“One day, some fifteen years ago, I was carrying my fish through that dreary wood to the town. My wife stayed at home, as usual; and at that time she had a good and pretty reason for it—the Lord had bestowed upon us (old as we already were) a lovely babe. It was a girl; and so anxious were we to do our best for the little treasure, that we began to talk of leaving our beautiful home, in order to give our darling a good education among other human beings. With us poor folks, wishing is one thing, and doing is quite another, Sir Knight; but what then? we can only try our best. Well then, as I plodded on, I turned over the scheme in my head. I was loath to leave our own dear nook, and it made me shudder to think, in the din and brawls of the town, ’So it is here we shall soon live, or in some place nearly as bad!’ Yet I never murmured against our good God, but rather thanked Him in secret for His last blessing; nor can I say that I met with anything extraordinary in the forest, either coming or going; indeed nothing to frighten me has ever crossed my path. The Lord was ever with me in the awful shades.”
Here he uncovered his bald head, and sat for a time in silent prayer; then putting his cap on again, he continued: “On this side of the wood it was—on this side, that the sad news met me. My wife came toward me with eyes streaming like two fountains; she was in deep mourning. ’Oh, good Heaven!’ I called out, ‘where is our dear child? Tell me?’
“‘Gone, dear husband,’ she replied; and we went into our cottage together, weeping silently. I looked for the little corpse, and then first heard how it had happened. My wife had been sitting on the shore with the child, and playing with it, all peace and happiness; when the babe all at once leaned over, as if she saw something most beautiful in the water; there she sat smiling, sweet angel! and stretching out her little hands; but the next moment she darted suddenly out of her arms, and down into the smooth waters. I made much search for the poor little corpse; but in vain; not a trace of her could I find.
“When evening was come, we childless parents were sitting together in the hut, silent; neither of us had a mind to speak, even if the tears had let us. We were looking idly into the fire. Just then something made a noise at the door. It opened, and a beautiful little maid, of three or four years’ old stood there gaily dressed, and smiling in our faces. We were struck dumb with surprise, and at first hardly knew if she were a little human being, or only an empty shadow. But I soon saw that her golden hair and gay clothes were dripping wet, and it struck me the little fairy must have been in the water and distressed for help. ‘Wife,’ said I, ’our dear child had no friend to save her; shall we not do for others what would have made our remaining days so happy, if anyone had done it for us?’ We undressed the child, put her to bed, and gave her a warm drink, while she never said a word, but kept smiling at us with her sky-blue eyes.