Search just our sites by using our customised search engine

Unique Cottages | Electric Scotland's Classified Directory

Click here to get a Printer Friendly PageSmiley

Wonder Tales from Scottish Myth and Legend
Chapter XVI. The Land of Green Mountains

Ronald Booe had rebelled against his chief but was defeated in battle. Then all his followers deserted him, and he found that he would have to flee from his native land. It chanced that he had heard tell of the wonderful Land of Green Mountains nigh to the world's end, in which there were great herds of wild animals, while fish could be caught in plenty round its shores and in its rivers. He made up his mind to go there and live happily and at ease. As he had no children, it was not difficult for him and his wife to depart in secret.

One fair morning they launched a boat and set sail. Ronald's heart was made glad when he found himself far out on the wide blue sea. The broad grey sail swallowed the wind, and the creaking of the ropes was like sweet music in his ears. Ronald loved the shrill cry of the breeze that blew so steadily and tossed the sparkling brine-spray through the air in bright sunshine. The whisperings and mutterings of the waves that went past the boat seemed to repeat over and over again the old song of the sea:

Sweet to me, Oh, sweet to me
Is a life at sea, is a life at sea!

When the shore melted from sight Ronald's wife felt very lonely and sad. "I wish," she said, "I could see the high brown hills of my own country."

Said Ronald: "There is no voyage so long that it will not come to an end. Speak not of brown hills, for we are voyaging to the wonderful Land of Green Mountains.

They sailed on and on for six days and six nights, and while the one slept the other sat at the helm. On the morning of the seventh day a storm arose. "Alas," the woman cried, "the boat will be dashed to pieces and we shall perish!"

Said Ronald: "Have no fear, Morag, daughter of Donald; am I not a skilled seaman? In storm and calm I am a king of the sea. My boat bounds over the waves like a spray-bright bird, and there is joy in my heart even in the midst of danger."

The sky darkened, and the wind blew fiercer and louder, while the bounding waves gaped and bellowed liked angry monsters seeking for their prey. Crouching low, the woman moaned and wept with fear, until at length Ronald called to her, saying: "I see land ahead."

His wife rose up and gazed towards the horizon. With glad eyes she saw before her the wonderful Land of Green Mountains. Thereupon she dried her tears and smiled.

It was not until late evening, however, that the boat drew nigh to the shore. Ronald tried to steer towards a safe landing-place, but, while yet some distance from it, the boat struck a hidden rock and began to sink. Ronald grasped an oar with one hand and his wife with the other, and leapt into the raging sea. He was a strong swimmer, and, after a hard struggle, he managed to reach shallow water, and then wade ashore.

There was a cave near where he landed, and he carried his wife to it. Then he gathered dry sticks and withered grass and lit a fire by using flint and steel. Soon the flames were leaping high, and Ronald and his wife were able to dry their clothes. Then they lay down to sleep, and, although the sea roared all night long, they slept soundly.

Next morning Ronald found on the beach a keg of salt herring, a keg of meal, and a pot which had been washed ashore from the boat. His wife cooked the herring, and baked oatmeal cakes, and after the two had eaten of these they felt quite happy.

A day or two went past, and then their store of food ran short. Ronald had no weapons with which to hunt game, and no hooks with which to catch fish, so he said to his wife: "I will go inland and explore this strange Land of Green Mountains. Do not be anxious or afraid."

"You may lose your way," his wife said.

"There is no fear of that," Ronald answered. "I'll put marks on the trees as I go through forests, and set up stones on the plains I cross."

Early next morning Ronald set out on his journey. As he passed through the wood he chipped the bark off trees, and on the plain he set up stones. After leaving the wood, he saw a high green mountain, and walked towards it. "When I reach the top," he said to himself, "I shall get a better view of this strange land."

The sun was beginning to set when he found himself on the crest of the green mountain. He looked round about and could see many other green mountains but there was no sign of human beings, and his heart grew very sad. AIthough he was very tired and very hungry he did not despair however. "I'll go down the other side of this green mountain," he said to himself, "and perhaps I shall have better luck."

He began to descend in the dusk, and before long he saw a light. It came from a little house among trees on the lower slope of the mountain, and he walked towards it. Darkness was coming on when he reached the house, and as the door was open he walked in.

To his surprise he found no one inside. A bright fire was burning, and near it stood a table and two chairs. The table was covered with a green cloth, and on it were two dishes of food.

"I am very hungry," said Ronald, "and must eat. I hope I shall not be found fault with for helping myself."

He sat down and ate all the food that was on one of the plates. Then he felt happy and contented. Suddenly he heard the sound of footsteps, and, looking up, he saw an old grey-bearded man entering the house.

"Well, stranger," this man said "who are you, and where have you come from?"

Ronald said: "My boat was wrecked on the shore. I have been wandering about all day searching for food, and found naught until I came here. I hope you are not angry with me for eating without leave."

Said the old man: "You are welcome to my food. You can stay here to-night. I live all alone, and always keep enough food to give to any visitor who may come hither as you have done."

Ronald thanked the old man for his kindness, and said: "I shall tell you all about myself in the hope that you may help me with good advice."

The old man sat down, and, as he ate his meal, Ronald told the story of his life. When he had finished the other asked: "Have you any children?"

"No," Ronald said, "I have no children."

"That is a pity," the old man sighed.

Next morning the old man wakened Ronald and said: "Breakfast is ready. It is time you were on your way back to the cave, for your wife is anxious and afraid."

When Ronald had eaten an excellent breakfast he said: "I wish I had food to carry to my wife."

Said the old man: "What will you give me for this green table-cloth? When you want food all you have to do is to shake it three times and lay it down. As soon as you lay it down you will get all the food you need."

Ronald was surprised to hear this. He looked at the green cloth, and, sighing, made answer: "Alas! I am very poor, having lost everything I possessed. I am not able to offer you anything for the green cloth."

Said the old man: "Will you promise to give me your eldest son for it?"

Having no son, Ronald promised readily. "Very well," the old man said; "come back here in seven years, and bring your son with you."

Ronald took the cloth, and bade good-bye to the old man. He climbed the green mountain and went down the other side of it. Then he crossed the plain, past the stories he had set up, and walked through the wood, guiding himself by the marks he had made on the trees. He had no difficulty in finding his way. The sun was beginning to set as he reached the shore and hastened towards the cave, where he found his wife sitting beside the fire moaning and weeping. She feared that her husband had been devoured by wild beasts.

"Here I am, Morag, daughter of Donald," he said as he entered the cave.

His wife rose to her feet and kissed him joyfully.

"I have brought food for you," said Ronald.

As he spoke he shook the green cloth three times, and laid it on the floor of the cave beside the fire. As soon as he did that, two dishes of hot, steaming food appeared before their wondering eyes.

They sat down and ate the food. "Where did you find this wonderful green cloth?" asked Morag.

"It was given to me by an old grey-bearded man," Ronald told her. "Are we not in luck now? We shall never want for food as long as we live."

Several days went past. Then Ronald and his wife thought they would go inland and explore the country. They felt lonely, and wished to find out where the people who inhabited it had their dwellings.

For six days they travelled inland, and on the morning of the seventh day they reached a village. The people were kindly and hospitable and invited them to stay. Ronald thought he might as well do so, and next morning began to build a house. He got every assistance from the villagers, and soon had a home of his own among his newly-found friends. Before the year was out a baby boy was born, and Ronald and Morag's hearts were filled with joy. They called the baby Ian.

Years went past, and Ian grew up to be a handsome boy with curly golden hair, sea-grey eyes, and red cheeks. Everyone in the village loved him, and he was very dear to his father and mother.

Ronald Booe remembered the promise he had made to the grey old man, but he never told Morag his wife about it until the seventh year was nearly at an end. Then one day he said: "On the morrow I must go to the mountain house with Ian, because I promised the grey old man, when I was given the green cloth, to do so."

Morag cried: "Alas! alas!" and began to moan and weep. "It was foolish and wicked of you," she said, "to make such a promise."

Said Ronald: "What can I do? My heart bleeds to part with our boy, but I must go, and he must go with me."

Next morning he bade his wife good-bye, and she kissed Ian and wept over him. Father and son then set out on their journey, and in time they reached the dwelling of the grey old man, who spoke, saying:

"So you have come, as you said you would."

"Yes," Ronald answered sadly, "I have come."

"Do you find it hard to part with your boy?"

"Indeed, I do. My wife is heart-broken."

Said the grey old man: "You can take him home again if you promise me to come back when another seven years have done past."

Ronald thanked the grey old man, and, having promised, he returned home with Ian. His wife welcomed him with smiling face and bright eyes, and kissed her child, saying: "If you had stayed away from me I should have died with sorrow."

Ian grew and grew, and when he was twelve years old he was nearly as tall as his father and nearly as strong. He had great skill as a hunter and as a fisherman, and could work in the fields like a man.

When the second term of seven years was drawing to a close his father grew sadder and sadder, and one day he said to his wife: "On the morrow I must go to the mountain house with Ian."

"Alas! alas!" cried his wife; "I cannot live without him."

Said Ronald: "You cannot have your son beside you always. To every youth comes the day when he must leave his parents."

"Wait for a few years," pleaded Morag. "I have not long to live, and I would fain have him beside me until I die."

Said Ronald: "It cannot be as you wish."

"Perhaps," his wife sighed, "the grey old man will send him back for another seven years."

Said Ronald: "He may, and he may not."

Next morning father and son set out on foot towards the mountain house, and when they reached it the grey old man said: "So you have come as you promised. It is well. Do you find it hard to part with the lad?"

Said Ronald: "Indeed, I do. I find it harder now than I did seven years ago."

"Has the boy been well taught?" asked the old man.

Said Ronald: "He can fish, he can shoot, he can work in the fields. I have trained him myself."

"You have trained his body, but I will train his mind," the grey old man told Ronald. "Knowledge is better than strength. You will be proud of Ian some day."

The boy's father was stricken with sorrow when he found that the old man intended to keep Ian. He returned home alone. Morag wept bitterly when he entered the house, and all Ronald could say to comfort her was: "The grey old man promised that we should be proud of Ian some day."

Morag refused to be comforted, for she knew well that many years must pass before she would see her son again.

The grey old man was like a father to Ian. He spent six years in teaching the lad, and on the seventh he said: "Now you have passed your twentieth year. You are strong, and you are well educated. It is time you began to work for yourself. Before you go to look for a situation, however, I shall take you on a long journey, so that you may meet friends who may help you in time of need. It is better to make friends than to make enemies."

Said Ian: "I am ready to do as you advise me."

"Well spoken!" the old man exclaimed. "You have learned to obey. He who learns how to obey will rise to command. Come with me to the mountain-top. Behind the door hangs a silver bridle. Take it with you."

Ian took the bridle, and followed the old man. On the mountain-top the old man said: "If you will shake the bridle over me I shall become a grey horse. You can then jump on my back, and we shall go forward quickly."

Ian shook the bridle as he was asked to do. The man changed at once into a grey horse, and as soon as Ian mounted, the horse galloped away at a rapid pace. Over hill and over moor went the horse. Nor did it pause until seven hours went past. Then Ian heard the old man's voice, saying: "Dismount and shake the bridle over me.

Ian did as he was ordered, and the grey man at once returned to his own form again. He spoke, saying: "Go and gather red moss, and fill your water-stoup at the well below yonder red rock."

Ian gathered the moss, and filled his water-stoup, and returned to the old man, who said: "Go now to the cave which opens behind the waterfall. Inside it you will find a wounded giant. Dress his wounds with the red moss, and give him three draughts from your water-stoup."

Ian climbed down the side of the waterfall over slippery rocks, and when he entered the cave he saw the wounded giant. He put red moss on the giant's wounds, and bound it round with cords made of dried reeds. Then he gave the sufferer three draughts from his water-stoup. As soon as he did that, the giant sat up and cried out: "I am feeling better now. Ere long I shall be well again."

"Remember me and be my friend," said Ian.

"Your friend I shall be," the giant answered.

Ian then returned to the old man, who asked him at once: "Have you done as I ordered you to do?"

"Yes," Ian answered.

"It is well," the old man told him. "Shake your bridle over me again, and then leap on my back, so that we may go forward quickly."

The old grey man in horse shape went galloping on and on, until a lonely shore was reached. Once more he called: "Shake the bridle over me," and when Ian had done so, the man appeared in his own form and said: "Go down the ebb until you reach a flat brown stone. Behind that stone lies the King of Fish. Lift him up and put him into the sea, for this is a day of misfortune for him, and he is in need of help."

Ian ran down the long dreary sands until he reached the flat brown stone. He found the fish lying gasping and twitching and helpless. Lifting him up, Ian put him into the sea and, as he did so, cried out: "Remember me and be my friend."

The fish answered him, saying: "Your friend I shall be," and then vanished.

Ian returned to the old man and once again changed him into a horse. They went onward together, and ere long reached a bronze castle on a lonely headland overlooking the sea. It was now late evening. The old man said: "Enter the bronze castle, in which dwells a fair lady. You will see rooms full of silver and gold and Bashing gems. Look on everything but touch nothing."

Ian went through the castle. He wondered to see so much treasure, but although it seemed to be unprotected, for he did not see the fair lady even, he never touched a single piece of gold or silver. When, however, he was leaving the castle, his eyes fell on a heap of goose feathers. He pulled out a single feather and put it in his pocket, but he did not tell the old man that he had done so.

He mounted the horse, and returned to the grey old man's hut in the gathering darkness, and there the two rested for the night.

Next morning the old man became a horse again, and carried Ian to the capital of the country a large and beautiful city in the midst of which the king's castle stood on a high rock.

Outside the city wall Ian shook the bridle over the horse, and the old man stood before him and said: "Here we must part. You will go towards the castle, and ask for a situation. The king is in need of a scribe. If he offers to employ you, accept his offer."

Ian then bade good-bye to the old man, who said: "If ever you are in trouble, think of me and I shall come to you."

They parted at the western gate of the city, and Ian walked towards the castle. He told the guards that he was looking for a situation, and after a time they took him before the chief scribe, who said: "I am in need of an assistant. Will you enter the king's service?"

Ian accepted the offer, and next morning began to work. He thought of the goose feather he had taken from the bronze castle, and made a pen of it. When he began to use it, he found that it wrote beautifully, and he was delighted at his own fine penmanship.

The head scribe was greatly surprised at the skill shown by the young man, and grew jealous of him. After a few days he asked Ian for the loan of his pen, and when he tried it he discovered that he could write just as well as Ian.

"This is a magic pen," he said to himself. He then went before the king and told him about it, and the king tried the pen also. "Bring this young scribe before me," he commanded.

Ian was called for, and when he stood before the king he was asked: "Where did you get this magic pen?"

Said Ian: "I found it in a bronze castle."

The king gazed at him in silence for a moment, and then spoke, saying: "There is a beautiful lady in that castle, and she cannot leave it. Bring her here, for I wish her for my bride."

Said Ian: "Alas! O king, I am not able to obey your command. I do not know where the castle is, for I was taken to it at late evening, and returned home in the darkness."

"If you fail to do as I command," said the king, "you shall be put to death."

Ian went to his bedroom, and there wept tears of sorrow. He knew well that this trouble which had befallen him was due to his having disobeyed the old man, who had warned him not to touch anything he saw in the bronze castle. After a time he said aloud: "I wish the grey old man were here now." He heard a noise behind him, and, turning round, he saw the grey old man, who spoke, saying: "What ails you now, Ian?"

"Alas!" cried Ian, "I have done wrong." Then he told the old man how he had taken a goose feather from the bronze castle and made a quill of it, and that the king had discovered his secret, and ordered him to fetch the captive lady from the castle to be the king's bride.

"You should not have touched the feather," the old man said. "It is as wicked to steal a small thing as a great thing. "Theft is dishonourable, even the theft of trifles. I placed my trust in you, and you promised to obey me. Because you have failed in that trust and done this thing, you now find yourself in trouble."

"Alas!" Ian cried, "I know I have done wrong, and am sorry for it."

"Let this be a lesson to you," the old man said. "Because you are sorry for your wrongdoing, I shall help you once again. Let us go outside. I have the silver bridle with me. We shall visit the bronze castle once again."

Ian walked with the old man to a solitary place outside the city wall. There he shook the bridle, and his friend became a grey horse. He mounted and rode away swiftly towards the seaside. Then he shook the bridle again, and his friend appeared in human form and spoke to him, saying: "I have a magic rod. Take it and strike me with it. When you do so I shall become a ship. Enter the ship, and it will sail to the harbour below the bronze castle. Cast anchor there and wait until the lady looks out of a window and asks you whence you have come. Say: 'I have come from a distant land.' Then she will ask: `What cargo have you on board?' Say to her: 'I have a cargo of fine silk.' She will ask you to enter the castle with samples of the silk, but you will say: `Would it not be better if you came on board and examined the rolls of silk?' She will answer: `Very well,' and come on board your vessel. Take her down to the cabin, and spread out the rolls of silk you will find lying there."

Ian seized the magic rod and struck the grey old man, who at once became a large and noble ship, afloat beside the rock. Ian got on board the ship, cast off from the rock, and set sail. It had a crew of little men clad in green, with red peaked caps on their heads. The skipper who steered the vessel had a long grey beard and sharp beady eyes. He never spoke a word, but gave orders to the crew by making signs.

The ship sailed swiftly towards the bronze castle on the lonely headland. When the anchor was dropped in the little harbour Ian walked up and down the deck until an upper window in the castle opened, and the beautiful lady looked out and spoke to him, saying: "Where have you come from, my merry sailor man?"

"From a distant land," Ian answered.

"What cargo have you on board?"

"A cargo of fine silk."

"Come up into the castle and bring with you samples of your silk, and I perchance may buy a few rolls from you."

Said Ian: "I have so many kinds of silk that I cannot carry samples to you. Would it not be better if you came on board and examined the cargo, O fair lady?"

"Very well," the lady answered, "I shall do as you suggest."

She came down from the castle and came on board the ship. Ian led her to the cabin, where he spread out before her the rolls of fine silk that he found there.

She examined them all carefully. Then hearing the splashing of waves against the sides of the ship, she ran up the cabin ladder to the deck, and discovered that the vessel was far away from the bronze castle.

"Alas!" she cried, "what is the meaning of this?"

Said Ian: "The king, my master, has ordered me to bring you before him. It is his wish that you should become his queen."

"It is your duty to obey your master, and I do not blame you," the lady said. "But I do not wish to be the king's bride. I should much rather have stayed yet a while in my bronze castle."

As she spoke, she took a bundle of keys from her waist-belt and flung it into the sea.

"There go my keys!" she told Ian. "No one else can now enter the bronze castle."

The ship sailed back to the place from which it had started, and drew up alongside the rock, and Ian and the lady went ashore. Then Ian waved the magic rod three times. When he did so the ship vanished, and the grey old man appeared by his side and spoke, saying: "Shake the silver bridle over me, so that I may become a horse. Mount me then, and take the lady with you."

Ian shook the bridle, and his friend became a grey horse. He mounted the horse, and the lady mounted behind him. They rode away very swiftly, and when night was coming on they reached the city. Ian shook the bridle again, and the old man appeared by his side, and they bade one another good-bye. Ian led the lady to the castle and brought her to the king. His majesty thanked him for his service, and bade the lady welcome. He called for maidservants to attend to her, and she was taken to her room.

Next morning the king had the lady brought before him, and said: "O fair one, be my bride."

Said the lady: "I shall not be your bride until my bronze castle is brought here and placed beside yours.

"No one can do that but Ian," the king said. Then he called to a servant, saying: "Bring Ian before me."

Ian had returned to his place in the room of the chief scribe, and was busy at his work when he was ordered to appear before his majesty.

He obeyed the summons, and the king said to him: "You must bring the bronze castle from the lonely headland, and have it placed beside my castle."

"Alas!" Ian cried, "I cannot do that."

Said the king: "If you fail to carry out my command you shall be put to death."

Ian went to his room, and paced it up and down for a time, lamenting his fate. Then he cried out: "I wish the grey old man were here."

No sooner had he wished that wish than the grey old man appeared in the room and spoke to him, saying: "What is wrong now Ian?"

Said Ian: "The king has set me an impossible task. He wants me to have the bronze castle carried here and placed beside his own castle."

"Come with me," the old man said.

Together they went outside the city wall. Ian shook the bridle over his friend, who at once became a grey horse. He mounted the horse, and rode away until he reached the waterfall behind which was the giant's cave. Then he shook the bridle again, and the old man appeared beside him and said: "Enter the cave and speak to the giant whose wounds you helped to heal. Tell him you are in need of his aid, and ask him to carry away the bronze castle and place it beside the castle of your king."

Ian went down the slippery rocks and entered the cave. He found the giant lying asleep on the floor, and walked towards him. As soon as he touched him the giant sat up and asked: "Who are you, and what brings you here, little fellow?"

Ian was at first too terrified to speak, for the giant scowled at him. At length he said: "I am he who dressed your wounds with red moss, and gave you three draughts of the healing water. I am now in need of your help."

Said the giant: "I remember you. I was in great pain, and you gave me healing. What do you wish me to do? Speak and I shall obey, even should you ask me to remove a mountain from its place and cast it into the sea."

Ian laughed aloud, and the giant laughed also, but the giant's laugh was terrible to hear, for it sounded like thunder.

Ian then told the giant that the king wished to have the bronze castle carried from the lonely headland and placed beside his own castle on the rock in the midst of his capital.

Said the giant: "The work shall be done tonight. I shall call all my strong men together. Begone! or it may not go well with you."

Ian thanked the giant, and returned to the grey old man, who said: "We must make haste. There is no time to be lost."

As the grey horse, the old man travelled again swiftly until he reached the capital. Then he bade Ian good-bye.

That night as Ian lay in his bed a great thunder-storm arose and raged furiously. He could not sleep, and lay trembling with fear, for it seemed as if the whole world would be set on fire by the flashes of lightning. When the thunder-storm was at its height there came an earthquake. The rock beneath the castle trembled, and the castle swayed like a ship at sea. Ian was terrified, and he heard the shrieks of those who were even more afraid than he was. At length the storm died down, and he slept.

Next morning when Ian looked through the window of his room he saw the bronze castle beside the king's castle. Then he knew that the thunder-storm had been caused by the giants, and that the earth shook when they set down the castle upon the rock.

The king was greatly pleased, and spoke to the fair lady, saying: "Your bronze castle has been brought hither. Now you will be my queen."

Said the lady: "I cannot marry until I am given the bundle of keys I threw into the sea. The castle door cannot be opened without the keys."

"Ian shall find the keys," the king told her. Then he called for Ian and said to him: "You must find the bundle of keys which this fair lady threw into the sea."

"Alas!" Ian moaned, "you set me a task I cannot fulfil."

"If you do not bring the keys to me," said the king, "you shall be put to death."

Ian turned away and went to his room. He felt sure that his end was near at hand because it did not seem possible that the keys could be found. "I wish the old grey man were here," he cried out.

The old grey man appeared in the room and asked softly: "What does the king ask for now, Ian?"

Said Ian: "He has ordered me to find the bundle of keys which the fair lady threw into the sea."

"Come with me," the grey old man said; "we have a long journey before us."

Ian rode again on the grey horse until he reached the shore where he had found the King of Fish. He then shook the silver bridle and the old man appeared beside him. "Go out on the ebb," he advised Ian, and call for the King of Fish. When he comes, ask him to search for the keys and bring them to you."

Ian walked down the sands and called for the King of Fish. Three times he called before the fish appeared. Then it rose and asked: "Who are you that you should call upon me?"

Said Ian: "I am the one who found you lying behind the flat brown stone on a day of misfortune when you were in need of help. I lifted you up and put you into the sea, and you promised to remember me and be my friend."

"You speak truly," the fish said. "What is your wish? I am ready to grant it."

Said Ian: "Search for the keys which the fair lady of the bronze castle threw into the sea when I took her away in my ship. When you have found the keys, bring them to me."

The fish vanished and returned soon afterwards. "Have you found the keys?" he asked.

"I have," answered the fish.

"Give them to me."

"I will give them if you promise one thing."

"What is that?"

"Promise that you will not call for me again."

"I promise," said Ian.

The fish then gave him the keys and vanished at once.

Ian was overjoyed. He ran up the beach towards the old man, who asked: "Have you got the keys?"

''Oh, yes!"

"It is well. Shake the bridle over me and mount."

Ian did so, and rode back to the capital on the back of the grey horse. Having bidden good-bye to his friend, he hastened before the king and handed the keys of the bronze castle to him.

"It is good for you that you found the keys," the king said. "Had you come back without them you would have been put to death."

Ian bowed and turned away, hoping that his troubles were at an end.

The king sent for the lady of the castle and said: "Here are the keys of the bronze castle which my servant found for me."

"He is a brave and noble lad," the lady cried out.

"Now you will marry me," said the king.

"I cannot promise to marry you, O king, until I get a stoup of water from the Healing Well."

Said the king: "I shall order Ian to bring the water without delay."

He sent for Ian, and spoke to him harshly, saying: "Bring hither without delay a stoup of water from the Healing Well."

"Where is that well, O king?" asked Ian.

" I know not," was the answer. "But this I know: if you do not bring the water you will be put to death."

Ian went to his room and wished for the grey old man, who appeared at once and asked: "What ails you now, my poor lad?"

"Alas!" Ian exclaimed, "the king has asked for a stoup of water from the Healing Well, but he does not know where it is."

"We had better make haste and search for it."

Away went Ian again on the back of the grey horse. All day long he rode over hill and dale, through forests and across bobs, over rivers and through lochs, until at length a lonely glen was reached.

"Shake the bridle," called the horse.

Ian shook it, and the old man stood beside him and said: "Strike me with the magic wand and I shall fall down dead."

"I cannot do that," Ian answered at once.

"You must do it. When I am dead three ravens will fly hither. Speak to them saying: 'I shall kill you with my wand unless you take me to the Healing Well.' They will then show you where it is. When you find it, fill two stoups and bring them to this spot. Sprinkle a few drops of the water in my mouth, in my eyes, and in my ears. When you do so, I shall come to life again."

Ian struck the old man with the magic wand and he fell down dead. He lay so still that the young man's heart was filled with sorrow, and he began to weep. "Would that the ravens were here!" he cried out, as he looked round about. To his amaze he saw no sign of the ravens coming.

For over an hour he sat there beside his dead friend, fearing that he would never be able to bring him back to life again.

But at length the ravens came, and Ian stood up and called out: "I shall kill you with my magic wand if you do not do as I bid you."

"What is your wish?" the ravens asked him in turn.

Said Ian: "Lead me to the Healing Well."

The ravens flew round about above him three times, and then cried out, one after the other: "Follow, follow me."

Ian followed them, and was led to a dark and lonely ravine in which there was a deep cave. The ravens entered the cave, and Ian followed them. Inside he heard the dripping of water, but he saw naught, for the place was very dark.

Said one of the ravens: "Dip your stoups in the pool beside which you stand."

Ian did so, and he lifted them up full of water. Joyfully he hastened out of the cave, and returned to the spot where he had left the old man. He sprinkled water drops in his eyes, in his ears, and in his mouth. When he had done so the old man rose up and said: "Shake the bridle over me."

Ian was soon again on the back of the grey horse. When he returned to the castle it was nigh to midnight. He carried the stoups to his room, and in the morning gave one of them to the king.

The king called for the fair lady, and he handed her the stoup of water and said: "Now you will marry me."

Said the lady: "I cannot marry you until you have fought a duel with Ian. He has done what you cannot do, and is now more powerful than you are."

"You speak truly," the king answered. "This duel must be fought at once."

He called a courtier and told him to hasten to Ian and bid him to make ready for the duel.

Ian was amazed to hear this command, and when he was alone he wished for the grey old man, who appeared and asked at once: "What is wrong now, Ian?"

Ian told him that the king desired to fight a duel.

Said the grey old man: "Wash all your body with the water from the Healing Well. No weapon can wound you when you have done that. I have brought a sword for you."

He handed a small sword to Ian and then vanished.

Ian washed himself with the water from the Healing Well, and then went forth to fight the duel with the king.

Said the fair lady: "He who wins the duel will marry me, and reign over the Land of Green Mountains. Is that not so, O king?"

The king was very vain, and was certain that she expected him to win the duel. He despised Ian with his small sword, and raised his own to strike him. But although he struck Ian three times he could not wound him. Then Ian struck once and the king fell dead.

"Hail to the new king!" called the lady of the bronze castle.

All the people called out: "Hail to the king!"

So Ian was crowned king, and he married the fair lady. His friend, the grey old man, came to the wedding, bringing Ian's father and mother with him.

"Did I not promise you that you would be proud of Ian some day?" said the grey old man to Ronald Booe and Morag, daughter of Donald.

Ere they could make answer, Ian came forward. He embraced and kissed his mother, and shook his father's right hand, and then said: "You shall stay here with me for the rest of your days."

Ian was a wise and good king, and he and his queen were greatly beloved by their people. Indeed, there was never such a king in the Land of Green Mountains as Ian, son of Ronald Booe and of Morag, daughter of Donald.

Return to Contents Page


This comment system requires you to be logged in through either a Disqus account or an account you already have with Google, Twitter, Facebook or Yahoo. In the event you don't have an account with any of these companies then you can create an account with Disqus. All comments are moderated so they won't display until the moderator has approved your comment.

comments powered by Disqus