IN DAYS of yore, when this country was governed by several sovereigns, amongst them was the King of Canterbury, who had an only daughter, wise, fair, and beautiful. She was unmarried, and according to a custom not unusual in those days, of assigning an arbitrary action for the present of a lady's hand, the king issued a proclamation that whoever would watch one night with his daughter, and neither sleep nor doze, should have her the next day in marriage; but if he did either, he should lose his head. Many knights attempted to fulfil the condition, and, having failed in the attempt, forfeited their lives.
Now it happened that a young shepherd, grazing his flock near the road, said to his master, "Zur,  I zee many gentlemen ride to the court at Canterbury, but I ne'er zee 'em return again." "O, shepherd," said his master, "I know not how you should, for they attempt to watch with the king's daughter, according to the decree, and not performing it, they are all beheaded." "Well," said the shepherd, "I'll try my vorton; zo now vor a king's daughter, or a headless shepherd!" And taking his bottle and bag, he trudged to the court. In his way thither, he was obliged to cross a river, and pulling off his shoes and stockings, while he was passing over he observed several pretty fish bobbing against his feet; so he caught some, and put them into his pocket. When he reached the palace, he knocked at the gate loudly with his crook, and having mentioned the object of his visit, he was immediately conducted to a hall, where the king's daughter sat ready prepared to receive her lovers. He was placed in a luxurious chair, and rich wines and spices were set before him, and all sorts of delicate meats. The shepherd, unused to such fare, eat and drank plentifully, so that he was nearly dozing before midnight. "O shepherd," said the lady, "I have caught you napping!" "Noa, sweet ally, I was busy a-feeshing." "A-fishing!" said the princess in the utmost astonishment: "Nay, shepherd, there is no fish-pond in the hall." "No matter vor that, I have been feeshing in my pocket, and have just caught one." "Oh me!" said she, "let me see it." The shepherd slily drew the fish out of his pocket, and pretending to have caught it, showed it her, and she declared it was the finest she ever saw. About half an hour afterwards, she said, "Shepherd, do you think you could get me one more?" He replied, "Mayhap I may, when I have baited my hook;" and after a little while he brought out another, which was finer than the first, and the princess was so delighted that she gave him leave to go to sleep, and promised to excuse him to her father.
In the morning the princess told the king, to his great astonishment, that the shepherd must not be beheaded, for he had been fishing in the hall all night; but when he heard how the shepherd had caught such beautiful fish out of his pocket, he asked him to catch one in his own. The shepherd readily undertook the task, and bidding the king lie down, he pretended to fish in his pocket, having another fish concealed ready in his hand, and giving him a sly prick with a needle, he held up the fish, and showed it to the king. His majesty did not much relish the operation, but he assented to the marvel of it, and the princess and shepherd were united the same day, and lived for many years in happiness and prosperity.