The Leaves That Hung But Never Grew

In a lonely cottage lives a mother and daughter. They are poor as poor can be, so the girl goes off to find work. She sets off, and finds a great mansion. There the lord asks her ‘What do you want?’
She replies ‘I am seeking work.’ ‘I will give thee work’ the lord says, ‘to find the leaves that hung but never grew.’


Away she goes to seek them, not even having established what she might be paid. Going down a lane she meets a little dwarf. ‘Good day to you’ he says, ‘Good day’ says she, and that dwarf went home to his wife and told her how he had seen a lovely young woman on the road looking troubled.
She journeys till she finds a small house she had never before seen. She is astonished. ‘All seems strange to me now’ she thinks. She knocks on the door, and out comes an old witch. The young girl asks her for work, as she needs food to keep looking for the leaves. The witch says she might have work, and bids her come into the parlour. A great black boar is kept chained in the corner. The witch makes a good tea, and the girl has plenty to eat. She eats her bellyful.
The only work to do is to look after the black boar. The girl tends to it for weeks. She did not know how to question the witch about the leaves.
She grew in time weary and discontent. One day, she exclaimed to the boar ‘O boar, look at my hands – they were white and clean when I came here, and now they are rough and dirty.’ ‘Wait much longer’ says the boar, ‘and you may find yourself as a black sow in the other corner. Why did you come here?’ it asked. ‘I come to seek the leaves that hung but never grew.’ she replies. As soon as these words were spoken, but the boar turned into a young gentleman. ‘ Go up to the bedchamber’ he says, ‘and put your hand under the witch’s pillow. There you’ll find a little wallet. Lay your hands on the leaves, and wish the witch to remain asleep and not waken.’
She went and did so, willing the witch to sleep. Then she took the wallet, and gave half the leaves to the young gentleman.
‘And now,’ he says, ‘make three enchantments for the witch, for when she wakes and asks ‘Are you coming to bed?’. First make the poker say ‘I am raking out the fire.’ Then make the broom say ‘I am sweeping the house.’
Lastly, make the chair say ‘I am coming now.’ The girl wished these three things, and the two fled together.
Lo! The witch awakens. She calls the girl to bed. The poker answers, ‘I’m raking out the fire.’ A while alter she calls again. The broom says ‘I’m sweeping the house.’ She calls once more, and the chair says ‘I’m coming now.’ She waits only a short while, and calls again. There is no answer.
The witch is furious. ‘I have been tricked!’ she howls. She calls her daughter, and says ‘Follow them. Whatever you see on the road, bring it home with you.’
The two are speeding down the road. They see the witch’s daughter coming after them like the wind. They are nearly caught! Says the gentleman to the maiden: ‘Wish yourself as a duck and me as a running stream, and when she tries to catch you dive under the water.’ She wishes so, and the youth becomes a running stream, and herself a duck bobbling on it.
And now the witch’s daughter overtakes. She sees the duck, and tries to catch it.’Duck, duck, pretty little duck’ she says, ‘have you seen any pass this way?’ But every time she comes close, the duck dives below the water.
The witch’s daughter goes home, and tells her mother she had seen a little duck upon the water, and nothing more. ‘That was them!’ cries the witch. ‘You return and bring me but one feather from the duck and I will have them both here again.’ She returns to take a feather, but sees neither the duck or the stream. Both have vanished. Broken-hearted, she returns home, to tell her mother she can see nothing.
The two haste away, and approach a crossroad. Here they part, but make a pact to meet again before he goes to his home town and she to hers. She says to him ‘When you arrive home, let none of your kinsfolk kiss you, or you will forget me.’
The young man goes home, but it has been years since his family had seen him, and his brothers and sisters hug and kiss him. He forgets the maiden.
She waits a long time at the corssroads. When she is sure her kinsfolk have kissed him, she is forgotten, and she goes home to the poor cottage of her mother.
Two days pass. The Lord comes to see if she has found the leaves. ‘Ah, you are home, young woman.’ ‘Yes’ she replies, and brings forth the wallet to show the leaves. The Lord knows them as soon as he sees them.
Now, there is a great reward for whoever finds the leaves, but the girl knows nothing of reward. The Lord wants this money for his daughter. But how can he be rid of the girl? He invites her to his castle for tea, and the poor mother lets her go, thinking she will come back with much money.
But the Lord wants to take her life. He lodges her in a fine room, with a bed to herself, and a canopy above. Hidden in the canopy are iron spikes to fall and kill her while she sleeps. When the canopy falls, it makes a great clanging noise, so the Lord will know the deed was done.
Lo! Midnight strikes. The girl is still awake, thinking about her lost young man. She sees the canopy start to descend closer and closer, and she thinks of the leaves. When she thinks of the leaves she thinks of the young man, and drawing one leaf that has fallen into her pocket, she wishes, and he stands there before her. He grabs her hand, and pulls her before the canopy can fall upon her.
Clang! It rings through the castle. The young man says ‘Here are the leaves which you gave me. Now wish that all in the castle are asleep.’ She does so. ‘Now then,’ he says, ‘let us be gone.’
Softly, the two steal away through the castle, and the guards, and dogs, and knights, and servants are all sleeping, all still.
The maiden says ‘I am afraid to go to live with my mother. I want to go further away, where the Lord will not find me.’ ‘So be it’ says the young gentleman, ‘I will come too, wherever you go.’
He takes her into his own home. ‘Now,’ says the young man, ‘we can talk undisturbed. Shall we be wed?’ She gives him her hand. ‘That is exactly what I most desire. I was going to ask you myself.’
The gentleman then asks his coachman to harness the horses for a journey to London. There they are married. They drive to drop off gold and jewels at the girl’s mother’s house, then they go to Wales, to keep a mill beside the sea. There they live happily from that day to this.
And I deserve a big pudding for telling you this lie.

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