THE GOLDEN BLACKBIRD. 155
all the servants of the castle ran to see what was the matter, saying that he was a thief and must be put in prison.
"No," he answered, "I am not a thief. If I have taken the golden blackbird, it is only that it may cure my father, who is ill, and I have traveled more than seven hundred miles in order to find it."
"Well," they replied, "we will let you go, and will even give you the golden blackbird if you are able to bring us the porcelain maiden."
The youth departed, weeping, and met the little hare, who was munching wild thyme.
"What are you crying for, my friend?" asked the hare.
"It is because," he answered, "the castle people will not allow me to carry off the golden blackbird without giving them the porcelain maiden in exchange."
"You have not followed my advice," said the little hare. "And you have put the golden blackbird into the fine cage."
"Don't despair. The porcelain maiden is a young girl, beautiful as Venus, who dwells two hundred miles from here. Jump on my back and I will take you there."
The little hare, who took seven miles in a stride, was there in no time at all, and he stopped on the borders of a lake.
"The porcelain maiden," said the hare to the youth, "will come here to bathe with her friends, while I just eat a mouthful of thyme to refresh me. When she is in the lake be sure you hide her clothes, which are of dazzling whiteness, and do not give them back to her unless she consents to follow you."
The little hare left him, and almost immediately the porcelain maiden arrived with her friends. She undressed herself and got into the water. Then the young man glided up noiselessly and laid hold of her clothes, which he hid under a rock at some distance.
When the porcelain maiden was tired of playing in the water she came out to dress herself, but though she hunted for her clothes high and low she could find them nowhere. Her friends helped her in the search, but, seeing at last that it was of no use, they left her alone on the bank, weeping bitterly.
"Why do you cry?" said the young man, approaching her.