Apples and Nuts
It was market-day, to Leonore’s great delight, and scarcely less to that of her governess. The scene was a busy and amusing one, and added to that was the charm of everything being so new to the little girl. She wanted to buy all sorts of treasures, but when Fraulein reminded her that there was no hurry, and that she would probably have plenty of chances of choosing the things that took her fancy at the yearly fair at Dorf, or in the little village shops there, she gave in, and contented herself with some delicious tiny pots and jugs, which she declared must really have been made by fairies.
‘You are in the country of fairies now,’ said Fraulein, smiling. ‘Not Fairyland itself, of course, but one of the earth countries which lie nearest its borders.’ Leonore looked up gravely. Some feeling of the kind had already come over her—ever since their arrival the night before at the queer old inn, she had felt herself in a sort of new world, new to her just because of its strange oldness.
‘Oh, Fraulein,’ she said, ‘I do like you to say that. Do you really mean it? And is Dorf as near Fairyland as this dear old town, do you think?’
‘Quite, I should say,’ replied Fraulein, taking up the little girl’s fancy. ‘Even nearer, perhaps. There are wonderful old woods on one side of the village, which look like the very home of gnomes and kobolds and all kinds of funny people.
And——’ she broke off abruptly, for Leonore had given her arm a sudden tug.
‘Do look, Fraulein,’ she said in a half whisper. ‘Isn’t she like an old fairy? And she’s smiling as if she understood what we were saying.’ ‘She’ was a tiny little old woman, seated in a corner of the market-place, with her goods for sale spread out before her. These were but a poor display—a few common vegetables, a trayful of not very inviting-looking apples, small and grayish, and a basket filled with nuts. But the owner of these seemed quite content.
She glanced up as Leonore stopped to gaze at her and smiled—a bright, half mischievous sort of smile, which was reflected in her twinkling eyes, and made her old brown wrinkled face seem like that of an indiarubber doll.
Fraulein looked at her too with interest in her own kindly blue eyes.
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