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THE MAIDEN OF THE MILKY WAY
THE stars shine down! The Northern Lights flash over the sky, and the Milky Way glows white! Listen to the song of the Wizard of the Crystal-Lighted Cavern!
Ah! Beautiful was Linda the lovely daughter of Uko. She showed all the skypaths to the little birds, when they came flocking home in the springtime or flew away in autumn. She cared as gently and tenderly for the little birds, as a mother cares for her children. And just as a flower bespangled with a thousand drops of dew shines and smiles in the morning sunshine, so Linda shone while caring for her little winged ones.
Thus it was no wonder that all the world loved Linda. Every youth wished her for his bride, and crowds of suitors came to woo her.
In a handsome coach with six brown horses, the Pole Star drove up, and brought ten gifts. But Linda sent him away, with hurried words:
"You always have to stay in the same place. You cannot move about," said she.
Then came the Moon in a silver coach drawn by ten brown horses. He brought her twenty gifts. But Linda refused the Moon, saying:
"You change your looks too often. You run in your same old way. You do not suit me.
Hardly had the Moon driven sorrowfully off, before the Sun drove up. In a golden coach with twenty red-gold horses, he rattled up to the door. He brought thirty presents with him. But all his pomp, shining splendor, and fine gifts did not help him. Linda said:
"I do not want you. You are like the Moon. Day after day you run in the same street."
So the Sun went away sorrowful.
Then at midnight, in a diamond coach drawn by a thousand white horses, came the Northern Lights. His coming was so magnificent, that Linda ran to the door to meet him. A whole coach-load of gold, silver, pearls and jewelled ornaments, the servants of the Northern Lights carried into the house and his gifts pleased her, and she let him woo her.
"You do not always travel in the same course," said Linda. "You flash where you will, and stop when you please. Each time you appear robed in new beauty and richness, and wear each time a different garment. And each time you ride about in a new coach with new horses. You are the true bridegroom!"
Then they celebrated their betrothal. But the Sun, Moon, and Pole Star looked sadly on. They envied the Northern Lights his happiness.
The Northern Lights could not stay long in the bride's house, for he had to hurry back to the sky. When he said farewell, he promised to return soon for the wedding, and to drive Linda back with him to his home in the North. Meanwhile, they were to prepare Linda's bridal garments.
Linda made her bridal robes, and waited and waited. One day followed the other, but the bridegroom did not come to hold the joyous wedding with his beloved. The winter passed, and the lovely spring adorned the earth with fresh beauty, while Linda waited in vain for her bridegroom. Nothing was seen of him!
Then she began to grieve bitterly and lament, and to sorrow day and night. She put on her bridal robes and white veil, and set the wreath on her head, and sat down in a meadow by a river. From her thousand tears little brooks ran into the valleys. In her deep heart-felt sorrow she thought only of her bridegroom.
The little birds flew tenderly about her head, brushing her with their soft wings, to comfort her. But she did not see them, nor did she take care of them any more. So the little birds wandered about, flying here, flying there, for they did not know what to do or where to go.
Uko, Linda's father, heard of her sorrow and how the little birds were untended. He ordered his Winds to fetch his daughter to him, to rescue her from such deep grief. And while Linda was sitting alone in the meadow weeping and lamenting, the Winds sank softly down beside her, and gently lifting her, bore her up and away. They laid her down in the blue sky.
And there is Linda now, dwelling in a sky-tent. Her white bridal veil spreads round her. And if you look up at the Milky Way, you will see Linda in her bridal robes. There she is, showing the way to little birds who wander.
Linda is happy! In winter she gazes towards the North. She waves her hand at the Northern Lights flashing nearer and nearer, then he again asks her to be his bride.
But though he flashes very close to Linda, heart to heart, he cannot carry her off. She must stay forever in the sky, robed in white, and must spread out her veil to make the Milky Way.
This is the version found in Wonder Tales from Baltic Wizards by Francis Jenkins Olcott, published in 1928