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The Sampo by  James Baldwin

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THE HOME COMING

[253]

L
ONG were the speeches, lengthy were the songs, and many were the stories to which the people listened and the patient bride and bridegroom hearkened. Then, as the day was breaking, all was ended. The guests rose and made ready to depart. The last good-byes were spoken, the last words of counsel were delivered.

The hero's steed was led from the stable, it was harnessed to the magic sledge while the cuckoos called loudly and the bluebirds sang sweetly as before.

"Farewell, farewell, to all my friends and kindred," then murmured the Bride of Beauty. "I must now go far, far away from the home I love so dearly. I must leave my mother's dwelling, leave the farmyard, fields, and meadows where as a maiden I was happy. Farewell, dear house; farewell, my mountain-ash tree; farewell, roads and pathways; farewell, sweet [254] hills and forests. Who now will answer the cuckoos when they call? Who now will welcome the bluebirds in the springtime? Who will milk my pet reindeer? Who will care for my lambs? Farewell, farewell to all! Farewell, farewell!"

Then Ilmarinen, noble hero, lifted her into the sledge; he tucked the robes of fur about her; he wrapped her feet in soft, warm blankets. The serving-man handed him the reins and the whip. One word to the steed, and they were away; the low-roofed dwelling, the village, the friends at Pohyola, all were quickly left behind. And the happy triumphant Ilmarinen, shouted back his farewells.

"Good-bye, good-bye, to all the people! Good-bye to the seashore and the creeks and inlets! Good-bye to the house with smoke-browned rafters! Good-bye to the grasses in the meadows, to the lonely marshes, to the willow bushes, and the lone pine woods where my smithy stands! Good-bye to all! Good-bye, good bye!"

Onward, with gliding feet, the swift steed flew. The magic sledge scarcely touched the ground, its birchwood runners seemed to skim through the air, so rapid was its motion. Across [255] the broad meadows, over the hills, through dark ravines, along the sandy shore the hero pursued his course, never pausing, never doubting. The whip-lash whistled in the air, the copper rings on the horse's harness made merry music.

All day, all night, yes, through a second day and then a third, the joyful journey continued. With one hand the hero guided the horse, with one arm he supported his bride. The North Wind gently drove him along, the South Wind beckoned him forward. At length, just as the sun was setting, he saw his own fair dwelling nestling among the trees of Wainola. The smoke was rising from the roof-hole, Dame Lokka was preparing the evening meal, the good sister, Anniki, was watching the door.

"Welcome, welcome, bridegroom and brother! Long have we watched for you, long have we waited!" shouted the glad maid of the morning.

"O Ilmarinen, my son, my joy!" cried the mother and matron. "Welcome home with thy birdling, thy fair one!"

Then quickly all the village people came running to greet their neighbor Ilmarinen and his beautiful young bride. They led the noble pair into the house, the men and women singing [256] joyously, the children dancing before them. A feast was soon provided—meats the tenderest and most delicious, loaves of the whitest flour, yellow cakes both light and sweet, lumps of fresh butter just from the churn, broiled salmon smoking hot. All these they brought in great abundance, heaped up on Dame Lokka's pretty dishes. And the villagers shouted:

"Welcome, Bride of Beauty, to this Land of Heroes! Welcome to this lovely village! Hail to the hero, our friend and neighbor! Hail to all within this dwelling! Blessed be this homecoming. Blessed be the bridal pair, and may their lives be long and their love lasting!"

Thus did Ilmarinen win his bride and thus did he bring her in triumph to his home in Wainola.


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