“Don’t strike my head off!” said Karen; “then I can’t repent of my sins! but strike off my feet and the red shoes!”
And then she confessed her entire sin, and the executioner struck off her feet, with the red shoes; but the shoes danced away with the little feet across the field into the deep wood.
HOW KAREN TRIED TO GO TO CHURCH AGAIN, HOW SHE PRAYED AND WAS SORRY, AND HOW AN ANGEL CAME TO COMFORT HER, AND HOW HAPPY SHE BECAME.
And the executioner carved out little wooden feet for her, and crutches, and taught her the psalms criminals always sing; and she kissed the hand which had wielded the axe, and went over the heath.
“Now I have suffered enough for the red shoes!” said she; “now I will go into the church, that people may see me!” And she hastened towards the church-door; but when she neared it the red shoes danced before her, and she was terrified, and turned around.
The whole week she was unhappy, and wept many bitter tears; but when Sunday returned, she said—
“Well, now I have struggled enough! I really believe I am as good as many a one who sits in the church, and hold their heads so high!”
And away she went boldly; but she had not got farther than the churchyard-gate, before she saw the red shoes dancing before her, and she was frightened, and turned back, and repented of her sin from her heart.
And she went to the parsonage, and begged that they would take her into service; she would be very industrious, she said, and would do every thing she could; she did not care about the wages, only she wished to have a home, and be with good people; and the clergyman’s wife was sorry for her, and took her into service; and she was industrious and thoughtful. She sat still and listened when the clergyman read the Bible in the evening. All the children thought a deal of her; but when they spoke of dress, and grandeur, and beauty, she shook her head.
The following Sunday when the family was going to church, they asked her whether she would not go with them; but she glanced sorrowfully, with tears in her eyes, at her feet. The family went to hear the word of God, but she went alone into her little chamber; there was only room for a bed and a chair to stand in it; and here she sat down with her prayer-book; and whilst she read with a pious mind, the wind bore the strains of the organ towards her, and she raised her tearful eyes to heaven and said, “Oh God, help me!”
And the sun shone clearly! And straight before her stood the angel of God in white garments, the same she had seen at the church-door; but he no longer carried the sharp sword, but in its stead a splendid green spray full of roses, and he touched the ceiling with the spray, and the ceiling rose up high, and where he had touched it there gleamed a golden star. And he touched the walls and they widened out, and she saw the organ which was playing; she saw the old pictures of the preachers and the preachers’ wives.