THE TWO CASKETS
upon the floor. The cows were so pleased with the care she took of them that they stood quite still while she milked them, and did not play any of the tricks on her that they had played on other dairymaids who were rough and rude. And when she had done, and was going to get up from her stool, she found sitting round her a whole circle of cats, black and white, tabby and tortoise-shell, who all cried with one voice:
'We are very thirsty, please give us some milk!'
'My poor little pussies,' said she, 'of course you shall have some.' And she went into the dairy, followed by all the cats, and gave each one a little red saucerful. But before they drank they all rubbed themselves against her knees and purred by way of thanks.
The next thing the girl had to do was to go to the storehouse, and to sift the corn through a sieve. While she was busy rubbing the corn she heard a whirr of wings, and a flock of sparrows flew in at the window.
'We are hungry; give us some corn! give us some corn!' cried they; and the girl answered:
'You poor little birds, of course you shall have some!' and scattered a fine handful over the floor. When they had finished they flew on her shoulders and flapped their wings by way of thanks.
Time went by, and no cows in the whole country-side were so fat and well tended as hers, and no dairy had so much milk to show. The farmer's wife was so well satisfied that she gave her higher wages, and treated her like her own daughter. At length, one day, the girl was bidden by her mistress to come into the kitchen, and when there, the old woman said to her: 'I know you can tend cows and keep a dairy; now let me see what you can do besides. Take this sieve to the well, and fill it with water, and bring it home to me without spilling one drop by the way.'
The girl's heart sank at this order; for how was it pos-