Little Red Riding-Hood
In the long ago days, when there were so many wild beasts prowling about the forests that no one was surprised to meet a wolf or a bear at any moment, there lived a little girl called Red Riding-Hood. This was not her real name, but every one called her that, because she wore a red cloak and hood which her kind grandmother had made for her.
Red Riding-Hood lived with her mother in a cottage quite close to a wood, and her father, who was a wood-cutter, went every day into the forest to cut down trees. Now the kind grandmother, who had given little Red Riding-Hood the scarlet cloak, lived all by herself in a dear little cottage all covered with roses, further off in the wood, and there was nothing Red Riding-Hood loved better than going to see her grandmother.
So one day when she had been a very good child her mother said to her: "You shall have a holiday to-day, my dear, and go to visit your grandmother. See, I have put a little pot of honey and a pat of butter in this basket, and two fresh eggs for tea. Carry them carefully, and do not loiter on the way."
Red Riding-Hood promised to carry the basket most carefully, and to go straight to the cottage; so her mother tied on her little red hood and kissed her good-bye, and off she went.
At first she walked very properly and carried the basket most carefully, but when she got into the wood her feet began to dance a little, and she longed to put down the basket and pick the flowers that smiled up at her, and to chase the sunbeams that danced across her path.
Just then a great grey Wolf came loitering along the path, and seeing Little Red Riding-Hood he stopped to speak to her.
"Good-morning," he said; "where are you going to this fine day?"
"Good-morning, Mr. Wolf," said Red Riding-Hood, politely dropping a curtsey. "I am going to see my grandmother, to take her a pot of honey and some butter and eggs."
"And where does your grandmother live, my dear?" asked the Wolf in his sweetest voice.
"She lives all by herself in a little cottage covered with roses not far from here," answered Red Riding-Hood; "you take the second turning to the right and the first to the left, and there you see the cottage."
"And when you arrive at the cottage, how do you get in?" asked the Wolf.
"Oh, I just tap at the door," said Red Riding-Hood, "and then grandmother says, "Lift the latch and come in."
"Well," said the Wolf, "it does seem a shame that you must walk so slowly and carefully. Why don't you put down your basket and gather a bunch of flowers for your kind old grandmother? You can do that easily before tea-time."
Then the Wolf trotted off, and Red Riding Hood thought it was a very good idea to gather some flowers for her grandmother. So she put down her basket, and quite forgot that she had promised her mother not to loiter, as she wandered further and further away from the path.
Now as soon as that wicked old Wolf was out of Red Riding-Hood's sight, he turned round and went back by another way as fast as he could.
"The second turning to the right and then the first to the left," he said to himself. "Aha! I shall gobble up the old grandmother first, and then have Red Riding-Hood for dessert."
And in a few minutes he came in sight of the little cottage covered with roses, and going up to the door he tapped as gently as he could.
"Lift up the latch and come in," cried an old voice from within.
So the Wolf lifted the latch, and the door flew open and in he rushed and gobbled up the poor old grandmother at one mouthful. Then he took one of her big frilled nightcaps out of a drawer, and tied it on his sinful, old, grey head and jumped into bed, taking care to pull the clothes well up under his chin. He had not long to wait, for by this time Red Riding-Hood had picked enough flowers and came running quickly to the cottage to make up for lost time.
"May I come in, dear grandmother?" she cried as she tapped at the door.
"Lift the latch and come in," said the Wolf in his softest voice. But his softest voice was nothing but a growl, and Red Riding-Hood looked quite anxious when she walked in.
"I have brought you a pot of honey and a pat of butter and two fresh eggs," she said as she put the basket on the table; "but grandmother, how strange your voice sounds, and why are you in bed?"
"I have a cold on my chest," answered the Wolf. "Come here, my dear, and sit on my bed."
Then Red Riding-Hood came to the foot of the bed, and her eyes grew rounder and rounder with surprise.
"Grandmother, grandmother, what great eyes you've got!" she said as she saw the hungry gleam in the Wolf's eyes.
"All the better to see you with, my dear," answered the Wolf.
"But grandmother, grandmother, what great ears you've got!"
"All the better to hear you with, my dear."
"But, O grandmother, grandmother, what great teeth you've got!"
"All the better to eat you up with, my dear." And the old Wolf threw off the bedclothes, and with one bound sprang at Little Red Riding-Hood. She turned and ran screaming to the door, but the Wolf was after her, and had just caught her little red cloak in his mouth when the door burst open, and Red Riding-Hood's own dear father came rushing in. He lifted his axe, and with one blow struck the wicked old Wolf dead, and then caught up Red Riding-Hood in his arms.
"Oh, I think he must have eaten up poor dear grandmother," sobbed Red Riding Hood.
"We'll soon see if he has," said her father, and took out his knife. Then he carefully ripped the old Wolf up, and there was the old grandmother safe and sound, for the Wolf had swallowed her so hastily that his great teeth had not touched her.
So they boiled the kettle and had tea together, and ate up the honey and the butter and the fresh eggs, and never was there a merrier feast. And Little Red Riding-Hood promised that she would never, never, never talk to any wolf she might meet, or loiter on her way when sent on an errand by her dear mother.