52 THE TWELVE BROTHERS.
So they wandered about the forest shooting hares, wild rabbits, pigeons and other birds, and Benjamin gathered acorns, nuts, and berries, or whatever could be found for food. In this cottage they lived for ten years happily together, so that the time passed quickly, but they heard nothing from home.
During this time their little sister was growing a great girl. She bad a sweet disposition, and was very beautiful to look upon. She wore rich clothes, and a golden star on her forehead.
One day, when she was about ten years old, she discovered in her mother's wardrobe twelve shirts. " Mother," she exclaimed, "whose shirts are these? they are much too small for my father."
The queen sighed deeply as she replied, " Dear child, these shirts belong to your twelve brothers."
"Twelve brothers f cried the little maiden; "where are they? I have not even heard of them."
" Heaven knows where they are," was the reply, " but they are wandering about the world somewhere." Then the queen took her little daughter to the private room in the castle, and showed her the twelve coffins which had been prepared for her brothers, and related to her, with many tears, why they had left home.
" Dear mother," said the child, " do not weep. I will go and seek my brothers." So she took the twelve shirts with her, and wandered away into the forest.
She walked for a whole day, and by evening began to feel very tired, till at last she saw a light in a cottage, and stepped up to the door and knocked. It was opened by a young boy, who stared with astonishment at seeing a beautiful little girl dressed in?* rich clothing and wearing a golden star on her forehead.
At last he said, " Who are you, and what do you want ?"
"I am a king's daughter," she said, "and I seek my twelve brothers, and I intend to search for them in every place under the sun till I find them; and these are their shirts," she added, opening her parcel.
Then Benjamin knew that she was his sister, and said, " I ana your youngest brother, Benjamin." On hearing this the little maiden burst into tears, but they were tears of joy, for they kissed each other with deep affection, and they were for a time very happy. He made her rest by the fire, and gaw. her something to eat and drink, for she was very tired.