100 THE SNOW-QUEEN
And Gerda kissed his cheeks and they grew rosy; she kissed his eyes and they sparkled like hers; she kissed his hands and feet and he became warm and glowing. The Snow-queen might come home now; his release — the word ' Love'—stood written in sparkling ice.
They took each other's hands and wandered out of the great palace ; they talked about the grandmother and the roses on the leads, and wherever they came the winds hushed and the sun came out. When they reached the bush with red berries there stood the reindeer waiting for them.
He carried Kay and Gerda first to the Finland woman, who warmed them in her hot room and gave them advice for their journey home.
Then they went to the Lapland woman, who gave them new clothes and mended their sleigh. The reindeer ran with them till they came to the green fields fresh with the spring green. Here he said good-bye.
They came to the forest, which was bursting into bud, and out of it came a splendid horse which Gerda knew ; it was one which had drawn the gold coach ridden by a young girl with a red cap on and pistols in her belt. It was the little robber-girl who was tired of being at home and wanted to go out into the world. She and Gerda knew each other at once.
' You are a nice fellow ! ' she said to Kay. ' I should like to know if you deserve to be run after all over the world!'
But Gerda patted her cheeks and asked after the prince and princess.
' They are travelling about,' said the robber-girl.
i And the crow? ' asked Gerda.
' Oh, the crow is dead! ' answered the robber-girl. i His tame sweetheart is a widow and hops about with a bit of black crape round her leg. She makes a great fuss, but it's all nonsense. But tell me what happened to you, and how you caught himI