The Little Silver Goblet, A Story from a Moelfre Writer
by Olwenna Strain
The following short story is written by Owenna Strain, a member of the Moelfre Writing Group on Anglesey. It is based on a story passed down the generations of her family and recounted to Owenna by her nain. She now tells it in her own words.
Nan looked at her reflection in the little silver goblet. She had cleaned and polished it over the years until it shone like a mirror. With a little imagination she could still see the young girl the she had been the first time she saw the silver goblet.
On a beautiful autumn morning, her favourite time of year, school was the last place Nan wanted to be. She loved the way leaves changed their colours and the hedgerows were full of ripening berries.
She made her way through Hendre Wen, crossed the little bridge into the winding lane that would take her into the village, and picked ripening blackberries until she reached Ty’n-y-Berllan. This was the home of old Ma Evans, so Nan hurried past as fast as she could, as everyone knew that Ma was a witch.
One morning as she passed the cottage, Nan noticed a gap in the hedge that she’d never seen before. Curiosity got the better of her and she found she had a great view of the garden and orchard. To her surprise there were beds of colourful flowers and neat rows of vegetables. A path led to a compost heap where bantam hens and a cockerel were scratching around.
Beyond that was an apple orchard, and pears and plums ready to pick; while two fat black cats sunned themselves on a wooden bench beneath the kitchen window. As Nan watched, Ma Evans herself came out of the cottage to peg some washing on the line. Everything was spotlessly clean, but Nan’s hair stood on end when she saw the tea towels.
They had deep red stains all over them. Blood! And too much for a chicken. Nan turned and fled.
The little girl could not concentrate on her school work that day. Nan, normally a bright and cheerful child, could not get the thought of the blood stained washing out of her head. As soon as the 3 o’clock bell rang she sprinted out of the schoolroom, into the lane and straight for Ma Evans’ cottage.
The washing was still on the line but now the garden was empty. Nan pushed until she had enlarged the gap in the hedge and she could squeeze through into the garden. With her heart in her mouth, she edged her way closer and closer to the kitchen window.
Kneeling on the bench, where the cats had been sleeping, Nan found she could look right into the old woman’s kitchen. What she saw made her almost fall off the bench. The long wooden table, and everything on it, was running red with blood, and the old witch was standing with her back to the window, stirring something in a cauldron over the fire.
As Nan watched, Ma picked up a ladle and spooned some of the contents of the cauldron into a silver goblet. Dark red glutinous liquid ran down the side. Ma was sniffing at it and then, in one gulp, she had emptied the goblet.
Nan ran all the way home. “Mam”, she cried. “Old Ma Evans is a witch, and all the stories about her are true. She’s killed someone, and I saw her drinking their blood!”
“Sush now, Nan, don’t be so silly”, said her mother impatiently.
Nan tried to tell her father what she had seen. “What nonsense, child”, was all he said. So nobody believed her. Every day Nan expected to hear that someone had gone missing, and every night her mind replayed the dreadful scene in her nightmares.
She no longer lingered in the lane to pick wild flowers or enjoy the sunshine. Perhaps it had only been chicken blood the old woman had been drinking but nothing would convince Nan that Ma Evans was not a witch.
Nan left school at 11 years of age and went to work as a kitchen maid at the vicarage. The vicar’s wife was a kind mistress and soon realised that Nan was an intelligent and willing worker. She had learned to cook by helping her mother at home but at the vicarage she found she had a talent for making jams and chutney.
“I am entering your marrow chutney and your blackcurrant jam in the produce section at the Anglesey Show next month”, her mistress announced one morning. Nan flushed with pride at the very thought of being considered for such a prestigious event. “And will we be entering the beetroot chutney, then?”
“Oh, goodness me, no! Mrs Evans, Ty’n-y-Berllan, always wins that. She’s famous over the island for her beetroot chutney and her blackberry wine. It’s a wonder you have never come across her, covered head to toe in red juice. You would sear she had just murdered someone!”
Some years later, after old Ma Evans had died, a box of her belongings turned up at a jumble sale being held at the vicarage. In among the items Nan spotted the tarnished and stained solver goblet.
“Please, can I buy this?”
“You can have it dear. I doubt that anyone will want to buy that old thing. Goodness knows what it’s been used for.”
“I know”, said Nan in a whisper. She smiled to herself as she carried away the little silver goblet full of childhood memories.