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Elphinstone Kist   Stories for Bairns

The Well o Sweetness     by: Wheeler, Les

An owersettin wi liberties o an Arabian story

Fraser wis a young chiel fa aint a gweed, if nae affa big, fairm far he kept a fine stock o black kye. Besides that he hid a puckle horse an he rade them roon his parks fan he wis inspectin his herds. He wis weel thocht o among his neebors as a strappin, hard graftin loon fa wid mak ony lassie a fine husband. But Fraser winted only ae lassie tae be his wife an she wis Fion the dother o his neebor, Aul Simon Macquhele, fa wis the biggest laird in the parish an bade in a fine, if affa draughty, castle. Fraser, himself, hid a fine sonsy hoose but nithin as grand as Aul Simon’s.

Fraser hid nivver actually spoken tae Fion because fanivver she left the castle, she wid only gyang fan she wis wi her mither or faither. Fraser hid gaen a sma boo tae her in passin and wis fair delightit by the sweet smile she gaed him. But foo could he persuade her faither to let the lassie mairry him?

His grieve, Duncan, thocht he kent the answer, “ Foo dinna ye jist gyang up tae the castle an spier at Auld Simon if he’ll let ye mairry his dother. That’s fit folk usually dae.”
“Weel, that’s as may be,” said Fraser, “but ye ken fit Aul Simon’s like an if I get on the wrang side o him that’ll be the feenish o the matter.”
“Och, I see. Ye’re jist gyang tae sit aboot here glumshin are ye?” countered Duncan.
“Weel, I suppose I could gyang up tae the big hoose the morn. Simon did eence say he widna mind buyin a twa-three o my kye.”

The following day Fraser rappit on the castle door an wis let in tae see Aul Simon. “Man, it’s gweed tae see ye. Come awa ben. Ye’ll hae come aboot the kye I wint tae buy aff ye. Is that it?”
“Weel, aye, but there’s anither matter I’d like tae raise wi ye. If ye’re agreeable I’d like tae mairry yer bonnie dother, Fion.”
Aul Simon lookit Fraser up an doon, gaed his heid a sad shak, gaed a wee sough an said, “Ye’d mak a fine match for her but there are affa strict conditions tae he laid doon first. My dother is a fine, bonnie lassie, but that’s far the problem lies ye see. Dinna let that mak a feel o ye. She his the maist terrible, orra temper! Och, jist terrible. I couldna let ony chiel mairry her forbye wi could dae something aboot it.”

Fraser wis fair bumbazed. Fion hid aye lookit sic a sweet, sonsie cratur. Her faither’s news near caad him ower. “Fit can we dae aboot it?” he spiered.
“I micht hae an answer tae the problem,” said Aul Simon, “but it wid require a chiel o bravery, skeel an brains tae cairry oot the job.”
“I’d dae onything at aa if it cures Fion’s temper an gets me the wife I wint,” promised Fraser.
“Aa richt,” says Aul Simon, “I’ll tell ye fu tae gyan aboot it an get the job deen. Piye heed tae me. Ye hiv tae gyang tae the mairket at Drumhill on Widinsday an look oot for an aul beggarman caad Stravaig. He can tell ye fu tae get tae the Well o Sweetness.”
“Fit’s the Well o Sweetness got tae dae wi it?” spiered Fraser
“That’s far ye’ll find the Wifie o the Well. She’ll gie ye three draps o waater fae the well an if Fion drinks them she’ll be sweetness an licht for ivver mair.”
“It canna be as easy as that,” said Fraser
“No, it’s nae,” said Aul Simon, “ there’s a puckle gey orra things ye’ll hae tae dae afore ye get tae the Well o Sweetness. Stravaig the beggarman will gie ye some help on fu tae succeed but it’ll nae be easy an ye micht nivver see yer hame again!”
“I dinna care,” said Fraser, “I hiv tae hae Fion tae be my wife.”

And, sae, on the Widinsday, Fraser wint tae the mairket an lookit for the beggarman, Stravaig. He foun him easily eneuch in a tent that wis sellin strang, heather ale. Fraser introduced himself an efter buyin Stravaig twa three glesses o heather ale got him tae listen to fit he wis sayin.
“Ye wint tae reach the Well o Sweetness dae ye? Ye maun be aff yer heid!” said Stravaig. “Afore ye get near the Wifie o the Well ye’ll hae tae find the cave o the Well. Then ye’ll hae tae get past the Giant fa guards the entrance. Noo, ye’ll hae tae flatter an flannel him at aa costs. He his a horrible temper but if ye butter him up eneuch he micht lippen tae ye athoot killin ye. I’ve heard tale that he’s affa fond o honey sae it micht be an idea tae tak some wi ye fan te gyang. If ye div get past the Giant, ye then hiv tae get past Tusker, a muckle great lump o a wild boar. He’s as bad as he soonds an I’ve nae idea fu ye deal wi him. Nae easy maitter. I’ve nivver tried it masel but I’ve nivver kent o onybody that’s been there an managed tae get back!”
“I dinna care. I hiv tae get some water fae the Well. My hale future depends on it sae I hiv tae hae a go.”
“Ye’ll be lucky tae hae ony future at aa if ye gyang through wi this ploy,” said Stravaig.
“Fu div I get there?” spiered Fraser.
“Weel, if ye must! Gang north fae here. Cross sivven rivers, sivven straths an sivven bens till ye come tae a muckle pynted rock that sticks up intae the lift. A massive pillar o rock it is an ahin this pillar is a sma entrance tae a cave. Eence ye get intae the cave ye’ll see it opens oot intae a vast holla an ye canna even see the roof o this cave it’s sae big. That’s aboot aathing that I ken. I think that deserves anither gless o heather ale. Fit aboot it?”

Fraser bocht Stravaig the heather ale an set aff hame tae prepare for his traivels intae the wierd. He taen his best horse, plenty o maet an waater, a sma bottle tae cairry the waater fae the well an three combs o the best heather honey in the parish.

He traivellt north, crossin sivven rivers, sivven straths an sivven bens an afore himself he saa the muckle pillar o rock. Michty it wis a muckle steen! He tied up his horse on a lang eneuch line tae let it graze an made his wye intae the cavern. It wis massive an, oddly, verra licht. He couldna see far the licht wis comin fae but licht it wis. Forbye that he saa a fair sized flock o yowes penned in on ae side o the cave an in front o him a giant like nithin he’d seen afore.

“Fa’s this trespassin in my hame?” roared a vice hine abin his heid.
“Occh, hello,” said Fraser, a bittie nervous like, “My name’s Fraser, O michty, grand maister an I’ve come tae get yer permission tae traivel tae the Well o Sweetness.”
“Fu should I let ye gang there? Fit’s in it for me?” spiered the Giant.
“Weel, o great yin, I’ve heard that ye’re a very fair, wise an unnerstannin kind o chiel. I hae tae get some waater fae the Well for the lassie I wint tae mairry is affa bonnie but her faither tells me that she his a terrible, coorse temper. The waater fae the Well wid sort that nae bother at aa. Seein that yer sic a great chiel I thocht it micht please ye tae help a peer fairmer like me. An jist tae show willin I’ve brocht alang some honey that I thocht ye micht like.”

The Giant likit the idea o the honey. “Gie it tae me,” he said. “It’s gey queer ye ken, I canna staun bees but I fair enjoy thir honey. Mind ye, if I wis tae let ye gang on ye’d need tae dae mair nor jist gie me some honey combs.”

“I seen yer sheep fan I came in,” said Fraser, “ thir looking gey big. I could shear them for ye. They could fair dae wi it.”
“Aa richt,” said the Giant, “Ye’ve got yersel a deal, but on my conditions. I’ll let ye ben tae the Well but fan ye get back here ye maun work for me for as lang as it taks tae shear the sheep! An I hope ye realise that even if I div let ye through ye’ve still tae get past aul Tusker an ye’ll need a bittie o help there!”
“Wid ye help me?” spiered Fraser.
“I suppose I could gie ye a haun but I’m nae gaun wi ye. the passage is ower narra for me ony wye. But ower there in the neuk ye’ll see my targe made o the finest steel. Ye maun gie it a really gweed polish an syne ye micht get past Tusker.”
“Fu will a polished targe help me?” queried Fraser.
The Giant gaed his heid a shak. “Fra’s nyer brains, min? Fan ye meet up wi Tusker leuk him stracht in the een haudin the targe in front o yersel. Tusker’ll see his ain reflection in the targe an think tae himsel that it’s anither boar challenging his pooer. Jist afore he charges lay the targe agin the rock waa. Fan Tusker dunts the targe he’ll be duntin the solid rock as weel. That’ll keep him quaet for a whilie!”

Fraser got the targe, sae big he could hairdly cairry it, polished it an set aff for the Well o Sweetness. He seen got tae Tusker’s lair for he could hear him chairgin aboot an snortin awa tae himself as though he wir fair demintit. “If he’s like that ivnoo fit’s he gaun tae be like fan he sees me,” thocht Fraser.

Fraser snuck intae Tusker’s cave an Tusker stertit tae snort an roar mair nor iver. He pit his heid doon, dug up a fyow clods o yird fae the cave fleer, roared looder that ivver faan he saa his ain reflection on the targe an made tae chairge. Fraser pit the targe agin the cave waa an jinked aside, jist in time, as Tusker rocketed intae the targe. Tusker steppit back, shook his heid an sunk doon tae his knees an fell ower. He wis aye breathin but he wis oot like a licht.

Fraser didna wait tae see fu he wis. He grabbit the targe an set aff as fest as he could for the Well. Fan he got there he was greeted by the Wifie o the Well fa lippened tae his story an fan he tellt her aboot Fion’s problem she agreed at eence tae gie him three draps o sweet waater fae the Well.

He rushed back tae Tusker’s cave tae find Tusker back on his trotters, but he wis affa wobbly an fan Fraser held the targe in front o him Tusker gaed a quaetr snort an staggert awa. Fraser wis seen back wi the Giant an set aboot cairryin oot his darg. It wid be a tchaav but he’d promised tae shear aa the sheep an shearin aa the sheep wis fit he wid dae. There’s nae eese makkin promises if ye’ve nae intention o keeping them. There wis an affa lot o yowes an Frases seen saa that it could tak him months tae dae them aa but a promise wis a promise an he set tae work richt awa. Things werena aa that bad for the Giant, at hert, wis a gweed Giant an let Fraser get on wi his darg. He fed him weel an Fraser hid a fine saft bed o lamb’s oo tae sleep on.

Efetr a fyow wikks Fraser got up early ae morning fan the Giant wis aye snoring an got himself oot o the cave. He saa that his horse wis aa richt an then hunted aroon till he found fit he wis looking for – a beehive! He taen some o the honey an brocht it back tae the cave. Fan the Giant woke up Fraser gaed him the honey. The Giant wis fair bumbazed. “Ye’ve been oot o the cave,” he said, “an yet yiv come back tae caiiry on wi yer darg? That wis affa honest o ye.”
“I made ye a promise,” said Fraser, “an I’m gyan tae cairry oot the work tae yer satisfaction. That wis oor agreement.”
“Weel, ye hae me fair dumfoonert!” said the Giant. “Feenish yer darg the day an syne ye can set aff hame. Ye nae only cam back fan ye could hae got awaw but ye brocht me some honey as weel. Gae hame tae yer bride tae be, use yer sweet waater an live happily thegither forivver mair.”

Fraser thankit the Giant an early neist morning, got his horse seddled an set aff hame crossin sivven bens, sivven straths an sivven rivers till he got tae his fairm. He made himself a promise that ivvery year he wid gyang back tae the cave wi a present o honey for his freen the Giant. Fan he got hame he taen the precious sweet waater tae Aul Simon fa wis fair astonished an affa pleased tae see him hame safe.

The waddin wis seen arranged an fraser mairriet his Fion. They wir affa happy an ae day seen efter they wir mairriet Fraserr said tae Fion, “Ye ken I find it hard tae beleev that ye hid eence a horrible, coorse, an violent temper, ye wir ayewis that sweet an kind.” Fion gaed him a funny look an spiered, “Fit div ye mean, coorse temper?”
Sae Fraser explained fu Aul Simon hid tellt him aboot Fion’s temper an fu, afore he could mairry her, he hid tae gang tae the Well o Sweetness tae get the waater tae cure her o this affliction.

Fion gaed him a queer kind o look for a mintee or twa syne burst oot lauchin an she lauched ase muckle that Fraser could hairdly get her tae stop.
Wi a smile on her face an a lauch in her vyce Fion explained.
“It wisna me fa hid the coorse temper, it wis ma mithert! My faither, the crafty aul deil, used yer langin tae mairry me tae mak his ain life a lot easier. I some thocht ma mither wis a bittie mair contentit wi hersel these days.”
An Fraser wis seen lauchin as weel at fu his faither-in-laa hid tricket him intae getting waater fae the Well o Sweetness, but he dinna care a docken for that for he’d gotten the lassie o his dreams.



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