Contributed by Marilyn McPhie, as told by storyteller Liz Weir
What would you do if you suddenly received a gift of gold from a stranger?
Many years ago, there was an old couple that lived in a small cottage in the glens. Things were not going well for them. They had one cow which had not been giving much milk lately, a couple of chickens, which had not been laying many eggs lately, a small, shabby cottage, and a bit of land with an old broken fence.
One day a traveler came to the door. He was welcomed in, as was the custom at that time. He sat down at the table and was given a portion of what little they had –just potatoes and buttermilk. As they talked, the man and woman told the traveler of their troubles.
The traveler said, “I have something that might help you, give you a bit of a lift.” He reached into the pocket of his tattered jacket and pulled out a bar of solid gold. He handed it to the astonished man.
“Yes, indeed, this will surely help,” said the man. “Thank you.” They looked at the gold, and when they looked up, the traveler was gone. They buried the gold under the floor while they decided what to do with it.
The next day, the man said, “I think we could get you a few more chickens,” but the wife replied, “No. The chickens are fine. They’ll be laying well again. But maybe we could buy another cow,” to which the man replied, “No. The cow is a good milker. She’ll come back to giving good milk.”
They thought some more. “I know,” said the wife, “We could fix the fence, get some new fence posts, paint the whole thing and the house, too.” The man said, “Haven’t I already got the posts and the paint? I just haven’t gotten around to doing the work.”
A year later, the same traveler came back by. What a difference! He was greeted by the crowing of a rooster. There was a large flock of chickens in the yard. The cow was no longer scrawny, and there was a calf next to her. The house had a new coat of paint and there was a fine fence, also painted.
The traveler was welcomed warmly – like an old friend. He sat down to a plate of roasted meat, just-baked bread, and fresh vegetables. He said, “What a difference I see! You have done well since I was here last.”
“Yes, and we owe it all to you,” they said. “Ah, well, tell me, what did you spend the gold on?” The man and woman looked at each other. “To tell you the truth, we never spent the gold at all. It’s still buried under the floor. It seems that all we needed was a wee lift. You gave that to us.” The traveler said, “If you still have the gold and don’t really need it, perhaps I could take it with me. It may be that the next people I meet could use a wee lift.”