132 STRANGE ADVENTURES OF LITTLE MAIA
' My house is so dreary, with no one to speak to ; I cannot stay in it alone, and I am seeking for a child— I don't mind how small she is—who will keep me company.'
' Oh, if that is all, you need go no further,' replied the witch, putting her hand in her pocket. ' Look, here is a barley corn, as a favour you shall have it for twelve shillings, and if you plant it in a flower-pot, and give it plenty of water, in a few days you will see something wonderful.'
This promise raised the woman's spirits. She gladly paid down the price, and as soon as she returned home she dug a hole in a flower-pot and put in the seed.
For three days she waited, hardly taking her eyes from the flower-pot in its warm corner, and on the third morning she saw that, while she was asleep, a tall red tulip had shot up, sheathed in green leaves.
' What a beautiful blossom,' cried the woman, stooping to kiss it, when, as she did so, the red petals burst asunder, and in the midst of them was a lovely little girl only an inch high. This tiny little creature was seated on a mattress of violets, and covered with a quilt of rose leaves, and she opened her eyes and smiled at the woman as if she had known her all her life.
' Oh! you darling; I shall never be lonely any more !' she exclaimed in rapture ; and the baby nodded her head as much as to say;
' No, of course you won't!'
The woman lost no time in seeking for a roomy walnut-shell, which she lined thickly with white satin, and on it she placed the mattress, with the child, whom she called Maia, upon it. This was her bed, and stood on a chair close to where her foster-mother was sleeping ; but in the morning she was lifted out, and placed on a leaf in the middle of a large bowl of water, and given two white horse-hairs to row herself about with. She was the happiest baby that ever was seen, and passed