Cap O’ Rushes – Elementary Level
There was once a very rich man who had three daughters. He thought he would see how much they loved him.
“How much do you love me, my dear?” he asked the first daughter.
“I love you as I love my life,” she answered.
“That’s good,” he said.
“How much do you love me, my dear?” he asked the second daughter.
“I love you more than anyone in all the world,” she answered.
“That’s good,” he said.
“How much do you love me, my dear?” he asked the third daughter.
“I love you as meat loves salt,” she answered.
This made him very angry. “You don’t love me at all,” he said. “And you shall not live in my house any more.” He had one of his servants take her outside there and then, and shut the door in her face.
The poor girl walked on and on until she came to a place where the ground was covered by water. There were many rushes growing in the water. She picked some of these and made them into a long cape. It covered her from head to foot, and hid her fine clothes.
Then she walked on until she came to a great house.
“Do you have any need for a servant here?” she said to the woman who came to the door.
“No, we don’t,” said the woman.
“I have nowhere to go,” said the girl. “I will do any kind of work. And I don’t want any payment, just food and somewhere warm and dry to sleep.”
The woman felt sorry for the girl. “If you promise to work hard and are happy to work in the kitchen, you may stay,” she said.
The girl agreed and was given a job helping the cook. She spent all day washing pots and cleaning pans and doing all kinds of other dirty work. The other servants called her ‘Cap O’ Rushes’, because she gave no name.
One day there was to be a great dance a little way off. The servants were given the night off work so they could go and look at the grand people who came to the dance. But Cap O’ Rushes said she was too tired to go, and stayed at home.
When they were gone she took off her cape, cleaned herself up, and went to the dance. She was the most beautiful and finely dressed woman there.
Well, who should also be at the dance but the son of the man whose great house Cap O’ Rushes worked in. He fell in love with her the minute he set eyes on her, and wouldn’t dance with anyone else.
Just before the end of the dance, Cap O’ Rushes quietly left and went home. When the other servants came back, she pretended to be asleep wearing her cape of rushes.
The next morning the cook said to her, “You missed an exciting night, Cap O’ Rushes!”
“Why was that?” she asked.
“Because the most beautiful woman you did ever see was there,” said the cook. “She was dressed in the finest clothes, and the young master never took his eyes off her.”
“I would have liked to have seen that,” said Cap O’ Rushes.
“Well,” said the cook, “there’s to be another dance this evening. Perhaps she’ll be there again.”
When evening came, Cap O’ Rushes again said that she was too tired to go to the dance. However, as soon as her friends were gone, she once more took off her cape, cleaned herself up, and went to the dance.
The master’s son had been waiting for her. He danced with no one else and never took his eyes off her. As before, she left the dance early and went home. When the other servants came home, she pretended to be asleep wearing her cape of rushes.
“Cap O’ Rushes!” the cook called out the next morning. “You should have come with us. The woman was there again. She was as beautiful as can be, and the young master never took his eyes off her.”
“I would really have liked to have seen that,” said Cap O’ Rushes.
“Well,” said the cook, “there’s to be a third dance this evening. You must come with us, for she’s sure to be there.”
But when evening came, Cap O’ Rushes again said that she was too tired to go with them. When they were gone, she again took off her cape, cleaned herself up, and went to the dance.
The master’s son was very happy to see her. He danced with none but her and never took his eyes off her. When he asked her name or where she came from, she smiled but wouldn’t answer. So he gave her a ring and told her that if he didn’t see her again after the dances, he would die.
As before, she left the dance early and went home. When the other servants came home, she pretended to be asleep wearing her cape of rushes.
“You have missed her, Cap O’ Rushes,” said the cook the next day. “You didn’t come last night. Now you won’t see the beautiful woman at all, for there are no more dances.”
“Well I should have really liked to have seen her,” she said.
The master’s son tried every way to find out where the beautiful woman lived. But go where he might, and ask whom he might, he never heard anything about her. As time went by, he got sicker and sicker for the love of her. Finally, he became so sick that he could not get up from his bed.
“Make some sweet porridge for the young master,” the head servant said to the cook. “He’s dying for the love of the beautiful woman from the dance.”
The cook was about to make the porridge when Cap O’ Rushes came in. “What are you doing?”, she asked.
“I’m going to make some sweet porridge for the young master,” said the cook. “He’s dying for love of the beautiful woman from the dance.”
“Please let me make it?” asked Cap O’ Rushes.
The cook wouldn’t do this at first. But at last she agreed and Cap O’ Rushes made the porridge. When she was finished, she dropped the ring the young man had given her into the bowl.
When the young man ate the porridge, he saw the ring at the bottom of the bowl.
“Send for the cook,” he cried.
“Who made this porridge?” he asked loudly as she came.
The cook thought that he might be angry for letting someone else make his porridge. “I did,” she said in a scared voice.
He looked at her kindly. “No, you didn’t,” he said in a soft voice. “Tell me who did it? You won’t get in trouble.”
“Well, then, it was Cap O’ Rushes,” she said.
“Send Cap O’ Rushes here,” he told her.
“Did you make my porridge?” he asked when she came.
“Yes, I did,” she said.
“Where did you get this ring?” he asked.
“From the man that gave it me,” she said.
“Who are you, then?” asked the young man.
“I’ll show you,” she said. And she took off her cape of rushes and stood before him in her beautiful clothes.
The young man got well very soon and decided that they should get married as quickly as possible. It was to be a very grand wedding, and all the important people from near and far were asked to come. One of them Cap O’ Rushes’ father, but she never told anybody that she knew him.
Before the wedding she went to see the cook. “I want you to cook all the meat without salt,” she said.
“That will taste terrible,” said the cook.
“That doesn’t matter,” said Cap O’ Rushes. “That is how I want it to be.”
“Very well,” said the cook.
After the wedding, all the company sat down to the dinner. When they began to eat the meat, it tasted so bad that nobody could eat it. Cap O’ Rushes’ father tried first one plate of meat and then another, and then he began to cry.
“What is the matter?” asked the master’s son.
“Oh!” he said, “I once had a daughter. I asked her how much she loved me, and she said ‘As much as meat loves salt.’ When I heard this I thought she didn’t love me. I turned her from my house, but now see that she loved me best of all. And now she may be dead for all I know.”
“No, father, here she is!” said Cap O’ Rushes, as she went up and put her arms around him.
And so they all lived happily ever after.