546 THE THREE TASKS.
she said, " my step-mother has threatened to beat me, and I know she will keep her word."
Her tears began to flow as she spoke, but the kind old woman said: "Be at peace, my child, and go and rest awhile; I will finish your work for you."
So she made the young girl lie down on a bed in the room, and, wrorn out with sorrow, she soon fell asleep.
Then the old woman placed herself at the table by the feathers. Ah, how they flew, and sorted themselves, under the touch of her withered hand ! and very soon the whole twelve pounds were finished. When the maiden awoke, there they lay in large snowy heaps, and everything in the room was neat and in order, but the old woman had vanished.
The maiden's heart was full of thankfulness, and she sat still till the evening, when her step-mother came into the room.
She was truly astonished when she found the feathers finished. " See, now," she said at last, " what people can do when they are industrious ! But why are you sitting there, with your hands in your lap ? can you find nothing else to do ?" As she left the room, she said to herself, "The creature can do anything; I must give her something more difficult next time."
On the morrow, she called the maiden to her, and said, "There is a large spoon for you; now go and ladle oat the water from the pond that lies near the garden, and if by evening you have not reached the bottom, you know what you have to expect."
The maiden took the spoon, and saw that it was full of holes, and, even if it had not, it would have been impossible for her to empty the pond with it.
She made an attempt, however; knelt by the water, into which her tears fell, and began to scoop it out. But the good old woman again made her appearance, and, when she saw the cause of her sorrow, she said, "Be comforted, my child, and go and rest in the shrubbery; I will do your work for you."
As soon as the old woman was alone, she merely touched the water; it immediately rose, like a mist, in the air, and mingled itself with the clouds. Gradually the pond became empty, and when, at sunset, the maiden awoke, the water had disappeared, and she saw only the fish writhing in the mud at the bottom. She at once went to her step-mothery and showed her that she had finished her task.