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

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West Country Superstitions.

Devil's Money.

There needs no other charm nor conjurer,
To raise infernal spirits up, but fear.

NOT long ago it was believed Old Nick frequently appeared in the form of a bull, and. that he often placed money to tempt the unwary. The following story—told us of the late Sir Rose Price's huntsman—will help to explain notions which are not yet wholly exploded.

When the huntsman was a boy his parents lived in Nancledra, and sent him daily to a school two or three miles off, till he was about thirteen years old. He had his dinner sent with him, and he often minched. One morning he wandered away over the moors in search of birds’ nests and rabbits’ burrows. He had a good pasty in his dinner-bag and the day passed pleasantly in birds-nesting, searching for young rabbits, and playing about a tin-stream, three miles or so up the Bottom, where he stayed till the streamers left work. Then he took his course for home, over hedges and ditches, wandering wherever his fancy led him, till almost dark, when he found himself in a large hilly field not far from Nancledra. In making a short cut for home he crossed this field, and, when near the middle of it, he heard a bull bellowing, and shortly saw a large black one making towards him with tail up and head down; sometimes it would stop to tear up the ground, and fling its horns as if to get in practice to toss the boy; who being far from any hedges, there seemed no way of escape from the field before the bull could overtake him. But, luckily, within a few yards, there was a large rock, to which he ran and climbed it, a moment only before the bull came to it.

The brute kept on, for a long time, going round and round the rock, bellowing and tearing up the turf as if in a rage, till at last, tired with his vain endeavours—as it seemed—to get at the boy, it hoisted its tail like a flag-staff, galloped off, and vanished in a minute.

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The boy didn't venture from his fort for sometime after the bull left. At length he 'cramed' down over a shelving side of the rock on all fours, head foremost—it was too dark to see where to put his feet. When he touched ground with his hand he felt and took up what he thought, by the feel of it, to be a penny-piece or a large button. He ran home and saw, by light shining through a window, that he had found a penny. When the way was clear, he made a place to hide it, in a hole over the chimney-stool—the fire-place was a large open one for burning furze and turf.

Next night, about the same hour as on the preceding, he went on the rock, 'cramed' down again, and found two penny-pieces, which he hoarded in the hole; and, night after night, he visited the rock, found the money doubled each succeeding night, and picked up silver money in other places where one would the least expect to find it, till his hiding-place was nearly full in a few weeks.

How much longer this luck would have continued there is no knowing; for, one night, when he thought there was nobody about, his mother came in and found him standing on the chimney-stool so earnest about something that he didn't see her watching him, and he kept handling his money till she said,

"Whatever hast thee got there between the stones, that thee art always stealing into the chimney, whenever thee dost think nobody is noticing of thee."

"Only my buttons and marbles, mother," said he.

"I don't believe thee," replied his mother; "stand away, and I'll see for myself."

Saying this she took up the fire-hook, ran the point of it into the hole, and dragged out a lot of money.

"Now tell me, or I'll kill thee, thou lying thief," said she, "where didst thee get this money; if thee hast stole it I'll murder thee, I will."

The boy didn't much mind his mother's threats—terrific as they seem—he was used to it. Yet she made him tell how he came by the money.

"Oh! good gracious mercy on us," cried she, before he had finished telling her; "oh! thou wicked boy; thee hast frightened me out of my life. Now tell me true," moaned she, wringing her hands, "hast thee used any of the devil's money, put there to entice thee to sell thyself to hind, body and soul?"

"No, mother, please sure I han’t," said he, "I was savan all to buy a gun."

"Well, thank goodness," groaned his mother, "that I have

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found all out in time to prevent thee shuttan thyself or somebody else with the devil's gun. I should never more rejoice if I thought thee hast used a farthing of en. Know, thou plague of my heart, that what seemed to thee a bull was the Old One hisself. He placed the money there for thee, and, when the bull seemed to vanish, he only changed to an adder, a toad, or something else that suited his purpose, and he was watchan thee all the time."

Whilst talking to the boy she raked all the money on to a fire-shovel, and threw it under a brandes, around which there was a good turf-fire. In a few minutes all the money melted away, and was gone like hailstones in sunshine.

Next morning she carried out all the ashes, strewed them about the town-place, and swept the hearth nine times before she lighted a new fire. The poor woman never rested till she told old Parson Stephens. He didn't altogether believe the boy's story, but said that if it was the devil's money she did right, or she might have—brought it to him.

The boy was so terrified by what his mother said, that, for years after, he never ventured to wander by night, even when he hunted for Sir Rose, and was as stout a man as one might see of a market day; and the sight of a black bull or anything he took for such would always make him tremble.

There are many stories of this class about people having been enticed with devil's money, but few of them have so fortunate an ending as the old huntsman's relation.

Next: The Slighted Damsel of Gwinear