The Wonderful Birch
get up, old man! We are bidden to the royal banquet.'
So the old man got up. Then the witch gave him the child, saying:
`Take you the little one; I will give the other girl work to do, else she will weary at home alone.'
She did as usual. This time it was a dish of milk she poured upon the ashes, saying:
`If you do not get all the milk into the dish again before I come home, you will suffer for it.'
How frightened the girl was this time! She ran to the birch tree, and by its magic power her task was accomplished; and then she rode away to the palace as before. When she got to the courtyard she found the Prince waiting for her. He led her into the hall, where she was highly honoured; but the witch's daughter sucked the bones under the table, and crouching at the people's feet she got an eye knocked out, poor thing! Now no one knew any more than before about the good man's daughter, no one knew whence she came; but the Prince had had the threshold smeared with tar, and as she fled her gold slippers stuck to it. She reached the birch tree, and laying aside her finery, she said:
`Alas I dear little mother, I have lost my gold slippers!'
`Let them be,' was her mother's reply; `if you need them I shall give you finer ones.'
Scarcely was she in her usual place behind the stove when her father came home with the witch. Immediately the witch began to mock her, saying:
`Ah! you poor thing, there is nothing for you to see here, and WE--ah: what great things we have seen at the palace! My little girl was carried about again, but had the ill-luck to fall and get her eye knocked out. You stupid thing, you, what do you know about anything?'
`Yes, indeed, what can I know?' replied the girl; `I had enough to do to get the hearth clean.'
Now the Prince had kept all the things the girl had lost, and he soon set about finding the owner of them. For this purpose a great banquet was given on the fourth day, and all the people were invited to the palace. The witch got ready to go too.