268 THE BATTLE OF THE BIRDS
jumped up in surprise, and at that moment in came the giant.
' Hast thou cleaned the byre, king's son ? ' asked he.
' I have cleaned it,' answered he.
' Well, since thou wert so active to-day, to-morrow thou wilt thatch this byre with a feather from every different bird, or else thy blood shall pay for it,' and he went out.
Before the sun was up, the youth took his bow and his quiver and set off to kill the birds. Off to the moor he went, but never a bird was to be seen that day. At last he got so tired with running to and fro that he gave up heart.
' There is but one death I can die,' thought he. Then at midday came the giant's daughter.
' Thou art tired, king's son ? ' said she.
'1 am,' answered he; ' all these hours have I wandered, and there fell but these two blackbirds, both of one colour.'
' Lay down thy weariness on the grass,' said she, and he did as she bade him, and fell fast asleep.
When he woke the girl had disappeared, and he got up, and returned to the byre. As he drew near, he rubbed his eyes hard, thinking he was dreaming, for there it was, beautifully thatched, just as the giant had wished. At the door of the house he met the giant.
' Hast thou thatched the byre, king's son ? '
' I have thatched it.'
' Well, since thou hast been so active to-day, I have something else for thee ! Beside the loch thou seest over yonder there grows a fir tree. On the top of the fir tree is a magpie's nest, and in the nest are five eggs. Thou wilt bring me those eggs for breakfast, and if one is cracked or broken, thy blood shall pay for it.'
Before it was light next day, the king's son jumped out of bed and ran down to the loch. The tree was