Traditions and Hearthside Stories of West Cornwall, Vol. 2, by William Bottrell, , at sacred-texts.com
goods in their vessels to Parcurnow, which was then clear of sand, and the tide flowed in a deep channel up to an old caunse (paved road) still to be seen. The merchants told him that streamers' work might be had in a place called Praze-an-Beeble, a short day's journey from Market-jew. Tom, having exchanged his tin for leather and other things, took a drink of cider with the merchants, went home, and told his wife what he had learned.
"One must be a fool," said he, "to stay here and starve, when two or three days’ journey will take one to a land of plenty. What do’st thee think wife?"
"Well, good man," said she, "thee west (wilt) always have thy own way, whatever one may say: if thee hast mind to go eastward, to look for work, go! I and the maid will stay and get our living here. But don't ’e go for a day or two, that I may put thy clothes in order, and bake a fuggan (heavy cake) for thee to eat on thy way. Long lanes and scant entertainment thee west find, I expect?"
"It will take me some days," replied he, "to go round and wish the neighbours well, and to get my tools to-rights before I start."
In three days Tom got his piggal (beat-axe) and visgey (pick) cossened (re-steeled), and other tools repaired, that he intended to take with him, and had said, "I wish ’e well, till I see ’e again" to every body for miles round. Tom kissed the young women, and the elderly ones kissed him, and said, "If we never see thee again we wish thee good luck for thy courage; but take care thee doesn't get kidnapped and sperritted away in Market-jew, as many a good man have been before now, and nevermore heard of."
When all was ready for Tom's journey, his tools, provisions, and clothes made a heavy load to travel with. In the morning, early, he started. His wife and daughter went many miles on the way, carrying his things, till they arrived at a public house where the roads meet in a place since called Catch-all. Here they had a drop to cheer their hearts. "Be sure, wife," said Tom "to take care of our only child Patience. She is but fifteen, mind." After much kissing, crying, wishes for good luck, and a speedy return, they parted.
Tom reached Market-jew before dark, and was much bewildered to see so large a place and so many people. Moes-hal was the largest town he had seen and the farthest east he had ever been till then. As it happened to be Whitsun market, streamers in great numbers had brought their tin for sale or to exchange for clothing and other things. It was sold by measure, from a pottle to a strike (bushel). Large quantities were purchased by smelters and merchants. What with foreign traders, market-people,
pilgrims to the Mount, and pleasure-seekers, there was noise and bustle enough. Tom, however, found lodgings in a quiet house, a little out of the town, and was on his road, early next day, towards a place where he was told that he might get work. Though in a strange land he went boldly on over barren hills, across deep bottoms, overgrown with thickets; and, nothing daunted, he waded streams of names unknown; and indeed he felt proud, as a traveller, to think that he was going farther east from home than but few of St. Levan had ever been. Thus trudging along he passed over Roost Common, through Colenso and Chypraze, traversed Godolphin hills, rested some time near Godolphin stepping-stones, and then pursued his way through Chywhella and over Crenver Downs. About sunset he passed this tract of moorland, rich in tin, and arrived at a dwelling surrounded with a court and outbuildings that showed it was a farmer's house. This he afterwards learnt was Penthoga.
He knocked at the door and said to the mistress, who opened it, "I have travelled from far away in the West Country, to seek work, and would be glad to lodge in your barn to night."
"Come in, good man; lay down your burthen and sit at the board," said she.
"What cheer, stranger?" exclaimed the farmer; "come here beside me, and when supper is over we will hear the news from your country. And wife, bring a flagon of ale; that's better drink after a journey than milk," continued he, whilst heaping Tom's trencher from a huge steaming pie of hare, beef, and other meat.
Having made a hearty meal Tom turned his leg over the form and, looking towards the farmer, said, "This is a house of plenty, master. I wish you wanted a servant."
"Well, my son, and what work can you do?" asked the farmer.
"All sorts of husbandry or moor-work," he replied. "Give me a board like this, to keep up my strength, and I'll turn my back for no man."
After some hours’ talk about Tom's country, and other matters, the farmer, finding him to be a simple, honest fellow, agreed to, take him, and they bargained for two pounds a year wages. Now, as Tom didn't mind doing a trifle of work, after his day's task was done, the farmer gave him many odd pence. After supper of winters’ master and men told old drolls and carded wool, whilst mistress and her maids kept their turns (spinning wheels) going till they had each spun their pound of yarn. The women knitted for him warm stockings and washed and mended his clothes. All were well pleased, with Tom, and he liked his place.
When the year was ended, the farmer brought two pounds from his chest, laid them on the board, and showing them to Tom, who sat opposite, said "Here are your wages, son; but if you will give them back to me I will teach ’e my piece of wisdom more worth than silver and gold."
"Give them here to me," said Tom, "and keep your penny-worth of wit."
"No," said his master, "give them to me, and I will tell thee."
"Well take them to thee," said Tom.
Then said his master, "Take care never to lodge in a house where an old man is married to a young woman."
Then they bargained for another year, and, when that was ended, his master brought two pounds; laying them on the table, as before, he said "See, Tom here are thy wages; but if thou wilt give them back to me I will teach thee another piece of wisdom."
"No, by dad;" answered he; "hand them here to me; I don't want your pennyworth of wit."
"No," said his master, "give them to me, and I will tell thee a piece of wisdom more worth than strength."
"Take them to thee," said Tom.
Then said his master, "Take care never to leave an old road for a new one."
They bargained for another year.
Tom now thought much of his wife and daughter, and made up his mind to return home when his time was up. Next year ended, his master brought the two pounds, and said, "See here are thy wages; but if thou wilt give them back again to me I will teach thee the best point of wisdom of all."
"No bring them here I have wit enow to find my road home again."
"No," said his master, "thou wilt need it then, more than ever. Give them to me and I will tell ’e."
"Take them to thee," said he.
"Well now, as thee hast served me truly, like an honest fellow," said his master, "I will tell thee two points of wisdom.
"First, never swear to any body or thing seen through glass; second, be thrashed twice before content once. This is the best point of wisdom of all.
Tom said he would serve no longer but leave at once and go to see his wife and child. "No, don't go to-day," his master answered; "for my wife is going to bake to-morrow morning; she shall make a cake for thee to take home to thy wife, and a hoggan (a cake with meat baked on it) for thee to eat by the way"
"Very well." said Tom, "as it's Whitsuntide, I'll wait till Tuesday."
"I am very sorry thee art going to leave us, my son," said the farmer's wife; "and I should be glad if thee west thatch the hen's house and the duck's crow for me, whilst I make thee a cake and hoggan; then I will give thee a charmed stone for thy daughter, that shall be of more worth to her than gold or jewels"
In a few hours Tom thatched all the outbuildings that required it, came into the house, and his mistress gave him a smooth Frey stone, about the size and shape of an acorn, with a hole drilled through it, for hanging it by a cord round the neck. "Though this appeareth only like a bit of smooth elvan (trap rock) it is a jewel of great virtue," said the mistress. "It will preserve any woman that weareth it from much trouble if she but keepeth it in her mouth, with her lips closed, that it may not drop out when her husband or any other contendeth with her. I will tie it round thy neck, that it may’nt be lost," said she; and did so.
Tuesday morning Tom took leave, with many kind wishes and promises to see them again. "Take this cake home to your wife, my son," said his master, "and eat it when you are most merry together." "And what you will find in this dinner-bag," said his mistress, "is for ’e to eat on the road. Good luck attend thee; come to see us again; thee west be right welcome always."
Tom trudged on for many miles a somewhat different road to that he went, without meeting with anybody, till, having passed St. Hillar downs, he fell in with three merchants of Treen, driving before them their packhorses laden with wool from Helaston fair, whither they had been with cloth and other goods. "What cheer, Tom," cried they, "where hast thou been, and how hast thou fared this long time? We are glad to have the sight of thee!"
"I have been in service and am now going home to my wife; and glad I am to meet men of my parish," said he.
"Come along with us; right welcome thou shalt be," said they.
They kept together and came to Market-jew, where the merchants proposed to sup and stay over night in a house where they had formerly lodged. "And come along with us, Tom, right welcome thou shalt be" said they. And when they were come to the inn, Tom said, "I don't know about stopping here; before settling that point, I must see the host."
"The host of the house!" they exclaimed; "what cans’t thou want with the host? Here is the hostess—young and buxom, as you may see. But if you must needs see the host, you will find him in the kitchen."
By the kitchen fire, sitting on a three-legged stool, Tom saw a feeble, bald-headed old man, turning the spit. "Oh! by my dearly bought wit, I see this is never the inn for me," said Tom, I will not lodge here, but in the next house."
"Go not yet," said Treen merchants; "stay, take supper with us, thou art heartily welcome."
Soon after supper the merchants saw their horses fed, well groomed, and littered; then, being tired, they went early to bed, and Tom, on entering the next house, was told there was no spare bed, only some straw in a garret where lumber was mostly kept; he might rest there and welcome, free of charge.
"I can sleep there very well," Tom answered; and the host chewed him the place where sweet straw was piled near a boarding that divided it from the next house, where the Treen merchants lodged. Now the mistress of the inn was very fond of a young fellow who sauntered about, and did nothing for his living but court the landladies of Market-jew. The young wife had long been tired of her old man and wished him dead, but as he never seemed inclined to die, she persuaded the young fellow to pit him going that night, as it seemed to her a good opportunity for them to escape suspicion of the dark deed.
A little before daybreak she ran to the mayor's house—her hair in disorder and her clothes rent—crying when she came near it, "Vengeance! Vengeance! Do me justice my neighbours! Help me, your worship sweet handsome man, don't delay," cried she when under his chamber window. "I have been foully dishonoured. My money is stolen, and my dear husband murdered, by three West Country villains, who lodged in our house last night. They are now getting ready to start in haste."
The mayor called from his chamber window, "Go, tell the crier to sound his trumpet through the streets, and summon the town folk to meet me in the marketplace."
In a short time the townspeople assembled in the market square where their mayor and the hostess awaited them. Said the mayor to his constables, "Go to this good woman's house, and bring hither three men you will find here." Turning to the town people he continued, "My honest neighbours, choose a jury among ye, that we may try these West Country rascals, right away, for robbery and murder, and hang them before breakfast—no doubt they are guilty—and the urgency of our own business will not admit of our wasting much time on such matters. And, thank God, we have no lawyers in Market-jew to confound us with their quibbles, to embarrass justice, and too hinder speedy punishment."
Before the mayor had finished speaking the three Treen merchants were brought, handcuffed, into his presence. When
they had all entered the townhall (where the mayor, even in those days, sat with his back towards the one window) his worship said, "Good woman, state your case."
When she stood up one might see that she was one of those who never looked a person fairly in the face, but take one's measure with stealthy glances. She put on a sanctified look; groaned; sighed; turned up her eyes; and exclaimed, "Oh, blessed Saint Mary, help me to declare the troubles I endured last night! Know, your worship and kind neighbours all," said she, glancing round, "that, towards the morning part of the night, these three villains came into my chamber, where my blessed husband God rest him!—and myself were in bed. One of them broke open our money-chest, whilst another did a deed my modesty forbids me to name. My dear man, in trying to defend my virtue and his money, struggled hard. The third blackguard, to keep him quiet, grasped his dear throat with both hands and strangled him. Then they gave me more ill usage all three."
"That will do," said the mayor, "the case seems clear to me. Gentlemen of the jury, what say ye?"
"We are all agreed to hang them," replied the foreman; but our doctor, who saw the body, has some doubts of what the woman sayeth."
"You," said the mayor, in an angry voice, "you, with your crotchets, fears, and doubts, are always causing inconvenient delay. Yet be quick and we will hear what you have to say."
"The old man has been strangled many hours," said the doctor, "for the body is stiff and cold, and I want to know how the woman did not make an alarm before."
"Woman, what hast thou to say to that?" demanded his worship.
Without hesitation she replied, "After these three black West Country rascals, robbers, and ravishers had misused me I fainted, and remained in a fit. I don't know how long before I awoke to my trouble and ran to seek your worship's aid."
"Now, doth that clear your doubts?" said the mayor: "and you villains," speaking to the merchants, "what can ye say for yourselves that ye should not be hanged and your heads fixed on spikes over the prison-gate, as a warning to such as you not to murder, rob, and ravish the virtuous people of Market-jew?
"We are innocent," said they, "and we never saw the old man but once, in the kitchen, where he was turning the spit. A tinner, who came with us from St. Hillar downs, knoweth us to be men of good repute, but we know not where to find him, and can only declare our innocence each for the others."
That's a kind of evidence that won't stand here," replied
the mayor, "and, not to waste more time, I sentence you to be hanged all three. Officers," he continued, "see it done immediately, and seize their horses and merchandise to pay costs."
Whilst the mayor of Market-jew was pronouncing sentence, Tom, in haste, entered the court. "Hold," cried he, "and don't ye murder three innocent men. That woman caused the death of her husband, and a long-legged-red-haired fellow, with a pimply face, who weareth a coat of this colour," said he, holding aloft a piece of grey cloth, "did the foul deed."
"What can you know of this matter?" demanded the mayor.
"Give time to draw breath, and I will tell ’e," said Tom. "I was fellow traveller with these three merchants of Treen. They asked me to lodge in the same house with them, but having bought a piece of wit that teacheth me to avoid the house where a young woman is wedded to an old man, I went next door. There was no room to spare but in the garret, where I found a pile of straw against a screen of boards between that house and the one in which the merchants lodged. On the straw I made my bed. Though tired, I didn't sleep, because music, singing, and dancing, below, kept me awake. About midnight, when all was quiet, I saw, through a hole in the screen, a light in the next house, and that woman (I know her by her purple nose and splatty face) talking to a tall red-haired-man. Both stood near the screen. Then she said to him, I am heartily sick and tired of my old fool. All he's good for is to turn the spit, and a small dog would do that better. To-night would be capital time to stop his wheezing. Here's what you might do it with,' said she, giving him a nackan (handkerchief). 'Draw it tight around his scraggy throat; give it a good twist, just so (said she showing him how), and we shall be no more troubled with his jealousy. Don't fear the consequences; leave them to me; I know how to get these three jeering West Country fellows into the scrape. If they are hanged for it, it will be good fun for us.' The man seemed unwilling till, putting her arms round his waist, she said, 'With all the love I have for thee, cans't thou stick at such a trifle, my dearest Honney (Hannibal), that will make the way clear for thee to be master here, with me and all the old fool's money. And there it is, in the bags by the screen—all the best of it, said she, pointing to them; 'what's left in the chest is only copper coins and old tokens, and his claws are too stiff and cram (crooked) to untie the bags and see what's in them. And here, faint heart,' said she, taking up a bottle and pouring out a cup of liquor, 'drink this brandy; go down; be quick; and do it quietly, that Treen men, in the next room, may’nt hear thee.' The man went down with the nackan in his hand, and in two minutes or less returned. 'Well! is all right?' she
asked. 'That it is,' he replied, 'I quickly wound the nackan round his neck; he moved a little and murmurred in his sleep, Don't ’e hug me so close, my dear.' I then drew it tight, and gave it a wrench; he made but one squeak and all was over. And now I'll take the money and go.' 'Don't be in such a hurry,' said she, 'one or two bags are enough for ’e now.' 'No,' said he, getting from her and approaching the screen, 'all isn't enough for the deed I've done to please thee.' Then he handled the bags, took two, and went away. I know it was about midnight" (said Tom in reply to the doctor's query) "because, while the man was below I heard the bell that shaven crowns on the Mount toll at the dead of night."
"Well, and what next?" demanded the mayor; "if thou hast anything more to say, be quick, and out with it."
"I have only to state," resumed Tom, "that when he stooped to pease (weigh) the bags of money, his skirt came against the hole in the screen. With my left hand I caught hold of the cloth; with my other unsheathed my knife, and cut off this piece. I tried to keep awake, knowing these men were in danger from that false woman, but I fell asleep, I don't know how, and only waked just in time to learn they were brought here to be tried for their lives."
"It's provoking," said the mayor, "yet this man's story may be as true as the woman's; or truer, my men," continued he speaking to the officers; "You know the long; legged scamp, that haunts this woman's house and all the others in the town, where liquor and victuals can be got for his bladder-dash. Hunt him up and bring him hither; he is likely to be at the St. Michael's or some other public house. Get the money he took away, and all you can find in this woman's house; bring it all, here to pay the cost."
In a short time the officers returned, dragging in the man Tom had spoken of. They turned him round, held up his skirt, and there saw a hole that the piece Tom held fitted exactly, and in his pockets were found two bags of gold.
"It's a clear case now then," said the mayor, "so string them up at once—the man and woman, I mean, ye fools. You Treen men go about your business, and thank your luck that this tinner is as wise as a St. Levan witch to get ’e out of the hobble."
Tom and the merchants took a hasty breakfast, loaded their pack-horses, and started homewards, about sunrise. In passing the jail they saw the woman and her long-legged Honney strung up. They went quickly on to avoid the ugly sight, and the merchants made much of Tom, you may be sure.
Two hours or so before noon, they arrived at a public house,
tied their horses to a hedge, gave them their nose-bags of corn, and eased their backs by propping up their loads with sticks, such as were then kept at road-side inns for that purpose. "You will dine with us, Tom, and we will treat you to the best the house affords," said the merchants; "we shall at least get good malt liquor and wholesome fare. We may as well rest a few hours, now that we are just as good as home and in a part where honest folks dwell."
The merchants being cheered with good ale said to Tom, "Comrade, we, will one and all give thee something to show how we value the good turn thou hast done us in Market-jew. But for thee, my son, we should never more have seen our wives and children dear, or the castle and good old town of Treen."
"Hold your clack, my masters," Tom replied, "I am vexed with myself to think that I should have slept and left ’e in such danger; it's only by a mere cat's jump that you arn’t hanged. But who would ever think the mayor of Market-jew is the man to try a case so quick? Come, let us be going. I am thinking, too, about my wife and cheeld; it was here we parted, and I wonder how they have got on, poor dears, since I've been far away."
"Well then, as you are so hastes we will pay the shot," replied they, "and jog along again, and be home before sunset, if all be well." Driving their horses at a quick pace, they went on with great glee and arrived at the foot of Trelew-Hill.
Here, since Tom went eastward, a new road had been made, that took another direction to reach the hill-top, where it reentered the old one. The merchants were for going by the new road, because it was easier for their horses.
"Friend Tom, you had better come along with us," said they, "than scramble up the steep hill through that rocky lane."
"No, my friends, though I am loath to leave your pleasant company," replied he, "I shall take the old road, for I have bought another piece of wit that telleth me never to leave an old road for a new one. Choose for yourselves. A short way hence, where the two roads join, the first that arrives can await the others."
The merchants went on, saying, "We shall soon meet again."
When Tom came to where the roads joined, he saw the horses jogging homewards, without their owners. He looked along the road both ways, but saw no merchants. Then getting on a high bank, in a minute or two he beheld one of them coming across the downs stripped of his coat, hat, and wallet. He saw soon afterwards the two others, coming from different directions, almost naked.
"Halloo, my masters," said Tom, when they came near,
[paragraph continues] "however are ye in this sad plight?"
"Ah, comrade" answered they, "we wish we had been so wise as thou. 'Half-ways up the hill robbers fell on us and stripped us, as you see."
"How many were they?" Tom asked.
In their confusion each merchant answering, "Three attacked me;" they counted the robbers nine, till considering how they had separated at the onset, each one trying to save himself, they saw that the same men, having fallen on each one of them in turn, they were only three robbers after all. Tom remarked, in angry tones, "One wouldn't take you for West Country men, yet I should think it's hard to find three stouter than on this side of Hayle. But you forgot One and All; so I havn't much pity for ’e; each one trying to save himself took to his heels and left his comrades in the lurch; that's the way you are beaten; and serve ’e right. My old dad always said to me, "Tom, my boy, mind One and All. Fall fair, fall foul, stand by thy comrades, and in misfortune, stick all the closer, my son. But we have no time to lose," he continued, "we are four of us together now; they can't be gone far, and, dash my buttons, if we don't beat them yet. You have lost your sticks, I see, but here's what will serve your needs," said he-taking up his threshal (flail), undoing it, and putting the keveran (connecting piece of leather) in his pocket. "One take the slash-staff, another the hand-staff, the other of ’e take my threshal-strings, and bind the rascals hand and foot as we knock them down. Now come on, boys! One and All mind; or the devil take the first to run."
The merchants, wishing to recover their clothes and money, readily agreed to return with Tom in pursuit. They ran down the rocky lane. At the bottom, near where the roads separated, they saw, on a rock, bÿ the side of the new road, bundles of clothes and the merchants’ wallets. Going on softly a few paces farther, they beheld the three robbers stretched on the grass, a little off the road, counting the stolen money and dividing their spoil. They sprang to their legs, but were scarcely up when Tom and the two merchants knocked them down and the other secured them.
"Ah!" said Tom, with a satisfied look, when he saw the robbers laid low, "the buff coat and new boots on that big fellow, who looks like their captain, will suit me, and I will take them for my Sunday's wear."
No sooner said than done with Tom. Whilst the merchant up their money, he pulled off the captain's boots and stripped him of his buff; saying, "Now, my fine fellow, you won't be able to run very fast over furze and stones, if you should be inclined to give chase when you come round again."
The merchants, having well thrashed the robbers, left them stretched on the ground, half-killed, took their own clothes, and proceeded homewards, giving Tom much praise for his wit and valour.
They soon overtook their horses, and, without stopping, arrived at Coet-ny-whilly. Here the nearest road to Chyannor strikes off to the right of that leading to Treen. The merchants pressed Tom to go home and sup with them.
"No, thank ’e, not now, some other time," he answered.
"Come along," they again urged, all three; saying, "thou art right welcome, and we will treat thee well."
"No, not now," replied he, "but I don't doubt your welcome, though, as my master used to say, 'It is often good manners to ask, but not always to take.' Besides," continued he, "I am longing to get home quickly and see my wife and cheeld."
Each party proceeded their separate ways. When Tom had passed a place called the Crean, and was within half a mile of his dwelling, he sat down on a bank and lingered there till dusk, that he might get home about dark, and have a chance to look round unperceived, and thus find out if his wife had attended to her duty. Tom had learned but little about his family from the merchants. They merely told him that his wife had often been to Treen with yarn to sell, and, as she was a good spinster, they supposed the weavers gave her plenty of work. They knew nothing of either his wife or his daughter.
When it was all but dark Tom again went on slowly, and quickened his pace in going up the Bottom, till he approached within a stone's-cast of his dwelling. Here lie paused a moment, on hearing a man's voice inside. Then he went softly, on to a little glass window—the only one glazed in his house—and peeped in.
On the chimney-stool he espied, by the fire-light, a man and a woman, hugging, kissing, and seeming very fond of each other.
"Oh! but this is double damnation," groaned Tom to himself, "that I should ever come home, after working for years far away, to be greeted with such a sight. Where can the cheeld be? ’Tis enough to make one mad to see her faggot of a mother there, showing more love for that black-looking fellow than she did for me, except in our courting times and a week or so after marriage. I'll kill the villain and drive the old huzzey to doors, that I will."
Whilst such thoughts of vengeance passed through Tom's mind, he recollected his last two pounds’ worth of wit, and hesitated a minute at the door; but he was sure of what he saw; and now, hearing them laughing and couranting (romping) in their loving play, that aggravated him all the more. He grasped
his stick and looked again to be certain, when a voice close behind him called out to him in tones like his wife's, "Halloo, eaves-dropper! Who art thou, and what dost thee want there spying and listening? Thee west hear no good of thyself, I'll be bound!"
Tom looking round, saw his wife close by, with a 'burn' of ferns on her back.
"That can never be thee, wife," said he, "unless thee art a witch; for this instant thou wert sitting on the chimney-stool with a strange man, and behaving in a way that don't become thee."
"Art thou come home such a fool as not to know thy own cheeld?" she replied. "Who else should be in but our Patience and her sweetheart Jan the cobbler. I left them there half an hour ago, when I went down in the moors for a 'burn' of fuel. Come in, quick, and let's see how thee art looking, after being so long away. Wherever hast a been to? We didn't know if thee wert alive or dead. If I had been married again nobody could blame me."
Patience, hearing her father's voice, ran out, and great way; her joy to find him come home. Tom shook hands with her sweetheart, saying, "I could never have believed when I left thee, Jan, a mere hobble-de-hoy, I should come back and find thee such a stout man, and the cheeld too, grown a woman—taller than her mother."
Tom having taken his accustomed place on the bench, his wife said, "I see thee hast got a buff coat and a pair of new high boots, fit for any gentleman or a lord of the land to wear on Sundays and high holidays, and I suppose you have brought home something new for me and the maid to wear that you mayn’t be ashamed of us, when rigged in your boots and buff. Come now, Tom dear," continued she, over a bit, when they had admired what Tom didn't tell them he took from the robber; "Come, love, let's see what have ’e got for us?"
"I have brought ’e home myself," Tom replied, "and a charm-stone for Patience to wear when she is married, that will be better than a fortune of gold and lands for her and her husband. Besides, I have brought ’e a cake," continued he, in placing it on the board.
"And is that all?" demanded his wife, looking as black as thunder at him; "and tell us what's become of thy wages then," continued she with increasing anger.
"I gave my two pounds a year wages," he, replied, "back again to my master for six pounds’ worth of wit, and he gave me that cake for thee."
"Ay, forsooth," said she in a rage. "Thee art a wise man
from the East, that lacked wit to know his own cheeld after being three years from home. Go the way’st away again, and take thy fuggan along with thee." Saying this she snatched up the cake and fired it at her husband, aiming for his head; but Tom ducked quick, the cake went smash against the wall, broke in pieces, and out of it fell a lot of money. Silver and gold ringled on the floor! When all was picked up and counted they found Tom's three years’ wages and many shillings over.
"Oh, my dear Tom," said his wife, "no tongue can tell how glad I am to see thee home again, safe and sound, after being so long away in strange countries one didn't know where. And thou didst know well enow about the money, and only played the trick to try me."
"The devil a bit," said Tom, "but I forgive thee, and let's have supper."
The wife gave Patience a large bottle, telling her to run quick over to Trebeor and have it filled with the best she could get, to drink her father's health and welcome home. Turning to Tom she said, "The sand will soon be down in the hour-glass, and then -a leek-and-pilchard pie, put down to bake before I went out for fuel, will be ready; meanwhile let's have a piece of thy cake; it seems very good."
When Patience and Jan had gone away for liquor, Tom's wife seated herself on the chimney-stool, with a piece of the cake in her hand, and said quite coaxing like, "Take thy piece of cake in thy hand, my son, and come the way'st here alongside of me; I have something to tell thee."
When both of them were seated on the chimney-stool, very lovingly, eating their cake together, she continued to say, "I hope thee wesent be vexed, Tom dear, to hear me confess the truth; and if thee art it can't be helped now; so listen, and don't leave thy temper get the upper hand of all thy wisdom, for I have had a young fellow living in the house more than two years and we have slept in the same bed lately every night. Why thee art looking very black good man, but he is very innocent and handsome and so thee west say; he is in my bed asleep now! Come the way’st down in the 'hale' and see him. One may see by thy looks that thee hast a mind to murder the youngster, but have patience and come along."
Tom sprang up, like one amazed, and followed his wife when she took the chill (lamp) and entered the other room.
"Come softly, Tom," said his wife, as she approached the bed, turned down the bedclothes, and showed her husband, to his great surprise, a fine boy nearly three years old. She then told Tom how, after being many years without children, when he left her for the East she found reason to expect an increase to their
limited family. Tom's joy was now past all bounds. He had always wished for a boy, and hadn't satisfied himself with kissing the child, and admiring his big-boned limbs (for one of his age) when Patience and her sweetheart entered. Tom and the rest drank to the boy's health, and all was now joy and content.
News of Tom's return having been quickly carried from house to house, supper was scarcely put aside, when in came a number of neighbours. All brought wherewith to drink his welcome home, and the night sped jovially in hearing him recount his adventures in the East Country.
Next day, Tom and his wife, being alone together, she said to him, "Now, whilst the maid is out, tell me, my son, what dost thee think of her sweetheart and of their being married soon?"
"Well, wife, from what I saw when I looked through the window last night," Tom replied, "I should say that she wouldn't break her heart, any more than her mother before her, if she were to be married to-morrow; but is Jan a . fool, like I was, to. give up a young man's life of pleasure and wed in haste, like I did, thou knowest, that he may repent at leisure? Yet thee wert very good looking then, just like our Patience is now, and, with thy deceiving ways, I didn't stop to consider that beauty is only skin deep. Jan the cobbler," Tom continued, nodding his head very knowingly, "is hale and strong, and, come of an honest 'havage' enow. I am loath to lose the maid so soon; yet my wise master used to say to his wife, 'One that will not when he may, when he will he shall have nay;' and it is better to have a daughter but indifferently married than well kept; though the charm I have for Patience will make her a prize for a lord, yet a cobbler isn't to be despised, and a good trade is often more worth than money that may be spent; so, with all my heart, let them be wedded when they will."
A few days after Tom's return, he and Patience went down to Treen. Whilst they were away, his wife, curious (like most women are), took it into her head to examine the coat Tom took from the robber. She wondered how it was so heavy, and noticed that the body-lining of serge was worked over very closely. She undid the cloth, and found that gold coins were quilted in all over it, two-deep in some places, between the woollen stuff and an inner lining. Before Tom returned she took out more money, all in gold, than filled a pewter quart, and then there was a good portion left untouched, for fear Tom might come home and see the nest she had found; all in good time, the money and coat were put in an old oak chest, of which she kept the key. When Tom and Patience came in she could
hardly conceal her joy. They wondered at her sprightly humour yet, for a great marvel, she kept her counsel, though Tom said more than once that evening. "I can't think, old woman, what can be the matter, that thee art going about cackling to thyself like an old hen shot in the head, and with as much fuss and consequence, too, as a mabyer (young hen) searching for a nest, days before it is wanted, and finding none to her mind, good enow to drop her first egg in. And look at her, tossing her head," he continued, "don't she look proud, like the lightheaded mabyer, after laying her egg?"
As Tom knew nothing of his good fortune he continued to work on diligently, as usual.
When Feasten Monday came round Jan the cobbler and Patience were married. Her father gave her the charm-stone privately, with instructions for its use, as his old mistress had. directed. Strangers were not let into the secret, because all charms lose their virtue when known to others than the charmers, who, if they give or tell it, lose its use for ever.
When the honey-moon waned Jan would sometimes get into an angry mood. Then his wife would, unobserved, slip the charm-stone in her mouth, and (let him talk or fume) keep quietly about her work. In a short time with good humour, like sunshine returned, he would again be heard ringing his lap-stone to the measure of some lively old tune. The quiet ways of Patience and her gentle bearing, kept love and content, with peace and plenty, in their happy dwelling; and her charm had such power that, over a while, she had seldom occasion to use it. Yet, indeed, some women, living near, who liked to let their crabbed tongues run like the clapper of a mill, would say that Patience was a poor quiet fool, and that the more one let blockheads of husbands have their own way the more they will take till they go to the dogs, or the devil, at last. Jan would tell these idle cacklers, who stuck up for woman's misrule, to mind their own affairs and that for such 'tungtavusses' as they were the old saying held good—that "a woman, a dog, and a walnut tree, the more you beat them the better they be." But gentle Patience, heedless of their prate, kept on in the even tenor of her life, and retained her husband's unabated love till the peaceful close of her days.
Now it happened about three years after Tom had returned from the East Country, there was a large farm in St. Levan for sale. "Ah, poor me," said Tom one night, after a hard day's work, "I have been toiling and moiling, like a slave, all my life long, we shall never have an inch of land to call our own till laid in the church-hay. Yet here are our hunting gentry, who have more than they can make good use of, and they can't live on that. If we could but scrape together enough to buy an acre or
two of fee, or only the corner of a croft, where one might have a hut and a gar’n for herbs, with the run of a common for a cow or anything else, and none to say us nay, how happy we should be. But now," he continued, "it is only by the lord's leave, and that I don't like to ask of any man and why should one who hath hands to work when there is so much land in waste unfilled?"
"Tom, my son, cheer up," his wife replied; "there are many worse off than we are, with our few pounds laid by for a rainy day, and health and strength to get more. Why I am afraid," Said she, "that thou would’st go crazy, or die for joy, if any one gave thee enough to buy a few acres."
"I wish to gracious somebody would but try me," Tom replied.
"Well now, suppose I were to tell thee," said she, "that we have saved enough to buy good part, if not all, of the land for sale, as you shall soon see."
She then brought from the chest a quart measure of gold coins, and poured them out on the board. At the sight of the glittering gold Tom sprung up in a fright and exclaimed, "Now I know, for certain, that thee art a witch! I had often thought so. That money is the Old One's coinage; don't think that I'll have any dealings with him; I wouldn't touch with a tongs a piece of the devil's gold."
"Hold thy clack, cheeld vean, if I'm a witch thou art no conjuror, that's clear," replied she. "Now listen, and learn that the coat taken by thee from the robber-captain was all lined with gold, quilted in between the serge and the leather, and what thou seest on the board isn't all I found in it."
When Tom's surprise had somewhat abated, he counted the money and found more than was required to purchase and stock two such farms as the one then for sale. Over a while Tom bought a great quantity of land—many acres might be had for a few pounds in Tom's time, when a very small part of the land was enclosed, and much less cultivated. In a few years he was regarded as a rich yeoman, and his sons and grandsons became substantial farmers.
Tom's posterity may still be flourishing in St. Levan, or some place near, for what any body can tell, as no one knows what name they took when. surnames came into use, long after Tom lived in Chyannor.
Click to enlarge