454 IRON HANS.
like rusty iron, while his long tangled hair hung over his face, and reached even to his knees.
They bound him with cords, and led him away to the castle. Every one was astonished at seeing such a wonderful creature, and the king had him locked up in an iron cage, and placed in the outer court, and forbade any person to open the cage door under pain of death; he also kept the key himself. After this, the forest was quite safe to walk in.
The king had a little son, eight years old, who often played in the outer cou;t of the castle, and one day, while tossing his gilded ball, it fell into the iron cage. The boy ran fearlessly to the wild man, and said, "Give me my ball."
"No," he replied; "not unless you open the door of my cage."
"I must not do that," said the boy; "the king has forbidden it f and he ran away.
The next day he came again, and asked for his ball; but the wild man replied, " Open the door, and you shall have it." The boy still refused, and went away.
On the third day, while the king wras out hunting in the forest, the boy came again, and said, " You may as well give me my ball, for I cannot open the door, even if I wanted to, for I have not the key."
" It is under your mother's sofa pillow ; you can easily fetch it," was the reply.
The boy, who wanted very much to have his ball, threw to the wind all thoughts of wrong or danger, went in, fetched the key, and unlocked the cage door.
It opened so quickly that the boy pinched his finger, and in a moment the wild man was out of the cage, gave up the ball, and rushed away. The boy, in a terrible fright, ran after him, screaming, " Wild man, wild man, don't go away. I shall be beaten if you do." The wild creature turned round, lifted up the boy, seated him on his shoulder, and walked with hasty steps to the forest.
On the king's return he noticed the empty cage, and asked the queen how it had happened.
" I do not know," she replied; " the key was under my pillow." But when she looked, the key was gone.
They then called the boy, but he did not answer; and at last,