Cap O’ Rushes: An Old English Fairy Tale in Verse
Once there lived a very rich man
Who three daughters did have
He thought to ask them one fine day
How each did love him so
To see how fond each daughter was
He questioned them thorough
“How much do you love me?
Daughter, dear, how much?”
The first replied, “Why,” says she
“I love thee as I love my life.”
And her father was well content.
The second also did reply
“I love thee, father, better than
All the world combined.”
And with her also he was pleased.
But the third daughter when asked
Answered, “Father, as fresh meat
Loves salt do I love thee.”
And at these words her father was
Angered to such a degree
He sent her from the house and said
“Never again let me
Your face to see!”
The door was shut behind her
Long she wandered through the land
Til coming to a fen she wove
A cape and hood of rushes
And donning them she covered
Her rich and costly clothes
And coming to a great house
She knocked and asked them there
“A maid need you?
Or someone to
Do lowly work ’round here?
I ask no wage
And work will do
Of any type seems fit to you.”
And the servants there
They let her stay
To wash the pots and scrape saucepans.
So she did the dirty work
That no one else wanted to do
And since she gave no name at all
Her they all agreed to call
Cap o’ Rushes
For the cape she always wore.
Now presently a dance was held
In a place not far away
And the servants were permitted
To go and to look on
At all the grand people who’d be there.
All the other maids went gladly
But Cap o’ Rushes said that she was tired
And stayed behind.
When the others had gone
The girl threw off her rushy cape
And clean and shining from head to toe
Wearing her fine silken clothes
She went in secret to the dance
And she was the fairest maid there.
The young son of her master
Just happened to be there
And when he looked upon her
He thought he’d never seen
A maid so lovely or so fair.
He fell in love directly
Though he did not know her name
And danced with her the whole night through.
But before the dancing ended
Cap o’ Rushes slipped away
And sped back to the grand house
To pretend she was asleep
Before the others should arrive.
In the morning they did tell her
Excitement in their eyes
Of the lovely lady, who
Had stolen the young master’s heart
Cap o’ Rushes only smiled and said
“I wish I had been there.”
The night after there was
Another dance, and as before,
Cap o’ Rushes went in secret
And all the servants told her tales
Of how the maid had come again
And how their master’s son
Could not drag his eyes away
And danced all night with the pretty maid.
A third dance there was
On the very next night
The master’s son was rarely glad
To see the maid again
And when she would not tell her name
Nor where she came from he
Gave her a ring and told her that
He’d surely die if her again
He did not some time see.
And once more
She went home before
The dance was done
And the maids were sure
To tell her
How the lady had come again
Who’d captured the young man’s heart
And they said what shame it was
That no more dances there
Were to be had
So surely Cap o’ Rushes
Would never see the lady now.
Now the master’s son he tried
Every way he knew
To find the pretty maid
But nowhere could be found
The girl he’d spoken to.
He soon fell ill
And took to bed
Because of his love for her
And his despair now she was gone.
“Make some gruel for the young master,”
The others told the cook
“For he’s dying for love of the lady.”
The cook took out a pot
And began to make the gruel
But Cap o’ Rushes, seeing her
Asked if she instead could do the job
And the cook reluctantly agreed.
When the gruel was finished
Cap o’ Rushes plopped in the golden ring
Given her by the master’s son
And cook took it to him.
When the young man had drunk
All the thin gruel up
To his surprise he saw the ring
In the bottom of his bowl
And ordered he the one who’d made
The gruel to come to him.
Cap o’ Rushes came
And the young master said to her
“Did you make my gruel?”
To which she said, “I did.”
“Where did you get this ring?” He asked.
“From him that gave it me.”
And then she pulled from off her
The cape of rushes and
He saw she was the lady
From all three the dances.
He speedily recovered
And the marriage all was planned
The girl’s father was invited
Though she didn’t tell her name.
For the wedding feast
The girl said to the cook
“I want you to dress each dish
Without a mite of salt.”
The cook, though very dubious,
Did as she had said.
Their wedding-day did come
And the girl’s father was there
When the celebration started
He tasted of the dishes
And then burst into tears
“What’s the matter sir?”
The master’s son said to him.
And he cried out, “I had a daughter
And asked her how much she loved me
She said ‘as fresh meat loves salt.’
And I thought she didn’t love me
Cause of this
And turned her from my door.
“Now I see,” said he,
“That she loved me best of all
And she may be dead for ought I know.”
Then Cap o’ Rushes
Came up to him and said,
“No, she’s right here
And put her arms around him
And so they all
Were happy ever after.
(Read more of Phoenix’s works on Ink and Fairydust)