TOM THE GIANT, HIS WIFE JANE, AND JACK THE TINKEARD, AS TOLD BY THE "DROLLS." [a]
WHEN Tom and his wife had settled themselves in the giant's castle, they took good care not to allow any one to make a king's highway across their grounds. Tom made the hedges higher, and the gates stronger than ever, and he claimed all the run of land on the sea-side, and enclosed it. Tom's wife, Jane, was a wonderful cleanly body--the castle seemed to be always fresh swept and sanded, while all the pewter plates and platters shone like silver. She never quarrelled with Tom; except when he came in from hedging covered with mud; then in a pet she would threaten to go home to her mother. Jane was very famous for her butter and cheese, and Tom became no less so for his fine breed of cattle, so that he fared luxuriously, and all went on happily enough with Tom and his wife. They had plenty of children, and these were such fine healthy babies, that it took two or three of the best cows to feed them, when but a few weeks old. Tom and Jane thought that they had all that part of the world to themselves, and that no one could scale their hedges or break through their gates. They soon found their mistake. Tom was working one morning, not far from the gate, on the Market-Jew side of his property, when he heard a terrible rattle upon the bars. Running up, he saw a man with a hammer smashing away, and presently down went the bars, and in walked a travelling tinkeard, with his bag of tools on his back.
"Holla where are you bound for?" says Tom.
"Bound to see if the giant, whom they say lives up here, wouldn't let a body pass through where the road ought to be," says the tinkeard.
"Oh, ay! are you?" says Tom.
"He must be a better man than I am who stops me," says the tinkeard. "As you are a fine stout chap, I expect you are the giant's eldest son. I see you are hedging. That 's what all the people complain of. You are hedging in all the country."
"Well," says Tom, "if I am his son, I can take my dad's part any way; and we 'll have fair play too. I don't desire better fun than to try my strength with somebody that is a man. Come on. Any way you like--naked fists, single-stick, wrestling, bowling, slinging, or throwing the quoits."
"Very well," says the tinkeard, " I 'll match my blackthorn stick against anything in the way of timber that you can raise on this place."
Tom took the bar which the tinker had broken from the gate, and said, "I'll try this piece of elm if you don't think it too heavy."
"Don't care if it 's heavier. Come on!"
The tinkeard took the thorn-stick in the middle, and made it fly round Tom's head so fast that he couldn't see it. It looked like a wheel whizzing round his ears, and Tom soon got a bloody nose and two black eyes. Tom's blows had no effect on the tinkeard, because he wore such a coat as was never seen in the West Country before. It was made out of a shaggy black bull's hide, dressed whole with the hair on. The skin of the forelegs made the sleeves, the hind quarters only were cut, pieces being let in to make the spread of the skirts, while the neck and skin of the head formed a sort of hood. The whole appeared as hard as iron; and when Tom hit the tinkeard, it sounded, as if the coat roared, like thunder. They fought until Tom got very hungry, and he found he had the worst of it. " I believe thee art the devil, and no man," says Tom. "Let 's see thy feet before thee dost taste any more of my blood."
The tinkeard showed Tom that he had no cloven foot, and told him that it depended more on handiness than strength to conquer with the single-stick; and that a small man with science could beat a big man with none. The tinkeard then took the clumsy bar of the gate from Tom, gave him his own light and tough blackthorn, and proceeded to teach him to make the easiest passes, cuts, &c. Whilst the two men were thus engaged, Jane had prepared the dinner, and called her husband three times. She wondered what could be keeping Tom, as he was always ready to run to his dinner at the first call. At length she went out of the castle to seek for him, and surprised she was, and--if truth must be told--rather glad to see another man inside the gates, which no one had passed for years. Jane found Tom and the tinkeard tolerable friends by this time, and she begged them both to come into dinner, saying to the tinkeard that she wished she had something better to set before him. She was vexed that Tom hadn't sent her word, that she might have prepared something better than the everlasting beef and pease; and vowed she would give him a more savoury mess for supper, if she had to go to the hills for a sheep or a kid herself.
At length the men were seated at the board, which groaned beneath the huge piece of boiled beef, with mountains of pease pudding, and they soon got fairly to work. Jane then went to the cellar, and tapped a barrel of the strongest beer, which was intended to have been kept for a tide (feast). Of the meat, Tom ate twice as much as the tinkeard, and from the can of ale he took double draughts. The tinkeard ate heartily, but not voraciously; and, for those days, he was no hard drinker. Consequently, as soon as dinner was over, Tom fell back against the wall, and was quickly snoring like a tempest. His custom was to sleep two or three hours after every meal. The tinkeard was no sleepy-head, so he told Jane to bring him all her pots and pans which required mending, and he would put them in order. He seated himself amidst a vast pile, and was soon at work. The louder Tom snored, the more Jack rattled and hammered away at the kettles; and ere Tom was awake, he had restored Jane's cooking vessels to something like condition.
At length Tom awoke, and, feeling very sore, he begged the tlnkeard to put off until to-morrow a wrestling-match which they had talked of before dinner. The tinkeard, nothing loath, agreed; so Tom took him up to the topmost tower of the castle, to show him his lands and his cattle. For miles and miles, farther over the hill than the eye could reach, except on the southern side, everything belonged to Tom. In this tower they found a long and strong bow. Tom said none but the old giant could bend it. He had often tried, and fretted because he could not bring the string to the notch. The tinkeard took the bow; he placed one end to his toe, and, by what appeared like sleight-of-hand to Tom, he bent the bow, brought the string to the notch, sent the arrow off--thwang,--and shot a hare so far away that it could hardly be seen from the heath and ferns. Tom was surprised, until the tinkeard showed him how to bend the bow, more by handiness than strength, and again he killed a kid which was springing from rock to rock on the cairns far away. The hare and kid were brought home, cooked for supper, and the tinkeard was invited to stop all night.
The story ordinarily rambles on, telling of the increasing friendship between the three, and giving the tinkeard's story of himself, which was so interesting to Tom and Jane that they stayed up nearly all night to hear it. He told how he was born and bred in a country far away--more than a score days' journey from this land, far to the north and east of this, from which it was divided by a large river. This river the tinkeard had swam across ; then there was a week's journey in a land of hills and cairns, which were covered with snow a great part of the year. In this land there were many giants, who digged for tin and other treasures. With these giants he had lived and worked,--they always treated him well; indeed, he always found the bigger the man the more gentle. Half the evil that's told about them by the cowardly fools who fear to go near them is false. Many, many more strange things did the tinkeard tell. Amongst other matters, he spoke of wise men who came from a city at no great distance from this land of tin for the purpose of buying the tin from the giants, and they left them tools, and other things, that the diggers required in exchange. One of these merchants took a fancy to the tinkeard, named him Jack--he had no name previously--and removed him to the city, where Jack was taught his trade, and many other crafts. The tinkeard had left that city four months since, and worked his way down to Market-Jew. Being there, he heard of the giant, and he resolved to make his acquaintance. The rest has been told.
While this, which was a long story, was being told, Jack the Tinkeard was enjoying Jane's new barley-bread, with honey and cream, which he moistened with metheglin. "Good night, Tom," says he at last; "you see you have lived all your days like a lord on his lands, and know nothing. I never knew father or mother, never had a home to call my own. All the better for me, too. If I had possessed one, I would never have known one-thousandth part of what I have learned by wandering up and down in the world."
Morning came; and, after breakfast, Tom proposed to try "a hitch" on the grass in the castle court. Jack knew nothing of wrestling; so he told Tom he had never practised, but still he would try his strength. Tom put the tinkeard on his back at every "hitch," but he took all the care he could not to hurt him. At last the tinkeard cried for quarter, and declared Tom to be best man.
Jane had made a veal-and-parsley pie, and put it down to bake, when, being at leisure, she came out to see the sport. Now, it must be remembered the tinkeard had broken down the gate, and no one had thought of repairing it, or closing the opening. Two men of Tregender were coming home from Bal, [b] and passing the giant's gate, they thought it very strange that it should be broken down. After consulting for some time, they summoned all their courage, and--it must be confessed, with fear and trembling--they crawled into the grounds, and proceeded towards the castle. Now, no one in that country except Tom and Jane knew that the old giant was dead.
The two men turned round a corner, and saw three very large children playing. The baby, a year old, was riding an old buck-goat about the field. The two elder children, Tom Vean [c] and young Jane, were mounted on a bull, back to back, one holding on by the horns, and the other by the tail, galloping round the field like mad, followed by the cows and dogs,--a regular "cow's courant."
"Lord, you," says one of the men to the other, "what dost a' think of that for a change?"
"But to think," says the other, "that the old giant should ever have a wife and young children here, and the people knaw nothing about it."
"Why, don't everybody say that he ate all his wives and chil'ren too. What lies people tell, don't they, you?"
"Le 's go a little farther; he won't eat we, I suppose."
"I 'll throw my pick and sho'el down the throat of an, as soon as a' do open as jaws."
"Look you," now shouts the other, "you come round a little farther just peep round the corner and thee meest see two fellows wrestling, and a woman looking on."
"Can I believe my eyes, you? Don't that woman look something like Jane I used to be courson of?"
The miners satisfied themselves that it was Jane, sure enough, and quietly beat a retreat. Soon was St Ives in a state of excitement, and all Jane's cousins, believing from the accounts given by the miners that Jane was well off, resolved to pay her a visit. These visits worked much confusion in Tom's castle and family. He and his wife quarrel, but the tinkeard is the never-failing friend. All this part of the story is an uninteresting account of fair-weather friends.
Jack the Tinkeard taught Tom how to till his ground in a proper manner. He had hitherto contented himself with gathering wild herbs, -- such as nettles, wild beet, mallows, elecampane, various kinds of lentils, and chick or cat-peas. Jack now planted a garden for his friends,--the first in Cornwall,--and they grew all kinds of good vegetables. The tinkeard also taught Jane to make malt and to brew beer; hitherto they had been content with barley-wort, which was often sour. Jack would take the children and collect bitter herbs to make the beer keep, such as the alehoof (ground ivy), mugwort, bannell (the broom), agrimony, centuary, woodsage, bettony, and pellitory. Jane's beer was now amongst the choicest of drinks, and her St Ives cousins could never have enough of it. Tom delighted in it, and often drank enough to bewilder his senses.
Tom had followed the example of the old giant, and killed his cattle by flinging rocks at them. The giant's "bowls" are seen to this day scattered all over the country. Jack gave Tom a knife of the keenest edge and finest temper, and taught him how to slaughter the beasts. When a calf was to be skinned, he instructed Tom how to take the skin off whole from the fore legs, by Un-jointing the shoulders, and to remove it entirely clear of grain, and without the smallest scratch. In addition to all this, Tomy Vein (who was now a boy four years old, but bigger than many at ten) must have a coat possessing all the virtues which belonged to the tinkeard's. So a bull-calf's skin was put on to the boy, and Jane had special instructions how she was to allow the coat to dry on his back, and tan and dress it in a peculiar way. The skin thus treated would shrink and thicken up until it came to his shape. Nobody can tell how proud the young Tom was of his coat when all was done, though the poor boy suffered much in the doing.
Now Jack the Tinkeard desired the intrusion of strangers as little as did Tom and Jane, so he set to work to repair the gate which he had broken down. He not only did this, but he constructed a curious latch with the bobbin; it was so contrived that no stranger could find the right end of it, and if they pulled at any other part, the latch was only closed the tighter. While he was at work a swarm of Jane's St Ives cousins came around him; they mistook Jack for Tom, and pointed out how the children, who were playing near him, were like their father. Jack "parlayed with them until he had completed his task, and then he closed the gate in their faces.
Much more of this character is related by the "drolls;" but with the exception of constant alterations of feasting and fighting, there is little of novelty in the story, until at last a grand storm arises between Tom and his wife, who is believed by the husband to be on too intimate terms with Jack the Tinkeard. The result of this is, that Jane goes home to Crowlas, fights with her mother, old Jenny, because old Jenny abuses Tom, which Jane will not allow in her presence While yet at Crowlas another boy is born, called Honey, and, as the cow was not at hand as when she was in the castle, he was nursed by a goat, and it is said a class of his descendants are yet known as the Zennor goats.
[a] In some of the old geese dances (guise dances, from danse diguis!) the giant Blunderbuss and Tom performed a very active part. Blunderbuss was always a big-bellied fellow--his smoke-frock being well stuffed with straw. He fought with a tree, and the other giant with the wheel and axle. The giant is destroyed, as in the story, by falling on the axle. The tinker, of whom we have yet to tell, with his unfailing coat of darkness, comes in and beats Tom, until Jane comes out with the broom and beats the tinker; and then,--as in nearly all these rude plays,--St George and the Turkish knight come in; but they have no part in the real story of the drama.--See later note and Appendix E.
[b] Popular name for a mine: "Bal, a place of digging--Balas, to dig."--PRYCE.
[c] Vean, a term of endearment.