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The Story of the Forty-First Brother

There was once upon a time an old man who had forty-one sons. Now when this old man was at the point of death, he divided all he had among his sons, and gave to each of the forty a horse; but when he came to the forty-first he found he had no more horses left, so the forty-first brother had to be content with a foal. When their father was dead, the brothers said to each other, “Let us go to Friday and get married!”––But the eldest brother said, “No, Friday has only forty daughters, so one of us would be left without a bride.”––Then the second brother said, “Let us go then to Wednesday––Wednesday has forty-one daughters, and so the whole lot of us can pair off with the whole lot of them.” So they went and chose their brides. The eldest brother took the eldest sister, and the youngest the youngest, till they were all suited. And the youngest brother of all said, “I’ll take that little damsel who is sitting on the stove in the corner and has the nice kerchief in her hand.” Then they all drank a bumper together to seal the bargain, and after that the forty-one bridegrooms and the forty-one brides laid them down to sleep side by side. But the youngest brother of all said to himself, “I will bring my foal into the room.” So he brought in the foal, and then went to his bedchamber and laid him down to sleep also. Now his bride lay down with her kerchief in her hand, and he took a great fancy to it, and he begged and prayed her for it again and again, until at last she gave it to him. Now, when Wednesday thought that all the people were asleep, he went out into the courtyard to sharpen his sabre. Then the foal said, “Oh, my dear little master, come here, come here!” He came, and the foal said to him, “Take off the night-dresses of the forty sleeping bridegrooms and put them on the forty sleeping brides, and put the night-dresses of the brides on the bridegrooms, for a great woe is nigh!” And he did so. When Wednesday had sharpened his sabre he came into the room and began feeling for the stiff collars of the bridegrooms’ night-dresses, and straightway cut off the forty heads above the collars.

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