The Coming of Angus and Bride
All the long winter Beira kept captive a beautiful young princess named Bride. She was jealous of Bride's beauty, and gave her ragged clothing to wear, and put her to work among the servants in the kitchen of her mountain castle, where the girl had to perform the meanest tasks. Beira scolded her continually, finding fault with everything she did, and Bride's life was made very wretched.
One day Beira gave the princess a brown fleece and said: You must wash this fleece in the running stream until it is pure white.
Bride took the fleece and went outside the castle, and began to wash it in a pool below a waterfall. All day long she laboured at the work, but to no purpose. She found it impossible to wash the brown colour out of the wool.
When evening came on, Beira scolded the girl, and said: You are a useless hussy. The fleece is as brown as when I gave it to you.
Said Bride: All day long have I washed it in the pool below the waterfall of the Red Rock.
To-morrow you shall wash it again, Beira said; and if you do not wash it white, you will go on washing on the next day, and on every day after that. Now, begone! and do as I bid you.
It was a sorrowful time for Bride. Day after day she washed the fleece, and it seemed to her that if she went on washing until the world came to an end, the brown wool would never become white.
One morning as she went on with her washing a grey-bearded old man came near. He took pity on the princess, who wept bitter tears over her work, and spoke to her, saying: Who are you, and why do you sorrow?
Said the princess: My name is Bride. I am the captive of Queen Beira, and she has ordered me to wash this brown fleece until it is white. Alas! it cannot be done.
I am sorry for you, the old man said.
Who are you, and whence come you? asked Bride.
My name is Father Winter, the old man told her. Give me the fleece, and I shall make it white for you.
Bride gave Father Winter the brown fleece, and when he had shaken it three times it turned white as snow.
The heart of Bride was immediately filled with joy, and she exclaimed: Dear Father Winter, you are very kind. You have saved me much labour and taken away my sorrow.
Father Winter handed back the fleece to Princess Bride with one hand, and she took it. Then he said: Take also what I hold in my other hand. As he spoke he gave her a bunch of pure white snowdrops. The eyes of Bride sparkled with joy to behold them.
Said Father Winter: If Beira scolds you, give her these flowers, and if she asks where you found them, tell her that they came from the green rustling fir-woods. Tell her also that the cress is springing up on the banks of streams, and that the new grass has begun to shoot up in the fields.
Having spoken thus, Father Winter bade the princess farewell and turned away.
Bride returned to the mountain castle and laid the white fleece at Beira's feet. But the old queen scarcely looked at it. Her craze was fixed on the snowdrops that Bride carried.