The Well at the End of the World

A LONG time ago--before St. Patrick's time--there was an old king in Connacht, and he had three sons. The king had a sore foot for many years, and he could get no cure. One day he sent for the Dall Glic (wise blind man) which he had, and said to him:

I'm giving you wages this twenty years, and you can't tell me what will cure my foot.

You never asked me that question before, said the Dall Glic; but I tell you now that there is nothing in the world to cure you but a bottle of water from the Well of D'yerree-in-Dowan (i.e., end of the world).

In the morning, the day on the morrow, the king called his three sons, and he said to them:

My foot will never be better until I get a bottle of water from the Well of D'yerree-in-Dowan, and whichever of you will bring me that, he has my kingdom to get.

We will go in pursuit of it to-morrow, says the three. The names of the three were Art, Nart (i.e., strength), and Cart * (i.e., right).

On the morning of the day on the morrow, the king gave to each one of them a purse of gold, and they went on their way. When they came as far as the cross-roads, Art said:

Each one of us ought to go a road for himself, and if one of us is back before a year and a day, let him wait till the other two come; or else let him set up a stone as a sign that he has come back safe.

They parted from one another after that, and Art and Nart went to an inn and began drinking; but Cart went on by himself. He walked all that day without knowing where he was going. As the darkness of the night came on he was entering a great wood, and he was going forwards in the wood, until he came to a large house. He went in and looked round him, but he saw nobody, except a large white cat sitting beside the fire. When the cat saw him she rose up and went into another room. He was tired and sat beside the fire. It was not long till the door of the chamber opened, and there came out an old hag.

One hundred thousand welcomes before you, son of the king of Connacht, says the hag.

How did you know me? says the king's son.

Oh, many's the good day I spent in your father's castle in Bwee-sounee, and I know you since you were born, said the hag.

Then she prepared him a fine supper, and gave it to him. When he had eaten and drunk enough, she said to him:

You made a long journey to-day; come with me until I show you a bed. Then she brought him to a fine chamber, showed him a bed, and the king's son fell asleep. He did not awake until the sun was coming in on the windows the next morning.

Then he rose up, dressed himself, and was going out, when the hag asked him where he was going.

I don't know, said the king's son. I left home to find out the Well of D'yerree-in-Dowan.

I'm after walking a good many places, said the hag, but I never heard talk of the Well of D'yerree-in-Dowan before.