`Why! there is a crock of gold for whoever finds it,' they cried, and they set to and ran, so eager were they for the gold.
And one of them ran taster than his mate, and outstripped him, and forced his way through the willows, and came out on the other side, and lo! there was indeed a thing of gold lying on the white snow. So he hastened towards it, and stooping down placed his hands upon it, and it was a cloak of golden tissue, curiously wrought with stars, and wrapped in many folds. And he cried out to his comrade that he had found the treasure that had fallen from the sky, and when his comrade had come up, they sat them down in the snow, and loosened the folds of the cloak that they might divide the pieces of gold. But, alas! no gold was in it, nor silver, nor, indeed, treasure of any kind, but only a little child who was asleep.
And one of them said to the other: `This is a bitter ending to our hope, nor have we any good fortune, for what doth a child profit to a man? Let us leave it here, and go our way, seeing that we are poor men, and have children of our own whose bread we may not give to another.'
But his companion answered him: `Nay, but it were an evil thing to leave the child to perish here in the snow, and though I am as poor as thou art, and have many mouths to feed, and but little in the pot, yet will I bring it home with me, and my wife shall have care of it.'
So very tenderly he took up the child, and wrapped the cloak around it to shield it from the harsh cold, and made his way down the hill to the village, his comrade marvelling much at his foolishness and softness of heart.
And when they came to the village, his comrade said to him, `Thou hast the child, therefore give me the cloak, for it is meet that we should share.'
But he answered him: `Nay, for the cloak is neither mine nor thine, but the child's only,' and he bade him Godspeed, and went to his own house and knocked.
And when his wife opened the door and saw that her husband had returned safe to her, she put her arms round his neck and kissed him, and took front his back the bundle of faggots, and brushed the snow off his boots, and bade him come in.
But he said to her, `I have found something in the forest, and I have brought it to thee to have care of it,' and he stirred not from the threshold.
`What is it?' she cried. `Show it to me, for the house is bare, and we have need of many things.' And he drew the cloak back, and showed her the sleeping child.
`Alack, goodman!' she murmured, `have we not children enough of our own, that thou must needs bring a changeling to sit by the hearth? And who knows if it will not bring us bad fortune? And how shall we tend it?' And she was wroth against him.
`Nay, but it is a Star-Child,' he answered; and he told her the strange manner of the finding of it.
But she would not be appeased, but mocked at him, and spoke angrily, and cried: `Our children lack bread, and shall we feed the child of another? Who is there who careth for us? And who giveth us food?'
`Nay, but God careth for the sparrows even, and feedeth them,' he answered.
`Do not the sparrows die of hunger in the winter?' she asked. And is it not winter now?' And the man answered nothing, but stirred not from the threshold.
And a bitter wind from the forest came in through the open door, and made her tremble, and she shivered, and said to him: `Wilt thou not close the door? There cometh a bitter wind into the house, and I am cold.'
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