148 2 HE MAIDEN WITHOUT HANDS.
watchers saw her eat a pear from the tree without plucking it, while an angel stood near in white garments.
Then the priest went towards her and said, "Art thou come from heaven or from earth ? art thou a spirit or a human being ?"
Then the maiden answered, " Oh me ! I am no ghost, only a poor creature forsaken by every one but God,"
Then said the king, " You may be forsaken by all the world, but if you will let me be your friend, I will never forsake you."
So the maiden was taken to the king's castle, and she was so beautiful and modest that the king learnt to love her with all his heart He had silver hands made for her, and very soon after they were married with great pomp.
About a year after, the king had to go to battle, and he placed his young wife under the care of his mother, who promised to be very kind to her, and to write to him.
Not long after this, the queen had a little son born, and the king's mother wrote a letter to him immediately, so that he might have the earliest intelligence, and sent it by a messenger.
The messenger, however, after travelling a long way, became tired, and sat down to rest by a brook, where he soon fell fast asleep. Then came the wizard, who was always trying to injure the good queen, took away the letter from the sleeping messenger, and replaced it by another, in which it was stated that the little child wras a changeling.
Knowing nothing of the change, the messenger carried this letter to the king, who when he read it was terribly distressed and troubled. However, he wrote in reply to say that the queen was to have every attention and care till his return.
The wicked wizard again watched for the messenger, and while he slept exchanged the king's kind letter for another, in which was written to the king's mother an order to kill both the queen and her child.
The old mother was quite terrified when she read this letter, for she could not believe the king meant her to do anything so dreadful. She wrote again to the king, but there was no answer, for the wicked wizard always interrupted the messengers, and sent false letters. The last was worse than all, for it stated that instead of killing the mother and her child, they were to cut out the tongue of the changeling and put out the mother's eyes.