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A MOTHER sat by her little child; she was very sorrowful, fearing that it would die. Its little face was pale, and its eyes were closed. The child drew its breath with difficulty, and sometimes as deeply as if it were sighing; and then the mother looked more sorrowfully than before on the little creature .

There was a knock at the door, and a poor old man came in, wrapped up in something that looked like a great horse-cloth, for that keeps one warm; and he needed it, for it was cold winter. Without, everything was covered with ice and snow, and the wind blew so sharply that it cut one's face.

And as the old man trembled with cold, and the child was quiet for a moment, the mother went and put some beer on the stove in a little pot, to warm it for him. The old man sat down and rocked the cradle, and the mother seated herself on a chair by him, looked at her sick child that drew its breath so painfully, and lifted the little hand.

“You think I shall keep it, do you not? ”she asked.“The good God will not take it from me!”

And the old man----he was Death----nodded in such a strange way, that it might just as well mean yes as no. And the mother cast down her eyes, and tears rolled down her cheeks.Her head became heavy: for three days and three nights she had not closed her eyes; and now she slept, but only for a minute; then she started up and shivered with cold.

“What is that?”she asked, and looked round on all sides; but the old man was gone, and her little child was gone; he had taken it with him. And there in the corner the old clock was humming and whirring; the heavy leaden weight ran down to the floor----plump!----and the clock stopped.

But the poor mother rushed out of the house crying for her child.

Out in the snow sat a woman in long black garments,and she said,“Death has been with you in your room; I saw him hasten away with your child: he strides faster than the wind, and never brings back what he has taken away.

Only tell me which way he has gone, said the mother.“Tell me the way, and I will find him.”

“I know him, said the woman in the black garments;“but before I tell you, you must sing me all the songs that you have sung to your child. I love those songs; I have heard them before. I am Night, and I saw your tears when you sang them.”

“I will sing them all,all!”said the mother.“But do not detain me, that I may overtake him, and find my child.”

But Night sat dumb and still. Then the mother wrung her hands, and sang and wept. And there were many songs, but yet more tears, and then Night said,“Go to the right into the dark fir wood; for I saw Death take that path with your little child.”

Deep in the forest there was a cross-road, and she did not know which way to take. There stood a thorn bush,with not a leaf nor a blossom upon it; for it was in the cold winter-time, and icicles hung from the twigs.

“Have you not seen Death go by, with my little child?”

“Yes,”replied the Bush,“but I shall not tell you which way he went unless you warm me on your bosom.I'm freezing to death here, I'm turning to ice.”

And she pressed the thorn bush to her bosom, quite close, that it might be well warmed. And the thorns pierced into her flesh, and her blood oozed out in great drops. But the thorn shot out fresh green leaves, and blossomed in the dark winter night: so warm is the heart of a sorrowing mother! And the thorn bush told her the way that she should go.

Then she came to a great lake,on which there were neither ships nor boat. The lake was not frozen enough to carry her, nor sufficiently open to allow her to wade through, and yet she must cross it if she was to find her child. Then she laid herself down to drink the lake; and that was impossible for any one to do. But the sorrowing mother thought that perhaps a miracle might be wrought.

“No, that can never succeed,”said the lake.“Let us rather see how we can agree. I'm fond of collecting pearls, and your eyes are the two clearest I have ever seen: if you will weep them out into me I will carry you over into the great greenhouse, where Death lives and cultivates flowers and trees; each of these is a human life.”

“Oh, what would I not give to get to my child!”said the afflicted mother; and she wept yet more, and her eyes fell into the depths of the lake, and became two costly peards. But the lake lifted her up, as if she sat in a swing, and she was wafted to the opposite shore, where stood a wonderful house, miles in length. One could not tell if it was a mountain containing forests and caves, or a place that had been built with wood. But the poor mother could not see it, for she had wept her eyes out.

“Where shall I find Death, who went away with my little child? she asked.

“He has not arrived here yet,”said the old gravewoman, who was going about and watching the hothouse of Death. “How have you found your way here, and who helped you?

“The good God has helped me,” she replied.“He is merciful, and you will be merciful too. Where shall I find my little child?”

“I do not know it,”said the old woman, “and you cannot see. Many flowers and trees have faded this night,and death will soon come and transplant them. You know very well that every human being has his tree of life, or his flower of life, just as each is arranged. They look like other plants, but their h............

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