Page:Devonshire Characters and Strange Events.djvu/101

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59
WIFE-SALES

I did know of one such case, " Mais, voilà, mon Dieu," said he, and shrugged his shoulders with a triumphant smile.

Now it must be allowed that such sales have taken place, and that this is so is due to rooted conviction in the rustic mind that such a transaction is legal and morally permissible.

The case I knew was this.

When I was a boy there lived a tall, thin man in the parish who was the village poet. Whenever an event of any consequence took place within the confines of the parish, such as the marriage of the squire's daughter, he came down to the manor-house with a copy of verses he had composed on the occasion, and was then given his dinner and a crown. Now this man had actually bought his wife for half a crown. Her husband had led her into Okehampton and had sold her there in the market. The poet purchased her for half the sum he had received for one of his poems, and led her home with him a distance of twelve miles, by the halter, he holding it in his hand, she placidly, contentedly wearing the loop about her neck.

The report that Henry Frise was leading home his half-crown wife preceded the arrival of the couple, and when they entered the village all the inhabitants turned out to see the spectacle.

Now this arrangement was not very satisfactory to my grandfather, who was squire, or to my uncle, who was rector of the parish, and both intervened. Henry Frise maintained that Anne was his legitimate wife, for "he had not only bought her in the market, but had led her home, with the halter in his hand, and he'd take his Bible oath that he never took the halter off her till she had crossed his doorstep and he had shut the door."

The parson took down the Bible, the squire opened