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Main > English folktales > Fairy tale "Habetrot and Scantlie Mab"

Habetrot and Scantlie Mab

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A laird who chanced to be riding by, heard the exclamation, but could not understand it; so he rode up and asked the gudewife what was the matter, on which she broke out again—

"My daughter's spun seven, seven, seven,

My daughter's eaten seven, seven, seven

before daylight; and if ye dinna believe me, why come in and see it." The laird, he alighted and went into the cottage, where he saw the yarn, and admired it so much he begged to see the spinner.

The mother dragged in her girl. He vowed he was lonely without a wife, and had long been in search of one who was a good spinner. So their troth was plighted, and the wedding took place soon afterwards, though the bride was in great fear that she should not prove so clever at her spinning-wheel as he expected. But old Dame Habetrot came to her aid. "Bring your bonny bridegroom to my cell," said she to the young bride soon after her marriage; "he shall see what comes o' spinning, and never will he tie you to the spinning-wheel."

Accordingly the bride led her husband the next day to the flowery knoll, and bade him look through the self-bored stone. Great was his surprise to behold Habetrot dancing and jumping over her rock, singing all the time this ditty to her sisterhood, while they kept time with their spindles:—

"We who live in dreary den,

Are both rank and foul to see?

Hidden from the glorious sun,

That teems the fair earth's canopie:

Ever must our evenings lone

Be spent on the colludie stone.

"Cheerless is the evening grey

When Causleen hath died away,

But ever bright and ever fair

Are they who breathe this evening air,

And lean upon the self-bored stone

Unseen by all but me alone."

The song ended, Scantlie Mab asked Habetrot what she meant by the last line, "Unseen by all but we alone."

"There is one," replied Habetrot, "whom I bid to come here at this hour, and he has heard my song through the self-bored stone." So saying she rose, opened another door, which was concealed by the roots of an old tree, and invited the pair to come in and see her family.

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