GRIMM'S FAIRY TALES - online book

130 Fairy Stories Adapted & Arranged for young people

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There was once a very old woman, who lived with her flock of geese in a lonely spot between the mountains, in which stood also her little cottage. The waste land was surrounded by a large forest, into which the old woman hobbled with her crutch every morning, for she was very active,—more than any one would have believed, considering her age. She gathered grass for her geese, plucked quantities of the wild fruit that she could reach, and carried it all home on her back.
One might have expected that such a heavy burden would weigh ner to the ground, but she always brought it safely home. If she met any one on her road, she would greet him in a friendly man­ner, and say, " Good morning, farmer; it is beautiful weather to­day. You wonder how I can drag this load, but you know we must all bear our own burdens on our backs."
The people, however, at last avoided meeting her, and went another way j and if a father saw her when he was walking with his children, he would say to them : "Avoid that old woman, she has mischief behind her ears ; she is a witch."
One morning a very handsome young man was walking in the forest. The sun shone brightly, the birds sang in the branches, a cool breeze rustled the leaves, and everything seemed full of joy.
For a time he met no one, when suddenly he espied the old witch kneeling on the ground and cutting the grass with her sickle. Already she had a large bundle of it packed away into her sack, and by her side stood two baskets filled with wild pears and wild apples.
" Ah, good mother," said the youth, " how are you going to
S carry all that ?" " I must carry it, dear sir," she replied. " Rich people's children need not do such hard work, but with us peasants it is different. Will you help me?" she added, as he still stood near her. W You have a straight back and young limbs : to you it would be a light burden."
The youth could not help pitying the old woman, so he said 5 " My father is certainly not a peasant but a rich count; but to