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Chicken Grethe's Family

When she was not obeyed, Marie stamped her small feet on the flagstones and tugged at her father's coat sleeve until she tore it. She would have her way, and she got it. Soren's father was released.

Lady Grubbe came to her, stroked her hair, and looked at her daughter with mild, approving eyes. But Marie did not understand why. She would go with the hounds, not with her mother, who went down through the garden to the lake, where the water lilies bloomed, and where the bulrushes swayed among the reeds. "How charming," Lady Grubbe would say, as she admired this fresh, abundant growth. A then very rare tree, which she herself had planted, grew in her garden. A blood beech it was called, a sort of dark Moor among the other trees, so dark brown were its leaves. It needed plenty of sunlight, for in constant shade its leaves would turn green like those of other trees, and thus lose their distinction. In her tall chestnut trees, in the shrubbery, and even the grass were many bird nests. The birds seemed to understand that they were safe here, where no one dared fire a gun.

But little Marie came here with Soren who, as we know, could climb, and she sent him to bring her down both the eggs and the downy little birds. The parent birds fluttered about in terror and anguish. Large and small - lapwings from the lawns, rooks, crows, and jackdaws, from the tall trees - they screamed and shrieked just as their progeny shriek today.

"Children, what are you doing?" the gentlewoman cried. "What a wicked thing to do."

Soren looked ashamed and even the high-born young girl looked a little embarrassed, but then she said in an abrupt and sulky way: "My father lets me do this."

"Away, away!" the black birds shrieked, and away they flew, but they came back the next day because they lived there.

But the quiet gentlewoman did not live there much longer. The Lord called her away, and with Him she was more at home than ever she was in this house. The church bells solemnly tolled as her body was carried to the church, and poor men's eyes grew dim, for she had shown them kindness.

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Category: South African folktales
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