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Book of Scottish Story
The Broken Ring


"Hout, lassie," said the wily Dame Seton to her daughter, "dinna blear your een wi` greeting. What would honest Maister Binks say, if he were to come in the now, and see you looking baith dull and dour? Dight your een, my bairn, and snood back your hair—I’se warrant you’ll mak a bonnier bride than ony o’ your sisters."

"I carena whether I look bonny or no, since Willie winna see me," said Mary, while her eyes filled with tears. " Oh, mother, ye have been ower hasty in this matter; I canna help thinking he will come hame yet, and make me his wife. lt’s borne in on my mind that Willie is no dead."

"Put awa such thoughts out o’ your head, lassie," answered her mother; "naebody doubts but yoursel that the ship that he sailed in was whumelled ower in the saut sea—what gars you threep he’s leeving that gate?"

"Ye ken, mother," answered Mary, " that when Willie gaed awa on that wearifu’ voyage, ‘to mak the crown a pound,’ as the auld sang says, he left a kist o’ his best elaes for me to tak care o’; for he said he would keep a’ his braws for a day that’s no like to come, and that’s our bridal. Now. ye ken it’s said, that as lang as the moths keep aff folk’s claes, the owner o’ them is no dead,- so I e’en took a look o’ his bit things the day, and there’s no a broken thread among them. "

"Ye had little to do to be howking among a dead man’s claes," said her mother; "it was a bonny like job for a bride."

"But l’m no a bride,” answered Mary, sobbing. " How can ye hae the heart to speak o’t, mother, and the year no out since I broke a ring wi’ my ain Willie !—Weel hae I keepit my half o’t; and if Willie is in this world, he’ll hae the other as surely."

"I trust poor Willie is in a better place” said the mother, trying to sigh ; " and since it has been ordered sae, ye maun just settle your mind to take honest Maister Binks ; he’s rich, Mary, my dear bairn, and he'll let ye want for naethin."

"Riches canna buy true love," said Mary.

"But they can buy things that will last a hantle longer," responded the wily mother; "so, Mary, ye maun tak him, if you would hae me die in peace. Ye ken I can leave ye but little. The house and bit garden maun gang to your brother, and his wife will mak him keep a close hand ;—she’ll soon let you see the cauld shouther. Poor relations are unco little thought o’; so, lassie, as ye would deserve my benison dinna keep simmering it and wintering it any longer, but take a gude offer when it’s made ye.”

"I’ll no hae him till the year is out," cried Mary. " Wha kens but the ship may cast up yet?”

"I fancy we’ll hae to gie you your ain gate in this matter," replied the dame, " mair especially as it wants but three weeks to the year, and we’ll need that to hae ye cried in the kirk, and to get a’ your braws ready."

"Oh mother, mother, I wish ye would let me die,! ” was Mary’s answer, as she flung herself down on her little bed.

Delighted at having extorted Mary’s consent to the marriage, Dame Seton quickly conveyed the happy intelligence to her son-in-law elect a wealthy burgess of Dunbar ; and, having invited Annot Cameron, Mary’s cousin, to visit them, and assist her in cheering the sorrowful bride, the preparations for the marriage proceeded in due form.

On the day before that appointed for the wedding, as the cousins sat together, arranging the simple ornaments of the bridal dress, poor Mary’s feelings could no longer be restrained, and her tears fell fast.

"Dear sake, Mary, gie ower greeting," said Annot ; "the bonny white satin ribbon is wringing wet."

"Sing her a canty sang to keep up her heart,” said Dame Seton.

"I canna bide a canty sang the day, for there’s ane rinnin’ in my head that my poor Willie made ae night as we sat beneath the rowan-tree outby there, and when we thought we were to gang hand in hand through this wearifu’ world," and Mary began to sing in a low voice.

At this moment the door of the dwelling opened, and a tall, dark-complexioned woman entered, and saying, "My benison on a’ here," she seated herself close to the fire, and lighting her pipe, began to smoke, to the great annoyance of Dame Seton.

"Gudewife," said she gruffly, "ye’re spoiling the lassie's gown, and raising such a reek, so here’s an awmous to ye, and you’ll just gang your ways, we’re unco thrang the day. ”

"Nae doubt,” rejoined the spaewife, "a bridal time is a. thrang time, but it should be a heartsome ane too."

"And hae ye the ill-manners to say it’s otherwise?” retorted Dame Seton. " Gang awa wi’ ye, without anither bidding ; ye’re making the lassie’s braws as black as coom.”

"Will ye hae yer fortune spaed, my bonny May?” said the woman, as she seized Mary’s hand.

"Na, na," answered Mary, "I ken it but ower weel already. ”

"You’ll be married soon, my bonny lassie," said the sibyl.

"Hech, sirs, that’s piper’s news, I trow," retorted the dame, with great contempt; "can ye no tell us something better worth the hearing ?"

"Maybe I can," answered the spaewife. "What would you think if I were to tell you that your daughter keeps the half o’ the gold ring she broke wi’ the winsome sailor lad near her heart by night and by day?”

"Get out o’ my house, ye tinkler!" cried Dame Seton, in wrath ; " we want to hear nae such clavers.”

"Ye wanted news," retorted the fortune-teller; "and I trow l’ll gie ye mair than you’ll like to hear. Hark ye, my bonnie lassie, ye’ll be married soon, but no to Jamie Binks,—here’s an anchor in the palm of your hand, as plain as a pikestaff”

"Awa wi’ ye, ye leein’ Egyptian that ye are," cried Dame Seton, "or I’ll set the dog on you, and I’ll promise ye he’ll no leave ae dud on your back to mend another. ”

"I wadna rede ye to middle wi’ me, Dame Seton," said the fortune-teller. " And now, having said my say, and wishing ye a blithe bridal, I’ll just be stepping awa ;" and ere another word was spoken, the gipsy had crossed the threshold.

"I’ll no marry Jamie Binks,” cried Mary, wringing her hands; "send to him, mother, and tell him sae."

"The sorrow take the lassie,” said Dame Seton; "would you make yoursel and your friends a warld wonder, and a’ for the clavers o’ a leein’ Egyptian,—black be her fa’, that I should
ban."

"Oh, mother, mother! ” cried Mary, " how can I gie ae man my hand, when another has my heart?"

"Troth, lassie," replied her mother, " a living joe is better than a dead ane ony day. But whether Willie be dead or living, ye shall be Jamie Binks’ wife the morn. Sae tak nae thought o’ that ill-deedy body’s words, but gang ben the house and dry your een, and Annot will put the last steek in your bonny white gown.”

With a heavy heart Mary saw the day arrive which was to seal her fate; and while Dame Seton is bustling about, getting everything in order for the ceremony, which was to be performed in the house, we shall take the liberty of directing the attention of our readers to the outside passengers of a stage-coach, advancing from the south, and rapidly approaching Dunbar. Close behind the coachman was seated a middle-aged, substantial-looking farmer, with a round, fat, good-humoured face, and at his side was placed a handsome young sailor, whose frank and jovial manner, and stirring tale of shipwreck and captivity, had pleasantly beguiled the way.

"And what’s taking you to Dunbar the day, Mr Johnstone?" asked the coachman.

"Just a wedding, John,” answered the farmer. " My cousin, Jamie Binks, is to be married the night.',

"He has been a wee ower lang about it," said the coachman.

"I’m thinking," replied the farmer, "it’s no the puir lassie’s fault that the wedding hasna been put off langer; they say that bonny Mary has little gude will to her new joe."

"What Mary is that you are speaking about? " asked the sailor.

"Oh, just bonny Mary Seton that’s to be married the night” answered the farmer.

"Whew!" cried the sailor, giving a long whistle.

"I doubt," said the farmer, "she’ll be but a waefu’ bride, for the sough gangs that she hasna forgotten an auld joe; but ye see he was away, and no likely to come back, and Jamie Binks is weel to pass in the world, and the mother, they say, just made her life bitter till the puir lassie was driven to say she would take him. It is no right in the mother, but folks say she is a dour wife, and had aye an ee to the siller."

"Right!” exclaimed the young sailor, “she deserves the cat-o’-nine tails!”

“Whisht, whisht, laddie," said the farmer. "Preserve us! where is he gaun?” he continued, as the youth sprung from the coach and struck across , the fields.

"He’ll be taking the short cut to the town,” answered the coachman, giving his horses the whip.

The coach whirled rapidly on, and the farmer was soon set down at Dame Seton’s dwelling, where the whole of the bridal party was assembled, waiting the arrival of the minister.

"I wish the minister would come,” said Dame Seton.

"We must open the window," answered Annot, "for Mary is like to swarf awa.”

This was accordingly done, and as Mary sat close by the window, and gasping for breath, an unseen hand threw a small package into her lap.

"Dear sirs, Mary,” said Dame Seton, "Open up the bit parcel bairn; it will be a present frae your Uncle Sandie ; it’s a queer way o’ gieing it, but he ne’er does things like ony ither body." The bridal guests gathered round Mary as she slowly undid fold after fold.

"Hech!" observed Dame Seton, "it maun be something very precious to be in such sma’ bouk.” The words were scarcely uttered when the half of a gold ring lay in Mary’s hand.

"Where has this come frae?" exclaimed Mary, wringing her hands. " Has the dead risen to upbraid me?”

"No, Mary, but the living has come to claim you," cried the young sailor, as he vaulted through the open window and caught her in his arms.

"Oh, W'illie, Willie, where hae ye been a’ this weary time?" exclaimed Mary, while the tears fell on her pale cheek.

"That’s a tale for another day," answered the sailor; "I can think of nothing but joy while I hand you to my breast, which you will never leave mair."

"There will be twa words to that bargain, my joe," retorted Dame Seton, “ Let go my bairn, and gang awa wi’ ye; she’s trysted to be this honest man’s wife, and his wife she shall be."

"Na, na, mistress," said the bride-groom, "l hae nae broo o’ wedding another man’s joe: since Willie Fleming has her heart, he may e’en tak her hand for me. "

"Gude save us," cried the farmer, shaking the young sailor by the hand, " little did I ken wha I was speaking to on the top of the coach. I say, guidwife," he continued, "ye maun just let Willie tak her; nae gude e’er yet come o’ crossing true love."

"’Deed, that’s a truth," was answered by several bonny bridesmaids. Dame Seton, being deserted by her allies, and finding the stream running so strongly against her, at length gave an unwilling consent to the marriage of the lovers, which was celebrated amidst general rejoicings; and at the request of his bride, Willie, on his wedding-day, attired himself in the clothes which the moths had so considerately spared for the happy occasion.


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