theRE was once a girl who trod on a loaf toavoid soiling her shoes， and the misfortunes thathappened to her in consequence are well known.Her name was Inge; she was a poor child， butproud and presuming， and with a bad and crueldisposition. When quite a little child she woulddelight in catching flies， and tearing off theirwings， so as to make creeping things of them.When older， she would take cockchafers and beetles， and stick pins through them. Then shepushed a GREen leaf， or a little scrap of paper towards their feet， and when the poorcreatures would seize it and hold it fast， and turn over and over in their struggles to get freefrom the pin， she would say， “The cockchafer is reading; see how he turns over the leaf.”She grew worse instead of better with years， and， unfortunately， she was pretty， whichcaused her to be excused， when she should have been sharply reproved.
“Your headstrong will requires severity to conquer it，” her mother often said to her. “Asa little child you used to trample on my apron， but one day I fear you will trample on myheart.” And， alas! this fear was realized.
Inge was taken to the house of some rich people， who lived at a distance， and whotreated her as their own child， and dressed her so fine that her pride and arroganceincreased.
When she had been there about a year， her patroness said to her， “You ought to go，for once， and see your parents， Inge.”
So Inge started to go and visit her parents; but she only wanted to show herself in hernative place， that the people might see how fine she was. She reached the entrance of thevillage， and saw the young laboring men and maidens standing together chatting， and herown mother amongst them. Inge's mother was sitting on a stone to rest， with a fagot ofsticks lying before her， which she had picked up in the wood. Then Inge turned back; shewho was so finely dressed she felt ashamed of her mother， a poorly clad woman， who pickedup wood in the forest. She did not turn back out of pity for her mother's poverty， but frompride.
Another half-year went by， and her mistress said， “you ought to go home again， andvisit your parents， Inge， and I will give you a large wheaten loaf to take to them， they will beglad to see you， I am sure.”
So Inge put on her best clothes， and her new shoes， drew her dress up around her，and set out， stepping very carefully， that she might be clean and neat about the feet， andthere was nothing wrong in doing so. But when she came to the place where the footpath ledacross the moor， she found small pools of water， and a GREat deal of mud， so she threwthe loaf into the mud， and trod upon it， that she might pass without wetting her feet. But asshe stood with one foot on the loaf and the other lifted up to step forward， the loaf began tosink under her， lower and lower， till she disappeared altogether， and only a few bubbles onthe surface of the muddy pool remained to show where she had sunk. And this is the story.
But where did Inge go? She sank into the ground， and went down to the Marsh Woman，who is always brewing there.
the Marsh Woman is related to the elf maidens， who are well-known， for songs are sungand pictures painted about them. But of the Marsh Woman nothing is known， excepting thatwhen a mist arises from the meadows， in summer time， it is because she is brewing beneaththem. To the Marsh Woman's brewery Inge sunk down to a place which no one can endure forlong. A heap of mud is a palace compared with the Marsh Woman's brewery; and as Inge fellshe shuddered in every limb， and soon became cold and stiff as marble. Her foot was stillfastened to the loaf， which bowed her down as a golden ear of corn bends the stem.
An evil spirit soon took possession of Inge， and carried her to a still worse place， inwhich she saw crowds of unhappy people， waiting in a state of agony for the gates of mercyto be opened to them， and in every heart was a miserable and eternal feeling of unrest. Itwould take too much time to describe the various tortures these people suffered， but Inge'spunishment consisted in standing there as a statue， with her foot fastened to the loaf. Shecould move her eyes about， and see all the misery around her， but she could not turn herhead; and when she saw the people looking at her she thought they were admiring her prettyface and fine clothes， for she was still vain and proud. But she had forgotten how soiled herclothes had become while in the Marsh Woman's brewery， and that they were covered withmud; a snake had also fastened itself in her hair， and hung down her back， while from eachfold in her dress a GREat toad peeped out and croaked like an asthmatic poodle. Worse than allwas the terrible hunger that tormented her， and she could not stoop to break off a piece ofthe loaf on which she stood. No; her back was too stiff， and her whole body like a pillar ofstone. And then came creeping over her face and eyes flies without wings; she winked andblinked， but they could not fly away， for their wings had been pulled off; this， added to thehunger she felt， was horrible torture.
“If this lasts much longer，” she said， “I shall not be able to bear it.” But it did last， andshe had to bear it， without being able to help herself.
A tear， followed by many scalding tears， fell upon her head， and rolled over her faceand neck， down to the loaf on which she stood. Who could be weeping for Inge? She had amother in the world still， and the tears of sorrow which a mother sheds for her child will alwaysfind their way to the child's heart， but they often increase the torment instead of being arelief. And Inge could hear all that was said about her in the world she had left， and every oneseemed cruel to her. The sin she had committed in treading on the loaf was known on earth，for she had been seen by the cowherd from the hill， when she was crossing the marsh andhad disappeared.
When her mother wept and exclaimed， “Ah，Inge! what grief thou hast caused thy mother” shewould say， “Oh that I had never been born! Mymother's tears are useless now.”
And then the words of the kind people who hadadopted her came to her ears， when they said， “Inge was a sinful girl， who did not value the gifts ofGod， but trampled them under her feet.”
“Ah，” thought Inge， “they should havepunished me， and driven all my naughty tempersout of me.”