218 THE SEA KING'S GIFT
herring. All very well for Prince, who fights with the gulls over the last morsel. Put the cow out of your head, mother, we are very well off as we are.'
Maie sighed. She knew well that her husband was right, but she could not give up the idea of a cow. The buttermilk no longer tasted as good as usual in the coffee; she thought of sweet cream and fresh butter, and of how there was nothing in the world to be compared with them.
One day as Matte and his wife were cleaning herring on the shore they heard Prince barking, and soon there appeared a gaily painted boat with three young men in it, steering towards the rock. They were students, on a boating excursion, and wanted to get something to eat.
' Bring us a junket, good mother,' cried they to Maie.
' Ah ! if only I had such a thing ! ' sighed Maie.
' A can of fresh milk, then,' said the students ; ' but it must not be skim.'
' Yes, if only I had it!' sighed the old woman, still more deeply.
' What! haven't you got a cow ? '
Maie was silent. This question so struck her to the heart that she could not reply.
' We have no cow,' Matte answered ; ' but we have good smoked herring, and can cook them in a couple of hours.'
' All right, then, that will do,' said the students, as they flung themselves down on the rock, while fifty silvery-white herring were turning on the spit in front of the fire.
' What's the name of this little stone in the middle of the ocean ? ' asked one of them.
' Ahtola,' answered the old man.
' Well, you should want for nothing when you live in the Sea King's dominion.'