522 THE YOUNG COUNTS REWARD.
to drive me away? What shall I do? I have no friends and no home, and where can I go ? I have always done everything you wished, and you have been satisfied with me. Oh, do not send me away!"
But the old woman seemed unwilling to tell the maiden what was going to happen, so she said : " I cannot stop here any longer, and, when I leave this house, every room must be in perfect order, so do not hinder me while I work. Don't fear, there will always be a roof to cover you, and the reward I shall give you will be sure to satisfy every wish."
" But tell me what is going to happen ?" said the maiden.
" You must not ask," replied the woman ; " and you will disturb me in my work if you say another word. All you have to do is to go into your own chamber, take the skin off your face, and the wig from your head; then put on the silk dress that you wore when I first saw you, and remain in your room till I call you."
We must now return, and see what the king and queen have been doing at the castle. They sent the young count first into the forest alone; but he wandered about for two days before he could find the right road, and it was then quite dark; so he climbed a tree to rest till morning, for he feared losing his way again in the darkness.
When the moon arose and shone brightly over the forest, he saw the figure of a woman coming over the mountain. She did not carry the staff in her hand, but he knew her at once as the goose-tender whom he had met at the old woman's cottage.
"Oho," he said to himself, "here comes one of the witches, so the other cannot be very far off!"
How astonished he was, however, to see her come up to the fountain near the tree in which he sat, and -*;ake the skin off her face to bathe in the cool water. He saw, also, that when she removed the grey wig, and her own golden hair fell around her like a veil, that she was the most beautiful maiden he had ever seen in the world.
He could scarcely draw his breath as he gazed at her with earnest, wondering eyes; but he stretched his neck so far through the foliage that the branch cracked with his weight. At the same moment a dark cloud passed over the moon, and before he could recover himself, the maiden had resumed her disguise and disappeared.