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

Father dear.”

And put her arms around him

And so they all

Were happy ever after.

By Phoenix

(Read more of Phoenix’s works on Ink and Fairydust)