THE SNOW QUEEN 277
tedious work standing on the stairs—I'd rather go in." The halls shone full of lights ; privy councillors and Excellencies walked about with bare feet, and carried golden vessels ; any one might have become solemn ; and his boots creaked most noisily, but he was not embarrassed.'
* That is certainly Kay ! ' cried Gerda. ' He had new boots on ; I've heard them creak in grandmother's room.'
1 Yes, certainly they creaked,' resumed the Crow. ' And he went boldly in to the Princess herself, who sat on a pearl that was as big as a spinning-wheel; and all the maids of honour with their attendants, and the attendants' attendants, and all the cavaliers with their followers, and the followers of their followers, who themselves kept a page apiece, were standing round ; and the nearer they stood to the door, the prouder they looked. The followers' followers' pages, who always went in slippers, could hardly be looked at, so proudly did they stand in the doorway !'
' That must be terrible !' faltered little Gerda. ' And yet Kay won the Princess ? '
* If I had not been a crow, I would have married her myself, notwithstanding that I am engaged. They say he spoke as well as I can when I speak the crows' language ; I heard that from my tame sweetheart. He was merry and agreeable ; he had not come to woo, but only to hear the wisdom of the Princess ; and he approved of her, and she of him.'
' Yes, certainly that was Kay ! ' said Gerda. ' He was so clever, he could do mental arithmetic up to fractions. Oh ! won't you lead me to the castle too ? '
' That's easily said,' replied the Crow. ' But how are we to manage it ? I'll talk it over with my tame sweetheart ; she can probably advise us ; for this I must tell you—a little girl like yourself will never get leave to go quite in.'
* Yes, I shall get leave/ said Gerda. ' When Kay hears that I'm there he'll come out directly, and bring me in.'
' Wait for me yonder at the stile,' said the Crow ; and it wagged its head and flew away.
It was already late in the evening when the Crow came back.
* Rare ! rare !' it said. ' I'm to greet you kindly from