The first said, "Who has been sitting in my little chair?"
The second said, "Who has been eating from my little plate?"
The third said, "Who has been taking my little loaf?"
The fourth said, "Who has been tasting my porridge?"
The fifth said, "Who has been using my little fork?"
The sixth said, "Who has been cutting with my little knife?"
The seventh said, "Who has been drinking from my little cup?"
Then the first one, looking round, saw a hollow in his bed, and cried, "Who has been lying on my bed?"
And the others came running, and cried, "Someone has been on our beds too!"
But when the seventh looked at his bed, he saw little Snow-white lying there asleep. Then he told the others, who came running up, crying out in their astonishment and holding up their seven little candles to throw a light upon Snow-white.
"O goodness! O gracious!" cried they; "what beautiful child is this?" and were so full of joy to see her that they did not wake her but let her sleep on. And the seventh dwarf slept with his comrades, an hour at a time with each, until the night had passed.
When it was morning, and Snow-white awoke and saw the seven dwarfs, she was very frightened, but they seemed quite friendly and asked her what her name was, and she told them, and then they asked how she came to be in their house. And she related to them how her step-mother had wished her to be put to death, and how the huntsman had spared her life, and how she had run the whole day long, until at last she had found their little house.
Then the dwarfs said, "If you will keep our house for us, and cook, and wash, and make the beds, and sew and knit, and keep everything tidy and clean, you may stay with us, and you shall lack nothing."
"With all my heart," said Snow-white, and so she stayed and kept the house in good order. In the morning, the dwarfs went to the mountain to dig for gold; in the evening, they came home, and their supper had to be ready for them.
All the day long, the maiden was left alone, and the good little dwarfs warned her, saying, "Beware of your step-mother; she will soon know you are here. Let no one into the house."
Now the queen, having eaten Snow-white's heart, as she supposed, felt quite sure that now she was the first and fairest, and so she came to her mirror, and said,
Looking-glass upon the wall,
Who is fairest of us all?
And the glass answered,
Queen, thou art of beauty rare,
But Snow-white living in the glen
With the seven little men
Is a thousand times more fair.
Then she was very angry, for the glass always spoke the truth, and she knew that the huntsman must have deceived her and that Snow-white must still be living. And she thought and thought how she could manage to make an end of her, for as long as she was not the fairest in the land, envy left her no rest.
At last she thought of a plan; she painted her face and dressed herself like an old pedlar woman so that no one would have known her. In this disguise she went across the seven mountains until she came to the house of the seven little dwarfs, and she knocked at the door and cried, "Fine wares to sell! Fine wares to sell!"
Snow-white peeped out of the window and cried, "Good-day, good woman, what have you to sell?"
"Good wares, fine wares," answered she, "laces of all colours" — and she held up a piece that was woven of variegated silk.
"I need not be afraid of letting in this good woman," thought Snow-white, and she unbarred the door and bought the pretty lace.
"What a figure you are, child!" said the old woman; "come and let me lace you properly for once."
Snow-white, suspecting nothing, stood up before her, and let her lace her with the new lace, but the old woman laced so quick and tight that it took Snow-white's breath away, and she fell down as dead.
"Now you have done with being the fairest," said the old woman as she hastened away.
Next: Snow-White (cont. again)