HANSEL AND GRETHEL.
Grethel took the bread under her charge, for Hansel's pockets were full of pebbles. Then the stepmother led them a long way into the forest. They had gone but a very short distance when Hansel looked back at the house, and this he did again and again.
At last his stepmother said, "Why do you keep staying behind and looking back so ?"
"Oh, mother," said the boy, "I can see my little white cat sitting on the roof of the house, and I am sure she is crying for me."
" Nonsense," she replied, " that is not your cat, it is the morning sun shining on the chimney-pot,"
Hansel had seen no cat, but he had stayed behind every time to drop a white pebble from his pocket on the ground as they walked.
As soon as they reached a thick part of the wood, their stepmother said—
" Come, children, gather some wood and I will make a fire, for it is very cold here."
Then Hansel and Grethel raised quite a high heap of brushwood and fagots which soon blazed up into a bright fire, and the woman said to them—
" Sit down here, children, and rest, while I go and find your father, who is cutting wood in the forest; when we have finished our work we will come again and fetch you."
Hansel and Grethel seated themselves by the fire, and when noon arrived they each ate the piece of bread which their stepmother had given them for their dinner ; and as long as they heard the strokes of the axe they felt safe, for they believed that their father was working near them. But it was not an axe they heard—only a branch which still hung on a withered tree and was moved up and down by the wind. At last when they had been sitting there a long time the children's eyes became heavy with fatigue, and they fell fast asleep. When they awoke it was dark night, and poor Grethel began to cry, and said, " Oh, how shall we get out of the wood ?"
But Hansel comforted her. "Don't fear," he said ; "let us wait a little while till the moon rises, and then we shall easily find our way home."
Very soon the full moon rose, and then Hansel took his little sister by the hand, and the white pebble stones which glittered