Sweetheart Roland

SWEETHEART ROLAND

There was once upon a time a woman who was a real witch and had two
daughters, one ugly and wicked, and this one she loved because she was
her own daughter, and one beautiful and good, and this one she hated,
because she was her stepdaughter. The stepdaughter once had a pretty
apron, which the other fancied so much that she became envious, and
told her mother that she must and would have that apron. 'Be quiet, my
child,' said the old woman, 'and you shall have it. Your stepsister
has long deserved death; tonight when she is asleep I will come and
cut her head off. Only be careful that you are at the far side of the
bed, and push her well to the front.' It would have been all over with
the poor girl if she had not just then been standing in a corner, and
heard everything. All day long she dared not go out of doors, and when
bedtime had come, the witch's daughter got into bed first, so as to
lie at the far side, but when she was asleep, the other pushed her
gently to the front, and took for herself the place at the back, close
by the wall. In the night, the old woman came creeping in, she held an
axe in her right hand, and felt with her left to see if anyone were
lying at the outside, and then she grasped the axe with both hands,
and cut her own child's head off.

When she had gone away, the girl got up and went to her sweetheart,
who was called Roland, and knocked at his door. When he came out, she
said to him: 'Listen, dearest Roland, we must fly in all haste; my
stepmother wanted to kill me, but has struck her own child. When
daylight comes, and she sees what she has done, we shall be lost.'
'But,' said Roland, 'I counsel you first to take away her magic wand,
or we cannot escape if she pursues us.' The maiden fetched the magic
wand, and she took the dead girl's head and dropped three drops of
blood on the ground, one in front of the bed, one in the kitchen, and
one on the stairs. Then she hurried away with her lover.

When the old witch got up next morning, she called her daughter, and
wanted to give her the apron, but she did not come. Then the witch
cried: 'Where are you?' 'Here, on the stairs, I am sweeping,' answered
the first drop of blood. The old woman went out, but saw no one on the
stairs, and cried again: 'Where are you?' 'Here in the kitchen, I am
warming myself,' cried the second drop of blood. She went into the
kitchen, but found no one. Then she cried again: 'Where are you?' 'Ah,
here in the bed, I am sleeping,' cried the third drop of blood. She
went into the room to the bed. What did she see there? Her own child,
whose head she had cut off, bathed in her blood. The witch fell into a
passion, sprang to the window, and as she could look forth quite far
into the world, she perceived her stepdaughter hurrying away with her
sweetheart Roland. 'That shall not help you,' cried she, 'even if you
have got a long way off, you shall still not escape me.' She put on
her many-league boots, in which she covered an hour's walk at every
step, and it was not long before she overtook them. The girl, however,
when she saw the old woman striding towards her, changed, with her
magic wand, her sweetheart Roland into a lake, and herself into a duck
swimming in the middle of it. The witch placed herself on the shore,
threw breadcrumbs in, and went to endless trouble to entice the duck;
but the duck did not let herself be enticed, and the old woman had to
go home at night as she had come. At this the girl and her sweetheart
Roland resumed their natural shapes again, and they walked on the
whole night until daybreak. Then the maiden changed herself into a
beautiful flower which stood in the midst of a briar hedge, and her
sweetheart Roland into a fiddler. It was not long before the witch
came striding up towards them, and said to the musician: 'Dear
musician, may I pluck that beautiful flower for myself?' 'Oh, yes,' he
replied, 'I will play to you while you do it.' As she was hastily
creeping into the hedge and was just going to pluck the flower,
knowing perfectly well who the flower was, he began to play, and
whether she would or not, she was forced to dance, for it was a
magical dance. The faster he played, the more violent springs was she
forced to make, and the thorns tore her clothes from her body, and
pricked her and wounded her till she bled, and as he did not stop, she
had to dance till she lay dead on the ground.

As they were now set free, Roland said: 'Now I will go to my father
and arrange for the wedding.' 'Then in the meantime I will stay here
and wait for you,' said the girl, 'and that no one may recognize me, I
will change myself into a red stone landmark.' Then Roland went away,
and the girl stood like a red landmark in the field and waited for her
beloved. But when Roland got home, he fell into the snares of another,
who so fascinated him that he forgot the maiden. The poor girl
remained there a long time, but at length, as he did not return at
all, she was sad, and changed herself into a flower, and thought:
'Someone will surely come this way, and trample me down.'

It befell, however, that a shepherd kept his sheep in the field and
saw the flower, and as it was so pretty, plucked it, took it with him,
and laid it away in his chest. From that time forth, strange things
happened in the shepherd's house. When he arose in the morning, all
the work was already done, the room was swept, the table and benches
cleaned, the fire in the hearth was lighted, and the water was
fetched, and at noon, when he came home, the table was laid, and a
good dinner served. He could not conceive how this came to pass, for
he never saw a human being in his house, and no one could have
concealed himself in it. He was certainly pleased with this good
attendance, but still at last he was so afraid that he went to a wise
woman and asked for her advice. The wise woman said: 'There is some
enchantment behind it, listen very early some morning if anything is
moving in the room, and if you see anything, no matter what it is,
throw a white cloth over it, and then the magic will be stopped.'

The shepherd did as she bade him, and next morning just as day dawned,
he saw the chest open, and the flower come out. Swiftly he sprang
towards it, and threw a white cloth over it. Instantly the
transformation came to an end, and a beautiful girl stood before him,
who admitted to him that she had been the flower, and that up to this
time she had attended to his house-keeping. She told him her story,
and as she pleased him he asked her if she would marry him, but she
answered: 'No,' for she wanted to remain faithful to her sweetheart
Roland, although he had deserted her. Nevertheless, she promised not
to go away, but to continue keeping house for the shepherd.

And now the time drew near when Roland's wedding was to be celebrated,
and then, according to an old custom in the country, it was announced
that all the girls were to be present at it, and sing in honour of the
bridal pair. When the faithful maiden heard of this, she grew so sad
that she thought her heart would break, and she would not go thither,
but the other girls came and took her. When it came to her turn to
sing, she stepped back, until at last she was the only one left, and
then she could not refuse. But when she began her song, and it reached
Roland's ears, he sprang up and cried: 'I know the voice, that is the
true bride, I will have no other!' Everything he had forgotten, and
which had vanished from his mind, had suddenly come home again to his
heart. Then the faithful maiden held her wedding with her sweetheart
Roland, and grief came to an end and joy began.

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