Every year divisible by four. Such years occur every fourth year.
In ordinary years the day of the month which falls on Monday this year,
will fall on Tuesday next year, and Wednesday the year after; but the
fourth year will leap over Thursday to Friday. This is because a day is
added to February, which, of course, affects every subsequent day of
the year. (See Bissextile.)
The ladies propose, and, if not accepted, claim a silk gown.
St. Patrick, having “driven the frogs out of the bogs,” was walking
along the shores of Lough Neagh, when he was accosted by St. Bridget in
tears, and was told that a mutiny had broken out in the nunnery over
which she presided, the ladies claiming the right of
“popping the question.” St. Patrick said he would concede them the
right every seventh year, when St. Bridget threw her arms round his
neck, and exclaimed, “Arrah, Pathrick, jewel, I daurn't go back to the
girls wid such a proposal. Make it one year in four.” St. Patrick
replied, “Bridget, acushla, squeeze me that way again, an' I'll give ye
leap-year, the longest of the lot.” St. Bridget, upon this, popped the
question to St. Patrick himself, who, of course, could not marry: so he
patched up the difficulty as best he could with a kiss and a silk gown.
The story told above is of no historic value, for an Act of the
Scottish Parliament, passed in the year 1228, has been unearthed which
“Ordonit that during ye reign of her maist blessed maiestie,
Margaret, ilka maiden, ladee of baith high and lowe estait, shall hae
libertie to speak ye man she likes. Gif he refuses to tak hir to bee
his wyf, he shale be mulct in the sum of ane hundridty pundes, or less,
as his estait may bee, except and alwais gif he can make it appeare
that he is betrothit to anither woman, then he: schal be free.”
N.B. The year 1228 was, of course, a leap-year.
Source: Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, E. Cobham Brewer, 1894
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