Part Second--In the Country.
Chapter XXVII. Three magpies and a marriage.
 
  `Sun, gallop down the westlin skies,
     Gang soon to bed, an' quickly rise;
   O lash your steeds, post time away,
     And haste about our bridal day!'

The Gentle Shepherd.

Every noon, during this last week, as we have wended our way up the loaning to the Pettybaw inn for our luncheon, we have passed three magpies sitting together on the topmost rail of the fence. I am not prepared to state that they were always the same magpies; I only know there were always three of them. We have just discovered what they were about, and great is the excitement in our little circle. I am to be married to-morrow, and married in Pettybaw, and Miss Grieve says that in Scotland the number of magpies one sees is of infinite significance: that one means sorrow; two, mirth; three, a marriage; four, a birth, and we now recall as corroborative detail that we saw one magpie, our first, on the afternoon of her arrival.

Mr. Beresford has been cabled for, and must return to America at once on important business. He persuaded me that the Atlantic is an ower large body of water to roll between two lovers, and I agreed with all my heart.

A wedding was arranged, mostly by telegraph, in six hours. The Reverend Ronald and the Friar are to perform the ceremony; a dear old painter friend of mine, a London R.A., will come to give me away; Francesca will be my maid of honour; Elizabeth Ardmore and Jean Dalziel, my bridemaidens; Robin Anstruther, the best man; while Jamie and Ralph will be kilted pages-in-waiting, and Lady Ardmore will give the breakfast at the Castle.

Never was there such generosity, such hospitality, such wealth of friendship! True, I have no wedding finery; but as I am perforce a Scottish bride, I can be married in the white gown with the silver thistles in which I went to Holyrood.

Mr. Anstruther took a night train to and from London to choose the bouquets and bridal souvenirs. Lady Baird has sent the veil, and a wonderful diamond thistle to pin it on,--a jewel fit for a princess! With the dear Dominie's note promising to be an usher came an antique silver casket filled with white heather. And as for the bride-cake, it is one of Salemina's gifts, chosen as much in a spirit of fun as affection. It is surely appropriate for this American wedding transplanted to Scottish soil, and what should it be but a model, in fairy icing, of Sir Walter's beautiful monument in Princes Street! Of course Francesca is full of nonsensical quips about it, and says that the Edinburgh jail would have been just as fine architecturally (it is, in truth, a building beautiful enough to tempt an aesthete to crime), and a much more fitting symbol for a wedding-cake, unless, indeed, she adds, Salemina intends her gift to be a monument to my folly.

Pettybaw kirk is trimmed with yellow broom from these dear Scottish banks and braes; and waving their green fans and plumes up and down the aisle where I shall walk a bride, are tall ferns and bracken from Crummylowe Glen, where we played ballads.

As I look back upon it, the life here has been all a ballad from first to last. Like the elfin Tam Lin,

  `The queen o' fairies she caught me
     In this green hill to dwell,'

and these hasty nuptials are a fittingly romantic ending to the summer's poetry. I am in a mood, were it necessary, to be `ta'en by the milk-white hand,' lifted to a pillion on a coal-black charger, and spirited `o'er the border an' awa'' by my dear Jock o' Hazeldean. Unhappily, all is quite regular and aboveboard; no `lord o' Langley dale' contests the prize with the bridegroom, but the marriage is at least unique and unconventional; no one can rob me of that sweet consolation.

So `gallop down the westlin skies,' dear Sun, but, prythee, gallop back to-morrow! `Gang soon to bed,' an you will, but rise again betimes! Give me Queen's weather, dear Sun, and shine a benison upon my wedding-morn!

[Exit Penelope into the ballad-land of maiden dreams.]