Hundreds of additional titles available for
online reading when you join Gateway to the Classics
E came out of the woods holding her by the legs and
carrying her slung across his shoulder. Then with
great stride he went up the side of a mountain. He
crossed the top and went down the other side so fast
that the life was nearly shaken out of her body. But
now the Giant lifted Girl-go-with-the-Goats up on his
shoulder and his gait was easier for her then.
He went through a gate and into a yard where she heard
the yelping and howling of beasts and the rattling of
chains. He pushed
 open the door of a house. He left her down on the
ground and closed the door as a boy might leave down
and shut in the kitten of a wild-cat he had taken.
The Giant shut her into the terrible house that was all
in darkness. "Don't try to get away, for I'll hear
every sound you make," he said to her. Then she heard
him cast off his heavy hunting-boots and throw down on
the ground a chain he carried. She heard him get into
his bed. For a while he talked to himself and then she
heard him snore in his sleep.
She stayed in a corner all the night listening to
beasts' feet running, running in the dark before the
house. The light came and she saw the house big and
empty. She saw the Giant's bed and she saw the Giant
lying in it, with his grisly beard nearly covering his
red face. She saw the doors of the house, on at the
back and one at the front with bolts on each of them.
It was surely a terrible house.
The Giant wakened up. He put his feet under him in the
bed and he looked at her. "Ho,"
 said he, "this is the thirtieth maid I have caught.
I'll take her to the fastness where I have the other
nine and twenty."
He opened wide the front door and stood looking into
his yard. She stole down and looked out too. A wolf,
a wild-cat, a fox, a badger—all were running here and
there with chains upon them and yelping and howling.
The Giant took up the chain he had brought and shook it
before the beasts, and they howled and yelped the more
And then Girl-go-with-the-Goats heard a little
twittering in the window-opening above her. She looked
up and there she saw her two starlings. "Oh, my
birds," said she to them softly, "show me, show me some
way of escaping from the Giant."
Then the two starlings flew down on the low bench that
was by the wall and they shrugged their wings and
twisted their heads and went through all the ways of
washing themselves. And then they flew up to the
window-opening, and there again they shrugged their
 twisted their heads and went through all the ways of
Girl-go-with-the-Goats thought she knew what the
starlings would have her do: they would have her try
to wash herself.
She spoke to the Giant who was still rattling the chain
at the beasts. "Mighty man," said she, "would you let
me wash myself?"
"Wash yourself and then come with me," said the Giant.
"But I won't let you go out to get the water." He
stepped outside the door and came back with a basin of
rain-water. "Wash now," he said, "and come with me to
the fastness where my nine and twenty other maids are
She took the basin from him and left it down on the low
bench. She stood there not knowing what next to do.
And the Giant went to the door as before and made the
beasts that were outside yelp and howl with the sight
of the chain he held.
And now the two starlings flew down and lighted on the
rim of the basin. They began to splash themselves with
water. They flew into the basin
 and splashed louder and louder. Then she knew how the
starlings were trying to help her. They would keep
splashing and splashing while she stole away from the
The back door was shut by a bolt of wood that was
within her reach. She put up her hands and laid them
on the bolt. Louder and louder the starlings splashed
in the basin. She pushed the bolt back slowly. She
drew the door towards her. With more and more noise
the birds splashed in the water.
She opened the door a little way. She stepped out and
closed the door behind her. She stopped
 to listen. She heard the starlings in the basin of
water splashing and splashing and splashing.
And then Girl-go-with-the-Goats ran on, ran on. Far,
far she went before she stopped to drink at a stream or
pick a berry. Along a pathway in a wood she went,
fearful because she did not know where she was going.
It was then she heard two magpies discoursing to one
another in human language: "When was your tongue split
with a silver sixpence so that you were made able to
speak in men's language?" said one to the other.
"It was before the night of the great wind," said the
second magpie. "That same great wind blew myself and
my cage away and ever since I'm in these woods. And
when was your tongue split?"
"Mine was split before the battle in the sky was seen,"
said the first magpie. "The people in the house ran
out to see the same battle and I hopped off my perch
and came away."
"And when you want to speak human words to whom do you
go?" said the second magpie.
 "Oh, to no one else but the Woman of a Thousand Years,"
said the first magpie. "Her house is down by this
"I go to talk to the Little Green Man of the Mountain,"
said the second magpie. The two went hopping off
Girl-go-with-the-Goats went along the path that the
first magpie had spoken of. She did not go far before
she saw a small black house deep-sunken in the earth,
with elder-bushes growing
 around it. The door of the house was open, and she
stole up so that she might first look to see who was
An old woman was there spinning threads of grey on a
spindle. The only garment she had on was a Cloak of
Crow-feathers. She went in on the doorway. "Good
evening," said she to the old woman.
The old woman in the Crow-feather Cloak looked at her
from under her grey eyebrows. "Good evening, girl that
I remember," she said.
"May I come in and rest myself?" said
"Come in and rest yourself," said the Woman of a
Girl-go-with-the-Goats came into that little house, and
oh, but her heart was rested to be within a house that
was not fearful to her. She sat down on a stool, and
the moment she did she began to think of her
step-mother's Goats. Where were they, and who was
minding them to-day?
"Girl that I remember, would you eat or drink?" said
the Woman of a Thousand Years.
 "I would take a drink of milk if you could spare it,"
"There's no milk in the house, but this may do as
well," said the old woman. She brought the girl a bowl
of elder-berry wine; dark-red and sharp-smelling it
was. She drank the bowl of wine and the fears that she
still had began to go away from her.
And then the two starlings flew into the house and
lighting on the window sill behind her began to sing
loudly and joyfully. Oh, it was well to be here in
this house, with the bowl in her hands and the two
starlings singing. She laid her head against the wall,
and no sooner did she do this than she fell into