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Traditions and Hearthside Stories of West Cornwall, Vol. 2, by William Bottrell, [1873], at

Pendeen of Old.

Capt. Peter, having taken a pull from the pewter pot, continued with—"Believe me, comrades, Pendeen didn't then look wisht at feasten tides nor at any other time, when one saw, (and smelt, too), the sweet scent of turf-smoke that curled up from chimney stacks, which now look down sorrowfully on cold hearths; and. one saw fair faces peering through the casements, numbers of ladies and gentlemen walking about the garden alleys and courts of the old mansion, or when the cry of hounds and the winding of the horn echoeing through the house, called one and all to the hunt at early morn. And, I can but think," he continued, "how strangers visiting Pendeen for the first time, after riding over miles of open downs with scarce a dwelling in sight, must have been surprised when they caught the first glimpse of the noble old seat, which is only seen when close at hand, and the track of rich cultivated land between it and the sea; it must have appeared to them like a place raised by enchantment, as we hear of in old stories. And the old masons, who took pride in their art and did their work truly, were right to bestow such labour on the beautiful chimney stacks of the old mansion, because they are there first seen, and from parts where little else of the house is visible; and the first sight, like first love, is never forgotten, mates."

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Capt. Peter paused, drained the pewter pot, which had stood foaming before him handed it to the cheerful old landlady to be replenished, and took a smoke. A tinner, who sat by the fire knocking the ashes out of his pipe, said, whilst he cut up his roll-tobacco, rubbed it in the palm of his hand, and refilled:

"I don't understand very well Capen what is meant by enchantment, only that it's something strange and wonderful. Now, to my mind, the greatest wonder about the place is the Vow. One end of it we know is within a few yards of the mansion, but no one knows where the other is to be found. Ef there be any truth in old traditions about that cavern adit, fougou, or whatever it may be called, it runs for a great distance (some say miles), yet most people believe that the eastern end was once open at the cove. Others will have it that old tinners, who lived before part of the roof had fallen in, travelled in it for ten times the distance from the house to the cove, and burned more than a pound of candles without finding the end. They always returned frightened, and what they saw to scare them they could never be got to tell.

"Perhaps the Spirit of the Vow, that many have seen at the entrance, in the appearance of a tall lady, dressed in white, with a red rose in her mouth, at all seasons of the year, may take a more fearful form within the cavern.

"Who can tell," he continued, "but that money and treasures may have been secreted there in troublesome times of old, and I wonder why the Squire don't have the mystery about the Vow cleared up; there can't be much of the roof fallen in, and, for my part, I'd willingly give all my time, out of core for a month to help clear away the rubbish and take the venture upon shares."

"I am very much of thy mind, my dear," Capt. Peter replied, "Ef the Squire would give us leave we'd pitch cost as soon as the feast is over, and I don't think we should find there many spirits to frighten us away. I believe that many of the fearful stories about the Vow were invented by smugglers. When the fair trade was in its glory the Vow was a convenient place for storage, and I think that the smugglers, who didn't want any faint hearts, with weak heads and long tongues, to come near them, invented many fearful stories to scare such away. One never finds any so fond of prying into other people's business as the foolish ones, or 'Grammer's weak children,' as we say."

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Tells how the drudging goblin sweat
To earn his cream bowl duly set,
When in one night, ere glimpse of morn,
His shadowy flail hath thresh’d the corn.

"No doubt," said the tinner after a pause, "Piskey threshed the corn and did other odd jobs for the old man of Boslow, as long as he lived, and they said that after his death he worked some time for the old widow, till he took his departure from the place about three score years ago. Some say"—

"Stop a minute, my son, I can tell ’e a story about that," said Capt. Peter, taking the pipe from his mouth, and holding up his finger:—"One night, when the hills were covered with snow and winter had come severely, the old widow of Boslow left in the barn for Piskey a larger bowl than usual of gerty milk (boiled milk, thickened with pillas, or oatmeal). Being clear moonlight she took a turn round the town-place, stopped at the barn-door, and looked in to see if Piskey were come to eat his supper while it was hot. The moonlight shone through a little window right on the barn-boards, and there, sitting on a sheaf of oats, she saw Piskey eating his gerty milk very hearty. He soon emptied his wooden bowl, and scraped it with the wooden spoon as clean as if it had been washed out. Having placed the 'temberan dish and spoon' in a corner, he stood up and patted and stroked his stomach, and smacked his lips in a way that was as much as to say, 'that's good of ’e old dear; see of I don't thresh well for ’e to-night.' But when Piskey turned round, the old woman was sorry to see that he had nothing on but rags and a very little of them.

"'How poor Piskey must suffer with the cold,' she thought and said to herself, 'to pass great part of his time out among the rushes in the boggy moors or on the downs with this weather—his legs all naked, and a very holey breeches. I'll pitch about it at once, and make the poor fellow a good warm suit of homespun. We all know ragged as Piskey es, he's so proud that he won't wear cast-off clothes, or else he should have some of my dear old man's—the Lord rest him.'

"No sooner thought than she begun; and, in a day or two, made a coat and breeches, knitted a pair of long sheep's-black stockings, with garters, and a nightcap, knitted too.

"When night came the old woman placed Piskey's new clothes, and a bowl of gerty milk on the barn-boards, where the moonlight would shine on them to show them best. A few minutes after leaving the barn she came back to the door, opened its upper part a little, and, looking in, saw Piskey standing up, eating his milk, and squinting at the clothes at the same time. Laying down his empty bowl he took the new

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breeches on the tip of his hand-staff, carried it to the window, and seeing what it was, put it on over his rags, dragged on the stockings, and gartered them, donned coat and cap, then jumped over the barn-boards, and capered round the barn, like a fellow light in the head, singing,

"'Piskey fine and Piskey gay,
 Piskey now will run away.'

"And; sure enow, run away he did; for when he came round to the door opening into the mowhay he bolted out and took himself off without as much as saying, 'I wish ’e well ’till I see again' to the old woman, who stood outside the other door looking at am. Piskey never came back and the old woman of Boslow died that winter."

Next: An Overseer and a Parish Clerk of St. Just about sixty years ago