It was a late evening when the crow returned. ‘Caw, caw,’ he said, ‘it’s not possible for you to enter the palace by the front entrance. The guards in silver uniform will not allow it. But don’t cry. My girlfriend who works in the palace knows a little back staircase that leads to the princess’s bedroom.’

The crow led Gerda to the castle and then showed her the way to the back door. Oh! How little girl’s heart beat! ‘It must be Kay,’ she thought, ‘with those sparkling eyes and long hair. He will certainly be glad to see me and to know how unhappy I was that he didn’t come back.’ Oh, what joy and fear she felt!

They were now on the stairs and there stood the crow’s girlfriend with the key. ‘My friend told me your story,’ said the crow. ‘It’s very touching. Take the lamp and follow me. We’ll meet no one.’ They walked through many halls and it seemed to Gerda that on the walls there were shadows of horses, hunters and ladies and gentlemen on horseback. At last, they reached the bedroom. In the center of it there were two beds. Each of them was like a lily hung from a gold stem. One, on which the princess lay, was white, the other was red, and in it Gerda hoped to find little Kay. She came up to the bed, pushed one of the red leaves aside and saw a little brown neck. Oh, that must be Kay! She called his name out quite loudly and held the lamp over him. A boy woke and turned his head. It was not little Kay!

Then the princess looked out of her white-lily bed and asked what was the matter. Little Gerda began to cry and told her story. ‘You poor child’ said the prince and the princess. They said they were not angry at the crows but it must not happen again. The following day Gerda was dressed from head to foot in silk and velvet. The prince and the princess asked her to stay at the palace for a few days, but she only asked for a pair of warm boots and a little coach with a horse to draw it. And she received not only boots but also a fur coat and a muff. And at the door she found a carriage made of gold and a coachman wearing a golden crown on his head. In the coach there was a big box with sweet cakes, fruit and nuts.

‘Farewell, farewell’ cried the prince and princess, and Gerda wept and the crows wept, too. Then they flew to a tree and flapped their wings as long as they could see the coach.


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