The following story is of a different character, more of what is known among folk-lorists as a Droll. It seems to be a continuation of the story Coat o’ Clay, which I sent to Mr. Lang some time ago, and which was printed by him in Longman’s Magazine, and afterwards in Folk-Lore. It was told me by the same person.


A Pottle o’ Brains.

Once i’ these parts, an’ not so long gone nayther, there was a fool as wanted to buy a pottle o’ brains, for he was iver gettin’ into scrapes through his foolishness, an’ bein’ laughed at by iveryone. Fo’ak tellt him as he could get everything a liked from tha wise woman as lived on the top o’ the hill, an’ dealt in potions an’ herbs an’ spells an’ things, an’ could tell thee all as ’d come to thee or thy folk. So he tellt ’s mother, ’n axed her if a should seek tha wise woman ’n’ buy a pottle o’ brains.

“That ye should,” says she: “thou’st sore need o’ them, my son; an’ ef a should dee, who’d take care o’ a poor fool such ’s thou, no more fit to look arter thysel’ than an unborn babby? but min’ thy manners, an’ speak her pretty, my lad; fur they wise fo’ak are gey’an light mispleased.”

So off he went after ’s tea, an’ there she was, sittin’ by tha fire, an’ stirrin’ a big pot.

“Good e’en, missis,” says he, “its a fine night.”

“Aye,” says she, an’ went on stirring.

“It’ll mebbe rain,” says he, an’ fidgetted from one foot to t’other.

“ Mebbe,” says she.

“An’ mappen ’t ’ull no,” says he, an’ looked out o’ the window.

“Mappen,” says she.

An’ he scratched ’s head, an’ twisted ’s hat.

“ Weel,” says he, “a can’t min’ nuthin’ else aboot tha weather, but lemme see; the crops is gittin’ on fine.”

“Fine,” says she.

“An’—an’—tha beasts is fattenin’,” says he.

“They are,” says she.

“An’—an’—” says he, ’n comes to a stop—“a reckon we’ll tackle business noo, hevin’ done tha perlite like. Hev’ ye any brains fur to sell?”

{166} “That depen’s,” says she, “ef thou wants king’s brains, or sodger’s brains, or schoolme’aster’s brains, a dinna keep ’em.”

“Hout no,” says he, “jist ord’nar brains—fit fur any fool—same ’s every one has ’bout here; suthin’ clean common-like.”

“Aye so,” says tha wise woman, “a’ might manage that, ef so be thou’ll help thysel’.”

“Hoo’s that fur, missis?” says he.

“Jest so,” says she, lookin’ in ’s pot; “bring me the heart o’ tha thing thou likes best o’ all, an’ a ’ll tell thee where to get thy pottle o’ brains.”

“But,” says he, scratching his head, “hoo can a do that?”

“That ’s no’on fur me to say,” says she, “fin’ oot fur thysel’, my lad! ef thou disna want to be a fool a’ thy days. But thou ’ll hev’ to read me a riddle so ’s a can see thou ’st brought the reet thing, an’ ef thy brains is ’boot thee. An’ a ’ve suthin’ else to see to;” says she, “so gode’en to ’ee,” and she carried the pot away wi’ her into tha back place.

So off goes the fool to ’s mother, an’ tellt her what tha wise woman said.

“An’ a reckon a ’ll hev to kill that pig,” says he, “fur a like fat bacon better nor iverythin’.”

“Then do ’t, my lad,” said ’s mother, “fur sartain ’t ’ull be a stra’ange an’ good thing fur ’ee, ef thou canst buy a pottle o’ brains, an’ be able to look arter thy ain sel’.”

So he killed ’s pig, an’ nex’ day off a went to tha wise woman’s cottage, an’ there she sat, readin’ in a great book.

“Gode’en, missis,” say he, “a ’ve brought thee tha heart o’ tha thing a likes best o’ all; an’ a put it hapt i’ paper on tha table.”

“Aye so?” says she, an’ looked at him through her spec’itals. “Tell me this then, what rins wi’oot feet?”

{167} He scratched ’s head, an’ thowt, an’ thowt, but a couldn’t tell.

“Go thy ways,” says she, “thou’st no fo’t me the reet thing yet. I’se no’on brains fur ’ee to-day”. An’ she clap the book togither, an’ t’orned ’s back.

So off tha fool went to tell ’s mother.

But as a got nigh the hoose, oot came fo’ak runnin’ to tell un ’at ’s mother was deein’.

An’ when he got in, ’s mother ony looked at un, an’ smiled, ’s if to say she could leave un wi’ a quiet min, sence a’d got brains ’nuff noo to look arter ’s sel’—an’ then she dee’d.

So doun a sat, an’ the more a thowt aboot it the badder a feeled. He minded hoo she’d nuss’t un when a wor a tiddy brat, an’ he’ped un wi’ ’s lessons, an’ cooked ’s dinners, an’ mended ’s clouts, an’ born wi’ ’s foolishness; an’ a felt sorrier ’n’ sorrier, while a began to sob an’ greet.

“Oh, mother, mother!” says he, “who’ll tak’ care on me noo! Thou shouldn’t hev’ lef’ me alo’an, fur a liked thee better nor iverything!”

An’ as he said that, he thowt of the words o’ the wise woman. “Hi, yi!” says he, “must a cut oot mother’s heart an’ tak’ it to her? A disna like the job,” an’ he took oot a knife an’ felt ’s edge. “No! a can’t do ’t,” says he. “What’ll a do! what’ll a do to get that pottle o’ brains, noo a’m alone i’ the worl’?” So a thowt an’ thowt, an’ next day a went an’ borrowed a sack, an’ bundelt ’s mother in, an’ carried it on ’s showther up to th’ wise woman’s cottage.

“Gode’en, missis,” says he, “a reckon a ’ve fo’t ’ee the reet thing this time, surely,” an’ he plumped the sack down kerflap! in the doorsil.

“Mebbe,” says the wise woman, “but read me this, noo, what’s yaller an’ shinin’ but isna goold?”

An’ he scratched ’s head, an’ thowt, an’ thowt, but a couldna tell.

“Thou’st no hit the reet thing, my lad,” says she. “I {168} doubt thou’s a bigger fool nor a thought!” an’ shut the door in ’s face.

“See there!” says he, an’ sets doun by tha road side an’ greets.

“A’ve lost tha on’y twae things as a cared for, an’ what else can a fin’ to buy a pottle o’ brains wi’!” an’ he fair howled, till tha tears ran doun into ’s mooth. An’ oop came a lass as lived gainhand, an’ looked at un.

“What’s oop wi’ thee, fool?” says she.

“Oo a’s killed ma pig, ’n lost my mother, an’ a’m nobbut a fool mysel’,” says he, sobbin’.

“That’s bad,” says she; “an’ hevna thee anybody to look arter thee?”

“Naw,” says he, “an’ a canna buy my pottle o’ brains fur thurs nuthin’ a like best lef’!”

“What art ta’alkin’ aboot”! says she.

An’ doun she sets by him, an’ he tellt her all aboot the wise woman an’ the pig, an’ ’s mother an’ the riddles, an’ ’at he was alo’an i’ the warld.

“Weel,” says she, “a wouldn’t min’ lookin’ arter thee mysel’.”

“Could thee do ’t?” says he.

“Ou, ay!” says she, “fo’ak says as fools mak’ good husban’s, an’ a reckon a’ll hev thee, ef thou’st willin’.”

“Can’st cook?” says he.

“Ay, a can,” says she.

“An’ scrub?” says he.

“Surely,” says she.

“An’ men’ ma clouts?” says he.

“A can that,” says she.

“A reckon thou’lt do then ’s weel ’s anybody,” says he; “but what ’ll a do ’bout this wise woman?”

“Oh, wait a bit,” says she, “suthin’ mowt turn up, an’ it ’ll no matter ef thou ’rt a fool, s’ long ’s thou’st got me to look arter thee.”

“That’s true,” says he, an’ off tha went and got married. {169} An’ she kept ’s house so clean an’ neat, an’ cooked ’s dinner so fine, ’at one night a says to her:

“Lass, a ’m thinkin’ a like thee best o’ iverything, arter all.”

“That’s good hearin’,” says she, “an’ what then?”

“Hev ’a got to kill thee, dost think, an’ take thy heart oop to the wise woman for that pottle o’ brains?”

“Laws, no!” says she, lookin’ skeered, “a winna hev’ that. But see here; thou didn’t cut oot thy mother’s heart, did tha?”

“Naw; but if a had, mebbe a’d a got my pottle o’ brains,” says he.

“Not a bit o’t,” says she; “jist thou take me ’s a be, heart ’n all, ’n a wager a ’ll help thee read the riddles.”

“Can thee so?” says he, doubtful like; “a reckon thon ’s too hard for wimmen fo’ak.”

“Weel,” says she, “let ’s see noo. Tell ’s the first ’un.”

“What rins wi’oot feet?” says he.

“Why, watter!” says she.

“It do,” says he, an’ scratched ’s head.

“An’ what ’s yaller an’ shinin’, but isna goold?”

“Why, the sun!” says she.

“Faix, it be!” says he. “Coom, us ’ll go oop to the wise woman towanst,” and off they went. An’ as they comed oop the pad, she wor sittin’ at the door, twinin’ straws.

“Gode’en, missis,” says he.

“Gode’en, fool,” says she.

“A reckon a ’s fo’t ’e the reet thing to last,” says he, “thoff a hevn’t azac’ly cut th’ heart oot, it be so moocky wark.”

The wise woman looked at ’em both, an’ wiped her spec’itals.

“Canst tell me what that be, as has first nae legs, an’ then twae legs, an’ en’s wi’ fower legs?”

An’ the fool scratched ’s head, an’ thowt, an’ thowt; but a couldna tell.

{170} An’ the lass whispered in ’s ear:

“It be a tadpole.”

“Mappen,” says he then, “it mout be a tadpole, missis.”

The wise woman nodded ’s head.

“That ’s reet,” says she, ” an’ thou’st got thy pottle o’ brains a’ready.”

“Wheer be they?” says he, lookin’ aboot, an’ feelin’ in ’s pockets.

“In thy wife’s head,” says she. “The on’y cure fur a fool ’s a good wife to look arter ’n, an’ that thou’st got; so gode’en to ’ee!” An’ wi’ that she nodded to ’em, an’ up and into the hoose.

So they went ho’am together, an’ a niver wanted to buy a pottle o’ brains age’an, fur ’s wife ’ad enuff fur both.

M. C. Balfour.