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The Girl Who Sat by the Ashes by  Padraic Colum
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WHAT THE GEESE TALKED OF

[99]

O
N the morning of the next day Maid-alone went into the goose-shelter, and the two-score geese when they saw her amongst them stretched up their necks, shook out their wings, and set up their goose-gabble. She had the rod of the goose-herd in her hand and she drove them out, setting the ganders marching at the heads of their companies.

She took them to the marsh, and she waited till they had all settled down to feed, leaving a gander to watch and ward for them. Then she hurried from the marsh and went [100] to the hollow tree where her dresses were hidden; she took off her Crow-feather Cloak and she put on the first of her fine dresses, the glittering dress of bronze, with the gleaming shoes and the glittering veil.

She hung up the Crow-feather Cloak on the peg that the first of her fine dresses had been on. Then she went back to the swamp where the geese were feeding. The watcher and the warder for the flock saw her coming and he set up his cry. The other geese looked up and saw her. They stretched up their necks and they shook out their wings, and they cackled and clamoured and crowded around her. And whether she sat down on the stump of a tree or walked about in the sunlight, the geese crowded round or followed her.

No goose fed, and no gander kept watch or ward. Their necks were stretched up all the time she was there in her gleaming dress, with her glittering veil and gleaming shoes. And one goose kept [101] saying that she was like a beautiful poplar tree, and another that she was like a shining water-lily. And an old goose kept saying that she was like Helen of Greece and her grandmother had told her about, Helen of Greece who was born out of a Swan's egg.

So the geese kept on talking with their neck stretched up. They neither fed nor kept watch from the time she came amongst them in her bronze dress. And when it was near sunset, Maid-alone turned to go to the hollow tree to leave back the first of her fine dresses and put on the Crow-feather Cloak. The geese followed her. She ran ahead of the flock, and she had the bronze dress off and the Crow-feather Cloak on before they came to where she was standing at the hollow tree. She drove them back to the goose-shelter, and they went on with their heads held high, telling of the wondrous maiden they had seen in the marsh. And one kept saying that she was like a beautiful poplar tree, and another kept saying that she was like a shining water-lily. But the oldest of the geese kept saying that she was like [102] Helen of Greece that her grandmother had told her about, Helen of Greece who was born out of a Swan's egg.


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