The lost child
The frightened girl ran from one corner to the other, but could not see any one. But the footsteps and the groans did not cease. Suddenly a young man approached her and asked, “For whom is this food cooked?”
“For myself,” she said.
The gentle face of the stranger saddened, and after a short silence he asked again, “And this table, for whom is it laid?”
“For myself,” she replied.
The brow of the young man clouded over, and the beautiful blue eyes filled with tears as he asked once more, “And this bed, for whom have you made it?”
“For myself,” replied she in the same selfish and indifferent tone.
Tears fell from his eyes as he waved his arms and vanished.
Next morning she told the nobleman all that had happened, but without mentioning the painful impression her answers had made upon the stranger. The three hundred golden crowns were paid, and the father was thankful to have at last heard something that might possibly lead to the discovery of his son.
On the following day the second daughter, having been told by her sister what to do and how to answer the stranger, went to the castle to offer her services. The nobleman willingly agreed, and orders were given that she should be provided with everything she might want. Without loss of time she entered the room, lit the fire, put on the saucepans, spread a white cloth upon the table, made the bed, and awaited the hour of midnight. When the young stranger appeared and asked, “For whom is this food prepared? for whom is the table laid? for whom is the bed made?” she answered as her sister had bidden her, “For me, for myself only.”
As on the night before, he burst into tears, waved his arms, and suddenly disappeared.
Next morning she told the nobleman all that had happened except the sad impression her answers had made upon the stranger. The three hundred gold pieces were given her, and she went home.
On the third day the youngest daughter wanted to try her fortune.
“Sisters,” said she, “as you have succeeded in earning three hundred gold crowns each, and so helping our dear mother, I too should like to do my part and remain a night in the haunted room.