RED RIDING HOOD
Once upon a time, there lived in a small cottage on the edge of a deep wood, a forester and his wife, and their dear little daughter. The little child was as lovely as a picture, and a great pet with everybody. Her mother liked to see her prettily dressed, and made her a red cloak with a hood to it, so that the neighbors gave her the name of Little Red Riding Hood.
She was a merry little maid, and went about the house singing and laughing the whole day long. She made friends with birds, and with beasts, and was not afraid of anything, not even the dark.
One day Red Riding Hood's mother said to her, "My child, you may go to your grandmother's with this pat of butter, and bottle of blackberry-wine, for we have not heard from her in some days, and she may be in need of something. Do not stay too long, for I shall be anxious to hear how she is."
The old lady had not been well for some time, and some days was so lame that she could not get out of bed, and had to depend on the neighbors to come in and get her meals.
Red Riding Hood was delighted to do her mother's errand, for she was fond of her grandmother, who always had funny stories to tell, or something nice to give her when she went there on a visit.
So her mother put on her scarlet cloak, gave her the well-filled basket, kissed her good-by, and sent her off with many loving messages for the poor sick grandmother.
Her way led through the lonesome woods, but Little Red Riding Hood was not the least bit afraid, for she was used to playing in them, and running races through them, never minding whether she kept in the path or not. So she went on as happy as a lark, looking back now and then, as long as her home was in sight, to see if her mother was still at the door, and to throw her a kiss from the tips of her fingers.
For a long, long time after Red Riding Hood had gone so far that she could not see the house, her mother stood in the doorway with a smile on her face, every now and then catching a glimpse of the bright red cloak that shone through the trees, and thinking how pretty her dear little daughter looked in it, with her soft curls flying out beyond the cunning hood.
How glad she was that she had such a dear little girl; and how lonesome the house was when she was not in it! Why it seemed as if all the sunshine had gone into the woods, and was wrapped in under the pretty red cloak, that the very geese knew enough to admire.
The birds kept little Red Riding Hood company, and sang her their sweetest songs. The squirrels ran up and down the tall trees, and made her laugh at their funny antics. Now and then a rabbit would come across her path, and sometimes Red Riding Hood would put down her basket, and give chase to the bunnies, hoping she might catch one of the pretty white pets. But they always managed to get out of her way, for they could jump faster than she could run.
Butterflies darted here and there--some light yellow, some with soft gray wings--and Red Riding Hood ran after these until she was tired. Some times one would poise on a green leaf close at hand, and just as Red Riding Hood was about to seize the pretty thing, away it would go deeper in the woods, and seem to urge her to follow.
By-and-by she grew hungry and sat down on a flat stone to eat the nice lunch her mother had put up for her, and oh, how good it did taste!
The birds came round her for their share, and it was fun to see them crowd on each other and squabble over the carunbs. How they did chatter and scold! And what greedy things they were! You could almost hear them say, "Let that alone! That's mine! I was here first! O you pig!" and when the crumbs were all gone they all cried, "More! more! more!" or at least it sounded as if they did.
It was so lovely in the woods, that Red Riding Hood was in no hurry to leave them. Wild flowers were plentiful, and she said aloud, "Oh, I must stop and pick some for grandmother, she is so fond of them!"
So she went out of the path to gather the fox-gloves, the wild honey-suckles, and dark wood violets that were growing all around, and with these and some sweet ferns and long grasses she made a very pretty nosegay.
But dear me! when she turned to go back to the path she could not find it, and for a moment she was scared for she thought she was lost in the woods.
The birds knew of her plight, and as she had been good to them, they would be good to her, so two of them flew down, and calling to Red Riding Hood in their pretty, coaxing way, led her out of the tangle of brush-wood into the smooth path, and to the very place where she had left her basket.
She had not gone very far before she met with a wolf, who came up and spoke to her; which was not strange, as wolves and fairies were quite common in those days.
"Good-day," said the wolf. "Where are you going all alone by yourself, my pretty miss?"
"I am going to my grandmother's," said Little Red Riding Hood, "to take her some fresh butter and nice blackberry wine, for she is quite sick."
"She ought to be proud of such a lovely grand-daughter," said the wolf. "I don't know when I have met any one quite so handsome."
Flattered by these compliments, Red Riding Hood let the wolf walk by her side, although the birds kept warning her that he was a wicked rogue, and she'd better get rid of him.
She had an idea, that poor company was better than none, which was a mistaken notion, for it is much better to be alone than in bad company, as Little Red Riding Hood found out.
"Where does grandma live?" asked the wolf in as sweet a voice as he could command.
"Just outside the woods. You can see her cottage through the trees."
"Ah, yes;" said the wolf. "I think I'll call on the dear old lady. She will certainly be glad to see me when she learns how skillful I am in curing diseases. I am sorry that I cannot go all the way with you, my dear, to take care of you, for there are many bad creatures in these woods who might do you harm. But I have an errand to do just beyond here, and must be off at once;" and making a polite bow, he scampered away as fast as his legs could carry him.
Red Riding Hood was so young that she did not know that though wolves might appear to be as mild as sheep, they were still wolves at heart, ready to bite and rend whatever came in their way. She was kind and gentle herself, and thought everybody was the same. She had yet to learn that often those who pretend to be our best friends, turn out to be our worst enemies. The are fair to our face, and false behind our back. They deceive us by their soft sweet ways, and do their best to put us off our guard.
The wolf took a short cut out of the woods, and soon came to the cottage of Red Riding Hood's grandmother. A bird on a spray outside, fairly screeched to give warning to the old lady within, but if she heard it she did not know what it meant.
The wolf rapped gently on the door, and the old lady, who was in bed roused herself and saidk "Is that you, darling? Pull the string and the latch will fly up.
The wolf pulled the string, and stood still a moment ere he opened the door. He thought he hard footsteps near, for hunters now and then went through the woods in search of game, but it was only the bird on the spray, who made a frantic effort to scare off the wicked intruder. But the wolf know there was not time to waste, so he slipped through the door of the cottage, which soon flew back on its hinges.
"I am ever so glad you've come, darling," said the grandmother, imagining that her visitor was Little Red Riding Hood. "I'm rather more poorly than usual, dear, and it pains me to turn my head."
"I am so sorry," said the wolf, mimicking the voice of the little grand-daughter. "Mother's sent you something nice in a baket."
"Well, put it on a chair, dear, and take off your cloak; and then come and give me a kiss."
"That I'll do at once!" said the wolf as he sprang on the bed, and glared in the face of the grandmother, who tried to beat him off with her crutch. But she had not strength to battle with such a foe, and the hungry wolf, with glaring red eyes, ate up Red Riding Hood's poor dear grandmother, like the cruel monster that he was!
O the blood-thirsty, horrible wretch!
It makes one shudder to think of the terrible deed! But this was not all! The taste of blood, had made him thirst for more: so he put on the old lady's nightcap and gown and snuggled himself down under the bed-clothes, to wait for Red Riding Hood to appear.
What a slow-poke she was! It seemed as if she never would come! and the longer the wolf waited, the crosser he got! Several times he had cocked up his head, thinking he heard her at the door, and still she did not come. He was just beginning to think she never would find her way out of the woods, when he heard a low rap at the door. The little girl rapped softly, for she thought that grandma might be asleep, and she didn't wish to disturb her.
The wolf waited awhile, then called out as the old lady had done: "Is that you, darling? Pull the string, and the latch will fly up." His voice was rather harsh, but not unlike the grandmother's when she had a bad cold.
So Red Riding Hood pulled the string, and went into the house, set her basket on a chair and took off her cloak, with just a glance at the bed on which she thought her grandmother was lying. Then she had a wee bit of a frolic with the tame crow, who hopped around in a queer kind of a way, and didn't act near as funny as usual. She supposed it was because her grandmother was sick; for crows are knowing birds.
Presently Little Red Riding Hood went up to the bed-side, and was scared at the change that had come over her poor sick grandmother. What could ail her to make her look like this? She must have some terrible disease!
The child stared and stared, and her breath came quick and short.
"Why, Grannie," she said, as soon as she could speak, "what big eyes you've got!"
"The better to see with, my child," said the wolf, imitating the grandmother's voice as much as possible.
"And oh, Grannie," exclaimed the child, "what a great long nose you've got!"
"The better to smell with, my child."
"But, Grannie, what great big ears you ve got!"
"The better to hear with, my child."
Red Riding Hood began to grow more scared than she had ever been in all her life, and her voice trembled when she said,
"Oh, Grannie, what great--big--teeth--you've--got!"
"The better to eat you up!" said the wolf, in his own natural voice; and he was just about putting hislong, sharp yellow fangs in the child's soft white flesh, when the door was flung open, a dog sprang at the wolf's throat and made him let go his hold, and Little Red Riding Hood fainted in her father's arms.
He was on his way home from work, and just in time to save his dear little daughter from being eaten up by the wicked wolf that had devoured her grandmother.
With one or two strokes of the axe the forester cut off the wolf's head, so that he could do no more harm in the world, and his body was thrown out of doors for the jackals to feed on.
Friends from far and near came to see Little red Riding Hood, and to congratulate her and her parents. She had to tell, over and over again, just where she met the wolf, how he looked, and what he said, until it seemed as if she never got out of the woods at all, not even in her dreams.
When children were told the story it was always with this word of warning: When you are sent on an errand, go right along and do it as quickly as you can. Do not stop to play on the road, or to make friends with stangers, who may turn out to be wolves in sheeps' clothing.
And they promised to remember, and shuddered whenever they thought what might have been the fate of dear LITTLE RED RIDING HOOD.