THE TWELVE BROTHERS. 55
The king, on this, came nearer, and saw with surprise the beautiful king's daughter with the golden star on her forehead sitting among the branches. He was so struck with her beauty, that he begged her to come down, and asked her to be his bride. She did not speak a word, but merely nodded her head. Then the king himself climbed up into the tree, and bringing her down, seated her on his own horse and galloped away with her to his home.
The marriage was soon after celebrated with great pomp, but the bride neither spoke nor laughed.
When they had lived happily together for some years, the king's mother, a wicked witch, came to visit them, and she soon began to raise wicked reports about the queen, and to set her husband against her. "I dare say it is some beggar girl you have picked up," she said one day. " Who can tell in what wretched home she may have been trained ? Of course she can't help being dumb, but why does she never laugh, unless she has a guilty conscience." The king at first would listen to none of these Suspicions, but she led him on by degrees, and accused the queen of such wicked conduct, that at last he gave up his beautiful wife to be burnt to death. If she could have spoken to defend herself the king might have saved her, but she remained silent to save her brothers, and so he concluded she was guilty.
On the day of the execution the king stood weeping at a window overlooking the court of the palace, where the stakehad been erected, for he still loved her dearly. He saw her brought forth and tied to the stake; the fire kindled, and the flames with their forked tongues creeping towards her, when suddenly a rustling noise of wings was heard in the air; twelve black ravens alighted on the earth and instantly assumed their own forms—they were the brothers of the queen.
The last moment of the seven years* had expired; the enchantment was broken, and they arrived in time to save her. The fire was quickly extinguished, the queen when led by her brothers tQ the king, was able to speak to him and to smile in joy at being allowed to explain the cause of her silence.
The delight of the king was only equalled by his anger against the wicked witch, who was brought to justice and ordered to be thrown into a vat of oil full of poisonous snakes, where she died a dreadful death.