YOUNG woman, with a child in her arms, stands by the side of Gulval Well, in Fosses Moor. There is an expression of extreme anxiety in her interesting face, which exhibits a considerable amount of intelligence. She appears to doubt, and yet be disposed to believe in, the virtues of this remarkable well. She pauses, looks at her babe, and sighs. She is longing to know something of the absent, but she fears the well may indicate the extreme of human sorrow. While she is hesitating, an old woman advances towards her, upon whom the weight of eighty years was pressing, but not over-heavily; and she at once asked the young mother if she wished to ask the well after the health of her husband.
"Yes, Aunt Alcie," she replied; "I ant so anxious. I have not heard of John for six long months. I could not sleep last night, so I rose with the light, and came here, determined to ask the well; but I am afraid. O Aunt Alcie, suppose the well should not speak, I should die on the spot !"
"Nonsense, cheeld," said the old woman; "thy man is well enough; and the well will boil, if thee 'It ask it in a proper spirit."
"But, Aunt Alcie, if it sends up puddled water, or if it remains quiet, what would become of me ?"
"Never be foreboding, cheeld; troubles come quick without running to meet 'em. Take my word for it, the fayther of thy little un will soon be home again. Ask the well ! ask the well !"
"Has it told any death or sickness lately ?" asked the young mother.
"On St Peter's eve Mary Curnew questioned the water about poor Willy."
"And the water never moved ?"
"The well was quiet; and verily I guess it was about that time he died."
"Any sickness, Aunt Alcie ?"
"Jenny Kelinach was told, by a burst of mud, how ill her old mother was; but do not be feared, all is well with Johnny Thomas."
Still the woman hesitated; desire, fear, hope, doubt, superstition, and intelligence struggled within her heart and brain.
The old creature, who was a sort of guardian to the well, used all her rude eloquence to persuade Jane Thomas to put her question, and at length she consented. Obeying the old woman's directions, she knelt on the mat of bright green grass which grew around, and leaning over the well so as to see her face in the water, she repeated after her instructor,
"Water, water, tell me truly,
Is the man I love duly
On the earth, or under the sod,
Sick or well,--in the name of God ?"
Some minutes passed in perfect silence, and anxiety was rapidly turning cheeks and lips pale, when the colour rapidly returned.
There was a gush of clear water from below, bubble rapidly followed bubble, sparkling brightly in the morning sunshine. Full of joy, the young mother rose from her knees, kissed her child, and exclaimed, "I am happy now ! " [a]
[a] Hals, speaking of Gelval well, thus describes it and its virtues :-- In Fosses Moor part of this manor of Lanesly, its this parish, is that well-known fountain called Gulval Well. To which place great numbers of people, time out of mind, have resorted for pleasure and profit of their health, as the credulous country people do in these days, not only to drink the waters thereof, but to inquire after the life or death of their absent friends; where, being arrived, they demanded the question at the well whether such a person by name be living, in health, sick, or dead. If the party be living and in health, the still quiet water of the well-pit, as soon as the question is demanded, will instantly bubble or bon up as a pot, clear crystalline water; if sick, foul and puddled waters; if the party be dead, it will neither bubble, boil up, nor alter ita colour or still motion. However, I can speak nothing of the truth of those supernatural facts from my own sight or experience, but write from the mouths of those who told me they had seen and proved the veracity thereof. Finally, it is a strong and courageous fountain of water, kept neat and clean by an old woman of the vicinity, to accommodate strangers, for her own advantage, by blazing the virtues and divine qualities of those waters."--,Hals, quoted by Gibert, Parochial History of Cornwall, vol. ii. p. 121.