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Fairy Tales Every Child Should Know

Poor little Grethel wept bitter tears as she listened


The

wicked witch had thrown her into a trance, hoping she would die, and that the king would then marry her daughter; but on the king speaking to her, the spell was broken. The queen told the king how cruelly she had been treated by her stepmother, and on hearing this he became very angry, and had the witch and her daughter brought to justice. They were both sentenced to die--the daughter to be devoured by wild beasts, and the mother to be burnt alive.

No sooner, however, was she reduced to ashes than the charm which held the queen's brother in the form of a stag was broken; he recovered his own natural shape, and appeared before them a tall, handsome young man.

After this, the brother and sister lived happily and peacefully for the rest of their lives.

CHAPTER IV

HANSEL AND GRETHEL

Near the borders of a large forest dwelt in olden times a poor wood-cutter, who had two children--a boy named Hansel, and his sister, Grethel. They had very little to live upon, and once when there was a dreadful season of scarcity in the land, the poor wood-cutter could not earn sufficient to supply their daily food.

One evening, after the children were gone to bed, the parents sat talking together over their sorrow, and the poor husband sighed, and said to

his wife, who was not the mother of his children, but their stepmother, "What will become of us, for I cannot earn enough to support myself and you, much less the children? what shall we do with them, for they must not starve?"

"I know what to do, husband," she replied; "early to-morrow morning we will take the children for a walk across the forest and leave them in the thickest part; they will never find the way home again, you may depend, and then we shall only have to work for ourselves."

"No, wife," said the man, "that I will never do. How could I have the heart to leave my children all alone in the wood, where the wild beasts would come quickly and devour them?"

"Oh, you fool," replied the stepmother, "if you refuse to do this, you know we must all four perish with hunger; you may as well go and cut the wood for our coffins." And after this she let him have no peace till he became quite worn out, and could not sleep for hours, but lay thinking in sorrow about his children.

The two children, who also were too hungry to sleep, heard all that their stepmother had said to their father. Poor little Grethel wept bitter tears as she listened, and said to her brother, "What is going to happen to us, Hansel?"

"Hush, Grethel," he whispered, "don't be so unhappy; I know what to do."

Then they lay quite still till their parents were asleep.


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