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Of the next story we give only an abstract. It will be remembered that Linda was hatched from an egg, while the later adventures of the princess in the following tale resemble those of Cinderella.
LIKE many others, this story begins with a childless queen whose husband is absent at the wars. She is visited by an old woman on crutches, who gives her a little box of birch-bark containing a bird’s egg, and tells her to foster it in her bosom for three months, till a live doll like a human infant is hatched from it. This was to be kept in p. 274 a woollen basket till it had grown to the size of a new-born child. It would not require food or drink, but the basket must be kept in a warm place. Nine months after the doll’s birth, the queen herself would give birth to a son, and the king was to proclaim that God had sent the royal parents a son and daughter. The queen was to suckle the prince herself, but to procure a nurse for the princess; and when the children were christened, the old woman wished to be their godmother, and gave the queen a bird’s feather with which to summon her. The matter was to be kept secret. Then the old woman departed, but as she went, she grew suddenly young, and seemed to fly rather than to walk.
A fortnight afterwards the king returned victorious, and the queen was encouraged to hope for the best. In three months’ time, a doll, half a finger long, was hatched from the egg, and all came to pass as the old woman had foretold. On the christening day, the queen opened one of the windows and cast out the feather.
When all the guests were assembled, a grand carriage drove up, drawn by six yolk-coloured horses, and a young lady stepped out in rose-coloured p. 275 gold-embroidered silken robes, which shone with sunlike radiance, though the face of the lady was concealed by a fine veil. She removed it on entering, when all agreed that she was the fairest maiden they had ever seen in their lives. She took the princess in her arms, and named her Rebuliina,1 which puzzled everybody. A noble lord stood sponsor for the prince, who was named Villem. The godmother then gave the queen many instructions concerning the rearing of the children, and told her to keep the box with the eggshells always beside them in the cradle, to ward off evil from them. Then she took her leave, and the queen gave out that she was a great princess from a foreign country.
The children throve, and the nurse observed that a strange lady sometimes came to gaze on the princess by night. Two years afterwards the queen fell sick, and gave over the princess to the charge of the nurse, directing her, under oath of secrecy, to fasten the talisman round the neck of the child when she was ten years old. She then sent for the king, and begged him to let the nurse p. 276 remain with the princess as long as the princess herself wished it, and after this she expired.
The king then brought home the inevitable cruel stepmother, who could not endure the sight of the children. When the princess was ten years old, her nurse put the talisman round her neck, but the thoughtless girl stowed it away with some other relics of her mother, and forgot it till a year or two afterwards, when the king was absent, and her stepmother cruelly beat her. She ran crying into the house, and looked in the box, but finding only a handful of wool and two empty eggshells in the box, threw them out of the window, along with a small feather which was under the wool. Immediately her godmother stood before her, and soothed and comforted her. She charged her to submit to her stepmother’s tyranny, but always to carry the talisman in her bosom, for then no one could injure her, and when she was grown up, her stepmother would have no further power over her. The feather, too, would summon her godmother whenever she needed her. The lady then took the girl into the garden, pronounced a spell over the little box, and fetched out supper from it, teaching p. 277 the princess the spell by which she could obtain what she needed from it. But after this time her stepmother grew much more friendly to her.
The princess grew up a peerless maiden; but at length war broke out, and the royal city, and even the palace, were in such straits that Rebuliina summoned her godmother to her aid; but she told her that though she could rescue her, the rest must abide their fate. She then led her invisibly out of the city through the besieging army, and next day the city was taken. The prince escaped, but the king and his household were made prisoners, and the queen was slain by a hostile spear. The princess was changed by her godmother into a peasant maiden, and instructed to wait for better times, when she could resume her former appearance with the aid of the casket. After wandering alone for some days, the princess reached a district unravaged by war, and engaged herself as maid at a farm-house. She did her work admirably with the aid of the casket, and after a time attracted the notice of a noble lady who was passing through the village, who asked her to enter her service. Six months afterwards came news that the prince had driven out the enemy with the aid of an army from abroad, p. 278 and had been proclaimed king, the old king having died in prison in the meantime.
The prince was greatly grieved at his father’s death, but after a year of mourning he resolved to take a bride, and all the maidens were bidden to a feast. The three daughters of Rebuliina’s mistress were invited, and the godmother directed her in a dream to attire them first, and then to set out after them. She grew very restless, and when her mistress and the young ladies were gone, she sat down and wept bitter tears; but a voice told her to make use of the casket, and immediately magnificent gold-embroidered robes appeared on the bed; and as soon as she had washed her face, she resumed her former appearance, and was amazed at her own beauty when she looked in the glass. When she went down-stairs, she found a magnificent coach with four yolk-coloured horses at the door. Just as she reached the palace, she found to her horror that she had forgotten the casket, and was about to turn back, when a swallow brought it to her. Everything in the palace was joy and splendour; but as the princess entered, the other ladies paled like stars before the sun, and the king never left her side. At midnight the hall was suddenly p. 279 darkened, and then grew light again, when the godmother of the princess appeared, and presented her to the king as the adopted child of his father’s first queen. Then there was a loud noise, and she disappeared. The king married the princess, and they lived happily together, but the casket was seen no more, and it was supposed that the god-mother had taken it with her.