Once upon a time, "high among the green hills of Erin, there stood a castle." A man lived there with his three little girls. Their names were Fair, Brown, and Trembling. The first two were treated well. They got new frocks for Sunday-best, and never did any work. That fell to poor little Trembling. She wore the cast off clothing of her older sisters, and was made to do the cooking and the roughest work. It was because of her pretty face and sweet nature that her sisters hated her, when instead, they might have shown love. They were jealous that a husband would find her before one found them. It happened one Sunday morning that the "old henwife came into the kitchen. 'It's at church you ought to be, young woman!" But Trembling told her she had nothing but her greasy work clothes to wear. And the henwife offered her the dress of her dreams. In return for Trembling's past kindness, she said. Thinking it was just a game, the girl said,"Oh, a dress as white as snow — and green shoes for my feet. At that the henwife snipped a bit of Trembling's old dress, and, holding the scrap, put on her "cloak of darkness and muttered some strange words." And there Trembling was, in the dress of her dreams. Then she heard a whinny, and ran outside. Waiting to take her to church was "a milk-white mare" with a soft leather saddle. Now the henwife cautioned her to remain outside the church door, and run the moment mass was over. So Trembling promised, and went to the church. There everyone gawked at the beautiful girl, and the strange, milk-white mare outside the door. People tried to run after her, but the lass "outstripped the wind as she galloped home". The following Sunday, the henwife came once more. Again she posed the delightful question: what was the dress of Trembling's dreams? Now the girl said, "Oh, the finest black satin, with scarlet shoes." Again the henwife "put on her cloak of darkness...and the next moment, she held out a rippling black gown and red shoes to Trembling." How curious were the people that morning in church to discover the identity of the young lady in black, seated outside the door on a black mare as "black and glossy" as obsidian. Then Fair and Brown declared that they would find dresses as fine as that strange ladies, and went to town to find some. But none had seen or heard of such fabrics and colors, and the girls found nothing close to a match. For yet another Sunday the henwife gave her what she desired. This time it was "a dress with a snow-white bodice and and a rose-red skirt, and a cape of mossy green." And a hat with feathers. And blue shoes, dainty slippers, please. The mare that took her to church was white, "decorated with blue and gold diamonds". Because of the mysterious lady, young princes from across the land decided to come to church that morning. They came "from north, south, east and west", and all squeezed into the pews. When mass ended, they all rushed out, trying to catch hold of the gem-studded mare. But the girl galloped away untouched. Or so she thought. The Prince of Emania had "reached out as she passed by and pulled off her slipper." When Trembling got home, she changed into her rags again, as usual. And when Fair and Brown came in, they taunted her as they had each week before, telling the details of the pretty lady at church,and making Trembling say that she wished she could go too. The next day, "the Prince of Emania made an announcement", proclaiming that the lass who fit the little blue slipper he had in his possession should be his wife. Then his men rode all over the kingdom, and the ladies lined up everywhere they went. Though each tried her best, "it never quite fitted". One poor thing even brought along a knife and chopped off her toe. But the little blue slipper seemed even smaller than before. Of course, when the prince came to Fair, Brown, and Trembling's house, they pushed Trembling into a cupboard and locked the door. Then they thrust their feet at the prince, and each smiled grimly as she tried to make her foot fit the shoe. But they could not. That's when the prince asked, "Are there any other young women in the house?" So Trembling yelled that there were, and that in fact, one was locked up in a cupboard. So the prince opened the cupboard door and let her out. Then Trembling "took the little blue shoe and slipped it on her foot."So the Prince of Emania declared that he recognized her from church, and that he would now marry her. And that is when the other princes said that they wanted a fair turn as well. So he fought the Prince of Lochlin for 9 hours. Then he fought the Prince of Spain for 6 hours. Then he fought the Prince of the Zulus for 6 more hours, and then none of the other princes wanted to fight him. So he married Trembling, and "in time, they had 14 children, and they lived ever after in great happiness." Daly, J.
|Illustration by Daly, J. |
Notes: Trembling no longer!