Once upon a time, there lived three poor sisters.
In this time, girls needed dowries to get married. The three sisters had nothing to give as a dowry. No man would marry a girl without a dowry.
The eldest sister feared that she would never marry. And if the eldest didn't marry, neither could the younger two sisters, as the tradition went. The girls feared being sold as servants- or worse.
The eldest girl was in love with a young man across the street from her. But the young man was a simple carpenter, not at all wealthy enough to take a bride without a proper dowry, even if he were to love her back. The young man did love the girl back, but alas, it was a doomed love. The middle daughter, too, fancied a poor boy. The boy was the son of a servant in the house of the wealthy man across town, Christopher. The youngest daughter wanted to marry someday too, but she wasn't very pretty like her sisters. In fact, she was so plain, even if someone were rich enough to marry a girl without a dowry, nobody would even give the poor girl so much as a second look.
One day, the girls were walking down the street on the way home. They held in their hands the wet stockings that they'd just gotten washed in the creek. They all felt the cold, wet fabric in their hands, knowing it might be the last time they felt their own soaking wet wool socks in their hands. They feared the next pair of socks they were to wash may belong to a rich servant master, or a creepy old man, or a nobleman, buying them as servants. They knew the time they had with their dear father may be scarce.
They stumbled into the house, and tacked the stockings above the fireplace to dry. As they walked by their father's room to let him know they were back, the eldest heard a noise. A voice, not their father's, inside the study. The youngest daughter held her finger up to her lips, silencing her sisters. She pressed her ear against the hard wood door.
When she turned back to her sisters, her face was pale white. "It's Christopher, and his son! They're here for... for us!" she hissed.
"What are you talking about?"
"He said if we're not married off, he was going to buy us as servants!"
"Servants? Oh no..."
"How will we ever pay a dowry? We have nothing but the one old goat, and Papa would need that to survive."
The girls quietly slunk away to their shared bedroom to pack their bags with their meager belongings. A moment later, their father came into their room. "Girls," he said. His eyes seemed sad, pretty dull and lifeless. "I have some bad news. If we don't scrounge up a decent dowry for you girls, I'm afraid... well, I'm afraid Mr. Christopher will be here to pick you up and bring you to his house to be servants for him."
It was a sad scene for any onlookers. Fortunately, there was a particular onlooker... Nicholas, the son of the rich merchant, had witnessed the whole scene. He felt incredible sadness. He'd seen his father treat his servants badly, and he didn't want these poor young girls to be at the receiving end of that. When Nicholas went home with his father, he had an idea.
He gathered up his favorite bags. It was the holiday season, so Nicholas had several winter-themed bags that he filled with coins. How many were in each, he didn't know, but he knew one thing- it was enough for three dowries.
He snuck out of the house and found his way back to the girl's house. He didn't want them to know it was him who had given their money to them, so he tossed it in the window and ran home.
The next morning, the girls woke up to their father shaking them awake. "Girls! You'll never guess what I found!"
The girls' sleepy eyes opened to the sight of a warm fireplace, their stockings still tacked up to dry... and inside them...
"I counted it this morning! It's a hefty sum, enough to satisfy three men for you girls to marry!"
The money Nicholas had tossed in their window had landed right into their stockings.
The eldest girl immediately dressed and found the carpenter, and told him the news. The middle girl also found her servant boy, and two simple weddings were prepared for the girls. As the youngest watched, they were wedded and moved out, using their dowry money to prepare a nice new home for each. But when she looked again in her bag...
I will come for you... will you wait long enough for me?