136 STRANGE ADVENTURES OF LITTLE MAIA
by the flowers withered, and instead of dew there was snow and ice. Maia did not know what to do, for her clothes were worn to rags, and though she tried to roll herself up in a dry leaf it broke under her fingers. It soon was plain to her that if she did not get some other shelter she would die of hunger and cold.
So, gathering up all her courage, she left the forest and crossed the road into what had been, in the summer, a beautiful field of waving corn, but was now only a mass of hard stalks. She wandered on, seeing nothing but the sky above her head, till she suddenly found herself close to an opening which seemed to lead underground.
' It will be warm, at any rate,' thought Maia, ' and perhaps the person who lives there will give me something to eat. At any rate, I can't be worse off than I am now.' And she walked boldly down the passage. By-and-by she came to a door which stood ajar, and, peeping in, discovered a whole room full of corn. This gave her heart, and she went on more swiftly, till she reached a kitchen where an old field-mouse was baking a cake.
' You poor little animal,' cried the mouse, who had never seen anything like her before, ' you look starved to death! Come and sit here and get warm, and share my dinner with me.'
Maia almost wept with joy at the old mouse's kind words. She needed no second bidding, but ate more than she had ever done in her life, though it was not a breakfast for a humming-bird! When she had quite finished she put out her hand and smiled, and the old mouse said to her:
' Can you tell stories ? If so you may stay with me till the sun gets hot again, and you shall help me with my house. But it is dull here in the winter unless you have somebody clever enough to amuse you.'
Yes, Maia had learned a great many stories from her foster-mother, and, besides, there were all her own