THERE was once a nobleman who had an only daughter, whom he placed in a mount, there to remain as long as there was war in the country. The father had secretly caused a room to be built for her in the mount, and had laid in a stock of provisions, and wood enough to last for seven years; and she vas not to come out until he fetched her; but if at the end of seven years he did not come for her, she might conclude that he was dead, and might then leave the mount. Her little dog was the only companion she was to have. The father kissed her when they parted, and comforted her by saying, that he had lodged her in a secure place, while the dissolute soldiery were spread over the land. He then collected all his retainers, and went forth to fight for his country.
The young damsel occupied herself in the mount with spinning, weaving, and sewing; and thus one year passed after another. She made a great number of fine clothes, some of which were embroidered with gold, and others with silver; but when she had no longer anything to spin or employ her, the time began to be tedious. Her stock of food was also nearly exhausted, and she was fearful that her father would not return. As the time that she was to remain in the mount had nearly expired, and he had not come to fetch her, she concluded that he was dead. She now began to dig her way out of the mount, but this was a very slow work, and no easy task for her.
In the meantime all her provisions were consumed, but the mount was full of mice, arid her little dog destroyed a great many every day; these she skinned, roasted, and ate the meat, and gave the bones to her little dog; but she stitched all the skins together, and made herself a cloak or garment, which was so large, that she could quite wrap her self up in it. Every day she laboured at the aperture, and at length succeeded so far as to be able once more to see the light of day. When she had made an opening large enough, she went out, accompanied by her little faithful dog. On finding herself on the outside, she knelt down, and returned thanks for her deliverance. She then closed up the opening, and the mouseskins that remained over she hung round the mount upon little sticks, which she stuck in the earth.
She now left the hill with her lithe dog, and went through the wood, and there was much she found changed in the seven years she had lived underground. She had her silver and her gold dresses on, and over them she wore the mouse- skin cloak, which quite covered her, so that she had more the appearance of a poor man’s child than a young lady of rank. At the first house she came to, she inquired who lived at the manor. She was told it was the young lord, who had inherited it after the death of the former proprietor. “How then did he die?” asked she, hardly able to conceal her feelings. She received for answer that he was a brave soldier, and drove the enemy out of the country, but in the last battle that was fought he was killed. That his only child was a daughter who had been carried off before that time, and no one had since ever heard anything of her.”
The young maiden then asked, if they could tell her where she could be employed, as she wanted work. “Our young master is soon to be married,” said the people; “his bride, with her father and mother, are arrived at the mansion to make preparations for the wedding; if you only go up there, you may be sure they will find something for you to do.”
The young girl in the mouseskin dress then went up to her late father’s abode, and her little dog was so happy; for it knew the place again; but its mistress wept with grief, as she humbly knocked at the door. When the people heard that she wished to be employed, they gladly engaged her, and set her to sweep the yard, and the steps, and do other menial kinds of work. But she did everything willingly and well, so that everybody was satisfied with her. Many as they passed her were amused at the sight of her mouse- skin dress, but no one could get a glimpse of her face; for she wore a long hood which hung down and completely concealed it, and this she never would throw aside.
The day before the wedding the bride sent for her, and told her that she had a great favour to ask: “Thou art of the same height as I am,” said she; “ thou must to-morrow put on my bridal dress and veil, and drive to the church, and be wedded to the bridegroom, instead of me.” The young girl could not imagine why the other objected to be wedded to the handsome young lord. The bride then told her, that there was another lover, to whom she had previously betrothed herself; but that her parents wanted to force her to marry this rich young lord; that she was afraid of disobeying them, but that she had agreed with her first beloved, that on the wedding day she would elope with him. This she could not do, if she were wedded at the altar to another; but if she sent some one in her place, everything might end well. The young maiden promised to do all that the bride requested of her.
The next day the bride was attired in the most costly dress, and all the people in the house came into her chamber to look at her; at length she said: “Now call that poor young girl that sweeps the yard, and let her also see me.” The girl in the mousekin dress came up accordingly, and when they were alone together, the bride locked the door, dressed her in the beautiful clothes, with the bridal veil over her head, and then wrapped herself in the young girl’s large mouseskin cloak.
The late lord’s daughter was then conducted to a chariot, in which was the bridegroom, and they drove to church together, accompanied by all the bridal guests. Oat the road they passed the mount, where she had lived so long concealed. She sighed beneath her veil, and said: —
“Yonder stands yet every pin,
With every little mouse’s skin,
Where seven long years I pined in sadness
In the dark mount, and knew no gladness.”
“What sayest thou, dearest of my heart?” asked the bride groom. “Oh! I am only talking a little to myself,” answered the bride.
When she entered the church, she saw the portraits of her parents suspended on each side of the altar; but it appeared to her as if they turned from her, as she wept beneath her veil while gazing on them; she then said: —
“Turn, turn again, ye pictures dear; dear father and mother, turn again;”
and then the pictures turned again. “What sayest thou, my dear bride?” asked the bridegroom. “Oh! I am only talking a little to myself,” answered she again. They were then wedded in the church, the young lord put a ring upon her finger, and they drove home. As soon as the bride alighted from the carriage she hurried up into the lady’s chamber, as they had agreed, where they changed dresses once more, but the wedding-ring which she had on her finger she kept. When standing in her mouseskin dress again among all the servants, little did any one think that she bad just before stood at the altar as a bride.
In the evening there was dancing, and the young lord danced with her who he thought was his bride; but when he took her hand, he said: “Where is the ring I put on your finger in the church?” The bride was at first embarrassed, but said quickly: “I took it off and left it in my chamber, but now I will run and fetch it.” She then ran out of the room, called the real bride, and demanded the ring. “No,” answered the maiden, “the ring I will not part with, it belongs to the hand that was given away at the altar. But I will go with you to the door, then you can call him, and we will both stand in the passage; when he comes we will extinguish the light that is there, and I will stretch forth my hand in at the door, so that he can see the ring.” Thus it was arranged.
The bridegroom was standing near the door, when the bride called him into the passage, and said: “See! here is the ring.” At the same moment as the one damsel extinguished the light, the other stretched forth her hand. with the ring.
But the bridegroom was not satisfied with merely seeing the ring, he seized the hand, and drew the young girl into the room, and then, to his astonishment, saw it was the damsel in the mouseskin dress. All the guests flocked round them, and were eager to know how it had all happened.
She then threw off her mouseskin dress, and stood e]ad in her beautiful gold embroidery, and was more lovely to look at than the other bride. Every one was impatient to hear her story; and she was obliged to relate to them, how long she had remained concealed in the mount, and that her father had been their former lord. The little dog was fetched from her miserable room, and many of the neighbours knew it again.
Hereupon there was great joy and wonder. Everybody revered her father, who bad fought so bravely for his country, and all were unanimous that the estate belonged to her. Her sorrow was now turned into joy, and as she wished every one to be as happy as herself, she bestowed land and money on the other bride, that she might marry the man of her choice, to whom she had secretly given her heart. The parents were contented with this arrangement, and now the marriage-feast was gay, when the young lord danced with his true bride, to whom he had been wedded in the church, and given the ring.
Thorpe, Benjamin, Yule-Tide Stories. London, 1888. pp. 375-380.