By Tim Porteus

HAPPY St Andrew’s Day! The results of a poll on people’s favourite Scots word by Scottish Book Trust was revealed this week.

So here’s a tale that includes all the top 10 favourite Scots words identified in the poll, plus some mair:

THE weather matched the young wife’s mood: dreich.

By the time she reached the witch’s cottage at the foothills of the Lammermuirs, she was soaked.

“Och, come in hen, ye look drookit,” said the old woman sympathetically. They sat by the fire together.

“Noo how can I help ye?” asked the old woman.

The young wife sighed.

“I just cannae thole it onymair,” she said, getting upset.

The old woman listened, waiting for the young woman to compose herself.

“It’s ma mither-in-law, she bides wi us and, weel, she’s makin ma life a misery.”

“How sae?” asked the old woman.

“I can dae naethin richt; accordin tae her ma cookin is awfu, my hoose is mingin, I canne gie an opinion aboot onythin withoot her sayin the opposite, she treats me as if I’m glaikit. I’m totally scunnerd wi it.”

“I see,” said the witch, “and how can I help ye wi this?”

“I want her oot ma life, I want her deid.”

“Deid?” The witch seemed genuinely shocked.

“Aye, deid, gone, awa. I just want her oot ma hoose and oot ma life.”

“Weel, she doenae hae tae be deid fir that,” suggested the witch.

“Aye she does, I dinnae want her aroond. She’ll come knocking oan the door. Please can ye help me. I want her deid... er, wi oot it, ye ken, weel sae it isnae murder.”

“But it wud be murder ma dear.”

The young woman bent her head low and began to whisper as if someone might overhear their conversation.

“I ken, but ye are a witch, abody says ye hae potions fir onything. Please, I have siller. Mak it look natural. Then me an ma husband can get oan wi oor lives thegither.”

The witch thought for a moment, then nodded her head.

“Very weel, I will help ye, but ye maun dae whit I say.”

The wife smiled with relief: “Thank ye.”

The old woman went ben the hoose to where she kept her herbs and ingredients. The young woman was curious and tried to sneak a look but the witch told her to stay by the fireside until she was finished.

Then she came through holding a small bottle of potion.

“Here,” she said to the wife. “This will dae the trick. Ye maun put ane sma drap o this potion in yer mither-in-law’s tea every day.”

“But she maks her ain tea,” said the young woman, “she ay complains I cannae mak tea the proper way.”

“Weel, ye maun find a way fir her tae allow ye tae mak her tea,” said the witch. “Then every day sit wi her as she drinks the tea. She maun drink it a.”

The wife smiled: “How lang will it tak?”

“Och, mebbes twa months, ye maun use up the hale bottle. Then it will tak effect a few days aifter the last drap has been drunk.”

“Twa months!”

“Aye hen, it must be gradual, otherwise folk will suspect.”

The young woman clutched the bottle and nodded.

“Noo can I hae the siller,” asked the witch, and the wife willingly paid.

“Mind tae gie the bottle a wee shoogle afore ye yaise it,” the witch advised, “and hud yer wheesht aboot this, or we’ll baith hang.”

“O course,” said the young woman as she left the witch’s house.

The weather had lifted, as had her mood. Soon her problems would be over, she thought to herself.

The witch watched her go, then closed the door. She had a knowing grin on her face.

Two months later there was a desperate knocking on the old woman’s door. She looked out of the window and saw the young wife standing just outwith the cottage, in a terrible state.

So she opened her door.

“Please, please help me,” begged the young woman.

The witch took her inside. The young woman had run all the way and her shawl had become wrapped round her hair, and her dress was dishevelled with the wind.

“Och hen, ye are in a richt fankle, sort yersel oot and sit by the fire fir a warm.”

The young wife rearranged her clothes and started to greet as she spoke.

“Hae ye got an antidote fir the potion; please say ye huv,” she said.

“An antidote, hen?”

“Aye, I’ve changed ma mind. I gied ma mither-in-law a cup of tea wi the last drap o potion. I watched her drink and then she telt me that I mak a braw cup of tea and that she wis glad her son hud marrit me! It wis in that moment I realised I didnae want her deid!”

“I see,” said the witch. “I’m afraid there is nae antidote fir the potion.”

The young women cradled her head in her hands. “Whit huv I done, what huv I done,” she cried to herself.

“Ye huv got tae ken her, that’s whit ye’ve done,” said the witch. “As ye spent time wi her making sure she drank her tea, ye will have talked, am I richt?”

“Aye,” sobbed the wife, “and she listened tae. I ken she’s an auld witch sometime, er nae offence, but I understand her better noo.”

The witch smiled. “Guid,” she said, “noo ye can gang hame and keep oan huvin the tea thegither, without the potion.”

“But she’s goanie be deid in a few days,” sobbed the wife.

“Naw she isnae,” replied the witch, “the potion wis just a few herbs that wouldnae hairm even a wee beastie.”

“What? Ye telt me that it would kill her!” protested the wife.

“No I didnae, I said it would work aifter twa months. And it has. It wis the hatred ye hud that needed kilt, no yer mither-in-law. And the same goes fir her.”

The young wife was so relieved. For a moment she wondered about asking for her money back, but she realised the potion had indeed done its job.

Her relationship with her mother-in-law was not always easy, but they had regular cups of tea and chats together, and often they would laugh as they shared memories and stories from life.

“The claes are in a richt bumfle,” said the mother-in-law the following day, then she smiled. “But let’s hae oor tea first and we can sort the claes thegither.”

The wife thought to herself that the witch was indeed a wise woman.