The Wild Swans, far Away

FAR away, where the swallows take refuge in winter, lived a king who had eleven sons and one daughter, Elise. The eleven brothers—they were all princes—used to go to school with stars on their breasts and swords at their sides. They wrote upon golden slates with diamond pencils, and could read just as well without a book as with one, so there was no mistake about their being real princes. Their sister Elise sat upon a little footstool of looking-glass, and she had a picture-book which had cost the half of a kingdom. Oh, these children were very happy; but it was not to last thus forever.

Their father, who was king over all  the land, married a wicked queen who was not at all kind to the poor children; they found that out on the first day. All was festive at the castle, but when the children wanted to play at having company, instead of having as many cakes and baked apples as ever they wanted, she would only let them have some sand in a tea-cup, and said they must make-believe.

In the following week she sent little Elise into the country to board with some peasants, and it did not take her long to make the king believe so many bad things about the boys that he cared no more about them.

“Fly out into the world and look after yourselves,” said the wicked queen; “you shall fly about like birds without voices.”

But she could not make things as bad for them as she would have liked; they turned into eleven beautiful wild swans. They flew out of the palace window  with a weird scream, right across the park and the woods.

It was very early in the morning when they came to the place where their sister Elise was sleeping in the peasant’s house. They hovered over the roof of the house, turning and twisting their long necks, and flapping their wings; but no one either heard or saw them. They had to fly away again, and they soared up towards the clouds, far out into the wide world, and they settled in a big, dark wood, which stretched right down to the shore.

Poor little Elise stood in the peasant’s room, playing with a green leaf, for she had no other toys. She made a little hole in it, which she looked through at the sun, and it seemed to her as if she saw her brothers’ bright eyes. Every time the warm sunbeams shone upon her cheek it reminded her of their kisses. One day passed just like another. When the wind whistled through  the rose-hedges outside the house, it whispered to the roses: “Who can be prettier than you are?” But the roses shook their heads and answered: “Elise!” And when the old woman sat in the doorway reading her Psalms the wind turned over the leaves and said to the book: “Who can be more pious than you?” “Elise!” answered the book. Both the roses and the book of Psalms only spoke the truth.

She was to go home when she was fifteen, but when the queen saw how pretty she was she got very angry, and her heart was filled with hatred. She would willingly have turned her into a wild swan too, like her brothers, but she did not dare to do it at once, for the king wanted to see his daughter. The queen always went to the bath in the early morning. It was built of marble, and adorned with soft cushions and beautiful carpets.

She took three toads, kissed them,  and said to the first: “Sit upon Elise’s head when she comes to the bath, so that she may become sluggish like yourself.” “Sit upon her forehead,” she said to the second, “that she may become ugly like you, and then her father won’t know her! Rest upon her heart,” she whispered to the third. “Let an evil spirit come over her, which may be a burden to her.” Then she put the toads into the clean water, and a green tinge immediately came over it. She called Elise, undressed her, and made her go into the bath; when she ducked under the water, one of the toads got among her hair, the other got onto her forehead, and the third onto her bosom. But when she stood up three scarlet poppies floated on the water; had not the creatures been poisonous, and kissed by the sorceress, they would have been changed into crimson roses, but yet they became flowers from merely having rested a  moment on her head and her heart. She was far too good and innocent for the sorcery to have any power over her. When the wicked queen saw this she rubbed her over with walnut juice, and smeared her face with some evil-smelling salve. She also matted up her beautiful hair; it would have been impossible to recognize pretty Elise. When her father saw her, he was quite horrified, and said that she could not be his daughter. Nobody would have anything to say to her, except the yard dog and the swallows, and they were only poor dumb animals whose opinion went for nothing.

Poor Elise wept, and thought of her eleven brothers who were all lost. She crept sadly out of the palace and wandered about all day, over meadows and marshes, and into a big forest. She did not know in the least where she wanted to go, but she felt very sad, and longed for her brothers, who, no  doubt, like herself had been driven out of the palace. She made up her mind to go and look for them, but she had only been in the wood for a short time when night fell. She had quite lost her way, so she lay down upon the soft moss, said her evening prayer, and rested her head on a little hillock. It was very still and the air was mild; hundreds of glow-worms shone around her on the grass and in the marsh like green fire. When she gently moved one of the branches over her head the little shining insects fell over her like a shower of stars. She dreamed about her brothers all night long. Again they were children playing together: they wrote upon the golden slates with their diamond pencils, and she looked at the picture-book which had cost half a kingdom. But they no longer wrote strokes and noughts upon their slates as they used to do; no, they wrote down all their boldest exploits, and everything  that they had seen and experienced. Everything in the picture-book was alive, the birds sang, and the people walked out of the book, and spoke to Elise and her brothers. When she turned over a page they skipped back into their places again, so that there should be no confusion among the pictures.

When she woke the sun was already high; it is true she could not see it very well through the thick branches of the lofty forest trees, but the sunbeams cast a golden shimmer around beyond the forest. There was a fresh, delicious scent of grass and herbs in the air, and the birds were almost ready to perch upon her shoulders. She could hear the splashing of water, for there were many springs around, which all flowed into a pond with a lovely sandy bottom. It was surrounded with thick bushes, but there was one place which the stags had trampled down, and Elise passed through the opening to the  water side. It was so transparent that had not the branches been moved by the breeze she must have thought that they were painted on the bottom, so plainly was every leaf reflected, both those on which the sun played, and those which were in shade.

When she saw her own face she was quite frightened, it was so brown and ugly; but when she wet her little hand and rubbed her eyes and forehead her white skin shone through again. Then she took off all her clothes and went into the fresh water. A more beautiful royal child than she could not be found in all the world.

When she had put on her clothes again and plaited her long hair she went to a sparkling spring, and drank some of the water out of the hollow of her hand. Then she wandered farther into the wood, though where she was going she had not the least idea. She thought of her brothers, and she thought  of a merciful God who would not forsake her. He let the wild crab-apples grow to feed the hungry. He showed her a tree, the branches of which were bending beneath their weight of fruit. Here she made her midday meal, and, having put props under the branches, she walked on into the thickest part of the forest. It was so quiet that she heard her own footsteps; she heard every little withered leaf which bent under her feet. Not a bird was to be seen, not a ray of sunlight pierced the leafy branches, and the tall trunks were so close together that when she looked before her it seemed as if a thick fence of heavy beams hemmed her in on every side. The solitude was such as she had never known before.

It was a very dark night, not a single glow-worm sparkled in the marsh; sadly she lay down to sleep, and it seemed to her as if the branches above her parted asunder, and the Saviour looked  down upon her with His loving eyes, and little angels’ heads peeped out above His head and under His arms.

When she woke in the morning she was not sure if she had dreamed this, or whether it was really true.

She walked a little farther, when she met an old woman with a basket full of berries, of which she gave her some. Elise asked if she had seen eleven princes ride through the wood. “No,” said the old woman, “but yesterday I saw eleven swans, with golden crowns upon their heads, swimming in the stream close by here.”

She led Elise a little farther to a slope, at the foot of which the stream meandered. The trees on either bank stretched out their rich, leafy branches towards each other, and where, from their natural growth, they could not reach each other, they had torn their roots out of the ground, and leaned over the water so as to interlace their branches.

 Elise said good-bye to the old woman and walked along by the river till it flowed out into the great open sea.

The beautiful open sea lay before the maiden, but not a sail was to be seen on it—not a single boat. How was she ever to get any farther? She looked at the numberless little pebbles on the beach; they were all worn quite round by the water. Glass, iron, stone, whatever was washed up, had taken their shapes from the water, which yet was much softer than her little hand. “With all its rolling, it is untiring, and everything hard is smoothed down. I will be just as untiring! Thank you for your lesson, you clear rolling waves! Some time, so my poor heart tells me, you will bear me to my beloved brothers!”

Eleven white swans’ feathers were lying on the sea-weed; she picked them up and made a bunch of them. There were still drops of water on them.  Whether these were dew or tears no one could tell. It was very lonely there by the shore, but she did not feel it, for the sea was ever changing. There were more changes on it in the course of a few hours than could be seen on an inland fresh-water lake in a year. If a big black cloud arose it was just as if the sea wanted to say, “I can look black too,” and then the wind blew up and the waves showed their white crests. But if the clouds were red and the wind dropped, the sea looked like a rose-leaf, now white, now green. But, however still it was, there was always a little gentle motion just by the shore; the water rose and fell softly, like the bosom of a sleeping child.

When the sun was just about to go down, Elise saw eleven wild swans with golden crowns upon their heads flying towards the shore. They flew in a swaying line, one behind the other, like a white ribbon streamer. Elise climbed  up onto the bank and hid behind a bush; the swans settled close by her and flapped their great white wings.

As soon as the sun had sunk beneath the water the swans shed their feathers and became eleven handsome princes; they were Elise’s brothers. Although they had altered a good deal, she knew them at once; she felt that they must be her brothers, and she sprang into their arms, calling them by name. They were delighted when they recognized their little sister who had grown so big and beautiful. They laughed and cried, and told each other how wickedly their stepmother had treated them all.

“We brothers,” said the eldest, “have to fly about in the guise of swans, as long as the sun is above the horizon. When it goes down we regain our human shapes. So we always have to look out for a resting-place near sunset, for should we happen to be flying up among the clouds when the sun goes  down we should be hurled to the depths below. We do not live here; there is another land, just as beautiful as this, beyond the sea; but the way to it is very long, and we have to cross the mighty ocean to get to it. There is not a single island on the way where we can spend the night; only one solitary little rock juts up above the water midway. It is only just big enough for us to stand upon close together, and if there is a heavy sea the water splashes over us, yet we thank our God for it. We stay there over night in our human forms, and without it we could never revisit our beloved Fatherland, for our flight takes two of the longest days in the year. We are only permitted to visit the home of our fathers once a year, and we dare only stay for eleven days. We hover over this big forest from whence we catch a glimpse of the palace where we were born, and where our father lives; beyond it we can see  the high church towers where our mother is buried. We fancy that the trees and bushes here are related to us; and the wild horses gallop over the moors, as we used to see them in our childhood. The charcoal burners still sing the old songs we used to dance to when we were children. This is our Fatherland, we are drawn towards it, and here we have found you again, dear little sister! We may stay here two days longer, and then we must fly away again across the ocean to a lovely country indeed, but it is not our own dear Fatherland. How shall we ever take you with us! We have neither ship nor boat!”

“How can I deliver you!” said their sister, and they went on talking to each other nearly all night; they only dozed for a few hours.

Elise was awakened in the morning by the rustling of the swans’ wings above her; her brothers were again transformed, and were wheeling round  in great circles till she lost sight of them in the distance. One of them, the youngest, stayed behind. He laid his head against her bosom, and she caressed it with her fingers. They remained together all day. Towards evening the others came back, and as soon as the sun went down they took their natural forms.

“To-morrow we must fly away, and we dare not come back for a whole year, but we can’t leave you like this! Have you courage to go with us? My arm is strong enough to carry you over the forest, so surely our united strength ought to be sufficient to bear you across the ocean.”

“Oh yes; take me with you,” said Elise.

They spent the whole night in weaving a kind of net of the elastic bark of the willow bound together with tough rushes; they made it both large and strong. Elise lay down upon it, and  when the sun rose and the brothers became swans again they took up the net in their bills and flew high up among the clouds with their precious sister, who was fast asleep. The sunbeams fell straight onto her face, so one of the swans flew over her head so that its broad wings should shade her.

They were far from land when Elise woke; she thought she must still be dreaming, it seemed so strange to be carried through the air so high up above the sea. By her side lay a branch of beautiful ripe berries and a bundle of savory roots which her youngest brother had collected for her, and for which she gave him a grateful smile. She knew it was he who flew above her head shading her from the sun. They were so high up that the first ship they saw looked like a gull floating on the water. A great cloud came up behind them like a mountain, and Elise saw the shadow of herself on  it, and those of the eleven swans looking like giants. It was a more beautiful picture than any she had ever seen before, but as the sun rose higher, the cloud fell behind, and the shadow picture disappeared.

They flew on and on all day like an arrow whizzing through the air, but they went slower than usual, for now they had their sister to carry. A storm came up, and night was drawing on; Elise saw the sun sinking with terror in her heart, for the solitary rock was nowhere to be seen. The swans seemed to be taking stronger strokes than ever; alas! she was the cause of their not being able to get on faster; as soon as the sun went down they would become men, and they would all be hurled into the sea and drowned. She prayed to God from the bottom of her heart, but still no rock was to be seen! Black clouds gathered, and strong gusts of wind announced a storm; the clouds looked like  a great threatening leaden wave, and the flashes of lightning followed each other rapidly.

The sun was now at the edge of the sea. Elise’s heart quaked, when suddenly the swans shot downward so suddenly that she thought they were falling then they hovered again. Half of the sun was below the horizon, and there for the first time she saw the little rock below, which did not look bigger than the head of a seal above the water. The sun sank very quickly, it was no bigger than a star, but her foot touched solid earth. The sun went out like the last sparks of a bit of burning paper; she saw her brothers stand arm in arm around her, but there was only just room enough for them. The waves beat upon the rock and washed over them like drenching rain. The heavens shone with continuous fire, and the thunder rolled, peal upon peal. But the sister and brothers held one another’s  hands and sang a psalm which gave them comfort and courage.

The air was pure and still at dawn. As soon as the sun rose the swans flew off with Elise, away from the islet. The sea still ran high; it looked from where they were as if the white foam on the dark green water were millions of swans floating on the waves.

Elise is carried through the air by the swans

Elise saw an ice palace, with one bold colonnade built above another

When the sun rose higher Elise saw before her, half floating in the air, great masses of ice, with shining glaciers on the heights. A palace was perched midway a mile in length, with one bold colonnade built above another. Beneath them swayed palm-trees and gorgeous blossoms as big as mill wheels. She asked if this was the land to which she was going, but the swans shook their heads, because what she saw was a mirage—the beautiful and ever-changing palace of Fata Morgana. No mortal dared enter it. Elise gazed at it; but as she gazed the palace, gardens,  and mountains melted away, and in their place stood twenty proud churches with their high towers and pointed windows. She seemed to hear the notes of the organ, but it was the sea she heard. When she got close to the seeming churches they changed to a great navy sailing beneath her; but it was only a sea mist passing before her eyes, and now she saw the real land she was bound to. Beautiful blue mountains rose before her with their cedar woods and palaces. Long before the sun went down she sat among the hills in front of a big cave covered with delicate green creepers. It looked like a piece of embroidery.

“Now we shall see what you will dream here to-night,” said the youngest brother, as he showed her where she was to sleep.

“If only I might dream how I could deliver you,” she said, and this thought filled her mind entirely. She prayed  earnestly to God for His help, and even in her sleep she continued her prayer. It seemed to her that she was flying up to Fata Morgana in her castle in the air. The fairy came towards her; she was charming and brilliant, and yet she was very like the old woman who gave her the berries in the wood and told her about the swans with the golden crowns.

“Your brothers can be delivered,” she said; “but have you courage and endurance enough for it? The sea is indeed softer than your hands, and it molds the hardest stones; but it does not feel the pain your fingers will feel. It has no heart, and does not suffer the pain and anguish you must feel. Do you see this stinging nettle I hold in my hand? Many of this kind grow round the cave where you sleep; only these and the ones which grow in the church-yards may be used. Mark that! Those you may pluck, although they  will burn and blister your hands. Crush the nettles with your feet and you will have flax, and of this you must weave eleven coats of mail with long sleeves. Throw these over the eleven wild swans and the charm is broken! But remember that from the moment you begin this work till it is finished, even if it takes years, you must not utter a word! The first word you say will fall like a murderer’s dagger into the hearts of your brothers. Their lives hang on your tongue. Mark this well!”

She touched her hand at the same moment—it was like burning fire—and woke Elise. It was bright daylight, and close to where she slept lay a nettle like those in her dream. She fell upon her knees with thanks to God, and left the cave to begin her work.

She seized the horrid nettles with her delicate hands, and they burnt like fire; great blisters rose on her hands  and arms, but she suffered it willingly if only it would deliver her beloved brothers. She crushed every nettle with her bare feet, and twisted it into green flax.

When the sun went down and the brothers came back they were alarmed at finding her mute; they thought it was some new witchcraft exercised by their wicked stepmother. But when they saw her hands they understood that it was for their sakes; the youngest brother wept, and wherever his tears fell she felt no more pain and the blisters disappeared.

She spent the whole night at her work, for she could not rest till she had delivered her dear brothers. All the following day while her brothers were away she sat solitary, but never had the time flown so fast. One coat of mail was finished, and she began the next. Then a hunting-horn sounded among the mountains; she was much  frightened; the sound came nearer, and she heard dogs barking. In terror she rushed into the cave, and tied the nettles she had collected and woven into a bundle, upon which she sat.

At this moment a big dog bounded forward from the thicket, and another and another; they barked loudly, and ran backward and forward. In a few minutes all the huntsmen were standing outside the cave, and the handsomest of them was the king of the country. He stepped up to Elise; never had he seen so lovely a girl.

“How came you here, beautiful child?” he said.

Elise shook her head; she dared not speak; the salvation and the lives of her brothers depended upon her silence. She hid her hands under her apron, so that the king should not see what she suffered.

“Come with me,” he said; “you cannot stay here. If you are as good as  you are beautiful I will dress you in silks and velvets, put a golden crown upon your head, and you shall live with me and have your home in my richest palace!” Then he lifted her upon his horse: she wept and wrung her hands, but the king said: “I only think of your happiness; you will thank me one day for what I am doing!” Then he darted off across the mountains, holding her before him on his horse, and the huntsmen followed.

When the sun went down the royal city with churches and cupolas lay before them, and the king led her into the palace, where great fountains played in the marble halls, and where walls and ceilings were adorned with paintings; but she had no eyes for them, she only wept and sorrowed. Passively she allowed the women to dress her in royal robes, to twist pearls into her hair, and to draw gloves onto her blistered hands.

She was dazzlingly lovely as she stood  there in all her magnificence; the courtiers bent low before her, and the king wooed her as his bride, although the archbishop shook his head, and whispered that he feared the beautiful wood maiden was a witch who had dazzled their eyes and infatuated the king.

The king refused to listen to him; he ordered the music to play, the richest food to be brought, and the loveliest girls to dance before her. She was led through scented gardens into gorgeous apartments, but nothing brought a smile to her lips or into her eyes; sorrow sat there like a heritage and a possession for all time. Last of all, the king opened the door of a little chamber close by the room where she was to sleep. It was adorned with costly green carpets, and made to exactly resemble the cave where he found her. On the floor lay the bundle of flax she had spun from the nettles, and from the ceiling hung the shirt of mail which  was already finished. One of the huntsmen had brought all these things away as curiosities.

“Here you may dream that you are back in your former home!” said the king. “Here is the work upon which you were engaged; in the midst of your splendor, it may amuse you to think of those times.”

When Elise saw all those things so dear to her heart, a smile for the first time played about her lips, and the blood rushed back to her cheeks. She thought of the deliverance of her brothers, and she kissed the king’s hand; he pressed her to his heart, and ordered all the church bells to ring marriage peals. The lovely dumb girl from the woods was to be queen of the country.

The archbishop whispered evil words into the ear of the king, but they did not reach his heart. The wedding was to take place, and the archbishop himself had to put the crown upon her head.  In his anger he pressed the golden circlet so tightly upon her head as to give her pain. But a heavier circlet pressed upon her heart—her grief for her brothers; so she thought nothing of the bodily pain. Her lips were sealed, a single word from her mouth would cost her brothers their lives, but her eyes were full of love for the good and handsome king, who did everything he could to please her. Every day she grew more and more attached to him, and longed to confide in him, tell him her sufferings; but dumb she must remain, and in silence must bring her labor to completion. Therefore at night she stole away from his side into her secret chamber, which was decorated like a cave, and here she knitted one shirt after another. When she came to the seventh all her flax was worked up; she knew that these nettles which she was to use grew in the church-yard, but she had to pluck them herself. How was she to get  there? “Oh, what is the pain of my fingers compared with the anguish of my heart?” she thought. “I must venture out; the good God will not desert me!” With as much terror in her heart as if she were doing some evil deed she stole down one night into the moonlit garden, and through the long alleys out into the silent streets to the church-yard. There she saw, sitting on a gravestone, a group of hideous ghouls, who took off their tattered garments, as if they were about to bathe, and then they dug down into the freshly made graves with their skinny fingers, and tore the flesh from the bodies and devoured it. Elise had to pass close by them, and they fixed their evil eyes upon her; but she said a prayer as she passed, picked the stinging nettles, and hurried back to the palace with them.

Only one person saw her, but that was the archbishop, who watched while others slept. Surely now all his bad  opinions of the queen were justified; all was not as it should be with her; she must be a witch, and therefore she had bewitched the king and all the people.

He told the king in the confessional what he had seen and what he feared. When those bad words passed his lips the pictures of the saints shook their heads as if to say: It is not so; Elise is innocent. The archbishop, however, took it differently, and thought that they were bearing witness against her, and shaking their heads at her sin. Two big tears rolled down the king’s cheeks, and he went home with doubt in his heart. He pretended to sleep at night, but no quiet sleep came to his eyes. He perceived how Elise got up and went to her private closet. Day by day his face grew darker; Elise saw it, but could not imagine what was the cause of it. It alarmed her, and what was she not already suffering in her heart because of her brothers? Her salt tears ran  down upon the royal purple velvet, they lay upon it like sparkling diamonds, and all who saw their splendor wished to be queen.

She had, however, almost reached the end of her labors, only one shirt of mail was wanting; but again she had no more flax, and not a single nettle was left. Once more, for the last time, she must go to the church-yard to pluck a few handfuls. She thought with dread of the solitary walk and the horrible ghouls, but her will was as strong as her trust in God.

Elise went, but the king and the archbishop followed her; they saw her disappear within the grated gateway of the church-yard. When they followed they saw the ghouls sitting on the gravestone as Elise had see them before; and the king turned away his head because he thought she was among them—she, whose head this very evening had rested on his breast.

 “The people must judge her,” he groaned, and the people judged. “Let her be consumed in the glowing flames!”

She was led away from her beautiful royal apartments to a dark, damp dungeon, where the wind whistled through the grated window. Instead of velvet and silk, they gave her the bundle of nettles she had gathered to lay her head upon. The hard, burning shirts of mail were to be her covering, but they could have given her nothing more precious.

She set to work again, with many prayers to God. Outside her prison the street boys sang derisive songs about her, and not a soul comforted her with a kind word.

Towards evening she heard the rustle of swans’ wings close to her window; it was her youngest brother; at last he had found her. He sobbed aloud with joy, although he knew that the coming night might be her last; but then her  work was almost done, and her brothers were there.

The archbishop came to spend his last hours with her, as he had promised the king. She shook her head at him, and by looks and gestures begged him to leave her. She had only this night in which to finish her work, or else all would be wasted, all—her pain, tears, and sleepless nights. The archbishop went away with bitter words against her, but poor Elise knew that she was innocent, and she went on with her work.

The little mice ran about the floor bringing nettles to her feet, so as to give what help they could, and a thrush sat on the grating of the window where he sang all night as merrily as he could to keep up her courage.

It was still only dawn and the sun would not rise for an hour when the eleven brothers stood at the gate of the palace, begging to be taken to the king. This could not be done was the answer,  for it was still night; the king was asleep, and no one dared wake him. All their entreaties and threats were useless; the watch turned out, and even the king himself came to see what was the matter; but just then the sun rose, and no more brothers were to be seen—only eleven wild swans hovering over the palace.

The whole populace streamed out of the town gates; they were all anxious to see the witch burned. A miserable horse drew the cart in which Elise was seated. They had put upon her a smock of green sacking, and all her beautiful long hair hung loose from the lovely head. Her cheeks were deathly pale, and her lips moved softly, while her fingers unceasingly twisted the green yarn. Even on the way to her death she could not abandon her unfinished work. Ten shirts lay completed at her feet; she labored away at the eleventh amid the scoffing insults of the populace.

 “Look at the witch; how she mutters! She has never a book of psalms in her hands; no, there she sits with her loathsome sorcery. Tear it away from her into a thousand bits!”

The crowd pressed around her to destroy her work, but just then eleven white swans flew down and perched upon the cart flapping their wings. The crowd gave way before them in terror.

“It is a sign from Heaven! She is innocent!” they whispered, but they dared not say it aloud.

The executioner seized her by the hand. But she hastily threw the eleven shirts over the swans, who were immediately transformed to eleven handsome princes; but the youngest had a swan’s wing in place of an arm, for one sleeve was wanting to his shirt of mail; she had not been able to finish it.

“Now I may speak! I am innocent.”

The populace who saw what had  happened bowed down before her as if she had been a saint, but she sank lifeless in her brother’s arms, so great had been the strain, the terror, and the suffering she had endured.

“Yes, innocent she is indeed,” said the eldest brother, and he told them all that had happened.

While he spoke a wonderful fragrance spread around as of millions of roses. Every fagot in the pile had taken root and shot out branches, and a great high hedge of red roses had arisen. At the very top was one pure white blossom; it shone like a star, and the king broke it off and laid it on Elise’s bosom, and she woke with joy and peace in her heart.

All the church bells began to ring of their own accord, and the singing birds flocked around them. Surely such a bridal procession went back to the palace as no king had ever seen before!