17th August

Jack and the Princess (1)

One day, when Jack’s mother was round at a neighbour’s, a lassie with a bag on her shoulder came chapping at the door. She was on a long journey, she said, and very thirsty.

‘In ye come,’ says Jack, and sits her at the kitchen table and fetches her a cup of milk. But she’s only taken a wee sip when she says, ‘Oh, I’m sorry, this milk’s turned.’

The milk was fresh that morning but, being a polite lad, Jack takes it away and gives her some more, and so as not to waste the first cup he drinks it himself. It tastes fine to him. But at the bottom of the cup he finds a dead spider. I’m sure that wasn’t there when I poured in the milk, he thinks, but it must have been the spider she tasted.

Then she says she’s hungry. Now before his mother went out she’d baked a pie, so Jack fetches it and cuts a slice for the lassie. But after just one mouthful she pushes it away. ‘Oh, that pie’s stale,’ she says.

So Jack cuts her another slice but so as not to waste the first one he eats it himself. It tastes fine to him. But he bites on something hard, and finds it’s a button that’s somehow got into the pie. Well, this is an awfie sensitive lassie, Jack thinks, maybe she’s a princess.

Then she says she’d like a nap before she goes on her way, and is there a bed where she can lie down for a bit? ‘Ye can use ma mither’s bed,’ Jack says. But before he takes her through he slips a single dried pea under the mattress. Now we’ll see if she’s a princess, he thinks, and if she is maybe she’ll marry me and we’ll be rich.

So Jack sits in the kitchen and waits for her to complain about the pea, but nothing happens. And he’s just wishing they hadn’t drunk so much milk or had such big slices of pie, and hoping her feet are clean, when he hears his mother coming home.

If that’s no a princess in there, Jack thinks, I’m deid.

Reader: James Robertson
Fiddle: Aidan O'Rourke
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