The VIOLET FAIRY BOOK - full online book

Illustrated classic fairy tales for children by Andrew Lang

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THE HEADLESS DWARFS             287
A few weeks later the minister was asked to attend a christening in the neighbouring town. He bade Hans come with him, but, as the town was only a few hours' ride from where he lived, the minister was much surprised to see Hans come forth laden with a bag containing food.
' What are you taking that for?' asked the minister. ' We shall be there before dark.'
'Who knows?' replied Hans. 'Many things may happen to delay our journey, and I need not remind you of our contract that the moment the sun sets I cease to be your servant. If we don't reach the town while it is still daylight I shall leave you to shift for yourself.'
The minister thought he was joking, and made no further remark. But when they had left the village behind them, and had ridden a few miles, they found that snow had fallen during the night, and had been blown by the wind into drifts. This hindered their progress, and by the time they had entered the thick wood which lay between them and their destination the sun was already touching the tops of the trees. The horses ploughed their way slowly through the deep soft snow and as they went Hans kept turning to look at the sun, which lay at their backs.
'Is there anything behind you?' asked the minister. ' Or what is it you are always turning round for? '
' I turn round because I have no eyes in the back of my neck,' said Hans.
' Cease talking nonsense,' replied the minister, ' and give all your mind to getting us to the town before night­fall'
Hans did not answer, but rode on steadily, though every now and then he cast a glance over his shoulder.
When they arrived in the middle of the wood the sun sank altogether. Then Hans reined up his horse, took his knapsack, and jumped out of the sledge.
'What are you doing? Are you mad?' asked the
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