88 THE SNOW-QUEEN
into the street again, when they could speak once more, There was a row stretching from the gate of the town up to the castle.
' They were hungry and thirsty, but in the palace they did not even get a glass of water.
' A few of the cleverest had brought some slices of bread and butter with them, but they did not share them with their neighbour, for they thought, " If he looks hungry, the princess will not take him!"'
'But what about Kay?' asked Gerda. 'When did he come? Was he in the crowd? '
' Wait a bit; we are coming to him! On the third day a little figure came without horse or carriage and walked jauntily up to the palace. His eyes shone as yours do; he had lovely curling hair, but quite poor clothes.'
' That was Kay !' cried Gerda with delight. ' Oh, then I have found him! ' and she clapped her hands.
' He had a little bundle on his back,' said the crow.
' No, it must have been his skates, for he went away with his skates ! '
' Very likely,' said the crow, ' I did not see for certain. But I know this from my sweetheart, that when he came to the palace door and saw the royal guards in silver, and on the stairs the footmen in gold, he was not the least bit put out. He nodded to them, saying, " It must be rather dull standing on the stairs; I would rather go inside! "
' The halls blazed with lights; councillors and ambassadors were walking about in noiseless shoes carrying gold dishes. It was enough to make one nervous ! His boots creaked dreadfully loud, but he was not frightened.'
'That must be Kay!' said Gerda. 'I know he had new boots on; I have heard them creaking in his grandmother's room! '
' They did creak, certainly ! ' said the crow. ' And, not one bit afraid, up he went to the princess, who was