Hero-Myths and Legends of the British Race

Page: 147

The Beggar at the Wedding

Early next day Colin arose, clad himself in the disguise of a sturdy beggar, took a kindly farewell of his foster-mother, and made his way to the castle. Early as it was, all the servants were astir, and the whole place was in a bustle of preparation, while vagabonds of every description hung round the doors, begging for food and money in honour of the day. The new-comer acted much more boldly: he planted himself right in the open [Pg 261] doorway and begged for food and drink in such a lordly tone that the servants were impressed by it, and one of them brought him what he asked—oatcake and buttermilk—and gave it to him, saying, “Take this and begone.” Colin took the alms and drank the buttermilk, but put the cake into his wallet, and stood sturdily right in the doorway, so that the servants found it difficult to enter. Another servant came to him with more food and a horn of ale, saying, “Now take this second gift of food and begone, for you are in our way here, and hinder us in our work.”

The Beggar’s Demand

But he stood more firmly still, with his stout travelling-staff planted on the threshold, and said: “I will not go.” Then a third servant approached, who said: “Go at once, or it will be the worse for you. We have given you quite enough for one beggar. Leave quickly now, or you will get us and yourself into trouble.” The disguised Knight only replied: “I will not go until the bride herself comes out to give me a drink of wine,” and he would not move, for all they could say. The servants at last grew so perplexed that they went to tell their mistress about this importunate beggar. She laughed as she said: “It is not much for me to do on my last day in the old house,” and she bade a servant attend her to the door, bringing a large jug full of wine.

The Token

As the unhappy bride came out to the beggar-man he bent his head in greeting, and she noticed his travel-stained dress and said: “You have come from far, good man”; and he replied: “Yes, lady, I have seen many distant lands.” “Alas! others have gone to see distant lands and have not returned,” said she. [Pg 262] “If you would have a drink from the hands of the bride herself, I am she, and you may take your wine now”; and, holding a bowl in her hands, she bade the servant fill it with wine, and then gave it to Colin. “I drink to your happiness,” said he, and drained the bowl. As he gave it back to the lady he placed within it the token, the half of the engraved ring. “I return it richer than I took it, lady,” said he, and his wife looked within and saw the token.

The Recognition

Trembling violently, she snatched the tiny bit of gold from the bottom of the bowl, which fell to the ground and broke at her feet, and then she saw her own name engraved upon it. She looked long and long at the token, and then, pulling a chain at her neck, drew out her half of the ring with Colin’s name engraved on it. “O stranger, tell me, is my husband dead?” she asked, grasping the beggar’s arm. “Dead?” he questioned, gazing tenderly at her; and at his tone she looked straight into his eyes and knew him. “My husband!” was all that she could say, but she flung her arms around his neck and was clasped close to his heart. The servants stood bewildered, but in a moment their mistress had turned to them, saying, “Run, summon all the household, bring them all, for this is my husband, Black Colin of Loch Awe, come home to me again.” When all in the castle knew it there was great excitement and rejoicing, and they feasted bountifully, for the wedding banquet had been prepared.