THE YOUNG COUNT'S REWARD. 517
What could he do ? He was obliged to submit to his fate witV patience, and follow the old woman who appeared to grow stronger and more active as his burden grew heavier. All at once she made a spring, jumped on the sack and seated herself there, and though she was so thin and withered, she was heavier than the stoutest farm servant.
The weight was so much increased that the youth's knees trembled under him, and if he stopped for a moment the old woman struck him with a strap and with stinging nettles on the legs. Under this constant goading he at last ascended the hill, and reached the old woman's cottage just as he was ready to drop with fatigue. As soon as the geese saw the old woman they spread out their wings and ran to meet her, crying " Wulle, wulle."
Behind the flock walked a middle-aged woman with a staff in her hand, strong and big, but as ugly as night. " Mother," she said, " has anything happened ? what makes you so late ?"
" Don't be alarmed, my daughter," replied the old woman, "nothing wrong has occurred, quite the reverse. This young count has not only carried my burden for me, but when I was tired he actually carried me on his back also. The way has not seemed long, for we have been quite merry together, joking and laughing as we came along."
At last the old woman slipped the sack from the youth's shoulders and took the baskets from his arms, then looking at him kindly she said : " Now go and sit on that bench before the door and rest yourself; you have honestly earned your reward and it shall not be kept from you."
Then she turned to the goose-tender and said: " Go into the house, my daughter; it is not proper for you to be alone with this young count, or he may fall in love with you. We ought not to pour oil on fire."
The young count hardly knew whether to laugh or to cry at the idea of falling in love with such a w treasure." " Why, if she were thirty years younger," he thought, "she would fail to move my
Meanwhile, the old woman caressed and stroked her geese as if they had been children, and at last went into the house to her daughter. The youth stretched himself on the bench in great comfort, the breeze blew soft and warm through the apple tree