bed : they talked together, and it was a pleasure for both of them. From that day the schoolmaster came oftener to Hans, when the parents were at work. It was a treat for the boy, every time he came. How he listened to what the old man told him, about the size of the world and its many countries, and that the sun was almost half a million times bigger than the earth, and so far away that a cannon-ball in its course would take a whole twenty-five years to come from the sun to the earth, whilst the beams of light could come in eight minutes.
Every industrious schoolboy knew all that, but for Hans it was all new, and still more wonderful than what was in the story-book.
The schoolmaster dined with the squire's family two or three times a year, and he told how much importance the