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Story Of The Three Strong Men
by [?]

With the three girls he went into the day. Far on the rocks above him he could see his two companions, and a sudden thought came to his mind, for he was quick to think, and so he called, “I say, let down a rope; I have three girls here, and they cannot climb.” And so the two strong men let down a cord: then the first fairy-maid went up by it, and then the second. Now the chief cried out, “It is my turn; now you must pull on me!” And saying this, he tied a heavy stone, just his own weight, unto the long rope’s end, then bid them haul. It rose, but as it came just to the top the traitors let it fall, as he supposed they would, to murder him.

And then the chieftain said unto the elf, “You know the mountain and its winding ways: bear me upon thy back, and that in haste, to where those fellows are!” The goblin flew, and in an instant he was by their side.

He found the villains in a deadly fight, quarreling for the maids; but seeing him they ceased to wrestle, upon which he said, “I risked my life to bring away these girls; I would have given each of you a wife: for doing this you would have murdered me. Now I could kill you, and you both deserve death at the stake, vile serpents that you are; but take your lives,–you are too low for me,–and with them take these women, if they wish to wed with such incarnate brutes as you!”

They went their way; the women followed them along the forest paths, and ever on. Into this story they return no more.

And then the strong man said to his young bride, “I must return unto my village; then I’ll come again to you; await me here.” But she, as one to elfin magic born, replied, “I warn you of a single thing. When you again are at your wigwam door a small black dog will leap to lick your hand. Beware, I say; if he succeed in it, you surely will forget me utterly.” As she predicted so it came to pass.

And so she waited in the lonely wood beside the mountain till a month was gone, and then arose and went to seek her love. All in the early dawn she reached the town, and found the wigwam of the sagamore. She sought a neighboring hiding-place, where she might watch unseen, and found a tree, a broad old ash, which spread its stooping boughs over the surface of a silent pool.

An old black Indian had a hut hard by. His daughter, coming, looked into the spring, and saw a lovely face. The simple girl thought it was hers, her own grown beautiful by sorcery which hung about the place. She flung away her pail, and said, “Aha! I’ll work no more; some chief shall marry me!” and so she went to smile among the men.

Then came the mother, who beheld the same sweet, smiling, also girlish face. She said, “Now I am young and beautiful again; I’ll seek another husband, and at once.” She threw her pail afar and went away, losing no time to smile among the men.

And then in turn the old black Indian came, and looking in the spring beheld the face. He knew right well that it was not his own, for in his youth he never had been fair. So looking up above he saw the bride, and bade her come to him; and then he said, “My wife has gone away; my daughter, too. You were the cause of it; it is but right that you should take the place my wife has left. Therefore remain with me and be my own.”

He fares but ill who weds unwilling witch. When night came on they laid them down to sleep, and then the bride murmured a magic prayer, begging the awful Spirit of the Wind, the giant Eagle of the wilderness, to do his worst. A fearful tempest blew, and all night long the old black Indian was out-of-doors, working with all his power to keep the lodge from being blown away. As soon as he had pinned one sheet of bark into its place another blew away, and then a tent pole rattling in the rain bounded afar. It was a weary work, but all night long the young bride slept in peace, until the morning came, and then he slept.