THE DRAGON OF THE NORTH 11
bird. ' She has no settled dwelling, but is here to-day and gone to-morrow. He might as well try to catch the wind.'
The other replied, ' I do not know, certainly, where she is at present, but in three nights from now she will come to the spring to wash her face, as she does every month when the moon is full, in order that she may never grow old nor wrinkled, but may always keep the bloom of youth.'
' Well,' said the first bird, ' the spring is not far from here. Shall we go and see how it is she does it ? '
' Willingly, if you like,' said the other.
The youth immediately resolved to follow the birds to the spring, only two things made him uneasy : first, lest he might be asleep when the birds went, and secondly, lest he might lose sight of them, since he had not wings to carry him along so swiftly. He was too tired to keep awake all night, yet his anxiety prevented him from sleeping soundly, and when with the earliest dawn he looked up to the tree-top, he was glad to see his feathered companions still asleep with their heads under their wings. He ate his breakfast, and waited until the birds should start, but they did not leave the place all day. They hopped about from one tree to another looking for food, all day long until the evening, when they went back to their old perch to sleep. The next day the same thing happened, but on the third morning one bird said to the other, i To-day we must go to the spring to see the Witch-maiden wash her face.' They remained on the tree till noon ; then they flew away and went towards the south. The young man's heart beat with anxiety lest he should lose sight of his guides, but he managed to keep the birds in view until they again perched upon a tree. The young man ran after them until he was quite exhausted and out of breath, and after three short rests the birds at length reached a small open space in the forest, on the edge of which they placed themselves on the top of a high tree. When the youth had overtaken them, he saw that there was a clear spring in the middle of the space. He sat down at the foot of the tree upon which the birds were perched, and listened attentively to what they were saying to each other.
' The sun is not down yet,' said the first bird ; ' we must wait yet awhile till the moon rises and the maiden comes to the spring. Do you think she will see that young man sitting under the tree ? '
Nothing is likely to escape her eyes, certainly not a young man, said the other bird. ( Will the youth have the sense not to let himself be caught in her toils ? '