THE WONDERFUL BIRCH
the child the whole day long; but at nightfall it had to follow the herd, and said to the widow woman :
' Bring me the child to-morrow, and again the following day; after that I must wander with the herd far away to other lands.'
The following morning the widow woman went back to the castle to fetch the child. The witch interfered, of course, but the Prince said:
' Take it, and carry it about in the open air; the boy is quieter at night, to be sure, when he has been in the wood all day.'
So the widow took the child in her arms, and carried it to the marsh in the forest. There she sang as on the preceding day—
' Little Bright-eyes, little Kedskin, Come nurse the child you bore !
That bloodthirsty monster,
That man-eater grim, Shall nurse him, shall tend him no more.
They may threaten and force as they will,
He turns from her, shrinks from her still,'
and immediately the reindeer left the herd and came to the child, and tended it as on the day before. And so it was that the child throve, till not a finer boy was to be seen anywhere. But the King's son had been pondering over all these things, and he said to the widow woman:
' Is there no way of changing the reindeer into a human being again ?'
'1 don't rightly know,' was her answer. ' Come to the wood with me, however ; when the woman puts off her reindeer skin I shall comb her head for her ; whilst I am doing so you must burn the skin.'
Thereupon they both went to the wood with the child ; scarcely were they there when the reindeer appeared and nursed the child as before. Then the widow woman said to the reindeer :
' Since you are going far away to-morrow, and I shall not see you again, let me comb your head for the last time, as a remembrance of you.'
Good; the young woman stript off the reindeer skin, and let the widow woman do as she wished. In the meantime the King's son threw the reindeer skin into the fire unobserved.
' What smells of singeing here '? ' asked the young woman, and looking round she saw her own husband. ' Woe is me! you have burnt my skin. Why did you do that ? '