Out there in the snow sat a woman, dressed in long black garments. "Death," she said, "has been in your house. I just saw him hurrying away with your child in his arms. He goes faster than the wind. And he never brings back what he has taken away."
"Tell me which way he went," said the mother. "Only tell me the way, and I will find him."
"I know the way," said the woman in black, "but before I tell you, you must sing to me all those songs you used to sing to your child. I am night. I love lullabies and I hear them often. When you sang them I saw your tears."
"I shall sing them again-you shall hear them all," said the mother, "but do not stop me now. I must catch him. I must hurry to find my child."
Night kept silent and still, while the mother wrung her hands, and sang, and wept. She sang many songs, but the tears that she shed were many, many more. At last Night said to her, "Go to the right. Go into the dark pine woods. I saw Death go there with your child."
Deep into the woods the mother came to a crossroad, where she was at a loss which way to go. At the crossroad grew a blackthorn bush, without leaf or flower, for it was wintertime and its branches were glazed with ice.
"Did you see Death go by with my little child?"
"Yes," said the blackthorn bush. "But I shall not tell you which way he went unless you warm me against your heart. I am freezing to death. I am stiff with ice."
She pressed the blackthorn bush against her heart to warm it, and the thorns stabbed so deep into her flesh that great drops of red blood flowed. So warm was the mother's heart that the blackthorn bush blossomed and put forth green leaves on that dark winter's night. And it told her the way to go.