Traditions and Hearthside Stories of West Cornwall, Vol. 2, by William Bottrell, , at sacred-texts.com
May friend made a point of telling the story just as it was related by old folks, and I wrote the greater part of it from his recital.
It contains, however, too many details of dreadful crimes to please general readers; and as I think it right to give our old stories unmutilated—so far as a due regard to decorum permits—I hesitated about publishing it until advised to do so by friends who thought it would interest antiquarian students.
The lords of old Pengersec Castle were all soldiers who rarely lived at home. When the last lord's father was about twenty, as there was no fighting going on hereabouts, he betook himself to outlandish countries, far away in the east, to a place inhabited by people who were little better than savages; for, instead of tilling the ground or digging for tin, they passed their time roving from place to place as they wanted fresh pastures for their cattle. They lived in tents covered with the skins of their flocks, and their raiment was made of the same material; yet these heathen worshippers of Termagaunt got plenty of gold and precious things, by sending their young men to fight, for or against, or to rob their more industrious neighbours who dwelt in houses, tilled the ground, and followed trades.
Well, Pengersec went to war with these pagans, for or against, we don't know nor care which, no more did he, so that he was fighting.
Whilst there, however, he fell in love with a beautiful Princess of the people who dwelt in towns.
He wished to carry her off, but he couldn't, because she was betrothed to a Prince of that country and jealously watched; yet Pengersec often found means to visit the lady in the dead of night; and about the time he left to return home she bore him a child, which was "put going" (made away with). In spite of all, the Princess would then have followed him, had he not vowed to return for her soon, .or if, in the meanwhile, the old king, her father, died—and not having male offspring—he would marry her there and reign in his stead.
Then she took off her finger-ring, broke it, and gave him half, saying, "when this you see, remember your love in a far country; "and he swore by all she held sacred to remain unwed for seven years unless he married her.
Shortly after his return home, however, he espoused a fair lady of Helaston. There being no signs of his wife's likelihood to resent him with an heir—after having been married a year or present became very dissatisfied; and hearing of new wars in the east he returned—before seven years had elapsed—to the country where the former Princess—now a Queen—reigned in her own right.
He renewed their former connection—taking good care not to tell her he had a wife at home—and led her troops to war against the Prince who would have had his Queen and her dominions but for him.
She lent Pengersec her father's enchanted sword—a magic weapon that brought success to the rightful possessor—and fought by his side; yet they were conquered; and the Cornish rover missed his lady-love in their confused retreat; when, to save himself, as best he could, he took ship for home and left her to her fate.
Now the Queen escaped to a port where she had many vessels, and knowing that Pengersec's castle was near a place to which they often went for tin, she embarked with an aged captain and set sail for the Mount, hoping that if the man she trusted and loved above all in heaven or earth had escaped with life, she would find him in his native land.
Meanwhile the treacherous lover had returned and found his wife with an infant at the breast; he blamed her because she had not informed him of her state before he left home. In reply, she told him how she feared to raise his hopes, not being sure they would be realized.
He had scarcely settled himself comfortably in his castle with his wife and his son—of whom he was very fond—when, one night, the Queen knocked at his gate. In her arms she held a babe that had been born at sea; weeping, she showed it to its father who refused to admit her within his doors. "What can have possessed thee to follow me here thou crazy saracen," said he, "know that I've many years been wed." "Cruel man, dost thou spurn thy little son and me from thy doors," she replied, "now that I am in this strange land poor and needy." Not wishing the inmates of his dwelling to hear or see any more of the strange lady, he led her away down by the sea-side. There, standing on a cliff, she reproached him with being a faithless, perjured lover; with having stolen the magic sword, on which the safety of her land depended; and with being the cause of all her misfortunes. He threatened to drown her unless she promised to return at once to her own country. "Alas! I have no longer a country," said, she, "for thee I am become a disgrace to my people, who scorn me," and raising her hand—as if to curse him she continued, "but thou shalt no longer flourish; may evil meet thee and bad luck follow thee to the sorrowful end of thy days."
Provoked at her upbraiding, he, in his fury, cast her over cliff, into the deep, with the infant that she clasped to her breast.
Shortly after she was found floating lifeless on the waves, with the babe asleep in her arms, by the captain and crew of her ship, who, fearing she might be unkindly received, wished to accompany her, but preferring to meet her roving lover alone, she bade them remain in the boat, near where she landed, at a short distance from his castle.
The Queen's remains were taken to her native land,. and the good captain reared her child, which passed for his own son.
This old tiger of a Pengersec spent much of his time in hunting wolves, which were numerous then; the following day he was in full chase on Tregonning hill until night, when a violent storm arose. By the lightning's glare he saw, cowering around him, a drove of wild animals, that dreaded the awful thunder-storm more than they did the hunter and his dogs. Presently appeared among them a white hare, with eyes like coals of fire, then the dogs and savage beasts ran away howling louder than the tempest; the horse threw its rider and left him alone on the hill with the white hare that Pengersec knew to be the vengeful spirit of the murdered lady.
Search being made next day he was found on the hill more dead than alive from the effects of his fall and fright.
Worst of all he had lost the enchanted sword, with which he could save his life in any encounter. This mishap troubled him
much, for, when in possession of this charmed weapon, he thought it mere fun to lop off the heads of those who offended him; but now he became a coward and dreaded to go beyond his castle gate without a priest beside him.
Indeed, he could never leave his dwelling but the white hare would cross his path. When the priests vainly tried to dispose of her—like other spirits—in the Red Sea, she assumed her natural shape and told them not to think they had power to bind or loose her like the spirits of those who had been in their hands from their cradle to the grave; moreover, that she wouldn't be controlled by them or their gods, but, to please herself, would quit the place until her son came to man's estate.
Pengersec's cruel treatment of his wife shortened her days; she soon died, leaving her unweaned child, called Marec, to be nursed by the miller's wife, who shared her breast between the young heir and her son Uter.
Many years passed during which Pengersec seldom went beyond his castle that he had almost entirely to himself; a few old servants only remained in the gloomy habitation, out of regard to the young master, that he might be properly instructed and cared for. Marec, when about twenty years of age, excelled in all manly exercises; being a good seaman, as well as his constant attendant and foster-brother Uter, they would steer their boat through the roughest breakers, to aid a ship in distress, when other men feared to leave the shore. His favourite pastime was taming wild horses of the hills, in which he was said to have remarkable skill.
About this time Pengersec recovered his wonted courage, so far as to venture Gut to see the young men's sports, and to visit Godolphin castle—a few miles off—where lived a rich lady whom he wished his son to wed.
She had often seen Marec bear away the hurling-ball, win prizes at wrestling and other games, and had a great desire for him and more for the domain to which he was heir.
Although she was passable as to looks, and only a year or two older than the young lord, he had no liking for her, because she the had repute of being a sorceress. In all the country side was whispered that the damsel was too intimate with an old witch of Fraddam, whose niece, called Venna, was the lady's favourite waiting-woman.
They spent much time together distilling or otherwise concocting what they named medicaments, though some called them poisons; and many persons, believing the lady had evil eyes, pointed at her with forked fingers to avert their baneful influence.
Yet, from her affected horror of little failings, pretended pity
for those whom she slandered by insinuations, and her constant attendance at church, simple people, that she favoured, thought her a good woman; and crafty ones, from sympathy, were ever ready to further her designs.
As the young man cared more about his sports than for the lady, Pengersec did the courting—for his son at first—but at length he married the damsel of Godolphin himself.
They had not been long wedded, however, ere she became disgusted with her old lord's gloomy fits, and, from seeing much of Marec, her passion for him became too much for concealment. Fearing lest she might betray her desires to her husband, she shut herself up in her own apartments and, pretending to be ill, sent for the witch of Fraddam, who soon discovered her ailment.
The lady complained of her dreary life shut up in the lonesome castle with her morose old husband, though he doted on her, after his fashion. Having made him promise, before marriage, that she and her children should inherit his lands and all he could keep from his eldest son, it fretted her to find that, as yet, she was not likely to become a mother. "Behave kinder to Marec," said the wise-woman, "that he and his comrades may cheer your solitude."
"Never name the uncouth savage to me!." exclaimed the lady, "he would far rather chase wolves and ride wild horses around the hills than pass any time, by day or by night, in a lady's bower." The witch being skilled in making love-potions and powders, after more converse, promised to send her a philter, by the aid of which Marec would soon become her humble slave, and pine for her love. The love-drink was fetched without delay by Venna, who waited on her young master at supper and spiced his ale; but this was a mistake, for it should have been prepared and served by the person in whose favour it was intended to work.
The waiting-maid being a comely lass, and he a handsome man, she forgot her duty to her mistress, when Marec as the custom was with gallant youths—pressed her to drink from his tankard to sweeten it. The cordial and charms, that were intended to move his affections in the lady's favour, ended in his strolling on the sea-shore with her handmaid. The step-dame, unable to rest, wandered down on the beach, where she espied the loving pair in amorous dalliance. Her love turned to hate; without being seen by them, she returned and passed the night in planning revenge.
In the morning early the enraged lady sought an interview with her doting old husband, and told him that she wished to return to her father's house, because she was pining for fresh
air, but dared not leave her room when his son was in the castle for fear of being insulted by his unbecoming behaviour; in fact, she gave the old lord to understand—by hints, which might mean little or much—that Marec then discovered such a passion for her as she failed to inspire before her marriage.
Pengersec raved, and swore he would be the death of him before many hours were passed; at length, however, his fit of anger having moderated, he assured his wife that he would get him taken so far away that it would be long ere he returned to trouble her, if ever he did.
This being agreed on, the lady somewhat pacified returned to her own apartment, and summoned her woman to attend her. Venna had no sooner entered the chamber than her mistress pinned her in a corner, held a knife to her breast, and vowed to have her heart's blood that instant—for her treachery in enticing her young master to the sea-shore—unless she drank the contents of a phial which she held to her lips.
"Have patience, my dear mistress," said she, "and I will either explain to your satisfaction what seemeth false dealing and disloyalty, or I'll drain this bottle of poison to the last drop." Venna then told her mistress that she was only following her aunt's instructions to get Marec into her toils, and—if other means failed—induce him, in the dead of night, to visit her chamber by the outer stair from the garden.
The woman also proposed to make other arrangements, of which her mistress approved.
Then the pair devised how to get rid of the old lord speedily, for—having excited his jealousy—they feared he might kill his son, or send him from the country without delay.
They little thought, however, when they had decided to poison him in the evening at his supper, that all their infernal plans were overheard by the priest and steward, who had long suspected the step-dame and her woman of hatching some plot against the young master.
In Pengersec castle, as in many dwellings of that time, there were private passages, contrived in the thickness of its walls. Such places, being known only to the master and his confidential servants, were frequently forgotten; yet the priests, who were skilled builders and great devisers of mysterious hiding-holes, mostly knew where to find them.
From behind a perforated carving, in stone or wainscot, the lady's wicked designs were found out. At supper, the old steward, as was his custom, stood behind his master to hand him the tankard of ale, that he drank with his venison pasty, and a goblet of strong waters, that stood in a buffet—prepared and spiced by the lady for her husband—beside one for herself, to
take with the sweet waffels with which they finished their repast. The hall being but dimly lighted by the fading twilight and a fire on the hearth, the steward managed to distract the lady's attention, when removing the tankard, by letting it fall and spilling what remained in it on her robe, so that, without being noticed, he exchanged the two drinking-vessels' contents, and the lady took the poisoned draught which she had prepared for her spouse.
But it had little or no effect on her for the time, because, to guard against a mischance of this kind, she had long accustomed herself to imbibe poisons, in increasing doses, until she could stand a quantity that would be fatal to one not thus fortified.
After supper the priest informed Marec of the snares laid to entrap him, and of the step-dame's murderous attempt on his father.
The lady despaired of accomplishing her designs, as Marec showed by his behaviour, that he regarded her with loathing. One day, when she was more gracious to him than usual, and made advances not to be misunderstood, looking on her with contempt, he said, "Know, sorceress, that I detest thee and abhor thy shameful intentions, but thou canst neither hurt me by thy witchcraft, nor with the blight of thy evil eyes." She made no reply, but left the hall and soon after told her spouse that his son had most grossly insulted her. "Indeed," said she, "I had to defend myself with all my might to preserve my honour, and threatened to plunge a dagger into his heart unless he desisted and left my apartment." Her fabricated story so provoked the old lord that he determined to dispose of his son without delay.
That evening, the weather being stormy, Marec and Uter noticed, from Pengersec How, a vessel taking a Bourse which would bring her into dangerous ground; the young men launched their boat, rowed towards the ship, and signalled that there were sunken rocks ahead.
Night was now fast closing in, and the land could scarcely be discerned through the mist, when the young men beheld something floating at a little distance. On approaching it, they saw it to be a drowning seaman quite exhausted, and unable to keep any longer on the surface; they pulled with might and main and were just in time to save him. Having reached Pengersec Cove, they bore him to Marec's chamber, stripped off his wet clothing, rubbed him dry, placed him in bed on sheep-skins, and lay on either side that the warmth of their bodies might help to restore him. At length his breathing became regular, and, without speaking, he went off in sound sleep.
The rescued sailor awoke much restored and just as well as
need be, though surprised to find himself in a new berth with strange shipmates—as he thought his two bed-fellows. He tried to get out of bed and have a look round, when Marec well pleased to see him so far recovered related how they had taken him into their boat the previous evening, when he was seemingly at the last gasp.
The seaman—who was called Arluth—then said, that he recollected having fallen from the "tops" into the water, and endeavouring to keep himself afloat, in hopes of being seen from his ship and rescued; but of what followed he had no remembrance. He also informed them that he was the son of a captain of an eastern ship, which frequently traded at Cornish ports; fearing his father might be in great distress, from thinking him drowned, he wished to get on board his ship as soon as possible.
Uter fetched, from the butlery, beef, bread, and beer; when the sailor and his master sat beside each other he remarked that they looked like twin brothers, from their close resemblance.
Having breakfasted, they took horses and followed by the dogs—started for Market-jew.
When they came out on uncultivated ground, Marec proposed to hunt as they went along, that the seaman might have some game to take aboard.
They had gone but a little way when a white doe started from a thicket and ran towards the hills—followed by the hounds in full cry. The sailor's horse being an old hunter, took after them, and the rider, being an indifferent horseman, lost all control over his steed, which bore him after the hounds near to the top of Tregonning hill, where the doe disappeared and the dogs were at fault.
The sailor alighted near the same carn where Pengersec had been thrown from his horse many years agone. He had no sooner put foot to ground than lightning struck the rocks close by and they toppled over. Then he heard a voice—as if from the ground—that said, "Fear not, Arluth, beloved son of mine, to seize thy forefather's sword and with it win thy kingdom."
There was no one nigh him; but, on glancing towards the carn, he saw near it a beautiful white hare, which gazed lovingly on him for a moment and then disappeared amongst the rocks. On going to the spot, where the rocks had been severed, he found a naked sword with sparkling jewels in its hilt, and the blade shone like flame.
Arluth, having recovered from his surprise, took up the sword, and, looking round, he saw Marec and Uter near him. Surprised that it should be discovered in such a place, and at what the seaman told him, Marec said, that as he had found
the magic weapon, he was destined to achieve great things.
Arluth again thought of his father and shipmates, who, not knowing if he were dead or alive would be in great trouble; he begged his companions to let him hasten to Market-jew, and their horses soon took them thither. On parting the sailor said he hoped to see his friends again; they proposed to visit him in the evening; saw him embark in a boat and pull off to his ship. The good captain was overjoyed to see him after having mourned for him as dead.
Arluth related how he had been rescued; drew the sword from his belt and told the captain where he had found it, with what he had seen and heard on the hill. The. captain having examined it, said, "The time is come for me to declare that the only relationship I bear thee is through my regard and loyalty to the murdered Queen, thy mother. He then related to Arluth how the Queen had lost her kingdom and magic sword, through her ill-requited love for Pengersec; and how he had saved him when an infant. In conclusion the captain said, "Thou wilt now understand, my son—let me still call thee so—how that the young lord of Pengersec, who rescued thee last night, is thy brother. Thy name, too—which was given thee by thy mother, as soon as thou wast born—belongs to this country's tongue. The Queen, having heard Lord Pengersec thus called by his Cornish followers who attended him to her land, took that title to be one of his names, and liked it best for thee."
The captain also told the wondering sailor that he would be the acknowledged heir to their country, which had for many years been rent with civil war between divers pretendants thereto, among whom there was no one sufficiently powerful to secure the throne, since the magic sword—on which their country's safety in some way depended—had been lost, and reserved by a protecting power for him.
"Now nothing more is wanting," said he, "to enable thee to reclaim thy mother's dominions, and its people will gladly receive thee to give peace to the distracted country."
The young sailor was much surprised by what the captain related, and still more so when he said that about the time Arluth was following the white doe Pengersec came on board his ship and proposed to hire him, and his crew to kidnap and carry away his son and his servant, merely to gratify a step-dame's spite. The captain said his only reply to the befooled and unnatural father's proposal was to tell him he should never leave his vessel alive if he spoke to one of his crew, and to order him over the ship's side immediately.
Being stupified with grief, he didn't think, however, of another vessel—then anchored at no great distance—that came
from a city where the people mostly lived by piracy; the chew of this ship—which sailed under any colour that suited their ends—made it their business, among other things, to land in lonely places, maraud the country, carry off young people, and sell them in Barbary for slaves.
"Had I but thought of it in time," said the captain, "we would have taken off Pengersec and given him a taste of the sea, for I knew much more of him than he suspected." Having seen Pengersec go on board and leave the pirate ship, the captain and Arluth, knowing the gang would even murder their own brothers for a trifle of gold, determined to watch their proceedings, and rescue the young men if need be.
It was bargained between Pengersec and the pirates that, for a small sum, they would kidnap his son and titer, either when they went out a-fishing—as was their practice almost nightly—or land and steal them from the castle.
Meanwhile, Arluth had arms placed in a boat; and when twilight darkened into night he saw a boat leave the pirate ship. "Now, may the gods help me!" he exclaimed, springing up and brandishing his sword, "my first use of this shall be to save my brother." Arluth with several of his crew gave chase.
Marec and titer, being on their way to the good captain's. ship, were encountered by the pirates, overpowered, and put in irons, when their companion of the morning sprang into the pirate's boat and cut in pieces every one of the gang.
Having released and embraced the captives, Arluth bore away to the pirate ship, boarded her, hanged the rest of her crew, and took the craft as a lawful prize; and a rich prize they found her.
Arluth, having returned to the good captain's ship and informed Marec and Uter how the old lord intended to serve them, said, "Come with me and never more put foot in the place whilst thy crafty step-mother's head is above ground." Marec replied to the effect that he didn't like to go away until he had furnished himself and Uter with money and needful changes of clothing. "Don't touch a thing in the accursed place," returned Arluth, "for you have a brother belonging to the land whither we are bound, who will share his last stiver with thee, and shed his heart's blood in thy defence. Nay, brother, be not surprised," continued he, in drawing Marec to him, "this brother of thine will ere long be king of the country."
"Would to heaven thou wert my brother, thou heart-of-oak, and I would joyfully go with thee to any land," replied Marec.
The captain gave the young men of Pengersec a cordial welcome, set before them the richest wines in his ship, and—
smiling with satisfaction to see the brothers' attachment, and Marec's puzzled look—he related to him the history of his father's exploits, which had been told to Arluth, for the first time, only a few hogs before.
Marec had been altogether ignorant of much that the old commander related of his father's youthful adventures; he rejoiced, however, to find a brother in Arluth, and to go with him, he cared not whither. Uter had such a strong regard for his master that he would gladly accompany him to the world's-end.
Arluth, having taken command of the captured pirate ship, with his brother for mate Uter, and a few hands spared from the other vessel, as his crew—they at 'once made sail.
Whilst the two ships go sailing on, with clear skies and favouring gales, we will return, for a brief space, to Pengersec. About the time they got under way, the priest was told that the old lord had during the day been on board two eastern vessels; the good man, fearing this visit portended mischief, watched all night for Marec. When morning dawned, there being no appearance of the young men nor their boat—and the ships having left the bay he sought Pengersec; found him and his wife, early as it was, in the hall. The priest and steward accused the lady of having conspired with her woman and others to destroy her step-son and husband. Venna, being summoned, turned against her mistress; the old lord, seeing how he had been fooled, ordered both women to be cast into the dungeon, mounted his horse and rode in all haste to Market-jew to see if any craft might be procured to sail after the departed ships and recover his son. Finding nothing there to the purpose, he returned at nightfall—distracted with remorse and rage—fully determined to hang his wife and her woman from the highest tower of his castle.
On nearing the thicket, from which the doe started on the preceding day, out sprang the white hare with flaming eyes, right in face of his horse; the terrified steed turned, galloped down to the shore, and, to escape the pursuing hare, took to sea. Neither the horse nor its rider were evermore seen.
The lady was released by her father's people; she became covered with scales, like a serpent—from the effects of the poison she had-taken it was supposed—and she was shut up, as a loathsome object, in a dark room of Godolphin.
Venna escaped to her aunt the witch of Fraddam. The old lord having confessed, in his anguish, how he had disposed of his son and Uter, the people of Pengersec supposed they were taken to Barbary and sold as slaves; hoping, however, to discover them, the old servants took good care of everything, in order to save money and effect his ransom.
The two ships kept as near as might be on their voyage; and it was noticed that a beautiful white bird followed them from Mount's Bay; it often came within bow-shot but no one dared to aim a shaft at it, for the eastern mariners believed it to be the spirit of a departed friend who guarded them from harm.
Marec frequently passed to the old captain's vessel, when they were becalmed, for he liked much to hear him tell of eastern magicians and the wonderful things they did.
Having arrived at their destined port, they found their country in great disorder from the war waged by many pretenders to the throne, as before stated by the old commander. He had no sooner, however, presented to the people the young man, whom they had long known as his son, and related to them the history of his birth, and of the recovered magic sword, than, they all flocked to Arluth's standard and proclaimed him their king.
Arluth but little valued his new dominions at first, and would have preferred the command of a good ship. Yet, to please his people, he consented to rule them, and soon became fully occupied with the cares of his government, which he regulated like the prudent captain of, a well-ordered ship; he would have no idle hands nor waste of stores in his dominions.
King Arluth wished his brother to live with him as chief mate and adviser, and offered to dwell in any place he might choose, so it was near their principal port, that he might superintend the traffic.
Marec was loath to part with his brother, but his fancy was so fired with what the captain told him about a people, living near them who were skilled in magic, that he ardently desired to visit their country, and, if possible, acquire some of their extraordinary wisdom.
Arluth, on becoming acquainted with his wishes, furnished a vessel with such merchandise as would meet with a ready sale in the wise-men's country; equipped his brother in every way becoming his rank, and dispatched him and Uter under the care of trustworthy persons.
Mare remained a long while studying among the magicians, and learned many curious arts, unknown in western lands. He also married a beautiful and rich lady, who was gifted with many rare accomplishments, and Uter wedded her favourite damsel.
In about three years, the old captain—who, in the meantime, had made a voyage to Market-jew for tin—came to the sage's country on purpose to inform Marec that his father had long been dead, and how the people on his estate had sent him money and wished for his speedy return.
Pengersec's heart then yearned for his home and his people; he
told his wife how in the pleasant land, towards the setting sun, gentle showers descended, all summer long, like dews distilled from Heaven, and kept the fields ever verdant; how crops succeeded crops throughout the year, which was like a perpetual spring compared with the arid land in which they then dwelt. He said how hills and dales were covered with fat herds in that happy land, whose inhabitants had not to hunt half-starved wild animals for their subsistence, but only followed the chase for pastime; how by a process, unknown in other lands, a liquor was there brewed from grain, which made those who drank it as strong as giants and brave as lions; how the Cornish people merely washed the soil of their valleys and found metals—more precious than silver or gold.
"That is the tin, to obtain which your eastern mariners make their longest and most dangerous voyages," said Pengersec—as we shall now call Marec—"besides," continued he, "I have a strong and fair castle in a green valley by the sea; I will build thee a bower by the murmuring shore, where we will have delightful gardens and everything for pleasure." "Say no more, my beloved, about the delights of thy land," she replied, "for I shall little regard that when thou art by; thy home shall be mine wherever thou choosest to dwell; and whenever it pleaseth thee let us depart."
After procuring many magical books and other things, necessary for the practice of occult sciences, Pengersec and his lady, with Uter and his spouse, took leave of the sages and made sail for home.
On the way, Pengersec stayed some time with King Arluth, who presented him with a foal of the choicest stock of his country; he also sent on board, unknown to his brother, bales of brocade, and various rich stuffs of gold and silver tissue, besides pearls, precious stones, and other valuable things; and, promising to revisit each other, they took loving leave.
The lady passed much time on deck playing on her harp, its sweet music kept the weather fair, drew dolphins and other fishes from the depths of the sea to sport around and follow the ship to Mount's Bay; thence it came to pass that on our coast were found many rare fishes—never before seen here.
When the young lord and his beautiful bride landed at Market-jew, the people—one and all—came from near and far away to welcome them. Bonfires blazed on every hill; weeks were passed in feasting at Pengersec, where archery, hurling, slinging, wrestling, and other games were carried on that the fair stranger might see our Cornish sports; at night, minstrels and droll-tellers did their utmost to divert the company.
The lady of the castle took much delight in her new home;
she often passed the mornings with her husband in hunting; she rode over moors and hills with a hawk on her wrist or a bow in her hand. At eve her harp would be heard in Pengersec towers sending joyous strains over sea and land; then fishermen would rest on their oars, and sea-birds—forgetting their nightly places of rest in the western cleeves—remained entranced around the castle.
The people were much pleased with the outlandish lady, who admired their unbounded hospitality to strangers, their primitive manners, simplicity of heart, and sincerity of intention; for they appeared to her as absolutely ignorant of fraud or flattery, as if they had never heard of such a thing; she found them to be of a free, facetious temper, though of a somewhat curious and inquisitive disposition—the women especially.
The lady thought our ancient language sounded much like her eastern tongue, and that made her feel all the more at home.
Pengersec was no sooner fairly settled than he built two broad and lofty towers—united by a gallery—on the seaward side of his castle. The easternmost tower was constructed with everything requisite for his magic art; in the other were placed his lady's private apartments, overlooking pleasant gardens, the green glen, and boundless ocean.
When Pengersec returned, his step-mother was still immured in her dark chamber. In a little while, however, she fretted herself to death, and the breath no sooner left her body than she returned to haunt the rooms formerly occupied by her in the castle. Pengersec had that portion of the building at once rased to the ground, but her hideous ghost still continued to wander about the place.
Now it was that the young lord essayed the power of his art to some purpose, for, by his enchantment, he confined her to a hole in a headland, west of Pengersec Cove, called the How, and compelled her to assume the form of an uncommonly large adder, in which shape she is still occasionally seen there, if what people of that neighbourhood say, be true.
Over a few years, Pengersec became so much attached to occult sciences that he devoted nearly all his time to their practice; he was seldom seen beyond his castle, and, even there, he almost continually shut himself up in his tower, where he was never approached except by his lady and Uter, both of whom assisted him in such operations as required help. Fires would be seen—through loop-holes in his tower—blazing all night long; and the flames ascended high above the battlements when he changed base metals into silver and gold.
If his fire happened to go out he rekindled it by sparks drawn from the sun, by means of a magic crystal. With the same glass,
or another, he also saw what was being done in distant lands.
A person, who came from far to see the magician's wonders, on looking into or through this glass, beheld in the castle-court what appeared to be an uncommonly large bird carrying in- its mouth a baulk of timber; on taking away the glass he could only see a duck with a straw in her bill.
Pengersec paid no attention to his farms, which were left to Uter's management; the lord, indeed, had no reason to care . about them whilst he could make gold in abundance.
But this untold riches was about the least important fruit of his science, for—ere he became middle-aged—he concocted a magical elixir, or water-of-life, which preserved him, his lady, and others in their youthful vigour.
The lord of Pengersec was soon renowned in all the west as a most powerful enchanter, whom everybody feared to molest—and well they might. Some one from the Mount, having a mind to his fat sheep, carried one of them down to the cliff, tied its legs together, and passed them over his head. At this instant, however, the enchanter, happening to glance at his magic glass, saw what was taking place, and put a spell on the thief that made him remain in the same spot all the night with the tide rising around him and the sheep hanging from his neck. The enchanter released the thief in the morning and gave him the sheep with a caution not to meddle with his flocks again or he would be served out worse.
’Tis said, too, that Venna, who was now a noted wise-woman or witch—living at St. Hillar Downs—often had contests with the enchanter to test the relative powers of their familiars; they contended with spells and counter-spells from mere pride of art. We omit the details because they would merely be a repetition of much that has been related in the foregoing stories of witchcraft and pellar-craft.
At times the lord would be seen careering over moors and hills, mounted on his handsome mare, brought from the east; she excelled every other steed for swiftness; a whisper from him would make her as docile as a lamb, though she was quite unmanageable with everybody else.
The castle servants were frequently alarmed by hearing the enchanter conjuring, in an unknown tongue, the unruly spirits that he required to serve him; or by loud explosions. Pungent and fiery vapours, that threatened to consume the building, often sent their strong odours for miles around. At such times the frightened inmates sought their lady's aid; who, on taking her harp to the enchanter's tower, soon drove away or subdued the evil spirits by the power of its melody. One time the magician left his furnaces and their fires to the care of his attendant
whilst he went to pass a while in his lady's bower; he had not been long there when something told him that mischief was taking place in his tower. On hastening thither he found the attendant, Uter, had neglected his duty; and, by reading in one of the magical books, had called up evil spirits in such numbers that in another instant they would have destroyed him; and it required all the enchanter's power to subdue them.
Many years elapsed. The lord had a numerous family—of whom he took little heed. Some of them were settled on farms, others had been adopted by their uncle, King Arluth, who frequently sent his brother rare drugs, spices, and other things, required by him for making his precious liquor of life. The lady, having outlived all her children and grand-children, became weary of existence in a world, or amidst a people, that seemed strange to her—all those of her own age being long dead—and wishing to rest with her children, though loath to leave her husband, she often begged him to discontinue prolonging his life; and he—as on former occasions, for the last hundred years or so—always promised her to leave the world when he had perfected some new essay of his art, which was all in all to him. His wife, however, neglected to take the life-cordial, and, at length, rested beneath the sod.
Their numerous descendants were known—as the custom was then—by the names of places on which they dwelt; only one of them is particularly mentioned by name in the legend; this was a lady, who lived in Pengersec Castle at the time that a Welsh Prince, from having heard of the Cornish magician's renown, came over to him for instruction, and before his departure married the beautiful Lamorna, who was the sage's great-granddaughter.
The Welsh Prince, having sent a quantity of black stones to Pengersec, he extracted from them a sort of liquid-fire, which, by some mismanagement, burst its containing vessels, and an instant afterwards all was in flames. The magician was consumed with all his books and treasures; the castle and all it held destroyed, leaving nothing but the bare walls.
It is said that Venna, the witch, prolonged her life also—without the aid of Pengersec's elixir—by merely enticing to her habitation, and keeping there, goats and young people. From them, by some moans of her craft, she drew their youthful vigour to herself and caused them to pine and die. This wicked practice of hers having being discovered, young folks were carefully kept out of her reach; and to prevent her from doing any more mischief, one night when she was brewing her hell-broth, and the flames were seen rising high, the people—to prevent her escape—nailed up her door; put a turf over her
chimney-top, and smothered her in the infernal vapours that arose from her hearth.
All the chief people of the story are ended; but had it not been for Pengersec's untoward accident he might have lived to this day.
We have preserved in the foregoing what may seem to many persons mere childish fancies; if, however, the same incidents should be found in the folk-lore of other lands, they will have an interest for those whose leisure and learning enabled them to trace our popular tales to their fountain-head.
An old tinner of Lelant, who told me the story of "Tom and the giant Denbras," brought into it the incident of Pengersec enchanting a "giant of the Mount" that came to steal his cattle. Much the same story is still told in Sennen of an astrologer, and a reputed conjuror, called Dyonysious Williams, who lived in Mayon about a century ago. This gentleman found that his furse-rick was diminishing much faster than could be accounted for, from the ordinary consumption of fuel in his own house. He consulted his books, and discovered by his art that some women, of Sennen Cove, made it a practice of carrying away his furse every night. The very next night, after all honest folks should be in their beds, an old woman of the Cove came, as usual, to his rick for a "burn" of furse. She made one of no more than the usual size, which she tried to lift on to her back, but found that she could not move it. She then took out half the furse, but was still unable to lift the small quantity that remained in her rope. Becoming frightened, she tried to get out the rope and run, but found that she had neither the power to draw it out nor to move from the spot herself. Of course the conjuror had put a spell on her, and there she had to remain throughout the cold winter's night until Mr. Williams came out in the morning and released her from the spell. As she was a very poor old soul, he let her have a burn of furse; but she took good care never to come any more, nor did the other women who soon found out how she had been served.
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