Traditions and Hearthside Stories of West Cornwall, Vol. 2, by William Bottrell, , at sacred-texts.com
At Beaton's death what had been her portion of the property fell in hand, and Mary removed to Chynance, taking with her a few such articles of the old furniture as were not too cumbersome for her small dwelling; but everything in "Beaton's chamber" was left there for the time, as it stood when she was carried out. Mary's life had been anything but a cheerful one for the past year or two, but after her mother's decease she felt very desolate. Her uncle's family urged her to return and live with them, which she was inclined to do, as she often said that Brittany seemed less gloomy to her than this country; because in the Cornuaille over the water young and old met, every Sunday it least, at their parish church, and joined in a dance after service; besides there were yearly feasts in neighbouring parishes on their patron saints days, to which people flocked from miles away; they were hospitably entertained, without regard to rank, at the feasten board; and all regarded it as a sort of religious duty to take part in dancing, hurling, wrestling, and other games that were continued several days of the feasten week.
"It seems to me like forsaking my poor mother to leave this place," Mary would say to An’ Joan, "but over sea my cousins are always happy together, and they knew no difference between me and their sisters; but here I feel as desolate as a forsaken bird, though Chynance is a pleasant sunny spot, and nobody can be kinder to me than you and others who knew my dear mother." In such likes sad complaints she bemoaned her lonely state, till love came to brighten the scene, for a brief space.
Mary frequently took her work to Penberth and passed the afternoons or evenings with An’ Joan. As the dame sold liquor from a noggin to an "anker" (keg), her dwelling was often pretty well filled with company, of an evening. And Mary often said that such gatherings of neighbours, to hear news, sing songs, or relate old stories, reminded her of home, as she called Brittany.
Now, it so happened, a few months after Mary again settled in Chynance, she was one afternoon on a visit to An’ Joan, when a young officer, home on a furlough, from a man-of-war, entered the dwelling, saluted An’ Joan—who had known him from a child—and called for brandy and cordials to treat the dame and
himself; by the time they were seated for cosy chat, Mary entered with baskets of fruit from the orchard. The young sailor rose, saluted her, and seemed surprised to see one—apparently an inmate of Joan's—with the dress and demeanour of a lady; her broken English, with Breton accent, betokened her to be a foreigner. "Don't ’e disturb yourself, Mr. Pendar," said An’ Joan, "this young lady, poor dear, all the same to me as a daughter, is the damsel Mary I’an."
Mr. Pendar—who is said to have been one of those who then lived in Pendrea—had heard some gossip, on his first arrival at home, about the good looks, rare accomplishments, and strange history of this waif of the I’an's; and how she had refused many offers of marriage from farmers’ sons that were thought good chances for her. Young Pendar took a liking at first sight to the poor orphan, and his love was not more sudden than honest and constant; and her feelings towards the young sailor must have been equally favourable, one may suppose, as they often met at Penberth and elsewhere, and purposed to be wedded on his next return from a short voyage. But the artless sailor and simple maiden made their calculations without his parents’ consent. Little thought Mary, and less cared her lover, about what the old Pendars styled the stain on her paternity, or their talk about disowning or disinheriting. The brave heart of oak but little regarded his mother railing in bitter terms, of Mary's poverty and base birth, and of Beaton's youthful failing; or his father saying, "that as he made his bed he might lie on it; that if he wedded one of nought, he should be cut off with a shilling." But more devilry was set to work than the youngster knew of.
At parting, to join his ship, he told his father to keep his shilling, as he cared not for anything he had to withhold or bestow, that he saw no reason why the daughter should suffer for her parents’ failings; he thought they had undergone more than enough themselves and that he was determined to win fortune and choose a wife for himself. On taking leave of Mary he assured her that when he returned from a short voyage he would make her his bride.
Pendar left home to join his ship, which he thought would make but a short voyage.
Many months elapsed, but Mary had no tidings of her affianced lover; and, about the time she expected his return a report was circulated that he was killed in a naval engagement. As months rolled on and brought no other intelligence, Mary too readily believed the common talk; and, poor grieved soul, for many an hour she would sit, all alone, on a rock beside the shore, look wistfully out to sea, and chant some old Breton melody about
meeting her true-love in the fairy orchards of Avalon. And her wild song, by the moaning waves, was sad to hear as a funeral dirge. Like a blasted flower she pined and died, and was laid beside her parents, when the young seaman, her lover, was hastening homeward in hopes to make her his bride.
Pendar arrived at Penberth with a good store of prize-money, heard, with anguish, how Mary had died of a broken heart, all through a vile scheme of his parents, who spread the sad rumour, and had no reason to think him dead; because they, unknown to him, contrived to have him drafted to a cruiser that was sent to protect merchantmen in distant seas. He was kept in ignorance of his destination, and had no means to inform Mary that years might elapse before his return. He left home without seeing his father or mother, and never more returned to Buryan; yet ’tis said that he became renowned as a brave naval commander, and died unmarried.
Within a few days of Mary's death, her uncle made a trip to Fowey, with a cargo of contraband goods, and on his return voyage, shaped his course for the Land's End, intending to land in Mount's Bay, to visit his niece, and persuade her to return with him. His ship approached land off Penberth; the sea being smooth, he ran her close in, near the cove, that he might be taken ashore in his ship's boat. It so happened that his old craft was running for the cove in this Autumn evening's twilight with a thick fog. The Mur's crew mistook I’an's vessel, beating the same course, for a revenue cutter, and one of the hands fired a random shot between "wind and water" that killed their former commander, as he was about to step into his boat; some say it was on the very evening of his niece's funeral. The Breton crew fired on the Mur, and sunk her. Almost all Penberth men were on board, and the greatest part of them were drowned within hail of the cove and their dwellings. I’an was taken home to be buried, in Brittany, and his family dropped all intercourse with their father's native place.
It was not known here till years after the fatal mishap that I’an was killed by a shot from the Mur, or that it was his ship's company who sent many of his old crew to a watery grave.