THE WONDERFUL BIRCH
did not see her, and thinking it was a dog, he gave her such a push with his foot that her arm was broken. Are you not sorry for the witch's daughter '? It was not her fault that her mother was a witch.
Towards evening the good man's daughter thought it was time to go home ; but as she went, her ring caught on the latch of the door, for the King's son had had it smeared with tar. She did not take time to pull it off, but, hastily unfastening her horse from the pillar, she rode away beyond the castle walls as swift as an arrow. Arrived at home, she took off her clothes by the birch tree, left her horse standing there, and hastened to her place behind the stove. In a short time the man and the woman came home again too, and the witch said to the girl:
' Ah ! you poor thing, there you are to be sure ! You don't know what fine times we have had at the palace ! The King's son carried my daughter about, but the poor thing fell and broke her arm.'
The girl knew well how matters really stood, but she pretended to know nothing about it, and sat dumb behind the stove.
The next day they were invited again to the King's banquet.
'Hey! old man.' said the witch, 'get on your clothes as quick as you can ; we are bidden to the feast. Take you the child ; I will give the other one work, lest she weary.'
She kindled the fire, threw a potful of hemp seed among the ashes, and said to the girl :
' If you do not get this sorted, and all the seed back into the pot, I shall kill you!'
The girl wept bitterly ; then she went to the birch tree, washed herself on one side of it and dried herself on the other ; and this . time still finer clothes were given to her, and a very beautiful steed. She broke off a branch of the birch tree, struck the hearth with it, so that the seeds flew into the pot, and then hastened to the castle.
Again the King's son came out to meet her, tied her horse to a pillar, and led her into the banqueting hall. At the feast the girl sat next him in the place of honour, as she had done the day before. Hut the witch's daughter gnawed bones under the table, and the Prince gave herapnsh by mistake, which broke her leg—he had never noticed her crawling about among the people's feet. She was very unlucky !
The good man's daughter hastened home again betimes, but the