TEE STRANGE ADVENTURES OF LITTLE MAIA
Once upon a time there lived a woman who had a pretty cottage and garden right in the middle of a forest. All through the summer she was quite happy tending her flowers and listening to the birds singing in the trees, but in the winter, when snowr lay on the ground and wolves came howling about the door, she felt very lonely and frightened. ' If I only had a child to speak to, however small, what a comfort it would be ! ' she said to herself. And the heavier the snow fell the oftener she repeated the words. And at last a day arrived when she could bear the silence and solitude no longer, and set off to walk to the nearest village to beg someone to sell her or lend her a child.
The snow was very deep, and reached above her ankles, and it took her almost an hour to go a few hundred yards.
' It will be dark at this rate before I get to the first house,' thought she, and stopped to look about her. Suddenly a little woman in a high-crowned hat stepped from behind a tree in front of her.
' This is a bad day for walking ! Are you going far ? ' inquired the little woman.
'Well, I want to go to the village1; but I don't see how I am ever to get there,' answered the other.
' And may I ask what important business takes you there ?' asked the little woman, who was really a witch.