THE TWELVE BROTHERS. 51
preparation made the poor mother so unhappy that she wept for a whole day, and looked so sad that her youngest son noticed it
He had the Bible name of Benjamin, and was more often with his mother than the rest
"Dear mother," he said to her, " why are you so sorrowful ?"
* My child, I cannot tell you," she replied; but the boy was not satisfied, and he allowed her no rest till she unlocked the door of the private room and showed him the twelve coffins.
"Dearest Benjamin," she said, "these coffins are for you and your brothers; for if you should ever have a little sister you will all die, and be buried in them."
She wept bitterly as she told him, but her son comforted her and said, " Do not weep, dear mother, we will take care of ourselves, and be far away from here before that time arrives."
Then she took courage, and said, "Yes, it will be better for you all to go away and remain for a time in a forest near to a hill, from whence you will be able to see the tower of the castle. If I should have a little son, a white flag shall be hoisted, and then you may venture to return home; but if you see a red flag, you will know it is a girl, and then hasten away as fast as you can, and may heaven protect you. Every night I will rise and pray for you, that you may not suffer from hunger or thirst, or the cold in winter and the heat in summer."
Then she blessed all her sons, and they went away into the forest, while each in turn mounted a high tree daily, to watch for
! the flag on the tower. Eleven days passed, and it was Benjamin's turn to watch. He saw the flag hoisted, and it was red—the signal that they must die. The elder brothers were so angry at finding that, to save their lives* they were to be banished from home in consequence of a maiden's birth, that they vowed in revenge to destroy the first maiden whom they met in the forest
However, as they must still hide themselves, they went still farther into the forest to find shelter. Strange to say they had not travelled far before they came upon a most pleasant little cottage neatly furnished, but uninhabited. "We will make this oui home," they said, " and Benjamin, as you are the youngest ani weakest, you shall stay at home and keep house while we go ou md procure food."