The Widow's Daughter
THERE was once a poor widow woman, living in the
North of Ireland, who had one daughter named
Nabla. And Nabla grew up both idle and lazy, till
at length, when she had grown to be a young woman, she
was both thriftless and useless, fit only to sit with her heels
in the ashes and croon to the cat the day long. Her mother
was annoyed with her, so that one day, when Nabla refused
to do some little trifle about the house, her mother got out
a good stout sally rod and came in and thrashed her soundly
As her mother was giving Nabla the whacking she had
so richly earned, who should happen to be riding past but
the King's son himself. He heard the mother beating and
scolding, and Nabla crying and pleading within. So he drew
rein, and at the top of his voice shouted to know what was
the matter. The widow came to the door, courtesying when
she saw who he was. Not wishing to give out a bad name
on her daughter, she told the King's son that she had a
daughter who killed herself working the leelong day and
refused to rest when her mother asked her, so that she had
always to be beaten before she would stop.
"What work can your daughter do?" the Prince asked.
"She can spin, weave, and sew, and do every work that
ever a woman did," the mother replied.
Now, it so happened that a twelvemonth before the Prince
had taken a notion of marrying, and his mother, anxious he
should have none but the best wife, with his approval,
sent messengers over all Ireland to find him a woman who
could perform all a woman's duties, including the three accomplishments
the widow named—spinning, that is, weaving
and sewing. But all the candidates whom the messengers had
secured were found unsatisfactory on being put to trial, and
the Prince had remained unwedded. When, now, the King's
son heard this account of Nabla from her own mother he
"You are not fit to have the charge of such a good girl.
For twelve months, through all parts of my mother's kingdom,
search was being made for just such a young woman that
she might become my wife. I'll take Nabla with me."
Poor Nabla was rejoiced and her mother astonished. The
King's son helped Nabla to a seat behind him on the horse's
back and bidding adieu to the widow, rode off.
When he had got Nabla home, he introduced her to his
mother, telling the Queen that by good fortune he had secured
the very woman they had so long sought in vain. The
Queen asked what Nabla could do, and he replied that she
could spin, weave, and sew, and do everything else a woman
should; and, moreover, she was so eager for work that her
mother was beating her within an inch of her life to make her
rest herself when he arrived on the scene at Nabla's own cottage.
The Queen said that was well.
She took Nabla to a large room and gave her a heap of
silk and a golden wheel, and told her she must have all the
silk spun into thread in twenty-four hours. Then she bolted
Poor Nabla, in amazement, sat looking at the big heap of
silk and the golden wheel. And at length she began to cry,
for she had not spun a yard of thread in all her life. As
she cried an ugly woman, having one of her feet as big as a
bolster, appeared before her.
"What are you crying for?" she asked.
Nabla told her, and the woman said, "I'll spin the silk
for you if you ask me to the wedding."
"I'll do that," Nabla said. And then the woman sat down
to the wheel, and working it with her big foot, very soon had
the whole heap spun.
When the Queen came and found all spun she said: "That
is good." Then she brought in a golden loom and told Nabla
she must have all that thread woven in twenty-four hours.
When the Queen had gone, Nabla sat down and looked
from the thread to the loom and from the loom to the thread,
wondering, for she had not in all her life even thrown a
shuttle. At length she put her face in her hands and began
to cry. There now appeared to her an ugly woman with one
hand as big as a pot hanging by her side. She asked Nabla
why she cried. Nabla told her, and then the woman said:
"I'll weave all that for you if you'll give me the promise
of your wedding."
Nabla said she would surely. So the woman sat down to
the golden loom, and very soon had all the thread woven
When again the Queen came and found all woven she said:
"That is good." And then she gave Nabla a golden needle
and thimble and said that in twenty-four hours more she
must have all the webs made into shirts for the Prince.
Again when the Queen had gone, Nabla, who had never
even threaded a needle in all her life, sat for a while looking
at the needle and thimble and looking at the webs of silk,
and again she broke down, and began to cry heartily.
As she cried an ugly woman with a monstrously big nose
came into the room and asked:
"Why do you cry?"
When Nabla had told her, the ugly woman said:
"I'll make up all those webs into shirts for the Prince if
you promise me the wedding."
"I'll do that," Nabla said, "and a thousand welcomes."
So the woman with the big nose, taking the needle and
thimble, sat down, and in a short time had made all the silk
into shirts and disappeared again.
When the Queen came a third time and found all the silk
made up in shirts she was mightily pleased and said:
"You are the very woman for my son, for he'll never want
a housekeeper while he has you."
Then Nabla and the Prince were betrothed, and on the wedding
night there was a gay and a gorgeous company in the
hall of the castle. All was mirth and festivity. But as they
were about to sit down to a splendid repast there was a
loud knock at the door. A servant opened it and there came
in an ugly old woman with one foot as big as a bolster who,
amid the loud laughter of the company, hobbled along the floor
and took a seat at the table. She was asked of which party
was she, the bride or the groom's, and she replied that she
was of the bride's party. When the Prince heard this he
believed that she was one of Nabla's poor friends. He went
up to her and asked her what had made her foot so big.
"Spinning," she said, "I have been all my life at the wheel,
and that's what it has done for me."
"Then, by my word," said the Prince, striking the table a
great blow, "my wife shall not turn a wheel while I'm here
to prevent it!"
As the guests were again settling themselves another knock
came to the door. A servant opening it, let in a woman with
one hand as big as a pot. The weight of this hand hanging
by her side gave her body a great lean over, so that as she
hobbled along the floor the company at the table lay back,
laughing and clapping their hands at the funny sight. This
woman, taking a seat at the table, was asked by whose invitation
she was there, to which she replied that she was
of the bride's party. Then the Prince went up to her and
inquired what caused her hand to be so big.
"Weaving," she said. "I have slaved at the shuttle all
my life; that's what has come on me."
"Then," the Prince said, striking the table a thundering
blow, "by my word, my wife shall never throw a shuttle
again while I live to prevent it."
A third time the guests were ready to begin their repast,
when again there came a knock to the door. Everyone looked
up; and they saw the servant now admit an ugly old woman
with the most monstrous nose ever beheld. This woman
likewise took a chair at the table. She was then asked who
had invited her—the bride or the groom. She said she was
one of the bride's party. Then the Prince, going up to her
asked her why her nose had come to be so very big.
"AN UGLY OLD WOMAN WITH THE MOST MONSTROUS NOSE EVER BEHELD"
"It's with sewing," she said. "All my life I have been
bending my head over sewing, so that every drop of blood
ran down into my nose, swelling it out like that."
Then the Prince struck the table a blow that made the
dishes leap and rattle.
"By my word," he said, "my wife shall never either put
a needle in cloth again, or do any other sort of household work
while I live to prevent it."
And the Prince faithfully kept his word. He was always
on the lookout to try and catch Nabla spinning, weaving, or
sewing, or doing any other sort of work, for he thought she
might at any time try to work on the sly.
Poor Nabla, however, never did anything to confirm his
uneasiness, but, taking her old mother to stay in the castle
with her, lived happy and contented, and as lazy as the day
was long, ever after.