GRIMM'S FAIRY TALES.
king was grieved, but he never dreamt that it was the queen who had done this wicked deed, and as he feared lest the maiden also should be stolen away from him, he wished to take her away with him. But she was afraid of the step-mother, and begged the king to let her remain one more night in the castle in the wood.
Then she said to herself,
" I must stay here no longer, but go and seek for my brothers."
And when the night came, she fled away and went straight into the wood. She went on all that .night and the next day, until she could go no longer for weariness. At last she saw a rude hut, and she went in and found a room with six little beds in it; she did not dare to lie down in one, but she crept under one and lay on the hard boards and wished for night. When it was near the time of sun-setting she heard a rustling sound, and saw six swans come flying in at the window. They alighted on the ground, and blew at one another until they had blown all their feathers off, and then they stripped off their swan-skin as if it had been a shirt. And the maiden looked at them and knew them for her brothers, and was very glad, and crept from under the bed. The brothers were not less glad when their sister appeared, but their joy did not last long.
" You must not stay here," said they to her; " this is a robbers' haunt, and if they were to come and find you here, they would kill you."
" And cannot you defend me ? " asked the little sister.
" No," answered they, " for we can only get rid of our swan-skins and keep our human shape every evening for a quarter of an hour, but after that we must be changed again into swans."
Their sister wept at hearing this, and said,
" Can nothing be done to set you free ? "
" Oh no," answered they, " the work would be too hard for you. For six whole years you would be obliged never to speak or laugh, and make during that time six little shirts out of aster-flowers. If you were to let fall a single word before the work was ended, all would be of no good."
And just as the brothers had finished telling her this, the