There they were again told to sit down by a large fire, and go to sleep; and the woodman and his wife said they would come in the evening and fetch them away. In the afternoon Hansel shared Grethel's bread, because he had strewed all his upon the road; but the day passed away, and evening passed away too, and no one came to the poor children. Still Hansel comforted Grethel, and said, " Wait till the moon rises ; and then I shall be able to see the crumbs of bread which I have strewed, and they will show us the way home."
The moon rose ; but when Hansel looked for the crumbs they were gone, for hundreds of little birds in the wood had found them and picked them up. Hansel, however, set out to try and find his way home; but they soon lost themselves in the wilderness, and went on through the night and all the next day, till at last they laid down and fell asleep for weariness. Another day they went on as before, but still did not come to the end of the wood; and they were as hungry as could be, for they had had nothing to eat.
In the afternoon of the third day they came to a strange little hut, made of bread, with a roof of cake, and windows of barley-sugar. " Now we will sit down and eat till we have had enough," said Hansel; "I will eat ofT the roof for my share; do you eat the windows, Grethel, they will be nice and sweet for you." Whilst Grethel, however, was picking at the barley-sugar, a pretty voice called softly from within,
"Tap, tap! who goes there?"
But the children answered,
"The wind, the wind
That blows through the air!" and went on eating. Now Grethel had broken out a round pane of the window for herself, and Hansel had torn off a large piece of cake from the roof, when the door opened, and a little old fairy came gliding out. At this Hansel and Grethel were so frightened, that they let fall what they had in their hands. But the old lady nodded to them, and said, "Dear children, where have you been wandering about ? Come in with me; you shall have something good."
So she took them both by the hand, and led them into her little hut, and brought out plenty to eat,—milk and pancakes, with sugar, apples, and nuts; and then two beautiful little beds were got ready, and Grethel and Hansel laid themselves down, and thought they were in heaven. But the fairy was a spiteful one, and made her pretty sweatmeat house to entrap little children. Early in the morning, before they were awake, she went to their little beds; and though she saw the two sleeping and looking so sweetly, she had no pity on them, but was glad they were in her power. Then she took up Hansel, and fastened him up in a coop by himself, and when he awoke he found himself behind a grating, shut up safely, as chickens are; but she shook Grethel, and called out, " Get up, you lazy little thing, and fetch some water ; and go into the kitchen, and cook something good to eat: your brother is shut up yonder; I shall first fatten him, and when he is fat, I think I shall eat him."
When the fairy was gone poor Grethel watched her time, and got up, and ran to Hansel, and told him what she had heard, and said, "We must run away quickly, for the old woman is a bad fairy, and will kill us." But Hansel said, "You must first steal away her fairy wand, that we may save ourselves if she should follow; and bring the pipe too that hangs up in her room." Then the little maiden ran back, and fetched the magic wand and the pipe, and away they went together; so when the old fairy came back and could see no one at home, she sprang in a great rage to the window, and looked out into the wide world (which she could do far and near), and a long way off she spied Grethel, running away with her dear Hansel. "You are already a great way off," said she; "but you will still fall into my hands."
Then she put on her boots, which walked several miles at a step, and scarcely made two steps with them before she overtook the children; but Grethel saw that the fairy was coming after them, and, by the help of the wand, turned her friend Hansel into a lake of water, and herself into a swan, which swam about in the middle of it. So the fairy sat herself down on the shore, and took a great deal of trouble to decoy the swan, and threw crumbs of bread to it; but it would not come near her, and she was forced to go home in the evening without taking her revenge. Then Grethel changed herself and Hansel back into their own forms once more, and they went journeying on the whole night, until the dawn of day: and then the maiden turned herself into a beautiful rose, that grew in the midst of a quickset hedge; and Hansel sat by the side.
The fairy soon came striding along. "Good piper," said she, " may I pluck yon beautiful rose for myself ?" uO yes," answered he. "And then," thought he to himself, "I will play you a tune meantime." So when she had crept into the hedge in a great hurry, to gather the flower—for she well knew what it was,—he pulled out the pipe slily, and began to play. Now the pipe was a fairy pipe, and, whether they liked it or not, whoever heard it was obliged to dance. So the old fairy was forced to dance a merry jig, on and on without any rest, and without being able to reach the rose. And as he did not cease playing a moment, the thorns at length tore the clothes from off her body, and pricked her sorely, and there she stuck quite fast.
Then Grethel set herself free once more, and on they went; but she grew very tired, and Hansel said, " Now I will hasten home for help." And Grethel said, "I will stay here in the meantime, and wait for you." Then Hansel went away, and Grethel was to wait for him.
But when Grethel had staid in the field a long time, and found he did not come back, she became quite sorrowful, and turned herself into a little daisy, and thought to herself, " Some one will come and tread me under foot, and so my sorrows will end. " But it so happened that, as a shepherd was keeping watch in the field, he saw the daisy; and thinking it very pretty, he took it home, placed it in a box in his room, and said, " I have never found so pretty a daisy before." From that time everything throve wonderfully at the shepherd's house. When he got up in the morning, all the household work was ready done ; the room was swept and cleaned, the fire made, and the water fetched; and in the afternoon, when he came home, the table-cloth was laid, and a good dinner ready set for him. He could not make out how all this happened, for he saw no one in his house; and although it pleased him well enough, he was at length troubled to think how it could be, and went to a cunning woman who lived hard by, and asked her what he should do. She said, "There must be witchcraft in it; look out to-morrow morning early, and see if anything stirs about in the room: if it does, throw a white cloth at once over it, and then the witchcraft will be stopped." The shepherd did as she said, and the next morning saw the box open, and the daisy come out: then he sprang up quickly, and threw a white cloth over it: in an instant the spell was broken, and Grethel stood before him, for it was she who had taken care of his house for him; and she was so beautiful, that he asked her if she would marry him. She said, "No," because she wished to be faithful to her dear Hansel; but she agreed to stay, and keep house for him till Hansel came back.