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Traditions and Hearthside Stories of West Cornwall

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Author Topic: Traditions and Hearthside Stories of West Cornwall  (Read 413 times)
Tristan
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« Reply #15 on: August 25, 2009, 01:16:03 pm »

Tom wasn't the least bit frightened on seeing Old Denbras, the hurler, as most people called the big man, who stood about fifteen feet in his boots. His girth was more than proportionate to his height, because he was very big-bellied, the effect of his gormandizing, old age, and idle life. The hair of his head, from exposure to sun, wind, and rain, had gone to look like a withered brake of heath. His teeth were all worn down to his gums, from grinding up the bones of the goats, which he ate raw, with all the skin on. "Hallo!" says the giant, "Who are you, you little scrub, to have the impudence to drive in here and disturb my nap. Es the beer for me? I didn't expect any." "You are heartily welcome to a drink," Tom answered, "but I am on my way to St. Ives, and will keep upon the old road, and the right road too, in spite of you and a better man than you." "Thou saucy young whelp, to break into my castle and spoil my after-dinner nap: begone to the rightabout, or I will soon pluck a twig and drive thee out." "Not if I know it it," says Tom: "don't crow too soon my old ****." The giant now looked as black as the devil, and, going down the hill a few steps, he plucked up a young elm-tree about twenty feet high or so. Tom seeing what he was up to, whilst the giant was coming up the hill, breaking off the small branches and trimming the twig to his mind, handed off the barrels, and overturned the wain, then slipped off the wheel that turned round on one end of the exe, and

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« Reply #16 on: August 25, 2009, 01:16:18 pm »

took the oak axle-tree, (fast in the other wheel) out of the gudgeons in which it worked round under the wain. The giant was so slow in his motions that all this was done, and Tom held the axle-tree and wheel aloft, before the giant had trimmed his twig to his mind. "Now," says Tom, "if you are for a fight, come on; the exe and wheel is my sword and buckler, which I will match against your elm tree." And at it they went.

Tom, seeing that old Denbras had become very blear-eyed, rheumatic, and altogether crushed and shakey, felt loth to fight with him. That he mightn't hurt the old man he did little more than ward off, with the wheel, which served him for bucklet, the ill-aimed blows of the giant's twenty-feet twig. Denbras was so slow in his motions that Tom often had the chance of giving him a thrust with the sword end of his weapon, yet he thought it a pity to wound the old fellow, and only sought to tire him out, disarm him, and thus make a bloodless conquest of the giant, who often fell to the ground with his twig, as it slipped off the edge of the buckler. Then Tom always helped him on his forkle-end again and gave him a drink. Seeing the sun declining, Tom thought he would just tickle the giant under the ribs to make him fight faster, that they might end the battle the sooner. For this purpose he turned ends to his weapon, and, careful not to do any grievous harm, he gave the giant what he meant to be only a slight thrust, but, not knowing how to manage his strength, the exe pierced the giant's stomach and came out close beside his back-bone. The giant fell on his back: his pottle belly caved in like a pierced bladder. The force of the fall, and weight of the wheel, drove the exe into the ground and nailed the giant to the earth. Tom was much grieved to see the mischief he had done, and to hear the moans of Denbras.

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« Reply #17 on: August 25, 2009, 01:16:34 pm »

"Cheer up, my dear," says Tom, "you will do again yet; I'll do the best I can for ee. I wouldn't have hurt ee any more than my daddy and know it; but who would have thought that your skin was so thin?"

When, with much to do, Tom drew the exe out of the giant's body, the blood ran down the hill like a mill-stream, and the giant roared like thunder.

"Do stop the bellowing and bleating, the noise and mess, confound me," says Tom, "have the heart of a man to bear up with the accident, and keep your hands on the holes, do, to stay the bleeding till I can cut some turves to plug them up."

Tom tore and kicked up the turf for dear life and stopped the giant's wounds with it as well as he could. Then he fetched a barrel, knocked in the end, and held the beer to the giant's mouth. "Come, drink away my hearty," says he, "and we shall have some good play yet."

"It's all of no use, my son," groaned the giant, "I feel that I shall kick the bucket soon; I'm going round land fast, yet no one can say but I died in fair fight, and I like thee better, for the sake of thy fair play, than any other man I ever fought with in all my born days, and 'fair

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« Reply #18 on: August 25, 2009, 01:16:45 pm »

play is good play,' whatever may betide. Thou art a true Cornish boy; I love thee like a brother: I have no near relations, and will make thee my son and heir; all my lands and treasures I give to thee. Now my breath is getting short, bow down thy ear my son, that thou mayest hear my dying wishes. Down in the caves of the castle there are lots of tin, gold, silver, and other treasures. Mind the names of the dogs that watch the entrance, but tell it to nobody else: they are called Standby and Holdfast. All my lands, for miles away to the north, all the hills between this and the sea, are stocked with oxen, deer, sheep, goats, and other beasts, more than one can count—all rolling in fat, and all I give to thee, my son; only bury me decent, under a burrow, and don't let anyone abuse me after I'm gone. Be kind to the dogs, for my sake; and the tame cattle, poor things, I'm as sorry to leave them as if I'd been their father."

Tom held the giant's head between his arms, resting against his breast, where it lay so still that he feared Denbras had settled his accounts with all below the moon. Yet a few minutes before the last gasp he roused himself to say, "Tom, my dear, I wish above all things to be buried after the fashion of the old people of the land. Take me to the top of the hill—a little higher up where the stone is placed; there I used to delight to stand to catch the first glimpse of the rising sun, or sit at eve and look out over the sea and this beautiful land, with my tame fawns, kids, lambs, rabbits, and hares, all sporting around me on the dewy heath.—Thither lead me, that I may take the last look of the hills where my race have so long lived."

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« Reply #19 on: August 25, 2009, 01:17:01 pm »

The giant rose, supported by Tom, reached the summit of the hill, and sat on his favourite seat. On the western side of the stone on which the giant sat, a large flat rock, placed on edge, formed the back of his seat. Similar stones lay on either side, ready to be raised around him, after his death, and a large quoit near by, to cap the whole. Here, casting his eyes around, he bade farewell to the blue sea and sky—to the heath-covered hills, with their flocks and herds—to the cliffs, caves, and carns, which gave him shelter and sport.

"My eyes can no longer behold the glorious sun," moaned he, "and, now, farewell to thee, my dear. In thy arms I die content, my son."

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« Reply #20 on: August 25, 2009, 01:17:11 pm »

"Oh, my dear daddy, don't go yet," says Tom; "stop a minutes or two longer, and tell me what in the world I am to do with your wives? You haven't eaten them all, have ee? They say, down in the low countries, that they suppose you have settled them that way; because, if what they say is true, you have enticed scores into your castle, and none ever came out again." The giant sprung up in a rage. "Oh! the wretches; may the devil fetch them, for their slanderous tongues. I hoped to die in peace with all the world. Now listen to the truth, my son. The women know better, whatever they may say. Long before my first old woman was dead, they were always beating round my castle to see if I would

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« Reply #21 on: August 25, 2009, 01:17:21 pm »

take home another. All the stones I slung around from the top of the hill would not make them stay away. The little, sickly, palefaced women were the most troublesome of all. No use for me to tell each one who came to my gate, that she was of a most unsuitable mate for a giant's wife, and too weak to stand the wear and tear of a rough hill-country life. They would take no denial. The consequence was that in a short time they all died, as one may say, a natural death, and all of them blessed me with their latest breath. Under the burrows all around us, I have buried my dearest. On the sunny hill they rest, deck’d out and dress’d, and in their richest and rarest. What more could one do for them?"

The violent anger produced by the mention of this evil report, and the great exertion with which the giant spoke to clear his character, caused the plugs to be blown out of his wounds, when blood and breath escaped anew; yet once more he looked on Tom, and, smiling, said, "Now, my son, I'm glad to leave this wicked world," then bowed his head and died, resigned.

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Tristan
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« Reply #22 on: August 25, 2009, 01:17:32 pm »

Tom, seeing that it was all over with poor old Denbras, raised the flat stones on edge around him, placed the stiffening giant's hands on his knees, and laid out the corpse as decently as he could for the time. Then he hastened down to his oxen and found them lying down, stretched out in the sun, quietly chewing their cuds. The innocent beasts, all unconscious of human pride and strife, had a comfortable rest during the time of the mortal combat and death of the giant. It was only a few minutes’ work for Tom to replace the wheel he had taken off the exe, turn over the wain, heave it between the wheels, reload, bar securely the castle-gates, and drive out through the enclosures on the St. Ives side of the giant's domain.

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« Reply #23 on: August 25, 2009, 01:17:49 pm »

Tom worked with such haste and fury to stifle the grief he felt for the giant's untimely fate, that the beer was left in the old dirty town under the hill, and Tom (returning by another road) got back to Market-jew before dark. Yet, being the eve of the ancient festival of Midsummer, according to immemorial custom the bonfires were already blazing on all the hills around—on Mousehole Island, on the Holy Headland (Pensans), on the crest of the Mount, and on scores of other prominent places.

Tom found the brewer in the street, near his house, beside a large cask of flowing beer, to which he was treating all corners, and encouraging them to keep up with spirit all the ancient festive observances of the Midsummer tide. Long before dark, young and old, rich and poor, with hands and hearts united, were dancing, to the music of pipe and tabor, round the various bonfires scattered up and down the good old town. The brewer, well pleased to see Tom back so early, with the cattle looking fresh enough to start on another such journey, offered him good wages and wished to bargain for a year. "I should never desire a better place

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« Reply #24 on: August 25, 2009, 01:18:00 pm »

than this," said Tom, "where there is abundance of grub and the best of drink ever flowing; but my great-granfer, up in the high countries, died this very day, and left me all his land and tin. Luckily, I went up that way to-day to hear from him. Sorry I am to leave ee, but must be off, before morning, to take possession and bury the old gentleman decent."

By midnight Tom departed for the hills, whilst the bonfires were still blazing, with hundreds dancing around them, and one and all wishing health and long life to the jolly old mayor of Market-jew.

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« Reply #25 on: August 25, 2009, 01:18:19 pm »

On his way to the hills, Tom wished his old mammy good-bye, telling her he had met with a good place a long way off. Then he went down to Crowlas for a woman he had been courting a long time, told her of his luck, and that he was come to take her home; but not a word of what had happened did he mention to anyone else. They arrived at the castle by the break of day. When Tom called the dogs by name they let him and his wife Joan enter the castle-caves without so much as a growl. Here they found no end of tin and treasures, such as were found in the giants’ castles of old. Soon after day-break Tom and his wife proceeded to bury the giant. In the castle-court they found the club and sling with which Denbras slew the game he wanted: these Tom placed on the giant's knees, and Joan laid green oak-branches and flowers around him; then they worked with a will, and before sunrise they collected so much stones as raised the barrow gradually sloping, even with the tops of the flat uprights which enclosed the giant. Then, by the help of poles, or such contrivances as were only known to the old folks, they placed the quoit or capstone over the head of Denbras, which hid him for ever from the light of day; and, before the sun sunk below the hill-tops, they had raised as noble a barrow over the giant as any to be found on Towednack hills; yet they were not without adding, time after time, to the carp of the giant's resting-place. The land, as far as the eye could reach, with the cattle on scores of hills, from their castle to the northern sea, was all their own. Here Tom and Joan lived for many years in peace, plenty, and content: no one knew or cared what had become of them, and they cared as little about the rest of the world. As soon as Tom saw himself lord of the castle and lands, he took good care, whenever he had leisure between seed-time and harvest, and during the winter, when he had no corn to thresh, to strengthen his hedges, so that no one should again make a king's highway across his ground: he soon saw a large family growing up around him, as rough and ragged, wild and strong, as the colts on the downs. ’Tis said that when Joan weaned her children she put them to suck the cows or goats, which took their sucklings as naturally as if they had been their own calves and kids: this was the principal reason why Tom's children grew so strong. To be sure some of the boys, nursed by the Nanny-goats, grew up so shaggy that they looked very much like old bucks, as well as their children

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« Reply #26 on: August 25, 2009, 01:18:30 pm »

p. 15

after them: on that account some of their posterity, who settled in these regions, acquired the name of Zennor goats, which they retain to this day. No matter for their looks, Tom's boys were able to work and help their dad by the time they were a year or two old; then they were for ever extending their hedges over the common lands, and no one to say them nay, or to come near them for fear of the giant, who was still thought to be living there. Some portion of these hedges, made by Tom and his boys, on the outskirts of his lands, may still be seen near Carn Stabba, and other parts of that neighbourhood, built with such large rocks as no ten men of these days can lift: they are still known as the giant's hedges. His farm included part of St. Ives parish, as well as the parishes of Zennor and Towednack. Some say the castle was on the high ground between Nancledrea and St. Ives; others place it near Huel Reeth: wherever it was, they lived there many years unknown to anybody, in a land flowing with milk and honey. There was no end to the cattle, and everything else they wanted, on their own domain. Tom's eldest daughter had become marriageable before his old mammy even was aware that the giant had been dead long ago, and that her great boy stood in his shoes.

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« Reply #27 on: August 25, 2009, 01:18:42 pm »

One morning, Tom was out hedging, as usual—strengthening his fences near the gate on the Market-jew road, when he heard the noise of some one hammering away on the gate. By the time he called out, "Who is there? You can't come in, if you are ever so good looking!" The bolts and bars were knocked off the gate, and in marched a travelling tinkard (as the worker in tin was then called), hammer in hand, and a leathern bag of other tools on his back. "Hallo, my man, where are you bound for?" says Tom. "Bound to keep on the old road to Saint Ives, and to see on my way if the mistress of the castle may have any pots or pans to mend, in spite of your gates and hedges. The people complain that the old giant who lives up here, is hedging in all the country. I've never seen the giant that I cared for yet. I suppose you are the giant's eldest son, as you are a fine stout chap? Well; what say you, shall we try each other's mettle with a match of quarter-staff or single-stick?"

"With all my heart: I don't desire better fun than to try my strength with one who is a man, in any way of manlike play you like, single-stick or naked fists, wrestling, hurling, slinging, or throwing the quoits; take your choice."

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« Reply #28 on: August 25, 2009, 01:18:53 pm »

"Very well," replied the tinkard, who said his name was Jack, "I'll match my black-thorn stick against any timber you can rise."

Tom took up the oak bar that Jack had broken off the gate. In a moment he was ready and cried guare (play). The tinkard, taking his black-thorn stick in the middle, made it spin so fast that it looked like a wheel flying round Tom's head and ears: the oak bar was soon struck out of his hand—the blood streaming from his nose, and one of his eyes

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« Reply #29 on: August 25, 2009, 01:19:06 pm »

p. 16

shut up. Tom didn't know the play;—though the few downright blows he gave came down with the force of a sledge hammer, they had no effect on the tinkard, because he wore a leather coat, the like of which was never seen in the west country before. This coat, made of a black bull's hide, left almost whole, was without a seam, and dressed with the curly hair on it. On the breast, back, and shoulders it was as hard as iron, and roared like thunder whenever Tom stuck it, which made him think he had to deal with the devil. "Yet," thought Tom, "if he is the old one he has no cloven foot, and is very civil to give me plenty of time to pick up my stick and never strike when I'm unarmed."

They fought a long time, and Tom, much to his surprise, got the worst of it.

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