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The Girl Who Trod On The Loaf
by [?]

The story of the girl who trod on the loaf, to avoid soiling her shoes, and of the misfortunes that befell this girl, is well known. It has been written, and even printed.

The girl’s name was Inge; she was a poor child, but proud and presumptuous; there was a bad foundation in her, as the saying is. When she was quite a little child, it was her delight to catch flies, and tear off their wings, so as to convert them into creeping things. Grown older, she would take cockchafers and beetles, and spit them on pins. Then she pushed a green leaf or a little scrap of paper towards their feet, and the poor creatures seized it, and held it fast, and turned it over and over, struggling to get free from the pin.

“The cockchafer is reading,” Inge would say. “See how he turns the leaf round and round!”

With years she grew worse rather than better; but she was pretty, and that was her misfortune; otherwise she would have been more sharply reproved than she was.

“Your headstrong will requires something strong to break it!” her own mother often said. “As a little child, you used to trample on my apron; but I fear you will one day trample on my heart.”

And that is what she really did.

She was sent into the country, into service in the house of rich people, who kept her as their own child, and dressed her in corresponding style. She looked well, and her presumption increased.

When she had been there about a year, her mistress said to her, “You ought once to visit your parents, Inge.”

And Inge set out to visit her parents, but it was only to show herself in her native place, and that the people there might see how grand she had become; but when she came to the entrance of the village, and the young husbandmen and maids stood there chatting, and her own mother appeared among them, sitting on a stone to rest, and with a faggot of sticks before her that she had picked up in the wood, then Inge turned back, for she felt ashamed that she, who was so finely dressed, should have for a mother a ragged woman, who picked up wood in the forest. She did not turn back out of pity for her mother’s poverty, she was only angry.

And another half-year went by, and her mistress said again, “You ought to go to your home, and visit your old parents, Inge. I’ll make you a present of a great wheaten loaf that you may give to them; they will certainly be glad to see you again.”

And Inge put on her best clothes, and her new shoes, and drew her skirts around her, and set out, stepping very carefully, that she might be clean and neat about the feet; and there was no harm in that. But when she came to the place where the footway led across the moor, and where there was mud and puddles, she threw the loaf into the mud, and trod upon it to pass over without wetting her feet. But as she stood there with one foot upon the loaf and the other uplifted to step farther, the loaf sank with her, deeper and deeper, till she disappeared altogether, and only a great puddle, from which the bubbles rose, remained where she had been.

And that’s the story.

But whither did Inge go? She sank into the moor ground, and went down to the moor woman, who is always brewing there. The moor woman is cousin to the elf maidens, who are well enough known, of whom songs are sung, and whose pictures are painted; but concerning the moor woman it is only known that when the meadows steam in summer-time it is because she is brewing. Into the moor woman’s brewery did Inge sink down; and no one can endure that place long. A box of mud is a palace compared with the moor woman’s brewery. Every barrel there has an odour that almost takes away one’s senses; and the barrels stand close to each other; and wherever there is a little opening among them, through which one might push one’s way, the passage becomes impracticable from the number of damp toads and fat snakes who sit out their time there. Among this company did Inge fall; and all the horrible mass of living creeping things was so icy cold, that she shuddered in all her limbs, and became stark and stiff. She continued fastened to the loaf, and the loaf drew her down as an amber button draws a fragment of straw.