This post is part of a series. To view the introduction to the series, click here. Cap o’ Rushes is taken from a collection of English Fairy Tales. The original is available here, via Project Gutenberg.
Once there was a very rich man who had three daughters. One day he thought he would try to find out how fond they were of him.
So he said to the first, “How much do you love me, my dear?”
“Why,” she said, “I love you as much as I love my life.”
“That’s good,” he said.
So he said to the second, “How much do you love me, my dear?”
“Why,” says she, “better nor all the world.”
“That’s good,” he said.
So he said to the third, “How much do you love me, my dear?”
“Why, I love you as fresh meat loves salt,” she said.
Let me tell you, when he heard her say that, he was very angry.
“You don’t love me at all,” he said, “and you cannot stay in my house anymore.” So he chased her out, and then he shut the door in her face.
So, she went away and walked on and on until she came to the edge of a marsh. She gathered together a big pile of bulrushes and started to make them into a kind of a coat. When she was done, the coat covered her from her feet to the cap she made for her head, and it perfectly hid her fine clothes.
When she was done making her coat, she walked on and on until she came to a very large house.
She knocked on the door and asked, “Do you need a maid?”
“No, we don’t,” they said.
“I have nowhere else to go,” she said. “I ask no wages and will do any sort of work.”
“Well,” they said, “if you like to wash the pots and scrape the saucepans you may stay.”
So she stayed there and washed the pots and scraped the saucepans and did all the dirty work. And because she gave no name they called her Cap o’ Rushes because of the coat she had made for herself.
One day there was to be a great square dance a little way off, and everyone was allowed to go. Cap o’ Rushes said she was too tired to go, so even though all the other servants went, she stayed at home. But when they were gone she took off with her cap o’ rushes, cleaned herself, and went to the dance. No one there was dressed as fine as her.
While the servants formed groups and danced around the outside, the wealthy families danced close to the stage. The family that owned the home where Cap o’ Rushes worked was there too, but there was only seven in their group and they needed an eighth. But as soon as her bosses son saw her come in, he walked over to her and insisted that she join their group. She was happy to oblige him.
Cap o’ Rushes and the family had a great time, and many people enjoyed watching them, but before the show ended, she snuck out secretly and away she went home. When the other maids came back she was pretended to be asleep with her cap o’ rushes on.
The next morning they said to her, “You did miss a sight, Cap o’ Rushes!”
“What was that?” says she.
“The most beautiful lady you ever saw came there, dressed in the finest clothes. She danced with the family of the house, and the boss’ son never took his eyes off of her.”
“I think I would have like to have seen her,” Cap o’ Rushes said.
“Well, there’s going to be another dance this evening, and maybe she’ll be there again.”
But, when the evening came, Cap o’ Rushes said she was too tired to go with them. However, when they were gone, once again, she took off her cap o’ rushes, cleaned herself up, and away she went to the dance.
The boss’ son hoping to see her again, and when he saw her again, he insisted she join their circle again. She agreed, and once again he never took his eyes off of her. But, before the dance was over, she snuck out secretly, and went straight home. When the maids came back she pretended to be asleep with her cap o’ rushes on.
The next day they said to her again, “Well, Cap o’ Rushes, you should have been there to see the lady. There she was again, wearing her fine clothes, moving lightly on her feet, and captivating everyone around her.”
“Well,” she said, “I would like to have seen her.”
“Well,” they said, “there’s a dance again this evening, and you must go with us, for she is sure to be there.”
But, once again, when the evening came, Cap o’ Rushes said she was too tired to go, and no matter what the other servants said, she stayed at home. But when they were gone she took off her cap o’ rushes, cleaned herself up, and away she went to the square dance.
The boss’ son was very glad when he saw her. Nobody else was allowed to be the eighth in their group. During a break, he asked to know her name, but she wouldn’t tell him. He asked to know where she came from, but she didn’t tell him. Finally, he gave her a ring and told her if he couldn’t see her again he didn’t think he would ever be happy without her.
Well, before the dance was over, she slipped out secretly once more, and home she went. When the maids came home she was pretending to be asleep with her cap o’ rushes on.
The next day the maid said to her, “There, Cap o’ Rushes, you didn’t come last night, and now you won’t see the lady, for there are no more dances.”
“Well I really would like to have seen her,” she said.
The boss’ son tried every way to find out where the lady had gone, but go where he might, and ask whom he might, he never heard a thing about her. He loved her so much, that when he couldn’t find her, his health got worse and worse until he was unable to leave his bed.
“Make some porridge for my son,” the master of the house said to the cook. “He’s dying for the love of that lady.”
The cook started gathering the materials to make porridge when Cap o’ Rushes came in.
“What are you doing?” she asked.
“I’m going to make some porridge for the boss’ son,” said the cook. “He’s dying for love of the lady.”
“Let me make it,” said Cap o’ Rushes.
The cook refused at first, but at last she said yes, and Cap o’ Rushes made the porridge. When she had finished making it, she secretly slipped the ring into it before the cook took it upstairs.
The young man ate it and then he saw the ring at the bottom of his empty bowl.
“Send for the cook,” he demanded.
“Who made this porridge?” he asked when she arrived.
“I did,” says the cook, because she was worried she would get in trouble.
And he looked at her, “No, you didn’t. Just say who did it, and you won’t get in trouble.”
“In that case,” she said, “it was Cap o’ Rushes.”
“Send Cap o’ Rushes here,” he said, and the cook went to go get her.
“Did you make my porridge?” he asked when she opened his door.
“Yes, I did,” she said.
He held up the bowl with the ring still sitting on the bottom and asked, “Where did you get this ring?”
“I got it from the man who gave it to me,” she said.
“Who are you then?” asked the young man.
“I’ll show you,” she said and took off her cap o’ rushes, and there she was in her beautiful clothes.
The boss’ son started to feel better very soon. Their relationship grew quickly and they were very quickly engaged. His family said it had to be a grand wedding, and everyone was invited from far and near. Cap o’ Rushes’ father was invited too, but she never told anybody who she was.
Before the wedding she went to the cook, and said, “I want you to dress every dish without a mite of salt.”
“Everything will taste nasty,” said the cook.
“It’s my wedding,” Cap o’ Rushes said, “so don’t worry about the taste.”
“Very well,” said the cook.
The wedding-day came, and they had a beautiful ceremony. After they were married all the guests sat down to the dinner. When they began to eat the meat, it was so tasteless that nobody could eat it. Cap o’ Rushes’ father also tried first one dish and then another, and then he burst out crying.
“What is the matter?” the groom asked him.
“Oh,” he said. “I had a daughter. And I asked her how much she loved me. And she said ‘As much as fresh meat loves salt,’ but I turned her from my door, for I thought she didn’t love me. And now I see she loved me best of all. But now, I have no idea where she is or what has happened to her.”
“No, father, here she is!” says Cap o’ Rushes. And she goes up to him and puts her arms round him.
Instantly the man recognized his long lost daughter, and they all lived happily ever after.