flower-buds, and the wind seized the bridges and palaces, and
fluttered them in the air like cobwebs.
As John left the wood, a strong man's voice called after him,
"Hallo, comrade, where are you travelling?"
"Into the wide world," he replied; "I am only a poor lad, I have
neither father nor mother, but God will help me."
"I am going into the wide world also," replied the stranger;
"shall we keep each other company?"
"With all my heart," he said, and so they went on together. Soon
they began to like each other very much, for they were both good;
but John found out that the stranger was much more clever than
himself. He had travelled all over the world, and could describe
almost everything. The sun was high in the heavens when they seated
themselves under a large tree to eat their breakfast, and at the
same moment an old woman came towards them. She was very old and almost bent double. She leaned upon a stick and carried on her back a bundle of firewood, which she had collected in the forest; her apron was tied round it, and John saw three great stems of fern and some willow twigs peeping out. just as she came close up to them, her foot slipped and she fell to the ground screaming loudly; poor old
woman, she had broken her leg! John proposed directly that they should carry the old woman home to her cottage; but the stranger opened his knapsack and took out a box, in which he said he had a salve that would quickly make her leg well and strong again, so that she would be able to walk home herself, as if her leg had never been broken. And all that he would ask in return was the three fern stems which she carried in her apron.