THE SEA KING'S GIFT 217
town, sold their fish, and wrent to church on Sunday. But it often happened that for weeks at a time they were quite alone on the rock Ahtola, and had nothing to look at except their little yellow-brown dog, which bore the grand name of Prince, their grass tufts, their bushes and blooms, the sea bays and fish, a stormy sky and the blue, white-crested waves. For the rock lay far away from the land, and there were no green islets or human habitations for miles round, only here and there appeared a rock of the same red stone as Ahtola, besprinkled day and night with the ocean spray.
Matte and Maie were industrious, hard-working folk, happy and contented in their poor hut, and they thought themselves rich when they were able to salt as many casks of fish as they required for winter and yet have some left over with which to buy tobacco for the old man, and a pound or two of coffee for his wife, with plenty of burned corn and chicory in it to give it a flavour. Besides that, they had bread, butter, fish, a beer cask, and a buttermilk jar ; what more did they require ? All would have gone well had not Maie been possessed with a secret longing which never let her rest; and this was, how she could manage to become the owner of a cow.
' What would you do with a cow ? ' asked Matte. ' She could not swim so far, and our boat is not large enough to bring her over here ; and even if we had her, we have nothing to feed her on.'
' We have four alder bushes and sixteen tufts of grass,' rejoined Maie.
' Yes, of course,' laughed Matte, ' and we have also three plants of garlic. Garlic would be fine feeding for her.'
' Every cow likes salt herring,' rejoined his wife. ' Even Prince is fond of fish.'
' That may be,' said her husband. ' Methinks she would soon be a dear cow if we had to feed her on salt