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A Child’s Wishes
by [?]

(From the German of R. Reinick.)

A certain old knight had a little daughter called Gertrude; and when his brother died, leaving an only son, he took the boy into his castle, and treated him as his own son. The boy’s name was Walter. The two children lived together like brother and sister; they only played where they could play together, and were of one heart and of one soul. But one day, when Gertrude had gone out alone to pick flowers beyond the castle gate, some gipsies came along the high-road, who stole the child and took her away. No one knew what had become of her; the poor old father died of grief, and Walter wept long days and nights for his Gertrude.

At last there came a warm spring day, when the trees began to bud, and Walter went out into the wood. There, in a beautiful green spot, a brook bubbled under the trees, where he had often sat with Gertrude, floating little boats of nutshells on the stream. He sat down there now, cut himself a hazel stick for a hobby-horse, and as he did so he said to himself–

“Ah! if I were but a grown-up knight, as tall and stately as those who used to come to my uncle’s castle, I would ride out into the wide world and look for Gertrude!”

Meanwhile, he heard something screaming near him, and when he looked up he saw a raven, which was stuck so fast between two branches of a tree that it could not move, whilst a snake was gliding towards it to devour it. Walter hastily seized his stick, beat the snake to death, and set the raven free.

“A thousand thanks, my dear child!” said the raven, who had flown up into a tree, from which he spoke–“a thousand thanks! And now, since you have saved my life, wish for whatever you like, and it shall be granted immediately. A year hence we will speak of this again.”

When Walter heard this, he saw at once that the raven was an enchanted bird, and exclaimed with joy–

“I should like to be a noble knight with a helmet and a shield, a charger and a sword!”

All happened just as he wished. In an instant he was a tall, stately knight; his shield stood near him, and his hobby-horse became a proud charger, which, to show that it was no ghost, but a real horse of flesh and blood, began then and there to drink out of the stream.

At first, Walter could not think what had happened to him, but stood as if he were in a dream. Soon, however, a new life seemed to wake within him; he swung himself on to his horse with all the energy of youth, and rode far out into the land to look for little Gertrude.

Like other knights, he met with many adventures on his way. There was always something to contend with, either wild beasts or else knights, who, like himself, roved about the country delighting to find any one with whom they could do battle. On every occasion, however, Walter came off conqueror, for he was far more valiant than any of his opponents.

At last, one day he came within sight of a mountain, on which stood a high castle belonging to a certain queen. As he reached the summit, he saw from afar a little maiden, who sat playing with her doll before the castle gate, and when he drew nearer he found that it was his little Gertrude. Then he put spurs to his horse and shouted joyfully–

“Good-day, dear Gertrude!” But the child knew him not. As he drew nearer, he called again: “It is I indeed!–it is Cousin Walter!” but the child believed him not. And when he sprang from his horse to kiss her, and his armour, sword, and spurs rattled and clashed as he did so, the child was afraid that this strange man would hurt her, and she ran away back into the castle.