THE BATTLE OF THE BIRDS 271
not hard to find, for the rising sun shone red on the trunk, which was five hundred feet from the ground to its first branch. Time after time ho walked round it, trying to find some knots, however small, where he could put his feet, but the bark was quite smooth, and he soon saw that if he was to reach the top at all, it must be by climbing up with his knees like a sailor. But then he was a king's son and not a sailor, which made all the difference.
However, it was no use standing there staring at the fir, at least he must try to do his best, and try he did till his hands and knees were sore, for as soon as he had struggled up a few feet, he slid back again. Once he climbed a little higher than before, and hope rose in his heart, then down he came with such force that his hands and knees smarted worse than ever.
' This is no time for stopping,' said the voice of the giant's daughter, as he leant against the trunk to recover his breath.
' Alas ! I am no sooner up than down,' answered he.
' Try once more,' said she, and she laid a finger against the tree and bade him put his foot on it. Then she placed another finger a little higher up, and so on till he reached the top, where the magpie had built her nest.
' Make haste now with the nest,' she cried, ' for my father's breath is burning my back,' and down he scrambled as fast as he could, but the girl's little finger had caught in a branch at the top, and she was obliged to leave it there. But she was too busy to pay heed to this, for the sun was getting high over the hills.
' Listen to me,' she said. ' This night my two sisters and I will be dressed in the same garments, and you will not know me. But when my father says ' Go to thy wife, king's son,' come to the one whose right hand has no little finger.'