The Wicker Husband

The Wicker Husband
by Ursula Wills-Jones

Once upon a time, there was an ugly girl. She was short and dumpy, had one leg a bit shorter than the other, and her eyebrows met in the middle. The ugly girl gutted fish for a living, so her hands smelt funny and her dress was covered in scales. She had no mother or brother, no father, sister, or any friends. She lived in a ramshackle house on the outskirts of the village, and she never complained.

One by one, the village girls married the local lads, and up the path to the church they'd prance, smiling all the way. At the weddings, the ugly girl always stood at the back of the church, smelling slightly of brine. The village women gossiped about the ugly girl. They wondered what she did with the money she earnt. The ugly girl never bought a new frock, never made repairs to the house, and never drank in the village tavern.

Now, it so happened that outside the village, in a great damp swamp, lived an old basket-maker who was famed for the quality of his work. One day the old basket-maker heard a knock on his door. When he opened it, the ugly girl stood there. In her hand, she held six gold coins.

'I want you to make me a husband,' she said.

'Come back in a month,' he replied.

Well, the old basket-maker was greatly moved that the ugly girl had entrusted him with such an important task. He resolved to make her the best husband he could. He made the wicker husband broad of shoulder and long of leg, and all the other things women like. He made him strong of arm and elegant of neck, and his brows were wide and well-spaced. His hair was a fine dark brown, his eyes a greenish hazel.

When the day came, the ugly girl knocked on the basket-maker's door.

'He says today is too soon. He will be in the church tomorrow, at ten,' said the basket-maker. The ugly girl went away, and spent the day scraping scales from her dress.

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