William Morris Archive


One thing must here be told: Whenas the said dame stood forth clad amidst of the chamber the next morning, the child ran up to her to greet her or what not, but straightway when she saw her close, drew aback, and stood gasping with affright; for verily she deemed this was nowise she who had brought her last night into the fair chamber, and given bread and milk to her and put her to bed, but someone else. For this one had not dark hair, and hooked nose, and eyen hawk-bright; stark and tall was she indeed, as that other one, and by seeming of the same-like age; but there came to an end all her likeness to last night’s housewife. This one had golden-red hair flowing down from her head; eyes of hazel colour, long and not well-opened, but narrow and sly. High of cheekbones she was, long-chinned and thin-lipped; her skin was fine and white, but without ruddiness; flat-breasted she was, and narrow-hipped.

Now she laughed at the babe’s terror, and said, but in her old voice at least: Thou foolish little beast! I know what scares thee, to wit, that thou deemest me changed: now I tell thee that I am the one who brought thee here last night, and fed thee; neither is my changing a matter of thine, since at least I am the one who shall keep thee from hunger and weather henceforward; that is enough for thee to know as now. Now thou hast to eat and sleep and play and cry out, that thou mayest the sooner wax, and grow into the doing of my will.

Therewith she led her out into the sunshine, and tethered her to an ash sapling which grew anigh the door, that the child might be safe the while she went about her work in acre and mead.

But as for that matter of changing of aspect, the maiden came to know thereafter that the witch durst not go into the wood in the same skin as that which she wore at home, wherefore she had changed it for the journey to Utterhay, and changed back again in the night-tide before she arose.

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