upon a time there was a girl who was married to a husband that she
never saw. And the way this was, was that he was only at home at night,
and would never have any light in the house. The girl thought that was
funny, and all her friends told her there must be something wrong with
her husband, some great deformity that made him want not to be seen.
one night when he came home she suddenly lit a candle and saw him. He
was handsome enough to make all the women of the world fall in love
with him. But scarcely had she seen him when he began to change into a
bird, and then he said: "Now you have seen me, you shall see me no
more, unless you are willing to serve seven years and a day for me, so
that I may become a man once more." Then he told her to take three
feathers from under his side, and whatever she wished through them
would come to pass. Then he left her at a great house to be
laundry-maid for seven years and a day.
And the girl used to take the feathers and say:
virtue of my three feathers may the copper be lit, and the clothes
washed, and mangled, and folded, and put away to the missus's
And then she had no more care about it. The
feathers did the rest, and the lady set great store by her for a better
laundress she had never had. Well, one day the butler, who had a notion
to have the pretty laundry-maid for his wife, said to her, he should
have spoken before but he did not want to vex her. "Why should it when
I am but a fellow-servant?" the girl said. And then he felt free to go
on, and explain he had £70 laid by with the master, and how would she
like him for a husband.
And the girl told him to fetch her the
money, and he asked his master for it, and brought it to her. But as
they were going up-stairs, she cried, "O John, I must go back, sure
I've left my shutters undone, and they'll be slashing and banging all
The butler said, "Never you trouble, I'll put them
right." and he ran back, while she took her feathers, and said: "By
virtue of my three feathers may the shutters slash and bang till
morning, and John not be able to fasten them nor yet to get his fingers
free from them."
And so it was. Try as he might the butler could
not leave hold, nor yet keep the shutters from blowing open as he
closed them. And he was angry, but could not help himself, and he did
not care to tell of it and get the laugh on him, so no one knew.
after a bit the coachman began to notice her, and she found he had some
£40 with the master, and he said she might have it if she would take
him with it.
So after the laundry-maid had his money in her
apron as they went merrily along, she stopt, exclaiming: "My clothes
are left outside, I must run back and bring them in." "Stop for me
while I go; it is a cold frost night," said William, "you'd be catching
your death." So the girl waited long enough to take her feathers out
and say, "By virtue of my three feathers may the clothes slash and blow
about till morning, and may William not be able to take his hand from
them nor yet to gather them up." And then she was away to bed and to
The coachman did not want to be every one's jest, and
he said nothing. So after a bit the footman comes to her and said he:
"I have been with my master for years and have saved up a good bit, and
you have been three years here, and must have saved up as well. Let us
put it together, and make us a home or else stay on at service as
pleases you." Well, she got him to bring the savings to her as the
others had, and then she pretended she was faint, and said to him:
"James, I feel so queer, run down cellar for me, that's a dear, and
fetch me up a drop of brandy." Now no sooner had he started than she
said: "By virtue of my three feathers may there be slashing and
spilling, and James not be able to pour the brandy straight nor yet to
take his hand from it until morning."
And so it was. Try as he
might James could not get his glass filled, and there was slashing and
spilling, and right on it all, down came the master to know what it
So James told him he could not make it out, but he could
not get the drop of brandy the laundry-maid had asked for, and his hand
would shake and spill everything, and yet come away he could not.
got him in for a regular scrape, and the master when he got back to his
wife said: "What has come over the men, they were all right until that
laundry-maid of yours came. Something is up now though. They have all
drawn out their pay, and yet they don't leave, and what can it be
But his wife said she could not hear of the
laundry-maid being blamed, for she was the best servant she had and
worth all the rest put together.
So it went on until one day as
the girl stood in the hall door, the coachman happened to say to the
footman: "Do you know how that girl served me, James?" And then William
told about the clothes. The butler put in, "That was nothing to what
she served me," and he told of the shutters clapping all night.
then the master came through the hall, and the girl said: "By virtue of
my three feathers may there be slashing and striving between master and
men, and may all get splashed in the pond."
And so it was, the
men fell to disputing which had suffered the most by her, and when the
master came up all would be heard at once and none listened to him, and
it came to blows all round, and the first they knew they had shoved one
another into the pond.
When the girl thought they had had enough
she took the spell off, and the master asked her what had begun the
row, for he had not heard in the confusion.
And the girl said: "They were ready to fall on any one; they'd have beat me if you had not come by."
it blew over for that time, and through her feathers she made the best
laundress ever known. But to make a long story short, when the seven
years and a day were up, the bird-husband, who had known her doings all
along, came after her, restored to his own shape again. And he told her
mistress he had come to take her from being a servant, and that she
should have servants under her. But he did not tell of the feathers.
And then he bade her give the men back their savings.
was a rare game you had with them," said he, "but now you are going
where there is plenty, leave them each their own." So she did; and they
drove off to their castle, where they lived happy ever after.
|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