Giants loom large in the folklore of Cornwall, and legend tells us that once upon a time the Penwith area was plagued with them. Of the two most famous, Cormoran, the wicked Giant of St. Michael’s Mount was eventually dispatched by Jack the Giant Killer, but Giant Bolster is said to have succumbed to the wiles of a saintly woman!
Bolster must have been a truly enormous figure, since he could plant one foot on Carn Brea(the high hill just outside Camborne)and the other on the cliffs outside St. Agnes-some six miles away as the crow flies-he must have been about 12 miles high.
Bolster was a bad tempered and violent brute who terrorised the countryside and struck fear into the hearts of ordinary folk, but he met his match in the pious and chaste St. Agnes. He fell in love with her and pursued him relentlessly, but St. Agnes wanted none of it.
Sick of his constant attentions, St. Agnes told him to prove his love for her by filling up a hole in the cliff at Chapel Porth with his own blood. To Bolster that was an easy task. After all, he’d never miss a few gallons-but St. Agnes knew that the hole was bottomless and led into the sea below!
He stretched out his arm, plunged a knife into it and lay down to wait for the hole to fill up. It never did, of course and eventually Bolster lost so much blood he died. Thus, St. Agnes was rid of his unwanted attentions but he left his mark behind. The cliffs at Chapel Porth to this day still bear a red stain, said to be from where his blood ran down into the sea.
JACK THE GIANT KILLER
According to Cornish legend, Jack was a farmer’s son who lived near Land’s End in the days of King Arthur. The folk of the area were being terrorised by Cormoran, the Giant of St. Michael’s Mount, who stole cattle and carried them away either on his back or dangling from his belt. A reward was offered to anyone who would slay the fearsome giant, and Jack took up the challenge. He dug a huge pit near Morvah and covered it with sticks and straw. Then he lured the Giant away from the Mount by blowing his horn. The angry Giant rushed down the Mount and fell into the pit. Jack then struck him a mortal blow with his pick- axe and filled the pit with earth. For his brave deed he was given a magnificent sword and belt. Embroidere who slew the Giant Cormoran”
Famed for his bravery Jack The Giant Killer became something of a super hero, killing wolves and breaking the skulls of pirates in addition to being on hand to deal with other troublesome giants. Later he travelled on to Wales to slay more of them and further embroidered his legend, and to mark his slaying of Cormoran there stands to this day near Morvah Church a huge stone which is said to mark the Giant’s Grave. It is also said that sometimes voices can be heard coming from beneath it!
THE LOST LAND OF LYONESSE
There are many legends of towns and countries submerged beneath the waves, but the legend of the lost land of Lyonesse is possibly the most famous. Lyonesse,we are told, was once a country beyond Land’s End that boasted fine cities and 140 churches; then, on November 11th 1099 a great storm blew up and the marauding sea swept over it, drowning the luckless inhabitants and submerging the kingdom beneath the waves, until all that remained to view were the mountain peaks to the west, known to us now as the Isles of Scilly. Only one man survived. His name was Trevilian and he rode a white horse up to high ground at Perranuthnoe before the waves could overwhelm him.
A 16th century writer tells us that Land’s End once stretched far to the west with a watchtower at the farthest point to guide sailors. The rocks known as the Seven Stones were believed to be the remains of a great city, called “The Town” by sailors, who told of dragging up window, doors and other domestic items in their nets. They also related how they had heard the church bells of Lyonesse ringing beneath the waves.
As late as the 1930’s a journalist from the News Chronicle, Stanley Baron, was awoken in the night by the muffled ringing of bells and was told by his hosts that he had heard the bells of Lyoness. A former mayor of Wilton,Edith Oliver, claimed she had twice seen towers,domes,spires and battlements beneath the waves whilst standing on the cliffs at Lands End. It is a rough and rocky sea and many a mariner has met his doom there, so it is not hard to believe that, like most legends, there is an element of truth in it.
THE LAKE OF THE LADY
Dozmary Pool is a natural moorland lake situated to the south of Bolventor on Bodmin Moor. Once it was home of ancient man, who has left remnants of his presence in the shape of hut circles and other prehistoric remains. Local folk long believed that the strange, mysterious Pool was bottomless and had a whirlpool in the centre. It is hardly surprising, then, that it has become an integral part of two major Cornish legends.
John Tregagle, the evil disciple of the Devil was doomed to bail out the endless waters of Dozmary Pool with a leaking limpet shell for eternity, in penance for his crimes. It was into the depths of Dozmary pool too, so legend tells us, that King Arthur’s sword Excalibur was cast by his loyal lieutenant Sir Bedivere on the orders of the dying King. A hand and arm rose up from the surface of the lake, clad in the white samite, caught the sword and drew it underneath.
Legends of fierce giants abound in Cornwall, but surely one of the fiercest and most wicked was the giant known as Wrath of Portreath. Wrath lived in a huge cavern, known as his “cupboard” where he would lie in wait for passing ships, wade out into the sea and attack them, killing the sailors with a single blow from his huge fingers.Then he would carefully select the better specimens for supper and, tying the ships up to his belt he would tow his booty back to his cave. Even those who warily sailed by at what they thought was a safe distance were in danger. Wrath would fling huge rocks onto them from high up on the cliff and these are still visible today when the tide is low, forming a deadly reef that stretches from Godrevy Head.
St.Ives sailors avoided the “cupboard” at all costs, swearing that nothing that went into it ever came out again.
Some years ago it lost it’s roof and became an open gorge with the sea flowing into it at high tide, but Ralph’s Cupboard, as it is now known, is still one of the more spectacular-if no longer terrifying-sights along the cliffs at Portreath.
THE MERMAID OF ZENNOR
The bleak and windswept slopes of the Penwith Peninsular have a strange, mystical charm. To see the great towering granite crags and weird formations of boulders is to almost believe in legends of giants, knockers, fairies – and mermaids.
The tiny village of Zennor nestles in among the gorse and granite some 5 miles from St.Ives and boasts legends of its own. Men of Zennor once built a hedge around the first cuckoo of spring, to try and preserve the season forever. Witches Rock, close by, is said to be a Midsummer’s Eve rendezvous for practitioners of the Black Arts, but the legend which has made Zennor known far and wide is that of the mermaid.
Once, centuries ago, young Matthew Trewhella was the finest singer in the village and a chorister in the church. One day a beautiful young woman in a long dress, a stranger in the village, came to sit at the back of the church to hear him sing. She came often, until one evening she lured him away to the stream which runs through the village and thence down to Pendower Cove. Neither Matthew nor the lady were never seen again.
Then some years later, a mermaid hailed a ship in the cove, asking the captain to remove his anchor which was resting on the door of her house beneath the waves as she wanted to return to her husband, Mathey and their children. The captain made full speed for St.Ives, for mermaids are said to be unlucky to mariners, and when he related his story local folk had little doubt this was the very same stranger who had lured young Matthew away. It is said that on a warm Summer’s evening, if you sit near what is now known as Mermaid Cove you may hear the young lovers singing beautifully beneath the waves.
The townsfolk had her image carved into a benched and you may see her still in the village church of St.Senara,her hair flowing, mirror in one hand and comb in the other, cut into the ancient wooded upon the belt was the verse: “This is the valiant Cornishman”
PISKIES SPRIGGANS KNOCKERS AND THE SMALL PEOPLE
No page would be complete without a mention of the ‘little people’ of old, the tales of whom abound throughout the British Isles.
In olden days, Cornish country people believed that they shared their lovely land with another, more elusive population of piskies. The Cornish piskey,of course, is legend, but much less is generally known about those other faery people, the spriggans, knockers and Small People ,whose activities like his, were closely interwoven with those of the ordinary mortal folk among whom they lived.
Not so many years ago, one could ask any really old soul whose days had been spent in Cornwall and get a sure description of any of these little creatures and what they got up to. First there were the prankish, teasing, laughing, heel-kicking piskies who, some declare, came with the saints from Ireland, while others say that they are the souls of virtuous pagans from times yet deeper in the past. There are those too, who believe the piskies were once the gods of pre-Christian Cornwall, giant-like in stature, but who, in the face of the new religion-some say they were scattered with holy water-shrank in size, an unfortunate fate which will continue until they vanish entirely from the earth. Whatever their origins, the piskies – or Piskey as he is called, for he usually works alone – are as good a people as they are mischievous,helping the aged and infirm in their household tasks, threshing the corn on a moonlit night, plaiting the pony’s mane for stirrups and riding it wildly the night through. And, of course, many people of old were piskey-led when benighted, losing all sense of time and place and wandering helplessly in what appeared to be a strange landscape, until they dropped down into an exhausted sleep.
What were these little old men, the piskies,like to look upon? To begin with they were all identical, and each no higher than, say a mouse. They wore wigs of grey lichen beneath their red caps. Eyes as bright and unwinking as a robin’s stared out of each small, wrinkled face. They were dressed in dapper fashion – white weskits, green stockings, brown coats and breeches, while their brightly gleaming shoes were buckled with diamond dew- drops. Always lively, when they chattered they filled the air with a sound like the droning of bees. They were accustomed with riding about on snails.
If these friendly little creatures were the good spirits of old Cornwall, then the spriggans were the bad. Hordes of them, hissing, spitting and grinning maliciously, protected every cliff top or granite cairn where treasure might be buried, for they were appointed to protect it. In the same way, they haunted the hundreds of ancient burial mounds, as well as the giant pre- historic tombs known as dolmens, which are found in Cornwall, particularly in the far west. Beneath these, it was thought, treasure lay beside the remains of pagan peoples who walked the Cornish moorlands thousands of years ago. The spriggans were ugly, and much feared, wizened and shrivelled old men with large heads like those of children upon their puny little shoulders. They were able to raise sudden whirlwinds and storms to terrify the lonely traveller. They could summon rain and hail to lay the corn. Worse, they stole children from their cradles. So too, it might be said, did the piskies but whereas the latter chose neglected babes which their parents soon found again, well cared for and cherished, the spriggans selected bonny babes, leaving in their stead their own large-headed, wizened and ugly brats.
Most mysterious of the elfin creatures of Cornwall were the knockers or knackers of the mines. These were, it is said, the spirits of old miners, perhaps those Jewish miners who worked underground in Cornwall a long time past. Those who have seen these sprites are few, but their descriptions of them tally; of ugly, thin limbed creatures no higher than the smallest human dwarf, with large hooked noses – slit mouths from ear to ear, and a great liking for making dreadful faces.
They were not above, for instance, crossing their eyes and thumbing their noses when they met you, or bending over to grimace at you between their spindly legs. There were also those who affirmed that the knockers were not the spirits of Jewish miners but of those who had crucified Christin support of this theory, they were said to be heard sweetly singing carols in the mines, not from choice but under compulsion, on Christmas Day, Easter Day, All Saint’s Day and the Jewish Sabbath. Others believed the knockers were the souls of those whose deeds in this world allowed them entry neither into hell nor heaven – an interesting conjecture considering their living and working in the Cornish mines.
Supposedly, these tiny creatures were once upon a time much larger but were destined to shrink so much in size that each eventually became an ant, or murrian and finally disappear, a fate in store for them since the birth of Christ. Knockers, of course, were a product of the imagination of a past race of Cornish miners, people of a naturally mystical and superstitious nature, which was enhanced by their working in the darkness of narrow, rock-hewn depths where the only light was shed by glimmering candles. In such eerie surroundings, with the pitchy silence broken only by the dripping of water, the faint tapping’s of other men working in distant levels elsewhere in the mine, or an occasional clatter of a falling stone, it is perhaps not surprising that the most sceptical of Cornish miners came to believe in these underground spirits. It was well known that the sound of these little men, whose activity with picks and shovels, borers and barrows, was familiar to every underground worker, were full of fun amongst themselves when unobserved, but much soberer in behaviour when spied upon.
Generally speaking, the latter was not wise. Knockers were to be treated with respect, for although of a friendly disposition on the whole, they could be malicious towards any miner who failed, for example, to leave a portion of his underground meal – a piece of pasty, maybe – for one of their number to enjoy. Similarly, they were not to be sworn or shouted at and indeed, the miner who did so was a fool, for the knockers worked only profitable ground, and would make themselves known only to those whom they favoured. Continuing bad luck might even dog those who were particularly disrespectful.
There were others in Cornwall who connected the name of these “underground piskies” with the “knocking” or “knacking” of a mine, that is, its closing or abandonment. Some popular beliefs had it that the appearance of knockers in a mine presaged its closing or that their arrival was otherwise an ill omen. It is said that in the hundreds of Cornwall’s “knackt bals”,or abandoned mines, that they live there still, keeping everlasting watch, awaiting the day when they can as of old, guide miners towards the wealthy lodes which they themselves are aware of.
In mines abroad, it is interesting to note, similar spirits were to be found. Small elf-like beings haunted the lead and silver mines of the Hartz Mountains in Germany, for example, and their behaviour and characteristics were very similar to the knockers of the Cornish mines. Again the Cardiganshire mines had their knockers, little men already at work in the new mines before the men even found the ore for which they were searching, little men who worked while the miners worked, stopped when the miners stopped – as might an echo.
The most faery-like of Cornwall’s elfin folk were undoubtedly the Small People, gentle, harmless, always beautiful. Like Piskey, they would come into the homes of the sick, the old and the poor, bringing wild flowers and entertaining with songs, lively dancing or light hearted pranks. More usually however, they were seen by some lucky person while holding their fairs and markets in woodland dells, in faery gardens filled with perfume and music, perhaps among the sea-pinks that found hold along the cliff ledges, or in the shelter of moorland cairns. Unfortunately, such sights were a rare privilege for human eyes, and those that trespassed on faery ground immediately became one of their number.
Descriptions of the Small People vary but they are unanimous in depicting a vivacious, graceful and slender folk, barely knee high invariably they were fleet of foot, although not averse to riding a hare when in a particular hurry. Always they were elegantly and richly dressed, in lace, satin or velvet, with jewels of silver, diamonds and gold. The ladies are described as crinolined, with curled and powdered hair piled high beneath tall and pointed hats. Their menfolk were sometimes dressed as soldiers or huntsmen but the majority wore pale blue jerkins and green breeches, with elegant tricornes trimmed with lace and silver bells, upon their heads. Like their ladies, they had large, dark, luminous eyes but whereas the former had pale and delicate complexions, the faces of the men were dark- skinned.
Times have changed in Cornwall, for better or worse. Few who live in the county today have cause to be out and about in the countryside alone whenever or wherever her elfin people may be abroad. Even lesser numbers work underground in search of rich ores the knockers were so expert in finding. In many ways the little people of Cornwall therefore have their haunts to themselves more than ever before, rarely disturbed by a gatherer of samphire or gull’s eggs on the cliff ledges, by a lone traveller on a dark moorland track after “day-down”, or by a pare of miners working at the end of a level. The spread of education, of course, has caused most people to be sceptical even about their existence but in Cornwall, where belief in such things dies hard, such outright scepticism is less noticeable. And the fact remains that, just because you don’t believe in these enchanting creatures, they don’t cease to exist as a result.
In the Land’s End, about a mile south of St.Buryan, the coast road passes by two farms, Selena and Burnewhall, or Baranhual as it used to be. They lie between the road and the cliffs, in a part of Cornwall which once upon a time was a desolate place of marsh and wild undergrowth, of quaking bog and granite outcrops. In this wilderness, one dark night about two centuries ago, William Noy of Buryan became lost when on his way to Baranhual farm. After three days and nights of fruitless search by his friends, his horse was found and shortly afterwards, William himself.
He lay fast asleep in the shelter of a tumbledown building buried beneath a massive and almost impenetrable thicket of thorns. Awakened, he showed no sense of time or place, although recognising his rescuers and asking plenty of questions as to the whys and wherefores of his plight. Dazed, and as stiff as a stake, he was lifted to his horse and taken home, where, in the passage of time, he was able to reconstruct the strange events of the night he left Buryan for Baranhaul. His great mistake, he then saw, was to have forced his unwilling horse to take a short cut across Selena Moor for, very soon, although he decided to give the animal its head, both he and his mount were quite lost. Undoubtedly they were piskey-led,as William later came to realise. By and by they found themselves in a forest, apparently dark and deserted, and quite unknown to them. Quite suddenly William became aware of a myriad candles glimmering through the trees and the sound of music. At this, the horse showed every sign of terror and, being anxious to go on to ask for help, he was obliged to tether the animal and proceed alone.
William made his way wonderingly through an orchard and came upon a meadow in a clearing in the forest, where there was also an old house. Upon the mounting block before the door stood a girl dressed in white, playing a fiddle. But it was not she who claimed his attention. Upon the forest green hundreds of small people whirled and gyrated at giddy speed to the music she made, while as many more sat at rows of miniature tables, feasting and drinking. So inviting was the scene that William made a move to join the dancers but at once the girl in white threw him a warning glance and, finding another to play the music, drew him quickly into the moonlit orchard. He and she were almost of a height and at once he saw that the girl who looked at him directly was none other than his sweetheart Grace Hutchens of Selena, who had died three years ago. Overjoyed,he made a move to kiss her.
“No,no! My dearest William, you must not touch me, nor the fruit in this orchard, nor any flower or blade of grass, for all this is enchanted. A plum from one of these trees was my own undoing three years ago….This is how it came about. I was looking for one of our goats lost upon Selena Moor at the edge of dusk. Hearing your voice call to the dogs not far away, I struck over the moor to reach you, my beloved William, but I became confused and lost, buried in bracken that was head high and surrounded by bogs and streams. At last, very tired, I came upon this orchard. Beyond lay a garden filled with roses and the sound of music, surrounded by trees. I know now that I was piskey-led,for once in the garden I could find no way out.”
Grace went on to explain how she had eaten a plum, the sweetness of which turned bitter in her mouth and she swooned. On awakening, she found herself surrounded by hundreds of Small People, rejoicing that they now had someone to care for them, as well as to tend their numerous changelings. “In fact”, added Grace, “that is what I am, in a way, because during my trance they stole me – as you see me now – leaving behind a changeling body which you and my friends saw buried in Buryan churchyard. The baby changelings are reared on milk from nanny goats lured into the garden by Small People disguised as billy goats. Their own children are very few and much treasured because the Small People are themselves very old, thousands of years old. And of course they are not Christians, because when they were in human form it was long before the days of Christ. Instead they worship the stars.”
William suddenly felt he wanted to get away from this rather frightening spot and take Grace with him. He remembered that a garment turned inside out would break a spell of this kind so, quick as a flash, he did exactly that with his glove and flung it into the crowd of Small People. At once everything changed, the house becoming a ruin, the garden a wilderness of moor-withey and water, the orchard a bramble thicket.The Small People vanished from sight and with them his beloved Grace. Felled by a mysterious blow, William fell asleep on the very spot where he was found by his rescuers. From that day on, he pined slowly away, searching upon the moor ceaselessly for Grace until at last he, too, died and was buried alongside her in Buryan churchyard. That is, unless he also had entered fairyland as a changeling.
On the wild sea-lashed cliffs west of St.Just in the Land’s End is one of the oldest mines in Cornwall. This is Ballowal,worked for tin, some say, even before the Flood. A hundred years or so ago, any St. Juster would tell you that thousands of spirits haunted this wild and lonely place, not only knockers but also ugly spriggans,who guarded the centuries’ old workings of Ballowal as well as the mineral riches and tools left behind by miners long dead and gone. It was enough to daunt the staunchest working man. One such was Tom Trevorrow,a miner from Trencrom who came down to St. Just seeking work and found himself a job in Ballowal,along with his eldest boy.
From the start, Tom was conscious of Knockers in the mine. Wherever they were working, they appeared to be coming nearer and nearer to Tom’s own pitch, for the noise of their tiny shovels and picks daily grew louder. In fact, in the end they started to irritate him. He began to realise that, in some way, they could see him at work and that, whenever he made a clumsy stroke, their tee-heeing and squeaking – quite bad enough in the ordinary way – grew much noisier. One day he lost his temper.
“Get out of it you old Jews’ sperrats!” he cried, throwing a handful of broken stones along the dark level where he worked. “Or I’ll scat your brains out!” At once a shower of loose rock fell about him and scared him out of his wits for a moment. But Tom was rather a happy-go-lucky fellow, so shrugged his shoulders and resumed work. After a while, he sat down to eat a meal he had brought underground. There was silence as he made his way through the solid meat fuggan and then ,as he came to the last crumbs, a chorus of squeaky voices rang out: “Tom Trevorrow! Tom Trevorrow! Leave some of thy fuggan for Bucca, Or bad luck to thee tomorrow!” Foolishly, Tom ate the last morsel. His candle was almost burnt out and he felt very sleepy. For the last week he had worked almost without ceasing and his eyes were heavy, his limbs very tired. Against his will, he fell fast asleep.
When Tom awoke, the level was dark and silent. Before him were dozens of knockers, also resting. As he stirred, their ugly heads all turned to look at him and, in a game of follow-my-leader – for the most horrid of them seemed to command them – they leered at him between their spindly shanks, thumbed noses, squinted their eyes and pulled the most frightening faces. Tom was very scared and thought it best to light another candle. To his great relief they vanished, there and then, like smoke and he made his way to the surface as fast as his stiff, cold bones would allow.
Tom’s friends all shook their heads when they heard of his foolish treatment of the knockers but he was not one to worry overmuch about such things and in the morning set off to bal as cheerful as a cricket. The first thing he noticed was that some of the timbering supporting the level was about to give way. Tom and his boy repaired this in an hour or so the knockers, of course, working away close at hand, almost knock for knock. The two then decided to get some of their tin ore up to the surface. To do so, they had first to repair a small shaft and windlass and it was then that the disaster occurred. As Tom busied himself repairing the timber, he noticed the knockers hammering closer and closer to the spot where he worked. Then suddenly without warning, the ground began to move beneath his feet. Against the downward rush of rock and timber, his son desperately pulled him to safety and when Tom, safe and sound, was able to recover himself, he saw that all the ore which they had won over the past weeks, as well as their tools, had gone down the shaft with the rest. It was a miracle that he had not been killed.
Tom’s ill-luck was a sharp lesson to all he knew. It persisted for years, not only at Ballowal but during the dreadful days when he was forced to turn to farm work to make a living. In the end, it was his wife who brought about a change in poor Tom’s fortunes by visiting a “white witch” who, in secret conclave with the unlucky miner, finally broke the spell of ill-wishing by the vindictive knockers.
A COW CALLED ROSY
Rosy was the most remarkable cow in the far west. Not only was she sleek and beautiful but also yielded twice as many buckets of milk as any other in the herd. Even so, she did not give all the milk she had for, each evening, while the creamiest still remainder in her udder, she would quietly refuse to yield more. A gentle lowing, a soft flicker of her ears, and the warm flow ceased. Anyone who tried to complete the milking was kicked head over heels, and the bucket too, while Rosy galloped away to a safe place at the bottom of the field.
In course of time, Rosy had a calf and this, like everything else on the farm, prospered wonderfully, until one mid-summer night. It so happened that Rosie’s milkmaid arrived home very late indeed to find her cow, impatient to be milked, waiting at the field gate.
Fetching her bucket, the girl quickly got on with the neglected task, then placing a soft pad of grass beneath her hat to help ease the weight of the laden pail upon her head, on the homeward journey. When next she looked about her, she was astonished. Like a swarm of bees, hundreds of faeries had gathered around Rosy and her calf; gently the tickled its fluffy ears, lovingly the stroked the mother’s coat and scratched the itches she had behind her horns. In return, she endeavoured to lick the little creatures as they flitted rapidly to and for while, most surprising of all, she gently showered her creamiest milk upon the grass for the faeries’ benefit. In the meadow and hedges dozens were busying themselves bringing flowers – bluebell ,buttercup, speedwell and stitchwort – to catch the precious liquid, while the lazier ones sat beneath her udder contentedly sucking the milk from the grass and clover about her feet. Replete, they then each went in turn to gather the lushest grass they could find for Rosy and her calf. Even as the milkmaid watched, late arrivals were hurrying upon the scene mounted on hares. Suddenly, however, the magic of the moment was shattered by the harsh voice of the farmer’s wife calling the girl to task and Rosy, the calf and the small people vanished in haste down to the bottom of the meadow.
Sadly ,the farmer’s wife could not leave well alone when she heard about the faeries but greedily wanted all the milk for herself. She sought the advice of a neighbouring witch, who told her to scatter salt water, which she said Small People dislike, all about the farm. The results were disastrous. Rosy yielded no more milk, nor could she and the calf be caught. Together they went wild, left the farm and eventually – by now lean and sickly – vanished for good. So too did all the farmer’s other animals sicken and grow thin, as well as his wife and milkmaid, while the crops failed year after year. This terrible state of affairs continued long after the farmers death, so that his son and son’s son became progressively poorer until they had no land left at all – a dire warning to those who think the Small People need no consideration.
THE STORY OF A CHANGELING
Betty Stags of Towednack was a very lazy girl indeed. Although married a year, with her own cottage on the moors to look after and a new born baby to nurse, she spent very little time at home. In fact, the little one’s most constant companion was the cat, with which it shared its cradle and its food. It distressed everyone except Betty to see the baby so dirty.
“Towednack is a windy place an’ cold, “she always said. “A good layer of dirt will keep ‘n warm.” One evening Betty was particularly late home, dusk having fallen upon the moors and the summer moon risen high. Entering the dark cottage, she could see no baby in the cradle, and no cat. They were nowhere to be found. Frantically Betty searched everywhere, well aware that Jan, her husband, was due home from the mine at any minute and would be very angry. Indeed, he was incensed, shouting at Betty and flinging out of the house to tell the neighbours of the disaster, while she sat down uselessly and cried.
The search for the baby went on throughout the night, everyone joining in. Each croft and hedge, each bush and bank was carefully combed. Then towards the break of day, Betty spied the cat stalking towards her. It turned, and led her to a thicket of fern and furze. To her great relief, upon a patch of grass lay the little child fast asleep. It was naked, pink and clean, and close wrapped in layers of chintz smelling sweetly of herbs and flowers.
The wise ones said the Small People were responsible, having wanted the neglected mite for themselves but that dawn had surprised them before they got the baby clean enough for their liking. They told Betty that the next night the faeries would have to come back for it, a warning which she took much to heart. Thereafter, she cared for the child as devotedly as the Small People would have done themselves.
THE SMALL PEOPLE
Long ago, when many of the Land’s End folk fished in their small boats off the rock-bound coast by night, a common sight to them was that of the faeries of Castle Treen. Many a vessel becalmed beneath the cliffs of Pedn- y-vounder stayed longer than was needful, so that her crew could watch the Small People’s activities. Thousands of these delicate sprites were to be seen moving about in miniature cliff-ledge gardens poised half way down the precipices above the black and surging ocean hundreds of feet below. Softly illuminated by candlelight, the gardens were filled with flowers whose perfume, when the wind blew off the land, drifted across to the entranced fishermen, along with the sound of music from the faeries’ revels. It was then, when the scent of the flowers and the melodies reached them, that the men quickly sailed away, fearing the fatal enchantment which might follow such magic contact.