THE TWELVE BROTHERS.
and one day when they were all at home to dinner together, and enjoying themselves, the maiden went out into the garden to gather them some flowers.
She had tended twelve lilies with great care, and they were now in such splendid bloom that she determined to pluck them for her brothers and place one on each of their plates as a present.
But the" moment she brought the lilies in from the garden, her twelve brothers were changed into twelve ravens, and flew away over the trees of the forest, while the charming house and garden vanished from her sight. Now was the poor little maiden left all alcne in the wild wood and knew not what to do; but on turning to go she saw a curious old woman standing near, who said to her, " My child, what hast thou done ? Why didst thou not leave those white flowers to grow on their stems; they were thy twelve brothers, and now they will always remain ravens."
" Is there no way to set them free ? \ asked the maiden, weeping.
" No way in the world," she replied, " but one, and that is far too difficult for thee to perform; yet it would break the spell, and set them free."
"Tell me, tell me," she cried; "I know I can do it, only tell me what it is."
On hearing this the old woman replied, "Hast thou firmness enough to remain dumb seven years, and not speak to any one or even laugh ; for if ever you utter a single word or fail only once in the seven years, all you have done before will be vain, and at this one word your brothers will die."
" Yes," said the maiden, and she spoke from her heart, " I can do this to set my brothers free."
The old woman left her, after hearing her determination, and the maiden climbed into a tree, for she had no home now, and seating herself in the branches, began to knit. |
For three days she remained here, living on the fruit that grew on the tree, and without laughing or uttering a word.
At the end of the three days, as she sat in her tree, she saw the hunters pass near; and the king, who was hunting with them, had a favourite hound, who very soon discovered her, ran to the tree on which the maiden sat, sprang up to it, and bayed and barked at her violently.