Friday, 10 February 2017

The Gentleman’s Bride

Once upon a time there was a rich farmer who owned a large farm. Silver had he in a chest, and money out to loan. But there was something he was lacking, for he was a widower. One day the daughter from a neighbouring farm was with him to do some work. The gentleman liked her right well, and as she was the child of poor folk, he thought that she would agree as soon as he hinted at marriage. So he said to her that he had begun to think about marrying again.

“Yes, yes, one may think about many things,” said the girl, chuckling as she stood there, thinking that the ugly old man might well think of things better for him than marriage.

“Yes, but I mean that you should be my wife,” said the gentleman.

“Thank you, but no! That would be something!” she said.

The gentleman was not used to hearing no; and the less she wanted him, the more eager to have her he grew. But as he was getting nowhere with the girl, he sent word for her father, and told him that if he could arrange it so that he could have her, then he would not require payment of the money he had lent him, and on top of that, he would have the patch of land that lay tight against his meadow.

Well, he would surely be able to set his daughter straight, said the father. She was just a child and did not know her own best, he said.

But for all his talk with his daughter, both sweet and sour, it did not help. She would not want the gentleman if he sat in gold up to his ears, she said.

The gentleman waited day after day, but then he finally grew so angry and impatient, and he said to the girl’s father that, if he would stand by his promise, then he should fulfil it now, for he would wait no longer.

The man did not know what to do, but told the gentleman to arrange the wedding, and when the parson and the wedding guests had come, he should send for the girl, as if he wanted her for some work, and when she came, he should marry her swiftly, so that she had no time to think.

This the gentleman thought was well and good, and so he ordered brewing and baking for the wedding in the best traditions.

When the wedding guests had arrived, the gentleman called one of his boys, and said that he should sweep down to the neighbour’s farm to the south, and ask him to send what he had promised.

“But if you don’t return on the instant,” he said, waving his fist, “well than I’ll…” He added no more, for the boy set off as if he were afire.

“I should greet you from the farmer, and ask you for what you have promised him,” said the boy to the man south of the farm, “but it has to be quick, for he is dangerously short today,” he said.

“Yes, yes, run down to the meadow, where she goes, and take her with you,” said the neighbour.

The boy went off. When he came down to the meadow, the girl was raking.

“I should fetch that which your father has promised the farmer,” said the boy.

“Ho ho, fool me there!” she thought. “No, should you really?” she said; “I suppose it is our little dapple mare. You can go over and take her; she is tethered on the far side of the pea field,” said the girl.

The boy threw himself on to the back of the little dapple, and rode home at full tilt.

“Did you bring her with you?” said the gentleman.

“She stands down by the door,” said the boy.

“Then lead her up to mother’s old chamber,” said the gentleman.

“Dear me, how shall I do that?” said the boy.

“You just do as I say!” said the gentleman. “If you cannot handle her alone, then take some folk to help you,” he said; he thought the girl might act up.

When the boy looked at the gentleman’s face, he knew it was useless to argue here on the farm. He went down with all the farmhands who were there; some pulled from the front, and some pushed from behind, and so they finally got the mare up the stairs and into the chamber. There lay the bridal finery ready.

“Now I have done that, too, farmer,” said the boy; “but it was dangerous work, the worst I have done here on the farm.”

“Well, well, you have not done it for nothing,” said the farmer. “Send the women-folk up to deck her out.”

“No, but dear me!” said the boy.

“No talking! They shall deck her out, and forget neither garland nor crown,” said the farmer.

The boy went down to the kitchen.

“Listen now, girls,” he said, “you must go up and deck the little dapple mare out; the farmer is anxious to give his guests something to laugh at.”

Well, the girls hung all there was on the little dapple mare, and then the boy went down and said that she was now ready, with both garland and crown.

“Well and good. Bring her here!” said the farmer; “I shall receive her myself at the door,” he said.

There was a racket on the stairs, for she hardly descended in silken shoes, this bride. But when the door opened and the gentleman’s bride came into the parlour, there was no shortage of snorts and giggles. And the gentleman was so content with the bride that they say he never proposed again.

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