"Alas, no," they answered. "The conditions are too difficult. You would not be allowed to speak or to laugh for six years, and in that time you would have to sew together six little shirts from asters for us. And if a single word were to come from your mouth, all your work would be lost."
"My dear woman," he said to her, "can you show me the way through the woods?"
Then she told him of the treachery of the old woman who had taken away their three children and hidden them.
And when night came she ran away and went straight into the woods. She walked the whole night long without stopping, and the next day as well, until she was too tired to walk any further.
The next time, when she again gave birth to a beautiful boy, the deceitful mother-in-law did the same thing again, but the king could not bring himself to believe her accusations.
The king was so frightened that he consented, and the old woman led him to her cottage, where her daughter was sitting by the fire. She received the king as if she had been expecting him. He saw that she was very beautiful, but in spite of this he did not like her, and he could not look at her without secretly shuddering.
"What sort of condition is it?" asked the king.
Then she told him that from her window she had seen how her brothers had flown away over the woods as swans. She showed him the feathers that they had dropped into the courtyard, and which she had gathered up.