THE FAIRY OF THE DAWN 183
marrow in their bones was frozen. But Petru was no coward; the fight he had gone through had strengthened his powers of endurance, and he stood the test bravely.
Along the road on each side were great fires, with men standing by them, who spoke pleasantly to Petru as he went by, and invited him to join them. The breath froze in his mouth, but he took no notice, only bade his horse ride on the faster.
How long Petru may have waged battle silently with the cold one cannot tell, for everybody knows that the kingdom of Mittwoch is not to be crossed in a day, but he struggled on, though the frozen rocks burst around, and though his teeth chattered, and even his eyelids were frozen.
At length they reached the dwelling of Mittwoch herself, and, jumping from his horse, Petru threw the reins over his horse's neck and entered the hut. ' Good-day, little mother!' said he. ' Very well, thank you, my frozen friend!' Petru laughed, and waited for her to speak. ' You have borne yourself bravely,' went on the goddess, tapping him on the shoulder. ' Now you shall have your reward,' and she opened an iron chest, out of which she took a little box.
' Look! ' said she; ' this little box has been lying here for ages, waiting for the man who could win his way through the Ice Kingdom. Take it, and treasure it, for some day it may help you. If you open it, it will tell you anything you want, and give you news of your fatherland.'
Petru thanked her gratefully for her gift, mounted his horse, and rode away.
When he was some distance from the hut, he opened the casket.
' What are your commands?' asked a voice inside. 'Give me news of my father,' he replied, rather nervously.