voice cried from the parlor -Nibble, nibble, gnawwho is nibbling at my little house.The children answered -The wind, the wind,the heaven-born wind,and went on eating without disturbing themselves. Hansel, wholiked the taste of the roof, tore down a great piece of it, andGretel pushed out the whole of one round window-pane, sat down, and enjoyed herself with it. Suddenly the door opened, and a womanas old as the hills, who supported herself on crutches, camecreeping out. Hansel and Gretel were so terribly frightened thatthey let fall what they had in their hands. The old woman, however,nodded her head, and said, oh, you dear children, who has broughtyou here. Do come in, and stay with me. No harm shall happen toyou. She took them both by the hand, and led them into her littlehouse. Then good food was set before them, milk and pancakes,with sugar, apples, and nuts. Afterwards two pretty little bedswere covered with clean white linen, and Hansel and Gretel lay downin them, and thought they were in heaven.The old woman had only pretended to be so kind. She was in realitya wicked witch, who lay in wait for children, and had only built thelittle house of bread in order to entice them there. When a childfell into her power, she killed it, cooked and ate it, and thatwas a feast day with her. Witches have red eyes, and cannot seefar, but they have a keen scent like the beasts, and are aware whenhuman beings draw near. When Hansel and Gretel came into herneighborhood, she laughed with malice, and said mockingly, I have
them, they shall not escape me again. Early in the morning beforethe children were awake, she was already up, and when she saw bothof them sleeping and looking so pretty, with their plump and rosycheeks, she muttered to herself, that will be a dainty mouthful.Then she seized Hansel with her shrivelled hand, carriedhim into a little stable, and locked him in behind a grated door.Scream as he might, it would not help him. Then she went toGretel, shook her till she awoke, and cried, get up, lazy thing,fetch some water, and cook something good for your brother, he isin the stable outside, and is to be made fat. When he is fat, Iwill eat him. Gretel began to weep bitterly, but it was all invain, for she was forced to do what the wicked witch commanded.And now the best food was cooked for poor Hansel, but Gretelgot nothing but crab-shells. Every morning the woman crept to thelittle stable, and cried, Hansel, stretch out your finger that I mayfeel if you will soon be fat. Hansel, however, stretched out alittle bone to her, and the old woman, who had dim eyes, could notsee it, and thought it was Hansel's finger, and was astonished thatthere was no way of fattening him. When four weeks had gone by,and Hansel still remained thin, she was seized with impatience andwould not wait any longer. Now, then, Gretel, she cried to thegirl, stir yourself, and bring some water. Let Hansel be fat orlean, to-morrow I will kill him, and cook him. Ah, how the poorlittle sister did lament when she had to fetch the water, and howher tears did flow down her cheeks.