Told by John Mackenzie, at Inverary, to J. F. C. August 1859 and 1860.
THERE were at some time of the world two brothers in one farm, and they were very great friends, and they had each a son; and one of the brothers died, and he left his brother guardian. When the lad was near to be grown up, he was keeping the farm for his mother almost as well as his father could have done. One night he saw a dream in his sleep, the most beautiful lady that there was in the world, and he dreamed of her three times, and he resolved to marry her and no other woman in the world; and he would not stay in the farm, and he grew pale, and his father’s brother could not think what ailed him; and he was always asking him what was wrong with him.
“Well, never mind,” one day he said, “brother of my father, I have seen a dream, the most beautiful woman that there is in the world, and I will marry no other but she; and I will now go out and search for her over the whole world till I find her.”
Said the uncle, “Son of my brother, I have a hundred pounds; I will give them to thee, and go; and when that is spent come back to me, and I will give thee another hundred.
So the lad took the hundred pounds, and he went to France, and then he went to Spain, and all over the world, but he could not find the lady he had seen in his sleep. At last he came to London, and he had spent all his money, and his clothes were worn, and he did not know what he should do for a night’s lodging.
Well, as he was wandering about the streets, whom should he see but a quiet looking respectable old woman; and he spoke to her; and, from less to more, he told her all that had happened to him; and she was well pleased to see a countryman, and she said,
“I, too, am a Highland woman, though I am in this town.”
And she took him to a small house that she had, and she gave him meat and clothes.
And she said, “Go out ow and take a wak; maybe thou mayest see here in one day what thou mightest not see in a year.”
On the next day he was out taking a walk about the town, and he saw a woman at a window, and he knew her at once, for she was the lady he had seen in his sleep, and he went back to the old woman.
“How went it with thee this day, Gael?” said she.
“It went well,” said he.
“Oh, I have seen the lady I saw in my sleep,” said he.
And he told her all about it.
Then the old woman asked about the house and the street; and when she knew –
“Thou hast seen her,” said she. “That is all thou wilt see of her. That is the daughter of the Bailie of London; but I am her foster mother, and I would be right glad if she would marry a countryman of my own. Now, do thou go out on the morrow, and I will give thee fine highland clothes, and thou wilt find the lady walking in such a street: herself and three maidens of company will go out together; and do thou tread on her gown; and when she turns round to see what is the matter, do thou speak to her.”
Well, the lad did this. He went out and he found the lady, and he set his foot on her dress, and the gown rent from the band; and when she turned round he said,
“I am asking you much grace – it was an accident.”
“It was not your fault; it was the fault of the dressmaker that made the dress so long,” said she.
And she looked at him; and when she saw how handsome he was, she said,
“Will you be so kind as to come home with me to my father’s house and take something?”
So the lad went and sat down, and before she asked him anything she set down wine before him and said,
“Quicker is a drink than a tale.”
When he had taken that, he began and he told her all that happened, and how he had seen her in his sleep, and when, and she was well pleased.
“And I saw thee in my sleep on the same night,” said she.
He went away that day, and the old woman that he was lodging with asked him how he had got on, and he told her everything that had happened; and she went to the Baillie’s daughter, and told her all the good she could think of about the young lad; and after that he was often at the Bailie’s house; and at last the daughter said she would marry him.
“But I fear that will not do,” said she. “Go home for a year, and when thou comest back will contrive to marry thee,” said she, “for it is the law of this country that no one must be married unless the Bailie himself gives her by the hand to her bridegroom,” said she; and she left blessing with him.
Well, the lad went away as the girl said, and he was putting everything in order at home; and he told his father’s brother all that had happened to him; but when the year was nearly out he set off for London again, and he had the second hundred with him, and some good oat-meal cakes.
On the road, whom should he meet but a Sassanach gentleman who was going the same road, and they began to talk.
“Where art thou going?” said the Saxon.
“Well, I am going to London,” said he.
“When I was there last I set a net1 in a street, and I am going to see if it is as I left it. If it is well I will take it with me; if not, I will leave it.”
“Well,” said the other, “that is but a silly thing. How can lintseed be as thou hast left it? It must be grown up and trodden down by ducks and geese, and eaten by hens long ago. I am going to London too; but I am going to marry the Bailie’s daughter.”
Well, they walked on together, and at long last the Saxon began to get hungry, and he had no food with him, and there was no house near; and he said to the other,
“Wilt thou give me some of thy food?”
“Well,” said the Gael, “I have but poor food – oaten bread; I will give you some if you will take it; btu if I were a gentleman like you I would never travel without my own mother.”
“How can I travel with my mother?” said the Saxon. “She is dead and buried long ago, and rotting in the earth; if not, why should I take her with me?”
And he took the oat cake and ate it, and they went on their way.
They had not gone far when a heavy shower came on, and the Gael had a rough plaid about him, but the Saxon had none; and he said to the other,
“Wilt thou lend me thy plaid?”
“I will lend you a part of it,” said the Gael: “but if I were a gentleman like you, I would never travel without my house, and I would not be indebted to any one for favours.”
“Thou art a fool,” said the Saxon; “my house is four storeys high. How could any man carry a house that is four storeys high about with him?”
But he wrapped the end of the Highlander’s plaid about his shoulders, and they went on.
well, they had not gone far till they came to a small river, and the water was deep after the rain, and there was no bridge, and in those days bridges were not so plentiful as they are now; and the Saxon would not wet his feet, so he said to the Highlander,
“Wilt thou carry me over?”
“Well,” said the Gael, “I don’t mind if I do; but if I were a gentleman like you, I would never travel without my own bridge, and I would not be i any man’s debt for favours.”
“Thou art a silly fellow,” said the Saxon. “How can any man travel about with a bridge that is made of stone and lime. Thou are but a ‘burraidh,’ and weighs as much as a house?”
But he got on the back of his fellow-traveller nevertheless, and they travelled on till they got to London. Then the Saxon went to the house of the Bailie, and the other went to the little house of his old country-woman, who was the foster-mother of the Bailie’s daughter.
Well, the Saxon gentleman began to tell the Bailie all that had happened to him by the way; and he said –
“I met with a Gael by the way, and he was a perfect fool – the greatest booby that man ever saw. He told me that he had sown lint here a year ago in a street, and that he was coming to fetch it, if he should find it as he left it, but that if he did not, he would leave it; and how should he find that after a year? He told me I should never travel without my mother, and my house, and my bridge; and how could a man travel with all these things? But though he was nothing but a fool, he was a good-natured fellow, for he gave me some of his food, and lent me a bit of his plaid, and he carried me over a river.”
“I know not but he was as wise as the man that was speaking to him,” said the Bailie; for he was a wise man.”I’ll tell you what he meant,” said he.
“Well, I will shew that he was a fool as great as ever was seen,” said the Saxon.
“He has left a girl in this town,” said the Bailie, “and he is come to see if she is in the same mind as she was when he left her; and he had set a net,” said he. “Your mother nourished you, and a gentleman like you should have his own nourishment with him. He meant that you should not be dependent on him. It was the booby that was with him,” said the Bailie. “A gentleman like you should have his own shelter, and your house is your shelter when you are at home. A bridge is made for crossing a river, and a man should always be able to do that without help; and the man was right, and he was no fool, but a smart lad, and I should like to see him,” said the Bailie; “and I would go to fetch him if I knew where he was,” said he.
[According to another version, the house and bridge meant a coach and a saddle-horse.]
Well, the next day the Bailie went to the house where the lad was, and he asked him to come home to his dinner; and the lad came, and he told the Bailie that he had understood all that had been said.
“Now,” said he, “as ir is the law that no man may be married here unless the Bailie gies him the bride by the hand, will you be so kind as to give me the girl that I have come to marry, if she is in the same mind? I will have everything ready.”
And the Bailie said, “I will do that, my smart lad, to-morrow, or whenever thou dost choose. I would go farther than that for such a smart boy,” said he.
“Well, I will be ready at such a house to-morrow,” said the lad; and he went away to the foster-mother’s house.
When the morrow came, the Bailie’s daughter disguised herself, and she went to the house of the foster-mother, and the Gael had got a churchman there; and the Bailie came in, and he took his own daughter by the hand; but she would not give her hand to the lad.
“Give thy hand, girl,” said the Bailie. “It is an honour for thee to marry such a smart lad.”
And he gave her to him, and they were married according to law.
Then the Bailie went home, and he was to give his daughter by the hand to the Saxon gentleman that day; but the daughter was not to be found; and he was a widower, and she was keeping house for him, and they could not find her anywhere.
“Well,” said the Bailie, “I will lay a wager that Gael has got her, after all.” And the Gael came in with the daughter, and he told them everything just as it had happened, from the beginning to the end, and how he had plenty in his own country.
And the Bailie said, “Well, since I myself have given thee my daughter by the hand, it is a marriage, and I am glad that she has got a smart lad like thee for a husband.”
And they made a wedding that lasted a years and a day, and they lived happily ever after, and if they have not died since then they are alive yet.