140 STRANGE ADVENTURES OF LITTLE MAI A
unless,' he added, ' you will let me carry you on my back far away from this gloomy prison.'
Maia's eyes sparkled at the thought, but she shook her head bravely.
' Yes, you must go; but I must stay behind,' she answered. ' The field-mouse has been good to me, and I cannot desert her like that. Do you think you can open the hole for yourself ?' she asked anxiously. ' If so, you had better begin now, for this evening we are to have supper with the mole, and it would never do for my foster-mother to find you working at it.'
' That is true,' answered the swallow. And flying up to the roof—which, after all, was not very high above them—he set to work with his bill, and soon let a flood of sunshine into the dark place.
' Won't you come with me, Maia ?' said he. And though her heart longed for the trees and the flowers, she answered as before :
' No, I cannot.'
That one glimpse of the sun was all Maia had for some time, for the corn sprung up so thickly over the hole and about the house, that there might almost as well have been no sun at all. However, though she missed her bird friend every moment, she had no leisure to be idle, for the field-mouse had told her that very soon she was to be married to the mole, and kept her spinning wool and cotton for her outfit. And as she had never in her life made a dress, four clever spiders were persuaded to spend the days underground, turning the wool and cotton into tiny garments. Maia liked the clothes, but hated the thought of the blind mole, only she did not know how to escape him. In the evenings, when the spiders were going to their homes for the night, she would walk with them to the door and wait till a puff of wind blew the corn ears apart, and she could see the sky.
' If the swallow would only come now,' she said to