HOW PENGERSWICK BECAME A SORCERER.
THE first Pengerswick, by whom the castle, which still bears his name, was built, was a proud man, and desired to ally himself with some of the best families of Cornwall. He wished his son to wed a lady who was very much older than himself; who is said to have been connected with the Godolphin family. This elderly maiden had a violent desire either for the young man or the castle--it is not very clear which. The young Pengerswick gave her no return for the manifestations of love which she lavished upon him. Eventually, finding that all her attempts to win the young man's love were abortive, and that all the love-potions brewed for her by the Witch of Fraddam were of no avail, she married the old lord--mainly, it is said, to be revenged on the son.
The witch had a niece who, though poor, possessed considerable beauty; she was called Bitha. This young girl was frequently employed by her aunt and the lady of Godolphin to aid them in their spells on the young Pengerswick, and, as a natural consequence, she fell desperately in love with him herself. Bitha ingratiated herself with the lady of Pengerswick, now the stepmother of the young man, and was selected as her maid. This gave her many opportunities of seeing and speaking to young Pengerswick, and her passion increased. The old step dame was still passionately fond of the young man, and never let a chance escape her which she thought likely to lead to the excitement of passion in his heart towards her. In all her attempts she failed. Her love was turned to hate; and having seen her stepson in company with Bitha, this hate was quickened by the more violent jealousy. Every means which her wicked mind could devise were employed to destroy the young man. Bitha had learned from her aunt, the Witch of Fraddam, much of her art, and she devoted herself to counteract the spells of her mistress.
The stepmother failing to accomplish her ends, resolved to ruin young Pengerswick with his father. She persuaded the old man that his son really entertained a violent passion for her, and that she was compelled to confine herself to her tower in fear. The aged woman prevailed on Lord Pengerswick to hire a gang of outlandish sailors to carry his son away and sell him for a slave, giving him to believe that she should herself in a short time present him with an heir.
The young Pengerswick escaped all their plots, and at his own good time he disappeared , from the castle, and for a long period was never heard of.
The mistress and maid plotted and counter-plotted to secure the old Pengerswick's wealth; and when he was on his death-bed, Bitha informed him of the vile practices of his wife, and consoled him with the information that he was dying from the effects of poison given him by her.
The young lord, after long years, returned from some Eastern lands with a princess for his wife, learned in all the magic sciences of those enchanted lands. He found his stepmother shut up in her chamber, with her skin covered with scales like a serpent, [a] from the effects of the poisons which she had so often been distilling for the old lord and his son. She refused to be seen, and eventually cast herself into the sea, to the relief of all parties.
Bitha fared not much better. She lived on the Downs in St Hilary; and from the poisonous fumes she had inhaled, and from her dealings with the devil, her skin became of the colour of that of a toad.
[a] See Appendix Z