THE WONDERFUL BIRCH 127
King's son had smeared the door-posts with tar, and the girl's golden circlet stuck to it. She had not time to look for it, but sprang to the saddle and rode like an arrow to the birch tree. There she left her horse and her fine clothes, and said to her mother:
' I have lost my circlet at the castle ; the door-post was tarred, and it stuck fast.'
' And even had you lost two of them,' answered her mother, ' I would give you finer ones.'
Then the girl hastened home, and when her father came home from the feast with the witch, she was in her usual place behind the stove. Then the witch said to her :
' You poor thing! what is there to see here compared with what we have seen at the palace ? The King's son carried my daughter from one room to another ; he let her fall, 'tis true, and my child's foot was broken.'
The man's daughter held her peace all the time, and busied herself about the hearth.
The night passed, and when the day began to dawn, the witch awakened her husband, crying :
' Hi ! get up, old man ! We are bidden to the royal banquet.'
So the old man got up. Then the witch gave him the child, saying :
' Take you the little one; I will give the other girl work to do, else she will weary at home alone.'
She did as usual. This time it was a dish of milk she poured upon the ashes, saying :
' If you do not get all the milk into the dish again before I come home, you will suffer for it.'
How frightened the girl was this time ! She ran to the birch tree, and by its magic power her task was accomplished; and then she rode away to the palace as before. When she got to the courtyard she found the Prince waiting for her. He led her into the hall, where she was highly honoured; but the witch's daughter sucked the bones under the table, and crouching at the people's feet she got an eye knocked out, poor thing ! Now no one knew any more than before about the good man's daughter, no one knew whence she came; but the Prince had had the threshold smeared with tar, and as she fled her gold slippers stuck to it. She reached the birch tree, and laying aside her finery, she said:
' Alas! dear little mother, I have lost my gold slippers ! '