196 THE ONE-HANDED GIRL
had wasted all the riches his wife had brought him in recklessness and folly, and was now very poor, chanced to come into the town, and as he passed he heard a man say, ' Do you know that the king's son has married a woman who has lost one of her hands ? ' On hearing these words the brother stopped and asked, ' Where did he find such a woman ? '
' In the forest,' answered the man, and the cruel brother guessed at once it must be his sister.
A great rage took possession of his soul as he thought of the girl whom he had tried to ruin being after all so much better off than himself, and he vowed that he would work her ill. Therefore that very afternoon he made his way to the palace and asked to see the king.
When he was admitted to his presence, he knelt down and touched the ground with his forehead, and the king bade him stand up and tell wherefore he had come.
' By the kindness of your heart have you been deceived, 0 king,' said he. ' Your son has married a girl who has lost a hand. Do you know why she has lost it ? She was a witch, and has wedded three husbands, and each husband she has put to death with her arts. Then the people of the town cut off her hand, and turned her into the forest. And what I say is true, for her town is my town also.'
The king listened, and his face grew dark. Unluckily he had a hasty temper, and did not stop to reason, and, instead of sending to the town, and discovering people who knew his daughter-in-law and could have told him how hard she had worked and how poor she had been, he believed all the brother's lying words, and made the queen believe them too. Together they took counsel what they should do, and in the end they decided that they also would put her out of the town. But this did not content the brother.
' Kill her,' he said. ' It is no more than she deserves