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William of the Tree


IN the time long ago there was a king in Erin. He was married to a beautiful queen, and they had but one only daughter. The queen was struck with sickness, and she knew that she would not be long alive. She put the king under gassa (mystical injunctions) that he should not marry again until the grass should be a foot high over her tomb. The daughter was cunning, and she used to go out every night with a scissors, and she used to cut the grass down to the ground.
The king had a great desire to have another wife, and he did not know why the grass was not growing over the grave of the queen. He said to himself: "There is somebody deceiving me."
That night he went to the churchyard, and he saw the daughter cutting the grass that was on the grave. There came great anger on him then, and he said: "I will marry the first woman I see, let she be old or young." When he went out on the road he saw an old hag. He brought her home and married her, as he would not break his word.
After marrying her, the daughter of the king was under bitter misery at (the hands of) the hag, and the hag put her under an oath not to tell anything at all to the king, and not to tell to any person anything she should see being done, except only to three who were never baptised.
The next morning on the morrow, the king went out a hunting, and when he was gone, the hag killed a fine hound the king had. When the king came home he asked the old hag "who killed my hound?"
"Your daughter killed it," says the old woman.
"Why did you kill my hound?" said the king.
"I did not kill your hound," says the daughter, "and I cannot tell you who killed him."
"I will make you tell me," says the king.
He took the daughter with him to a great wood, and he hanged her on a tree, and then he cut off the two hands and the two feet off her, and left her in a state of death. When he was going out of the wood there went a thorn into his foot, and the daughter said: "That you may never get better until I have hands and feet to cure you."
The king went home, and there grew a tree out of his foot, and it was necessary for him to open the window, to let the top of the tree out.
There was a gentleman going by near the wood, and he heard the king's daughter a-screeching. He went to the tree, and when he saw the state she was in, he took pity on her, brought her home, and when she got better, married her.
At the end of three quarters (of a year), the king's daughter had three sons at one birth, and when they were born, Granya Oi came and put hands and feet on the king's daughter, and told her, "Don't let your children be baptised until they are able to walk. There is a tree growing out of your father's foot; it was cut often, but it grows again, and it is with you lies his healing. You are under an oath not to tell the things you saw your stepmother doing to anyone but to three who were never baptised, and God has sent you those three. When they will be a year old bring them to your father's house, and tell your story before your three sons, and rub your hand on the stump of the tree, and your father will be as well as he was the first day."
There was great wonderment on the gentleman when he saw hands and feet on the king's daughter. She told him then every word that Granya Oi said to her.
When the children were a year old, the mother took them with her, and went to the king's house.
There were doctors from every place in Erin attending on the king, but they were not able to do him any good.
When the daughter came in, the king did not recognise her. She sat down, and the three sons round her, and she told her story to them from top to bottom, and the king was listening to her telling it. Then she left her hand on the sole of the king's foot and the tree fell off it.
The day on the morrow he hanged the old hag, and he gave his estate to his daughter and to the gentleman.

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