From Donald Macintyre, Benbecula.
THERE was once a farmer, and he was well off. He had three sons. When he was on the bed of death he called them to him, and he said, "My sons, I am going to leave you: let there be no disputing when I am gone. In a certain drawer, in a dresser in the inner chamber, you will find a sum of gold; divide it fairly and honestly amongst you, work the farm, and live together as you have done with me;" and shortly after the old man went away. The sons buried him; and when all was over, they went to the drawer, and when they drew it out there was nothing in it.
They stood for a while without speaking a word. Then the youngest spoke, and he said--"There is no knowing if there ever was any money at all;" the second said--"There was money surely, wherever it is now;" and the eldest said--"Our father never told a lie, There was money certainly, though I cannot understand the matter." "Come," said the eldest, "let us go to such an old man; he was our father's friend; he knew him well; he was at school with him; and no man knew so much of his affairs. Let us go to consult him."
So the brothers went to the house of the old man, and they told him all that had happened. "Stay with
me," said the old man, "and I will think over this matter. I cannot understand it; but, as you know, your father and I were very great with each other. When he had children I had sponsorship, and when I had children he had gostji. I know that your father never told a lie." And he kept them there, and he gave them meat and drink for ten days.
Then he sent for the three young lads, and he made them sit down beside him, and he said--
"There was once a young lad, and he was poor; and he took love for the daughter of a rich neighbour, and she took love for him; but because he was so poor there could be no wedding. So at last they pledged themselves to each other, and the young man went away, and stayed in his own house. After a time there came another suitor, and because he was well off, the girl's father made her promise to marry him, and after a time they were married. But when the bridegroom came to her, he found her weeping and bewailing; and he said, 'What ails thee?' The bride would say nothing for a long time; but at last she told him all about it, and how she was pledged to another man. 'Dress thyself,' said the man, 'and follow me.' So she dressed herself in the wedding clothes, and he took the horse, and put her behind him, and rode to the house of the other man, and when he got there, he struck in the door, and he called out, 'Is there man within?' and when the other answered, he left the bride there within the door, and he said nothing, but he returned home. Then the man got up, and got a light, and who was there but the bride in her wedding dress.
"'What brought thee here?" said he. 'Such a man,' said the bride. 'I was married to him to-day,
and when I told him of the promise we had made, he brought me here himself and left me.'
"'Sit thou there,' said the man; 'art thou not married?' So he took the horse, and he rode to the priest, and he brought him to the house, and before the priest he loosed the woman from the pledge she had given, and he gave her a line of writing that she was free, and he set her on the horse, and said, 'Now return to thy husband.'
"So the bride rode away in the darkness in her wedding dress. She had not gone far when she came to a thick wood where three robbers stopped and seized her. 'Aha!' said one, 'we have waited long, and we have got nothing, but now we have got the bride herself.' 'Oh,' said she, 'let me go: let me go to my husband; the man that I was pledged to has let me go. Here are ten pounds in gold--take them, and let me go on my journey.' And so she begged and prayed for a long time, and told what had happened to her. At last one of the robbers, who was of a better nature than the rest, said, 'Come, as the others have done this, I will take you home myself.' 'Take thou the money,' said she. 'I will not take a penny,' said the robber; but the other two said, 'Give us the money,' and they took the ten pounds. The woman rode home, and the robber left her at her husband's door, and she went in, and showed him the line--the writing that the other had given her before the priest, and they were well pleased."
"Now," said the old man, "which of all these do you think did best? So the eldest son said, "I think the man that sent the woman to him to whom she was pledged, was the honest, generous man: he did well." The second said, "Yes, but the man to whom she was
pledged did still better, when he sent her to her husband." "Then," said the youngest, "I don't know myself; but perhaps the wisest of all were the robbers who got the money." Then the old man rose up, and he said, "Thou hast thy father's gold and silver. I have kept you here for ten days; I have watched you well. I know your father never told a lie, and thou hast stolen the money." And so the youngest son had to confess the fact, and the money was got and divided.
I know nothing like No. 19. No. 20 begins like a German story in Grimm; but the rest is unlike anything I have read or heard. The first part has come to me in another shape, from Ross-shire; and some men whom I met in South Uist seemed to know these incidents.
The two belong to the class referred to in the Introduction, page xxxv. as fourth. Many of the novels in Boccaccio might be ranked with the same class; they are embryo three-volume novels, which only require nursing by a good writer to become full-grown books. There are plenty of the kind throughout the Highlands, and, as it seems to me, they are genuine popular traditions, human stories, whose incidents would suit a king or a peasant equally well. Without a wide knowledge of books, it is impossible to say whence these stories came; or whether they are invented by the people. MacIntyre said he had learned those which he told me from old men like himself, in his native island; and all others whom I have questioned say the same of their stories.