THE Lord of Pengerswick came from some Eastern clime, bringing with him a foreign lady of great beauty. She was considered by all an "outlandish" woman; and by many declared to be a "Saracen." No one, beyond the selected servants, was ever allowed within the walls of Pengerswick Castle; and they, it was said, were bound by magic spells. No one dared tell of anything transacted within the walls; consequently all was conjecture amongst the neighbouring peasantry, miners, and fishermen. Certain it was, they said, that Pengerswick would shut himself up for days together in his chamber, burning strange things, which sent their strong odours,--not only to every part of the castle,--but for miles around the country. Often at night, and especially in stormy weather, Pengerswick was heard for hours together calling up the spirits, by reading from his books in some unknown tongue. On those occasions his voice would roll through the halls louder than the surging waves which beat against the neighbouring rocks, the spirits replying like the roar of thunder. Then would all the servants rush in fright from the building, and remain crowded together, even in the most tempestuous night, in one of the open courts. Fearful indeed would be the strife between the man and the demons; and it sometimes happened that the spirits were too powerful for the enchanter. He was, however, constantly and carefully watched by his wife; and whenever the strife became too serious, her harp was heard making the softest, the sweetest music. At this the spirits fled; and they were heard passing through the air towards the Land's End, moaning like the soughing of a departing storm. The lights would then be extinguished in the enchanter's tower, and all would be peace. The servants would return to their apartments with a feeling of perfect confidence. They feared their master, but their mistress inspired them with love. Lady Pengerswick was never seen beyond the grounds surrounding the castle. She sat all day in lonely state and pride in her tower, the lattice-window of her apartment being high on the seaward side. Her voice, accompanying the music of her harp, was rarely heard, but when she warbled the soft love strains of her Eastern land. Often at early dawn the very fishes of the neighbouring bay would raise their heads above the surface of the waters, enchanted by the music and the voice; and it is said that the mermaids from the Lizard, and many of the strange spirits of the waters, would come near to Pengerswick cove, drawn by the same influence. On moonlight nights the air has often seemed to be full of sound, and yet the lady's voice was seldom louder than that of a warbling bird. On these occasions men have seen thousands of spirits gliding up and down the moonbeams, and floating idly on the silvered waves, listening to, and sometimes softly echoing, the words which Lady Pengerswick sang. Long did this strange pair inhabit this lonely castle, and although the Lord of
Pengerswick frequently rode abroad on a most magnificent horse--which had the reputation of being of Satanic origin, it was at once so docile to its master and so wild to any other person--yet he made no acquaintance with any of the neighbouring gentry. He was feared by all, and yet they respected him for many of the good deeds performed by him. He completely enthralled the Giants of the Mount; and before he disappeared from Cornwall, they died, owing, it was said, to grief and want of food.
Where the Lord of Pengerswick came from, no one knew; he, with his lady, with two attendants, who never spoke in any but an Eastern tongue, which was understood by none around them, made their appearance one winter's day, mounted on beautiful horses, evidently from Arabia or some distant land.
They soon--having gold in abundance--got possession of a cottage; and in a marvellously short time the castle, which yet bears his name, was rebuilt by this lord. Many affirm that the lord by the force of his enchantments, and the lady by the spell of her voice, compelled the spirits of the earth and air to work for them; and that three nights were sufficient to rear an enormous pile, of which but one tower now remains.
Their coming was sudden and mysterious; their going was still more so. Years had rolled on, and the people around were familiarised with those strange neighbours, from whom also they derived large profits, since they paid whatsoever price was demanded for any article which they required. One day a stranger was seen in Market-Jew, whose face was bronzed by long exposure to an Eastern sun. No one knew him; and he eluded the anxious inquiries of the numerous gossips, who were especially anxious to learn something of this man, who, it was surmised by every one, must have some connection with Pengerswick or his lady; yet no one could assign any reason for such a supposition. Week after week passed away, and the stranger remained in the town, giving no sign. Wonder was on every old woman's lips, and expressed in every old man's eyes; but they had to wonder on. One thing, it was said, had been noticed; and this seemed to confirm the suspicions of the people. The stranger wandered out on dark nights--spent them, it was thought, on the sea-shore; and some fishermen said they had seen him seated on the rock at the entrance of the valley of Pengerswick. It was thought that the lord kept more at home than usual, and of late no one had beard his incantation songs and sounds; neither had they heard the harp of the lady. A very tempestuous night, singular for its gloom--when even the ordinary light, which, on the darkest night, is evident to the traveller in the open country, did not exist--appears to have brought things to their climax. There was a sudden alarm in Market-Jew, a red glare in the eastern sky, and presently a burst of flames above the hill, and St. Michael's Mount was illuminated in a remarkable manner. Pengerswick Castle was on fire; the servants fled in terror; but neither the lord nor his lady could be found. From that day to the present they were lost to all.
The interior of the castle was entirely destroyed; not a vestige of furniture, books, or anything belonging to the "Enchanter" could be found. He and everything belonging to him had vanished; and, strange to tell, from that night the bronzed stranger was never again seen. The inhabitants of Market-Jew naturally crowded to the fire; and when all was over they returned to their homes, speculating on the strange occurrences of the night. Two of the oldest people always declared that, when the flames were at the highest, they saw two men and a lady floating in the midst of the fire, and that they ascended from amidst the falling walls, passed through the air like lightning, and disappeared.
AGAIN and again had the Lord of Pengerswick reversed the spells of the Witch of Fraddam, who was reported to be the most powerful weird woman in the west country. She had been thwarted so many times by this "white witch" that she resolved to destroy him by some magic more potent than anything yet heard of. It is said that she betook herself to Kynance Cove, and that there she raised the devil by her incantations, and that she pledged her soul to him in return for the aid he promised. The enchanter's famous mare was to be seduced to drink from a tub of poisoned water placed by the roadside, the effect of which was to render him in the highest degree restive, and cause him to fling his rider. The wounded Lord of Pengerswick was, in his agony, to be drenched by the old witch with some hell-broth, brewed in the blackest night, under the most evil aspects of the stars; by this he would be in her power for ever, and she might torment him as she pleased. The devil felt certain of securing the soul of the Witch of Fraddam, but he was less certain of securing that of the enchanter. They say indeed that the sorcery which Pengerswick learned in the East was so potent that the devil feared him. However, as the proverb is, he held with the hounds and ran with the hare. The witch collected with the utmost care all the deadly things she could obtain, with which to brew her famous drink. In the darkest night, in the midst of the wildest storms, amidst the flashings of lightnings and the bellowings of the thunder, the witch was seen riding on her black ram-cat over the moors and mountains in search of her poisons. At length all was complete--the horse drink was boiled, the hell-broth was brewed. It was in March, about the time of the equinox; the night was dark, and the King of Storms was abroad. The witch planted her tub of drink in a dark lane, through which she knew the Lord of Pengerswick must pass, and near to it she sat, croning over her crock of broth. The witch-woman had not long to wait; amidst the hurrying winds was heard the heavy tramp of the enchanter's mare, and soon she perceived the outline of man and horse defined sharply against the line of lurid light which stretched along the western horizon. On they came; the witch was scarcely able to contain herself--her joys and her fears, struggling one with the other, almost overpowered her. On came the horse and his rider: they neared the tub of drink; the mare snorted loudly, and her eyes flashed fire as she looked at the black tub by the roadside. Pengerswick bent him over the horse's neck and whispered into her ear; she turns round, and, flinging out her heels, with one kick she scattered all to the wild winds. The tub flew before the blow; it rushed against the crock, which it overturned, and striking against the legs of the old Witch of Fraddam, she fell along with the tub, which assumed the shape of a coffin. Her terror was extreme: she who thought to have unhorsed the conjurer, found herself in a carriage for which she did not bargain. The enchanter raised his voice and gave utterance to some wild words in an unknown tongue, at which even his terrible mare trembled. A whirlwind arose, and the devil was in the midst of it. He took the coffin in which lay the terrified witch high into the air, and the crock followed them. The derisive laughter of Pengerswick, and the savage neighing of the horse, were heard above the roar of the winds. At length, with a satisfied tone, he exclaimed: "She is settled till the day of doom," gave the mare the spurs, and rode rapidly home.
The Witch of Fraddam still floats up and down, over the seas, around the coast, in her coffin, followed by the crock, which seems like a punt in attendance on a jolly-boat. She still works mischief, stirring up the sea with her ladle and broom till the waves swell into mountains, which heave off from their crests so much mist and foam that these wild wanderers of the winds can scarcely be seen through the mist. Woe to the mariner who sees the witch!
The Lord of Pengerswick alone had power over her. He had but to stand on his tower, and blow three blasts on his trumpet, to summon her to the shore, and compel her to peace.
1 Robert Hunt, Popular Romances of the West of England, 2nd series, p. 86.