TREGEAGLE When the wind moans across the moor or yells on the cliffs, the old people used to say, ‘Tis the crying of Tregeagle.” Jan Tregeagle is the great giant ghost of Cornwall; it is said he was a steward to a lord, Baron Robartes, and that left in charge of his master’s lands for too long, he lined his own pockets and robbed the poor tenants of his master’s farms. Very rich he became; but so bad was his reputation that people said he had sold his soul to he Devil in return for more than his fair share of the world’s goods. At last he died and was buried in St. Breoke church, but his soul was not to rest. Lord Robartes returned to his estate to make a reckoning. In the rent book he found that Tregeagle had not marked a cross against a certain farm, to show that the rent had been paid; though the poor farmer insisted that he had duly paid it to the steward. “I swear I paid it to Tregeagle,” he said to the lord. “May Tregeagle himself come before us to tell you so!” There was a thunderclap overhead and the room grew midnight black. Slowly it grew lighter again, and there stood Tregeagle himself; and he bore witness, bound by an oath on the holy bible, that the farmer had actually paid his rent, though he had failed to mark the book. So the man was allowed to go home. But once brought back from the dead Tregeagle could not be banished. He refused to go down to Hell,...
THOMASINE BONAVENTURE Bonaventure is a Norman-French name, and means Good Fortune. And good fortune indeed came to one of that name, a simple country girl, Thomasine (or Tamsin), once a shepherdess at Week St. Mary in the north of Cornwall. Good fortune also came through her to the scattered parish in which she lived. It was the year 1463, when there was no proper road beyond Launceston into Cornwall. Bridle paths and a few stone bridges carried travellers and commerce across the great moor that formed most of the interior of the North and East. The flock of native sheep, the Cornish Knott, gave fine quality wool much sought after by merchants from Winchester, Bristol and London: one of these, a draper from Stepney, one Master Bunsby, came riding at the head of several pack-mules laden with bales. It was late in the afternoon and he needed a lodging for the night. Seeing a young woman on the hill above him minding the sheep (which was necessary in those days when enclosed fields did not exist, and wolves still roamed) he hailed her to ask where he could stay. “Sir, you’ll surely be welcome at our place, poor thought ‘tis,” she said in her pleasant voice with its rich Cornish accent. Wondering at this tall maiden with fine features, straight gaze and plentiful chestnut hair, Bunsby accepted gladly, and accompanied her to the rough cob-built cottage where she lived. Thomasine and her parents made him welcome in true Cornish style, with a great pie of pilchards, herbs and cream for supper. Bunsby was so taken with Thomasine that he...
JOWAN OF CHYANNOR At Chyannor in St. Levan parish lived a man called Jowan (pronounced ‘Ewan’) and his wife Kekezza. Jowan was a tinner, but the bal he worked at nearby went scat and closed. So sadly he said goodbye to his dear wife for a long time, and set out to find work elsewhere. He went east and walked for several days. He was taken in by a wise old farmer near Callington, who agreed to keep him for a year employed on all kinds of jobs on the farm, and to pay him three gold pieces as wages at the end of the year. When the year was up the farmer said, “Here are your three pieces of gold, Jowan, but if you let me have them back again I will give you a piece of valuable advice that will serve you well in the future.” Jowan thought hard, but knowing that work was still scarce in his own district, he decided to accept the offer. “Here is the money, master,” he said. “Now what is your advice?” “Hearken well,’ said the farmer. “Never leave an old road for a new one.” Jowan then agreed to work a second year on the farm, for another three gold pieces; and at the year’s end the farmer offered him his money, but again suggested that Jowan hand it back for another piece of advice. Jowan agreed; this time the old farmer’s advice was, “Never lodge in a house where an old man lives with a young wife.” They agreed for a further year, after which the farmer offered Jowan...
St PETROC AND THE FAWN The mighty Abbot Petroc, who founded monasteries at Padstow and Bodmin, and many churches all over north Cornwall, was renowned for his goodness both to men and animals. He came from Wales, where his father was a king; but although he had been brought up as a prince and trained to rule over people, he had a call to lead the holy life. So when he was a young man he renounced his throne and went out as a missionary to convert the people of Cornwall to Christianity. And he did more than any other single saint to bring this about. Many stores are told of his miracles. He tamed a wolf to act as his watch-dog; this animal never left the cell where Petroc used to retire, from time to time, for peace and solitude. Once when his people implored his protection against a terrible dragon which was ravaging the countryside, he quelled the great beast by praying, bound it with his girdle, and led it to the sea where it swam away. And one day when he was at prayer by his cell at Nanceventen (which means the Fountain in the Valley, and is now Little Petherick) he was disturbed by the sounds of hunting horns, and of an animal crashing through the undergrowth. Then there sprang before him a little fawn, panting with terror, beseeching him wordlessly to protect her. After her came four huntsmen on horses, and a pack of savage dogs; at their rear was Constantine, the prince of the district, a man known for his warlike ways and...
THE MERMAID OF ZENNOR One fine Sunday morning in Zennor church, perched on the cliffs of Penwith, the choir and congregation were ready for service when through the church door came a strange lady of unearthly beauty. Her green eyes looked back calmly at the villagers, who were staring, for newcomers were rare in that far-flung parish; her tawny-gold hair flowed down over her back, wild and untrained; the long dress she wore swept the ground like a bride’s train, and was made of some material that no one there had ever seen, for it shimmered like the sea on a sunny day. She sat near the door in a pew on her own, away from other people. In the choir were some fine singers, but none finer than Mathy Trewhella, a handsome young man who sang a clear high tenor: his voice could be heard all over Zennor Churchtown when he wished. As the choristers sang their hymns and psalms Mathy became aware of the stranger staring at him with those emerald-green mysterious eyes; when he looked at her it seemed to him that a queer faint smile hovered on her face. After the service she was the first to leave the church, and those who went out after her thought it strange how rapidly she had disappeared, as they could not see her anywhere outside. Five or six times this unknown lady came to Zennor church, always on a fine day, and always she sat far apart from the congregation, watching Mathy and listening to every note he sang. Her eyes seemed to look right through him,...
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