A woman shoots her husband. Then she holds him under water for over 5 minutes. Finally, she hangs him. But 5 minutes later they both go out together and enjoy a wonderful dinner together. How can this be? ... Read more of How Can This Be? at Free Jokes.caInformational Site Network Informational
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Young Bekie

from Tales From Scottish Ballads





"Young Bekie was as brave a knight
As ever sailed the sea;
And he's done him to the Court of France
To serve for meat and fee.

He hadna been in the Court of France
A twelvemonth, nor sae lang,
Till he fell in love with the King's daughter,
And was thrown in prison strang."


It was the Court of France: the gayest, and the brightest, and the
merriest court in the whole world. For there the sun seemed always to be
shining, and the nobles, and the fair Court ladies did not know what
care meant.

In all the palace there was only one maiden who wore a sad and troubled
look, and that was Burd Isbel, the King's only daughter.

A year before she had been the lightest-hearted maiden in France. Her
face had been like sunshine, and her voice like rippling music; but now
all was changed. She crept about in silence, with pale cheeks, and
clouded eyes, and the King, her father, was in deep distress.

He summoned all the great doctors, and offered them all manner of
rewards if only they would give him back, once more, his light-hearted
little daughter. But they shook their heads gravely; for although
doctors can do many things, they have not yet found out the way to make
heavy hearts light again.

All the same these doctors knew what ailed the Princess, but they dare
not say so. That would have been to mention a subject which nearly threw
the King into a fit whenever he thought of it.

For just a year before, a brave young Scottish Knight had come over to
France to take service at the King's Court. His name was Young Bekie,
and he was so strong and so noble that at first the King had loved him
like a son. But before long the young man had fallen in love with Burd
Isbel, and of course Burd Isbel had fallen in love with him, and he had
gone straight to the King, and asked him if he might marry her;--and
then the fat was in the fire.

For although the stranger seemed to be brave, and noble, and good, and
far superior to any Frenchman, he was not of royal birth, and the King
declared that it was a piece of gross impertinence on his part ever to
think of marrying a king's daughter.

It was in vain that the older nobles, who had known Burd Isbel since she
was a child, begged for pity for the young man, and pointed out his good
qualities; the King would not listen to them, but stamped, and stormed,
and raged with anger. He gave orders that the poor young Knight should
be shut up in prison at once, and threatened to take his life; and he
told his daughter sharply that she was to think no more about him.

But Burd Isbel could not do that, and she used to creep to the back of
the prison door, when no one was near, and listen wistfully, in the hope
that she might hear her lover's voice. For a long time she was
unsuccessful, but one day she heard him bemoaning his hard fate--to be
kept a prisoner in a foreign land, with no chance of sending a message
to Scotland of the straits that he was in.

"Oh," he murmured piteously to himself, "if only I could send word home
to Scotland to my father, he would not leave me long in this vile
prison. He is rich, and he would spare nothing for my ransom. He would
send a trusty servant with a bag of good red gold, and another of bonnie
white silver, to soften the cruel heart of the King of France."

Then she heard him laugh bitterly to himself.

"There is little chance that I will escape," he muttered, "for who is
likely to carry a message to Scotland for me? No, no, my bones will rot
here; that is clear enough. And yet how willingly I would be a slave, if
I could escape. If only some great lady needed a servant, I would gladly
run at her horse's bridle if she could gain me my liberty. If only a
widow needed a man to help her, I would promise to be a son to her, if
she could obtain my freedom. Nay, if only some poor maiden would promise
to wed me, and crave my pardon at the King's hand, I would in return
carry her to Scotland, and dower her with all my wealth; and that is not
little, for am I not master of the forests, and the lands, and the
Castle of Linnhe?"

Many a maiden would have been angry had she heard her lover speak these
words; but Burd Isbel loved him too much to be offended at anything
which he said, so she crept away to her chamber with a determined look
on her girlish face.

"'Tis not for thy lands or thy Castle," she whispered, "but for pure
love of thee. Love hath made maidens brave ere now, and it will make
them brave again."

That night, when all the palace was quiet, Burd Isbel wrapped herself in
a long gray cloak, and crept noiselessly from her room. She might have
been taken for a dark shadow, had it not been for her long plait of
lint-white hair and her little bare feet, which peeped out and in
beneath the folds of her cloak, as she stole down the great polished
staircase.

Silently she crept across the hall, and peeped into the guard-room.

All the guards were asleep, and, on the wall above their heads hung the
keys of the palace, and beside them a great iron key. That was the key
of the prison. She stole across the floor on tip-toe, making no more
noise than a mouse, and, stretching up her hand, she took down the heavy
key, and hid it under her cloak. Then she sped quickly out of the
guard-room, and through a turret door, into a dark courtyard where the
prison was. She fitted the key in the lock. It took all her strength to
turn it, but she managed it at last, and, shutting the door behind her,
she went into the little cell where Young Bekie was imprisoned.

A candle flickered in its socket on the wall, and by its light she saw
him lying asleep on the cold stone floor. She could not help giving a
little scream when she saw him, for there were three mice and two great
rats sitting on the straw at his head, and they had nibbled away nearly
all his long yellow hair, which she had admired so much when first he
came to Court. His beard had grown long and rough too, for he had had no
razors to shave with, and altogether he looked so strange that she
hardly knew him.

At the sound of her voice he woke and started up, and the mice and the
rats scampered away to their holes. He knew her at once, and in a moment
he forgot his dreams of slaves, and widows, and poor maidens. He sprang
across the floor, and knelt at her feet, and kissed her little white
hands.

"Ah," he said, "now would I stay here for ever, if I might always have
thee for a companion."

But Burd Isbel was a sensible maiden, and she knew that if her lover
meant to escape, he must make haste, and not waste time in making pretty
speeches. She knew also that if he went out of prison looking like a
beggar or a vagabond, he would soon be taken captive again, so she
hurried back to the palace, and went hither and thither noiselessly with
her little bare feet, and presently she returned with her hands full of
parcels.

She had brought a comb to comb the hair which the rats had left on his
head, and a razor for him to shave himself with, and she had brought
five hundred pounds of good red money, so that he might travel like a
real Knight.

Then, while he was making his toilet, she went into her father's stable,
and led out a splendid horse, strong of limb, and fleet of foot, and on
it she put a saddle and a bridle which had been made for the King's own
charger.

Finally, she went to the kennels, and, stooping down, she called softly,
"Hector, Hector."

A magnificent black hound answered her call and came and crouched at her
feet, fawning on them and licking them. After him came three companions,
all the same size, and all of them big enough to kill a man.

These dogs belonged to Burd Isbel, and they were her special pets. A
tear rolled down her face as she stooped and kissed their heads.

"I am giving you to a new master, darlings," she said. "See and guard
him well."

Then she led them to where the horse was standing, saddled and bridled;
and there, beside him, stood Young Bekie. Now that his beard was
trimmed, and his hair arranged, he looked as gallant, and brave, and
noble as ever.

When Burd Isbel told him that the money, and the hounds, and the horse
with its harness, were all his, he caught her in his arms, and swore
that there had never been such a brave and generous maiden born before,
and that he would serve her in life and death.

Then, as time was pressing, and the dawn was beginning to break, they
had to say farewell; but before they did so, they vowed a solemn vow
that they would be married to each other within three years. After this
Burd Isbel opened the great gate, and her lover rode away, with money in
his pocket, and hounds by his side, like the well-born Knight that he
was; and nobody who met him ever imagined that he was an escaped
prisoner, set free by the courage of the King's daughter.

* * * * *


Alas, alas, for the faithfulness of men! Young Bekie was brave, and
gentle, and courteous, but his will was not very strong, and he liked to
be comfortable. And it came about that, after he had been back in
Scotland for a year, the Scotch King had a daughter for whom he wanted
to find a husband, and he made up his mind that Young Bekie would be the
very man for her.

So he proposed that he should marry her, and was quite surprised and
angry when the young man declined.

"It is an insult to my daughter," he said, and he determined to force
Bekie to do as he wanted, by using threats. So he told the Knight, that,
if he agreed to marry his daughter, he would grow richer and richer,
but, if he refused, he would lose all his lands, and the Castle of
Linnhe.

Poor Young Bekie! I am afraid he was not a hero, for he chose to marry
the Princess and keep his lands, and he tried to put the thought of Burd
Isbel and what she had done for him, and the solemn vow that he had made
to her, out of his head.

Meanwhile Burd Isbel lived on at her father's court, and because her
heart was full of faith and love, it grew light and merry again, and she
began to dance and to sing as gaily as ever.

But early one morning she woke up with a start, and there, at the foot
of her bed, stood the queerest little manikin that she had ever seen. He
was only about a foot high, and he was dressed all in russet brown, and
his face was just like a wrinkled apple.

"Who art thou?" she cried, starting up, "and what dost thou want?"

"My name is Billy Blin," said the funny old man. "I am a Brownie, and I
come from Scotland. My family all live there, and we are all very
kind-hearted, and we like to help people. But it is no time to be
talking of my affairs, for I have come to help thee. I have just been
wondering how thou couldst lie there and sleep so peacefully when this
is Young Bekie's wedding day. He is to be married at noon."

"Oh, what shall I do? what shall I do?" cried poor Burd Isbel in deep
distress. "It is a long way from France to Scotland, and I can never be
there in time."

Billie Blin waved his little hand. "I will manage it for thee," he said,
"if thou wilt only do what I tell thee. Go into thy mother's chamber as
fast as thou canst, and get two of thy mother's maids-of-honour. And,
remember, thou must be careful to see that they are both called Mary.
Then thou must dress thyself in thy most beautiful dress. Thou hast a
scarlet dress, I know, which becomes thee well, for I have seen thee
wear it. Nay, be not surprised; we Brownies can see people when they do
not see us. Put that dress on, and let thy Maries be dressed all in
green. And in thy father's treasury there are three jewelled belts, each
of them worth an earl's ransom. These thou must get, and clasp them
round thy waists, and steal down to the sea-shore, and there, on the
water, thou wilt see a beautiful Dutch boat. It will come to the shore
for thee, and thou must step in, and greet the crew with a Mystic
Greeting. Then thy part is done. I will do the rest."

The Brownie vanished, and Burd Isbel made haste to do exactly what he
had told her to do.

She ran to her mother's room, and called to two maids called Mary to
come and help her to dress. Then she put on her lovely scarlet robe, and
bade them attire themselves in green, and she took the jewelled girdles
out of the treasury, and gave one to each of them to put on; and when
they were dressed they all went down to the sea-shore.

There, on the sea, as the Brownie had promised, was a beautiful Dutch
boat, with its sails spread. It came dancing over the water to them, and
when Burd Isbel stepped on board, and greeted the sailors with a Mystic
Greeting, they turned its prow towards Scotland, and Billy Blin appeared
himself, and took the helm.

Away, away, sailed the ship, until it reached the Firth of Tay, and
there, high up among the hills, stood the Castle of Linnhe.

When Burd Isbel and her maidens went to the gate they heard beautiful
music coming from within, and their hearts sank. They rang the bell, and
the old porter appeared.

"What news, what news, old man?" cried Burd Isbel. "We have heard
rumours of a wedding here, and would fain know if they be true or no?"

"Certs, Madam, they are true," he answered; "for this very day, at noon,
the Master of this place, Young Bekie, will be married to the King of
Scotland's daughter."

Then Burd Isbel felt in her jewelled pouch, and drew out three merks.
"Take these, old man," she said, "and bid thy master speak to me at
once."

The porter did as he was bid, and went upstairs to the great hall, where
all the wedding guests were assembled. He bent low before the King, and
before the Queen, and then he knelt before his young lord.

"I have served thee these thirty and three years, Sire," he said, "but
never have I seen ladies come to the gate so richly attired as the three
who wait without at this moment. There is one of them clad in scarlet,
such scarlet as I have never seen, and two are clad in green, and they
have girdles round their waists which might well pay an earl's ransom."

When the Scottish Princess heard these words, she tossed her head
haughtily. She was tall and buxom, and she was dressed entirely in cloth
of gold.

"Lack-a-day," she said, "what a to-do about three strangers! This old
fool may think them finely dressed, but I warrant some of us here are
every whit as fine as they."

But Young Bekie sprang to his feet. He knew who it was, and the thought
of his ingratitude brought the tears to his eyes.

"I'll wager my life 'tis Burd Isbel," he cried, "who has come over the
sea to seek me."

Then he ran downstairs, and sure enough it was Burd Isbel.

He clasped her in his arms, and kissed her, and now that he had her
beside him, it seemed to him as if he had never loved anyone else.

But the wedding guests came trooping out, and when they heard the story
they shook their heads.

"A likely tale," they cried. "Who is to believe it? If she be really the
King of France's daughter, how came she here alone, save for those two
maidens?"

But some of them looked at the jewelled girdles, and held their peace.

Then Burd Isbel spoke out clearly and simply. "I rescued my love out of
prison," she said, "and gave him horse and hounds. And if the hounds
know me not, then am I proved false." So saying she raised her voice.
"Hector, Hector," she cried, and lo! the great black hound came bounding
out of its kennel, followed by its companions, and lay down fawning at
her feet, and licked them.

Then the wedding guests knew that she had told the truth, and they
turned their eyes on Young Bekie, to see what he would do. He, on his
part, was determined that he would marry Burd Isbel, let happen what
might.

"Take home your daughter again," he cried impatiently to the King, "and
my blessing go with her; for she sought me ere I sought her. This is my
own true love; I can wed no other."

"Nay," answered the King, in angry astonishment, "but this thing cannot
be. Whoever heard of a maiden being sent home unwed, when the very
wedding guests were assembled? I tell thee it cannot be."

In despair Young Bekie turned to the lady herself. "Good lack, Madam,"
he cried, "is there no one else whom thou canst marry? There is many a
better and manlier man than I, who goes seeking a wife. There, for
instance, stands my cousin John. He is taller and stronger than I, a
better fighter, and a right good man. Couldst thou not accept him for a
husband? If thou couldst, I would pay him down five hundred pounds of
good red gold on his wedding day."

A murmur of displeasure ran through the crowd of wedding guests at this
bold proposal, and the King grasped his sword in a rage. But, to
everyone's amazement, the Princess seemed neither displeased nor
daunted. She blushed rosy red, and smiled softly.

"Keep thy money to thyself, Bekie," she answered. "Thy cousin John and I
have no need of it. Neither doth he require a bribe to make him willing
to take me for his wife. To speak truth, we loved each other long ere I
set eyes on thee, and 'twas but the King, my father, who would have none
of him. Perchance by now he hath changed his mind."

So there were two weddings in the Castle of Linnhe instead of one. Young
Bekie married Burd Isbel, and his cousin John married the King's
daughter, and they "lived happy, happy, ever after."





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