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Three heads of the well.

A spooky tale From English Fairy Tales, by Joseph Jacobs .

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Long before Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, there reigned in the eastern part of England a king who kept his Court at Colchester. In the midst of all his glory, his queen died, leaving behind her an only daughter, about fifteen years of age, who for her beauty and kindness was the wonder of all that knew her. But the king hearing of a lady who had likewise an only daughter, had a mind to marry her for the sake of her riches, though she was old, ugly, hook- nosed, and hump-backed. Her daughter was a yellow dowdy, full of envy and ill-nature; and, in short, was much of the same mould as her mother. But in a few weeks the king, attended by the nobility and gentry, brought his deformed bride to the palace, where the marriage rites were performed. They had not been long in the Court before they set the king against his own beautiful daughter by false reports.



The young princess having lost her father's love, grew weary of the Court, and one day, meeting with her father in the garden, she begged him, with tears in her eyes, to let her go and seek her fortune; to which the king consented, and ordered her mother-in-law to give her what she pleased. She went to the queen, who gave her a canvas bag of brown bread and hard cheese, with a bottle of beer; though this was but a pitiful dowry for a king's daughter. She took it, with thanks, and proceeded on her journey, passing through groves, woods, and valleys, till at length she saw an old man sitting on a stone at the mouth of a cave, who said: "Good morrow, fair maiden, whither away so fast?" "Aged father," says she, "I am going to seek my fortune." "What have you got in your bag and bottle?" "In my bag I have got bread and cheese, and in my bottle good small beer. Would you like to have some?" "Yes," said he, "with all my heart."



With that the lady pulled out her provisions, and bade him eat and welcome. He did so, and gave her many thanks, and said: "There is a thick thorny hedge before you, which you cannot get through, but take this wand in your hand, strike it three times, and say, 'Pray, hedge, let me come through,' and it will open immediately; then, a little further, you will find a well; sit down on the brink of it, and there will come up three golden heads, which will speak; and whatever they require, that do." Promising she would, she took her leave of him. Coming to the hedge and using the old man's wand, it divided, and let her through; then, coming to the well, she had no sooner sat down than a golden head came up singing: "Wash me, and comb me, And lay me down softly. And lay me on a bank to dry, That I may look pretty, When somebody passes by." "Yes," said she, and taking it in her lap combed it with a silver comb, and then placed it upon a primrose bank. Then up came a second and a third head, saying the same as the former. So she did the same for them, and then, pulling out her provisions, sat down to eat her dinner.



Then said the heads one to another: "What shall we weird for this damsel who has used us so kindly?" The first said: "I weird her to be so beautiful that she shall charm the most powerful prince in the world." The second said: "I weird her such a sweet voice as shall far exceed the nightingale." The third said: "My gift shall be none of the least, as she is a king's daughter, I'll weird her so fortunate that she shall become queen to the greatest prince that reigns." She then let them down into the well again, and so went on her journey. She had not travelled long before she saw a king hunting in the park with his nobles. She would have avoided him, but the king, having caught a sight of her, approached, and what with her beauty and sweet voice, fell desperately in love with her, and soon induced her to marry him.

       



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