Traditions and Hearthside Stories of West Cornwall, Vol. 2, by William Bottrell, , at sacred-texts.com
After Betty had gained her ends with Tom Trenoweth, nobody ventured to deny her anything she coveted except Madam Noy, of Pendre. From the little known of this lady, she seems to have been a strong-minded close-fisted termagant. She was fond of going to law, and had always suits on hand concerning the bounds and common rights of her lands. She is said also to have kept the best hunter and hounds in the West Country, and that she coursed with them daily as she rode over her farms, across hedges and ditches, to inspect her work-people and stock. We suppose she was a widow then, or if she had a husband he made too little noise in his time to be remembered. She took great pride in her poultry; above all, in her rare breed of hens with large tufts or cops on their heads. Now Betty knew that Madam had often refused to give or sell any eggs from her coppies to her best friends, yet one morning early she put on her steeple-crown hat and mantle, took her morning and stick hobbled down to Pendre, and seated herself on a style entering the town-place. In a few minutes she saw Madam Noy come from the barn with a bowl of corn in her hands to feed her poultry of all sorts and sizes. "Good morrow to your honour," said Betty, as she went up curtseying and nodding to Madam, "Dear me, how well you are lookan, you're gettan to look younger and younger I do declare, and what beautiful hens, ducks, and geese, you've got! The finest in the parish I do believe. Do ’e know, Madam dear, that I've got an old cluckan hen that I should like to put to set, of you would spare me a dozen eggs, the sort of your coppies I'd like best." "Arrea! Betty, I suppose you would," said Madam, "but I've no eggs to spare from my hens with cops nor the ones without, while I've so many of my own clucking hens about. And dust thee think, than, that when I've refused to sell any of any new sort to my own sister Dame Pendar, or to my cousin Madam Trezillian, that I would spare them to the likes of you?" "I don't care a cuss whether you do or no," Betty replied, "but if you won't sell me some eggs you shall wish your cake dough." "Now go thee way’st home thou deceitful
old bitch," said the lady in a rage, "and what business hast thee here pryan about the place and covetan all thee cust spy with thy evil eye, I'd like to know. Begone, or I'll set the dogs at thee, and throw fire over thee, dosn’t think that I'm afraid of thy witchcraft."
"I am on the church-road through the town-place, said Betty, and here I will stop as long as I like in spite of you and your lawyers too." Madam Noy and Betty continued their threats and abuse until the lady became so enraged, at the old woman's persistence to stay in her town-place, that she snatched up a stone, threw it at Betty, and hit her right on her noddle with a blow that made her jaws rattle. Betty, limped to the stile mumbling to herself, "now may the devil help me and by all that's evil here I will rest till I've curst thee to my heart's content." Standing on the stile she pointed her finger at Madam Noy and made the lady 'shake in her shoes;' whilst she nodded her head, waved her out-stretched hand, and ill-wished her by saying,—
Madam Noy was never well from that day, her fowls’ eggs were always bad, and all Betty's spells took effect. Before six months were past she lost her coppies every one; for, in place of gay tufts of feathers, the chickens’ brains came out on all those hatched from her coppies’ eggs.
A noted old droll-teller and clock-cleaner of Sancreed, called Billy Foss, used to recite this, and many other stories, in a sort of doggrel, in which he mostly half said and half sung his drolls. We remember but little more of Billy's verse, in this story, than the few lines given above; these are enough, however, for a sample of the kind of composition that was much in vogue with our old droll-tellers.
’Tis said that Betty owed her proficiency in the black art to her frequent conferences with Old Nick, (or her familiar, whatever his name might have been,) who almost nightly took the form of An’ Mally Perase's black bull, and, under that shape, met the witch on the northern side of Burian churchyard. Much more is related of Betty's transactions, but nothing new in the annals of witchcraft; and enough has been stated to serve as an
example of the faith and practices in such matters long ago; indeed, we may say that such beliefs and doings are anything but extinct; something turns up, every now and then, to show that, notwithstanding all the teaching and preaching, faith in witchcraft, and other dreary superstitions, are nearly as rife as ever.
We give the following instance as just related.