Traditions and Hearthside Stories of West Cornwall, Vol. 1, by William Bottrell, , at sacred-texts.com
(The story is true in its main incidents, though the names, for obvious reasons are fictitious.)
About twenty years ago, there lived in the parish of Stythians a very hard-working and careful old widow, called An Jenny Hendy. The penurious habits of the old woman seemed very unreasonable, because she had no children nor other relations who had any claims on her. An Jenny's savings must have been considerable, as she had long owned a comfortable cottage and several acres of rich land, with gardens and orchards, all in good order and cultivated by herself with but little assistance from anyone. Though the old creature had no near relations, there were scores about, all over that part of the country, who claimed cousin-ship, and who were most eager to please the mistress of such nice cows, pigs, and poultry, to say nothing of house, land, and other gear. These good folks became particularly attentive to Cousin Jenny when there appeared to be the least hopes of her having a speedy release from the cares and griefs of this world, and they showed much more anxiety about preparing the dame for her heavenward journey than she relished, particularly when reminded that she ought, as she had one foot in the grave, to prepare for her latter end by giving to some good cause of which the lecturer was an unworthy member, and so on.
In general, An Jenny told the pious beggars, in no measured terms, that if one foot was in the grave she would take all the care possible to keep the other out of it, as long as she could; and that, when she wanted her duds no longer, she would leave them to some honest body—if she could find one who worked, and did not talk for a living; so they might go and groan, turn up the whites of their eyes, spread out their fingers in sanctified style somewhere else, for anything they would get of her.
At last the old woman showed more regard for a young fellow of the same family name who lived in service with a farmer near by. When the young man had finished his day's work and had a few hours to spare, he would lend hand and do any odd jobs for An Jenny, to keep her place in good order, without thinking or pretending to any claims of kindred,
though he was as near a relation as she knew of. He left his wages with her for safe keeping, and An Jenny often said to others that she would add something to Robin's nest-egg, if he took home a decent maid for a wife. But, long before Bob though in earnest of giving up the happy estate of a single life and a sweetheart, he came over one Saturday night to deposit his wages with the old dame, and found her seated in her chair dead and cold. He called in the nearest neighbour, and they discovered, from the cows not having been milked in the morning, and other regular dairy work left undone, that she must have died the preceding night.
When Robin, with the assistance of a neighbour's wife, had the body laid out, and all put in order, they took from the old woman's pocket the key of her chest, and opened it, making sure that in the skibbet they would find some hundreds of pounds at least; but after searching chest, drawers, cupboards, the thatch, and every likely and unlikely hole and corner where the old woman might have secreted the young man's savings and her own, not a penny was to be found. Some of the cousins had visited the dame a few days before she died, though none of them came to the burying, the expense of which was defrayed by Robin out of his wages.
As might be expected, there was much guessing, enquiry, and surmises about what could have become of the money. Cousins, one and all, declared that they had no hand in the pie. Old Nick, they said, might have taken old Jenny, and her ill-gotten gear too, for what they knew or cared. The young man was much put out thus to loose the hard-earned savings of many years, besides the hopes of what An Jenny had promised, to lay in the nest of her own rusty guineas. He took possession, as many were found who had heard the old woman declare that whatever she had to leave she would give to Robin; and none of the cousins had so good a right, on the score of kindred. Besides, the dame had made a will, bequeathing all the property to Bob. This will was not to be found; still as the witnesses to this document were all living, everybody considered that he had good right to take what he found.
After many more vain searches, all the neighbours agreed that the only way to get any knowledge of what had become of the money was to consult Tammy, the white witch of Helston. Now, as Bob, as well as most others in the west, had heard of, and believed in, the extraordinary powers of this wise woman, he had no doubt of what everybody had told him, that she could raise the spirit of An Jenny Hendy and get her to say what was become of the cash; or rather, as they said, to tell him who of all the cousins had laid hands on it.
Bob, having made up his mind to consult the white witch, went to her abode one Saturday evening, about a month after the old woman's death. Tammy agreed that she could see no other way of clearing up the mystery than to raise the old woman's spirit, and get it to speak to him.
[paragraph continues] "But you must know," said the witch, "that it is a dreadful thing to undertake, and I shall want some money—two pounds at least—that we may get the herbs, drugs, and other things not easily procured, for the sake of securing myself and you against any evil influences of the spirit, and that we may either put her to rest or send her to torment those who have stolen the money. If you can give me a pound now, to get what we want, I'll have all ready to rise the spirit some night next week, if you will."
The man, well knowing that this precious white witch did nothing without forehand pay, gave her a sovereign, and promised to meet her, with a horse, on the road to Stythians churchyard, the next Thursday night, by eleven, so that they might be at the old woman's grave before midnight.
Thursday night came. Robin procured a quiet horse, stuffed a bag with straw, to serve as a pillion, secured it on behind the pad, and rode away, soon after dark, to meet the witch. As he jogged along the lanes, and reflected on what they were about to do, he didn't half like the job. To be sure, nothing was more reasonable, in such a case, than that the old woman's ghost should be raised without her making any difficulty about it, if she had but common honesty about her, and go to rest quietly again; but then, thought he, she was such a crankey, crabbed, crotchetty old body that no one can tell what she may do if she's once brought back. Yet, as they had always been on friendly terms, he concluded that she would behave herself decently. Still, as he had never seen a spirit, and had heard a great deal about the trouble of sometimes putting them to rest, he would have turned back, even then, had he not paid the sovereign. So, when he had fortified his courage with a few good pulls at the bottle of brandy he carried in his pocket, to treat the witch, he didn't fear to face the devil, much less the ghost of An Jenny Hendy, and he went off at a trot.
Within two miles, or so, of the churchyard where the old woman lay, Bob met the witch, who wasn't at all pleased because she had to walk so far. A drink from the bottle, however, improved her temper. For some time after Tammy mounted, they spoke but little; she kept mumbling something to herself in what seemed a strange lingo to the man. When he asked what she was palavering of, the witch replied, "You must keep silence, whilst I am communing with the spirits that attend me. I send them to prepare the one I'm about to raise. It's well they arn’t visible to you, because the sight of them is more than ordinary flesh and blood, such as yours, can stand. Now you arn’t afraid, are ’e?" says she, grasping Bob by the arm. "Well, no, I don't think I shall be afraid," said Robin.
When they arrived in Stythians churchtown it was near midnight. No lights were to be seen in the houses. After securing the horse in some
place, Tammy stalked away towards the churchyard, all the time mumbling something to herself, and only paused when they came to the churchyard-stile. Then, turning round to Bob, she said, "Oh! I'm nearly out of breath, with orderan the obstinate sperats about, and there's one now in this churchyard, more troublesome than all the rest, that I must subdue, or it may overcome me some night, when the least expected. I must have a pull at the bottle before begin what is harder and more dangerous work still."
After taking a good drink of the brandy, she said, "Don't you be frightened even if you happen to see Old Nick. Perhaps it would be well to tie a nackan (handkerchief) over your eyes, because often, in spite of all my charms, mystifications, conjurations, toxifications, incantations, fumigations, tarnations, devilations, and damnations, besides all the other ations ever known to the most learned passon or conjuror, the devil will often be here trying to catch the sperats, and the sight of his saucer eyes of fire, ugly horns, and cloven hoof, is enough to frighten one into fits. And oh! the smell of brimstone he brings along with him es enough to poison one! You arn’t afraid, are ’e, that you're trembling so?"
"No," groaned the man, "I don't mind brimstone, nor the old gentleman either, much; perhaps, after all, he esn’t half so bad as he's made out to be."
"Well," said the witch, when they came close to the churchyard-gate, "you know the Old One can't pass the stile and put his hoof on consecrated ground; that's the way he and his hounds are mostly keepan watch at the gates, or beatan round some place near. Now that's the reason why the poor sperats can't venture to go over the churchyard wall, where I have often seen them perched as close together as they could stick, grinning at Old Nick, and his hounds without heads, for if they lean over the least bit they are picked off on his horns and away they go—you know where, don't e? But don't you be frightened, Bob. The churchyard is crowded with thousands of sperats," she continued: "think of all who have been buried here for hundreds of years. Ef you would like to see them I'll touch your eyes with a bit of the salve from the corners of mine; then you will behold them as I do now. There," said she, pointing with her staff towards the old weatherbeaten church, "all the roof is covered with them, watching for the bit of glimmering moon now glistening on the tower, and there!—see them pushing each other over the top and fighting for a perch on the pinnacles that they may get a view of the place they once inhabited."
"Hush, do, An Tammy; don't ’e go on so," said Bob.
"Why you needn't fear them," she replied, "these old ghosts are mere worn-out shadows, whose bodies, many of them, were buried here long before this church was built. I like to look at them. Perhaps
you can see a gleam of light showing through the windows on the eastern side of the porch! That's from the spirits inside, acting over again their christens, weddings, and funerals. Many of them prefer such grim shows as the last, and pass most of their time burying each other over and over for the thousandth time, in all the various modes that quick or dead can devise. I wish you could see those perched over on the eastern end, where the moonlight is just beginning to glimmer. They are the grand ones whose dust was laid inside the church! They look very proud still, especially the women decked out in all their ruffs, trains, furbelows, and old steeple-crowns. There they march, on the ridge of the roof, in grand state. Those among them dressed in shrouds, are younger ghosts, who lived when these ugly things came into fashion. But the old gentlemen in their cocked hats, square coats, and riding-boots, look very grim and melancholy, especially when they hear the hue and cry of the wish hounds! Don't they almost wish then to be in the black huntsman's place for a change. Oh! I hear them now," said the witch, making a start and grasping Robin's arm; "Come into the churchyard,—we have no time to spare. You are prepared now, I hope, to see An Jenny Hendy's ghost rising slowly from the grave in shroud or sheet—her face appearing the same as it now looks in her coffin. And mind, you must speak to the spirit when it comes close to ye, as I am now, or it may do ye much harm! Now, are you ready?" said she, at the same time striking with her staff on the gate till it flew open.
Robin was so fear-struck that the hair stood on end on his head. A cold sweat poured over him like rain. He could neither move nor speak for some minutes. At last he gasped out, "Do tell me, An Tammy, can ’e put her away again as soon as I know what's become of the money?"
"You must risk that," Tammy replied, "we have now no more time for talking. You, and everybody else, know how Janny Tregeagle tormented the one who raised him on a like occasion. All depends on the temper she may be in, and the leave she gets! Why, she may jump on the horse and ride home behind ’e for what one can tell before she is risen. It will soon be too late. Come along, and stand at the foot of the grave that you may face her when she rises!"
The witch then entered the churchyard. As she passed the gate, most unearthly howls and yells, with a noise which Robin took to be the tramp of Old Nick's steed, was heard, at no great distance, getting louder and louder until it seemed to be near the burying-ground.
"Do ’e come back, An Tammy," gasped the man, as he seized hold of her cloak; "I believe I can't go any farther to-night; and as you have got the sovereign you can keep en."
"What! you white-livered fool," says she, turning round and grasping Bob with her long bony fingers; "come in, speak to the sperat, know
where thy money es, and get it back again like a man, to be sure! Rise the sperat or leave et alone, dusen’t thee think that I'll tramp such a journey as this for nothing more than I was paid the other night. Turn out another pound, or I'll summon the spirit hither! If she once gets out of the churchyard she will haunt thee thy life long,—perhaps make thee shorten thy days to get rid of the torment walking or riding, sleeping or waking, she shall be with thee!"
The infernal clatter of hell-hounds and hoofs seemed still approaching, when Bob said,
"Here, take the money," handling the witch another pound; "les be off from this wisht place; come home with me, do, and stay till day."
"As you like," Tammy replied, in pocketing the cash. Then, in moving away from the churchyard, she gave another unearthly yell. "That's a signal to one of my sperats that we shan't want him any more to-night," said she. Robin unfastened his horse from the burze-rick; both the witch and her dupe mounted Dobbin, and soon arrived at what had lately been An Jenny Hendy's abode.
A few hours brought daylight. After partaking of a substantial breakfast, the witch said that she ought to have more pay for her night's work. Bob, however, refused to comply with her request; and, on leaving, she said, "I don't know but what An Jenny's sperat was so much disturbed with our last night's work, that it may cause her to come back, if she esn’t here already, which I rather fear may be the case. If she disturbs ’e much you can send for me, and I'll do my best to put her quiet again." Saying this, she took her departure.
The poor fellow was so much scared with the strange doings, wild ranting, and humbug of the white witch that he feared to remain alone in the house even in broad daylight. More than once he heard the old woman rattling the milk-pans, as she was used to when doing odd jobs in the dairy. However, he had the courage to venture in, strain the milk, and scald the evening's milking; then he went to hoe potatoes in a field near the town-place. It was past noon, and Bob was getting hungry, yet he would rather go without his dinner than go in to cook it. At last, when he came to the homer end of the row, he looked towards the house, and there, on a rock which served for a heaving-stock, stood An Jenny, with a broom in her hand, beckoning to him to come in, as was her wont when dinner was ready, and the house swept and sanded. There stood the old woman, within a hundred yards or so, as gaunt and grim as ever, with an old flat-crowned man's hat (which she had often worn) perched on one side of her head; her swing-tailed gown, her petticoats tucked up as short as usual; but he noticed that her skirts were shorter than ever,—they didn't even reach to her knees. He stood some time gazing on her in fear and amazement, when to his horror the apparition came down
from its perch (the heaving-stock), passed over to the field-gate, and called out, "What cheer, cousin Bob? Am I altered so much since I've been away that thee dussen’t know me, than? Why art thee staring at me so, like a fool frightened? Come here, and shake a paw with thy old comrade. I left my ship in Falmouth harbour early this morning to pass a few weeks ashore, inquired the news about old friends as I came along, and found out that thee wert here in the old woman's shoes; and how dos’t a get on, mate?"
"Oh! the devil take my stupid head, and the old ’oman too," says Bob, when he saw that what he had taken for An Jenny's apparition was no other than an old comrade, who had been away to sea some years; "west thee believe it, cousin Jack, that, with all the time thinken about the old woman, or somehow, when I looked up and saw thee on the heaving-stock, waving thy hand with that blue bundle in it, I took thee for her sperat. I can't tell how glad I am to see thee after so long a time, not knowing if thee wert alive or dead. Let’s go in; we'll soon have something cooked for dinner."
When the two men were seated cosily smoking in the chimney corner, whilst dinner was cooking, the sailor said, "I heard from a neighbour, as we came over part of the road together, how the old woman went round land and took her money with her, and that her sperat can't rest. They say she's huntan more than one place and person in the parish, and to one who believed in sperats, it might seem likely enough, if all they say be true."
The sailor and Bob having replenished their pipes from a roll, as large as one's arm, of choice tobacco bound round with spun-yarn—a mode of preparation well known to jack tars, the one just come ashore, shaking Bob with a slap on his leg, cried out, "The deuce take thee, comrade; cheer up! Here, take a drink and drain this bottle dry," says he, taking one from his pocket. "I've shots enough in the locker to get plenty more, and thee art well enough off as et es; yet thee art all down in the mouth, comrade, and looking so pale and queer as of the old oman had been here keepan thee awake all night. Tell me what's the matter with thee? Hast a ben away all night drinkan and spreean?"
When a drink of good rum had put a little more heart into Bob he related what took place between him and the white witch over night, saying, in addition, that he wouldn't pass such a time again for twice the old woman's brass. "He was sure that he saw hundreds of sperats in the churchyard, and he was sure," he said, "that the devil and his hounds were often near them; he heard the clatter of hoofs, the yelping and howling of the hounds, and he smelt brimstone more than once."
The tar replied that he believed all the ghosts he saw were conjured up by his fears and fancies, aided by the witch's ranting and other tricks of her trade—he'd known her of old.
When they had finished dinner, the sailor, after hearing more about the dreadful apparitions, said, "Mate, if I hadn't known thee from thee cradle, I should say thee wert as d—d a coward and fool as es to be found between the Land's-end and London church-town; for I can see, plain as a handspike, that the goings on of old Tammy was intended to frighten thee. She rise a spirit! the d—d witch, no, no more than I can. Let’s go into Helston, this afternoon, and ask her if a substitute will do? I'm a fourth or fifth cousin, as well as you, to the old dear that's dead, Lord rest her; so I might ask her very well what she may have done with her shiners!"
"With all my heart," says Bob, "though I can't see the good of et, but we must do the milking and other evening work before start, because such es the fear of An Jenny that no woman will stop here for love nor money."
"I’v plenty of cash in my pocket," said the sailor, "a blow-out will do thee good, after the frights and fears of last night. Besides, I've a mind to see the witch and her sperats. So come along."
The evening's work being done, they started for Helston.
The young men arrived in Helston about nightfall. They went immediately to a doctor, and Robin was bled, from a very common notion that blood-letting is useful to counteract the bad effects of a fright. Then, after partaking of a good supper and plenty of grog, Robin entered Tammy's dwelling, and his companion remained outside. Bob said he believed he should try again to raise the spirit and enquired if a comrade might go with them another night? "That can't be done," the witch replied, "because spirits are very particular not to tell what they wish to disclose to more than one person at a time."
"Well, may another person go as a substitute?"
"No, the spirit would have nothing to say to a stranger; it would be a most difficult and dangerous thing to raise her for anyone but yourself; besides, if I attempted any such work I must consult my books and see the person before I give them any answer."
Bob then informed her that the person who would go in his stead was also a relation to An Jenny, and if they could discover what was become of the money, they would pay her well. Finally, the sailor was called in. He pretended to believe all the witch told them, appeared to her as green as grass and as innocent as a new-born babe. He gave her a sovereign, promised her more if the job was ended to their satisfaction, and agreed to meet her on the road with a horse the following night.
Next evening, the tar met Tammy. After treating her to a good dram, they jogged along several miles, talking about the wonders she had performed in her time. Jack asked how she didn't raise the spirit on the other night.
"Why," she replied, "that weak-headed and faint-hearted cousin of yours was all hammer and tongs on first setting out, but he hadn't the courage to strike when the iron was hot. He got into a funk, bad luck to him, when the work on my part was all but finished. You have more courage, I trust, than to show the white feather; and now," she continued, "we are within a few minutes’ ride of the churchyard, and it's full time that I begin my work of incantation and conjuration, and, whatever you may see or hear don't for your life interrupt me. You arn’t the boy to be frightened, I hope.
The sailor assured her that he would stand all the ghosts of her rising, if she could, and Old Nick besides if he happened to appear. She then went on, during the rest of their ride, acting over the same part as she practised on the preceding night, now and then pausing and telling the man not to be afraid. He kept silent, and observed all her maneouvres, till they came to the churchyard gate. Then, pretending to be rather scared by the yelling, howling, tramping, and clatter of hoofs, which seemed to be near them, he said, "An Tammy, es that terrible noise we hear made by the old gentleman and his hounds sure enough?"
"Of that you may be certain," she replied, "yet I do hope that you will be able to stand all you will see, and not get any harm from the sight, as ther's no doctor at hand to bleed ’e. You ought to have been provided with a quart of two of cold water, because, in case of a fright, drinking that es the next best thing to bleeding to keep your hair from turning grey.
"Now cease thy palaver," says the tar, "I'm come here to see and speak with the old oman's ghost and don't care a d if thee do’st
raise all the spirits in the churchyard; I'll face them, never fear; so set about it as soon as thee west (thou wilt)."
"Well," said she, "a wilful man must have his way, yet it's my duty to tell ’e, that when the spirit is raised, neither you nor I, nor all the parsons in the country, may be able to lay it again! Think of the torment it will be to ’e; besides, she may cite thee to come with her, or to her, at a short notice. Such things we often hear of!"
It was now evident to Jack that the witch calculated, by this working on his fears, to make him decline any farther acquaintance with ghosts or demons.
However, without farther parley, the witch led the way into the churchyard. Then the infernal noise ceased. All became still as the dead. They turned off the path leading to the church-door, passed between tombstones and over graves, until they came to a clear space near a large, high headstone. Here the witch stopped and said, in solemn tones, "I will not take you close alongside her grave, because it is even more than my strength, used as I am to such things, can well endure, to behold the
ghastly apparition, with shrouded head, rising from the ground. No, I will summon the spirit hither, that it may get away from the grave before you see it."
She then marked out a circle by drawing her staff, on the ground three times round the man, at the same time mumbling in her unknown tongue. This done, turning to the sailor, she said, "Now mind, for your life, that you don't move out of this charmed ring which I have made to protect ye, and if you are still determined I will now begin and summon the spirit."
"Go on and be d—d," answered Jack.
The witch, holding out her staff towards the spot where the old woman was buried, began her incantation, or citation, with long, strange words, slowly pronounced. Then she continued in a louder tone, "Spirit of Jane Hendy, in the name of all the powers above and below, I summon thee to arise from thy grave and to appear before me and this man! By the spirits of fire, air, earth, and water, I summon thee to arise! Come hither, appear, and speak to this man! Come!"
This she said three times, rising her voice at each repetition until it ended in a shriek.
The witch paused. All was silent for a moment, and then were heard, most fearful, because unusual, sounds, which more than any other earthly noise resembled the crashing or rending of wood and stones, mingled with painful moans, groans, and shrieks, which seemed to come from the old woman's grave. The witch, stretching out her arms, her red cloak and grey hair streaming back on the wind, pointed with her staff towards the place whence these frightful sounds proceeded, and said, "Behold, it cometh; be thou prepared!" And then the sailor saw by the glimmering light of a waning moon, a tall ghastly figure rising from amidst the tombstones, a hundred feet or so from where he stood. This hideous form, in winding-sheet and shroud, stalked towards them with measured step and slow, so near that the sailor saw its grisly locks and glaring eyes. A moment more and he sees its ashy-pale face within a yard of him. The man's hair bristled up on his head, and, in spite of his disbelief in ghosts, he shrunk back out of the circle, towards the witch, who cowered and fell down seemingly terror-stricken, behind a large headstone, within arm's-length of the sailor, when, in terror, he had scarcely the power to exclaim, "In the name of God who or what art thou!" The ghost, in a hollow voice, replied, "Wherefore dost thou disturb my rest in the grave. The wise woman should have given thee other counsel. What art thou to me? For this deed of darkness I will mark both thee and her, this night, and haunt thee all the days of thy miserable life,—the devil take me ef I don't." Saying this the ghost stretched forth its arms from under the shroud, and, with a strong hand, grasped the sailor, who gave it
a blow with his fist and laid it sprawling on the sod. Indeed he no longer feared this apparition, when he heard the familiar termination of its long speech. Besides, instead of bringing with it the infernal sulphureous air, proper to a ghost, the breath of this one smelt strongly of tobacco and gin, and it hiccoughed and sneezed in a way very unbecoming a spirit.
The sailor had no sooner settled the ghost than he was all but knocked down by a stunning blow from the witch, who, a moment before, apparently terror-stricken, shrunk cowering in his rear, and fell down behind a tombstone. Recovering himself, he wrenched the stick from her hands; then, turning to the apparition, he saw it on its legs again, but (divested of shroud and sheet) in the form of Jemmy T——, old Tammy's good man, who was well known to the sailor and to everybody else in that part of the country.
"Now, you villain," said Jack, whilst he continued to beat him, "I will thrash you within an inch of your life for the way you have frightened Bob, and for swindling him out of his cash."
The sailor was so indignant at the attempted deception that he continued to thrash the ci-devant ghost most unmercifully, saying, "Unless you hand back the three sovereigns paid by me and Bob for rising the sperat, I'll break every bone in your d—d carcase, and you shall have no occasion to leave the churchyard any more."
In a short time Jimmy begged for quarter and promised to hand over the money. Tammy came forward with the cash in her hand, and said, "Dussen’a kill the poor ghost."
Jack gave over the well-merited beating, pocketed the sovereigns, sat down on the tomb, and said, "To give the devil his due, thee art a far better white witch than thy man is a ghost." Turning to Jimmy, who was now on his forkle-end, he asked, "What contrivance hast a to make such an infernal noise?"
"Why, nothing more," Jimmy replied, "than my own voice, an old tin pan, and a stick to beat on the tombstones or rattle on the church-door, as best suited the purpose. What Robin took for the tramp of Old Nick's steed, and the cry of his pack, was only the music of my making."
The witch then coming forward and addressing the sailor, said, "Now listen to me. I have been thinking of a plan, and ef thy wit, Jack, es equal to thy courage, this sperat-risan may be turned to some account for Bob after all. The story es gone round far and near that Robin was going to employ me, and that An Jenny was to be called up; but few doubt my power to do et; so let’s give out now that she has appeared, and declared to us who have taken the money, and, farther, that unless
the stolen money and other things that belonged to her, are brought to her late abode, within a month, her sperat will haunt them, and the white witch shall mark them so that all the world may know them by one blind eye; and anything more may be said, that can be thought of as likely to frighten the cousins into doing what we wish."
Jack replied, "There is something in that plan. Bob and I will think over et."
Then, leaving the witch and her mate in the churchyard, to gather up their ghostly trappings and infernal machinery, he went to rejoin his comrade whom he expected to find in the public-house; but Robin, fearing some harm might happen to the sailor, so far overcame his dread of ghosts, and the old gentleman with his headless hounds, as to venture out and on the road, within a stone's throw of the churchyard. Here he stood, quaking with fear, when the sailor came up and said, "Cheer up comrade, for I've seen and spoken with the ghost; we shall soon know what's become of the money, and get et back again or it's much to me." Without relieving his companion's wonder and awe, he continued, "I no longer think et so very strange, after what I've seen this night, that thee should’st have been so frightened out of thy wits as to have taken me for An Jenny's ghost the other day, and to take every bush and shadow now for a sperat; for, though I'd felt sure from the beginning that the strange noises, which scared ’e out of your senses were produced by a trick of the witch or some confederate, yet the ugly apparition which rose from amid the ghastly tombstones, an hour ago, and came and stood as near me as I am to thee, Bob, might have frightened me to that degree that I should be the worst for et all the rest of my days if this ghost had acted well his part; and hadn't come so near me as to have its breath smelt. Why surely even thee, Bob," the sailor continued, "wedden’t run far from a sperat smellan of gin and tobacco, and that sneezed and swore besides."
He then explained, in reply to Robin's puzzled look, how the old woman's ghost was personated by Tammy's drunken husband, and how the sounds which he, confused with fear, took for the hell-hounds’ cry, and the tramp of the devil's hunter, were all produced by the precious scoundrel who acted the ghost and with very simple contrivances. He then told Bob what the witch proposed and asked him what he thought of the plan.
"Well," Bob replied, "there's no harm to try."
Our youngsters, still seeing light in the public-house, entered, and found that all the inmates had long gone to bed, except the landlady, and she, thinking that something unusual was going on, wanted to find out what had kept the young men abroad so late. After tantalizing the fat dame with a show of reluctance on their part to say anything about
[paragraph continues] An Jenny or her money, the sailor told her that the spirit had been raised, spoke of the ghostly communication, and hinted that it might be well for those who took the old woman's money, or who owed her anything if they would make all right with his mate; otherwise, they would be marked and haunted.
"Good Lord! wonders will never cease!" exclaimed the dame of the inn; "and I'm glad that you have told me, because there was a trifle between An Jenny and me for some eggs. It had slipped my memory before, and I've forgotten what it was exactly, but you can settle it with the liquor and take a few pints more to make sure that all is right."
Bob thought this a good beginning, and agreed to settle the old woman's account with the landlady for a few mugs of eggy-hot, with which they well plied the dame. When the youngster rose to leave for home she said, "I can't help thinkan of An Jenny (the Lord rest her, poor old dear); she used to call in, now and then, for a glass of gin and peppermint, to ease the pain in her stomach, just like I do now. No money passed between us, but you be sure to leave her know that we've settled, or I shall have her here half the time, near by as she es."
Before many days passed, the story about the old woman's ghost having been raised was carried by the gossips all over the neighbourhood; and those who had taken her money, as well as others who had any dealings with her, were so terrified for fear of a visit from "the sperat," that in less than a month papers containing considerable sums, and others with only a few pence, were thrown, by night, into Bob's dairy, through the window-bars. Some, like the landlady, openly settled their accounts, and many to whom the departed owed a trifle, if only a halfpenny (the worst of all ghostly debts), begged Bob, or the witch, to tell the spirit that her debt was forgiven. We often hear of ghosts coming back to beg that a half-penny, or other trifling debt, may be forgiven, but we never knew one that made any apology for leaving large sums unpaid.
An Jenny's ghost, dressed in her red cloak and little old black bonnet, was often seen in bye-lanes, on lonely moors and downs, both by night and at noonday. No one could tell why she wandered in such out-of-the-way places, and vanished as suddenly as she appeared. Yet the main purpose was served, because, when it became known that she was in a walking state, those who owed her anything hastened to settle their accounts with her heir, from fear of a spiritual visit.
On the pathway, leading from An Jenny's late dwelling to church-town, there is a stile, on the side of which she would sit for hours of an evening, and was known to be there when she wan’t visible; for many persons when they came near this stile, found themselves lifted from the ground and carried over like feathers in the wind, they didn't know how.
One night a violent gale stripped the thatch from a great part of Bob's dwelling, laying bare the punion end; and there, pushed far into a hole which had been covered by the thatch, Bob found the old woman's pocket, and in this a roll of papers, among which were notes of some value and the old dame's will.
During the two or three months that Jack remained ashore he mostly lived with Robin, or at least stopped with him over night. Then, they neither saw nor heard anything to scare them; but the tar was no sooner gone to sea, than Bob heard the spirit going about in the house, putting things to rights, all night long. As he could get little sleep, from one disturbance and another, and disliking to live without some companion in flesh and blood in the haunted place, he soon brought home a wife. Then An Jenny Hendy's ghost took her departure, and Robin enjoyed sound rest at last.