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drenched with rain, and shivering with cold.
Kate finding she only wanted shelter, and had come to beg, turned quickly on her heel and shut the door in her face; but Nell prayed of her sister to let the old woman in-doors. Kate laughed, and said the rain would freshen her cloak for her. Then the wind came stronger and stronger in its blasts, and one of them sweeping round the cottage pretty smartly, blew wide open the door.
There was the poor old dame still, and Nell would have ber in this time; so in she came and sat down. Neli pulled off her cloak and shoes soaked with rain, and sat her up by the fire snug and warm, whilst Kate grumbled in the corner.
When the old woman showed her face, it was even plainer than Nell's, for she had but one eye, and her mous
taches were red. Kate laughed loud and rudely, but the old woman said, Handsome is that handsome does.”
Then they all three set to comb the wool, but the old woman would only help Nell. When they moved to bed, all Nell's wool was combed, and was of the finest possible sort, while Kate had not above a third of hers combed, and that as coarse as a rope mat.
In the morning, when the stranger went away, she gave Nell her stick, and bade her take care of it till she saw her again. Soon after she was gone, Kate, who was vexed with her work, began to scold and grumble at Nell for letting in such people, and then the stick began immediately to caper and dance about in a way as if it were enchanted. Here, there, over the chairs, under the table, round the room; and the louder Kate talked, the higher danced the stick. Kate's passion knew no bounds. She chased the stick all round the room, but she fell over it and bruised her legs sorely; and when she did get it, it so jerked her hand that she would fain get rid of it. So she threw it into the fire, and it turned over the boiling kettle, and the hot water scalded her foot so that she limped with pain, and Nell was obliged to bear her off to bed. When Kate awoke in the morning there was the stick as sound as ever, none the worse for the fire.
Through all her pain and illness Nell waited without a murmur on her sister, who only grumbled, and was worse-tempered than ever. week, the old woman who had left the stick came back. The stick was in high disgrace, for whenever Kate opened her lips to scold, away it went bounding and clicking the walls as loud as it could ; besides, Kate was
lame through its pranks. She vowed the old woman should never set foot in the house again, and Nell was obliged to hand the stick out of the cottage window. Before Kate had finished her scolding about the pranks of the stick, the old woman, stick and all, were gone, and a black cat sat mewing on the window-ledge. Kate was sure this cat must be the old woman's cat, for whenever she begun to grumble and tease her sister the cat mewed and squalled as loud as a whole legion of cats, and then Kate's hatred for the old woman and the stick was now bestowed on the cat, who had a nice life of it. Did she either mew or purr even, Kate threw a stick or stone at her, but somehow the cat always got clear and unhurt away.
One day, in a worse humour than ever, after limping about to catch the
cat, which always mewed louder and louder as Kate pursued it, Kate did contrive to seize her at last; but no good came of it, for the cat fought wildly and scratched her arms and neck, and at last blinded her in one of her bright, beautiful eyes. Kate was now lame, blind, and covered with bites, all owing to the horrid old wo
If Nell was ill-treated before, she was now a mere slave to Kate, whose bad temper had become worse and worse with the loss of her beauty. The cat too had fled, and Nell had no one to stand up for her. Matters grew so bad between the sisters, that one day Kate absolutely lifted her hand to strike Nell, when she felt her arm seized by the little old woman, who stood behind her. Kate was terribly frightened, for how the old woman came there no one could say.
Then the old dame, taking poor