THE LILAC FAIRY BOOK - online childrens book

A Collection of Illustrated classic fairy tales for children by Andrew Lang

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234                THE RASPBERRY WORM
little kind-looking old man, in a white coat and a red cap, limping out from among the bushes, for he was lame in his left foot; neither Lisa nor Aina could utter a word, they were so filled with surprise.
' Don't be afraid, little girls,' he said smiling kindly at them; he could not laugh properly because his mouth was crooked. ' Welcome to my kingdom ! Have you slept well and eaten well and drunk well ? ' he asked.
' Yes, indeed we have,' said both the girls, ' but tell us ... ' and they wanted to ask who the old man was, but were afraid to.
' I will tell you who I am,' said the old man ; ' I am the raspberry king, who reigns over all this kingdom of raspberry bushes, and I have lived here for more than a thousand years. But the great spirit who rules over the woods, and the sea, and the sky, did not want me to be­come proud of my royal power and my long life. There­fore he decreed that one day in every hundred years I should change into a little raspberry worm, and live in that wreak and helpless form from sunrise till sunset. During that time my life is dependent on the little worm's life, so that a bird can eat me, a child can pick me with the berries and trample under foot my thousand years of life. Now yesterday was just my transformation day, and I was taken with the raspberry and would have been trampled to death if you had not saved my life. Until sunset I lay helpless in the grass, and when I was swept away from your table I twisted one of my feet, and my mouth became crooked with terror ; but when evening came and I could take my own form again, I looked for you to thank you and reward you. Then I found you both here in my kingdom, and tried to meet you both as well as I could without frightening you. Now I will send a bird from my wood to show you the way home. Good-bye, little children, thank you for your kind hearts; the raspberry king can show that he is not ungrateful.' The children shook hands with the
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