Tea pot, silver with either silver gilt or brass touches
and wicker wound handle from the V&A collection.
It is said that one may thrive among the faeries so long as one has good manners. Now it happened that a long time ago a woman had three daughters of which the youngest was her stepdaughter. For the love the woman had born her youngest child's father, she treated the youngest with the same love she had for her own daughters. Her husband having died, the woman brought up the three of her daughters alone. She and her daughters were among the finest seamstresses in the land. Yet they made but little money and were very poor. Despite this, they survived as best they might, growing vegetables and by a little hunting of pheasants and rabbits.
One day the youngest daughter asked her stepmother if she might go hunting. Her stepmother gave her a little bread and some carrots, the rough hewn bow and two quivers of arrows. She told the youngest daughter to be careful for the forest was full of dangers. The daughter replied that she was not afraid of wolves or bears, but the stepmother shook her head and wagged her finger at the young woman.
"I'm trying to keep you safe my love. Keep good manners with all you meet and you will make friends rather than enemies. If you come across any of the fair folk and are rude and dismissive you cannot fare well. If you make friends my child you will be helped by all. If you make enemies then you can only suffer." she told her warningly.
Knowing her stepmother loved her, the daughter agreed and promised to be polite and keep good manners with all she met. This said, off she went across the field behind their cramped cottage and into the forest to hunt. She amused herself by considering that hunting the pheasant, rabbit or hare was hardly polite to them. Still, on she went among the trees until she met an old woman no higher than her hip. The old woman wore a dull green dress with a red apron over it.
Remembering her stepmother's words, the young woman greeted the old woman thus,
"Hallo honourable grandmother, may I be of service to you?"
The old woman asked if she had a little food for she was very hungry. The young woman answered that she had little enough and was hunting to feed her stepmother and sisters.
"Still and all, you are welcome to all I have. I shall hunt and seek for food as I can," she answered.
She opened up the little package of food and to her surprise, instead of the bread and carrots she found fine food, tea, cups and a fine teapot. The young woman and the old woman then had a good meal and the young woman thanked the old woman sincerely. The old woman told her to keep the teapot and the cups and that they would bring her good luck if she kept them. The young woman said she would do so, if only for the memory of the old woman's good company. Then she took her leave and went hunting. By the end of the day she had a great catch and returned home to a fine welcome as you might imagine. She kissed her stepmother that night and thanked her for her good advice.
You may imagine that for a while the four women lived well enough, but having seen their younger sister do so well the two elder sisters also wished to try their luck. First the middle daughter went out to try her luck. She went across the field and entered the forest. There she too met the old woman, but not believing that the old woman might benefit her she dismissed the old woman with a wave of her hand and went off hunting.
By the end of the day, not only had she caught nothing but her clothes were torn to tatters by the branches and briars as was her lovely skin. She went home in a terrible mood and would say nothing. Still, they loved her and took care of her and put her to bed. The following day, the eldest daughter went out hunting. She took a small portion of bread, a few carrots and a little dried meat for her lunch. She went out across the field and entered the forest. She had barely entered the forest when she too came across the old woman.
"Good morning grandmother are you well?" she asked politely.
"I am quite hungry my child, do you have anything to eat?" the old woman asked her.
Now the oldest daughter was not a fool, she offered up the little food that she had and was not entirely surprised to find the package had become fine food and with it there was a crystal bottle of wine and fine glasses to drink the wine from. The two of them ate well and having done so, the old woman told her to keep the bottle and the wineglasses for they would bring her good luck.
"You are most kind grandmother, but I must go hunting and these beautiful glass objects are so fragile that I am afraid they might break. I should hate to damage them. I shall keep the memory of you in my heart and I am grateful for the fine meal we have shared, for my family have had little to eat very recently," the eldest daughter said.
The old woman chuckled and assured her the glassware would not break at all. The eldest daughter thanked her then and went hunting having politely taken her leave. She made a great catch that day and returned home to her family with great cheerfulness.
They ate well for a while but then they began to run out of food again and the middle daughter refused to go hunting for she remembered well what had happened to her.
"My sisters have brought home fine things, why can we not sell them and raise some money?" she said.
The stepmother considered this and took the teapot and the cups from the youngest daughter and placed them on the table. She asked her daughter to pour the tea. The youngest daughter objected that no tea had been brewed, but her stepmother smiled and asked her to pour it anyway. The youngest daughter sighed, but obeyed and from the teapot issued a pale gold infusion that turned to gold coins when it touched the cups. The youngest daughter was so surprised that she continued to pour and the gold coins spilled over the edges of the cups and all over the table. The stepmother put her daughter's hands gently down on the table and gathering up the coins they sent the middle daughter to town to buy food.
"Be polite to all you meet, my dear and treat everyone you come across as you would wish to be treated," her mother told her.
The middle daughter said that she would and went out to the town. But we will stay with her sisters and mother. The stepmother asked her eldest daughter to bring the wine bottle and the glasses. The daughter did so and poured from the bottle into the glasses. As the wine, red as blood fell into the wine glasses it became rubies, diamonds, sapphires and emeralds. The eldest daughter was amazed and continued to pour until the gems spilled over onto the table until her mother put her hands and the bottle gently down. She gathered up the gemstones and put them away.
What of the middle daughter? She had learned her lesson well and was polite to all she met on the way to town and back, which was lucky. On the way home she met the old woman and greeted her politely. The old woman said she was on her way to the forest but was tired. She looks such a little old thing and I am young and strong, thought the middle daughter. She crouched down and took the old woman on her back and carried her back to the forest where she put the old woman gently down.
"Do be careful grandmother for there are wolves and bears and even faeries in the forest," she advised.
The old woman smiled and said she would not have any trouble.
"But I am most grateful for you bringing me back," the old woman told her and gave her a small box from the pocket in her apron.
"Keep this box, it will bring you good luck," she told the middle daughter.
The middle daughter thanked her and asked her if she would like to come and have supper with her family. The old woman chuckled and thanked her but she had to get home. She bid the middle daughter farewell and disappeared into the forest.
The middle daughter went home and told her mother and sisters about the old woman. The stepmother asked her to put the box on the table and to open it. The middle daughter was happy to do it, for she too was curious as to what was inside. When they all looked into the small box they saw fabric. The middle daughter took it and pulled gently. The fabric kept on coming until the room was covered at least twice by the fine red silk damask. The middle daughter let go of it then and looked in again. She took another pinch of fabric and pulled it. Again there was more and more fabric until she let go of it.
For the rest of their lives the four women had plenty of beautiful fabrics to make dresses and coats for all kinds of people. They had more than enough money and wealth with which they raised a great many people as well as themselves out of poverty. They never saw the old woman again, but they also did not ever forget her. Nor did they ever forget to be polite and keep good manners with all they met.
Most honoured and honourable readers,
may the new year bring you all good things and
be better than any year you can remember.
Happy New Year to you, every one!