266 ESBEN AND THE WITCH
' Oh, it's no use telling you,' said they. ' You can't help us, at any rate.'
' Oh, you might at least tell me,' said Esben; ' I have helped you before.'
In the end they told him that the king had ordered them to bring him a lamp which could shine over seven kingdoms, but such a lamp no one had ever heard tell of.
' Give me a bushel of salt,' said Esben, ' and we shall see how matters go.'
He got his bushel of salt, and then mounted his little white stick, and said,
Fly quick, my little stick, Carry me across the stream.
With that both he and his bushel of salt were over beside the witch's courtyard. But now matters were less easy, for he could not get inside the yard, as it was evening and the gate was locked. Finally he hit upon a plan; he got up on the roof and crept down the chimney.
He searched all round for the lamp, but could find it nowhere, for the witch always had it safely guarded, as it was one of her most precious treasures. When he became , tired of searching for it he crept into the baking-oven, intending to lie down there and sleep till morning; but just at that moment he heard the witch calling from her bed to one of her daughters, and telling her to make some porridge for her. She had grown hungry, and had taken such a fancy to some porridge. The daughter got out of bed, kindled the fire, and put on a pot with water in it.
' You must n't put any salt in the porridge, though,' cried the witch.
' No, neither will I,' said the daughter; but while she was away getting the meal Esben slipped out of the oven and emptied the whole bushel of salt into the pot. The daughter came back then and put in the meal, and after it had boiled a little she took it in to her mother. The witch took a spoonful and tasted it.