WATER FOR THE KING'S SON
HE tree she was beside had a hollow in it, a hollow
wide and clean and dry. She put pegs in the hollow and
she hung up her dresses there, the bronze dress, the
silver dress, and the golden dress.
Then Maid-alone went in the direction in which she
heard the peacocks cry. She came to the King's Castle
with its stables and it's kennels, with its mews for
hawks and its meres for herons, with its ponds for
swans and its parades for peacocks. She came to the
King's Castle, and she found the
 least grand way to enter it, and she went that way and
stood before the grille that was in the lowest door.
When she knocked, the third of the under-stewardesses
opened the grille and looked out at her.
"What do you want, Girl in the Crow-feather Cloak?"
said the third of the under-stewardesses.
"To work in the King's Castle," said Maid-alone.
Then the third of the under-stewardesses said to her,
"Can you mind geese, girl?"
"Geese would be easy for me to mind," said Maid-alone.
"Then come to me after the ploughmen go into the fields
and I'll take you to the goose-shelter," said the third
of the under-stewardesses.
She closed the grille, but Maid-alone stayed there
until she saw the ploughmen go into the fields. She
knocked again, and the third of the under-stewardesses
opened the lowest door in the Castle and brought her
into the scullery and gave her crusts and scraps for
The she brought Maid-alone to the wide shelter
 where twoscore geese were lifting up their necks and
shaking out their wings and clangouring. She gave her
the rod of the goose-herd and told her to take the
goose-flock down to the marsh.
When the geese were all feeding in the marsh with one
gander to watch for them, Maid-alone left them for a
while and came out on the highway. Along the highway a
coach with four horses was coming. And at a distance
from the coach a horseman was riding with a hound
running beside him.
When the coach came near where she was standing it
stopped, and out of it stepped two damsels grandly
dressed. They were Maid-alone's foster sisters,
Berry-bright and Buttercup. There was a third person
in the coach and she was Dame Dale, Maid-alone's foster
 "It is the King's son who is riding behind us on his
high-mettled horse," said Dame Dale to the damsels.
"Stand beside the coach now, my fair daughters, and
give him the chance of looking at you."
Buttercup and Berry-bright stood alongside the coach in
their grand dresses and the King's son came riding up
"Is there aught we can do to serve you, noble lord?"
said Berry-bright. The King's son drew the rein of his
high-mettled horse and his bell-mouthed hound stayed by
him. "Is there aught we can do to serve you, noble
lord?" said Buttercup.
"If you would serve me, damsels," said the King's son,
"bring me a drink of water from the cold well yonder."
"We have no vessel to bring the water to you, good
lord," said Berry-bright.
"Your own beautiful white hands will do to carry the
water in," said Dame Dale from the coach.
Berry-bright started off for the well, and
 Maid-alone in her Crow-feather Cloak, unseen and
unknown by them all, stood near and looked on.
Berry-bright came back with her fingers knit together
and her palms hollowed out to hold the water. The
King's son slipped down from his horse to drink and the
hands that were made white with washings in new milk
were held up to him. The face of Berry-bright was red
with pride, and the face of Buttercup white with envy.
But when he stooped down to drink, the water had flowed
away. He lifted his head and he turned away from her.
Then Buttercup started for the well. She came back
with her fingers knit and her palms hollowed to hole
the water. She held up the hands that were white with
washings in new milk, and the red of pride was on her
But from her hands, too, the water flowed away, and
after he had bent down to empty palms the King's son
lifted his head and turned away from her.
Maid-alone stole to the well. She came back
 with her fingers knit and her palms hollowed to hold
the water. The water stayed within her firm hands, and
the King's son stooped down and drank all that was held
there. Dame Dale and Berry-bright and Buttercup looked
on the Girl in the Crow-feather Cloak and knew her for
Maid-alone who had minded their Goats.
And the King's son looked on her and on her queer Cloak
of crow-feathers. He looked on her once, and he looked
on her again. "He is wondering what hole she came out
of," said Dame Dale to her daughters.
"Bring water for my hound to dip his tongue in," said
the King's son.
Maid-alone went to the well again and came back with
water in the hollow of her palms. She stooped down and
the King's son's hound put his tongue into the water
and then lapped it up. The King's son mounted his
high-mettled horse and he rode off with his
bell-mouthed hound running beside him.
Berry-bright and Buttercup said not a word to
Maid-alone. They stepped into the coach and
 seated themselves beside Dame Dale and the coach drove
off towards the King's Castle.
And as for Maid-alone, she went back to where her
goose-flock was feeding in the marsh, and she watched
over them. Then when the sun was near sinking she
gathered them together and drove them across the fields
to the goose-shelter near the castle. When she was
eating her supper of scraps in the scullery she heard
the news of the Castle. The King's son was soon to
choose a wife, and all the maidens of the land were
being gathered for him to look at; they would be lodged
in the fifty-five new chambers of the Castle. Two had
come that very day, arriving in the fourth royal coach,
and their mother, Dame Dale, was to be the new
Hundreds of additional titles available for
online reading when you join Gateway to the Classics