: English Fairy Tales
Once upon a time there lived a gentleman who owned fine lands and
houses, and he very much wanted to have a son to be heir to them. So
when his wife brought him a daughter, though she was bonny as bonny
could be, he cared nought for her, and said:
"Let me never see her face."
So she grew up to be a beautiful maiden, though her father never set
eyes on her till she was fifteen years old and w
s ready to be married.
Then her father said roughly, "She shall marry the first that comes for
her." Now when this became known, who should come along and be first but
a nasty, horrid old man! So she didn't know what to do, and went to the
hen-wife and asked her advice. And the hen-wife said, "Say you will not
take him unless they give you a coat of silver cloth." Well, they gave
her a coat of silver cloth, but she wouldn't take him for all that, but
went again to the hen-wife, who said, "Say you will not take him unless
they give you a coat of beaten gold." Well, they gave her a coat of
beaten gold, but still she would not take the old man, but went again
to the hen-wife, who said, "Say you will not take him unless they give
you a coat made of the feathers of all the birds of the air." So they
sent out a man with a great heap of peas; and the man cried to all the
birds of the air, "Each bird take a pea and put down a feather." So each
bird took a pea and put down one of its feathers: and they took all the
feathers and made a coat of them and gave it to her; but still she would
not take the nasty, horrid old man, but asked the hen-wife once again
what she was to do, and the hen-wife said, "Say they must first make you
a coat of catskin." Then they made her a coat of catskin; and she put it
on, and tied up her other coats into a bundle, and when it was
night-time ran away with it into the woods.
Now she went along, and went along, and went along, till at the end of
the wood she saw a fine castle. Then she hid her fine dresses by a
crystal waterfall and went up to the castle gates and asked for work.
The lady of the castle saw her, and told her, "I'm sorry I have no
better place, but if you like you may be our scullion." So down she went
into the kitchen, and they called her Catskin, because of her dress. But
the cook was very cruel to her, and led her a sad life.
Well, soon after that it happened that the young lord of the castle came
home, and there was to be a grand ball in honour of the occasion. And
when they were speaking about it among the servants, "Dear me, Mrs.
Cook," said Catskin, "how much I should like to go!"
"What! You dirty, impudent slut," said the cook, "you go among all the
fine lords and ladies with your filthy catskin? A fine figure you'd
cut!" and with that she took a basin of water and dashed it into
Catskin's face. But Catskin only shook her ears and said nothing.
Now when the day of the ball arrived, Catskin slipped out of the house
and went to the edge of the forest where she had hidden her dresses.
Then she bathed herself in a crystal waterfall, and put on her coat of
silver cloth, and hastened away to the ball. As soon as she entered all
were overcome by her beauty and grace, while the young lord at once lost
his heart to her. He asked her to be his partner for the first dance;
and he would dance with none other the livelong night.
When it came to parting time, the young lord said, "Pray tell me, fair
maid, where you live?"
But Catskin curtsied and said:
"Kind sir, if the truth I must tell,
At the sign of the 'Basin of Water' I dwell."
Then she flew from the castle and donned her catskin robe again, and
slipped into the scullery, unbeknown to the cook.
The young lord went the very next day and searched for the sign of the
"Basin of Water"; but he could not find it. So he went to his mother,
the lady of the castle, and declared he would wed none other but the
lady of the silver dress, and would never rest till he had found her.
So another ball was soon arranged in hopes that the beautiful maid would
So Catskin said to the cook, "Oh, how I should like to go!" Whereupon
the cook screamed out in a rage, "What, you, you dirty, impudent slut!
You would cut a fine figure among all the fine lords and ladies." And
with that she up with a ladle and broke it across Catskin's back. But
Catskin only shook her ears, and ran off to the forest, where, first of
all, she bathed, and then she put on her coat of beaten gold, and off
she went to the ball-room.
As soon as she entered all eyes were upon her; and the young lord at
once recognised her as the lady of the "Basin of Water," claimed her
hand for the first dance, and did not leave her till the last. When that
came, he again asked her where she lived. But all that she would say
"Kind sir, if the truth I must tell,
At the sign of the 'Broken Ladle' I dwell";
and with that she curtsied and flew from the ball, off with her golden
robe, on with her catskin, and into the scullery without the cook's
Next day, when the young lord could not find where the sign of the
"Basin of Water" was, he begged his mother to have another grand ball,
so that he might meet the beautiful maid once more.
Then Catskin said to the cook, "Oh, how I wish I could go to the ball!"
Whereupon the cook called out: "A fine figure you'd cut!" and broke the
skimmer across her head. But Catskin only shook her ears, and went off
to the forest, where she first bathed in the crystal spring, and then
donned her coat of feathers, and so off to the ball-room.
When she entered every one was surprised at so beautiful a face and form
dressed in so rich and rare a dress; but the young lord at once
recognised his beautiful sweetheart, and would dance with none but her
the whole evening. When the ball came to an end he pressed her to tell
him where she lived, but all she would answer was:
"Kind sir, if the truth I must tell,
At the sign of the 'Broken Skimmer' I dwell";
and with that she curtsied, and was off to the forest. But this time the
young lord followed her, and watched her change her fine dress of
feathers for her catskin dress, and then he knew her for his own
Next day he went to his mother, and told her that he wished to marry the
"Never," said the lady of the castle--"never so long as I live."
[Illustration: She went along, and went along, and went along]
Well, the young lord was so grieved that he took to his bed and was very
ill indeed. The doctor tried to cure him, but he would not take any
medicine unless from the hands of Catskin. At last the doctor went to
the mother, and said that her son would die if she did not consent to
his marriage with Catskin; so she had to give way. Then she summoned
Catskin to her, and Catskin put on her coat of beaten gold before she
went to see the lady; and she, of course, was overcome at once, and was
only too glad to wed her son to so beautiful a maid.
So they were married, and after a time a little son was born to them,
and grew up a fine little lad. Now one day, when he was about four years
old, a beggar woman came to the door, and Lady Catskin gave some money
to the little lord and told him to go and give it to the beggar woman.
So he went and gave it, putting it into the hand of the woman's baby
child; and the child leant forward and kissed the little lord.
Now the wicked old cook (who had never been sent away, because Catskin
was too kind-hearted) was looking on, and she said, "See how beggars'
brats take to one another!"
This insult hurt Catskin dreadfully: and she went to her husband, the
young lord, and told him all about her father, and begged he would go
and find out what had become of her parents. So they set out in the
lord's grand coach, and travelled through the forest till they came to
the house of Catskin's father. Then they put up at an inn near, and
Catskin stopped there, while her husband went to see if her father would
own she was his daughter.
Now her father had never had any other child, and his wife had died; so
he was all alone in the world, and sate moping and miserable. When the
young lord came in he hardly looked up, he was so miserable. Then
Catskin's husband drew a chair close up to him, and asked him, "Pray,
sir, had you not once a young daughter whom you would never see or
And the miserable man said with tears, "It is true; I am a hardened
sinner. But I would give all my worldly goods if I could but see her
once before I die."
Then the young lord told him what had happened to Catskin, and took him
to the inn, and afterwards brought his father-in-law to his own castle,
where they lived happy ever afterwards.