Traditions and Hearthside Stories of West Cornwall, Vol. 2, by William Bottrell, , at sacred-texts.com
Who rides my horse a’ nights,
Who lamed the miller's boy,
Who raised the wind that blew my old barn roof down;
But I've a silver bullet ready for her that will lame her,
Hobble how she will.—Old Song.
Yet this punishment didn't make the old dame desist from carrying on her naughty tricks; for, one Thursday about the end of harvest, Betty jogged away to Penzance, intending to buy a pig that she might fatten it for winter's use. She was in price, and had nearly come to terms for one which suited her fancy. There were only a few pence between her and the seller; yet, pretending she didn't care about it, and saying she wouldn't give a farthing more, she turned her back and went to look at some others. That while, one Tom Trenoweth, a cousin of her's, offered a trifle more and purchased the sow.
Tom had paid the "earnest money," when the old dame came back and said she would have the sow. "You're to late, cousin," said Tom, "I've bought her." "And what made thee interfeer, I'd like to know, when I was in price for the sow?" said Betty; "ef I don't have her thee shunt wish thy cake dough, and find the sow the dearest bargain thee hast ever had." Tom refused to give up his purchase. Betty went off mumbling threats and curses, and shaking her bony finger at Tom.
With much ado, the man got home the sow, put her in a crow (sty), filled the pig's-trough with wash, and firmly fastened the door. Tom rose early next morning, and found the crow-door open, the pig's-trough full of wash and his sow rooting in a neighbour's garden; and it took all the men and boys in Church-town many hours to get the troublesome beast of a sow back into her crow again; and in spite of all he could do, scarce a night passed but she would get out, be off to lanes miles away, and do some mischief that Tom would have to pay for.
Months passed, during which the sow had given to her corn, meal, milk, and everything else that could be thought of to satisfy her, but all without avail—the more she ate the leaner and more lanky she became. One day Old Betty met the owner of the pig and said, quite friendly-like, "well, cousin Tom, how es thy sow getting on? Will she be fat against Christmas? I hear she is very troublesome; perhaps you had better sell her to me. What do ’e look for her now?"
"No," Tom replied, "of she esn’t fat for seven years, in Sundays, you shall never be the better off for begrudging her to me; old black-witch that you are; I'll drive her to Penzance and sell her for less than I gave, rather than you shall have her."
More months passed, during which the old woman, in spite of Tom's rebuffs, made him various offers for the sow, but every time less than the preceeding, as she said the pig was getting poorer and would soon be reduced to skin and bone. Tom, finding that his sow had eaten and destroyed more than she was worth, and all the time getting leaner, fastened a rope to her leg and started early one Thursday morning for Penzance, determined to sell her
for anything he might be offered rather than bring her back again. The sow went on, quiet as a lamb, till she came to a stream running across the road in Bojew-bottom; there was no bridge over Bojew water in Tom's time. The sow wouldn't take to the water, nor could the man make her; he tried to put her across, wheel-barrow fashion, holding her up by the hind legs; then he endeavoured to drag her through the water, but she turned right around, bolted in between his legs, upset him in the muddy stream, and the rope slipping from his hand, she took her way up the moors, over hedges and ditches. Tom followed her, through bogs, brambles, and furze for many miles, till they came out in Leah lanes on the Land's End road to Penzance and Sancreed; the sow seemingly never the worse. But Tom felt very tired, and his clothes were torn to rags with the thickets.
The sow, now on the road to Penzance, and near Tregonebris Downs, went along so quietly that Tom caught hold of the rope again, made a running noose in the end of it, and (that she mightn't jerk it away again,) passed it over his hand and reeved it round his wrist. That being done to his mind, "Now, ah es much to me," says Tom to himself, or to the sow, "late as et es, of I don't get ’e to market yet." He hadn't spoken the words a minute when a hare leaped out of a bush beside the road, made a squeak that sounded like "chee-ah!" ran down over the moor, the sow followed after, dragging Tom along, and never stopped, going almost as fast as the hare, till she came to Tregonebris bridge, when in under the road she bolted, so far as the rope would let her. The opening under the road being little other than a drain or "bolt," as we say, couldn't even crawl in on all-fours, his arm was almost dragged out of joint, and the loop, reeved on his wrist, cutting through the skin; Tom by good luck having his knife in his pocket, managed to get at it, cut the rope, and let the sow go; but she only went as far as the middle of the bridge, where it was narrowest, and fell to lie in the water.
Tom could neither drive nor coax his pig from under the road. He threw all the stones he could find at her till he had nearly closed up the bridge on one side, but she hardly noticed him with a grunt.
About noon Tom got very hungry; yet he was afraid to leave his sow and go to the nearest house, that he might have something to eat, because whilst he was out of sight the devil-directed pig might bolt away, no one could tell whither. Tom sat down beside might bridge, within some one might go by or heave in sight within call. He had to wait there till near sunset, when who should come by, from Tregonebris way, but Old Betty, with
her basket on her arm and knitting-stocking in her hand. She came on clicking her needles, knitting all the way, and looking as demure as if "butter wouldn't melt in her mouth and cheese choke her." When she saw Tom sitting beside the road she seemed all surprised like, and said "Arrea! cousin, es that you? Have ’e sold the sow and got drunk on the profit, that you have missed your way back, an soas?"
"Well, Old Betty, es that thee? I must say that thee hast beaten me hollow," Tom replied. "The sow is under the 'brudge,' and thee dust know it well enow; for who but thee crossed the road and went over the moor in the shape of a hare? Thy friend, the devil, lent thee his hounds, I suppose, to drive her in where she can neither turn, go forth, nor come back, et seems to me."
"Well, thank the powers," said she, according to her custom, when anyone came to grief, "I am’at the only one in trouble this day; but as you are a cousin of my own, I'll give ’e the value of the sow still, and that es about half of what she cost ’e, because she's now gone to skin and bone, et will take months to get her up again."
"If you will give me something from your basket to eat, and what you last offered, you may take her, get her out ef you can, and be d——d to ’e."
But no, the old witch stood out, and wouldn't give a farthing more than half of what Tom paid for the sow; and he was glad at last, to get that and a two-penny loaf which she took from her basket. Then the dame went down to the mouth of the bridge, or bolt, only just said "Chee-ah! Chee-ah!" and the sow came out and followed her home like a dog.
Tom took the road to Sancras Church-town, and stayed at "The Bird in hand" as long as his money lasted. "It was no good to lay by; he might as well spend it first as last," he said, "because every shilling of the devil's coin will go and take nine more with it." All who heard Tom's story agreed that what seemed a hare, to cross his path, was no other than Old Betty in that shape, and wished they could send a silver bullet through her. It is said here as elsewhere that lead has no effect on a witch-hare. The old woman kept her pig many years for a store-sow and she became the parent of a numerous progeny.