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Once upon a time there lived a sweet little girl who was beloved by every one who saw her; but her grandmother was so excessively fond of her that she never knew when to give the child enough.
One day the grandmother presented the little girl with a red velvet cap; and as it fitted her very well, she would never wear any other head-covering; and so she was called Little Redcap One day her mother said to her "Come, Redcap, here is a piece of nice meat, and a bottle of wine: take these to your grandmother; she is ill and weak, and will relish them. Make haste before she gets up; go quietly and carefully; and do not run; lest you should fall and break the bottle; and then your grandmother will get nothing. When you go into her room do not forget to say, 'Good-morning;' and do not look about in all the corners." "I will do everything as you wish," replied Redcap, taking her mother's hand.
The grandmother dwelt far away in the wood, half an hour's walk from the village, and as Little Redcap entered among the trees, she met a wolf; but she did not know what a malicious beast it was, and so she was not afraid at all. "Good-day, Little Redcap," he said.
"Many thanks, Wolf," said she.
"Whither away so early, Little Redcap?"
"To my grandmother's," she replied.
"What are you carrying under your apron?"
"Meat and wine," she answered. "Yesterday we baked the meat, that grandmother, who is ill and weak, might have something nice and strengthening."
"Where does your grandmother live?" asked the Wolf.
"A good quarter of an hour's walk further in the forest. The cottage stands under three great oak-trees; near it are some nut-bushes, by which you will easily know it."
But the Wolf thought to himself, "She is a nice, tender thing, and will taste better than the old woman; I must act craftily, that I may snap them both up."
Presently he came up again to Little Redcap, and said, "Just look at the beautiful flowers which grow around you; why do you not look about you? I believe you don't hear how beautifully the birds sing. You walk on as if you were going to school; see how merry everything is around you in the forest."
So Little Redcap opened her eyes; and when she saw how the sunbeams glanced and danced through the trees, and what splendid flowers were blooming in her path, she thought, "If I take my grandmother a fresh nosegay she will be very pleased; and it is so very early that I can, even then, get there in good time;" and running into the forest she looked about for flowers. But, when she had once begun, she did not know how to leave off, and kept going deeper and deeper among the trees, in search of some more beautiful flower. The Wolf, however, ran straight to the house of the old grandmother, and knocked at the door.
"Who's there?" asked the old lady.
"Only Little Redcap, bringing you some meat and wine: please open the door," replied the Wolf.
"Lift up the latch, cried the grandmother; "I am too weak to get up."
So the Wolf lifted the latch, and the door flew open; and, jumping without a word on the bed, he gobbled up the poor old lady. Then he put on her clothes, and tied her cap over his head; got into the bed, and drew the blankets over him. All this time Redcap was still gathering flowers, and when she had plucked as many as she could carry, she remembered her grandmother, and made haste to the cottage. She wondered very much to see the door wide open: and when she got into the room, she began to feel very ill, and exclaimed, "How sad I feel! I wish I had not come today." Then she said, "Good-morning" but received no answer; so she went up to the bed, and drew back the curtains, and there lay her grandmother, as she thought, with the cap drawn half over her eyes, looking very fiercely.
"Oh! Grandmother, what great ears you have!"
"The better to hear with," was the reply.
"And what great eyes you have!"
"The better to see with."
"And what great hands you have!"
"The better to touch you with."
"But, grandmother, what great teeth you have!"
"The better to eat you with;" and scarcely were the words out of his mouth, when the Wolf made a spring out of bed, and swallowed up poor Little Redcap
As soon as the Wolf had thus satisfied his appetite, he laid himself down again in the bed, and began to snore very loudly. A huntsman passing by overheard him, and thought, "How loudly the old woman snores; I must see if she wants anything."
So he stepped into the cottage; and when he came to the bed, he saw the Wolf lying in it. "What! Do I find you here, you old sinner? I have long sought you," exclaimed he; and, taking aim with his gun, he shot the old Wolf dead.
Some folks say that the last story is not the true one, but that one day, when Redcap was taking some baked meats to her grandmother's a Wolf met her, and wanted to mislead her; but she went straight on, and told her grandmother that she had met a wolf, who wished her good-day; but he looked so wickedly out of his great eyes, as if he would have eaten her had she not been on the high-road.
So the grandmother said, "Let us shut the door, that he may not enter."
Soon afterwards came the wolf, who knocked, and exclaimed, "I am Redcap, grandmother; I bring you some roast meat." But they kept quite still, and did not open the door; so the Wolf, creeping several times around the house, at last jumped on the roof, intending to wait till Redcap went home in the evening, and then to sneak after her and devour her in the darkness.
The old woman, however, saw all that the rascal intended; and as there stood before the door a great stone trough, she said to Little Redcap, "Take this pail, child; yesterday I boiled some sausages in this water, so pour it into that stone trough." Redcap poured many times, until the huge trough was quite full. Then the Wolf sniffed the smell of the sausages, and smacked his lips, and wished very much to taste; and at last he stretched his neck too far over, so that he lost his balance, and slipped quite off the roof, right into the great trough beneath, wherein he was drowned; and Little Redcap ran home in high glee, but no one sorrowed for Mr. Wolf.
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