The Squire’s Bride

“The Squire’s Bride,” Friend, Aug.–Sept. 1979, 13

The Squire’s Bride

(A retold Norwegian folktale)

There was once a very rich squire who owned a large farm, had plenty of silver in a carved 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, and the squire took a fancy to her. As she was a poor man’s daughter, he thought that he had only to mention marriage and she would be more than glad to have him at once. So he said to her, “I’ve been thinking that I want to marry.”

“Well, one may think of many things,” said the lassie, as she stood there smiling innocently. She really thought the old fellow should be interested in something that suited him better than thinking about getting married at his time of life.

“Now, you see,” he pursued, “I was thinking that you should be my wife!”

“No, thank you,” said she, “but I’m much obliged for the offer.”

The squire was not used to being opposed—the more she refused him the more he wanted her. So the old man sent for her father and told him that if he could persuade the girl to become the squire’s wife, he would cancel a debt the father owed him. And into the bargain he would give him a piece of land that lay close to the father’s meadow.

“Yes, yes!” agreed the father. “Be assured that I’ll bring the lass to her senses. 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. The daughter declared she would not have the old miser, even if he sat buried in gold up to his ears.

The squire waited and waited until at last he became so angry and impatient that he told the father the matter must be settled at once if he expected him to stand by their bargain.

The father could think of nothing else to do but let the squire get everything ready for the wedding; then when the parson and the wedding guests arrived, the squire would send for the lassie as if she were needed for some simple task on the farm. When she arrived he could marry the girl right away and in such a hurry that she would have no time to refuse.

On the appointed day the guests arrived, and the impatient squire called to one of his farm lads and ordered the boy to run down to the lassie’s father and ask him to immediately send up what had been promised.

The lad ran off like a shot. “My master has sent me to ask for that which you promised him,” said the puffing lad when he arrived at the father’s home. “But, pray, lose no time, for master is terribly busy today.”

“Yes, yes!” answered the man. “Run down to the meadow and take her back with you.”

The lad ran off, and when he came to the meadow he found the daughter there raking hay. “I am to fetch what your father has promised my master,” he told her.

Ah, ha! thought she, so that’s what they’re up to! And with a twinkle in her eye, she said, “Oh, yes, it’s that little bay mare of ours he wants. She stands tethered on the other side of the pea field.”

When the boy found the mare he jumped on her back 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,” ordered the squire.

“But, master, how can I?” asked the lad.

“Do as I tell you!” demanded 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 got all the farmhands 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, descending the stairs and wiping his wet brow. “But it was the worst job I have ever had to do 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 tossed it to the lad. “Now send the women up to dress her.”

“But, I say—master!”

“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 reported to his master that 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. And when the door was opened and the squire’s “bride” entered the room, you can be sure there was laughing and tittering and grinning enough.

And as for the squire, they say he never went courting again.

Illustrated by Shauna Mooney