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382                Legend of Sagenfeld, in Germany
make way for another candidate. The precious min­utes slipped by; among so many bewitching songsters he found it hard to choose, and all the harder because the promised penalty for an error was so terrible that it unsettled his judgment and made him afraid to trust his own ears. He grew nervous and his face showed distress. His ministers saw this, for they never took their eyes from him a moment. Now they began to say in their hearts:
" He has lost courage—-the cool head is gone — he will err — he and his dynasty and his people are doomed !"
At the end of an hour the king sat silent awhile, and then said:
" Bring back the linnet."
The linnet trilled forth her jubilant music. In the midst of it the king was about to uplift his scepter in sign of choice, but checked himself and said:
"But let us be sure. Bring back the thrush; let them sing together."
The thrush was brought, and the two birds poured out their marvels of song together. The king wavered, then his inclination began to settle and strengthen — one could see it in his countenance. Hope budded in the hearts of the old ministers, their pulses began to beat quicker, the scepter began to rise slowly, when:
There was a hideous interruption ! It was a sound like this — just at the door:
" Waw......he!— waw......he!— waw-he !
waw-he ! — waw-he !''
Everybody was sorely startled — and enraged at him­self for showing it.
The next instant the dearest, sweetest, prettiest little peasant maid of nine years came tripping in, her brown eyes glowing writh childish eagerness; but when she saw that august company and those angry faces she