The cat had scarcely finished speaking when the witch returned to see if the children had fulfilled their tasks.
'Well, you have done well enough for to-day,'she grumbled; ' but to-morrow you'll have something more difficult to do, and if you don't do it well, you pampered brats, straight into the oven you go.'
Half-dead with fright, and trembling in every limb, the poor children lay down to sleep on a heap of straw in the corner of the hut; but they dared not close their eyes, and scarcely ventured to breathe. In the morning the witch gave the girl two pieces of linen to weave before night, and the boy a pile of wood to cut into chips. Then the witch left them to their tasks, and went out into the wood. As soon as she had gone out of sight the children took the comb and the handkerchief, and, taking one another by the hand, they started and ran, and ran, and ran. And first they met the watch-dog, who was going to leap on them and tear them to pieces ; but they threw the remains of their bread to him, and he ate them and wagged his tail. Then they were hindered by the birch-trees, whose branches almost put their eyes out. But the little sister tied the twigs together with a piece of ribbon, and they got past safely, and, after running through the wood, came out on to the open fields.
In the meantime in the hut the cat was busy weaving the linen and tangling the threads as it wove. And the witch returned to see how the children were getting on; and she crept up to the window, and whispered:
' Arc you weaving, my little dear ? '
' Yes, granny, I am weaving,' answered the cat.
When the witch saw that the children had escaped her, she was furious, and, hitting the cat with a porringer, she said: 'Why did you let the children leave the hut ? Why did you not scratch their eyes out ? '
But the cat curled up its tail and put its back up, and answered: 'I have served you all these years and you never even threw me a bone, but the dear children gave ine their own piece of ham.'
Then the witch was furious with the watch-dog and with the birch-trees, because they had let the children pass. But tho dog answered:
'I have served you all these years and you never gave m much as a hard crust, but the dear children gave me their own loaf of bread.'
And the birch rustled its -leaves, and said : ' I have served you