Habetrot and Scantlie Mab
woman had one fair daughter, who loved play better than work, wandering
in the meadows and lanes better than the spinning-wheel and distaff.
The mother was heartily vexed at this, for in those days no lassie had
any chance of a good husband unless she was an industrious spinster. So
she coaxed, threatened, even beat her daughter, but all to no purpose;
the girl remained what her mother called her, "an idle cuttie."
last, one spring morning, the gudewife gave her seven heads of lint,
saying she would take no excuse; they must be returned in three days
spun into yarn. The girl saw her mother was in earnest, so she plied
her distaff as well as she could; but her hands were all untaught, and
by the evening of the second day only a very small part of her task was
done. She cried herself to sleep that night, and in the morning,
throwing aside her work in despair, she strolled out into the fields,
all sparkling with dew. At last she reached a knoll, at whose feet ran
a little burn, shaded with woodbine and wild roses; and there she sat
down, burying her face in her hands. When she looked up, she was
surprised to see by the margin of the stream an old woman, quite
unknown to her, drawing out the thread as she basked in the sun. There
was nothing very remarkable in her appearance, except the length and
thickness of her lips, only she was seated on a self-bored stone. The
girl rose, went to the good dame, and gave her a friendly greeting, but
could not help inquiring "What makes you so long lipped?"
thread, my hinnie," said the old woman, pleased with her. "I wet my
fingers with my lips, as I draw the thread from the distaff."
said the girl, "I should be spinning too, but it's all to no purpose. I
shall ne'er do my task:" on which the old woman proposed to do it for
her. Overjoyed, the maiden ran to fetch her lint, and placed it in her
new friend's hand, asking where she should call for the yarn in the
evening; but she received no reply; the old woman passed away from her
among the trees and bushes. The girl, much bewildered, wandered about a
little, sat down to rest, and finally fell asleep by the little knoll.
she awoke she was surprised to find that it was evening. Causleen, the
evening star, was beaming with silvery light, soon to be lost in the
moon's splendour. While watching these changes, the maiden was startled
by the sound of an uncouth voice, which seemed to issue from below the
self-bored stone, close beside her. She laid her ear to the stone and
heard the words: "Hurry up, Scantlie Mab, for I've promised the yarn
and Habetrot always keeps her promise." Then looking down the hole saw
her friend, the old dame, walking backwards and forwards in a deep
cavern among a group of spinsters all seated on colludie stones, and
busy with distaff and spindle. An ugly company they were, with lips
more or less disfigured, like old Habetrot's. Another of the
sisterhood, who sat in a distant corner reeling the yarn, was marked,
in addition, by grey eyes, which seemed starting from her head, and a
long hooked nose.
While the girl was still watching, she heard
Habetrot address this dame by the name of Scantlie Mab, and say,
"Bundle up the yarn, it is time the young lassie should give it to her
mother." Delighted to hear this, the girl got up and returned
homewards. Habetrot soon overtook her, and placed the yarn in her
hands. "Oh, what can I do for ye in return?" exclaimed she, in delight.
"Nothing—nothing," replied the dame; "but dinna tell your mother who
spun the yarn."
Scarcely believing her eyes, the girl went home,
where she found her mother had been busy making sausters, and hanging
them up in the chimney to dry, and then, tired out, had retired to
rest. Finding herself very hungry after her long day on the knoll, the
girl took down pudding after pudding, fried and ate them, and at last
went to bed too. The mother was up first the next morning, and when she
came into the kitchen and found her sausters all gone, and the seven
hanks of yarn lying beautifully smooth and bright upon the table, she
ran out of the house wildly, crying out—
"My daughter's spun seven, seven, seven,
My daughter's eaten seven, seven, seven,
And all before daylight."
laird who chanced to be riding by, heard the exclamation, but could not
understand it; so he rode up and asked the gudewife what was the
matter, on which she broke out again—
"My daughter's spun seven, seven, seven,
My daughter's eaten seven, seven, seven
daylight; and if ye dinna believe me, why come in and see it." The
laird, he alighted and went into the cottage, where he saw the yarn,
and admired it so much he begged to see the spinner.
dragged in her girl. He vowed he was lonely without a wife, and had
long been in search of one who was a good spinner. So their troth was
plighted, and the wedding took place soon afterwards, though the bride
was in great fear that she should not prove so clever at her
spinning-wheel as he expected. But old Dame Habetrot came to her aid.
"Bring your bonny bridegroom to my cell," said she to the young bride
soon after her marriage; "he shall see what comes o' spinning, and
never will he tie you to the spinning-wheel."
bride led her husband the next day to the flowery knoll, and bade him
look through the self-bored stone. Great was his surprise to behold
Habetrot dancing and jumping over her rock, singing all the time this
ditty to her sisterhood, while they kept time with their spindles:—
"We who live in dreary den,
Are both rank and foul to see?
Hidden from the glorious sun,
That teems the fair earth's canopie:
Ever must our evenings lone
Be spent on the colludie stone.
"Cheerless is the evening grey
When Causleen hath died away,
But ever bright and ever fair
Are they who breathe this evening air,
And lean upon the self-bored stone
Unseen by all but me alone."
The song ended, Scantlie Mab asked Habetrot what she meant by the last line, "Unseen by all but we alone."
is one," replied Habetrot, "whom I bid to come here at this hour, and
he has heard my song through the self-bored stone." So saying she rose,
opened another door, which was concealed by the roots of an old tree,
and invited the pair to come in and see her family.
was astonished at the weird-looking company, as he well might be, and
inquired of one after another the cause of their strange lips. In a
different tone of voice, and with a different twist of the mouth, each
answered that it was occasioned by spinning. At least they tried to say
so, but one grunted out "Nakasind," and another "Owkasańnd," while a
third murmured "O-a-a-send." All, however, made the bridegroom
understand what was the cause of their ugliness; while Habetrot slily
hinted that if his wife were allowed to spin, her pretty lips would
grow out of shape too, and her pretty face get an ugsome look. So
before he left the cave he vowed that his little wife should never
touch a spinning-wheel, and he kept his word. She used to wander in the
meadows by his side, or ride behind him over the hills, but all the
flax grown on his land was sent to old Habetrot to be converted into
|All English Fairy Tales
THE STORY OF THE THREE LITTLE PIGS
JACK AND THE BEANSTALK
JACK THE GIANT-KILLER
THE PIED PIPER OF FRANCHVILLE
THE STORY OF THE THREE BEARS
TOM TIT TOT
THE THREE SILLIES
THE OLD WOMAN AND HER PIG
HOW JACK WENT TO SEEK HIS FORTUNE
NIX NOUGHT NOTHING
MOUSE AND MOUSER
CAP O' RUSHES
THE MASTER AND HIS PUPIL
TITTY MOUSE ND TATTY MOUSE
JACK AND HIS GOLDEN SNUFF-BOX
THE RED ETTIN
MASTER OF ALL MASTERS.
THE GOLDEN ARM
THE HISTORY OF TOM THUMB
EARL MAR'S DAUGHTER
WHITTINGTON AND HIS CAT
THE STRANGE VISITOR
THE LAIDLY WORM OF SPINDLESTON HEUGH
THE CAT AND THE MOUSE.
THE FISH AND THE RING.
THE MAGPIE'S NEST
THE CAULD LAD OF HILTON
THE ASS, THE TABLE, AND THE STICK
THE WELL OF THE WORLD'S END.
THE THREE HEADS OF THE WELL