The Six Friends
At once, the old couple hurried about preparing and serving the prince a simple, hearty supper. Meanwhile the girl had disappeared into an inner room. When he finished eating, the old man said, "You are doubtless wondering, my son, about the lovely damsel who lives here with us, and whom you have followed this day to our humble door. But in truth, sir, we know very little about her ourselves. We do not even know where she comes from, though we have cherished and reared her as our own daughter for years.
"When she was a young girl we found her on our doorstep, a little laughing maid as fair as ever the sun looked on, and clothed in the softest, richest fabrics. Joyfully we took her in, and she's lived with us happily ever since, yet never has she said a word by which we might know whose child she was. A king's daughter she must be, or the child of some good spirit. Lately, she has spoken much of a change to come in her life, of a prince's son, and of many other things we did not understand. But our hearts have been sad, fearing that our girl would soon marry and separate from us who love her more than anything else in the whole world."
The prince's son eagerly interrupted the old man, saying, "I am indeed the son of a prince, and the maiden in my eyes is the loveliest and most beautiful creature in the universe. I have no other wish in life but to marry her, and to live with her right here in this forest, in a house that I shall build myself near this hut."
"Ah," said the old man. "You must be the destined bridegroom, the son of a prince, for had it been otherwise our daughter never would have led you through the dark forest to our lonely home. Let our best wishes rest upon you."
And so it came about that the prince's son married the beautiful maiden of the woods and lived with her in peace and happiness in a little log house near her foster-parents' hut.
One warm afternoon, the two had strolled hand in hand down to the bank of a stream that ran through the forest.