150 THE MAIDEN WITHOUT HANDS.
them, and I will neither eat nor drink till I find my dear wife, even if I should die of hunger." Thereupon the king started on his expedition, travelling over rocks and valleys, over mountains and highways, for seven long years; but he found her not, and he thought she was starved to death, and that he should never see her again.
He neither ate nor drank during the whole time of earthly food, but heaven sent him help. At last he arrived at a large forest, and found the little cottage with the sign-board, and the words upon it, "Every one who dwells here is safe."
While he stood reading the words the maiden in white raiment came out, took him by the hand, and led him into the cottage, saying, " My lord the king is welcome ; but why is he here ?"
Then he replied, " I have been for seven years travelling about the world hoping to find my wife and child, but I have not yet succeeded. Can you help me?"
" Sit down," said the angel, " and take something to eat and drink first."
The king was so tired that he gladly obeyed, for he really wanted rest Then he laid himself down and slept, and the maiden in the white raiment covered his face.
Then she went into an inner chamber where the queen sat with her little son, whom she had named " Painbringer," and said to her, "Go out together into the other chamber, thy husband is come."
The poor queen went out, but still sorrowfully, for she remembered the cruel letters his mother had received, and knew not that he still loved her.
Just as she entered the room the covering fell off his face, and she told her little son to replace it.
The boy went forward and laid the cloth gently over the face of the strange man. But the king heard the voice in his slumber, and moved his head so that the covering again fell off.
" My child," said the queen, " cover the face of thy father."
He looked at her in surprise, and said, " How can I cover my father's face, dear mother? I have no father in this world. You have taught me to pray to < Our Father, which art in heaven / and I thought my father was God. This strange man is not my father; I don't know him."