The cottage where they lived was a very pretty place. It was built of wood, and from the window ledges beautiful flowers dropped down all summer. But they had one treasure, and that the greatest of all, which was a sweet little daughter, who loved them with all her heart, and whom they loved better than life itself. And not only did Father and Mother love her so much, but she had a dear old Granny who thought no one on earth was so sweet, or so pretty, or so good as little Red Riding Hood. That was what every one called her. For the old lady had made for her little granddaughter the most charming little red cloak and hood that ever was seen, and sent it to her for a birthday present. And it was so pretty that the neighbors, seeing her always running about in it, would call out: "Ah, there goes little Red Riding Hood!"
One lovely summer day Mrs. Hans went to the door of the cottage and called little Red Riding Hood, who was busy weeding her garden and tying up her flowers.
"I want to send some of this butter to dear Granny, for I hear she has been ill. Will you carry it for me, Red Riding Hood, for I must go to market?" "Oh! yes, yes," cried Red Riding Hood clapping her hands with joy; "and oh, Mother, let me take her one of these dear little cakes you made yesterday, for I know Granny is fond of them."
"So you shall," said Mother, "and some eggs, too!" So she packed a basket with the butter and the cake, and six new-laid eggs. Then she tied on the pretty red hood, and the little maiden started off, while her mother stood at the cottage door, shading her eyes from the sun with her hand, watching her little darling disappear into the wood.
Now, Granny lived some distance from their cottage, and the way to her home led through the wood. But Red Riding Hood's Mother never dreamt of there being any danger for her little daughter in sending her alone on such an errand. For years not a wolf or a bear had been seen near the place. So she sent off Red Riding Hood with quite an easy mind, only thinking what a pleasant walk the child would have, and how pleased Granny would be to see her.
[PAGE] And it was pleasant! The trees were all bursting into leaf, and the birds were singing as if they were mad with joy, and the flowers were peeping out, and the moss along the narrow path between the gray beech-stems was as green as an emerald. Red Riding Hood walked along singing her favorite song, she felt so happy.
[SWITCH] At last she came to a little clearing in the woods where some trees had been cut down, and there the wild flowers came up by thousands. Red Riding Hood gave a cry of joy, and putting down her basket, she was just beginning to pick the flowers when she heard a gruff voice behind her saying:
"Good morning, Miss Red Riding Hood," and turning round, she saw an old gray wolf.
"Good morning, sir," answered Red Riding Hood, with a pretty little courtesy. She had never seen a wolf before, so, though she did not much like his look, she was not frightened. The wolf bowed very politely, too, though he gazed at her with a hungry eye, and longed to snap her up on the spot; but he was afraid to touch her then for he could hear the ringing of the axes of woodcutters close by, and he knew if she screamed they would be upon him at once.
"Where are you going, my pretty little maid," he said. "this nice morning."
"I am going to see dear Granny," answered Red Riding Hood, "and I am taking her a cake, and some butter Mother has just made, for poor Granny is not well."
"Dear Granny," repeated the wolf, with a thoughtful air, as if trying to recollect something. "Why I think I know dear Granny. Isn't she a very sweet old lady in a cap?"
"Oh! yes," cried Red Riding Hood, delighted at this praise. "She is the dearest old lady in the world; and do you really know her?"
"Why, yes," went on the sly old fellow. "I think I do. She lives in the village, doesn't she--in a pretty cottage with roses growing over it?"
"Yes; the very first you come to," said Red Riding Hood, "before you reach the mill."
"Now isn't that curious," said the wolf, "that I should know her? And I shall not be at all surprised if I meet you there presently, only as I have to go round to see another sick friend, [PAGE] [PAGE] [PAGE] I daresay you will be there first. So good-by, my dear, for the present."
[SWITCH] He trotted along as fast as his four old legs would carry him, till he came in sight of Granny's cottage; but then he paused and hid behind a bush, for who should be coming out of the cottage but Granny herself, with her basket on her arm, and accompanied by her neighbor, the miller, a big, strong man with a thick stick in his hand.
"Shall I shut the door close?" the wolf heard the miller say as he followed Granny out of the cottage.
"Oh! yes, please," answered Granny, "because when I come back I have only to pull up the bobbin and the latch will go up."
"Oh!" said the wolf to himself. "It is lucky I heard that;" and as soon as Granny and her friend were out of sight, he sprang out from behind the bush, ran to the cottage, and pulling the bobbin with his two front paws, up went the latch.
In a minute, he was in the cottage, and had shut the door behind him. Then he began to consider if he should hide behind it, and jump out as Red Riding Hood came in, but he remembered that perhaps she would see him in time and run a way, or being near the village some one might be passing. And then he recollected that she had said Granny was ill, and he decided that he would get into the neat little bed which stood against the wall, at the further end of the low-raftered room. Then she would come right in, and no one could help her.
So he tied Granny's pretty white cap over his ugly gray head, and then he got into bed, and pulled the coverlet over him, and so lay still and waited.
[SWITCH] Meanwhile little Red Riding Hood had gathered a lovely bunch of flowers, and was coming slowly through the wood. When she came to the cottage, she went to the door and knocked.
"Who is there?" cried a hoarse voice from inside.
"Oh dear!" thought Red Riding Hood to herself, "what a dreadful cold poor darling Granny must have to be so hoarse!" But she called out:
"It is I, dear Granny. Little Red Riding Hood come to see you."
"Pull the bobbin," answered the voice again, "and the latch will go up."
Red Riding Hood did as she was told--pulled the bobbin, which she could just reach, and up flew the latch. She then went into the cottage. At first she could not see much, for the wolf had drawn [PAGE] curtains over the window, so as to darken the room, but then she caught sight of the blue bow of her Granny's cap on the pillow, for the wolf had drawn the bedclothes over his face so that she might not be startled, and run right off before she could catch her.
"Oh, Granny darling!" said poor little Red Riding Hood. "I am so sorry you are so ill! Mother has sent you a cake, and some butter and eggs. Do you think you could eat one of the eggs if I cooked it?"
"I'm afraid I can't, my dear," said the wolf, talking under the bedclothes, and trying to speak as softly as he could; "but I wonder if you could make me a little gruel. Gruel is good for the throat!"
"I'll try," answered little Red Riding Hood; and so she got the saucepan and the oatmeal, and made the gruel as nearly as possible as she had seen Mother make it. And then she put it in a cup, and took it to the bedside, but as she did so she started, for the wolf had pulled his bedclothes down a little, and Red Riding Hood caught sight of two gray hairy ears sticking up out of the cap, which got a little displaced.
[SWITCH] "Oh, Granny darling!" she cried. "What is the matter with your ears? How--how big and hairy they have grown!"
"The better to hear you with, my pet," grumbled the wolf, who kept his nose under the blankets.
"Oh, Granny!" she cried again. "Your eyes! They are so big-and so--so hungry-looking!"
"The better to see you with, my love," snarled the wolf; and now he poked his nose right out of the coverlet.
"Oh, Granny, Granny!" shrieked poor Red Riding Hood, dropping the cup with a crash to the floor. "Oh! Your teeth, what dreadful, long white teeth you have!"
"The better to eat you with, my darling," shouted the wolf, and with one bound he sprang out of bed right on poor, poor little Red Riding Hood, and in a moment he would have gobbled her right up had not help been near.
But fortunately help was near. Karl, the woodman, was not far away, and when he heard Red Riding Hood's scream, and also the deep growl of the wicked old wolf, he rushed into the cottage, and with his axe, which he luckily had with him, he struck the wolf senseless with one blow; and with the second he killed him outright. The he picked up poor little Red Riding Hood, and to his great joy he found she was very little hurt.