HOW MAID-ALONE CEASED BEING A GOOSE-HERD
HE next happening was that the Purveyor to the King's
Castle took stock of the goose-flock.
He had to have geese of size for the feasts that were
to be given in the Castle. He watched Maid-alone's
flock coming home and he saw that they were as thin as
corncrakes when they first come into our meadows. He
notified the third under-stewardess of this and the
third under-stewardess went and told the house dame.
Thereupon the house dame said that she herself would go
and speak to the goose-herd.
 Maid-alone was standing before the table in the
scullery, eating her supper of scraps, with the cold of
the marsh still in her bones. The day before the
goose-flock had not fed because she had shown herself
in her dress of gold, with her shining veil and her
golden shoes. This day she had worn her Crow-feather
Cloak. But because two eagles had come into the
ash-trees beside the marsh and had remained watching
them all day, the geese had not fed. When they went
home there was two days' hunger upon them and they had
a thinness that might be measured.
Dame Dale came down to the scullery to speak to the
goose-herd about it, and greatly surprised was she to
see that the goose-herd was no other than Maid-alone
who had herded her goats. She had on a high-coifed
linen cap, and her face grew very red beneath it when
she looked on Maid-alone. "So," she said, "you left my
seven goats straying to come here to let the King's
geese go starving. Wherever you are there are losses.
But what you've done here is the worst of all, and if
you were in any other King's dominions
 you would surely be tried for malfeasance; for to let
the King's geese starve is a step towards over-throwing
the royal realm."
The high cap on her head shook with anger. Maid-alone
had never seen her so terrible. She towered up in her
authority and Maid-alone thought she would order her to
be thrown into a pit of serpents. She wished that
Trouble-the-House was near to carry her from the
And then she saw that Dame Dale's eyes were fixed upon
the star on her forehead. It was not smeared over.
The look in Dame Dale's eyes frightened her so much
that she felt sorry the star had ever been given her.
"I'll not let the geese go hungry again," she said.
"We'll see that you won't," said Dame Dale. "We'll get
some one else to take them to the marsh. We can't have
the King's geese go low in flesh and high in bone just
because you want to disport yourself in the marsh or
wherever else you take them to." She turned to the
 under-stewardess, and she said, "I require you to get
another herd for the King's geese by tomorrow morning."
"I'll go away," said Maid-alone, not knowing where in
the world she could go.
"I forbid you to leave the King's Castle," said Dame
Dale. "There's work here that has to be done. We have
no one to clear out the ashes of the seven kitchens,
and if you're good for nothing else you'll do for a
cinder-wench. Go, on this instant, down to the lower
kitchens and take the task of keeping the hearths clear
And that is how it came that Maid-alone, instead of
going to the marsh with the goose-flock, stayed in the
under-ground kitchens of the King's Castle. There had
been no cinder-wench for long, and the ashes were deep
on the hearths of the seven kitchens. Maid alone had
to gather the ashes and to draw them to the great
ash-heap outside. Soon her Crow-feather Cloak was all
grey with ashes. And the soot-drops from the chimneys
fell on her hands and her face. She was black with the
soot and grey with the ashes, and
 the servants in the Castle would not let her come to
eat in the scullery. She had to take her dish and her
porringer on her knee and sit and eat by one or the
other of the great hearths. They would let her have no
place to sleep near them, and she had to huddle herself
by one of the hearths and go to sleep over the ashes.