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of the three brothers, were all that could be desired. If the young man from Glasgow thought the house a hovel and the guests somewhat barbarous, he did not say anything to that effect. Mary Ann was elegantly dressed, and looked a bride for a prince, and for the rest there was nothing to be done now but make the best of it. If he was conscious that the girl had given him a very different impression of her home on the island of Saasa from what he saw it to be, he doubtless consoled himself by thinking that to her it might appear a palace, such would be her love for it.

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The ceremony began. Every one of the invited guests was present. All were dressed in their best. The three brothers sat squeezed together by the door, and only the old woman did not come in. "Some one," she said, "must look to the pots on the fire," and she would prefer to stay out. Since she was very queer, and growing, as has been said, somewhat dottled," people thought this just as well.

Things were going beautifully, and the minister was in the middle of his address, and was exhorting the young couple to "bear and forbear with one another," when suddenly strange sounds began to be heard in the kitchen. It seemed as though the old woman were running about the room. Thud! went something heavy. Then came scramble, and thud thud went something heavy again.

Mary Ann grew pale, and though she did not move а hair's-breadth, her eyes began to sparkle ominously behind her fashionable white veil. The three brothers looked at one another in consternation. They thought the old woman had forgotten what had been said to her, and had started upon the whisky.

The sounds continued-thud, thud. Then a rush and a scramble, and the whole kitchen seemed to be turning topsy-turvy. Sandy, Rory, and Neil were scarlet with apprehension. Surely the old

woman was not doing mischief to the feast or mishandling the cold hens.

What really was going on was this. One of the wicked boys was leaning through the window and abstracting delicacies from off the table. When the old woman made a rush to guard them, a peat from off the peat-stack outside was hastily flung at her. Presently it became a war of peats. They did damage all over the room. Thud, thud, they went. Rush went the crone, and all without а word, because of the ceremony going on behind the door.

By-and-by there came a flop right on the other side of the door where the brothers were sitting. It was the poor old body at her wits' end trying to open a creak of the door so as to warn her sons of what was going on. Sandy, Rory, and Neil did not know where to look. They were now sure she must have begun

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"Bring him a jug of milk," said another kindly.

upon the whisky, and the "Every one to his taste," perspiration was upon their said some one after a little. faces. "Keep her out," they "It's a poor thing to be wishwhispered among themselves. ing any one good luck in "She must be awful! Keep water." her out for your lives." And as the crone pressed at the door from the outside they set their shoulders to it from the inside. "Keep her out, for any favour,' the one whispered to the other, and they stared at the minister as if nothing unusual were going on.

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At last the ceremony was over, the minister went away, and the dinner came on. The ravages of the boys were repaired, and things looked more cheerful again. The soup was served up steaming hot from the pots on the fire. There were stewed meats and boiled meats; there were potatoes and turnips; there were "puddings of the gentry," and whisky that flowed like water. The three brothers forgot their promises and partook freely. Tongues were unloosed, and the guests no longer remembered to speak English: people began to enjoy themselves. Healths were drunk, and the young stranger was pressed to fill his glass.

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Thank you," he said, blushing, "I don't taste whisky. I think water is better for every one-healthier too," he added after a pause.

There was a blank silence. Every one looked at Mary Ann's young man with a

kind of concern. But the people of Saasa were polite though they might be rough.

The milk was brought, and the bridegroom filled his glass with it. Every one was so interested in seeing him drink it, that they paused with their glasses half way to their lips to look at him.

"Are you for milk too?" said one of the brothers to Mary Ann. He spoke doubtfully, for after the warnings she had given he did not know what mood she might be in.

Mary Ann laughed scornfully. "Indeed, no," she said, and tossed her head. She drank off a glass of the fiery spirit as if it had been water, and as she did so the bridegroom turned as white as a sheet.

When dinner was over dancing began. The fun went very well; but Mary Ann was angry because she thought her newlymade husband had made a poor appearance. The whisky-jar grew empty. Sandy, Rory, and Neil helped greatly in that. Once, when a late-comer offered the bridegroom a glass, Mary Ann laughed and drank it instead of him.

There was an old man there who had very little tact. He began to talk cheerily to the bridegroom.

"You are the fortunate man," said he, and he began to tell him about the other

poor fellows who had wished to marry Mary Ann. "It seems they had to go," he said, when he had finished, "since it was to be you all the time." The bridegroom did not speak. "Eh?" said the old


"I suppose so,” assented the other.

There was another oldish man there, and he went away soon after this, though it was early. He did not altogether approve of dancing, and he thought there was a little too much whisky going. When he stepped outside he thought the night very beautiful. The moon was full, and there was not a cloud in the sky or a breath of wind in the air. Down from the house on each side of the path stooks of corn were gathered, and beyond the sloping harvest-field was the Everything was white and shining and solemn. He turned and looked back at the low thatched house. There


W&S noise and commotion enough there, with the fiddling and dancing and laughing that was going on. The light of paraffin-lamps at the windows seemed dark and yellow beside the moonlight. He heard distinctly the laugh of Mary Ann.

"She is a queer character that," he said to himself, "but very handsome."

He went on down the path, and all in a heap among the fallen sheaves of a corn-stack he saw a man. He knew at once from the fine checked clothes that it was the bridegroom. He was crying and sobbing with his face among the straw.

The oldish man stopped. Then he went on his way, shaking his head compassionately. He thought of the other men who had wished to marry Mary Ann. "Well, well," he said to himself, "it is hard to say, after all, who are the fortunate ones."

L. M. M.





IN my April article I propounded the seemingly heartless thesis that people who suffer from crimes against property are very commonly the victims of their own folly or greed. Of course there are exceptions, but speaking generally the statement is absolutely true. It does not apply to the work of men who are in the front rank as criminals; but fortunately front-rank men are as rare in this, as in other professions. My friend the late Major Arthur Griffiths used to tell how, when he was in charge of one of our great convict-prisons, he mislaid the key of the office safe one day, when the visiting Director was hourly expected; so he told the Chief Warder to get one of the convicts to open it. But only one man could be found in the prison who was competent to undertake the job, and he had been trained in the factory of one of our well-known manufacturers of safes. Of course a couple of navvies with pickaxes could break up any safe that ever was made; but if criminals went to work in that way they would arouse the whole neighbourhood. A good safe provides full security against ordinary thieves. If, therefore, a lady

keeps £1000 worth of jewels in a trinket-box in her wardrobe, or on the dressing-table, is it cynical to say that she has herself to blame if she loses them? To spend £10 on a safe is not a very heavy insurance to pay in such a case.

But the best safe ever made will not give security if common care be lacking. I could tell of a certain lady who profited by a police warning, and used to boast of her Chubb. But one evening she left her keys lying on the table; and when she returned, her safe was empty! Is there ever a jewel larceny perpetrated during a railway journey that is not due to carelessness of this kind? And women seem to be sillier even than men. Certain it is that they delight in flaunting their silliness. oynic, whom I could name, raises the question whether the sort of women who wear French heels heels have immortal souls. And he explains the hideous monstrosities of the illustrated advertisements of milliners and corset makers by the theory that the trade is run by Jews, whose law forbids their making the likeness of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath! But if men be less silly, they have less excuse for


their silliness. For example, a man who passes through a crowd with a gold watch-chain exposed has himself to blame if he loses both chain and watch. I have seen more pickpockets than most people; but I state a plain fact when I say that I never saw one except in custody. Yes, once I did. On the night of Queen Victoria's Jubilee I paraded the streets wearing a gorgeous chain that I had bought for sixpence in Fleet Street-there was a door key at the pocket end of it, and twice that night a thief had a try for it.

A cynical classification of the population of the country as knaves or fools, sharps or flats, might seem smart and clever, but it would be quite unintelligent and false. For the Britisher is a peace-loving biped, and honest withal; and if we eliminate the element of the alien leaven in our midst, the volume of crime is marvellously small. Indeed the twin ourses of drink and gambling account for the great majority of the offences recorded in the criminal statistics.

During one of my first visits to a friend's summer residence in Ross-shire, I was startled one day at the luncheon-table by the the exclamation, "Oh, there's the thief!" and I saw a fellow who might aptly be described as a human "lurcher," shuffling along the avenue which ran between the house and the sea-shore. My curiosity was excited by hearing a thief thus designated by the definite article, and my in

quiries elicited that he was the only dishonest person in the district, and that, but for him, locks and bolts might be ignored. In the course of a country walk the next day I was asked to speak to the policeman, whose office, I was told, would be a sinecure but for the presence of the thief.

Here is one phase of the crime problem in miniature. I have already spoken of the expert professional criminals whose exploits tax the resources of a highly trained Police. They are few in number and well known to the Police. Indeed there would be no difficulty in including their names in the Trades Section of the 'Post Office London Directory'; and if commonsense and genuine philanthropy were allowed a hearing, a few years would suffice to suppress the whole fraternity.

Happily, however, humble folk like myself and the great majority of my readers have nothing to fear from these high-class professionals. They go for higher game; they play for higher stakes. But we have in our midst a number of people of criminal propensities and weak moral fibre, who will prey upon us if we give them a chance. Not a few of them are objects of pity, but our punishment-oforime system is blindly pitiless. To revert to my Ross-shire story, one might suppose that a sane community would pension the policeman and relegate the thief to a detention in which he might lead a useful life. But, to quote an

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