Cap o’ Rushes
Cap o' Rushes
Once upon a time there was a very rich gentleman who had three daughters. One day, he thought he'd find out how much they loved him. So he said to the first, “How much do you love me, my dear?”
“Why,” she said, “as much as I love life itself.”
“That's good,” he said.
Then he said to the second, “How much do you love me, my dear?”
“Why,” she said, “better than all of the world.”
Finally, he said to the third, “How much do you love me, my dear?”
“Why, I love you as fresh meat loves salt,” she said.
This answer infuriated him.
“You don't love me at all,” he said, “you can't live in this house anymore.”
So she went away a great distance until she came to a fen. There she gathered some
“Do you want a maid?” she asked.
“No,” the servants answered.
“I don't have anywhere to go,” she said, “and I don't need any money. I'll do any sort of work.”
“Okay,” they said, “You can wash all of the dishes.” So she stayed and washed the pots and scraped the saucepans and did all of the dirty work. Because she gave no name, they called her Cap o' Rushes.
One day there was to be a great dance nearby, and the servants went. They invited her too, but Cap o' Rushes said she was too tired to go.
But when everyone else had gone, she took off her cloak, cleaned herself up, and went to the dance. And no one was as beautifully dressed as she.
Well, who should be at the dance but her master's son. He fell in love with her the minute he set eyes on her. He wouldn't dance with anyone else.
But before the dance was done, Cap o' Rushes crept off home and put her cloak back on. When the other maids came back, she pretended to be asleep.
The next morning they said to her, “You missed something grand!”
“What was that?” she asked.
“The most beautiful lady you'll ever see, dressed in the fanciest clothes. The young master, he never took his eyes off her.”
“Well, I should have liked to have seen her,” said Cap o' Rushes.
“There's to be another dance this evening, and perhaps she'll be there.”
But Cap o' Rushes said she was too tired to go with them to the dance. Once they had gone, though, she took off he cloak once again and cleaned herself, and away she went to the dance.
The master's son had been hoping to see her. He danced with no one else and never took his eyes off her. But, before the dance was over, she crept away. When the maids came back, she pretended to be asleep.
The next day they said to her again, “Well, Cap o' Rushes, you should have been there to see the lady. The young master never took his eyes off her.”
“Well,” she said, “I should liked to have seen her.”
They said, “There's a dance again this evening. You must go with us, for she's sure to be there.”
That evening, Cap o' Rushes said she was too tired to go. But when they had gone, she took off her cloak, cleaned herself, and away she went to the dance.
The master's son was so happy when he saw her. When she wouldn't tell him her name, or where she came from, he gave her a ring and told her if he didn't see her again he would die.
Before the dance was over, she slipped off. When the maids came home, she pretended to be asleep with her cap o' rushes on.
The next day they said to her, “There, Cap o' Rushes, you didn't come last night, and now you won't see the lady, for there's no more dances.”
“That's too bad,” she said.
The master's son tried every way to find out where the lady had gone, but he had no luck. Finally, he took ill to his bed because he was so lovesick.
“Make some porridge for the young master,” the maids said to the cook. “He's dying for the love of the lady.”
The cook had started making the porridge when Cap o' Rushes came in.
“What are you doing?” she asked.
“I'm going to make some porridge for the young master,” said the cook, “for he's dying for love of the lady.”
“Let me make it,” said Cap o' Rushes.
The cook wouldn't agree at first, but at last she said yes. And Cap o' Rushes made the porridge. When it had finished cooking, she slipped the ring into it before the cook took it upstairs.
The young man ate the porridge and then saw the ring at the bottom of the bowl.
“Who made this porridge?” he asked the cook.
“I did,” said the cook, lying because she was frightened.
“No, you didn't,” he said. “Tell me who made it!”
“Well, then, it was Cap o' Rushes,” the cook said.
“Send her here,” he said.
When Cap o' Rushes came, he asked, “Did you make my porridge?”
“Yes, I did,” she said.
“Where did you get this ring?” he asked.
“From the person who gave it to me,” she said. And she took off her cap o' rushes, and there she was in her beautiful clothes.
Well, the master's son quickly got well, and they were to be married right away. It was to be a very grand wedding. Cap o' Rushes's father was asked. But she had never told anybody who she was.
Before the wedding, she went to the cook, and said, “I want you to dress every dish without a bit of salt.”
“That'll be rather nasty,” said the cook.
“That doesn't matter,” she replied.
The wedding day came and they were married. After the ceremony, all of the guests sat down to eat. When they tried the meat, it was so tasteless they couldn't eat it. Cap o' Rushes's father tried first one dish, then another, and then burst out crying.
“What is the matter?” asked the master's son.
“I had a daughter and when I asked her how much she loved me, she said, ‘As much as fresh meat loves salt.’ I kicked her out of the house, for I thought she didn't love me. Now I see she loved me best of all. She may be dead for all I know.”
“No, Father, here she is!” said Cap o' Rushes. And she went up to him, put her arms around him, and gave him a giant bear hug.
And they were all happy forever after.