The Story of a Mother
A mother sat by her little child. She was so sad, so afraid he would die. The child's face was pallid. His little eyes were shut. His breath came faintly now, and then heavily as if he were sighing, and the mother looked more sadly at the dear little soul.
There came a knocking at the door, and a poor old man hobbled into the house. He was wrapped in a thick horseblanket. It kept him warm and he needed it to keep out the wintry cold, for outside the world was covered with snow and ice, and the wind cut like a knife.
As the child was resting quietly for a moment, and the old man was shivering from the cold, the mother put a little mug of beer to warm on the stove for him. The old man rocked the cradle and the mother sat down near it to watch her sick child, who labored to draw each breath. She lifted his little hand, and asked:
"You don't think I shall lose him, do you? Would the good Lord take him from me?"
The old man was Death himself. He jerked his head strangely, in a way that might mean yes or might mean no. The mother bowed her head and tears ran down her cheeks. Her head was heavy.
For three days and three nights she had not closed her eyes. Now she dozed off to sleep, but only a moment. Something startled her and she awoke, shuddering in the cold.
"What was that?" she said, looking everywhere about the room. But the old man had gone and her little child had gone. Death had taken the child away. The old clock in the corner whirred and whirred. Its heavy lead weight dropped down to the floor with a thud. Bong! the clock stopped. The poor mother rushed wildly out of the house, calling for her child.
Out there in the snow sat a woman, dressed in long black garments. "Death," she said, "has been in your house. I just saw him hurrying away with your child in his arms. He goes faster than the wind. And he never brings back what he has taken away."
"Tell me which way he went," said the mother. "Only tell me the way, and I will find him."
"I know the way," said the woman in black, "but before I tell you, you must sing to me all those songs you used to sing to your child.