THE WONDERFUL BIRCH
' Let thern be,' was her mother's reply; ' if you need them I shall give you finer ones.'
Scarcely was she in her usual place behind the stove when her father came home with the witch. Immediately the witch began to mock her, saying :
' Ah ! you poor thing, there is nothing for you to see here, and we—ah : what great things we have seen at the palace ! My little girl was carried about again, but had the ill-luck to fall and get her eye knocked out. You stupid thing, you, what do you know about anything ? '
' Yes, indeed, what can I know ? ' replied the girl; ' I had enough to do to get the hearth clean.'
Now the Prince had kept all the things the girl had lost, and he soon set about finding the owner of them. For this purpose a great banquet was given on the fourth day, and all the people were invited to the palace. The witch got ready to go too. She tied a wooden beetle on where her child's foot should have been, a log of wood instead of an arm, and stuck a bit of dirt in the empty socket for an eye, and took the child with her to the castle. When all the people were gathered together, the King's son stepped in among the crowd and cried :
' The maiden whose finger this ring slips over, whose head this golden hoop encircles, and whose foot this shoe fits, shall be my bride.'
What a great trying on there was now among them all! The things would fit no one, however.
' The cinder wench is not here,' said the Prince at last; ' go and fetch her, and let her try on the things.'
So the girl was fetched, and the Prince was just going to hand the ornaments to her, when the witch held him back, saying :
'Don't give them to her; she soils everything with cinders; give them to my daughter rather.'
Well, then the Prince gave the witch's daughter the ring, and the woman filed and pared away at her daughter's finger till the ring fitted. It was the same with the circlet and the shoes of gold. The witch would not allow them to be handed to the cinder wench; she worked at her own daughter's head and feet till she got the things forced on. What was to be done now ? The Prince had to take the witch's daughter for his bride whether he would or no ; lie sneaked away to her father's house with her, however, for he wis ashamed to hold the wedding festivities at the palace with so strange