The snowflakes grew larger and larger till they looked like great white birds. All at once they flew aside, the large sledge stood still, and the figure who was driving stood up. The fur cloak and cap were all of snow. It was a lady, tall and slim, and glittering. It was the Snow-queen.
'We have come at a good rate,' she said; 'but you are almost frozen. Creep in under my cloak.'
And she set him close to her in the sledge and drew the cloak over him. He felt as though he were sinking into a snow-drift.
'Are you cold now?' she asked, and kissed his forehead. The kiss was cold as ice and reached down to his heart, which was already half a lump of ice.
' My sledge ! Don't forget my sledge ! ' He thought of that first, and it was fastened to one of the white birds who flew behind with the sledge on its back.
The Snow-queen kissed Kay again, and then he forgot all about little Gerda, his grandmother, and everybody at home.
'Now I must not kiss you anymore,' she said, 'or else I should kiss you to death.'
Then away they flew over forests and lakes, over sea and land. Round them whistled the cold wind, the wolves howled, and the snow hissed; over them flew the black shrieking crows. But high up the moon shone large and bright, and thus Kay passed the long winter night. In the day he slept at the Snow-queen's feet.
But what happened to little Gerda when Kay did not come back?
What had become of him? Nobody knew. The other boys told how they had seen him fasten his sledge on to a large one which had driven out of the town gate.
Gerda cried a great deal. The winter was long and dark to her.
Then the spring came with warm sunshine. ' I will go and look for Kay,' said Gerda.