So she went down to the river and got into a little boat that was there- Presently the stream began to carry it away.
' Perhaps the river will take me to Kay,' thought Gerda. She glided down, past trees and fields, till she came to a large cherry garden, in which stood a little house with strange red and blue windows and a straw roof. Before the door stood two wooden soldiers, who were shouldering arms.
Gerda called to them, but they naturally did not answer. The river carried the boat on to the land.
Gerda called out still louder, and there came out of the house a very old woman. She leant upon a crutch, and she wore a large sun-hat which was painted with the most beautiful flowers.
' You poor little girl! ' said the old woman.
And then she stepped into the water, brought the boat in close with her crutch, and lifted little Gerda out.
' And now come and tell me who you are, and how you came here,' she said.
Then Gerda told her everything, and asked her if she had seen Kay. But she said he had not passed that way yet, but he would soon come.
She told Gerda not to be sad, and that she should stay with her and take of the cherry trees and flowers, which were better than any picture-book, as they could each tell a story.
She then took Gerda's hand and led her into the little house and shut the door.
The windows were very high, and the panes were red, blue, and yellow, so that the light came through in curious colours. On the table were the most delicious cherries, and the old woman let Gerda eat as many as she liked, while she combed her hair with a gold comb as she ate.
The beautiful sunny hair rippled and shone round the dear little face, which was so soft and sweet. ' I have