The lost child
Now the widow loved her youngest daughter more dearly than the others, and dreaded to expose her to any danger; but as the elder ones had been successful, she allowed her to take her chance. So with the instructions from her sisters as to what she should do and say, and with the nobleman’s consent and abundant provisions, she entered the haunted room. Having lit the fire, put on the saucepans, laid the table and made the bed, she awaited with hope and fear the hour of midnight.
As twelve o’clock struck, the room was shaken by the footsteps of some one who walked up and down, and the air was filled with cries and groans. The girl looked everywhere, but no living being could she see. Suddenly there stood before her a young man who asked in a sweet voice, “For whom have you prepared this food?”
Now her sisters had told her how to answer and how to act, but when she looked into the sad eyes of the stranger she resolved to treat him more kindly.
“Well, you do not answer me; for whom is the food prepared?” he asked again impatiently, as she made no reply. Somewhat confused, she said, “I prepared it for myself, but you too are welcome to it.”
At these words his brow grew more serene.
“And this table, for whom is it spread?”
“For myself, unless you will honour me by being my guest.”
A bright smile illumined his face.
“And this bed, for whom have you made it?”
“For myself, but if you have need of rest it is for you.”
He clapped his hands for joy and replied, “Ah, that’s right; I accept the invitation with pleasure, and all that you have been so kind as to offer me. But wait, I pray you wait for me; I must first thank my kind friends for the care they have taken of me.”
A fresh warm breath of spring filled the air, while at the same moment a deep precipice opened in the middle of the floor. He descended lightly, and she, anxious to see what would happen, followed him, holding on to his mantle. Thus they both reached the bottom of the precipice. Down there a new world opened itself before her eyes.