E-text prepared by Lionel Sear
1914 This e-text was prepared from a version published in 1914.
With a vivid recollection of the keen enjoyment I myself found in the strange and wonderful Romances and Legends of Old Cornwall, now so rapidly being forgotten; with a remembrance too of the numerous long and involved paragraphs—even pages—that I skipped, as being prosy or unintelligible, written as they were in a dialect often untranslatable even by a Cornish child, I have here tried to present a few of these tales in simpler form, to suit not only Cornish children, but those of all parts.
HOW CORINEUS FOUGHT THE CHIEF OF THE GIANTS.
THE GIANT OF ST. MICHAEL'S MOUNT.
THE LEGEND OF THE TAMAR, THE TAVY, AND THE TAW.
THE STRANGE STORY OF CHERRY HONEY.
THE FAIRIES ON THE GUMP.
THE FAIRY OINTMENT.
THE EXCITING ADVENTURE OF JOHN STURTRIDGE.
THE TRUE STORY OF ANNE AND THE FAIRIES.
BARKER AND THE BUCCAS.
LUTEY AND THE MERMAID.
THE WICKED SPECTRE.
THE STORY OF THE LOVERS' COVE.
THE SILVER TABLE.
CRUEL COPPINGER, THE DANE.
MADGE FIGGY, THE WRECKER.
HOW MADGE FIGGY GOT HER PIG.
THE STORY OF SIR TRISTRAM AND LA BELLE ISEULT.
HOW CORINEUS FOUGHT THE CHIEF OF THE GIANTS
Long, long ago, when Cornwall was almost a desert land, cold, bleak, and poor, and inhabited only by giants, who had destroyed and eaten all the smaller people, Brutus and Corineus came with a large Trojan army intending to conquer England, or Albion as it was then called, and landed at Plymouth for that purpose.
These two valiant chiefs had heard strange tales of the enormous size of the people in that part of the island, so, like wise generals, before venturing inland themselves, they sent parties of their men to explore, and find out what they could of the inhabitants. The soldiers, who had never heard anything about the giants, went off very full of glee, and courage, thinking, from the miserable look of the country, that they had only some poor half-starved, ignorant savages to hunt out, and subdue.
That was how they started out. They returned nearly scared to death, rushing into camp like madmen, pursued by a troop of hideous monsters all brandishing clubs as big as oak trees, and making the most awful noises you can possibly imagine.
When, though, Brutus and Corineus saw these great creatures they were not in the least frightened, for, you see, they had already heard about them. So they quietly and quickly collected their army, reassured the terrified men, and, before the giants knew what was happening, they marched upon them, and assailed them vigorously with spears and darts.
The giants, who were really not at all brave men, were so frightened at this attack, and at the pain caused by the arrows and spears,—weapons they had never seen before,—that they very soon turned tail and ran for their lives. They made direct for the Dartmoor hills, where they hoped to find shelter and safe hiding-places, and indeed, all did manage to escape except one, and that was the great Gogmagog, the captain, who was so badly injured that he could not run.
When Gogmagog saw his cowardly companions all running away, and leaving him to do the best he could for himself, he bellowed and bellowed with rage and fear until the birds nearly dropped down from the sky with fright. After a while, though, he began to think he had better stop drawing attention to himself, and look about for a means of escape, and this was no slight task, for he could scarcely move a step, and his great big body was not at all easy to conceal. Indeed, the only means he could see open to him was to lie down in one of the great ditches which lay here and there all over the land, and trust to the darkness concealing him until the soldiers had returned to camp.
Alas, though, for poor Gogmagog's plans, the moon was at the full, and every place was almost as light as by day. The Trojan soldiers too were so excited and pleased with their giant-hunting, that they could not bear to give it up and return to camp until they had at least one giant to take back as a trophy. So they prowled here, and prowled there, until at last they caught sight of the great bulky body stretched out in the ditch.
Gogmagog, of course, had no chance of escape, he was surrounded and captured, and bound, and the Trojans, rejoicing greatly, dragged him back a prisoner to their camp on Plymouth Hoe. Here, although he was carefully guarded, he was treated with great kindness, fed bountifully, and nursed until his wounds were healed.
When at last he was quite recovered, Brutus, who was very anxious to come to terms with the giants, discussed with him various ways of settling the question they had come with their army to decide, namely, who should be the possessor of the country. He proposed this plan, and that plan, and the other, but none seemed to please Gogmagog, and while the general talked and talked, and tried to come to terms, Gogmagog just sat stolidly listening, and only opening his great mouth to disagree with the general's proposal. The truth was, the giant had a great idea of his own cunning, and he was trying to think of some way by which he could get the better of the invaders, and yet avoid further battles and discharges of arrows. "For," as he said, "you never knew where you were with they things. They had done for you before you'd got time to turn round. Clubs or fists he was equal to, but he didn't see no fun in they sharp little things that stuck right into you, and wouldn't come out until they was cut out."
Thinking of clubs and fists reminded him of wrestling, which was practised a great deal in Cornwall, even in those days, and very little anywhere else.
"The very thing!" thought the wily giant, for it wasn't likely the Trojans knew anything about it, and even if they did, they were only little bits of chaps compared with himself and the other giants. So, after a time, he proposed to Brutus that they should settle matters by "a scat to wrastling," the best man, of course, to have the country.
Rather to Gogmagog's surprise Brutus agreed at once, and it was quickly settled that the giant himself and the best man in the Trojan army should be the two to try their skill. This man was Corineus, who accepted the challenge instantly.
After this the day was soon fixed, and Gogmagog was allowed to send and tell his friends, and bid them all come to Plymouth to witness the great event. The giants, being assured that no arrows or spears would be used against them, came with alacrity, and both they and the Trojans were in a wild state of excitement which increased and increased as the great day drew near.
At last the longed-for time arrived. A ring was formed on the Hoe, the giants all sitting on one side, and the Trojans on the other, and the struggle began.
Oh, it was a fine sight to see two such men pitted against each other, the giant, the finest of his race, and the splendid, stalwart soldier, the enormous strength of the one faced by the skill and coolness of the other, to see them grapple each other and struggle for the mastery as never men had struggled before in hand-to-hand warfare. Such a sight had never been seen in Cornwall until that day, nor ever will be again. It lasted long, and for long the result was doubtful.
"Th' little un can't hold out much longer, mun," cried one of the giants. "Cap'en's only playing with un yet." But just at that very moment Corineus, who was playing a very clever game, dashed in unexpectedly, caught the giant by the girdle, and grasping it like a vice, shook the astonished and breathless monster with all his might and main. The giant, bewildered and gasping, swayed backwards and forwards at his mercy, at first slightly, then more and more, as he failed to regain his balance, until, gathering all his strength for one last effort, Corineus gave him one tremendous push backwards, and sent him clean over, so that he measured his great length upon the ground, and the country for miles round shook with the force of his fall.
Gogmagog gave one awful groan, which sounded like thunder all over the land, making the giantesses, who were left at home, exclaim nervously, "Oh dear, oh dear, there must be an earthquake somewhere! How very unsettled the country is!"
Gogmagog was so stunned and breathless with his fall, that for some time he could not collect his wits, or get up again, so he lay there moaning and puffing until his hard breathing had lashed the sea into fury. The other giants were too frightened to speak or move, for they were quite certain there was magic being used against them, for strength alone could never have overthrown their 'Cap'en' like that, certainly not the strength of 'a little whipper-snapper like that there Corinoos.'
While, though, they were staring open-mouthed, and the giant, never expecting another attack, lay there still puffing and blowing, and trying to think how he could get off facing his opponent again, Corineus had been gathering up all his power to finish his task, and now, dashing in suddenly on his foe, he seized him by the legs, and dragging him to the edge of the cliff, he sent him, with one mighty push, rolling over and over down the sides of the steep cliff into the sea below.
The fearful roar which broke from the giant's throat as he disappeared, the crashing and thudding of his body as it dashed from point to point of the jagged rocks, made even those hardened savages sicken and turn pale, but worst of all was the crash with which he came to the bottom, where his body struck a rock with such violence that it was dashed into a thousand pieces, and his spouting blood dyed the sea crimson for miles and miles around.
After that all turned away pale and sobered, the soldiers to their camp, the giants to their homes, their cowardly hearts full of terror of these new-comers, and the feasting they had promised themselves by way of keeping up their victory was postponed indefinitely.
So ended the fight between the giant and the Trojan. It was not playing the game, but the giants were too cowardly to demand revenge, or to attempt to punish Corineus, and so the land and all in it fell to the Trojans.
Later, when Brutus had conquered all Albion, and was dividing some of it amongst his chiefs, Corineus begged that he might have the giant country, for he loved hunting the great lumbering fellows, and turning them out of their caves and hiding-places. So it was given to him, and he called it Cornwall, because that was something like his own name, and in time he cleared out all the giants, and in their stead there settled there an honest, manly people, who worked and tilled the land, and dug up tin, and did everything that was good, and honourable and industrious, and this is the kind of people who live there still.
THE GIANT OF ST. MICHAEL'S MOUNT.
I am sure most of you have heard of St. Michael's Mount, the strange, beautiful, mountain island, which rises up out of the sea down by Penzance; a mountain island with a grand old castle crowning its summit, and a picturesque group of cottages nestling at its base.
If you have not, you must coax your parents to take you down there for your next summer holiday, then you will be able to see the Mount, and visit it too. And when you are on it you must think to yourself, "Now I am standing where the Giant Cormoran once stood."
You must look out over the sea, too, which surrounds the giant's Mount, and try to picture to yourself a large forest in the place of it, and the sea six long miles away, for that was how it was in Cormoran's time, until one day the sea rose quite suddenly, a huge mountain of water, and rushing over the six miles of land, covered it and the forests too, even above the tops of the tallest trees. Everything for miles around was swallowed up, except the Mount, which was saved by reason of its great height.
From that day to this the sea has never receded, and St. Michael's Mount has remained an island, completely cut off from the mainland, except at low tide, when you can, if you are quick, just manage to walk across.
Years before this, Cormoran had built up the Mount for a home for himself. When first he came to the spot it was all forest, with one large white rock in the midst of it. As he lay on this rock resting, he made up his mind to build himself a hill here, all of white rocks, like the one on which he reclined, where he could live in safety, and keep an eye on the surrounding country.
It was a big task he had set himself, for all the blocks of granite of which it was to be made, had to be brought from a neighbouring hill, those close by being of the pink, or green, or grey kinds, and he would have none of these. Perhaps he would have changed his mind about it had he had to carry all the stone himself, but he, the great lazy fellow, made his wife Cornelian fetch all the heaviest blocks, while he lay idly by and watched her.
Cornelian, who thought the work was very hard indeed, did not see why the green rocks would not do as well as the white, they would be even prettier, in her opinion, so one day when her husband was asleep she knocked off a great green rock, and picking it up in her apron, hurried back as fast as she could to get it fixed in its place before he should wake. She could not manage it though, poor soul, for just as she was reaching her destination the giant opened his eyes, and as soon as he had opened them he caught sight of the green rock she was carrying. Then, oh, what a temper he was in at being disobeyed! He did not say anything, but he got quietly up from his resting-place as soon as she had passed, and followed her, but so softly that she did not notice anything until he was close to her, when he gave her such a blow that she fell staggering under it. Her apron-strings broke, down fell the green stone to the ground, and there it has stayed from that day to this, for no human power has been able to move it.
Cormoran was an old giant, and a very ugly one. He had only one eye, and that was in the middle of his forehead; he had lost nearly all his teeth, too. It would have been better for his appearance had he lost them quite all, for those that were left were broken, jagged, and discoloured, and were anything but ornamental. He was a perfect monster to look at, and, oh, he was such a dreadful thief! All the people who lived anywhere near him went in terror of him, for when he was hungry he would just cross to the mainland, steal the very best cow or sheep in the neighbourhood, sling it across his shoulders and go home with it. And as he was very often hungry, the poor farmer folks were nearly eaten out of house and home by the bad old giant.
On the Pengerswick estate near by, there were some particularly good cattle, which Master Cormoran had taken a great fancy to, and to which he helped himself pretty freely without ever being caught, or punished. Of course, the more he stole the bolder he got, for having so often got off scot-free, he grew to think he was always going to get off scot-free, and that was where he made his mistake.
One day he took it into his head that he would very much like another of these fine, choice animals, so picking up a rope he started off, and wading across to Pengerswick Cove, landed there as usual, thinking he was going to help himself without any trouble and be home again by dinner-time.
It happened, though, that the Lord of Pengerswick had just returned from the East, where he had been learning all sorts of magic and spells. Cormoran, however, knew nothing of this, and if he had he would probably only have laughed and sneered, and turned up his great nose in scorn, for he believed in nothing but giants, and only in two of them,—himself, and the Trecrobben Hill giant.
As Master Cormoran approached, the Lord of Pengerswick, who knew by means of magic all about his coming, and knowing his thieving ways, determined to punish the old thief for all the mischief he had done during his absence. So he began at once to work his spells, meaning to give the giant a very unpleasant time.
Cormoran, never dreaming of any trouble in store for him, landed as usual; but, somehow, when he reached the Cove he did not feel very well, his head felt muzzy and confused: he thought perhaps the sun had been too much for him as he came along. Instead, too, of catching one of the cattle at once, as usual, he had the works of the world to get one, the beasts seemed as slippery as eels, and he was so dull in the head, he hardly knew what he was about. However, after a great deal of trouble, and losing his temper more than once, he managed to catch a fine calf, and tying its four feet together, he slung it round his neck, and prepared to hurry back to the Mount to have a good feast.
He walked, and he walked, and he walked as fast as his feet could carry him, but though he went very quickly, and it was really no distance back to the Cove, he somehow could not get any nearer to the end of his journey; the path seemed all strange to him, too, and for the life of him he could not tell where he was.
At last, when he was so tired that he was ready to drop, he came in sight of a great black rock in Pengerswick Cove. It was a rock he did not remember seeing before, and thinking he was once again on the wrong path he turned to go back. But this, he found to his surprise, was what he could not do. The rock, as if by magic, was drawing him nearer and nearer. It was like a magnet, and struggle as he would, he could not keep away from it. He tried to turn round, he tried to draw back, he even lay down on the ground and dug his heels with all his strength into the sand. But still he felt himself being drawn on and on until he actually touched the rock, and the moment he touched it he found to his horror that he was fastened to it as though by iron bands.
Oh, how he struggled to get free, how he twisted and turned, and kicked! All in vain, though. He might as well have lain still and gone to sleep for all the good he did. By degrees, too, he felt himself growing more and more helpless, he could not move hand or foot, he grew colder and stiffer, and stiffer and colder, until at last he was as if turned to stone, except that his senses were more acute than ever they had been before. To add to his torments, too, the calf which he had slung across his shoulders, struggled and kicked and bellowed until the old thief was black and blue, and nearly deafened. He was nearly scared to death, too, for fear someone would hear the creature's noise, and come in search of it, to find out what was the matter.
He tried and tried to throw off his burden, but nothing would loosen it, and all the night long he had to bear the bleating and the bellowing in his ear, and the incessant kicking and butting, for, for the whole of the night the giant had to remain there; and probably he would have been there for the rest of his life, had not the Lord of Pengerswick thought he would like to have some more fun with him.
Early in the morning the Enchanter mounted his horse and rode down to the Cove to have a look at Master Cormoran, and to give him a piece of his mind before he removed the spell and let him go, and a piece of something else as well! Cormoran quaked when he saw the old lord coming, for he looked every bit as angry as he really was, and first he lashed the giant with his tongue, and then he lashed him with his whip, and he flogged him and flogged him until in his agony Cormoran kicked and struggled so hard that he broke away from the rock and leaped right into the sea.
This was the way the Enchanter removed the spell!
Once free from that terrible rock, Cormoran soon reached home, but the lesson he had had was one that he never forgot, and he never troubled that part of the country again, so the people all around had good cause to thank the Lord of Pengerswick. Poor Cornelian, his wife, had a sad time of it, though, for so sore was the giant from his beating, and so angry and mortified, that his temper became something worse than ever. Indeed, I cannot find words to describe it.
Poor Cornelian herself was very kind and good-tempered, and a very hard-working giantess, and she was very much to be pitied for having such a disagreeable, grumpy old husband. Cornelian, though, had one great fault, and that was that she was very, very inquisitive. I do not know that she ever did any harm to anyone but herself by it. It brought about her own death, though, in a very dreadful manner. And this was how it was.
Cormoran and the Trecrobben Hill giant were very friendly and neighbourly one with the other, and they used to borrow and lend to each other any little thing they happened to want, just as ordinary people do who are on very good terms with one another.
One day Cormoran was wanting the cobbling-hammer to mend his boots, but the hammer was up at Trecrobben's,—they only had one between them. So he went out and shouted, "Halloa, up there! Hi! Trecrobben, throw us down the cobblen hammer, wust-a?" They always threw across to each other what they wanted.
"To be sure," called back Trecrobben; "here, look out and catch un!"
Hearing a lot of noise and shouting, Cornelian must needs bustle out to find out what it was all about, and running from the dark house to the bright sunshine, her eyes were so dazzled, she did not see the great hammer coming hurtling through the air, as it did at that very moment, and whack! crack! it caught her a terrible blow right between the eyes, even crashing in the mighty bone of her forehead.
Down she fell with a groan right at her husband's feet, and when he turned her over she was as dead as the fatal hammer itself! Then what a to-do there was! The two giants wept and roared over the corpse, they wrung their hands and tore their hair, but it was all of no use, they could not bring poor Cornelian back to life again. Their sighs and groans only wrecked a ship or two out at sea, and blew the roofs off some houses at Market Jew. So they stopped, and set to work to bury poor Cornelian. They thought it best to get her out of sight as quickly as possible, it made them weep so to see her lying there dead.
Where they laid her, though, no one knows. Some say it was in the court of the castle, others that they lifted Chapel Rock and put her under; but there are others who say that they only rolled her over the edge of the cliffs and into the sea! You will always, though, find some people ready to say unkind things about everyone.
Cormoran himself met his death some years later at the hands of Jack the Giant-Killer, but as you probably know that story, I will not repeat it here.
THE LEGEND OF THE TAMAR, THE TAVY, AND THE TAW.
In the days when fairies, giants, and witches, gnomes and piskies, and dwarfs, and all the other Big People and Little People dwelt on the land or under it, there lived in a huge cavern, deep, deep down in the heart of the earth, two gnomes, husband and wife, busy, practical little people, who spent their lives digging and delving in the very bowels of the earth.
They had no cravings for a more beautiful life, no desire to see the sunshine, the flowers, the green grass, or the wide blue sea. They wanted nothing better, or beyond the life which had always been theirs.
To them, though, there was sent a little daughter, whom they called Tamara. She was a lovely, golden-haired sprite, as unlike her parents as the sun the night, and they were filled with happiness and pride, and wonder of her beauty.
When Tamara was old enough, they would have set her to work with them, but Tamara did not like the cold, dark cavern, or the silence and bareness of her underground home. She was an earth-loving child, and had a passion for the upper world, whither she would escape as often as she possibly could, for the sun, the flowers, the birds, the happy life which surrounded her up there, were a never-failing joy to her.
Her parents scolded and scolded; they warned her that the earth was full of giants, and if she were captured by one of them, nothing could save her; but she paid no heed to them at all, for she did not know what fear was, she could not believe that anyone could harm her. And they had petted and humoured her, and allowed her her own way in so many things, she did not see why she should not do as she liked in this.
She hated the cold, gloomy underground, so why should she stay there, she argued, and she ran away more and more to the upper world, and spent her days in roaming over the moors chasing the birds and butterflies, or, when she was tired, lying on a bank of moss and ferns, gazing up at the glorious sun, and basking in its kindly warmth.
At length one day, Tawridge and Tavy, sons of two Dartmoor giants, met sweet Tamara as she was wandering amongst the furze and bracken, and straightway fell in love with her. They had only seen giantesses up to that time, who, though very fine and striking in appearance, are never pretty, and these two young giants had never in their lives seen anything so delicate and so lovely as Tamara, or dreamed that it was possible that such beautiful maidens could exist.
Straightway each of them lost his great big heart to the dainty maiden, and could not bear to lose sight of her. So afraid were they that she would vanish, and they would never see her again, that they followed her far and wide over the moor, trying to coax her to come and talk with them. But Tamara, like a laughing, mischievous sprite, ran from them laughing, led them over moor and river, always evading them, never letting them reach her. The more though that she tantalized and teased them, the more the poor fellows loved her, and they sighed for her until their great hearts were like to break.
One morning, Tamara got away earlier than usual from her cavern home. She awoke long before her parents, and after gazing for some time at the darkness which filled the cave, and shivering in the chill, damp air, she thought of the upper world where the morning sun would be shining on the dewy grass, and the birds be singing their first glad song; and as she pictured it all the longing to be up there grew stronger than she could bear. She rose quietly, and without disturbing her parents, left her home for the last time.
In the upper world all was as she had pictured it, and lost in the joy and beauty of it, Tamara wandered on and on until she came to a place called Morwenstow, and a dainty little pool in the hollow of a rock. The sun was so warm, and the pool so lovely, Tamara felt she must step into it; so, laying aside her robe, she played and swam about in the fresh clear water until she was quite tired out, when she dressed herself in her robe again, and shaking her long golden locks to dry them, she lay down under the shelter of a hawthorn-bush, and soon fell fast asleep.
Ah me! how sweet she looked, with her delicate cheeks so rosy after her bathe, her lovely lashes resting on them, her cloud of golden hair spread all about her! and so thought Tavy and Tawridge when they came along and found her! At the sight of her they stood speechless with admiration, but the great stupid fellows were as quiet and careful not to waken her as fairies would have been. They just sat down near her and gazed and gazed at her with great faithful dog-like eyes.
Presently a thrush began to sing hard by, and with a little stretch and a sleepy sigh Tamara opened her big blue eyes. When she caught sight of her guardians and captors, she broke into a little rippling laugh and sprang to her feet, but this time she could not escape.
"Do not leave us," they pleaded. "We will not hurt you, Tamara. We may be big and ugly, but we have good hearts. Have pity on us, lovely one, for you know how we worship you, and how our lives are spent in seeking you. Such a love for you fills our hearts we know no rest away from you."
They pleaded long and earnestly, those two love-stricken giants, they called her by every sweet and endearing name that they could think of, and Tamara listened, and made no further attempt to run away. Their devotion pleased her, it was so new and strange, and she loved to feel her power. So the morning sped away.
Deep down in the dark earth, the industrious little gnomes paused in their labours and wondered where Tamara was. "She does not often stay so long," said the mother; "I trust no harm has befallen her."
"What a trouble she is to us!" said the father, growing angry because he was alarmed. "We should be glad we have no more children, or we should have to spend all our time looking after them, to see they came to no harm. We should never have time for our work, and never know peace of mind."
"Yes, yes," said the mother impatiently, "but Tamara! Where can she be? The earth is full of giants, and I am full of fears. I cannot rest, I must go and seek her, and you must come too. She is so beautiful, and so thoughtless and full of life."
So they mounted to the upper world, and began their weary search for their naughty little daughter; and by and by they found her seated on a couch of sweet, soft heather, between the two giants. They were still telling her of their love for her,—there was so much, it took long to tell,—and beseeching her to choose one of them for her own faithful lover.
The father gnome was very much alarmed at this sight, for what could he, no taller than a tulip, do against two such monstrous creatures? Their thumbs alone were as big as his whole body. All that was left to be done was to appeal to Tamara, and each in turn, and both together, the father and mother begged and commanded their runaway child to return to her home.
But Tamara was as obstinate as could be. "No, I want to stay here," she said, "these good boys love me, and they will break their hearts when I leave them. You would not have me make them so unhappy, would you? I want, too, to hear all about their country and their people, for I love it, and I love them, and I hate the cold, dark cavern, with its eternal work, work, work!" Then she turned entreatingly to the giants, "You will not let me be taken back, will you?" she cried, her beautiful eyes full of appealing.
"No, no!" they cried joyfully, "we will take care of you, little Tamara."
Even, though, as they spoke, a deep sleep fell upon them. The gnome, thoroughly angry, had cast a spell upon them, and poor Tamara saw herself in an instant deprived of both her protectors. She was deeply mortified, but more determined than ever not to go back to her dark, gloomy home. No pleadings, or coaxings, or commands had any power to move her. Her mother appealed to her, her father scolded, all in vain. Anger was roused on both sides, until at length in ungovernable rage the father cursed his daughter, and as his curse fell on her, the weeping girl was changed into a crystal stream, which soon became a river; a beautiful, rapid river, for ever winding its way with a low, sad murmur, in storm or sunshine, through the land she loved so well, on and on to the great salt ocean.
The angry parents, heartbroken and desolate, had returned to their lonely home, and Tamara, with low, sad sighs, was fleeing further and further from her sleeping lovers, when Tavy at last awoke. He sat up and glared around him, too dazed to realize at first all that had happened. He looked at Tawridge, lying fast asleep, and recollection began to return,—he looked for Tamara,—she was gone!
In a frenzy of fear lest he should have lost his new-found love for ever, he rushed hither and thither, wildly searching for her,—but, of course, in vain.
"Tamara! Tamara!" he called despairingly; no answer came. No sound reached him but the sweet, sad voice of a stream hard by, a stream he did not remember to have heard before. He was too full of his troubles, though, to pay heed to such trifles now.
Flying as fast as the wind to his father amongst the hills, he told him his pitiful tale, but the giant already knew all that had happened, for he had powers his son had not.
"My boy," he said sadly, "your Tamara is gone. Cruelly taken from you. I cannot bring her back to you, but I can send you to her. Grieved I shall be to lose my son, but I cannot keep you here and see your life filled with endless pain." Then the old giant kissed his son, and as he kissed him he turned him into a stream, which, noisy and turbulent as poor Tavy himself had been of old, rushed madly on over rock and moor, seeking his lost love. Wildly he dashed ahead, seeking to overtake her, until at last in a gentle valley where she loitered slowly, he came upon her, and, happy that they had met at last, hand in hand they glided softly onwards to the eternal sea.
During all this time poor Tawridge slept on, dreaming of Tamara, that she was his, and nothing could part them; but alas, alas for his waking! He opened his eyes and found it was but a dream! Tamara was gone, Tavy was gone, and he was left alone.
"They have gone together!" was his first thought, but then he remembered the arrival of the father and mother, and his second thought was that Tamara had been taken back to her home by her parents, and that Tavy had killed himself in despair. And Tawridge was filled with a double grief, for he had really loved poor Tavy.
In the hills there lived an Enchanter, and to him Tawridge ran for help, and of him he learnt the truth,—that both were lost to him, and were together. The knowledge drove him to frenzy. Without a thought for his father or mother, or anyone else who loved him, he begged and implored the Enchanter to turn him into a stream too, that he might follow the others and overtake them, and once again be with his lost love, or near her.
At last the old Enchanter consented, and Tawridge was turned into a swiftly flowing river; and there his troubles might have ended, and the three friends have been reunited, but, as he was going back, Tawridge mistook the way, and, instead of flowing towards the sea with Tamara and Tavy, he rushed on wildly seeking them in the wrong direction. Calling to them with heartbroken cries and moans, he hurried faster and faster in his longing to overtake them, but always in the wrong direction, ever and ever flowing farther from them, never to meet his lost love again.
To this day the Tamar and the Tavy run always side by side, and the Taw, still sighing and moaning sadly, rushes in the opposite direction, and never can the enchantment be removed from Tamara and her lovers, until we, having grown better and wiser, become friends again with the Big People and the Little People we have driven from us by our ignorance and narrow minds.
THE STRANGE STORY OF CHERRY HONEY.
Cherry Honey, with her father and mother, and a half-score of brothers and sisters, lived in a little hut at Trereen, in the parish of Zennor. They were very poor people, terribly poor, for all they had to live on was what they could get out of a few acres of ground that they owned,—ground as barren as any you could find thereabouts, and that is saying a good deal. For food they lived mostly on fish and potatoes, except on Sundays, when they had pork, and the broth it was boiled in; and twice a year, at Christmas and Feast-day, they had, as a great luxury, white bread.
Whether fish and potatoes make people strong, or whether the air at Trereen was specially good, I can't tell, but sure enough it is that all Tom Honey's children grew up into fine, handsome men and women, and not one weakly one amongst them.
They were a lively crew too, as merry as grigs in spite of the cold and the hunger that they felt pretty often, and the liveliest and merriest of the lot was Cherry. She was full of pranks and mischief, and led the others a pretty life. When the miller's boy came to know if they wanted to send any corn to be ground, Cherry would slip out, mount his horse, which he left fastened up close by, and off she would go, racing as hard as she could go all along the very edge of the cliff, and away to the Downs, the miller's boy racing and yelling after her, but he might as well have tried to catch a will-o'-the-wisp.
So Cherry went on very happily, working very hard and playing too, until she reached the age of sixteen or so, when she began to feel a wish to see more life than that lonely moor provided, and have a change from the tiny hut which could not hold a half of them comfortably. She wanted a new gown too, her mother had promised it to her ever since she was thirteen, and she had looked forward to it even more than she did to Feasten-Sunday, for she had never had a new frock in her life. She could not enjoy Feasten-Sunday either, unless she was dressed as nicely as other girls.
Year after year, though, she was disappointed, there was no money and no new dress, and poor Cherry had to content herself with a clean apron over her shabby old frock, which had been patched and mended until there was only one piece of the original left, and no one but Cherry herself could have told which that was.
She was not fit to go to church or to fair, and she felt it very hard that she could never enjoy herself. And then, to make matters worse, her great friend Tamsin Bray, who was a year younger than Cherry, had a beautiful frock all trimmed with ribbons, and she wore it to Nancledry to the preaching there, and had a fine time there, full of adventures and new experiences, as she took care to tell poor Cherry when she came back, making Cherry feel more dissatisfied than ever. She knew she was a prettier girl than Tamsin, and would get more admiration if she only had the chance.
After that Cherry could no longer go on bearing things as they were. If her mother couldn't buy her a new frock, she would go to work, and earn one for herself, she determined. So she told her parents she was going to look for a situation, and nothing they could say could make her change her mind, so they gave up trying to.
"Why don't 'ee try and get a place down to Towednack?" asked her mother, who wanted her not to go far from home.
"Iss, fay, mother," answered Cherry sharply, "a likely tale I'm going to live in a place where the cow ate the bell-rope, and where they've nothing but fish and taties all the year round, except Sundays, when they have conger-pie! Dear no, I'm going where I can get butcher's meat sometimes, and a bit of saffern cake when I wants it!"
So Cherry packed up her few garments, which made but a very small bundle, and started off, after promising her father not to go too far, and to come home soon. She had been so restless and uneasy, that the poor man thought she was bewitched, or something. He feared, too, that she might get carried off by pirates, for there were many of them about Cornwall in those days, and Cherry was an attractive-looking girl, and rather flighty, as her mother often said.
When Cherry had said 'good-bye' and kissed them all, and got outside, she had not the slightest notion which way to go, so she took the road to Ludgvan and Gulval, and walked on briskly enough for a time; but when she turned round for a last look at the old home, and found that it was no longer in sight, she felt so miserable that she had a very good mind to turn round and go back. It was the first time she had ever been away, and she felt very home-sick and lonesome. Indeed, the outlook was enough to damp her spirits and even frighten her, for she had no friends to go to, nor a situation. She did not even know where she should find shelter that night, and she had only one penny in her pocket. However, she started on again, and trudged along the lonely road until she came to the four cross-roads on the Lady Downs.
Here she paused again, and rested while she tried to make up her mind which of the four roads she should take. All around her the Downs stretched, looking bleak and wild; and all the stories she had ever heard of highwaymen and pirates, witches and fairies, came rushing helter-skelter through her poor brain until she felt too terrified to walk on or to turn back; and at last she sat down on a big stone by the side of the road and burst out crying.
She did cry too, most bitterly, and never stopped until she had made up her mind to retrace her steps, and go home as fast as she could go. Having settled that, she felt much happier, and drying her eyes she started up, only too anxious to get out of that great wilderness. She wondered if her brothers and sisters would laugh at her. Yes, she felt sure that they would, but she did not care, she told herself. She would soon play them some trick that would make them laugh the other side of their faces. Her father and mother would welcome her back gladly, she knew.
So she turned her face towards home, and was trying not to feel ashamed of her want of pluck,—when she saw a gentleman on the road just ahead of her, and walking towards her. She was astonished, and just a little alarmed, for a moment before there was not a soul to be seen. She was so astonished that she quite forgot her manners, and stood staring and staring at the gentleman until he had come quite close to her. Then he stared hard at Cherry, but it was not a rude stare, and he took off his hat so politely, and smiled so pleasantly, that Cherry was quite impressed.
"Can you tell me the way to Towednack?" he asked in a voice as pleasant as his smile.
"Yes, sir," answered Cherry, curtseying. "If you'll please to walk a little way with me, sir, I'll put you in the right road."
The gentleman thanked her, and as he walked along beside her, he asked which way she was going, and where she lived, and he was so kind and had such a pleasant way with him, that Cherry had soon told him her history, and how she had left home to go to look for a 'place,' and how she had felt so lonesome on the Downs, and so home-sick, that she had changed her mind and was going straight back again.
"Well, this is strange!" exclaimed the gentleman. "Of all the good luck this is the greatest! I have come out to-day to see if I can find a good active girl in one of the villages, for I want a servant; and here I find just what I am looking for, a handsome, sharp young woman, cleanly and honest."
He could judge for himself what sort of a girl Cherry was, by her appearance, and her clean, well-mended frock.
He went on to tell her that he was a widower with one little boy, for whom he wanted a nurse, and would Cherry come and take the post?
He talked for a long time very earnestly and winningly. Cherry did not understand a half that he said, but she understood enough to make her feel that this would be a better situation for her than she had ever dreamed of getting, and before very long she consented to go.
The gentleman seemed very pleased, and away they started together at once, the stranger talking very fast all the time, and making himself so entertaining that Cherry never noticed how far they were going, nor in what direction.
They walked through such beautiful lanes that it was quite a pleasure to be in them, hung as they were with honeysuckles and roses, and many other beautiful flowers, such as Cherry rarely saw anywhere near her bleak home.
By and by the light began to fail, which rather surprised Cherry, who had no idea the day was so far gone. She had no watch or means of telling the time, so she supposed it was all right, and that she had sat crying longer than she thought. Presently they came to a river, and Cherry wondered how she should cross it, for it had grown so dark by that time she could not see stepping-stones, or bridge, or anything.
However, while she was wondering, the gentleman just picked her up in his arms and carried her across, and then on they walked again. They went down, down and down a very steep lane now, a lane which got narrower and narrower, and was so steep and long, Cherry thought it would never end. Not that she minded much, for she did not feel tired, and the gentleman had given her his arm, that she might not stumble, and she felt so excited and happy she could have walked on through the sweet-scented darkness for ever.
She had not much further to go, though, for presently they came to a gate which the gentleman opened. "This is your new home, Cherry," he said kindly, and Cherry found herself suddenly in the most beautiful garden you can imagine. It was full of lovely flowers and luscious fruits, while flitting about everywhere, or perching on the trees, were birds of all sizes and colours, tiny blue birds, large scarlet birds, some that flashed like silver, and gold, and beaten copper, in the sunlight. For oddly enough the sun was shining brightly in the garden, though it had long been dark outside.
Cherry stood and stared about her in open-eyed amazement. "Dear, dear," she thought to herself, "'tis just like the fairy-tales Gammer tells us winter evenings!" and she began to wonder if she could have got into an enchanted place, and if she should presently see fairies, or enchanted people there. But no, it could not be any fairy-tale, for there was her new master standing by her as big as Farmer Chenoweth, and down the path came running a little boy, calling "Papa! papa!" just as any ordinary mortal child would.
Though, as Cherry said afterwards, there was something uncanny about the child, for he had such an odd, old face and expression, and eyes as cunning as might be, and so bright and piercing they seemed to look you through and through; yet he appeared to be no more than four years old.
Before the child could reach them, an old woman came running out after him, and seizing him by the arm dragged him roughly back to the house. She was a bony, ill-tempered looking old woman, and before she retired, grumbling at the child and shaking him, she favoured Cherry with such an evil glance that the poor girl felt more than half inclined to turn and run right away.
"That's my late wife's grandmother," explained the widower; "she is a cross-grained old catamaran, and the reason she eyed you so unpleasantly is that she knows I have brought you here to take her place. Make haste and learn your work, Cherry, for I want to send the cross old dame about her business," which was hardly a respectful way in which to speak of his grandmother-in-law.
He took Cherry into the house, which was even more beautiful than the garden; brilliant light, like sunshine, lighted up every room, flowers grew everywhere, mirrors and pictures lined the walls, and as for the ornaments, the carpets, curtains and other beautiful things, you could never believe what their beauty was unless you could see them.
"It is all so grand," said Cherry to herself, "'tis too much to take in all at once. It makes my head swim, and I'd like something to eat for a change." She was really very, very hungry, for she had had nothing to eat all day but a slice of bread and treacle.
Hardly had the thought come into her head, when Aunt Prudence,—as the old grandmother was called,—began to lay a table with all kinds of delicious food, to which she bade Cherry sit down and eat.
Cherry did not require a second bidding, you may be quite sure, nor did she stop until she had made a very good meal indeed. After that she was told her duties. She was to sleep in the room with the child, and in the morning to take him and bathe him in a spring in the garden. After she had bathed him she was to anoint his eyes with some ointment she would find in a little box in a cleft in the rock. She was to be very careful indeed to put the little box back where she took it from, and on no account to touch her own eyes with it. After that was all done she was to milk the cow, and give the child a basin of the last milk she drew.
You can imagine how all this raised Cherry's curiosity, and how she longed to get the little boy to tell her about everything, but, as he always threatened to tell Aunt Prudence, directly she asked him a question, she thought it better to hold her tongue, and try to find out things for herself.
When she had been told all her duties, she was conducted to her room by the old lady, who bade her keep her eyes shut, whether she was asleep or not, or she might wish too late that she had. She forbade her, too, to talk to the child about anything. So Cherry was rather frightened by the time she got to bed, and until she fell asleep she kept her eyes and her mouth fast closed, but fortunately, thanks to her tiring day and her good supper, she did not stay awake long.
The next morning as soon as she was awake she got up and began her work, but when she had bathed the boy in the stream to which he led her, and had put the ointment on his eyes, she did not know how to set about her next task, for there was not a cow to be seen anywhere.
"Call her," said the boy, when she told him her trouble. So Cherry called, "Coo-o, coo-o, coo-o-o," just as she did at home, and at once a pretty sleek cow came from somewhere,—it might have been out of the ground, as far as Cherry could tell. Anyhow, there she was, and Cherry sat down and milked her, and gave the boy his breakfast, and when she had done the cow walked away again and disappeared.
After that Cherry went indoors, where the Grandmother provided her with a big breakfast all to herself, after which she told her of some more of her duties. Cherry was to keep in the kitchen, and clean the pots and pans with water and sand, scald the milk, make the butter, and do anything else she was told. Above all she was to avoid curiosity, to keep to the kitchen, and never try to enter or look into a room that was locked.
Cherry felt that this was very hard, for, as I said before, she was full of curiosity, and wanted to find out all she could about these strange people she had got amongst. She could scarcely endure old Aunt Prudence with her scoldings and growlings, for the old woman never ceased grumbling at both the girl and her grandson-in-law for bringing her there.
"I knew Robin would bring some stupid thing from Zennor," she would say, and she would scowl at Cherry until the girl grew quite nervous. She tried to get as far away from the old woman as she could, but, as Cherry said, the old soul seemed to have eyes all over her head, for she always had one on Cherry, no matter where she was or what she was doing.
The happiest time of Cherry's life here was when her housework was done, and her master called to her to come and help him in the garden; for he was always kind and gentle to her, and always rewarded her with a word of praise.
Aunt Prudence, though, was not always a cross old tyrant; she had her kinder moods, and in one of them she told Cherry that if she was a good girl, and did her work quickly, she would take her into those parts of the house where she had been forbidden to go, and show her some of the wonderful sights of the place!
Oh, how delighted Cherry was, and how she did hurry through her work! She felt that now she was going to be made happy for the rest of her life, and would have nothing left to wish for. She got through her work so quickly, that it was still quite early when they started off together on their sight-seeing.
First of all they came to a door opening out of a passage, and here Aunt Prudence told Cherry to take off her shoes. This done, they opened the door and entered, letting it fall silently behind them. The passage was very low and very dark, and Cherry, who had to feel her way by the wall, felt rather nervous, for she could not see where her next step would take her. Before very long, though, they came to a room where the light was bright, it was a beautiful room, with a floor like glass, but, oh, how frightened Cherry was when she stepped into it! for ranged all round the walls, on shelves or on the floor, were a lot of people turned to stone. Some had no arms, others no legs, while of others there were only the head and shoulders. Some heads had no ears, others had no noses, and some few were without either.
Oh, it was a horrid sight, and Cherry was terribly frightened lest they should all come to life suddenly, and set on her and tear off her limbs too. She told Aunt Prudence, "she was mortal fear't of 'em, for she'd heard tell on 'em up to Zennor, and everybody said there was never no knowing what they wouldn't be up to. She'd thought all along that she'd got in with the Little People, only her master was such a fine upstanding man, she'd never have took him for a fairy."
Aunt Prudence only laughed at her, and seeing that she really was afraid, took a greater pleasure in making her go further. There was a curious-looking thing standing in the room, like a coffin on six legs, and this Aunt Prudence insisted on Cherry's giving a good polishing to. So Cherry had to set to and rub it with all her might and main, for she dared not disobey the old lady; but the more she rubbed the more the old lady scolded her to rub harder, and Cherry rubbed harder and harder and harder, until at last she nearly upset the thing. She threw out her arms and seized, but as it tottered it gave out the most soul-piercing, unearthly yell it was possible for anyone ever to hear.
"They'm coming to life! They'm coming to life!" shrieked out Cherry, and from sheer fright she fell on the floor in a fit.
All this noise and uproar reached the master's ears, and up he came, to know what it was all about. And oh, he was angry when he found out. First of all he ordered old Aunt Prudence out of the house then and there, and then he picked up Cherry and carried her to the kitchen, where he soon brought her to her senses again, but, strangely enough, she could not remember what had happened, or why she was there. Her memory of what she had seen had quite gone, and though she was always afraid, after that, to go into that part of the house again, she could not remember in the least why it was, or anything that had happened there.
Cherry felt much happier now, and did not worry herself about it, for Aunt Prudence and her terrifying eye were gone, and she was left sole mistress. So time passed on, and Cherry's master was so kind to her that the days flew by like hours, and very soon a whole year was gone.
During all this time she had never once thought of her home, or her parents, or her old life. She had everything she could wish, and you would have thought she was bound to be happy; but no, nothing of the sort! She soon grew accustomed to her happiness, and then she began to want the things she had not got. Her curiosity increased every day. She longed to know more about the mysterious part of the house, and a hundred other things that she should never have troubled her head about.
She was particularly anxious to find out all about her master, for his movements were certainly very strange, and puzzled Cherry. He went off every morning soon after his early breakfast, and when he came back he shut himself into the room where the stone figures were, and Cherry was certain, for she had crept up and listened at the door, that she could hear him talking to them!
What could she do to get to know more, she wondered. She thought and thought, and then one day her thoughts flew to the ointment. She had often noticed how very bright and peculiar the little boy's eyes became after she had anointed them, and that he often seemed able to see things that were hidden from her.
Cherry grew very excited, she felt sure she had discovered the secret. So the next morning, after she had bathed him and given him his breakfast, she sent him away to play for a few minutes, and whisking out the ointment pot again, she brushed the least bit of it over one of her eyes with the tip of her finger.
Oh, how it burned and smarted! and oh, how she did rub her eye and try to get the nasty stuff out! But it would not come. She ran to the stream and knelt down to bathe it,—and as she knelt and looked in the water she saw, at the very bottom, dozens and dozens of little people, playing and dancing, and enjoying themselves as though they were on dry land. And there, too, as gay as any, and as small as any, was her master himself. Bewildered and frightened, Cherry sprang to her feet, but as she turned to run she saw everything was changed. There were Little People everywhere, hanging on the trees overhead, swarming over the ground at her feet, swinging on the flowers, some astride the stalks, others curled up in the cups, all exquisitely dressed, and flashing with gold and jewels; and all as merry as crickets.
Cherry thought she was bewitched sure enough, and she was so frightened she did not know what to do.
At night back rode her master, as big and handsome as ever, and very unlike the little piskyman she had seen at the bottom of the water. He went straight up to the locked-up room where the stone figures were, and very soon Cherry heard sounds of most lovely music issuing thence. So things went on day after day, the widower rode off every morning dressed as any ordinary gentleman would be to follow the hounds, and never came back again until night, when he retired at once to his own rooms.
All this was almost too much for poor Cherry's brain. She felt that if she did not find out more, she should die of curiosity. Knowing so much only made her long to know more.
At last, one night after her master had gone to the enchanted room, Cherry crept up to the door, and instead of only listening at it as usual, she knelt down and peeped through the keyhole, which, for once, was not covered.
Inside the room she saw her master in the midst of a number of ladies, some of whom were singing, and their voices sounded like silver bells; others were walking about, but one, the most beautiful of all, was sitting at the coffin on six legs, performing on it as though it were a piano. She had long dark hair streaming right down to the floor, and a blue gown all trimmed with sparkling silver, her shoes were blue with diamond stars on the toes, and round her neck she had a string of turquoises set in diamonds.
Poor Cherry was very much hurt and mortified when she saw her beloved master with all those lovely ladies, but oh, how miserable she felt when she saw him kiss the lovely lady in blue and silver! She did not say anything, though,—indeed, she had no one to speak to,—and she went about her work as usual, but the next morning when her master came into the garden and began to talk to her as usual she answered him quite shortly and rudely, and when he asked her what was the matter with her, she told him to leave her to herself. If he wanted to talk he could go and talk to the Little People he was so fond of.
Her master was very much surprised and annoyed when he heard this, for he knew that she had been disobedient, and had used the Fairy Ointment. He did not scold her, though, but he told her simply and mournfully, and in a tone which gave her no hope, that they must part.
"You will have to go home, Cherry; you have disobeyed my orders. I can have no one spying and watching me. I must send you away, my child." He spoke so sadly that Cherry's heart felt as though it must break. "And I must have Aunt Prudence back," he added, with a sigh.
Very, very unhappy was poor Cherry when she went to bed that night, and she had only just cried herself to sleep when her master came and woke her, telling her to get up and dress. Without a word, but choked with sobs, she obeyed him, and when she was ready she found him waiting for her, with a lantern and a large bundle of beautiful clothes that he had tied up for her.
As soon as they had had some food they started, and miles and miles and miles they walked, for the way seemed ten times as long as when they came. For one thing it was all uphill now, and for another, Cherry's heart was heavy, and a heavy heart makes heavy feet.
It was nearly daybreak when at last they reached the Lady Downs, and came to a standstill. The sun was just rising over the great lonely moor.
"We must part now, my poor child," said her master. "You are severely punished for your curiosity, but it cannot be otherwise. Good-bye, Cherry; do your duty, and try to get the better of your failing, and if you are a good girl I will come to these Downs sometimes to see you."
Then kissing her, he turned away and disappeared as suddenly as he had first appeared.
Dazed and stupefied, scarcely able to realize all the trouble that had befallen her, Cherry sat for a long time where he had left her. In her thoughts she went over and over her happy life for the past year, all that she had had, and lost. By and by the sun came out in its full strength and warmed her, and roused her sufficiently to look about her, and wonder what she should do next, for, of course, she could not stay where she was.
Presently she noticed that she was sitting on the very same stone at the cross-roads where, on the day she left home, she had sat and cried, and the strange gentleman had first appeared to her. The recollection brought back to her more painfully than ever her own foolishness and wickedness, and all that she had lost, and oh, how miserable she did feel, and how she cried and cried, and how she longed and longed for her dear, good master to come again and forgive her.
He did not come, though, and by and by, as the day had worn far on, Cherry felt that she had better seek her home before nightfall. Listlessly enough she rose and trudged along the old familiar roads to her father's house, with miserable eyes she recognized the old landmarks, but without any pleasure, until at last she came to the poor little hut she called 'home.' It looked poorer, and meaner, and more comfortless than ever, after the luxuries she had grown accustomed to. Her mother and all the rest of them were sitting at dinner when Cherry opened the door. At the sound of the latch Mrs. Honey looked up, and gave one big screech.
"Why, 'tis Cherry!" she cried, "or her ghost! Cross her, father. Cross her!" And when Cherry, taking no notice of her screams, advanced into the kitchen, they all backed away from her, one on top of another, each trying to get behind someone else, for they had long since made up their minds that Cherry was dead, and never for a moment dreamed that this apparition was Cherry herself, living flesh and blood.
Not until she flopped into a chair, saying wearily, "Give me a dish of tay, mother, for goodness sake, I'm so wisht I don't know how to bear with myself."
"Tisn't no ghost, mother," cried Tom Honey, his courage reviving; "no ghost would want such poor trade as tay."
Then the others plucked up their spirits, too, and crowded round her, asking a dozen questions, and all at the same time; and for the sake of peace and quiet Cherry told them her wonderful adventures from the day she left them, and, as was to be expected, not one believed a word of it.
"The maid's mazed," said her father, and the others agreed. But as time went on Cherry repeated the tale so often, and always the same; and she cried so bitterly for her master and his little boy, that they were obliged to believe her, in spite of themselves. "There must be some truth in it," they said, "it couldn't all be fancy."
Poor Cherry! She was never happy again after her experience. Many people said she was bewitched, others declared she was wrong in her mind, but that was only because whenever there was a moonlight night, she wandered on the Lady Downs hour after hour, longing and hoping to see her master. For hours together, too, she would sit on the stone at the four cross-roads, in sunshine or snow, wind or rain, with the tears coursing down her cheeks, and such a pain at her heart, that she hardly knew how to endure it.
He never came, though. To all appearances he had entirely forgotten poor, faulty Cherry, and by and by she died, unable to bear the loneliness any longer.
THE FAIRIES ON THE GUMP.
Down by St. Just, not far from Cape Cornwall and the sea, is a small hill,—or a very large mound would, perhaps, be the truer description,— called 'The Gump,' where the Small People used to hold their revels, and where our grandfathers and grandmothers used to be allowed to stand and look on and listen.
In those good old times fairies and ordinary people were all good friends together, and it is because they were all such friends and trusted one another so, that our grandfathers and grandmothers were able to tell their grandchildren so many tales about fairies, and piskies, and buccas, and all the rest of the Little People.
People believed in the Fairies in those days, so the Fairies in return often helped the people, and did them all sorts of kindnesses. Indeed, they would do so now if folks had not grown so learned and disbelieving. It seems strange that because they have got more knowledge of some matters, they should have grown more ignorant of others, and declare that there never were such things as Fairies, just because they have neither the eyes nor the minds to see them!
Of course, no one could expect the sensitive little creatures to appear when they are sneered at and scoffed at. All the same, though, they are as much about us as ever they were, and if you or I, who do believe in the Little People, were to go to the Gump on the right nights at the right hour, we should see them feasting and dancing and holding their revels just as of old. If, though, you do go, you must be very careful to keep at a distance, and not to trespass on their fairy ground, for that is a great offence, and woe be to you if you offend them!
There was, once upon a time, a grasping, mean old fellow who did so, and pretty well he was punished for his daring. It is his story I am going to tell you, but I will not tell you his name, for that would be unpleasant for his descendants, but I will tell you this much,—he was a St. Just man, and no credit to the place either, I am sure.
Well, this old man used to listen to the tales the people told of the Fairies and their riches, and their wonderful treasures, until he could scarcely bear to hear any more, he longed so to have some of those riches for himself; and at last his covetousness grew so great, he said to himself he must and would have some, or he should die of vexation.
So one night, when the Harvest Moon was at the full, he started off alone, and very stealthily, to walk to the Gump, for he did not want his neighbours to know anything at all about his plans. He was very nervous, for it is a very desolate spot, but his greed was greater than his fear, and he made himself go forward, though he longed all the time to turn tail and hurry home to the safe shelter of his house and his bed.
When he was still at some distance from the enchanted spot, strains of the most exquisite music anyone could possibly imagine reached his ear, and as he stood listening it seemed to come nearer and nearer until, at last, it was close about him. The most wonderful part, though, of it all was that there was nothing to be seen, no person, no bird, not an animal even. The empty moor stretched away on every side, the Gump lay bare and desolate before him. The only living being on it that night was himself.
The music, indeed, seemed to come from under the ground, and such strange music it was, too, so gentle, so touching, it made the old miser weep, in spite of himself, and then, even while the tears were still running down his cheeks, he was forced to laugh quite merrily, and even to dance, though he certainly did not want to do either. After that it was not surprising that he found himself marching along, step and step, keeping time with the music as it played, first slowly and with stately tread, then fast and lively.
All the time, though, that he was laughing and weeping, marching or dancing, his wicked mind was full of thoughts as to how he should get at the fairy treasure.
At last, when he got close to the Gump, the music ceased, and suddenly, with a loud crashing noise which nearly scared the old man out of his senses, the whole hill seemed to open as if by magic, and in one instant every spot was lighted up. Thousands of little lights of all colours gleamed everywhere, silver stars twinkled and sparkled on every furze-bush, tiny lamps hung from every blade of grass. It was a more lovely sight than one ever sees nowadays, more lovely than any pantomime one has ever seen or ever will see. Then, out from the open hill marched troops of little Spriggans.
Spriggans, you must know, are the Small People who live in rocks and stones, and cromlechs, the most mischievous, thievish little creatures that ever lived, and woe betide anyone who meddles with their dwelling-places.
Well, first came all those Spriggans, then a large band of musicians followed by troops of soldiers, each troop carrying a beautiful banner, which waved and streamed out as though a brisk breeze were blowing, whereas in reality there was not a breath of wind stirring.
These hosts of Little People quickly took up their places in perfect order all about the Gump, and, though they appeared quite unconscious of his presence, a great number formed a ring all round the old man. He was greatly amazed, but, "Never mind," he thought, "they are such little whipper-snappers I can easily squash them with my foot if they try on any May-games with me."
As soon as the musicians, the Spriggans, and the soldiers had arranged themselves, out came a lot of servants carrying most lovely gold and silver vessels, goblets, too, cut out of single rubies, and diamonds, and emeralds, and every kind of precious stone. Then came others bearing rich meats and pastry, luscious fruits and preserves, everything, in fact, that one could think of that was dainty and appetizing. Each servant placed his burden on the tables in its proper place, then silently retired.
Can you not imagine how the glorious scene dazzled the old man, and how his eyes glistened, and his fingers itched to grab at some of the wonderful things and carry them off? He knew that even one only of those flashing goblets would make him rich for ever.
He was just thinking that nowhere in the world could there be a more beautiful sight, when, lo and behold! the illumination became twenty times as brilliant, and out of the hill came thousands and thousands of exquisitely dressed ladies and gentlemen, all in rows, each gentleman leading a lady, and all marching in perfect time and order.
They came in companies of a thousand each, and each company was differently attired. In the first the gentlemen were all dressed in yellow satin covered with copper-coloured spangles, on their heads they wore copper-coloured helmets with waving, yellow plumes, and on their feet yellow shoes with copper heels. The flashing of the copper in the moonlight was almost blinding. Their companions all were dressed alike in white satin gowns edged with large turquoises, and on their tiny feet pale blue shoes with buckles formed of one large turquoise set in pearls.
The gentlemen conducted the ladies to their places on the Gump, and with a courtly bow left them, themselves retiring to a little distance. The next troop then came up, in this the gentlemen were all attired in black, trimmed with silver, silver helmets with black plumes, black stockings and silver shoes. Their ladies were dressed in pink embroidered in gold, with waving pink plumes in their hair, and golden buckles on their pink shoes. In the next troop the men were dressed in blue and white, the ladies in green, with diamonds all around the hem of the gown, diamonds flashing in their hair, and hanging in long ropes from their necks; on their green shoes single diamonds blazed and flashed.
So they came, troop after troop, more than I can describe, or you could remember, only I must tell you that the last of all were the most lovely. The ladies, all of whom had dark hair, were clad in white velvet lined with the palest violet silk, while round the hems of the skirts and on the bodices were bands of soft white swansdown. Swansdown also edged the little violet cloaks which hung from their shoulders. I cannot describe to you how beautiful they looked, with their rosy, smiling faces, and long black curls. On their heads they wore little silver crowns set with amethysts, amethysts, too, sparkled on their necks and over their gowns. In their hands they carried long trails of the lovely blossom of the wistaria. Their companions were clad in white and green, and in their left hands they carried silver rods with emerald stars at the top.
It really seemed at one time as though the troops of Little People would never cease pouring out of the hill. They did so at last, though, and as soon as all were in their places the music suddenly changed, and became more exquisite than ever.
The old man by this time seemed able to see more clearly, and hear more distinctly, and his sense of smell grew keener. Never were such flashing gems as here, never had any flowers such scents as these that were here.
There were now thousands of little ladies gathered on the Gump, and these all broke out into song at the same instant, such beautiful singing, too, so sweet and delicate. The words were in an unknown tongue, but the song was evidently about some great personages who were about to emerge from the amazing hill, for again it opened, and again poured forth a crowd of Small People.
First of all came a bevy of little girls in white gauze, scattering flowers, which, as soon as they touched the ground, sprang up into full life and threw out leaves and more flowers, full of exquisite scents; then came a number of boys playing on shells as though they were harps, and making ravishing music, while after them came hundreds and hundreds of little men clad in green and gold, followed by a perfect forest of banners spreading and waving on the air.
Then last, but more beautiful than all that had gone before, was carried a raised platform covered with silk embroidered with real gold, and edged with crystals, and on the platform were seated a prince and princess of such surpassing loveliness that no words can be found to describe them. They were dressed in the richest velvet, and covered with precious stones which blazed and sparkled in the myriad lights until the eye could scarce bear to look at them.
Over her lovely robe the princess's hair flowed down to the floor, where it rested in great shining, golden waves. In her hand she held a golden sceptre, on the top of which blazed a diamond as large as a walnut, while the prince carried one with a sapphire of equal size. After a deal of marching backwards and forwards, the platform was placed on the highest point of the Gump, which was now a hill of flowers, and every fairy walked up and bowed, said something to the prince and princess, and passed on to a seat at the tables. And the marvel was that though there were so many fairies present, there was not the slightest confusion amongst them, not one person moved out of place at the wrong moment. All was as quiet and well-arranged as could possibly be.
At length all were seated, whereupon the prince gave a signal, on which a number of footmen came forward carrying a table laden with dainty food in solid gold dishes, and wines in goblets of precious stones which they placed on the platform before the prince and princess. As soon as the royal pair began to eat, all the hosts around them followed their example, and such a merry, jovial meal they had. The viands disappeared as fast as they could go, laughter and talk sounded on all sides, and never a sign did any of them give that they knew that a human being was watching them. If they knew it, they showed not the slightest concern.
"Ah!" thought the old miser to himself. "I can't get all I'd like to, but if I could reach up to the prince's table I could get enough at one grab to set me up for life, and make me the richest man in St. Just parish!"
Stooping down, he slowly and stealthily dragged himself nearer and nearer to the table. He felt quite sure that no one could see him. What he himself did not see was that hundreds of wicked little Spriggans had tied ropes on to him, and were holding fast to the ends. He crawled and crawled so slowly and carefully that it took him some time to get over the ground, but he managed it at last, and got quite close up to the lovely little pair. Once there he paused for a moment and looked back,—perhaps to see if the way was clear for him to run when he had done what he meant to do. He was rather startled to find that all was as dark as dark could be, and that he could see nothing at all behind him. However, he tried to cheer himself by thinking that it was only that his eyes were dazzled by looking at the bright lights so long. He was even more startled, though, when he turned round to the Gump again, to find that every eye of all those hundreds and thousands of fairies on the hill was looking straight into his eyes.
At first he was really frightened, but as they did nothing but look, he told himself that they could not really be gazing at him, and grew braver with the thought. Then slowly bringing up his hat, as a boy does to catch a butterfly, he was just going to bring it down on the silken platform and capture prince and princess, table, gold dishes and all, when hark! A shrill whistle sounded, the old man's hand, with the hat in it, was paralysed in the air, so that he could not move it backwards or forwards, and in an instant every light went out, and all was pitchy darkness.
There were a whir-r-r and a buzz, and a whir-r-r, as if a swarm of bees were flying by him, and the old man felt himself fastened so securely to the ground that, do what he would, he could not move an inch, and all the time he felt himself being pinched, and pricked, and tweaked from top to toe, so that not an inch of him was free from torment. He was lying on his back at the foot of the Gump, though how he got there he could never tell. His arms were stretched out and fastened down, so that he could not do anything to drive off his tormentors, his legs were so secured that he could not even relieve himself by kicking, and his tongue was tied with cords, so that he could not call out.
There he lay, no one knows how long, for to him it seemed hours, and no one else but the fairies knew anything about it. At last he felt a lot of little feet running over him, but whose they were he had no idea until something perched on his nose, and by the light of the moon he saw it was a Spriggan. His wicked old heart sank when he realized that he had got into their clutches, for all his life he had heard what wicked little creatures they were.
The little imp on his nose kicked and danced and stamped about in great delight at finding himself perched up so high. We all know how painful it is to have one's nose knocked, even ever so little, so you may imagine that the old miser did not enjoy himself at all. Master Spriggan did, though. He roared with laughter, as though he were having a huge joke, until at last, rising suddenly to his feet and standing on the tips of his tiny toes, he shouted sharply, "Away! away! I smell the day!" and to the old man's great relief off he flew in a great hurry, followed by all his mischievous little companions who had been playing games, and running races all over their victim's body.
Left at last to himself, the mortified old man lay for some time, thinking over all that had happened, trying to collect his senses, and wondering how he should manage to escape from his bonds, for he might lie there for a week without any human being coming near the place.
Till sunrise he lay there, trying to think of some plan, and then, what do you think he saw? Why, that he had not been tied down by ropes at all, but only by thousands of gossamer webs! And there they were now, all over him, with the dew on them sparkling like the diamonds that the princess had worn the night before. And those dewdrop diamonds were all the jewels he got for his night's work.
When he made this discovery he turned over and groaned and wept with rage and shame, and never, to his dying day, could he bear to look at sparkling gold or gems, for the mere sight of them made him feel quite ill.
At last, afraid lest he should be missed, and searchers be sent out to look for him, he got up, brushed off the dewy webs, and putting on his battered old hat, crept slowly home. He was wet through with dew, cold, full of rheumatism, and very ashamed of himself, and very good care he took to keep that night's experiences to himself. No one must know his shame.
Years after, though, when he had become a changed man, and repented of his former greediness, he let out the story bit by bit to be a lesson to others, until his friends and neighbours, who loved to listen to anything about fairies, had gathered it all as I have told it to you here. And you may be quite sure it is all true, for the old man was not clever enough to invent it.
THE FAIRY OINTMENT.
Now I will tell you a story of a very foolish woman, whose curiosity got the better of her, and of how she was punished.
The old woman's Christian name was Joan. I will not tell her surname, for it does not make any difference to the story, and there may be some of her descendants left who would not like it to be known. Joan was housekeeper to Squire Lovell. The name of his house shall be kept a secret too, but I will tell you this much, that he lived a few miles out of Penzance.
Now one Saturday afternoon it fell out that Joan wanted to go to Penzance Market to get herself a pair of shoes, and to buy some groceries and several Christmas things for the house, for it was Christmas Eve, and the Squire had a lot of folks coming to supper that very night. So, the weather being fine, Joan started off soon after her twelve o'clock dinner, to walk into Penzance to market. Having, though, a great fancy for company, and loving a little gossip, she thought she would step in on her way to see if her friend Betty Trenance was going to market too. It would be so nice to have each other's company on the way.
Now many persons in those parts told some very queer stories about Betty Trenance, and amongst themselves some called her a witch, and were afraid of her. Joan, though, argued that if she was a witch, there was all the more reason for keeping friendly with her. And if one did not offend Betty, she was always ready to give one a cup of tea, or do anything to oblige one.
Betty lived down at Lamorna Cove, which was a little way out of Joan's road, but she did not mind that if she could get Betty's company. She walked quickly, though, for the days were short, and she had a long way to go, and to be back in time to cook the Squire's supper. On her way she met two of Betty's elder children carrying baskets of fish on their backs, and down in the Cove she saw all the younger ones at play with the limpets and crabs in the rock-pools, and paddling about in the water. But she could not stay to watch them, for she had no time to spare, so she hurried on to the cottage.
When she got there, though, to her astonishment she found the front door was closed and fastened, not only latched either, but bolted! This was such an unusual thing in those parts, that Joan was quite startled. At first she thought something must really have gone amiss, then she comforted herself by deciding that Betty had already started for the market, and had locked the children out to keep them from ransacking the place. Just, though, as she had settled all this in her mind, and was about to turn away, the sound of voices reached her, and voices talking very earnestly, too.
Joan looked round her nervously, the voices sounded quite near to her, but there was no sight or sign of any living thing except some seagulls, and Betty's old black cat.
What did it all mean? Joan was frightened, but her curiosity made her stay and try to get to the bottom of the mystery. She stood quite still and listened very closely. Yes, there were the voices again, plainly enough, but where? She tiptoed close up to the door and placed her ear against the keyhole. This time she heard Tom Trenance's voice quite distinctly,—Tom was Betty's husband. He was talking very earnestly to someone too, more earnestly than she had ever heard him speak in her life before, but, try as she would, she could not make out to whom he was speaking, nor what he was saying.
This was more than inquisitive Joan could endure. She must know what was going on in that cottage, or she would know no peace day or night, for thinking about it. So she made up her mind to knock and knock until those inside were obliged to come to the door, but first of all she thought she would have a peep in through the finger-hole by the latch. So she stooped down and put her eye to the hole, and there she saw Tom sitting on the settle, and after all it was only Betty that he was talking to.
Betty was standing beside him with a little box in her hand, from which she took something that looked like ointment, which she smeared over her husband's eyes, and all the time she did it she seemed to be mumbling some verses or something that sounded like a charm. There seemed to be other voices as well, though, and to Joan's great annoyance she could not see from whence they came.
All this put old Joan in a fearful flutter. People had always told her that Betty was a witch, and that Tom had the power of the evil eye, and now she began to believe them. You would not have thought so to look at him, for though they were very piercing, they were handsome hazel eyes, clear and kind-looking,—unless he was angered, and then—
Completely mystified, and more inquisitive than ever, Joan went round to the window by the chimney, to see if from there she could hear what they were saying; but it was of no use. The door of the cottage was on the landward side, and the windows of the cottage were to seaward, and round the kitchen window was a great bush of honeysuckle and 'Traveller's Joy,' which prevented anyone's getting quite close, and what with the sound of the sea, the singing of the birds, and the shouting of the children below, one might as well have been a mile off, for all one could hear!
Back tiptoed Joan again, and sat down on the bench outside the house to think, but her curiosity would not let her keep still, so up she jumped again, and peeped through the door once more. This time she saw that Tom was standing up, preparing to come out; so not wanting to be caught prying, she tapped at the door, and lifting the latch at the same time, walked in as if she had but that moment arrived. She was so excited by what she was doing that she did not notice that the door opened quite easily now. She went in so quickly, too, that she was just in time to see Betty push something under the dried ferns at the back of the chimney.
After saying "good day," and hearing what she had come for, Tom went out, leaving them to make their plans by themselves, but Betty, though she seemed pleased to see her friend, could not be persuaded to go to market with her. She was very sorry, she said, but she was very bad, she had not been well for days, and she still had a good day's work to get through making ready for Christmas. She was not too busy, though, to make a cup of tea, and Joan must stay and have one with her, and away she bustled to the talfat, where she had a special case of tea put away. This was Joan's opportunity, and she seized it. As soon as Betty's back was turned, she whipped the pot of ointment out from under the ferns, stuck her finger in it, and popped the pot back again, in no time. But no sooner had she touched her eye with the ointment than, oh! such a pain shot through it, she very nearly shrieked aloud. It was as though a red-hot knitting needle had been run right through her eyeball! And, oh, the smarting and the burning that followed! To prevent a sound escaping her she had to hug and squeeze herself with all her might, she dared not open her lips to speak, and the tears poured down her cheeks like rain.
It was lucky for her that Betty had some trouble in dragging the chest of tea from under the bed, for if she had come back quickly she could not have helped seeing what Joan had been doing. By the time she returned, though, the worst of the pain was over, and keeping up her hand to that side of her face, Joan managed to conceal the injured eye, and Betty was too busy with her fire and her kettle to be very observant.
"I'm glad you came in to have a cup with me, and drink my health, it being Christmas Eve and all," said Betty as they drew up to the table. Then, having drunk each other's health, they had a third cup to drink the health of the children, for, as Joan said, "there wasn't a healthier, handsomer family in the whole parish." Then they drank the health of the mermaids, for it is always wise to be civil to them, and after that Joan rose to go.
Before she could go, though, she felt she must manage to open her injured eye, which still watered and smarted a good deal. So she rubbed it and blinked and winked until at last she managed to part the lids,—when, lo and behold! to her amazement and alarm she saw that the house, which she had thought empty save for herself and Betty, was simply thronged with Little People!
There was not a spot that was free of them! They were climbing up the dressers, hanging on to the beams, swinging on the fishing nets, hanging across them, playing pranks on the clock, on the table, and the mantelpiece, sliding down the saucepan handles, riding races on mice,— they were everywhere, in fact, and up to every kind of game.
They were all very beautifully dressed. Most of the little men wore green velvet, trimmed with scarlet, and their long green caps, which most of them were waving frantically, had long scarlet feathers in them. They all wore little red boots, too, and large silver spurs,—at least, large for fairies.
The ladies were very consequential little people indeed, and swept about in their long-trained gowns as though they were Court ladies at a Drawing-room. On their little shoes they had diamond buckles, and their great steeple-crowned hats were garlanded with beautiful flowers. Such flowers as are seldom seen on Christmas Eve, but the Little People have gardens under the sea where the flowers bloom in wonderful beauty all the year round. Fishermen see them sometimes on moonlight nights, when the water is clear and the wind calm, and if they listen closely they can hear exquisite fairy music floating across the waters from bay to bay.
Back in the corner by Betty's wood heap were a lot of Spriggans, poor depressed little creatures, dirty and sullen-looking. They were not lively like the others, for you know they have to guard the Fairy treasures all the year round, and they get no fun at all, as other fairies do. So they are naturally not very lively.
While Joan was standing gazing, open-mouthed, bewildered by what she saw, strains of the most beautiful music reached her ears, and gradually a change began to come over the whole house. It was no wonder that she thought her head was turned! The music came nearer and nearer, and mingling with it was the tramp of hundreds of little feet; at last it came quite close, and through the window marched a regiment of robins as unconcernedly as a regiment of soldiers entering their barracks. Quite gravely they stepped down from the window, marched across the room, and flew up to the beam, where they perched themselves in perfect order, and began to sing as hard as they possibly could. In a moment or two they were followed through the window by a regiment of wrens, and then by a regiment of Little People, all playing on every kind of musical instrument ever invented, and on a number made out of reeds, and shells, such as had never been seen before or since.
Stepping down gracefully from the window to the floor, the band, followed by numbers of little ladies and gentlemen, carrying branches of herbs and flowers, marched with stately tread past old Betty Trenance, bowed to her in a most respectful manner in passing, then arranged themselves in perfect order behind her. Last of all came another troop of fairies, and these took the herbs and flowers brought by the little ladies and gentlemen and placed them in Betty's apron.
"These are what she makes her salves and ointments of," thought Joan to herself; "no wonder she is thought so clever."
This done, all the other fairies who had been playing about the house came down to the floor and joined the new-comers. Such a crowd never was seen! No sooner had the flowers and herbs been heaped in Betty's lap than another troop of fairies came forward with fox-glove bells full of dyes, which they poured over Betty's dress, when in a moment her russet gown was changed to the softest white velvet, her apron to the filmiest lace, edged all round with a delicate fringe of harebells and snowdrops. Other fairies outlined the quilted 'diamonds' of her petticoat with silver cord.
When her dress had been transformed in this way, all the troop of Little People came forward with dainty bunches of flowers to complete her toilet, sweet wild flowers they were, delicate speedwells and forget-me-nots with their fresh green, and their innocent blue eyes; the warm scarlet pimpernel, violets, snowdrops, heather bells, and ladies' white petticoats. Some of each and every kind of flower we find in the lanes and hedges. The little ladies stitched a small nosegay in each 'diamond' of Betty's petticoat, and every nosegay was different. The tiniest flowers of all they laid on sprays of feathery moss, others had background of graceful ferns, or delicate grass. Around the hem of the skirt were sprays of pink and white dog-roses, while the bodice was wreathed with tiny pink and white convolvulus. Sparkling at Betty's throat were such brilliant jewels that Joan had to look away, her eyes were so dazzled.
The strangest part of all this was that Betty did not seem in the least surprised at what was going on, and was apparently quite unaware that Joan was watching her.
As soon as the gown was completed, another group of the clever little creatures clambered up to the top of the high-backed chair in which Betty was seated, and began to arrange her hair. Some had quaint little pots in their hands from which they poured delicate perfumes over Betty's head,— Joan picked up one of the pots, which they threw aside when empty, and found to her astonishment that it was only a poppy head. Then they carefully arranged every curl and wave of Betty's hair, until she looked as beautiful as a queen, and as dignified and stately, too; for Betty, though a mischievous witch, was not at all like our ideas of one. She was as clean as a new pin, and as neat and tidy as anyone could be. Her features were unusually handsome, and her thick dark hair, which reached the ground when she sat down, was full of the prettiest curls and waves.