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Story Of The Three Strong Men
by [?]

Now when the sun was at the edge of noon, just balancing to fall, there came a boy, a little wretched, elfish-looking child, as sad and sickly as a boy could be, who asked the man for food. He answered him, “Poor little fellow! there, the pot is full of venison, so go and eat your fill.”

He ate, indeed, the dinner for the three. When he had done he did not leave a scrap; then walked into the stony mountain-side, as any man might walk into the fog, and in a second he was seen no more.

Now when the two returned and heard the tale they were right angry, being hungry men. The man; who rolled the stone stayed next in turn, but when the I little fellow came to him he seemed so famished and he shed such tears that this one also gave him leave to eat. Then, in a single swallow, as it seemed, he bolted all the food, and yelled aloud with an insulting laugh. The man, enraged, grappled him by the throat, but the strange boy flung him away as one would throw a not, and vanished in the mountain as before.

On the third day the mighty man himself remained at home, and soon the starveling child came and began to beg, with tears, for food. “Eat,” said the chief, “as other people eat, and no more tricks, or I will deal with you.” But as it was with him the day before, so it went now; he swallowed all the meat with the same jeering yell Then the strong man closed with the boy. It was an awful strife; they fought together from the early morn until the sun went down, and then the Elf–for elf he was–cried out, “I now give in!” So both his arms were tightly bound behind, and with a long, tough cord of plaited hide the strong man kept his prey, the lariat fast noosed about his neck. The child went on, the strong man ever following behind, holding the cord well twisted round his hand.

And so they went into the mountain-side, and ever on, a long and winding way, down a deep cavern, on for many a mile,–the light of sorcery shining from the elf made it all clear,–until at last the guide stopped in ins course, and said:–

“Now list to me. I am the servant of a frightful fiend, a seven-beaded devil, whom I deemed no man could ever conquer, he and I being of equal strength; but I believe that thou mayst conquer him, since I have found, by bitter proof, that thou canst conquer me. Here is a staff, the only thing on earth that man may smite him with and give him pain. Now, do your best; it is all one to me which of you gains, so one of you be slain, for well I wot ‘t will be a roaring fight.”

In came the evil being with a scream, and clutched the Indian with teeth and claws. There, in the magic cavern, many a mile from the sun’s rays, they fought for seven days, the stubborn devil and the stubborn man, whose savage temper gave him fresher strength with every fresh wound; the more his blood ran from his body all the more his heart grew harder with the love of fight, until he beat away the monster’s seven heads. And so he slew him, and the watching elf burst into laughter at the victory.

“Now,” said the Elf, “I have a gift for thee. I have three sisters: all are beautiful, and all shall be thine own if thou wilt but unbind my hands.” The strong man set him free. And so he led the man to another cave, and there he saw three girls so strangely fair they seemed to be a dream. The first, indeed, was very beautiful, and yet as plump as she was lovely; then the second maid was tall, superb, and most magnificent, in rarest furs, with richest wampum bands, the very picture of a perfect bride; bet fairer than them both, as much more fair as swans outrival ducks, the youngest smiled. And the young chieftain chose her for his own.