story-book had in the poor house, where two stories in it alone had been the means of spiritual awakening and blessing. The weakly, clever little boy had with his reading brought reflection and joy into the house.
When the schoolmaster went away, the lady pressed two or three silver dollars into his hand for the little Hans.
' Father and mother must have them ! ' said Hans, when the schoolmaster brought the money.
And Ole and Kirsten said, ' Cripple Hans after all is a profit and a blessing.'
Two or three days after, when the parents were at work at the big house, the squire's carriage stopped outside. It was the kind-hearted lady who came, glad that her Christmas present had been such a comfort and pleasure for the boy and his parents. She brought with her fine bread, fruit, and a bottle of fruit syrup, but what was still more delightful she brought him, in a gilt cage, a little blackbird, which could whistle quite charmingly. The cage with the bird was set up on the old clothes-chest, a little bit away from the boy's bed ; he could see the bird and hear it; even the people out in the road could hear its song.
Ole and Kirsten came home after the lady had driven away ; they noticed how glad Hans was, but thought there would only be trouble with the present he had got.
' Rich people don't have much foresight ! ' said the}\ ' Shall we now have that to look after also ? Cripple Hans cannot do it. The end will be that the cat will take it! '
Eight days passed, and still another eight days : the cat had in that time been often in the room without frightening the bird, to say nothing of hurting it. Then a great event happened. It was afternoon. The parents and the other children were at work, Hans was quite alone ; he had the story-book in his hand, and read about the fisherwoman who got everything she wished for ; she wished to be a king, and that she became ; she wished to be an emperor, and that she became ; but when she wished to become the good God, then she sat once more in the muddy ditch she had come from.
The story had nothing to do with the bird or the cat, but it was just the story he was reading when the incident happened : he always remembered that afterwards.