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The Laidly Worm

In Bamborough Castle there once lived a King who had two children, a son named Childe Wynde, and a daughter who was called May Margret. Their mother, a fair woman, was dead, and the King mourned her long and faithfully. But, after his son Childe Wynde went to seek his fortune, the King, hunting in the forest, came across a lady of such great beauty that he fell in love with her at once and determined to marry her.

Now Princess May Margret was not over-pleased to think that her mother's place should be taken by a strange woman, nor was she pleased to think that she would have to give up keeping house for her father the King. For she had always taken a pride in her work. But she said nothing, though she stood long on the castle walls looking out across the sea wishing for her dear brother's return; for, see you, they had mothered each other.

Still no news came of Childe Wynde; so on the day when the old King was to bring the new Queen home, May Margret counted over the keys of the castle chambers, knotted them on a string, and after casting them over her left shoulder for luck—more for her father's sake than for the new Queen's regard—she stood at the castle gate ready to hand over the keys to her stepmother.

Now as the bridal procession approached with all the lords of the north countrie, and some of the Scots lords in attendance, she looked so fair and so sweet, that the lords whispered to one another of her beauty. And when, after saying in a voice like a mavis—

"Oh welcome, welcome, father,

Unto your halls and towers!

And welcome too, my stepmother,

For all that's here is yours!"

she turned upon the step and tripped into the yard, the Scots lords said aloud:

"Forsooth! May Margret's grace

Surpasses all that we have met, she has so fair a face!"

Now the new Queen overheard this, and she stamped her foot and her face flushed with anger as she turned her about and called:

"You might have excepted me,

But I will bring May Margret to a Laidly Worm's degree;

I'll bring her low as a Laidly Worm

That warps about a stone,

And not till the Childe of Wynde come back

Will the witching be undone.

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