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- Story Hour Readers Book Three - 2/20 -


"It is making faces at me!" said Gretel.

Hansel made faces back again, trying to drive the strange form away.

Suddenly a light came toward them.

"Oh, here are father and mother looking for us!" cried Gretel.

But no, it was only the light of the will-o'-the-wisp.

Hansel called, "Who is there?"

Echo answered, "Who is there?"

Poor Babes in the Wood! They fled in terror, back to the mossy bank under the fir tree. There they huddled close together.

Presently a little man with a long white beard stood before them. He was dressed in gray clothes, and he carried a gray sack upon his back.

Hansel and Gretel were not afraid of the little man, for he seemed very friendly.

The little man sang softly,

"Golden slumbers close your eyes, Smiles awake you when you rise. Sleep, pretty darlings, do not cry, And I will sing a lullaby. Lullaby, lullaby, the Sandman am I."

Then the Sandman threw into their tired eyes the sand of sleep. Soon the children had gone safely to Slumberland.

At midnight a little elf, whose home was deep in the heart of an oak tree, came forth and rang a fairy bell. He sang,

"Twelve small strokes on my tinkling bell-- 'Twas made of the white snail's pearly shell;-- Midnight comes, and all is well! Hither, hither, wing your way, 'Tis the dawn of the fairy day!"

At the last stroke of twelve, a troop of fairies and wood nymphs appeared. They danced merrily to the tune of the flower bells, forming a ring around the children.

When the sun's rays began to shine through the branches of the trees, the fairies tripped away. Only the Dew Fairy remained. She sprinkled dew upon the children's faces with her magic wand.

The Dew Fairy sang,

"Awake you, O children dear, Wake you and rise! The sun glowing brightly, peeps Into your eyes!"

Then the Dew Fairy departed.

"O Hansel! Hear the birds singing! Where are we?" exclaimed Gretel. "Come, Hansel, wake up!"

The children looked about them in wonder. The giant trees had disappeared, and near them stood a little house.

"What a pretty cottage!" said Hansel. "Why, it is a candy house! The roof is chocolate, and the windows are sugar plums. What a queer fence! It is gingerbread!"

Soon they heard some one say, in a squeaky voice,

"Nibble, nibble, little mouse, Who is nibbling my sweet house?"

The children only ate and sang and laughed.

Suddenly the door of the house flew open. An old witch came out. On her head she wore a pointed hat, and in her hand she carried a stick.

The candy cottage belonged to the Witch of the Forest.

"Oh, ho!" cried the witch. "You dear children, who led you here? Come in, and I will give you candies, cakes, apples, and nuts--all that you wish to eat!"

Hansel and Gretel were frightened. They started to run away, but the old witch waved her Elder Bush above her head. It cast a spell over the children. They could not move.

Then the witch put Hansel into a cage. She brought from the cottage a basket of sugar plums, candies, and nuts. She gave him the sweets to eat.

"You will soon be fat enough to cook," she muttered. "I will bake the girl first."

Grasping the little girl's arm, she shook her roughly, saying, "Go into the house and set the table while I build a fire."

The old witch gathered some wood. As she threw it upon the fire, she said, "Now for a ride through the air on my broom, while the oven is heating!"

Astride her big broom, the witch rode high above the cottage. She circled around like a huge bird, over the trees and back again, while she sang a strange song.

Hansel, shut up in the cage, watched her in terror.

At last the witch flew down to the ground, on her broom. She alighted close beside the oven, which stood in the front yard.

Calling the little girl out of the house she said, "Open the oven door. Then creep inside and see if it is hot enough to bake the bread."

But Gretel guessed that the witch meant to shut the door upon her, so she said, "I am afraid to creep into the oven."

"Silly child!" said the witch. "The door is wide enough. Why, even I could pass through!"

As she spoke, she popped her head into the oven.

Gretel sprang toward her and shut the oven door. That was the end of the old witch!

Then Gretel ran and unfastened the door of the cage.

"We are saved, Hansel!" she exclaimed. Then she danced about, singing merrily,

"First your foot you tap, tap, tap, Then your hands you clap, clap, clap; Right foot first, left foot then, Round about and back again."

Then, taking the Elder Bush, Gretel waved it above her head as the witch had done.

Instantly the candy house became a log cabin. Sunflowers and morning-glories were growing in the front yard, where the witch's cage and the oven had stood.

Soon voices were heard. The sounds came nearer, and the father and mother clasped their children in their arms.

Peter and Gertrude lived with the two children in the log cabin in the forest, for many happy years. And the fairies always took good care of both Hansel and Gretel.

THE EAGLE AND THE FOX

One morning the fox said to his children, "I will find some eggs for breakfast."

Then he went to the woods.

The fox saw an eagle's nest in the top branch of a tree. "How can I reach those eggs?" thought he. "Ha, ha! Now I have a plan."

He put some grass stalks into his ears and knocked on the tree with them.

"Throw an egg to me," cried the fox. "If you do not throw an egg to me, I will knock this great tree over with these grass stalks."

The eagle was terribly frightened, and she threw an egg down to the fox.

"Throw another egg down to me at once," demanded the fox, when he saw that he had frightened the eagle.

"One egg is enough," said the eagle. "I shall not throw down any more eggs."

"Throw another egg to me, or I shall knock the tree over with these grass stalks, and take all your eggs," said the fox.

The eagle was still more frightened, and she threw down another egg.

Then the fox laughed and said, "How could I knock down a great tree with these small grass stalks?"

The eagle became very angry. She flew down from her nest and grasped the fox with her talons.

Then she lifted the fox up and flew with him far out to sea. She dropped him upon a lonely island.

The fox was left on the lonely island. One day he said to himself, "Am I going to die on this island?"

Then the fox began to sing softly. Seals, walruses, porpoises, and whales swam near the island.


Story Hour Readers Book Three - 2/20

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