Tatterhood by Margrete Lamond

Book: Tatterhood by Margrete Lamond Read Free Book Online
Authors: Margrete Lamond

    Once, before now, there was a queen who had no children. She was long in the face and red of eye, and barely knew a happy hour. Day after day her complaints echoed through the empty rooms.
    â€˜There is nothing so desolate or grim as a childless queen,’ she moaned.
    And indeed there wasn’t.
    Well, times changed. The king and queen fostered a girl and they raised her as their own for a while. The walls no longer seemed so bare; the queen learned how to scold and had her share of worry and care at last.
    One day, this foster-daughter went down to the roadside in front of the house to play with her golden apple. As she was rolling it back and forth, a beggar-woman and her child loitered by. The two children eyed each other, first up and then down. The beggar-child raised her brows and the princess shrugged. Then they smiled, and it wasn’t long before the ragamuffin was on her knees in the dust with the princess, punting the apple to and fro.
    The queen, who was watching by the window, saw the girls playing and rapped on the glass. But when her child went up, the urchin went with her and they came into the queen’s room holding hands – one rough and one smooth – like the fast and firm friends they surely were.
    â€˜Princesses don’t play with guttersnipes,’ the queen explained, and to the beggar-child she said, ‘Shoo!’
    â€˜Well,’ said the urchin, calm as a block, ‘if the queen knew what my ma could do, she wouldn’t treat me so.’
    The queen wondered what she meant.
    â€˜What can a beggar-woman do for a queen,’ she demanded, ‘that a queen can’t just as well do for herself?’
    â€˜Grant the queen children,’ said the child.
    â€˜Pish!’ said the queen.
    But the girl stood firm. ‘It’s true, every word,’ she said. ‘If only the queen were to fetch my ma, she would see for herself.’
    So the queen sent after the beggar-woman, who was found, fetched up and served both sweets and wine.
    Sure enough, the urchin was right.
    â€˜I dare say there is something the queen could do,’ the beggar-woman said at last, ‘if the queen wished for a child of her own. She could have two vessels of water brought to her room one evening. She could wash herself in them, and then she could sling that same water under the bed. If the queen were to do that, there’d be two flowers under there when she looked in the morning – one beautiful, the other ugly. The queen could then eat the beautiful flower but, if she didn’t want the fright of her life, the queen would let the other stand.’
    By and by, the queen did as the woman advised. She had the water brought up, washed herself in both tubs and slung their contents under the bed. When she looked in the morning, there were the two flowers, just as promised.
    One was ugly and horrible to see, with ragged black petals and a hairy stem. But the other was so luminous and bright, so light and shimmery and altogether inviting, that the queen swallowed it without another thought.
    Then, because the first had tasted so right, she ate the black flower as well.
    â€˜It surely can’t matter,’ she said to herself, ‘one way or the other.’
    It wasn’t long before the queen gave birth to a girl of her very own. But this girl was so ugly and foul, and had such a knowing look in her eye, that the queen couldn’t bear the sight of her.
    â€˜If I am your mother,’ cried the queen, ‘may the gods comfort and carry me!’
    Not only was the baby ugly, shaggy and frightful to see but, instead of playing with golden apples, riding a hobbyhorse and dressing in braid and linen, she clutched a kitchen dipper in her fist, rode about the house on a black billy-goat and wore a hooded cloak that hung in tatters about her head.
    They called her Tatterhood.
    â€˜Don’t worry,’ said Tatterhood to her mother, ‘the one

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