“What has brought thee here? What dost thou seek?” said the great Setchene severely.
“I am not obliged to tell you, old graybeard; what business is it of yours?” she replied disdainfully, turning her back on the fire and going towards the forest.
The great Setchene frowned, and waved his wand over his head. Instantly the sky became covered with clouds, the fire went down, snow fell in large flakes, an icy wind howled round the mountain. Amid the fury of the storm Helen added curses against her stepsister. The cloak failed to warm her benumbed limbs. The mother kept on waiting for her; she looked from the window, she watched from the doorstep, but her daughter came not. The hours passed slowly, but Helen did not return.
“Can it be that the apples have charmed her from her home?” thought the mother. Then she clad herself in hood and shawl and went in search of her daughter. Snow fell in huge masses; it covered all things, it lay untouched by human footsteps. For long she wandered hither and thither; the icy northeast wind whistled in the mountain, but no voice answered her cries.
Day after day Marouckla worked and prayed, and waited; but neither stepmother nor sister returned, they had been frozen to death on the mountain. The inheritance of a small house, a field, and a cow fell to Marouckla. In course of time an honest farmer came to share them with her, and their lives were happy and peaceful.
ADAPTED BY ALEXANDER CHODSKO
Can this be a true story? It is said that once there was a King who was exceedingly fond of hunting the wild beasts in his forests. One day he followed a stag so far and so long that he lost his way. Alone and overtaken by night, he was glad to find himself near a small thatched cottage in which lived a charcoal-burner.
“Will you kindly show me the way to the highroad? You shall be handsomely rewarded.”
“I would willingly,” said the charcoal-burner, “But God is going to send my wife a little child, and I cannot leave her alone. Will you pass the night under our roof? There is a truss of sweet hay in the loft where you may rest, and to-morrow morning I will be your guide.”
The King accepted the invitation and went to bed in the loft. Shortly after a son was born to the charcoal-burner’s wife. But the King could not sleep. At midnight he heard noises in the house, and looking through a crack in the flooring he saw the charcoal-burner asleep, his wife almost in a faint, and by the side of the newly-born babe three old women dressed in white, each holding a lighted taper in her hand, and all talking together. Now these were the three Soudiche or Fates, you must know.
The first said, “On this boy I bestow the gift of confronting great dangers.”
The second said, “I bestow the power of happily escaping all these dangers, and of living to a good old age.”