The first thing Willie did, after getting his room all to himself, was
to put hinges on the windows and make them open, so satisfying his
father as to the airiness of the room. Finding himself then, as it were,
in a house of his own, he began to ask his friends in the village to
come and see him in his new quarters. The first who did so was Mrs
Wilson, and Mr Spelman followed. Hector Macallaster was unwell, and it
was a month before he was able to go; but the first day he could he
crawled up the hill to the Ruins, and then up the little winding stair
to Willie's nest. The boy was delighted to see him, made him sit in his
great arm-chair, and, as the poor man was very tired with the exertion,
would have run to the house to get him something; but Hector begged
for a little water, and declared he could take nothing else. Therefore
Willie got a tumbler from his dressing-table, and went to the other side
of the room. Hector, hearing a splashing and rushing, turned round to
look, and saw him with one hand in a small wooden trough that ran along
the wall, and with the other holding the tumbler in a stream of water
that fell from the side of the trough into his bath. When the tumbler
was full, he removed his hand from the trough, and the water ceased to
overflow. He carried the tumbler to Hector, who drank, and said the
water was delicious.
Hector could not imagine how the running water had got there, and Willie
had to tell him what I am now going to tell my reader. His grandmother's
sovereign and his own hydraulics had brought it there.
He had been thinking for some time what a pleasure it would be to have a
stream running through his room, and how much labour it would save poor
old Tibbie; for it was no light matter for her old limbs to carry all
the water for his bath up that steep narrow winding stair to his room.
He reasoned that as the well rose and overflowed when its outlet was
stopped, it might rise yet farther if it were still confined; for its
source was probably in the heart of one of the surrounding hills, and
water when confined will always rise as high as its source. Therefore,
after much meditation as to how it could be accomplished in the simplest
and least expensive manner, he set about it as follows.
First of all he cleared away the floor about the well, and built up the
circular wall of it a foot or two higher, with stones picked from those
lying about, and with mortar which he made himself. By means of a
spirit-level, he laid the top layer of stones quite horizontal; and he
introduced into it several blocks of wood instead of stones.
Next he made a small wooden frame, which, by driving spikes between the
stones, he fastened to the opening of the underground passage, so that a
well-fitting piece of board could move up and down in it, by means of a
projecting handle, and be a more manageable sluice than he had hitherto
Then he made a strong wooden lid to the mouth of the well, and screwed
it down to the wooden blocks he had built in. Through a hole in it, just
large enough, came the handle of the sluice.
Next, in the middle of the cover, he made a hole with a brace and
centre-bit, and into it drove the end of a strong iron pipe, fitting
tight, and long enough to reach almost to the top of the vault. As soon
as this was fixed he shut down the sluice, and in a few seconds the
water was falling in sheets upon him, and flooding the floor, dashed
back from the vault, against which it rushed from the top of the pipe.
This was enough for the present; he raised the sluice and let the water
escape again below. It was plain, from the force with which the water
struck the vault, that it would yet rise much higher.
He scrambled now on the top of the vault, and, examining the ruins, soon
saw how a pipe brought up through the breach in the vault could be led
to the hole in the wall of his room which he had shown his father as a
ventilator. But he would not have a close pipe running through his room.
There would be little good in that. He could have made a hole in it,
with a stopper, to let the water out when he wanted to use it, but that
would be awkward, while all the pleasure lay in seeing the water as it
ran. Therefore he got Mr Spelman to find him a long small pine tree,
which he first sawed in two, lengthways, and hollowed into two troughs;
then, by laying the small end of one into the wide end of the other, he
had a spout long enough to reach across the room, and go through the
wall on both sides.
The chief difficulty was to pierce the other wall, for the mortar was
very hard. The stones, however, just there were not very large, and,
with Sandy's help, he managed it.
The large end of one trough was put through the ventilator-hole, and the
small end of the other through the hole opposite; their second ends met
in the middle, the one lying into the other, and were supported at the
juncture by a prop.
They filled up the two openings round the ends with lime and small
stones, making them as tidy as they could, and fitting small slides by
which Willie could close up the passages for the water when he pleased.
Nothing remained but to solder a lead pipe into the top of the iron one,
guide this flexible tube across the ups and downs of the ruins, and lay
the end of it into the trough.
At length Willie took his stand at the sluice, and told Sandy to
scramble up to the end of the lead pipe, and shout when the water began
to pour into the trough. His object was to find how far the sluice
required to be shut down in order to send up just as much water as the
pipe could deliver. More than that would cause a pressure which might
strain, and perhaps burst, their apparatus.
He pushed the sluice down a little, and waited a moment.
"Is it coming yet, Sandy?" he cried.
"Not a drop," shouted Sandy.
Willie pushed it a little further, and then knew by the change in the
gurgle below that the water was rising in the well; and it soon began to
spout from the hole in the cover through which the sluice-handle came
"It's coming," cried Sandy, after a pause; "not much, though."
Down went the sluice a little further still.
"It's pouring," echoed the voice of Sandy amongst the ruins; "as much as
ever the pipe can give. Its mouth is quite full."
Willie raised the sluice a little.
"How is it now?" he bawled.
"Less," cried Sandy.
So Willie pushed it back to where it had been last, and made a notch in
the handle to know the right place again.
So the water from the Prior's Well went careering through Willie's
bed-chamber, a story high. When he wanted to fill his bath, he had only
to stop the run with his hand, and it poured over the sides into it;
so that Tibbie was to be henceforth relieved of a great labour, while
Willie's eyes were to be delighted with the vision, and his ears with
the sounds of the water scampering through his room.
An hour or so after, as he was finishing off something about the mouth
of the well, he heard his father calling him.
"Willie, Willie," he shouted, "is this any more of your kelpie work?"
"What is it, father?" cried Willie, as he came bounding to him.
He needed no reply when he saw a great pool of water about the back
door, fed by a small stream from the direction of the woodhouse. Tibbie
had come out, and was looking on in dismay.
"That's Willie again, sir," she was saying. "You never can tell where
he'll be spouting that weary water at you."
[Illustration: TIBBIE, LOOKING ON IN DISMAY, SAID, "THAT'S WILLIE
The whole place'll be bog before long, and we'll be all turned into
frogs, and have nothing to do but croak. That well 'll be the ruin of us
all with cold and coughs."
"You'll be glad enough of it to-night, Tibbie," said Willie, laughing
"A likely story!" she returned, quite cross. "It'll be into the house if
you don't stop it."
"I'll soon do that," said Willie.
Neither he nor Sandy had thought what would become of the water after it
had traversed the chamber. There it was pouring down from the end of the
wooden spout, just clearing the tarred roof of the spiral stair, and
plashing on the ground close to the foot of it; in their eagerness they
had never thought of where it would run to next. And now Willie was
puzzled. Nothing was easier than to stop it for the present, which of
course he ran at once to do; but where was he to send it?
Thinking over it, however, he remembered that just on the other side of
the wall was the stable where his father's horses lived, close to the
parson's garden; and in the corner, at the foot of the wall, was a
drain; so that all he had to do was to fit another spout to this, at
right angles to it, and carry it over the wall.
"You needn't take any water up for me tonight, Tibby," he said, as he
went in to supper, for he had already filled his bath.
"Nonsense, Willie," returned Tibbie, still out of temper because of the
mess at the door. "Your papa says you must have your bath, and my poor
old bones must ache for 't."
"The bath's filled already. If you put in one other pailful, it'll run
over when I get into it."
"Now, don't you play tricks with me, Willie. I won't have any more of
your joking," returned Tibbie.
Nettled at the way she took the information with which he had hoped to
please her, he left her to carry up her pail of water; but it was the
last, and she thanked him very kindly the next day.
The only remaining question was how to get rid of the bath-water. But
he soon contrived a sink on the top step of the stair outside the door,
which was a little higher than the wall of the stable-yard. From there a
short pipe was sufficient to carry that water also over into the drain.
I may mention, that although a severe winter followed, the Prior's Well
never froze; and that, as they were always either empty, or full of
running water, the pipes never froze, and consequently never burst.