FAIRY. Break the nettles into pieces with your hands and feet, and they will become flax. From this flax you must spin and weave eleven coats with long sleeves. If these eleven coats can be thrown over the eleven swans, the spell will be broken.
ELIZA. It shall be done.
FAIRY. But remember, that from the moment you begin your task, until it is finished, you must not speak. Even though it should occupy years of your life, you must not speak.
ELIZA. I shall remember.
FAIRY. The first word you utter will pierce through the hearts of your brothers like a dagger. Their lives hang upon your tongue. Go now and begin your task.
ELIZA (going). I go, dear Fairy.
FAIRY. Remember all I have told you, dear child. Farewell!
[Eliza goes; the cave becomes dark; the Fairy disappears.]
TIME: two days later.
PLACE: a distant country; the King’s palace.
* * * * *
HIS WICKED UNCLE.
* * * * *
[The WICKED UNCLE stands waiting to receive the King. Enter the KING with ELIZA. She is pale and sad.]
WICKED UNCLE. Welcome, your Majesty! Welcome home from your hunt! But who is this maiden?
KING. I know not, my Uncle.
WICKED UNCLE. What?
KING. My huntsmen found her in a cave in a far-off country.
WICKED UNCLE. In a cave? Alone?
KING (nodding). Alone; spinning coats out of flax.
WICKED UNCLE. This is very strange.
Why were you all alone in a cave, and why were you spinning coats?
(Eliza shakes her head.)
KING. She is dumb, Uncle. Not a word has she uttered since we found her.
WICKED UNCLE. Why did you bring her with you?
KING. I will make her my queen.
WICKED UNCLE (angrily). Your queen?
KING. See how beautiful she is.
WICKED UNCLE (whispering to King). She is a witch!
KING. Nonsense! She is as good as she is beautiful.
WICKED UNCLE (whispering as before). She has bewitched your heart!
KING. Nonsense, I say! She did not want to leave the cave. She wept bitterly when I put her on my horse.
(He turns to the servants.)
Let the music sound! Prepare the wedding feast!
(He turns to Eliza, who weeps.)
Do not weep, my beautiful maid.
WICKED UNCLE (whispering to King). She is not beautiful. She has bewitched your eyes.
KING. I will not listen to you! Go, bid them ring the church bells.
WICKED UNCLE (going; speaking aside). I must poison his heart against her in some way; else I’ll never wear the crown.