The Complete Fairy Tales & Other Stories
By Hans Christian Andersen - online book

Oxford Complete Illustrated Edition all his stories written between 1835 and 1872.

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146                        THE WILD SWANS
bishop. He was awake while others slept. Now he felt sure his opinion was correct, that all was not as it should be with the Queen ; she was a witch, and thus she had bewitched the King and the whole people.
In secret he told the King what he had seen and what he feared ; and when the hard words came from his tongue, the pictures of saints in the cathedral shook their heads, as though they could have said, ' It is not so ! Eliza is innocent ! ' But the archbishop interpreted this differently —he thought they were bearing witness against her, and shaking their heads at her sinfulness. Then two heavy tears rolled down the King's cheeks ; he went home with doubt in his heart, and at night pretended to be asleep ; but no quiet sleep came upon his eyes, for he noticed that Eliza got up. Every night she did this, and each time he followed her silently, and saw how she disappeared from her chamber.
From day to day his face became darker. Eliza saw it, but did not understand the reason ; but it frightened her— and what did she not suffer in her heart for her brothers ? Her hot tears flowed upon the royal velvet and purple ; they lay there like sparkling diamonds, and all who saw the splendour wished they were Queens. In the meantime she had almost finished her work. Only one shirt of mail was still to be completed, but she had no flax left, and not a single nettle. Once more, for the last time, therefore, she must go to the churchyard, only to pluck a few hand-fuls. She thought with terror of this solitary wandering and of the horrible lamias, but her will was firm as her trust in Providence.
Eliza went on, but the King and the archbishop followed her. They saw her vanish into the churchyard through the wicket gate ; and when they drew near, the lamias were sitting upon the gravestones as Eliza had seen them ; and the King turned aside, for he fancied her among them, whose head had rested against his breast that very evening.
' The people must judge her,' said he.
And the people condemned her to suffer death by fire.
Out of the gorgeous regal halls she was led into a dark damp cell, where the wind whistled through the grated window ; instead of velvet and silk they gave her the