THE ROBBER BRIDEGROOM. 185
"Can you tell me," asked the maiden, "if my bridegroom resides here ?"
"Alas, poor child," answered the old woman, "how did you find your way here ? this is a robber's den. You imagine that you are a bride, and that your wedding will soon take place, but there will be no marriage for you but with death. Do you see that large kettle? Well, when once tie robber gets you in his power, he will cut you in pieces without mercy and I shall have to fill it with water and boil you in it, for he is a man and woman eater. Unless I take pity on you and save you now, you will be lost."
So the old woman hid the young girl behind a large cask, where no one could see her.
" Keep as still as a mouse," she said to her ; " if you move or stir in the slightest, I know not what will happen to you, but in the night while the robbers sleep, we will make our escape; I have long waited for an opportunity of doing so."
Scarcely had she finished speaking when the whole gang of robbers returned home. They brought in another young girl whom they had decoyed in their toils, and they were deaf to her cries and lamentations. They gave her wine to drink, three glasses full, one of white, one of red, and one golden, which caused her to swoon away. Then they tore off her clothes, laid her on a table, cut up her beautiful form into pieces, and strewed salt over them. The poor bride behind the cask trembled with horror at what she saw, for she knew now to what a fate she had been destined by her pretended bridegroom. Presently one of the robbers noticed on the finger of the dead maiden a gold ring, and as he could not get the ring off, he took a hatchet and chopped off the finger. But as he did so the finger sprung up in the air, over the cask behind which the bride was hidden and fell into her lap ! The robber took a light and searched for it everywhere, but could not find it. Then said one of them, " Have you looked behind the cask ?"
" Nonsense," cried the old woman, "come to supper, you can look for it in the morning; the finger cannot run away,"
" The old woman is right," said their chief, " leave off searching, and come to supper."
As the old woman waited upon them, she was able to pour a sleeping draught into the wine, and they were soon lying fast asleep on the ground and snoring loudly.