THE TWO CASKETS 9?
sible for her to do her mistress's bidding? However, she was silent, and taking the sieve went down to the well with it. Stooping over the side, she filled it to the brim, but as soon as she lifted it the water all ran out of the holes. Again and again she tried, but not a drop would remain in the sieve, and she was just turning away in despair when a flock of sparrows flew down from the sky.
'Ashes! ashes!' they twittered; and the girl looked at them and said:
'Well, I can't be in a worse plight than I am already, so I will take your advice.' And she ran back to the kitchen and filled her sieve with ashes. Then once more she dipped the sieve into the well, and, behold, this time not a drop of water disappeared!
'Here is the sieve, mistress,' cried the girl, going to the room where the old woman was sitting.
'You are cleverer than I expected,' answered she; 'or else someone helped you who is skilled in magic' But the girl kept silence, and the old woman asked her no more questions.
Many days passed during which the girl went about her work as usual, but at length one day the old woman called her and said:
'I have something more for you to do. There are here two yarns, the one white, the other black. What you must do is to wash them in the river till the black one becomes white and the white black.' And the girl took them to the river and washed hard for several hours, but wash as she would they never changed one whit.
'This is worse than the sieve,' thought she, and was about to give up in despair when there came a rush of wings through the air, and on every twig of the birch trees which grew by the bank was perched a sparrow.
'The black to the east, the white to the west!' they sang, all at once; and the girl dried her tears and felt brave