T HERE was once a very rich squire who owned a large farm, had plenty of silver at the bottom of his chest, and money in the bank besides; but there was something he had not, and that was a wife.
One day a neighbor's daughter was working for him in the hayfield. The squire liked her very much and, as she was a poor man's daughter, he thought that if he only mentioned marriage she would be more than glad to take him at once. So he said to her, "I've been thinking I want to marry."
"Well, one may think of many things," said the lassie, as she stood there and smiled slyly. She really thought the old fellow ought to be thinking of something that behooved him better than getting married at his time of life.
"Now, you see," he said, "I was thinking that you should be my wife!"
"No, thank you," said she, "and much obliged for the honor."
The squire was not used to being gainsaid, and the more she refused him the more he wanted her. But the lassie would not listen to him at all. So the old man sent for her father and told him that, if he could talk his daughter over and arrange the whole matter for him, he would forgive him the money he had lent him, and would give him the piece of land which lay close to his meadow into the bargain.
"Yes, yes, be sure I'll bring the lass to her senses," said the father. "She is only a child and does not know what is best for her."
But all his coaxing, all his threats and all his talking, went for naught. She would not have the old miser, if he sat buried in gold up to his ears, she said.
The squire waited and waited, but at last he got angry and told the father that he had to settle the matter at once if he expected him to stand by his bargain, for now he would wait no longer.
The man knew no other way out of it, but to let the squire get everything ready for the wedding; then, when the parson and the wedding guests had arrived, the squire would send for the lassie as if she were wanted for some work on the farm. When she got there they would marry her right away, in such a hurry that she would have no time to think it over.
When the guests had arrived the squire called one of his farm lads, told him to run down to his neighbor and ask him to send up immediately what he had promised.
"But if you are not back with her in a twinkling," he said, shaking his fist at
He did not finish, for the lad ran off as if he had been shot at.
"My master has sent me to ask for that which you promised him," said the lad, when he got to the neighbor, "but, pray, lose no time, for master is terribly busy to-day."
"Yes, yes! Run down in the meadow and take her with you—there she goes," answered the neighbor.
The lad ran off and when he came to the meadow he found the daughter there raking the hay.
"I am to fetch what your father has promised my master," said the lad.
"Ah, ha!" thought she, "is that what they are up to?" And with a wicked twinkle of the eye, she said, "Oh, yes, it's that little bay mare of ours, I suppose. You had better go and take her. She stands tethered on the other side of the pea field."
The boy jumped on the back of the bay mare and rode home at full gallop.
"Have you got her with you?" asked the squire.
"She is down at the door," said the lad.
"Take her up to the room my mother had," said the squire.
"But, master, how can I?" said the lad.
"Do as I tell you," said the squire. "And if you can't manage her alone, get the men to help you," for he thought the lassie might be stubborn.
When the lad saw his master's face he knew it would be no use to argue. So he went and got all the farm hands together to help him. Some pulled at the head and the forelegs of the mare and others pushed from behind, and at last they got her upstairs and into the room. There lay all the wedding finery ready.
"Well, that's done, master!" said the lad, while he wiped his wet brow, "but it was the worst job I have ever had here on the farm."
"Never mind, never mind, you shall not have done it for nothing," said his master, and he pulled a bright silver coin out of his pocket and gave it to the lad. "Now send the women up to dress her."
"But, I say—
"None of your talk!" cried the squire. "Tell them to hold her while they dress her, and mind not to forget either wreath or crown."
The lad ran into the kitchen:
"Listen, here, lasses," he called out, "you are to go upstairs and dress up the bay mare as a bride—I suppose master wants to play a joke on his guests."
The women laughed and laughed, but ran upstairs and dressed the bay mare in everything that was there. And then the lad went and told his master that now she was all ready, with wreath and crown and all.
"Very well, bring her down. I will receive her at the door myself," said the squire.
There was a clatter and a thumping on the stairs, for that bride, you know, had no silken slippers on.
When the door was opened and the squire's bride entered the room, you can imagine there was laughing and tittering and grinning enough.
And as for the squire, they say he never went courting again.