HANSEL AND GRETEL
In a little cottage at the edge of a forest in Germany, lived Peter, a poor broom maker, and his wife Gertrude. They had two children, Hansel and Gretel.
One day Hansel and Gretel were left alone at home. Their father had gone to the village to sell brooms. Their mother was away, too.
The children were left busily at work. The boy was mending brooms, the girl knitting stockings.
After a time they became tired of their hard work.
"Come, Gretel, let us have some fun!" cried Hansel.
As he spoke, he threw the broom upon the floor, and pulled the stocking from his sister's hand.
"Oh, yes!" said Gretel. "I will teach you a song, and you can learn the steps of the dance."
Hansel and Gretel danced about the room. Gretel sang, while she and Hansel danced,"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."
Presently the mother returned home. She entered the room and found Hansel and Gretel at play.
"You lazy children!" she exclaimed. "Why have you not finished your work?"
Taking the broom that Hansel had thrown upon the floor, the mother started to punish him, but the boy was too quick for her.
Hansel ran nimbly about, and as she was trying to catch him, the mother upset a jug of milk. It was all the food there was in the house.
"Oh, mother!" cried Gretel. "You have spilled the milk, and we shall have nothing to eat."
"Go out into the woods and gather some strawberries. Do not return until you have filled the basket to the brim," commanded the mother. "Hansel, help your sister pick the berries, and hurry back, both of you, for there is nothing else for supper."
Towards evening the father returned from the village.
"Ho, ho, good wife!" called Peter. "I have had great luck to-day, and have sold all my brooms. Now for a good supper! See here--bread and butter, some potatoes, ham and eggs. But where are the children?"
"They have gone to the woods to gather strawberries," replied Gertrude.
"It is growing dark. Hansel and Gretel should have been here long ago," said Peter anxiously.
The wife began to prepare supper. The husband went to the door of the cottage and looked out into the darkness.
"Alas, my children!" cried Peter. "I fear that the terrible Witch of the Forest may find them, and that we shall never see them again!"
Meanwhile Hansel and Gretel had filled the basket with strawberries, and then had wandered into the forest. They sat down upon a mossy bank under a fir tree, to rest.
"Here is a fine strawberry! Taste it," said Gretel.
She put a berry into Hansel's mouth and took one for herself.
"I am so hungry! Give me another berry," said Hansel.
The children tasted another and another of the strawberries, until all were gone.
"Oh, Hansel! We have eaten all of the strawberries," cried Gretel. "We must fill the basket again."
The children began to hunt for more berries, but it was now growing dark, and they could find none. To make matters worse, they had lost their way....