THE MAIDEN- WITHO UT HANDS.
But the king's mother was too good to attend to these dreadful orders, so she said to the queen, while her eyes streamed with tears, " I cannot kill you both, as the king desires me to do, but I must not let you remain here any longer. Go now out into the world with thy child, and do not come here again/' Then she bound the boy on his mother's back, and the poor woman departed, weeping as she went.
After walking some time, she reached a dense forest, and knew not which road to take. So she knelt down and prayed for help. As she rose from her knees she saw a light shining from the window of a little cottage, on which was hung a small sign-board, with these words, " Every one who dwells here is safe." Out of the cottage stepped a maiden dressed in snowy garments, and said, " Welcome, queen-wife," and led her in. Then she unfastened the baby from his mother's back, and hushed him in her arms till he slept so peacefully that she laid him on a bed in another room, and came back to his mother.
The poor woman looked at her earnestly and said, "How did you know I was a queen ?"
The white maiden replied, "I am a good fairy sent to take care of thee and thy child."
So she remained in that cottage many years, and was very happy, and so pious and good that her hands, which had been cut off, were allowed to grow again, and the little boy became her great comfort.
Not long after she had been sent away from the castle, the king returned, and immediately asked to see his wife and child.
Then his old mother began to weep, and said, "You wicked man, how can you ask me for your wife and child when you wrote me such dreadful letters, and told me to kill two such innocent beings."
The king, in distress, asked her what she meant; and she showed him the letters she had received, which were changed by the dreadful wizard. Then the king began to weep so bitterly for his wife and child, that the old woman pitied him and said, " Do not be so unhappy ; they still live, I could not kill them; but your wife and child are gone into the wide world, never to come back for fear of your anger."
Then said the king, " I will go to the ends of the earth to find