THE WONDERFUL BIRCH 129
a bride. Some days passed, and at last he had to take his bride home to the palace, and he got ready to do so. Just as they were taking leave, the kitchen wench sprang down from her place by the stove, on the pretext of fetching something from the cowhouse, and in going by she whispered in the Prince's ear as he stood in the yard :
' Alas ! dear Prince, do not rob me of my silver and my gold.'
Thereupon the King's son recognised the cinder wench ; so he took both the girls with him, and set out. After they had gone some little way they came to the bank of a river, and the Prince threw the witch's daughter across to serve as a bridge, and so got over with the cinder wench. There lay the witch's daughter then, like a bridge over the river, and could not stir, though her heart was consumed with grief. No help was near, so she cried at last in her anguish:
' May there grow a golden hemlock out of my body! perhaps my mother will know me by that token.'
Scarcely had she spoken when a golden hemlock sprang up from her, and stood upon the bridge.
Now, as soon as the Prince had got rid of the witch's daughter he greeted the cinder wench as his bride, and they wandered together to the birch tree which grew upon the mother's grave. There they received all sorts of treasures and riches, three sacks full of gold, and as much silver, and a splendid steed, which bore them home to the palace. There they lived a long time together, and the young wife bore a son to the Prince. Immediately word was brought to the witch that her daughter had borne a son—for they all believed the young King's wife to be the witch's daughter.
' So, so,' said the witch to herself; ' I had better away with my gift for the infant, then.'
And so saying she set out. Thus it happened that she came to the bank of the river, and there she saw the beautiful golden hemlock growing in the middle of the bridge, and when she began to cut it down to take to her grandchild, she heard a voice moaning:
' Alas ! dear mother, do not cut me so !'
' Are you here ? ' demanded the witch.
' Indeed I am, dear little mother,' answered the daughter ' They threw me across the river to make a bridge of me.'
In a moment the witch had the biidge shivered to atoms, and then she hastened away to the palace. Stepping up to the young Queen's bed, she began to try her magic arts upon her, saying :