80 THE THREE LITTLE MEN IN THE WOOD.
passed by, in which sat a young king. He stopped the carriage when he saw the maiden, and said, " My child, why are you out here in the cold, and what are you doing?"
"l am a poor maiden," she replied; " and I am cleaning yarn."
Then the king was full of pity, and seeing such a beautiful maiden so cruelly served in such cold weather he said, "Will you ride with me ?"
"Oh yes," she replied, "with all my heart," for she was overjoyed at the thought of escaping out of sight of her step-mother and sister. Then she entered the carriage, and the king drove her a long way from home, to his castle. And in a very short time after the king asked her to be his wife, and the marriage was celebrated with great splendour, as the little men in the wood had foretold.
In about a year the young queen had a little son, of whom she was very fond. And the step-mother, who had heard of her good fortune, went with her daughter to the castle, and they both made themselves so agreeable that they were invited to make a long visit.
But one day, while the king was from home and no one in the castle near, the wicked woman laid hold of the queen by the head, and her daughter held her by the feet; then they lifted her out of bed, and threw her from the window into a stream that flowed on one side of the castle.
After this wicked deed the step-mother placed her own daughter in the bed and covered her over with the clothes till only the top of her head could be seen. When the king came back and wished to speak to his wife, the mother exclaimed, "Hush, hush ! you must not disturb her, she is in a sweet sleep." However, the next morning the king would see his wife, although he never suspected such wickedness; but when he spoke to her and she answered him, there sprung out of her mouth at each word a toad, instead of the pieces of gold as before. Then the king enquired what could be the cause of this dreadful change, and the old woman said that if she could have another sound sleep she would soon be all right again. So the king left her. That night the king's page saw something like a duck swimming across the moat under the kings window, and heard a voice saying—