The Cow with the Golden Horns
by Mary E. Wilkins
Once there was a farmer who had a very rare and
valuable cow. There was not another like her in the
whole kingdom. She was as white as the whitest lily you
ever saw, and her horns, which curved very gracefully,
were of gold.
She had a charming green meadow, with a silvery pool
in the middle, to feed in. Almost all the grass was
blue-eyed grass, too, and there were yellow lilies all
over the pool.
The farmer's daughter, who was a milkmaid, used to
tend the gold-horned cow. She was a very pretty girl.
Her name was Drusilla. She had long flaxen hair, which
hung down to her ankles in two smooth braids, tied with
blue ribbons. She had blue eyes and pink cheeks, and she
wore a blue petticoat, with garlands of rose-buds all
over it, and a white dimity short gown, looped up with
bunches of roses. Her hat was a straw flat, with a
wreath of rose-buds around it, and she always carried a
green willow branch in her hand to drive the cow with.
She used to sit on a bank near the silvery pool, and
watch the gold-horned cow, and sing to herself all day
from the time the dew was sparkling over the meadow in
the morning, till it fell again at night. Then she would
drive the cow gently home, with her green willow stick,
milk her, and feed her, and put her into her stable,
herself, for the night.
The farmer was feeble and old, so his daughter had to
do all this. The gold-horned cow's stable was a sort of
a "lean-to," built into the side of the cottage where
Drusilla and her father lived. Its roof, as well as that
of the cottage, was thatched and overgrown with moss,
out of which had grown, in its turn, a little starry
white flower, until the whole roof looked like a
flower-bed. There were roses climbing over the walls of
the cottage and stable, also, pink and white ones.
Drusilla used to keep the gold-horned cow's stable in
exquisite order. Her trough to eat out of, was polished
as clean as a lady's china tea-cup. She always had fresh
straw, and her beautiful long tail was tied by a blue
ribbon to a ring in the ceiling, in order to keep it
DRUSILLA AND HER GOLD-HORNED COW.
The gold-horned cow's milk was better than any
other's, as one would reasonably suppose it to have
been. The cream used to be at least an inch thick, and
so yellow; and the milk itself had a peculiar and
exquisite flavor—perhaps the best way to describe it, is
to say it tasted as lilies smell. The gentry all about
were eager to buy it, and willing to pay a good price
for it. Drusilla used to go around to supply her
customers, nights and mornings, a bright, shining
milk-pail in each hand, and one on her head. She had
learned to carry herself so steadily in consequence that
she walked like a queen.
Everybody admired Drusilla, and all the young
shepherds and farmers made love to her, but she did not
seem to care for any of them, but to prefer tending her
gold-horned cow, and devoting herself to her old
father—she was a very dutiful daughter.
Everything went prosperously with them for a long
time; the cow thrived, and gave a great deal of milk,
customers were plenty, they paid the rent for their
cottage regularly, and Drusilla who was a beautiful
spinner, had her linen chest filled to the brim with the
At length, however, a great misfortune befell them.
One morning—it was the day after a holiday—Drusilla, who
had been up very late the night before dancing on the
village green, felt very sleepy, as she sat watching the
cow in the green meadow. So she just laid her flaxen
head down amongst the blue-eyed grasses, and soon fell
When she woke up, the dew was all dried off, and the
sun almost directly overhead. She rubbed her eyes, and
looked about for the gold-horned cow. To her great
alarm, she was nowhere to be seen. She jumped up,
distractedly, and ran over the meadow, but the
gold-horned cow was certainly not there. The bars were
up, just as she had left them, and there was not a gap
in the stonewall which extended around the meadow. How
could she have gotten out? It was very mysterious!
Drusilla, when she found, certainly, that the
gold-horned cow was gone, lost no time in wonderment and
conjecture; she started forth to find her. "I will not
tell father till I have searched a long time," said she
So, down the road she went, looking anxiously on
either side. "If only I could come in sight of her,
browsing in the clover, beside the wall," sighed she;
but she did not.
After a while, she saw a great cloud of dust in the
distance. It rolled nearer and nearer, and finally she
saw the King on horseback, with a large party of nobles
galloping after him. The King, who was quite an old man,
had a very long, curling, white beard, and had his
breast completely covered with orders and decorations.
No convenient board fence on a circus day was ever more
thoroughly covered with elephants and horses, and
trapeze performers, than the breast of the King's black
velvet coat with jeweled stars and ribbons. But even
then, there was not room for all his store, so he had
hit upon the ingenious expedient of covering a black
silk umbrella with the remainder. He held it in a
stately manner over his head now, and it presented a
dazzling sight; for it was literally blazing with gems,
and glittering ribbons fluttered from it on all sides.
When the King saw Drusilla courtesying by the side of
the road, he drew rein so suddenly, that his horse
reared back on its haunches, and all his nobles, who
always made it a point to do exactly as the King did—it
was court etiquette—also drew rein suddenly, and all
their horses reared back on their haunches.
"What will you, pretty maiden?" asked the King
"Please, your Majesty," said Drusilla courtesying and
blushing and looking prettier than ever, "have you seen
my gold-horned cow?"
"Pardy," said the King, for that was the proper thing
for a King to say, you know, "I never saw a gold-horned
cow in my life!"
Then Drusilla told him about her loss, and the King
gazed at her while she was talking, and admired her more
You must know that it had always been a great cross
to the King and his wife, the Queen, that they had never
had any daughter. They had often thought of adopting
one, but had never seen any one who exactly suited them.
They wanted a full-grown Princess, because they had an
alliance with the Prince of Egypt in view.
The King looked at Drusilla now, and thought her the
most beautiful and stately maiden he had ever seen.
"What an appropriate Princess she would make!"
"Suppose I should find the gold-horned cow for you,"
said he to Drusilla, when she had finished her pitiful
story, "would you consent to be adopted by the Queen and
myself, and be a princess?"
Drusilla hesitated a moment. She thought of her dear
old father and how desolate he would be without her. But
then she thought how terribly distressed he would be at
the loss of the gold-horned cow, and that if he had her
back, she would be company for him, even if his daughter
was away, and she finally gave her consent.
The King always had his Lord Chamberlain lead a white
palfrey, with rich housings, by the bridle, in case they
came across a suitable full-grown Princess in any of
their journeys; and now he ordered him to be brought
forward, and commanded a page to assist Drusilla to the
But she began to weep. "I want to go back to my
father, until you have found the cow, your Majesty,"
"You may go and bid your father good-by," replied the
King, peremptorily, "but then you must go immediately to
the boarding school, where all the young ladies of the
Court are educated. If you are going to be a Princess,
it is high time you began to prepare. You will have to
learn feather stitching, and rick-rack and Kensington
stitch, and tatting, and point lace, and Japanese
patchwork, and painting on china, and how to play
variations on the piano, and—everything a Princess ought
"But," said Drusilla timidly, "suppose—your Majesty
shouldn't—find the cow"—
"Oh! I shall find the cow fast enough," replied the
King carelessly. "Why, I shall have the whole Kingdom
searched. I can't fail to find her." So the page
assisted the milkmaid to the saddle, kneeling
gracefully, and presenting his hand for her to place her
foot in, and they galloped off toward the farmer's
The old man was greatly astonished to see his
daughter come riding home in such splendid company, and
when she explained matters to him, his distress, at
first, knew no bounds. To lose both his dear daughter
and his precious gold-horned cow, at one blow, seemed
too much to bear. But the King promised to provide
liberally for him during his daughter's absence, and
spoke very confidently of his being able to find the
cow. He also promised that Drusilla should return to him
if the cow was not found in one year's time, and after a
while the old man was pacified.
Drusilla put her arms around her father's neck and
kissed him tenderly; then the page assisted her
gracefully into the saddle, and she rode, sobbing, away.
After they had ridden about an hour, they came to a
large, white building.
"O dear!" said the King, "the seminary is asleep! I
was afraid of it!"
Then Drusilla saw that the building was like a great
solid mass, with not a door or window visible.
"It is asleep," explained the King. "It is not a
common house; a great professor designed it. It goes to
sleep, and you can't see any doors or windows, and such
work as it is to wake it up! But we may as well begin."
Then he gave a signal, and all the nobles shouted as
loud as they possibly could, but the seminary still
"It's asleep most of the time!" growled the King.
"They don't want the young ladies disturbed at their
feather stitching and rick-rack, by anything going on
outside. I wish I could shake it."
Then he gave the signal again, and all the nobles
shouted together, as loud as they could possibly scream.
Suddenly, doors and windows appeared all over the
seminary, like so many opening eyes.
"There," cried the King, "the seminary has woke up,
and I am glad of it!"
Then he ushered Drusilla in, and introduced her to
the lady principal and the young ladies, and she was at
once set to making daisies in Kensington stitch, for the
King was very anxious for her education to begin at
So now, the milkmaid, instead of sitting, singing, in
a green meadow, watching her beautiful gold-horned cow,
had to sit all day in a high-backed chair, her feet on a
little foot-stool with an embroidered pussy cat on it,
and do fancy work. The young ladies worked by electric
light; for the seminary was asleep nearly all the time,
and no sunlight could get in at the windows, for boards
clapped down over them like so many eye-lids when the
seminary began to doze.
Drusilla had left off her pretty blue petticoat and
white short gown now, and was dressed in gold-flowered
satin, with an immense train, which two pages bore for
her when she walked. Her pretty hair was combed high and
powdered, and she wore a comb of gold and pearls in it.
She looked very lovely, but she also looked very sad.
She could not help thinking, even in the midst of all
this splendor, of her dear father, and her own home, and
wishing to see them.
She was a very apt pupil. Her tatting collars were
the admiration of the whole seminary, and she made
herself a whole dress of rick-rack. She painted a
charming umbrella stand for the King, and actually
worked the gold-horned cow in Kensington stitch, on a
blue satin tidy, for the Queen. It was so natural that
she wept over it, herself, when it was finished; but the
Queen was delighted, and put it on her best stuffed
rocking-chair in her parlor, and would run and throw it
back every time the King sat down there, for fear he
would lean his head against it and soil it.
Drusilla also worked an elegant banner of old gold
satin, with hollyhocks, for the King to carry at the
head of his troops when he went to battle; also a
hat-band for the Prince of Egypt. This last was sent by
a special courier with a large escort, and the Prince
sent an exquisite shopping-bag of real alligator's skin
to Drusilla in return. She was the envy of the whole
seminary when it came.
The young ladies fared very delicately. Their one
article of diet was peaches and cream. It was thought to
improve their complexions. Once in a while, they went
out to drive by moonlight; they were afraid of sunburn
by day, and they wore white gauze veils, even in the
moonlight, and they all had embroidered afghans of their
They used to sit around a large table over which hung
a chandelier of the electric light, to work, and some
young lady either played "Home, sweet Home, and
variations," or else "The Maiden's Prayer," on the piano
for their entertainment.
It seemed as if Drusilla ought to have been happy in
a place like this; but although she was diligent and
dutiful, she grieved all the time for her father.
Meantime, the King was keeping up an energetic search
for the gold-horned cow. Every stable and pasture in the
Kingdom was searched, spies were posted everywhere, but
the King could not find her. She had disappeared as
completely as if she had vanished altogether from the
face of the earth. It at last began to be whispered
about that there never had been any gold-horned cow, but
that the whole had been a clever trick of Drusilla's,
that she might become a Princess. An envious schoolmate,
who had been very desirous of becoming Princess and
marrying the Prince of Egypt herself, started the
report; and it soon spread over the whole Kingdom. The
King heard it and began to believe it; for he could not
see why he failed to find the cow. It always exasperated
the King dreadfully to fail in anything, and he never
allowed that it was his own fault, if he could possibly
At last the end of the year came, and still no signs
of the gold-horned cow. Then the King became convinced
that Drusilla had cheated him, that there never had been
any such wonderful cow, and that she had used this trick
in order to become a Princess. Of course, the King felt
more comfortable to believe this, for it accounted
satisfactorily for his own failure to find her, and it
is extremely mortifying for a King to be unable to do
anything he sets out to.
So Drusilla was dismissed from the seminary in
disgrace, and sent home. Her jewels and fine clothes
were all taken away from her, even her rick-rack dress,
and she put on her blue petticoat and short gown, and
straw flat again. Still, she was so happy at the
prospect of seeing her dear old father again, that she
did not mind the loss of all her fine things much. She
did not ride the white palfrey now, but went home on
foot, in the dewy morning, as fast as she could trip.
When she came in sight of the cottage, there was her
father sitting in his old place at the window. When he
saw his beloved daughter coming, he ran out to meet her
as fast as he could hobble, and they tenderly embraced
The King had provided liberally for the old man while
Drusilla was in the seminary, but now that he was so
angry at her alleged deception, his support would
probably cease, and, since the gold-horned cow was lost,
it was a question how they would live. The father and
daughter sat talking it over after they had entered the
cottage. It was a puzzling question, and Drusilla was
weeping a little, when her father gave a joyful cry:
"Look, look, Drusilla!"
Drusilla looked up quickly, and there was the
milk-white face and golden horns of the cow peering
through the vines in the window. She was eating some of
the pink and white roses.
Drusilla and her father hastened out with joyful
exclamations, and there was the cow, sure enough. A
couple of huge wicker baskets were slung across her
broad back, and one was filled to the brim with gold
coins, and the other with jewels, diamonds, pearls and
When Drusilla and her father saw them, they both
threw their arms around the gold-horned cow's neck, and
cried for joy. She turned her head and gazed at them a
moment with her calm, gentle eyes; then she went on
When the King heard of all this, he came with the
Queen in a golden coach, to see Drusilla and her father.
"I am convinced now of your truthfulness," he said
majestically, when the Court Jeweler had examined the
cow's horns to see if they were true gold, and not
merely gilded, and he had seen with his own eyes the two
baskets full of coins and jewels. "And, if you would
like to be Princess, you can be, and also marry the
Prince of Egypt."
But Drusilla threw her arms around her father's neck.
"No; your Majesty," she said timidly, "I had rather stay
with my father, if you please, than be a Princess, and I
rather live here and tend my dear cow, than marry the
Prince of Egypt."
The King sighed, and so did the Queen; they knew they
never should find another such beautiful Princess. But,
then, the King had not kept his part of the contract and
found the gold-horned cow, and he could not compel her
to be a Princess without breaking the royal word.
So the cow was again led out to pasture in the little
meadow of blue-eyed grasses, and Drusilla, though she
was very rich now, used to find no greater happiness
than to sit on the banks of the silvery pool where the
yellow lilies grew, and watch her.
They had their poor little cottage torn down and a
grand castle built instead: but the roof of that was
thatched and over-grown with moss, and pink and white
roses clustered thickly around the walls. It was just as
much like their old home as a castle can be like a
cottage. The gold-horned cow had, also, a magnificent
new stable. Her eating-trough was the finest moss
rose-bud china, she had dried rose leaves instead of hay
to eat, and there were real lace curtains at all the
stable windows, and a lace portière over her
The King and Queen used to visit Drusilla often; they
gave her back her rick-rack dress, and grew very fond of
her, though she would not be a Princess. Finally,
however, they prevailed upon her to be made a countess.
So she was called "Lady Drusilla," and she had a coat of
arms, with the gold-horned cow rampant on it, put up
over the great gate of the castle.