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Suyettar, the Little Sister, and the Nine Brothers

There was once a woman who had nine sons. They were good boys and loved her dearly, but there was one thing they were always complaining about.

"Why haven't we a little sister?" they kept asking. "Do give us a little sister!"

When the time came that another child was to be born, they said to their mother, "If the baby is a boy we are going away and you will never see us again, but if it is a little girl then we shall stay home and take care of it."

The mother agreed that if the child were a girl she would have her husband put a spindle outside on the gatepost and, if it were a boy, an axe.

"Just wait," she said, "and see what your father puts on the gatepost and then you will know whether it is another brother God has sent you or a little sister." The baby turned out to be a girl and the mother was overjoyed.

"Hurry, husband!" she cried, "and put a spindle on the gatepost so that our nine sons may know the good news!"

The man did so and then quickly returned to the mother and baby. The moment he was gone Suyettar slipped up and changed the tokens. She took away the spindle and put in its place an axe. Then with an evil grin she hurried off mumbling to herself, "Now we'll see what we'll see!"

She hoped to bring trouble and grief and she succeeded. As soon as the nine sons saw the axe on the gatepost, they thought their mother had given birth to another son and at once they left home vowing never to return.

The poor mother waited for them and waited.

"What is keeping my sons?" she cried at last. "Go out to the gate, husband, and see if they are coming."

The man went out and soon returned bringing back word that someone had changed the tokens.

"The spindle that I put on the gatepost is gone/ 5 he said, "and in its place is an axe."

"Alas!" cried the poor mother, "some evil creature has done this to spite us! Oh, if we could only get word to our sons of the little sister they were so eager to have!"

But there was no way to reach them, for no one knew the way they had gone.

In a short time the husband died and the poor woman, abandoned by her nine sons, had only her little daughter left. She named the child Kerttu. Kerttu was a dear little girl and her face was as beautiful as her heart was good. Whenever she found her mother weeping alone she tried to comfort her and, as she grew older, she wanted to know the cause of her mother's grief. At last the mother told her about her nine brothers and how they had gone away never to return owing to the trick of some evil creature.

"My poor mother!" she cried, "how sorry I am that I am the innocent cause of your loss! Let me go out into the world and find my brothers! When once they hear the truth they will gladly come home to you to care for you in your old age!"

At first the mother would not consent to this. "You are all I have," she said, "and I should indeed be miserable and lonely if anything happened you!"

But Kerttu continued to weep every time she thought of her poor brothers driven unnecessarily from home and at last the mother, realizing that she would nevermore be happy unless she were allowed to go in search of them, gave up opposing her.

"Very well, my daughter, you may go and may God go with you and bring you safely back to me. But before you go I must prepare you a bag of food for the journey and bake you a magic cake that will show you the way."

So she baked a batch of bread and at the same time mixed a little round cake with Kerttu's own tears and baked it, too. Then she said, "Here now, my child, are provisions for the journey and here is a magic cake that will lead you to your brothers. All you have to do is throw it down in front of you and say,

"Roll, roll, my little cake!

Show me the way that I must take

To find at last the brothers nine

Whose own true mother is also mine!"

Then the little cake will start rolling and do you follow wherever it rolls. But, Kerttu, my child, you must not start out alone. You must have some friend or companion to go with you."

Now it happened that Kerttu had a little dog, Musti, that she loved dearly. "I'll take Musti with me!" she said. "Musti will protect me." So she called Musti and Musti wagged his tail and barked with joy at the prospect of going out into the world with his mistress.

Then Kerttu threw down the magic cake in front of her and sang,

"Roll, roll, my little cake!

Show me the way that I must take

To find at last the brothers nine

Whose own true mother is also mine!"

At once the cake rolled off like a little wheel and Kerttu and Musti followed it. They walked till they were tired. Then Kerttu picked up the little cake and they rested by the wayside. When they were ready again to start the cake a-rolling, all Kerttu had to do was throw it down in front of her and say the magic rime.

Their first day was without adventure. When night came they ate their supper and went to sleep in a field under a tree.

The second day they overtook an ugly old woman whom Kerttu disliked on sight. But she said to herself, "Shame on you, Kerttu, not liking this woman just because she's old and ugly!" and she made herself answer the old woman's greetings politely and she made Musti stop snarling and growling.

The old hag asked Kerttu who she was and where she was going and Kerttu told her.

"Ah!" said the old woman, "how fortunate that we have met each other!"

She smiled and petted Kerttu's arm and Kerttu felt a shuddering. But she restrained herself and told herself severely, "You're a wicked girl not to feel more friendly to the poor old thing."

Musti felt much as Kerttu did. He no longer growled, for Kerttu had told him not to, but he drooped his tail between his legs and, pressing up close to Kerttu, he trembled with fright. And well he might, too, for the old hag was none other than Suyettar who had been waiting all these years just for this very chance to do further injury to Kerttu and her brothers.

Kerttu, poor child, was too good and innocent to suspect evil in others. She said to Suyettar, "Very well, if our ways he together then we can be comp anions."

So Suyettar joined Kerttu and Musti and the three of them walked on following the little cake. As the day advanced the sun grew hotter and hotter and at last when they reached a lake Suyettar said, "My dear, let us sit down here for a few moments and rest."

They all sat down and next Suyettar said: "Let us go bathing in the lake. That will refresh us."

Kerttu would have agreed if Musti had not tugged at her skirts and warned her not to. "Don't do it, dear mistress," Musti growled softly. "Don't go in bathing with her! She'll bewitch you!"

So Kerttu said, "No, I don't want to go in bathing."

Suyettar waited until they were again journeying on and then when Kerttu was not looking she turned around and kicked Musti and broke one of the poor little dog's legs. Thereafter Musti had to hop along on three legs.

The next afternoon when they passed another lake, Suyettar tried again to tempt Kerttu into the water.

"The sun is very hot," she said, "and it would refresh us both to bathe. Come, Kerttu, my dear, don't refuse me this time!"

But again Musti tugged at Kerttu's skirts and, licking her hand, whispered the warning, "Don't do it, dear mistress! Don't go in bathing with her or she will bewitch you!"

So again Kerttu said politely, "No, I don't feel like going in bathing. You go in alone and I'll wait for you here."

But this was not what Suyettar wanted and she said, no, she did not care to go in alone. She was furious, too, with Musti and later when Kerttu was not looking she gave the poor little dog a kick that broke another leg. Thereafter Musti had to hop along on two legs.

They slept the third night by the wayside and the next day they went on again always following the magic cake. In midafternoon they passed a lake and Suyettar said, "Surely, my dear? you must be tired and hot. Let us both bathe in this cool lake."

But Musti, hopping painfully along on two legs, yelped weakly and said to Kerttu, "Don't do it, dear mistress! Don't go in bathing with her or she'll bewitch you!"

So for a third time Kerttu refused and later, when she was not looking, Suyettar kicked Musti and broke the third of the poor little dog's legs. Thereafter Musti hopped on as best he could on only one leg,

Well, they went on and on. When night came they slept by the roadside and then next morning they started on again. The sun grew hot and by midafternoon Kerttu was tired and ready to rest. When they reached a lake Suyettar again begged that they both go in bathing. Kerttu was tempted to agree when poor Musti threw himself panting at her feet and whimpered, "Don't do it, dear mistress! Don't go in bathing with her or she will bewitch you!"

So Kerttu again refused.

"That's right, dear mistress!" Musti panted, "don't do it! I shall soon be dead, I know, for she hates me, but before I die I want to warn you one last time never to go in bathing with her or she will bewitch you!"

"What's that dog saying?" Suyettar demanded angrily, and without waiting for an answer she picked up a heavy piece of wood and struck poor Musti such a blow on the head that it killed him.

"What have you done to my poor little dog?" Kerttu cried.

"Don't mind him, my dear," Suyettar said. "He was sick and lame and it was better to put him out of his misery."

Suyettar tried to soothe Kerttu and make her forget Musti, but all afternoon Kerttu wept to think that she would never again see her faithful little friend.

The next afternoon when Suyettar begged her to go in bathing there was no Musti to warn her against it and at last Kerttu allowed herself to be persuaded. She was tired from her many days' wandering and it was true that the first touch of the cool water refreshed her.

"Now splash water in my face!" Suyettar cried.

But Kerttu did not want to splash water into Suyettar 's face, for she supposed Suyettar was an old woman and she thought it would be disrespectful to splash water into the face of an old woman.

"Do you hear me!" screamed Suyettar.

When Kerttu still hesitated, Suyettar looked at her with such a terrible, threatening expression that Kerttu did as she was bidden. She splashed water into Suyettar 's face and, as the water touched Suyettar's eyes, Suyettar cried out,

"Your bonny looks give up to me

And you take mine for all to see!"

At once they two changed appearance: Suyettar looked young and beautiful like Kerttu, and Kerttu was changed to a hideous old hag. Then too late she realized that the awful old woman to whom she had been so polite was Suyettar. "Oh, why,"Kerttu cried, "why did not I heed poor Musti's warning!"

Suyettar dragged her roughly out of the water. "Come along!" she said. "Dress yourself in those rags of mine and start that cake a-rolling! We ought to reach your brothers' house by tonight."

So poor Kerttu had to dress herself in Suyettar's filthy old garments, while Suyettar, looking like a fresh young girl, decked herself out in Kerttu's pretty bodice and skirt.

Unwillingly now and with a heavy heart Kerttu threw down the cake and said,

"Roll, roll, my little cake!

Show me the way that I must take

To find at last the brothers nine

Whose own true mother is also mine!''

Off rolled the little cake and they two followed it, Kerttu weeping bitterly and Suyettar taunting her with ugly laughs. Then suddenly Kerttu forgot to weep, for Suyettar took from her her memory and her tongue.

The little cake led them at last to a farmhouse before which it stopped. This was where the nine brothers were living. Eight of them were out working in the fields but the youngest was at home. He opened the door and when Suyettar told him that she was Kerttu, his sister, he kissed her tenderly and made her welcome. Then he invited her inside and they sat side by side on the bench and talked and Suyettar told him all she had heard from Kerttu about his mother and about the tokens which had been changed at Kerttu's birth. The youngest brother listened eagerly and Suyettar told her story so glibly that of course he supposed that she was his own true sister.

"And who is the awful looking old hag that has come with you?" he asked pointing at Kerttu.

"That? Oh, that's an old serving woman that our mother sent with me to bear me company. She's dumb and foolish, but she's a good herd and we can let her drive the cow out to pasture every day."

The older brothers when they came home were greatly pleased to find what they thought was their sister. They began to love her at once and to pet her and they said that now she must stay with them and keep house for them. She told them that was what she wanted to do and she said that now she was here the youngest brother need no longer stay at home but could go out every morning with the rest of them to work in the fields.

So now began a new life for poor Kerttu. In the morning after the brothers were gone Suyettar would scold and abuse her. She would bake a cake for her dinner to be eaten in the fields and she would fill the cake with stones and sticks and filth. Then she would take Kerttu as far as the gate where she would give her back her tongue and her memory and order her roughly to drive the cow to pasture and look after it all day long. In the late afternoon when Kerttu drove home the cow, Suyettar would meet her at the gate and take from her her tongue and her memory, and then in the evening the brothers would see her as a foolish old woman who couldn't talk. Every morning and every evening Kerttu begged Suyettar to show her a little mercy, but far from showing her any mercy, Suyettar grew more cruel from day to day.

Suyettar was very proud to think that nine handsome young men took her for a beautiful girl and she felt sure they would never find out their mistake, for only Kerttu knew who she really was and Kerttu was entirely in her power.

At night seated in the shadow in a far corner of the kitchen with her nine brothers laughing and talking Kerttu felt no sorrow for at such times of course she had no memory. But during the day it was different. Then when she was alone in the meadow she had her memory and her tongue and she thought about her poor mother at home anxiously awaiting her return and she thought of her nine sturdy brothers all of whom might now through her mistake fall victims to Suyettar. These thoughts made her weep with grief and as the days went by she put this grief into a song which she sang constantly,

"I've found at last the brothers nine

Whose own true mother is also mine.

But they know me not from stick or stone!

They leave me here 'to weep alone.

While Suyettar sits in my place

With stolen looks and stolen face!

She snared me first with evil guile

And now she mocks me all the while:

By night she takes my tongue away.

She feeds me sticks and stones by day . . .

Oh, little they guess, the brothers nine,

That their own true mother is also mine!"

The brothers as they worked in nearby fields used to hear the song and they wondered about it.

"Strange!" they said to one another. "Can that be the old woman singing? In the evening at home she never opens her mouth and our dear sister always says that she's dumb and foolish."

One afternoon when Kerttu's song sounded particularly sad, the youngest brother crept close to the meadow where Kerttu was sitting in order to hear the words. He listened carefully and then hurried back to the others and with frightened face told them what he had heard.

"Nonsense!" the older brothers said. "It cannot be so!" However, they, too, wanted to hear for themselves the words of the strange song, so they all crept near to listen.

It looked like an old hag who was singing but the voice that came out of the withered mouth was the voice of a young girl. As they listened they, too, grew pale,

I've found at last the brothers nine

Whose own true mother is also mine,

But they know me not from stick or stone!

They leave me here to weep alone,

While Suyettar sits In my place

With stolen looks and stolen face!

She snared me first with evil guile

And now she mocks me all the while:

By night she takes my tongue away,

She feeds me sticks and stones by day! . . .

Oh, little they guess, the brothers nine,

That their own true mother is also mine."

"Can it be true?" they said, whispering together. They sent the youngest brother to question Kerttu, and when he had heard her story, he believed it true. Then the other brothers went to her one by one and questioned her and finally they were all convinced of the truth of her story.

"It is well for us," they said, "if we do not all fall into the power of that awful creature! How can we rescue our poor little sister!"

"I can never get back my own looks,"Kerttu said, "unless Suyettar splashes water into my eyes and unless I cry out a magic rime as she does it."

The brothers discussed one plan after another and at last agreed on one that they thought might deceive Suyettar.

They had Kerttu inflame her eyes with dust and come groping home one midday. The brothers, too, were at home and as Kerttu came stumbling into the kitchen they said to Suyettar, "Oh, sister, sister, see the poor old woman! Something ails her! Her eyes are all red and swollen! Get some water and bathe them!"

"Nonsense!" Suyetter said. "The old hag is well enough! Let her be! She doesn't need any attention!"

"Oh, sister!" the youngest brother said, reproachfully, "is that any way for a human, kindhearted girl like you to talk? If you won't bathe the old creature's eyes, I will myself!"

Then Suyettar who wanted them to think that she was a human, kindhearted girl said, no, she would bathe them. So she took a basin of water over to Kerttu and told her to lean down her head. As she splashed the first drop of water into Kerttu's eyes, Kerttu cried out,

"My own true looks give back to me

And take your own for all to see."

At once Suyettar was again a hideous old hag though still dressed in Kerttu's pretty bodice and skirt, and Kerttu was herself again, young and fresh and sweet, though still incased in Suyettar's rags. But the brothers pretended that they saw no difference and kept on talking to Suyettar as though they still thought her Kerttu. And Suyettar because her eyes were blinded with the dust supposed that they were still deceived.

Then one of the brothers said to Suyettar, "Sister dear, the sauna is all heated and ready. Don't you want to bathe?"

Suyettar thought that this would be a fine chance to wash the dust from her eyes, so she let them lead her to the sauna. Once they got her inside they locked the door and set the sauna afire. Oh, the noise she made then when she found she had been trapped! She kicked and screamed and cursed and threatened! But Kerttu and the brothers paid no heed to her. They left her burning in the sauna while they hurried homewards. They found their poor old mother seated at the window weeping, for she thought that now Kerttu as well as her sons was lost forever. As Kerttu and the nine handsome young men came in the gate, she did not recognize them until Kerttu sang out,

"I bring at last the brothers nine

Whose own true mother is also mine!"

Then she knew who they were and with thanks to God she welcomed them home.


A Little Mouse That Was a Princess

Once a farmer had three sons. One day when the boys were grown to manhood, he said to them, "My sons, it is high time that you were all married. Tomorrow I wish you to go out in search of brides."

"But where shall we go?" the oldest son asked. "I have thought of that, too," the father said. "Do each of you chop down a tree and then take the direction in which the fallen tree points. I'm sure that if you go far enough in that direction, each of you will find a suitable bride."

So the next day the three sons chopped down trees. The oldest son's tree fell pointing north.

"That suits me!" he said, for he knew that to the north lay a farm where a very pretty girl lived.

The tree of the second son when it fell pointed south. "That suits me!" the second son declared thinking of a girl that he had often danced with who lived on a farm to the south.

The youngest son's tree the youngest son's name was Veikko when it fell pointed straight to the forest.

"Ha! Ha!" the older brothers laughed. "Veikko will have to go courting one of the Wolf girls or one of the foxes!"

They meant by this that only animals lived in the forest and they thought they were making a good joke at Veikko's expense. But Veikko said he was perfectly willing to take his chances and go where his tree pointed.

The older brothers went gaily off and presented their suits to the two farmers whose daughters they admired. Veikko, too, started off with brave front but after he had gone some distance in the forest his courage began to ebb'

"How can I find a bride," he asked himself, "in a place where there are no human creatures at all?"

Just then he came to a little hut. He pushed open the door and went in. It was empty. To be sure, there was a little mouse sitting on the table, daintily combing her whiskers.

"There's nobody here!" Veikko said aloud.

The little mouse paused in her toilet and turning to wards him said reproachfully,"Why, Veikko, I'm here!"

"But you are only a mouse!"

"I count for something all the same!" the little mouse declared. "But tell me, what were you hoping to find?"

"I was hoping to find a sweetheart."

The little mouse questioned him further and Veikko told her the whole story of his brothers and the trees.

"The two older ones are finding sweethearts easily enough," Veikko said, "but I don't see how I can, off here in the forest. And it will shame me to have to go home and confess that I alone have failed."

"See here, Veikko," the little mouse said, "why don't you take me for your sweetheart?"

Veikko laughed heartily.

"But you're only a mouse! Whoever heard of a man having a mouse for a sweetheart?"

The mouse shook her little head solemnly.

"Take my word for it, Veikko, you could do much worse than have me for a sweetheart! Even if I am only a mouse I can love you and be true to you."

She was a dear dainty little mouse and as she sat looking up at Veikko with her little paws under her chin and her bright little eyes sparkling. Veikko liked her more and more.

Then she sang Veikko a little song and the song cheered him so much that he forgot his disappointment at not finding a human sweetheart and as he left her to go home he said, "Very well, little mouse, I'll take you for my sweetheart!"

At that the mouse made little squeaks of delight and she told him that she'd be true to him and wait for him no matter how long he was in returning.

Well, the older brothers when they got home boasted loudly about their sweethearts.

"Mine," said the oldest, "has the rosiest reddest cheeks you ever saw!"

"And mine," the second announced, "has long yellow hair!"

Veikko said nothing.

"What's the matter, Veikko?" the older brothers asked him, laughing. "Has your sweetheart pretty pointed ears or sharp white teeth?"

You see they were still having their little joke about foxes and wolves.

"You needn't laugh," Veikko said. "I've found a sweetheart. She's a gentle dainty little thing gowned in velvet."

"Gowned in velvet!" echoed the oldest brother with a frown.

"Just like a princess!" the second brother sneered.

"Yes," Veikko repeated, "gowned in velvet like a princess. And when she sits up and sings to me I'm perfectly happy."

"Huh!" grunted the older brothers not at all pleased that Veikko should have so grand a sweetheart.

"Well," said the old farmer after a few days, "now I should like to know what those sweethearts of yours are able to do. Have them each bake me a loaf of bread so that I can see whether they're good housewives."

"Mine will be able to bake bread I'm sure of that!" the oldest brother declared boastfully.

"So will mine!" chorused the second brother.

Veikko was silent.

"What about the princess?" they said with a laugh. "Do you think the princess can bake bread?"

"I don't know," Veikko answered truthfully. "I'll have to ask her."

He had no reason for supposing that the little mouse could bake bread, and by the time he reached the hut in the forest he was feeling sad and discouraged.

When he pushed open the door, he found the little mouse as before seated on the table daintily combing her whiskers. At sight of Veikko she danced about with delight.

"I'm so glad to see you!" she squeaked. "I knew you would come back!"

Then when she noticed that he was silent, she asked him what was the matter. Veikko told her, "My father wants each of our sweethearts to bake him a loaf of bread. If I come home without a loaf my brothers will laugh at me."

"You won't have to go home without a loaf!" the little mouse said. "I can bake bread."

Veikko was much surprised at this.

"I never heard of a mouse that could bake bread!"

"Well, I can!" the little mouse insisted.

With that she began ringing a small silver bell, tinkle^ tinkle, tinkle. At once there was the sound of hurrying footsteps, tiny scratchy footsteps, and hundreds of mice came running into the hut.

The little princess mouse, sitting up very straight and dignified, said to them, "Each of you go fetch me a grain of the finest wheat."

All the mice scampered quickly away and soon returned one by one, each carrying a grain of the finest wheat. After that it was no trick at all for the princess mouse to bake a beautiful loaf of wheaten bread.

The next day the three brothers presented their father the loaves of their sweethearts' baking. The oldest one had a loaf of rye bread. "Very good," the farmer said. "For hardworking people like us rye bread is good."

The loaf the second son had was made of barley. "Barley bread is also good," the farmer said.

But when Veikko presented his loaf of beautiful wheaten bread, his father cried out, "What! White bread! Ah, Veikko now must have a sweetheart of wealth!"

"Of course!" the older brothers sneered. "Did not he tell us she was a princess? Say, Veikko, when a princess wants fine white flour, how does she get it?"

Veikko answered simply, "She rings a little silver bell and when her servants come in, she tells them to bring her grains of the finest wheat."

At this the older brothers nearly exploded with envy until their father had to reprove them.

"There! There!" he said. "Don't grudge the boy his good luck! Each girl has baked the loaf she knows how to make and each in her own way will probably make a good wife. But before you bring them home to me, I want one further test of their skill in housewifery. Let them each send me a sample of their weaving."

The older brothers were delighted at this for they knew that their sweethearts were skilful weavers.

"We'll see how her ladyship fares this time!" they said, sure in their hearts that Veikko's sweetheart, whoever she was, would not put them to shame with her weaving.

Veikko, too, had serious doubts of the little mouse's ability at the loom.

"Whoever heard of a mouse that could weave?" he said to himself as he pushed open the door of the forest hut.

"Oh, there you are at last!" the little mouse squeaked joyfully. She reached out her little paws in welcome and then in her excitement she began dancing about on the table.

"Are you really glad to see me, little mouse?" Veikko asked.

"Indeed I am!" the mouse declared. "Am I not your sweetheart? I've been waiting for you and waiting, just wishing that you would return! Does your father want something more this time, Veikko?"

"Yes, and it's something I'm afraid you cannot give me, little mouse."

"Perhaps I can. Tell me what it is."

"It's a sample of your weaving. I do not believe you can weave. I never heard of a mouse that could weave."

"Tut! Tut!" said the mouse. "Of course I can weave! It would be a strange thing if Veikko's sweetheart couldn't weave!"

She rang the little silver bell, tinkle, tinkle, tinkle, and at once there was the faint scratch-scratch of a hundred little feet as mice came running in from all directions and sat up on their haunches awaiting their princess' orders.

"Go each of you," she said, "and get me a fibre of flax, the finest there is."

The mice went scurrying off and soon they began returning one by one each bringing a fibre of flax. When they had spun the flax and carded it, the little mouse wove a beautiful piece of fine linen. It was so sheer that she was able when she folded it to put it into an empty nutshell.

"Here, Veikko," she said, "here in this little box is a sample of my weaving. I hope your father will like it."

Veikko when he got home felt almost embarrassed for he was sure that his sweetheart's weaving would shame his brothers. So at first he kept the nutshell hidden in his pocket.

The sweetheart of the oldest brother had sent as a sample of her weaving a square of coarse cotton. "Not very fine," the farmer said, "but good enough."

The second brother's sample was a square of cotton and linen mixed. "A little better," the farmer said, nodding his head.

Then he turned to Veikko. "And you, Veikko, has your sweetheart not given you a sample of her weaving?"

Veikko handed his father a nutshell. His brothers burst out laughing at the sight of it. "Ha! Ha! Ha!" they laughed. "Veikko's sweetheart gives him a nut when he asks for a sample of her weaving."

But their laughter died as the farmer opened the nutshell and began shaking out a great web of the finest linen. "Why, Veikko, my boy!" he cried, "however did your sweetheart get threads for so fine a web?"

Veikko answered modestly, "She rang a little silver bell and ordered her servants to bring her in fibres of finest flax. They did so and after they had spun the flax and carded it, my sweetheart wove the web you see."

"Wonderful!" gasped the farmer. "I have never known such a weaver! The other girls will be all right for farmers' wives, but Veikko's sweetheart might be a princess! Well," concluded the farmer, "it's time that you all brought your sweethearts home. I want to see them with my own eyes. Suppose you bring them tomorrow."

"She's a good little mouse and I'm very fond of her," Veikko thought to himself as he went out to the forest, "but my brothers will certainly laugh when they find she is only a mouse! Well, I don't care if they laugh! She's been a good little sweetheart to me and I'm not going to be ashamed of her!"

So when he got to the hut he told the little mouse at once that his father wanted to see her.

The little mouse was greatly excited. "I must go in proper style!" she said.

She rang the little silver bell and ordered her coach and five. The coach when it came turned out to be an empty nutshell and the five prancing steeds that were drawing it were five black mice. The little mouse seated herself in the coach with a coachman mouse on the box in front of her and a footman mouse on the box behind her.

"Oh, how my brothers will laugh!" thought Veikko. But he did not laugh. He walked beside the coach and told the little mouse not to be frightened, that he would take good care of her. His father, he told her, was a gentle old man and would be kind to her.

When they left the forest, they came to a river that was spanned by a footbridge. Just as Veikko and the nutshell coach had reached the middle of the bridge, a man met them coming from the opposite direction.

"Mercy me!" the man exclaimed as he caught sight of the strange little coach that was rolling along beside Veikko. "What's that?"

He stooped down and looked and then with a loud laugh he put out his foot and pushed the coach, the little mouse, her servants, and her five prancing steeds all off the bridge and into the water below.

"What have you done! What have you done!" Veikko cried, "You've drowned my poor little sweetheart!"

The man thinking Veikko was crazy hurried away. Veikko with tears in his eyes looked down into the water.

"You poor little mouse!" he said. "How sorry I am that you are drowned! You were a faithful loving sweetheart and now that you are gone I know how much I loved you!"

As he spoke he saw a beautiful coach of gold drawn by five glossy horses go up the far bank of the river. A coachman in gold lace held the reins and a footman in pointed cap sat up stiffly behind. The most beautiful girl in the world sat in the coach. Her skin was as red as a berry and as white as snow, her long golden hair gleamed with jewels, and she was dressed in pearly velvet. She beckoned to Veikko and when he came close she said, "Won't you come sit beside me?"

"Me? Me?" Veikko stammered, too dazed to think.

The beautiful creature smiled. "You were not ashamed to have me for a sweetheart when I was a mouse," she said, "and surely now that I am a princess again you won't desert me!"

"A mouse!" Veikko gasped. "Were you the little mouse?"

The princess nodded. "Yes, I was the little mouse under an evil enchantment which could never have been broken if you had not taken me for a sweetheart and if another human being had not drowned me. Now the enchantment is broken forever. So come, we will go to your father and after he has given us his blessing we will get married and go home to my kingdom."

And that's exactly what they did. They drove at once to the farmer's house. And when Veikko's father and his brothers and his brothers' sweethearts saw the princess' coach stopping at their gate, they all came out bowing and scraping to see what such grand folk could want of them.

"Father!" Veikko cried, "don't you know me?"

The farmer stopped bowing long enough to look up.

"Why, bless my soul!" he cried, "It's our Veikko!"

"Yes, father, I'm Veikko and this is the princess that I'm going to marry!"

"A princess, did you say, Veikko? Mercy me, where did my boy find a princess?"

"Out in the forest where my tree pointed."

"Well, well, well," the farmer said, "where your tree pointed! I've always heard that was a good way to find a bride."

The older brothers shook their heads gloomily and muttered, "Just our luck! If only our trees had pointed to the forest we, too, should have found princesses instead of plain country wenches!"

But they were wrong: It was not because his tree pointed to the forest that Veikko got the princess, it was because he was so simple and good that he was kind even to a little mouse.

Well, after they had got the farmer's blessing they rode home to the princess' kingdom and were married. And they were happy as they should have been for they were good and true to each other and they loved each other dearly.



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