THE THREE TASKS. 547
"You should have finished it long ago,,; she said; but she was pale with anger, and determined to think of some still more difficult task for the poor girl.
Next morning she again called her, and said, " To-day I shall expect you to go into the valley, and on the plain build me a beautiful castle, which must be finished by the evening."
"Oh," exclaimed the poor maiden in terror, "how can I ever perform such a great work as this ?"
"I will have no excuses," screamed the step-mother. "If you can empty a pond with a spoon full of holes, you can build me a castle. I shall expect it to be ready to-day, and if you fail in the slightest thing, whether in kitchen or cellar, you know what is before you."
She drove the poor girl out as she spoke, and, when she reached the valley, she found it full of rocks, piled one over the other, and so heavy that, with all her strength, she could not move even the smallest.
She seated herself, and began to weep; yet still hoping for the assistance of the kind old woman, who did not keep her waiting long, but greeted her, when she appeared, with words of comfort.
"Go and lie down in the shade and sleep," she said; "I will build a castle for you, and, when the happy time comes, you can have it yourself."
As soon as the maiden had gone away, the old woman touched the grey rocks, and immediately they began to move, then to rock together, and presently stand upright, as if they had been walls built by giants. Within these walls the castle rose, as if numberless invisible hands were at work, laying stone upon stone. The earth trembled, as large halls expanded, and stood near each other in order. The tiles on the roof arranged themselves regularly, and, before noon, the weathercock, like a golden maiden with flying drapery, stood on the pinnacle of the tower.
The interior of the castle was not finished till evening; and how the old woman managed I cannot say, but the walls were covered with silk and velvet, richly embroidered; and decorated chairs and sofas, marble tables, and other elegant articles, furnished the rooms. Cut glass chandeliers hung from the ceilings, and sparkled in the light of many lamps. Green parrots sat in golden cages, and foreign birds, who sang sweetly, were in every room.