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Nippit Fit And Clippit Fit

from The Scottish Fairy Book





In a country, far across the sea, there once dwelt a great and mighty
Prince. He lived in a grand Castle, which was full of beautiful
furniture, and curious and rare ornaments. And among them was a lovely
little glass shoe, which would only fit the tiniest foot imaginable.

And as the Prince was looking at it one day, it struck him what a dainty
little lady she would need to be who wore such a very small shoe. And,
as he liked dainty people, he made up his mind that he would never marry
until he found a maiden who could wear the shoe, and that, when he found
her, he would ask her to be his wife.

And he called all his Lords and Courtiers to him, and told them of the
determination that he had come to, and asked them to help him in his
quest.

And after they had taken counsel together they summoned a trusty Knight,
and appointed him the Prince's Ambassador; and told him to take the
slipper, and mount a fleet-footed horse, and ride up and down the whole
of the Kingdom until he found a lady whom it would fit.

So the Ambassador put the little shoe carefully in his pocket and set
out on his errand.

He rode, and he rode, and he rode, going to every town and castle that
came in his way, and summoning all the ladies to appear before him to
try on the shoe. And, as he caused a Proclamation to be made that
whoever could wear it should be the Prince's Bride, I need not tell you
that all the ladies in the country-side flocked to wherever the
Ambassador chanced to be staying, and begged leave to try on the
slipper.

But they were all disappointed, for not one of them, try as she would,
could make her foot small enough to go into the Fairy Shoe; and there
were many bitter tears shed in secret, when they returned home, by
countless fair ladies who prided themselves on the smallness of their
feet, and who had set out full of lively expectation that they would be
the successful competitors.

At last the Ambassador arrived at a house where a well-to-do Laird had
lived. But the Laird was dead now, and there was nobody left but his
wife and two daughters, who had grown poor of late, and who had to work
hard for their living.

One of the daughters was haughty and insolent; the other was little, and
young, and modest, and sweet.

When the Ambassador rode into the courtyard of this house, and, holding
out the shoe, asked if there were any fair ladies there who would like
to try it on, the elder sister, who always thought a great deal of
herself, ran forward, and said that she would do so, while the younger
girl just shook her head and went on with her work. "For," said she to
herself, "though my feet are so little that they might go into the
slipper, what would I do as the wife of a great Prince? Folk would just
laugh at me, and say that I was not fit for the position. No, no, I am
far better to bide as I am."

So the Ambassador gave the glass shoe to the elder sister, who carried
it away to her own room; and presently, to every one's astonishment,
came back wearing it on her foot.

It is true that her face was very white, and that she walked with a
little limp; but no one noticed these things except her younger sister,
and she only shook her wise little head, and said nothing.

The Prince's Ambassador was delighted that he had at last found a wife
for his master, and he mounted his horse and rode off at full speed to
tell him the good news.

When the Prince heard of the success of his errand, he ordered all his
Courtiers to be ready to accompany him next day when he went to bring
home his Bride.

You can fancy what excitement there was at the Laird's house when the
gallant company arrived, with their Prince at their head, to greet the
lady who was to be their Princess.

The old mother and the plain-looking maid-of-all-work ran hither and
thither, fetching such meat and drink as the house could boast to set
before their high-born visitors, while the bonnie little sister went and
hid herself behind a great pot which stood in the corner of the
courtyard, and which was used for boiling hen's meat.



She knew that her foot was the smallest in the house; and something told
her that if the Prince once got a glimpse of her he would not be content
till she had tried on the slipper.

Meanwhile, the selfish elder sister did not help at all, but ran up to
her chamber, and decked herself out in all the fine clothes that she
possessed before she came downstairs to meet the Prince.

And when all the Knights and Courtiers had drunk a stirrup-cup, and
wished Good Luck to their Lord and his Bride, she was lifted up behind
the Prince on his horse, and rode off so full of her own importance,
that she even forgot to say good-bye to her mother and sister.

Alas! alas! pride must have a fall. For the cavalcade had not proceeded
very far when a little bird which was perched on a branch of a bush by
the roadside sang out:

"Nippit fit, and clippit fit, behind the King rides,
But pretty fit, and little fit, ahint the caldron hides."

"What is this that the birdie says?" cried the Prince, who, if the truth
be told, did not feel altogether satisfied with the Bride whom fortune
had bestowed upon him. "Hast thou another sister, Madam?"

"Only a little one," murmured the lady, who liked ill the way in which
things seemed to be falling out.

"We will go back and find her," said the Prince firmly, "for when I sent
out the slipper I had no mind that its wearer should nip her foot, and
clip her foot, in order to get it on."

So the whole party turned back; and when they reached the Laird's house
the Prince ordered a search to be made in the courtyard. And the bonnie
little sister was soon discovered and brought out, all blushes and
confusion, from her hiding-place behind the caldron.

"Give her the slipper, and let her try it on," said the Prince, and the
eldest sister was forced to obey. And what was the horror of the
bystanders, as she drew it off, to see that she had cut off the tops of
her toes in order to get it on.

But it fitted her little sister's foot exactly, without either paring or
clipping; and when the Prince saw that it was so, he lifted the elder
sister down from his horse and lifted the little one up in her place,
and carried her home to his Palace, where the wedding was celebrated
with great rejoicing; and for the rest of their lives they were the
happiest couple in the whole kingdom.





Next: The Fairies Of Merlin's Crag

Previous: Habetrot The Spinstress



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