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"You have been on the mountain a long time," said the wife of the hunter.

"Yes, wife, and I have seen the most marvelous sight in all the world," replied the hunter.

"What was that?"

"I came to a place on the mountain where I had been many and many a time before, but a great hole had been made in the rock, and through the hole I saw--oh, wife, it was indeed a wonderful sight!"

"But what was it, my hunter?"

"There was a great hall, all shining and sparkling with precious stones. There were diamonds and pearls and emeralds, more than we could put into our little house, and among all the beautiful colors sat a woman who was fairer than they. Her maidens were around her, and the hall was as bright with their beauty as it was with the stones. One was playing on a harp, one was singing, and others were dancing as lightly and merrily as a sunbeam on a blossom. The woman was even more beautiful than the maidens, and, wife, as soon as I saw her I thought that she was no mortal woman."

"Did you not fall on your knees and ask her to be good to us?"

"Yes, wife, and straightway she said: 'Rise, my friend. I have a gift for you. Choose what you will to carry to your wife as a gift from Holda.'"

"Did you choose pearls or diamonds?"

"I looked about the place, and it was all so sparkling that I closed my eyes. 'Choose your gift,' she said. I looked into her face, and then I knew that it was indeed the goddess Holda, queen of the sky. When I looked at her, I could not think of precious stones, for her eyes were more sparkling than diamonds, and I said: 'O goddess Holda, there is no gift in all your magic hall that I would so gladly bear away to my home as the little blue flower in your lily-white hand.'"

"Well!" cried the wife, "and when you might have had half the pearls and emeralds in the place, you chose a little faded blue flower! I did think you were a wiser man."

"The goddess said I had chosen well," said the hunter. "She gave me the flower and the seed of it, and she said, 'When the springtime comes, plant the seed, and in the summer I myself will come and teach you what to do with the plant.'"

In the spring the little seeds were put into the ground. Soon the green leaves came up; then many little blue flowers, as blue as the sky, lifted up their heads in the warm sunshine of summer. No one on the earth knew how to spin or to weave, but on the brightest, sunniest day of the summer, the goddess Holda came down from the mountain to the little house.

"Can you spin flax?" she asked of the wife.

"Indeed, no," said the wife.

"Can you weave linen?"

"Indeed, no."

"Then I will teach you how to spin and to weave," said the good goddess. "The little blue flower is the flax. It is my own flower, and I love the sight of it."

So the goddess sat in the home of the hunter and his wife and taught them how to spin flax and weave linen. When the wife saw the piece of linen on the grass, growing whiter and whiter the longer the sun shone upon it, she said to her husband, "Indeed, my hunter, the linen is fairer than the pearls, and I should rather have the beautiful white thing that is on the grass in the sunshine than all the diamonds in the hall of the goddess."

Next: Why The Juniper Has Berries.