“Pitter patter, Haly Watter.” Then from her pocket she drew a small bottle with something oily inside it and daubed the liquid around the sow’s snout, behind her ears, and on the tip of her tail.
Words by Rosie Young
Illustration by Linley Barba
In the borderlands village of Kittlerumpit there was a goodwife whose husband went one day to the fair and never returned. He was a faithless sort of man and not to be depended on. All the village pitied the goodwife’s plight, but none helped her. She had naught left but her house, her prize sow, and her baby boy. Her one hope was that the sow would soon give birth to piglets and if all went well, her stock would be much increased. But, it was not to be it seemed, for one morning when she went to the pigsty she found the sow lying on her back, groaning and grunting like she was at death’s door. This was a sore blow to the goodwife’s heart, and she sat down on the knocking-stone and cried harder than she ever had over the loss of her husband.
Then, as she sat wiping her eyes, she chanced to look down the brae, and what did she see but and little, old woman making her way up the hill towards the house. She was dressed all in green save for the short white apron tied about her waist, a black velvet hood, and a steeplecrowned beaver hat on her head. She walked with a long walking stick, as tall as she was, to help her on her way.
Seeing the gentlewoman draw near, the goodwife rose and made a curtsy. Weeping, she said “Madam, I’m the maist unfortunate woman alive.”
“I dinna wish to hear pipers’ news and fiddlers’ tales,” said the green woman. “I ken ye’ve lost your goodman; and I ken that your sow’s sick. Noo, what will ye gie me to cure her?”
“Onything your leddyship’s madam likes,” said the goodwife, unaware of with whom she dealt.
“Let’s wet thumb’s on the bargain.” Said the green woman. And so thumbs were wet, and the green woman marched into the pigsty. She glowered at the sow for some time, then began to chant so as the goodwife could barely hear, “Pitter patter, Haly Watter.” Then from her pocket she drew a small bottle with something oily inside it and daubed the liquid around the sow’s snout, behind her ears, and on the tip of her tail. “Get up, beast.” Said the green woman, and no sooner than she’d said it, the sow leapt to her feet and, quite the thing, was away to her breakfast trough.
The goodwife of Kittlerumpit was overcome with joy, and would have kissed the hem of the green woman’s dress had she let her.
“I’m no fond o’ demonstrations,” said the greenwoman, “noo that I hae righted your sick beast, let’s finish our bargain. Ye’ll no find me an unreasonable, greedy body – I like aye to do a good turn for a small reward – all I ask, and will have, is that lad bairn in your bosom.”
The goodwife let out a gasp, for now she saw what she hadn’t before: the green woman was a fairy. Falling to her knees she wept and prayed and begged and flyted, but the fairy would not relent.
“Ye may spare your din,” she said, “skirling as if I was a deaf as a doornail; but this I’ll tell ye – by the law we live on, I canna take your bairn till the third day after this; and no then, if ye can tell me my right name.”
And off she went, away around the pigsty and back down the brae, leaving the goodwife to her misery.
For a night and a day, the goodwife could do naught but cry and hold her baby to her chest.
On the second day, at a loss for what to do she went walking in the woods, baby in her arms. She walked deep into the forest to where an old quarry lay, grown over with gorse and home to a spring well. As she approached, she caught the sound of a lint-wheel turning, and a soft voice singing. The goodwife crept closer and peered through the bushes into the quarry below.
There was the green fairy, working at her wheel and singing:
“Little kens our good dame at hame
That Whuppitie Stoorie is my name!”
And then the goodwife’s heart was light once more, for she had the magic word. She walked home with a spring in her step, gleeful at the thought of tricking the old fairy.
Feeling much like her old self again, the goodwife thought to have some sport with the fairy. On the third day, at the appointed time she put her baby behind the knocking-stone, then sat down on it herself, nightcap askew, a look of great woe on her face. Before long, the green fairy appeared over the hill and called out, “Goodwife o’ Kittelrumpit, ye ken weel what I come for – stand and deliver!”
The goodwife pretended to weep even harder than before and fell to her knees crying, “Och, sweet madam mistress, spare my only bairn and take the weary soo!”
“I come na here for swine’s flesh.” Said the fairy. “Dinna be stubborn, but gie me the bairn instantly!”
“Ochone, dear leddy mine,” wept the goodwife, “forbear my poor bairn and take mysel’!”
The fairy’s expression soured. “She’s clean dementit! Wha in all the earthly warld, wi’ half an ee in their heads, would ever want wi’ the likes of thee?”
This raised the goodwife’s hackles, for though her eyes were wet and her nose red from crying, she considered herself quite comely. Up she leapt and set her nightcap straight and making a low curtsy. “In troth, fair madam,” she said, “I might hae had the wit to ken that the likes o’ me is nae fair to tie the warst shoe strings o’ the high and mighty princess, Whuppity Stoorie!”
At that Whuppity Stoorie nearly jumped out of her skin, then turning on her heal she ran down the hill, screeching her rage for all of Kittlerumpit to hear.
The goodwife of Kittlerumpit laughed until her sides ached, then picked up her baby and went into her house, singing all the way:
“A goo and a gitty, my bonny wee tyke,
Ye’s noo hae your four-oories;
Sin’ we’ve gi’en Nick a bane to pyke
Wi’ his wheels and his Whuppity Stoories.”