Danish Fairy and Folk Tales/The Suitor

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THERE was once a handsome young fellow by the name of Tom. From an old, wealthy uncle he had inherited a fine farm, and being well established in life, he determined to seek a wife. As he was quite wealthy, he considered himself able to afford a little more than ordinary people in this direction, for the wives of wealthy men must always be prettier and wiser than those of the poor, as we all know.

So Tom wanted a wife who was handsome and industrious, wise and good, and of course it would not be out of the way if she possessed some property.

One day he rode over to a rich farmer who lived in the neighborhood, and who had three daughters, all of whom were ready to be married at once. He had seen, although he had never talked with, them, and thought well of all three.

Now these girls, who were otherwise pretty and good, had one great fault—namely, that they could not talk distinctly. When Tom came riding into the yard the farmer received him kindly, and conducted him into the room, where the three girls sat spinning diligently. They nodded kindly to him and smiled, but did not utter a sound, as their mother had strictly forbidden them to do so. The farmer led the talking, while his wife waited on them with good food and drinks. The girls spun and looked at the young man at the table, and glanced at each other and at the ceiling and out of the windows, but none of them spoke. At length the one happened to break her yarn. "My 'arn bote!" exclaimed she. "Tie it adain," advised her sister. "Mamma told us we say no'tin', and now we t'ant teep 'till!" broke in the third one.

When Tom heard these grown girls talk like babies, he hurried away, utterly shocked. A wife who could not speak distinctly he had no use for at all.

He proceeded to another farm, where they had a daughter who was said to be a very fine girl in all respects. Tom went into the house and saw her. If the first three ones had been too silent, this one talked, however, more fluently and volubly than any girl whom he had ever met. She talked like a house on fire, while her spinning-wheel went more rapidly than any engine. "How long does it take you to use up such a head of flax?" asked the young man, pointing to the rock. "Oh," she said, "I use up a couple of them every day."

While she left the room a few minutes to look after the servants, Tom seized a key from a drawer of a bureau in the room and stuffed it into the head of flax. When she returned, they finished their conversation; whereupon he bid her parents and herself good-bye, promising to call again in a week.

On the appointed day Tom returned. The girl and her parents expected him to talk this time of his errand. When he came into the room the girl was busy with her rock, as before. She bid him welcome, and invited him to sit down. "How unfortunate!" began she. "We have been missing the key of that bureau ever since you were here. We are unable to find it, and I cannot reach any of my things. It never happened before."

On hearing this, Tom went over and pulled the key out of the head of flax. It was the same key, and, still worse, the very same head of flax that he had seen a week before. Thus he knew her word could not be depended upon; and bidding her good-bye he left at once, richer in experience than before.

Some time afterwards he heard of a girl who was very pretty and good, but especially wise and thoughtful in all practical matters. Her parents were said to be the same. Tom saddled his horse and rode over to see her.

The whole family was at home, and received the young man very kindly. While the men drifted into a talk about the weather and crops, the women placed before them the best that the house could afford. "Go into the cellar and fetch a bottle of wine," said the woman to her daughter. The girl went into the cellar, but was so busy thinking what pattern she might choose for a wedding-dress that she sat down on the floor, lost in reflection upon this important subject, and the wine was entirely forgotten.

After she had left the room, the parents told Tom of their daughter's many good qualities; how industrious she was, how thoughtful, and so on. The young man thought that she would be exactly such a wife as he wished. But as the girl did not appear with the wine, her mother went to see what had become of her. When she came into the cellar, and found her daughter sitting on the floor, she asked: "Why do you sit there, instead of bringing the wine?" "Well," was the answer, "I am thinking that if I marry Tom I must make a careful choice of the pattern for my wedding-gown. The question is, what pattern would do best?" "Yes, indeed," answered her mother, "which pattern will be the most suitable?" She sat down by her daughter, pondering over this important question.

"I wonder what has become of them both!" at length exclaimed the man, referring to his wife and daughter. "I must look after them." He went into the cellar, and when he saw both women sitting on the floor, he cried: "Why are you both sitting here? You have kept us waiting for over an hour!" "We are thinking," replied his wife, "of the pattern for the wedding-gown. If she is to marry Tom, the gown must, of course, be a pretty one, and the choice of the right pattern is, indeed, an important matter."

"To be sure!" answered her husband, seating himself on the floor beside them to consider the same subject.

As at length Tom grew tired of waiting, he went himself into the cellar to see if anything unusual had happened. He found the whole family sitting on the floor and looking extremely thoughtful. "Why do you all sit here?" he asked. At length the farmer, aroused from his reverie, proceeded to relate the difficult question which had caught their attention.

"Yes, in-dee-e-ed," answered Tom. "Which will be the most suitable pattern? You may think of that until I return, and in the mean time I will do the same. Good-bye to you!"

Mounting his horse, he rode home as rapidly as the steed would carry him, and if he has not found another and less thoughtful girl, he is yet a bachelor.

But the three people may yet be sitting on the cellar floor, thinking of the pattern for the bridal gown, for all that I know!