Time passed on, and Hansel came back at last; for the spiteful fairy had led him astray, and he had not been able for a long time to find his way, either home or back to Grethel. Then he and Grethel set out to go home; but after travelling a long way, Grethel became tired, and she and Hansel laid themselves down to sleep in a fine old hollow tree that grew in a meadow by the side of the wood. But as they slept the fairy—who had got out of the bush at last—came by; and finding her wand was glad to lay hold of it, and at once turned poor Hansel into a fawn while he was asleep.
Soon after Grethel awoke, and found what had happened; and she wept bitterly over the poor creature; and the tears too rolled down his eyes, as he laid himself down beside her. Then she said, "Rest in peace, dear fawn; I will never, never leave thee." So she took off her golden necklace, and put it round his neck, and plucked some rushes, and plaited them into a soft string to fasten to it, and led the poor little thing by her side when she went to walk in the wood; and when they were tired they came back, and laid down to sleep by the side of the hollow tree, where they lodged at night: but nobody came near them except the little dwarfs that lived in the wood, and these watched over them while they were asleep.
At last one day they came to a little cottage; and Grethel having looked in, and seen that it was quite empty, thought to herself, "We can stay and live here." Then she went and gathered leaves and moss to make a soft bed for the fawn; and every morning she went out and plucked nuts, roots, and berries for herself, and sweet shrubs and tender grass for her friend; and it ate out of her hand, and was pleased, and played and frisked about her. In the evening, when Grethel was tired, and had said her prayers, she laid her head upon the fawn for her pillow, and slept; and if poor Hansel could but have his right form again, she thought they should lead a very happy life.
They lived thus a long while in the wood by themselves, till it chanced that the king of that country came to hold a great hunt there. And when the fawn heard all around the echoing of the horns, and the baying of the dogs, and the merry shouts of the huntsmen, he wished very much to go and see what was going on. " Ah, sister! sister! " said he, "let me go out into the wood, I can stay no longer." And he begged so long, that she at last agreed to let him go. "But," said she, "be sure to come to me in the evening; I shall shut up the door, to keep out those wild huntsmen; and if you tap at it and say, ' Sister, let me in!' I shall know you: but if you don't speak, I shall keep the door fast." Theji away sprang the fawn, and frisked and bounded along in the open air. The king and his huntsmen saw the beautiful creature, and followed, but could not overtake him; for when they thought they were sure of their prize, he sprang over the bushes, and was out of sight at once.
As it grew dark he came running home to the hut and tapped, and said, " Sister, sister, let me in!" Then she opened the little door, and in he jumped, and slept soundly all night on his soft bed.
Next morning the hunt began again; and when he heard the huntsmen's horns, he said, "Sister, open the door for me, I must go again." Then she let him out, and said, "Come back in the evening, and remember what you are to say." When the king and the huntsmen saw the fawn with the golden collar again, they gave him chase; but he was too quick for them. The chase lasted the whole day; but at last the huntsmen nearly surrounded him, and one of them wounded him in the foot, so that he became sadly lame, and could hardly crawl home. The man who had wounded him followed close behind, and hid himself, and heard the little fawn say, "Sister, sister, let me in! " upon which the door opened, and soon shut again. The huntsman marked all well, and went to the king and told him what he had seen and heard; then the king said, "To-morrow we will have another chase."
Grethel was very much frightened when she saw that her dear little fawn was wounded; but she washed the blood away, and put some healing herbs on it, and said, "Now go to bed, dear fawn, and you will soon be well again. The wound was so slight, that in the morning there was nothing to be seen of it; and when the horn blew, the little thing said, "I can't stay here, I must go and look on ; I will take care that none of them shall catch me." But Grethel said, "I am sure they will kill you this time: I will not let you go." "I shall die of grief," said he, " if you keep me here; when I hear the horns, I feel as if I could fly." Then Grethel was forced to let him go : so she opened the door with a heavy heart, and he bounded out gaily into the wood.
When the king saw him, he said to his huntsmen, " Now chase him all day long, till you catch him; but let none of you do him any harm." The sun set, however, without their being able to overtake him, and the king called away the huntsmen, and said to the one who had watched, "Now come and show me the little hut." So they went to the door and tapped, and said, "Sister, sister, let me in!" Then the door opened, and the king went in, and there stood a maiden more lovely than any he had ever seen. Grethel was frightened to see that it was not her fawn, but a king with a golden crown that was come into her hut: however, he spoke kindly to her, and took her hand, and said, "Will you come with me to my castle, and be my wife?" "Yes," said the maiden, "I will go to your castle, but I cannot be your wife; and my fawn must go with me, I cannot part with that." "Well," said the king, " he shall come and live with you all your life, and want for nothing." Just then in sprang the little fawn; and his sister tied the string to his neck, and they left the hut in the wood together.
Then the king took Grethel to his palace, and on the way she told him all her story: and then he sent for the fairy, and made her change the fawn into Hansel again; and he and Grethel loved one another, and were married, and lived happily together all their days in the good king's palace.