Underneath a natural bower, on the bank of the lowest rampart but one, is a small arch of stone, covering a well of clearest water, fed by a spring that never in the fiercest drought runs dry. The overflowing stream makes a small pond below, but the well itself is almost out of sight under overhanging bushes, in the shadow of the north side of the hill.By Walter Raymond, in 'The Idler Out of Doors: Camelot' - The Idler, November 1898.
This is King Arthur's Well. A miraculous fountain, into the depths of which you may still peer and see things strange and wonderful. In a basin, some two feet deep, the sheltered water, never moved by wind, lies still and pure as a transparent magic crystal.
[...] The well is also a wishing well. It was a picnic day when I was there - and to see the country maids trip down the foot-worn path between the trees, big and little, plump and lean, all in white frocks, and treading upon each other's heels, was better than a day-dream, ever so much. And they did drink. If they only wished as hard as they drank, there was a determination about it which, with a little patience and good-temper, and no fortune but a pretty face, was bound to bring success.
There is a ceremony with this sort of thing. Each spread her "hankercher" upon the broad, flat stone beside the well, turned up her white skirt, knelt, both nees, upon a petticoat as white, leant over the water and dropped an offering in, dipped with her hand and drank out of her hollow palm. She rose and gazed into the future with what, in the best fiction, is called a wistful, far-off look, until the next girl promptly elbowed her aside and said,
It was a Sunday School and Bible Class that I saw intoxicate itself with the secret desire of its own heart. The "titcher" stood on one side. A spinster, tall, thin, sharp-featured, and born, upon a moderate computation, not later than the early sixties. Through a pair of glasses, she watched this pagan rite, smiling with an air of superior toleration upon such follies, because it was a holiday. The bigger girls implored her to drink, too. "Now do ee, Miss ---," they all said. (In view of what came after, the name shall never be revealed by me.) "Do ee, then." But persuasion could not move her. She was a total abstainer, and would not touch a drop; and, presently, the girls all went off up the glade, she marching in the rear.
Soon an unaccountable thing happened. That woman came back, quickly, glancing behind and upon each side, to make sure no one saw. She dared not lift her skirt. She had not time to kneel. But she took a tumbler out of her pocket; plunged it in the spring; leaned forward as she held it dripping to her lips, and swallowed half-a-pint. Ah! She did not merely wish to quench her thirst. That is incredible, since there was tea upon the hill.
Posted by Rhiannon
28th May 2016ce