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The Scottish Fairy Book
The Well o’ the World’s End


There was once an old widow woman, who lived in a little cottage with her only daughter, who was such a bonnie lassie that everyone liked to look at her.

One day the old woman took a notion into her head to bake a girdleful of cakes. So she took down her bake-board, and went to the girnel and fetched a basinful of meal; but when she went to seek a jug of water to mix the meal with, she found that there was none in the house.

So she called to her daughter, who was in the garden; and when the girl came she held out the empty jug to her, saying, “Run, like a good lassie, to the Well o' the World's End and bring me a jug of water, for I have long found that water from the Well o' the World's End makes the best cakes."

So the lassie took the jug and set out on her errand.

Now, as its name shows, it is a long road to that well, and many a weary mile had the poor maid to go ere she reached it.

But she arrived there at last; and what was her disappointment to find it dry.

She was so tired and so vexed that she sat down beside it and began to cry; for she did not know where to get any more water, and she felt that she could not go back to her mother with an empty jug.

While she was crying, a nice yellow Paddock, with very bright eyes, came jump-jump-jumping over the stones of the well, and squatted down at her feet, looking up into her face.

“And why are ye greeting, my bonnie maid?” he asked. “Is there aught that I can do to help thee?”

“I am greeting because the well is empty,” she answered, “and I cannot get any water to carry home to my mother.”

“Listen,” said the Paddock softly. “I can get thee water in plenty, if so be thou wilt promise to be my wife.”

Now the lassie had but one thought in her head, and that was to get the water for her mother’s oat-cakes, and she never for a moment thought that the Paddock was in earnest, so she promised gladly enough to be his wife, if he would get her a jug of water.

No sooner had the words passed her lips than the beastie jumped down the mouth of the well, and in another moment it was full to the brim with water.

The lassie filled her jug and carried it home, without troubling any more about the matter. But late that night, just as her mother and she were going to bed, something came with a faint “thud, thud,” against the cottage door, and then they heard a tiny little wee voice singing?

“Oh open the door, my hinnie, my heart,
Oh, open the door, my ain true love;
Remember the promise that you and I made
Down i’ the meadow, where we two met.”

“Wheesht,” said the old woman, raising her head. “What noise is that at the door?”

“Oh,” said her daughter, who was feeling rather frightened, “it’s only a yellow Paddock.”

“Poor bit beastie,” said the kind-hearted old mother. “Open the door and let him in. It’s cold work sitting on the doorstep.”

So the lassie, very unwillingly opened the door, and the Paddock came jump-jump-jumping across the kitchen, and sat down at the fireside. ,

And while he sat there he began to sing this song:

“Oh, gie me my supper, my hinnie, my heart,
Oh, gie me my supper, my ain true love;
Remember the promise that you and I made
Down i’ the meadow, where we two met.”

“Gie the poor beast his supper,” said the old woman. “He’s an uncommon Paddock that can sing like that.”

“Tut,” replied her daughter crossly, for she was growing more and more frightened as she saw the creature’s bright black eyes fixed on her face. “I’m not going to be so silly as to feed a wet, sticky Paddock.”

“Don’t be ill-natured and cruel,” said her mother. “Who knows how far the little beastie has travelled? And I warrant that it would like a saucerful of milk.”

Now, the lassie could have told her that the Paddock had travelled from the Well o’ the World’s End; but she held her tongue, and went ben to the milk-house, and brought back a saucerful of milk, which she set down before the strange little visitor.

"Now chap off my head, my hinnie, my heart,
Now chap off my head, my ain true love,
Remember the promise that you and I made
Down i’ the meadow, where we two met.”

“Hout, havers, pay no heed, the creature’s daft,” exclaimed the old woman, running forward to stop her daughter, who was raising the axe to chop off the Paddock’s head. But she was too late; down came the axe, off went the head; and lo, and behold! on the spot where the little creature had sat, stood the handsomest young Prince that had ever been seen.

He wore such a noble air, and was so richly dressed, that the astonished girl and her mother would have fallen on their knees before him had he not prevented them by a movement of his hand.

“’Tis I that should kneel to thee, Sweetheart,” he said, turning to the blushing girl, “for thou hast delivered me from a fearful spell, which was cast over me in my infancy by a wicked Fairy, who at the same time slew my father.

For long years I have lived in that well, the Well o’ the World’s End, waiting for a maiden to appear, who should take pity on me, even in my loathsome disguise, and promise to be my wife, and who would also have the kindness to let me into her house, and the courage, at my bidding, to cut off my head.

“Now I can return and claim my father’s Kingdom, and thou, most gracious maiden, will go with me, and be my bride, for thou well deserv’st the honour.”

And this was how the lassie who went to fetch water from the Well o’ the World’s End became a Princess.


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