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ONCE upon a time there was a woman who was a real Witch, and she had two daughters; one was ugly and wicked, but she loved her because she was her own daughter.
The other was good and lovely, but she hated her for she was only her step-daughter.
Now, this step-daughter had a beautiful apron which the other daughter envied, and she said to her Mother that have it she must and would.
‘Just wait quietly, my child,’ said her Mother.
‘You shall have it; your step-sister has long deserved death, and tonight, when she is asleep, I will go and chop off her head.
Only take care to lie on the further side of the bed, against the wall, and push her well to this side.’
Now, all this would certainly have come to pass if the poor girl had not been standing in a corner, and heard what they said.
She was not even allowed to go near the door all day, and when bed-time came the Witch's daughter got into bed first, so as to lie at the further side; but when she was asleep the other gently changed places with her, and put herself next the wall.
In the middle of the night the Witch crept up holding an axe in her right hand, while with her left she felt if there was any one there.
Then she seized the axe with both hands, struck — and struck off her own child's head.
When she had gone away, the Maiden got up, and went to the house of her Sweetheart Roland, and knocked at his door.
When he came out, she said to him, ‘Listen, dear Roland; we must quickly fly.
My step-mother tried to kill me, but she hit her own child instead.
When day comes, and she sees what she has done, we shall be lost.’
‘But,’ said Roland, ‘you must first steal her magic wand, or we shall not be able to escape if she comes after us.’
The Maiden fetched the magic wand, and then she took her step-sister's head, and dropped three drops of blood from it — one by the bed, one in the kitchen, and one on the stairs.
After that, she hurried away with her Sweetheart Roland.
When the old Witch got up in the morning she called her daughter in order to give her the apron, but she did not come.
Then she called, ‘Where art thou?’
‘Here on the stairs,’ answered one drop of blood.
The Witch went on to the stairs, but saw nothing, so she called again: ‘Where art thou?’
‘Here in the kitchen warming myself,’ answered the second drop of blood.
The Witch went into the kitchen, but found nothing, then she called again: ‘Where art thou?’
‘Here in bed, sleeping,’ answered the third drop of blood.
So she went into the bedroom, and there she found her own child, whose head she had chopped off herself.
The Witch flew into a violent passion, and sprang out of the window.
As she could see for many miles around, she soon discovered her step-daughter hurrying away with Roland.
‘That won't be any good,’ she cried.
‘However far you may go, you won't escape me.’
She put on her seven-league boots, and before long she overtook them.
When the Maiden saw her coming, she changed her Sweetheart into a lake, with the magic wand, and herself into a Duck swimming in it.
The Witch stood on the shore, and threw bread-crumbs into the water, and did everything she could think of to entice the Duck ashore.
But it was all to no purpose, and she was obliged to go back at night without having accomplished her object.
When she had gone away, the Maiden and Roland resumed their own shapes, and they walked the whole night till break of day.
Then the Maiden changed herself into a beautiful Rose in the middle of a briar hedge, and Roland into a Fiddler.
Before long the Witch came striding along, and said to the Fiddler, ‘Good Fiddler, may I pick this beautiful Rose?’
‘By all means,’ he said, ‘and I will play to you.’
As she crept into the hedge, in great haste to pick the flower (for she knew well who the flower was), Roland began to play, and she had to dance, whether she liked or not, for it was a magic dance.
The quicker he played, the higher she had to jump, and the thorns tore her clothes to ribbons, and scratched her till she bled.
He would not stop a moment, so she had to dance till she fell down dead.
When the Maiden was freed from the spell, Roland said, ‘Now I will go to my father and order the wedding.’
‘Then I will stay here in the meantime,’ said the Maiden.
And so that no one shall recognise me while I am waiting, I will change myself into a common red stone.’
So Roland went away, and the Maiden stayed in the field, as a stone, waiting his return.
But when Roland got home, he fell into the snares of another woman, who made him forget all about his love.
The poor Maiden waited a long, long time, but when he did not come back, she became very sad, and changed herself into a flower, and thought, ‘Somebody at least will tread upon me.’
Now it so happened that a Shepherd was watching his sheep in the field, and saw the flower, and he picked it because he thought it was so pretty.
He took it home and put it carefully away in a chest.
From that time forward a wonderful change took place in the Shepherd's hut.
When he got up in the morning, all the work was done; the tables and benches were dusted, the fire was lighted, and the water was carried in.
At dinner-time, when he came home, the table was laid, and a well-cooked meal stood ready.
He could not imagine how it all came about, for he never saw a creature in his house, and nobody could be hidden in the tiny hut.
He was much pleased at being so well served, but at last he got rather frightened, and went to a Wise Woman to ask her advice.
The Wise Woman said, ‘There is magic behind it.
You must look carefully about the room, early in the morning, and whatever you see, throw a white cloth over it, and the spell will be broken.’
The Shepherd did what she told him, and next morning, just as the day broke, he saw his chest open, and the flower come out.
So he sprang up quickly, and threw a white cloth over it.
Immediately the spell was broken, and a lovely Maiden stood before him, who confessed that she had been the flower, and it was she who had done all the work of his hut.
She also told him her story, and he was so pleased with her that he asked her to marry him.
But she answered, ‘No; I want my Sweetheart Roland, and though he has forsaken me, I will always be true to him.’
She promised not to go away, however, but to go on with the housekeeping for the present.
Now the time came for Roland's marriage to be celebrated.
According to old custom, a proclamation was made that every maiden in the land should present herself to sing at the marriage in honour of the bridal pair.
When the faithful Maiden heard this, she grew very sad, so sad that she thought her heart would break.
She had no wish to go to the marriage, but the others came and fetched her.
But each time as her turn came to sing, she slipped behind the others till she was the only one left, and she could not help herself.
As soon as she began to sing, and her voice reached Roland's ears, he sprang up and cried, ‘That is the true Bride, and I will have no other.’
Everything that he had forgotten came back, and his heart was filled with joy.
So the faithful Maiden was married to her Sweetheart Roland; all her grief and pain were over, and only happiness lay before her.