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Once upon a time there lived a real old Witch who had two daughters, one ugly and wicked, whom she loved very much, because she was her own child, and the other fair and good, whom she hated, because she was her stepdaughter. One day the stepchild wore a very pretty apron, which so pleased the other that she turned jealous, and told her mother she must and would have the apron. "Be quiet, my child," said she, "you shall have it, your sister has long deserved death. Tonight, when she is asleep, I will come and cut off her head; but take care that you lie nearest the wall, and push her quite to the side of the bed."
Luckily the poor maiden, hid in a corner, heard this speech, or she would have been murdered; but all day long she dared not go out of doors, and when bedtime came she was forced to lie in the place fixed for her; but happily the other sister soon went to sleep, and then she contrived to change places and get quite close to the wall. At midnight the old Witch sneaked in, holding in her right hand an ax, while with her left she felt for her intended victim, and then raising the ax in both her hands she chopped off the head of her own daughter.
As soon as she went away, the maiden got up and went to her sweetheart, who was called Roland, and knocked at his door. When he came out she said to him, "Dearest Roland, we must flee at once, my stepmother would have killed me, but in the dark she has murdered her own child: if day comes, and she discovered what she has done, we are lost."
"But I advise you," said Roland, "first to take away her magic wand, or we cannot save ourselves if she should follow and catch us." [click to see the magic wand effects]
So the maiden stole away the wand, and taking up the head dropped three drops of blood upon the ground; one before the bed, one in the kitchen, and one upon the step; this done she hurried away with her lover.
When the morning came and the old Witch had dressed herself, she called to her daughter and would have given her the apron, but no one came. "Where are you?" she called. "Here upon the step," answered one of the drops of blood. The old woman went out, but, seeing nobody on the step, she called a second time, "Where are you?" "Hi, hi, here in the kitchen, I am warming myself," replied the second drop of blood. She went into the kitchen, but could see nobody, and once again she cried, "Where are you?"
"Ah, here I sleep in the bed," said the third drop, and she entered the room, but what a sight met her eyes! There lay her own child covered with blood, for the Witch herself had cut off her head.
The old Witch flew into a terrible passion, sprang out of the window, and looking far and near, presently spied out her stepdaughter, who was hurrying away with Roland. "That won't help you!" she shouted, "were you twice as far you should not escape me." So saying, she drew on her boots, in which she went an hour's walk with every stride, and before long she overtook the fugitives. But the maiden, as soon as she saw the Witch in sight, changed her dear Roland into a lake with the magic wand, and herself into a duck who could swim upon its surface. [click to see the magic wand effects]
When the old Witch arrived at the shore, she threw in bread-crumbs, and tried all sorts of means to entice the duck; but it was all of no use, and she was obliged to go away at evening without accomplishing her ends. When she was gone the maiden took her natural form, and Roland also, and all night long till daybreak they traveled onwards. Then the maiden changed herself into a rose, which grew amid a very thorny hedge, and Roland became a fiddler. Soon after up came the old Witch, and said to him, "Good player, may I break off your flower?" "Oh! yes," he replied, "and I will accompany you with a tune." In great haste she climbed up the bank to reach the flower, and as soon as she was in the hedge he began to play, and whether she liked it or not she was obliged to jump, till the thorns tore all the clothes off her body, and scratched and wounded her so much, that at last she fell down dead.
Then Roland, when he saw they were saved, said,"Now I will go to my father, and arrange the wedding."
"Yes," said the maiden, "and meanwhile I will rest here and wait for your return, and, that no one may know me, I will change myself into a red stone."
Roland went away and left her there, but when he reached home he fell into the snares laid for him by another maiden, and forgot his true love, who for a long time waited his coming; but at last, in sorrow and despair of ever seeing him again, she changed herself into a beautiful flower, and thought that perhaps someone one might pluck her and carry her to his home. [click to see the magic wand effects]
A day or two after a shepherd who was tending his flock in the field chanced to see the enchanted flower, and because it was so very beautiful he broke it off, took it with him and laid it by in his chest. From that day everything prospered in the shepherd's house, and marvelous things happened. When he arose in the morning he found all the work already done: the room was swept, the chairs and tables dusted, the fire lighted upon the hearth, and the water fetched; when he came home at noonday the table was laid, and a good meal prepared for him. He could not imagine how it was all done, for he could find nobody ever in his house when he returned, and there was no place for any one to conceal himself. The good arrangements certainly pleased him well enough, but he became so anxious at last to know who it was, that he went and asked the advice of a very wise woman. The woman said, "There is some witchery in the business: listen one morning if you can hear anything moving in the room, and if you do and can see anything, be it what it will, throw a white napkin over it, and the charm will be dispelled.
The shepherd did as he was bid, and the next morning, just as day broke, he saw his chest open and the flower come out of it. He instantly sprang up and threw a white napkin over it, and immediately the spell was broken, and a beautiful maiden stood before him, who acknowledge that she was the handmaid who, as a flower, had put his house in order. She told him her tale, and she pleased the shepherd so much, that he asked her if she would marry him, but she said, "No," for she would still keep true to her dear Roland, although he had left her; nevertheless, she promised still to remain with the shepherd, and see after his cottage.
Meanwhile the time had arrived for the celebration of Roland's wedding, and according to the old custom it was proclaimed through all the country round, that every maiden might assemble to sing in honor of the bridal pair. When the poor girl heard this, she was so grieved that it seemed as if her heart would break, and she would not have gone to the wedding if others had not come and taken her with them.
When it came to her turn to sing, she stepped back till she was quite by herself, and as soon as she began, Roland jumped up, exclaiming, "I know the voice, that is the true bride, no other will I have!" All that he had hitherto forgotten and neglected to think of was suddenly brought back to his heart's remembrance, and he would not again let her go.
And now the wedding of the faithful maiden to the dear Roland was celebrated with great magnificence, and, their sorrows and troubles being over, happiness became their lot.
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