114 THE ENCHANTED WREATH
and clucked so loud with delight, and made such a noise, that they woke up all the birds in the trees close by.
'What in the world is the matter?' asked the birds sleepily.
' That is our secret,' said the doves.
Meanwhile the girl had reached home crosser than ever; but as soon as her mother heard her lift the latch of the door she ran out to hear her adventures. 'Well, did you get the wreath ?' cried she.
'Dirty creatures!' answered her daughter.
'Don't speak to me like that! What do you mean?' asked the mother again.
'Dirty creatures!' repeated the daughter, and nothing else could she say.
Then the woman saw that something evil had befallen her, and turned in her rage to her stepdaughter.
' You are at the bottom of this, I know,' she cried; and as the father was out of the way she took a stick and beat the girl till she screamed with pain and went to bed sobbing.
If the poor girl's lif< - had been miserable before, it was ten times worse now, for the moment her father's back was turned the others teased and tormented her from morning till night; and their fury was increased by the sight of the wreath, which the doves had placed again on her head.
Things went on like this for some weeks, when, one day, as the king's son was riding through the forest, he heard some strange birds singing more sweetly than birds had ever sung before. He tied his horse to a tree, and followed where the sound led him, and, to his surprise, he saw before him a beautiful girl chopping wood, with a wreath of pink rose-buds, out of which the singing came. Standing in the shelter of a tree, he watched her a long while, and then, hat in hand, he went up and spoke to her.
'Fair maiden, who are you, and who gave you that