The Master-maid





There was once a king and a queen and they had a bonny boy whom they

loved beyond anything. Now when he was grown up into a fine young

prince, the King, his father, went a-hunting one day and lost his way

in the forest, and when he came through it he found a raging stream

between him and his palace. He did not know how to get home, when

suddenly a huge giant came out of the forest and said:



"What would you give if I carried you across?"



"Anything, anything," said the King.



"Will you give me the first thing that meets you as you come to the

palace gate?"



The King thought for a while and then remembered that whenever he came

to the gate of the palace his favourite deerhound Bevis always came to

greet him. So, though he was sorry to lose him, he thought it was

worth while, and agreed with the giant.



Thereupon the giant took the King upon his shoulders and wading across

the raging stream landed him on the farther bank and saying to him,

"Remember what you have promised," went back again to the other side.



The King soon found his way towards the palace, but as he came to the

palace gate it happened that his son Prince Edgar was standing there,

and before Bevis the hound could dash out to greet his master, Prince

Edgar had rushed towards his father and caught him by the hand. The

King was rather startled but thought to himself:



"Oh, how will the giant know who met me? After all I intended to give

him Bevis, and that's what I'll do when he comes."



The next day the giant came to the castle gates and asked to see the

King, and when he was admitted to his presence he said:



"I come for your promise."



"Bring Bevis the hound," said the King to his attendants.



But the giant said: "I want no hound; give me your Prince."



The King was alarmed at finding that the giant knew who had met him;

but he told him that the Prince was away, but he would send and summon

him. Then he called his High Steward and told him to dress up the

herd-boy of the palace in some of the Prince's clothes. And when this

was done he gave him to the giant, who hoisted him on his shoulder and

strode off with him.



When they had gone a little way along the herd-boy in the Prince's

suit called out:



"Stop, stop, I am hungry; this is the time the herd rests and I have

my luncheon."



Then the giant knew that he had been deceived and went back to the

King's palace and said to him:



"Take your herd-boy and give me the Prince."



The King was again startled to find that the giant had found out his

trick, but thought to himself:



"Well, he didn't find out at once; we'll have another try," and

ordered his Steward to dress up the shepherd boy in the Prince's

clothes and give him to the giant.



Again the giant strode off with the shepherd boy in Prince's clothes

upon his shoulder, and they had not gone far when the boy called out:






"Stop, stop, it is time for lunch; this is when the sheep all rest."



Then again the giant knew that he had been tricked and rushed back in

a rage to the King's palace and threw the shepherd boy to the ground

and called out:



"Take your shepherd boy and give me the Prince you promised, or it

will be worse for you."



This time the King dared not refuse and called Prince Edgar to him and

gave him to the giant, who seized him as before and put him on his

shoulder.



After they had gone a little way, the Prince called out:



"'Tis time to stop; this is the time I have always lunched with my

father the King and my mother the Queen."



Then the giant knew that he had got the right Prince and took him home

to his castle. When he got him there he gave him his supper and told

him that he would have to work for him and that his first work would

be next day to clean out the stable.



"That's not much," thought the Prince, and went to bed quite happy and

comfortable.



Next day the giant took Edgar into the giant's stable, which was full

of straw and dirt and all huddled up, and pointing to a pitchfork

said:



"Clear all of this straw out of this stable by to-night," and left him

to his task.



The Prince thought this was an easy thing to do, and before starting

went to get a drink at the well, and there he saw a most beautiful

maiden sitting by the well and knitting.



"Who are you?" said she.



And so he told her all that had happened and said:



"At any rate I have an easy master; all he has given me to do is to

clear out the stable."



"That is not so easy as you think," said the maid. "How are you going

to do it?"



"With a pitchfork."



"You will find that not so easy; if you try to use the pitchfork in

the ordinary way, the more you shove the more there will be; but turn

the pitchfork upside-down and push with the handle and all the straw

and stuff will run away from it."



So Prince Edgar went back to the stable, and sure enough, when he

tried to push the straw with the fork it only grew more and more, but

if he turned the handle towards it the straw moved away from the fork

and so he soon cleared it out of the stable.



When the giant came home the first thing he did was to go to the

stable; and when he saw it had all been cleared out he said to the

Prince:



"Ah, you've been talking to my Master-Maid. Well, to-morrow you'll

have to cut down that clump of trees."



"Very well, Master," said Prince Edgar, and thought that would not be

difficult.



But next morning the giant gave him an axe made of glass and told him

that he must cut down every one of the trees before nightfall.



When he had gone away, the Prince went to the Master-Maid and told her

what his task was.



"You cannot do that with such an axe, but never mind, I can help you.

Sleep here in peace and when you wake up you will see what you will

see."



So Prince Edgar trusted the Master-Maid and lay down and slept till

late in the afternoon, when he woke up and looked, and there were the

trees all felled and the Master-Maid was smiling by his side.



"How did you do it?" he said.



"That I may not say, but done it is, and that is all that you need

care for."



When the giant came home, the first thing he did was to go to the

clump of trees and found, to his surprise, that they had all been

felled.



"Ah, you've spoken to my Master-Maid," he said once more.



"Who is she?" said the Prince.



"You know well enough," said the giant. "But for her you could not

have cut down those trees with that glass axe."



"I do not know what you mean," said the Prince. "But at any rate,

there you have your trees cut down, what more do you want?"



"Well, well," grumbled the giant, "we'll see to-morrow whether you can

do what I tell you then," and would not say what his task should be

next day.



When the morning came, the giant pointed to the tallest tree in the

forest near them, and said:



"Do you see that birds' nest in the top of that tree? In it are six

eggs; you must climb up there and get all those eggs for me before

nightfall, and if one is broken woe betide you!"



At that Prince Edgar did not feel so happy, for there were no branches

to the tree till very near the top, and it was as smooth, as smooth as

it could be, and he did not see how possibly he could reach the birds'

nest. But when the giant had gone out for the day he went at once to

the Master-Maid and told her of his new task.



"That is the hardest of all," said the Master-Maid. "There is only one

way to do the task. You must cut me up into small pieces and take out

my bones, and out of the bones you must make a ladder, and with that

ladder you can reach the top."



"That I will never do," said the Prince. "You've been so good to me,

shall I do you harm? Before that, I should suffer whatever punishment

the giant will give me for not carrying out the task."



"But all will be well," said the Master-Maid. "As soon as you have

brought down the nest, all that you will have to do is to put the

bones together and sprinkle on them the water from this flask, and

then I shall be whole again just as before."



After much persuasion the Prince agreed to do what the Master-Maid

had told him, and made a ladder out of her bones and climbed up to the

top of the tree and took the birds' nest with the six eggs in it, and

then he put the bones together, but forgot to put one little bone in

its proper place.



So when he had sprinkled the water over the bones the Master-Maid

stood up before him just as before, but the little finger of her left

hand was not there. She cried and said:



"Ah, why did you not do what I told you--put all my bones together in

their place? You forgot my little finger; I shall never have one all

the days of my life."



When the giant came home, he asked the Prince:



"Where is the birds' nest?"



And the Prince brought it to him with the eggs all safe within it. And

then the giant said:



"Ah, you have spoken to my Master-Maid."



"Whom do you mean by your Master-Maid?" said the Prince. "There are

your eggs, what more do you want?"



But the giant said: "Well, as the Master-Maid has helped you so far

she can help you always. You shall marry her today and sleep in my own

four-poster."



The Prince was well content with that arrangement and went and sought

the Master-Maid and told her what the giant had said.



The Master-Maid wept and said: "You know not what he means. His

four-poster rolls up and would crush us and we would be dead before

the morning. Let me think, let me think."



So the Master-Maid took an apple and divided it into six parts and put

two at the foot of the bed and two at the door of the room and two at

the foot of the stairs.



When night came, the Master-Maid and her Prince went up into the room

with the four-poster, but as soon as it was dark crept down the stairs

and went out to the stable and chose two of the swiftest horses there

and rode away as quickly as they could.



The giant waited for some time after they had gone upstairs and then

called out:



"Are you asleep?"



And the two apple shares near the bed called out:



"Not yet, not yet!"



So after waiting some time he called out again:



"Are you asleep?"



And the apple shares at the door called out:



"Not yet, not yet!"



And still a third time the giant called out:



"Are you asleep?"





And the apple shares on the stairs replied:



"Not yet, not yet!"



Then the giant knew that the voice was outside the bedroom, and rushed



up to find Edgar and his bride, but found they were gone. He rushed to

the stable and chose his great horse Dapplegrim and rode after Prince

Edgar and the Master-Maid.



They had gone on a good way in front; but after a time they heard the

trampling of the hoofs of the great horse Dapplegrim, and the

Master-Maid said to Prince Edgar:



"That is the giant; he will soon overtake us if we do not do

something." And she jumped off her horse and bade Prince Edgar do the

same.



Then the Master-Maid took three twigs and threw them behind her with

magic spells; and they grew and they grew and they grew, till they

became a huge thick forest. And the Master-Maid and Edgar jumped upon

their horses again and rode away as fast as they could.



But the giant, as soon as he came to the forest, had to take his axe

from his side and hew his way through the thick trees, so that Edgar

and the Master-Maid got far ahead. But soon they heard once more the

trampling of Dapplegrim close behind them; and the Master-Maid took

the glass axe that the giant had given Edgar on the second day, and

threw it behind her with magic spells. And a huge glass mountain rose

behind them, so that the giant had to stop and split his way through

the glass mountain.



Edgar and the Master-Maid rode on at full speed, but once again they

heard Dapplegrim trampling behind them, and the Master-Maid took the

flask of water from her side and cast it down back of her, and out of

it gushed a huge stream.



When the giant came up to the stream and tried to make Dapplegrim

swim through it he would not; and then he lay down on the bank of the

stream and commenced to drink up as much of it as he could. And he

drank and he drank and he drank, till at last he swallowed so much

that he burst; and that was the end of the giant.






Meanwhile Edgar and the Master-Maid had ridden on fast and furious

till they came near where the palace of the King, Edgar's father,

could be seen in the far distance. And Edgar said:



"Let me go on first and tell my father and mother all that you have

done for me, and they will welcome you as their daughter."



The Master-Maid shook her head sadly and said:



"Do as you will, but beware lest any one kiss you before you see me

again."



"I want no kisses from any one but you," said Prince Edgar, and

leaving her in a hut by the roadside he went on to greet the King and

Queen.



When he got to the palace gate everybody was astonished to see him, as

they had all thought he had been destroyed by the giant. And when they

took him to the Queen, his mother, she rushed to him and kissed him

before he could say nay.



No sooner had his mother kissed him than all memory of the Master-Maid

disappeared from his mind. And when he told his mother and his father

what he had done in the giant's castle and how he had escaped, he said

nothing of the help given him by the Master-Maid.



Soon afterwards the King and the Queen arranged for the marriage of

Prince Edgar with a great Princess from a neighbouring country. And

she was brought home with great pomp and ceremony to the King's

palace. And one day after her marriage, when she was out, she passed

by the hut in which the Master-Maid was dwelling.



Now the Master-Maid had put on that day a beautiful dress of rich

silk, and when the Prince's wife saw it she went to the Master-Maid

and said:



"I should like that dress. Will you not sell it to me?"



"Yes," said the Master-Maid, "but at a price you are not likely to

give."



"What do you want for it?" said the Princess.



"I want to spend one night in the room of your bridegroom, Prince

Edgar."



At first the Princess would not think of such a thing; but after

thinking the matter over she thought of a plan, and said:



"Well, you shall have your wish," and took away with her the silken

dress.



But at night, when the Master-Maid came to the palace and claimed her

promise, the Princess put a sleep-giving drug in Edgar's cup.



When the Master-Maid came into Edgar's room she bent over his bed and

cried:



"I cleaned the byre for thee,

I swung the axe for thee,

And now thou'lt not speak to me."



But still Edgar slept on, and in the morning the Master-Maid had to

leave without speaking to him.



Next day, when the Princess went out to see what the Master-Maid had

been doing, she found her dressed in a rich silver dress, and said to

her:



"Will you sell that dress to me?"



And the Master-Maid said, "Yes, at a price."



Then the Princess said, "What price?"



"One night in Edgar's room," replied the Master-Maid.



The Princess knew what had happened the night before, so she agreed to

let the Master-Maid pass still another night with her bridegroom. But

all happened as before; and when the Master-Maid came into the room

she bent over Edgar, lying upon the bed, and called out:



"I gave my bones for thee,

I shared the apples for thee,

And yet thou'lt not speak to me";



and had to leave him as before, without his waking up.



But this time Prince Edgar had heard something of what she said in his

sleep. And when he woke up he asked his chamberlain what had happened

during the night. And he told the Prince that for two nights running a

maiden had been in his room and sung to him, but he had not answered.



Next day the Princess sought out the Master-Maid as before. And this

time she was dressed in a dress of shining gold; and for that the

Princess agreed to let her spend one more night in the Prince's room.



But this time the Prince, guessing what had happened, threw away the

wine-cup, in which the Princess had placed the sleeping draught, and

lay awake on his bed when the Master-Maid came in. She bent over him

and cried:



"I grew the forest for thee,

I made the glass mount for thee,

For thee a stream flowed from my magic flask,

And yet thou'lt not wake and speak to me."



But this time Prince Edgar rose up in bed and recognized the

Master-Maid, and called in his father and his mother and told them all

that had happened, which had now come back to him.



So the Princess was sent back to her home, and Edgar married the

Master-Maid and lived happy ever afterwards.





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