There was a young man from Compton Green. His name was Tatty. He was an odd sort of chap, always wore a cap and carried a backpack. Many of the town’s folk thought him to be a lost soul. They would say that he was forever searching for his purpose, always seeking a meaning to every reason.
One fine summer’s evening, as the sun was lowering in the distance and the sky was awash with a red and orange glow, the young man decided it was time to leave the town. He wanted to discover his fate. He made an announcement the very next morning, said his farewells, and off he went on his journey.
He took to the main highway and headed south towards the ferry dock. The day was bright, with a crisp feel to the air and the birds were flying high in the clear sky. Tatty was taking a slow stroll along the country path. He passed farmers sowing in their fields and a few milk carts scuttled past him. He said hello to everyone that he saw.
The noon sun was high, so he decided to take shade under an oak tree. He ate his lunch and took a nap. As he slept, two men approached the oak tree. The men were dressed in fine gentlemen’s clothing. However, their appearance was misleading. The two men were lost highway robbers and they wanted to know directions. One of the men, he was dressed in a ruby red silk coat. He tapped Tatty’s sleeping head and said, ‘Excuse me, Sir.’
With a dazed stir, Tatty woke and opened his eyes. ‘How can I help you?’ he asked.
‘We are lost and we need to find an inn with stables,’ the man said.
‘I know just the one. I do not know how to tell you the way, but I can take you both there. It is in my direction,’ he said to the men. ‘My name is Tatty, I am pleased to help.’ He got up off the ground, packed up his backpack and placed his cap on his head. The men thanked Tatty and they began to walk along the dry mud path.
The second man was wearing a black hat with a colourful feather. He started to tell Tatty about their encounter with thieves and how they had been robbed of their horses. When he had finished his story, Tatty looked at the men, with a puzzled expression. ‘The thieves who stole from you were sure to be beginners, for they never took your fine clothing or jewelled brooches!’ he said.
The men laughed, as they assumed Tatty had seen through their lie.
‘Ah Tatty, you simple man, you are not what you seem,’ said the man in the ruby coat.
‘What do you mean?’ questioned Tatty.
‘Mean no harm. I was just surprised you seen through our tale.’ the man replied.
Tatty looked baffled, and thought the men to be strange folk indeed.
‘What’s your story?’ the man in the hat said to Tatty.
‘I’ve left my home to discover my fate. I am heading to the ferry.’ Tatty said.
‘Searching for self-recognition? I remember when I did that.’ the man in the ruby coat said.
‘You met me at your first road crossing!’ laughed the man in the hat.
‘Yes, and we have been as thick as thieves since,’ replied the man in the ruby coat, and they both laughed.
‘I don’t know what words you said, sir. All I know is that I may have a curse and fate needs me to find a cure,’ Tatty explained.
‘Tatty, you fool. No man is cursed, he is just lost. There is no cure to self-discovery,’ the man in the hat said.
‘Well, sir. I do need to see that for myself!’ Tatty snapped.
The man in the ruby coat interrupted, ‘Young man, you will discover all you want. Just keep your eyes open to all you see.’ They carried on their walk in silence. The afternoon was turning to dusk and the warm sun gently disappeared behind pink clouds. The three men arrived at an inn just as the moon was rising up in the pale night sky. They took rest for the night.
The morning sun was casting golden rays and the sky was a clear blue. Tatty and the two men had breakfast together. After they had eaten, Tatty packed up his things and asked if the men needed any more assistance.
‘We are fine, young Tatty. We are heading east. Thank you for assisting us yesterday. We are very grateful,’ answered the man in the hat.
‘You are both welcome. I shall take heed of your advice. I bid you both safe travels,’ said Tatty, as he walked up the path.
The ferry dock was only a few miles away from the inn and Tatty thought he would be there before midday. As he walked along the country road he came across a young girl. She was sitting in a puddle of water and was holding her head in her hands. She was quietly sobbing to herself. Next to her was an empty wooden water bucket. She lifted her head as Tatty walked towards her. She darted straight up and patted down her violet dress. She had fair hair which was tied up in a tight bun. Her tear-stained eyes were a dark shade of green.
‘Excuse me, miss. Why are you so upset?’ asked Tatty, as he stood in front of her.
‘I came to the well to collect water, the bucket was just too heavy for me,’ said the girl through her sobs.
‘No point crying over water!’ laughed Tatty, and he held out his hand for the bucket. The girl passed it to him. ‘Take me to the well and I will carry the full bucket back to your home for you.’ The girl was overjoyed by his offer of help. She stopped crying and a lovely grin spread across her delicate face.
‘Thank you. The well is just through the gathering in the woods. Follow me, it is not far,’ she said, as she skipped along the path which lead towards the woods. Tatty hurried to catch up with the girl, and by the time he got to the clearing in the woods she had already filled the bucket with water from the well.
‘This well is a wishing well. It has a magical tale. I can tell you, if you please,’ the young girl said. She was spinning around on the spot. Her dress looked dazzling as it twirled in the sunlight. Tatty watched her and thought, she must think she is a fairy, her behaviour is very odd. She suddenly stopped, tilted her head and said, ‘Do you want to know or don’t you?’
‘I would like to know the story of the magical well,’ Tatty replied.
‘You should sit, upon that rock,’ the girl told Tatty. She stood next to the well, and spun around one more time. Then she began to tell the story …
‘There was once a shack here. It was right where you’re sitting. The shack was made of pine and it was painted yellow and brown. An old woman lived in the shack. She was a witch …’
Tatty burst out laughing ‘A witch! How foolish do you think me to be?’ he asked.
‘Not a cruel, wicked witch,’ the girl said, annoyed, ‘listen to the story and do not talk until I have finished saying it! She was a gentle, healing witch. She lived here many years ago. All the village folk would come to her in times of bad health or when they were in a serious crisis. She was kind and caring. She would take water from this well to make cures for those with curses.’ Tatty’s face lit up with delight when he heard that the water cured curses. He did as he was told though, and listened to the story.
‘The old woman helped so many people for such a long time. Then one day she was gone, and so was the shack. All that was left was the well and that rock you’re sat upon.’ As the girl finished her story, she stared at the well. She turned to Tatty and said, ‘The well is magic because the cures still come from the water, that is why I was so upset that I dropped the magical water.’
Tatty sat for a moment, thinking about the story and the magical well. He looked up at the girl and, with a smile, he said, ‘I needed a cure, and Fate has led me to this well. I was meant to assist you and my reward will be the cure from the well.’ The girl spun around on the spot. She stopped and said,
‘Sir, if you need a cure. Then you should drink some of the water. Not cold though, it needs to be boiled on the fire first.’
‘I think we should take the bucket of water back to your home. I will boil some of it there,’ Tatty suggested to the girl. Tatty picked up the bucket of water and they walked out of the woods and headed to the girl’s village.
The village was more like a settlement. Many children were running in every direction, screaming and shouting as they played. Some women were washing their laundry in giant wooden tubs and white sheets hung almost everywhere. There were a few men chopping logs, and a couple more fixing one of the huts.
A woman wearing a light patterned dress came over to the young girl and Tatty. With a worried tone she said, ‘Jenny, dear, where have you been and for so long of a time. Your chores were done by your sisters.’
‘Mama, I was collecting water from the well,’ Jenny replied.
‘The well in the woods?’ exclaimed Jenny’s mother, and tears began to stream down Jenny’s cheekbones.
‘It’s magic! The water can cure Papa!’ she shouted back. Jenny ran from her mother and Tatty. Her mother chased after her, leaving Tatty to stand alone with the bucket of water. After a few minutes a man called over to Tatty, ‘Sir, you’re a strange face to my eyes.’ He was wearing a bright orange waistcoat with black trousers and his face was mostly covered by a long, grey beard. He had white glazed eyes and his cheeks were bright and rosy.
‘I came here as a favour. A young girl needed me to carry her bucket of water. Her mother was not happy with her. I know not what to do,’ Tatty explained.
‘I see, so what do you wish to do with the water?’ asked the inquisitive man.
Tatty thought for a moment and then said, ‘I would like to boil it up so I can be cured.’
The man looked Tatty up and down. He fiddled with his beard and scratched his head. ‘Sir, that story is just a children’s tale. I am quite sure that is just normal well water.’
‘That may be so, sir, but I would like to see for myself,’ Tatty replied.
Some of the children who were playing nearby ran over to Tatty. ‘Is that the witch’s water?’ one of them asked. ‘Are you going to drink some of it?’ another one shouted.
‘Yes, I need some firewood. I need to make a fire and boil this water, then I shall have found my cure,’ Tatty answered.
The children were thrilled and ran off to find firewood. The man who was standing with Tatty said to him, ‘Don’t be too disappointed.’ And with that he walked off.
The children came back with armfuls of firewood. They piled it all into a heap while Tatty went over to a cooking stove to light a bit of chipping. He threw it onto the kindling and a fire began to ignite, the flames wrapping themselves around the wood. A wave of vast heat came oozing from the fire. One of the children handed Tatty a boiling-pot and he placed it over the flames. He then poured into the pot some of the water from the bucket. The flames licked the metal sides as the wood crackled and crumbled. The water started to stir. It began to bubble and spit. Steam was rising up into the air. The water was boiling, yet nothing out the ordinary happened. The children all sighed and their faces showed their upset. They watched for a while, then got bored and ran off to play their games.
Tatty stood by the pot until the water had vanished, then he stamped out the fire and sat on the floor. He had thought that his fate was the magical water. As he sat there staring at the cold pot, he heard a familiar voice. He turned around and saw Jenny.
‘Are you still here?’ she asked, with a confused expression.
‘I tried to get my cure from the well’s water. I boiled it up, and nothing, no magical cure,’ Tatty said, with sadness.
‘Did you drink the boiled water?’ Jenny asked, sharply.
‘No, I put the fire out and the water went cold,’ Tatty replied.
‘You are an odd sort of man. I told you – you have to drink the boiling water,’ Jenny said patronizingly. Before Tatty could say another word, she ran off again.
The day was nearly ending and Tatty hadn’t realised the passing of the time. He suddenly thought that he would have nowhere to rest tonight. He stood up quickly and started to panic. He did not know what he was going to do. He walked around the burnt out fire. Suddenly, he heard his name being shouted.
‘Tatty!’ shouted Jenny’s mother. ‘Where are you sleeping tonight?’
‘I do not know,’ he replied.
‘You can rest with us. Come quickly now, supper is nearly ready.’
Tatty thanked Jenny’s mother and followed her to her home. The smell of stew was filling the night air. The hut was just one room, brightly lit with many candles. A large wooden table was next to the stove. The fire was giving out a gentle glow. A copper tub, three beds and a dressing shade were on the opposite side. Around the table sat Jenny and her two sisters, waiting for their mother.
‘Jenny, go and find Tatty a chair from the yard. He will be resting here with us tonight.’
Jenny did as her mother told her. The other girls sat in silence. They were curious, but they knew their manners. Jenny brought a chair in from the outside and Tatty took his place at the table. There was a jug of water, a plate with sliced fresh bread and Jenny’s mother gave Tatty a large bowl of piping hot stew. She served the girls their supper and then sat at the table. She did not have any of the food, she just took the jug and poured herself a drink. She sat sipping the water as the others ate.
Jenny’s sisters were the first to finish. ‘Mama, can we go see Papa now?’ one of the girls asked.
‘Not now, little one. Go and wash up ready for bedtime,’ her mother replied. Both of the girls left the table. They went over to the copper tub and quietly played with the water.
‘Mama, when can we go see Papa?’ asked Jenny.
‘When he feels better,’ said her mother in a low tone.
‘You say that every night.’ whined Jenny, ‘I think if Papa drank the cure water …’
Jenny’s mother sharply interrupted her, ‘Jenny, enough with the magical water!’
Jenny’s face was solemn. She sat staring at the stew bowl for a few seconds, then slowly pushed her chair away from the table and went over to one of the beds. Tatty was finishing up his supper. He turned to Jenny’s mother and said, ‘No harm in trying. It seems more harmful if you do not.’ The mother looked at Tatty with a surprised expression. She turned to look at Jenny who was laying on the bed, slightly crying to herself.
‘I think you may be right, Tatty,’ she said, as she got up from the table. ‘Do you still have the bucket from the well?’ she asked as she looked over at her daughter.
‘I left it where I was, when I was outside,’ Tatty replied.
‘Can you go fetch it for me?’ Jenny’s mother asked. Tatty left the table to go and get the bucket and Jenny’s mother went over to the bed. ‘If you would like, we can boil up some well water and take it to Papa?’ she told Jenny.
Jenny lifted her head from the pillow and smiled at her mother. ‘I do want to do that, please Mama!’ said the delighted girl.
The hut door flew open and Tatty came bouncing in. He was carrying the bucket of well water. Mother took it from him, and Jenny’s two sisters got out of bed. Everyone went over to the stove. Jenny got the boiling pot, placed it above the soothing fire and, slowly, mother poured some of the well water into the pot. She stirred the coals with the fire poker and a few flames sparked up. Everyone stood and stared at the water in the pot. The water began to fizzle and spit. The two younger girls gasped and Jenny’s eyes were wide. Mother and Tatty watched as the water took to the boil.
‘Jenny hand me over a glass.’
‘There is none clean, will this jug do?’ Jenny asked, as she passed a small jug made from clay to her mother.
‘Papa will think him a mug, us giving him a drink out of a jug,’ laughed mother. Tatty and the girls laughed too. The water was boiling in the pot and Mother scooped some of it into the little jug. She placed it on the table and told the girls to quickly get dressed for the outdoors. The girls dashed off to do as they had been told.
Tatty was leaning over the table, above the jug of boiled water. He turned to Mother and said, ‘Water is so plain. Maybe add some green leaves to add a taste?’
‘That is a good idea,’ said Mother to Tatty.
‘I shall stir it with some sugarcane!’ called Jenny, from behind the dressing shade. The girls ran to the table in their hats and coats, they were shrieking and full of utter excitement. Jenny stirred the water in the little jug with some sugarcane. Mother added some green leaves. The brew smelled delicious. They all were pleased with the drink they had created for Papa.
It was a clear night. The stars were shining brightly down and the full moon was high in the sky. Mother led the way, with Tatty and the three girls following her. Papa was in the fourth hut away from where they had been, he had been ill for quite some weeks. A candle was flickering in the small window. Mother knocked on the door.
‘Come in,’ whimpered Papa. Before Mother opened the door, she told the girls to be on their best behaviour. They were to be gentle and soft with Papa. The room was a lot smaller than the previous hut. There was a small hearth with a smouldering fire and a bed in which Papa was lying. Next to the bed there was a small table and chair.
‘Hello dear,’ Papa whispered, as he forced a smile across his face. He tried to sit up but he did not have the strength.
‘Don’t try and sit up, you need to save your energy. We have only come to give you Jenny’s magical drink,’ said Mother.
‘Mama, it’s a cure,’ Jenny added, hastily.
Papa noticed Tatty standing next to the door and he gave Mother a confused look. ‘Who’s this?’ he asked.
‘This is Tatty. He helped Jenny today, and he thought it would be a good idea to give Jenny’s magical cure a chance,’ Mother explained.
Papa looked at all three of his girls and smiled. He looked straight at Jenny and asked, ‘Is your cure from the witch’s well?’
‘Yes Papa, I went there today to collect the water, only the bucket was too heavy and I couldn’t stop crying. Tatty offered to carry the bucket back home for me.’
‘Sweet child, I shall try some of your cure.’ Papa said to Jenny. He used all of his strength to sit himself up and reached over to Mother for the little jug. ‘What a strange thing in which to give it to me!’ he laughed.
‘It’s a mug!’ one of the younger girls said, and they all laughed.
Papa drank his magical cure. He put the little jug on the bedside table, then lay back down in the bed and closed his eyes. Mother gave him a kiss on the forehead and he grinned as she did so. Mother blew out the candle in the window.
They all left Papa’s hut and walked back to their hut in silence. When they arrived, Mother told the girls to get into bed and she made up a bed for Tatty and, as he lay in his makeshift bed, he hoped that the magical cure would work for Papa. He thought that perhaps, if it cured Papa then he too could be cured.
Mother woke Tatty early the next morning. She asked him if he would go and chop firewood while she started to prepare the stove to cook breakfast. Tatty did as he was asked and went outside to the yard. The morning sun was beginning to rise, and the birds were singing their morning songs across the gentle cool breeze. Tatty found the chopping board and axe, with a pile of logs next to them. He began to chop up one of the logs. He took the wood into the hut and Mother made a fire. The hut soon smelled of sweet oats.
They were all sitting at the table, eating their breakfast when there was a knock at the door. Mother got up from the table and went over to the door. Standing there was a woman from another hut. She told mother something had happened to Papa, and she was to come quickly. Mother and the woman ran to Papa’s hut.
When they arrived, Papa was standing up! ‘I feel myself again!’ he proclaimed to Mother. He picked her up and spun her round. She was so happy that she began to cry. After a while, they both left Papa’s hut and went back to where Tatty and the girls were. When Papa walked through the door, the three girls screamed with sheer joy and threw themselves into his open arms. Tatty was extremely pleased, this meant that the cure had worked! He was very keen to try the magical drink himself.
Word spread quickly around the settlement, and soon all were talking about Jenny and Tatty’s magical cure. Many of the settlers went to the well in the woods, each with a bucket. They all wanted to try this creation! That day, all of the people were boiling up water, adding leaves and stirring it all up with sugarcane. Each person drank their water from little jugs and many of them would say that they felt brand new straight away. Everyone thanked Tatty for his discovery of the wonderful cure.
That evening they had a huge celebration. Everyone thought it would be a good idea if Tatty gave the drink a name. Tatty thought long and hard but he just could not think of a good enough one. While the people were all celebrating he wandered off, thinking that if he was alone he might be able to come up with a decent name. He hadn’t gone too far when he saw Jenny, she was staring straight up into the sky. ‘Hello Jenny,’ said Tatty.
‘How many stars do you think are in the sky?’ she asked, without looking away from the starlight sky.
‘I think there are over ten thousand,’ Tatty answered, thoughtfully.
‘You do not know that, Tatty. Have you counted them, one by one? No one possibly could do that. Your neck would snap from staring up for so long,’ Jenny said, in a snooty way. She was still looking up into the night sky.
‘That may be so, but if there is no answer how can you say that I am wrong?’ Tatty asked.
Jenny stopped gazing up at the sky and looked straight at Tatty. She spun around on the spot and said, ‘You should call the magical cure, “T”.’ She gave him a massive smile, nodded and ran back to where the celebration was.
Tatty thought that this was a good name for the magical cure. He too walked back to the celebration and stayed until morning.
He packed up his backpack, said goodbye to Jenny’s family and thanked them for the cure.
‘Thank you, Tatty!’ said Jenny’s mother with tears in her eyes. She wrapped her arms around him and hugged him tight. Jenny gave Tatty a small daisy flower. He was saddened to leave. As he walked through the settlement, the people were brewing up water again. They all waved and cheered a farewell to Tatty and he smiled and waved back to them all. As the morning sun was shining down on his back and the birds were swooping through the blossom trees, Tatty felt a feeling of contentment. He decided he was going to go back to his own home.
Walking along the dusty path, he realised he had found his purpose …
… To make ‘T’ and share it with as many as he could.