THE FAIRY OINTMENT
MANY years since, there lived as housekeeper with a celebrated squire, whose name is associated with the history of his native country, one Nancy Tregier. There were many peculiarities about Nancy; and she was, being a favourite with her master, allowed to do much as she pleased. She was in fact a petted, and, consequently, a spoiled servant. Nancy left Pendeen one Saturday afternoon to walk to Penzance, for the purpose of buying a pair of shoes. There was an old woman, Jenny Trayer, living in Pendeen Cove--who had the reputation of being a witch--or, as some people mildly put it, "who had strange dealings;" and with her Nancy desired, for sundry reasons best known to herself, to keep on the closest of terms. So on this Saturday, Nancy first called on the old woman to inquire if she wished to have anything brought home from Penzance. Tom, the husband of Nancy's friend, did no work; but now and then he would go to sea for an hour or two and fish. It is true everybody gave Jenny just what she asked for her fish, out of pure fear. Sometimes they had a "venture" with the smugglers, who, in those days, carried on a roaring trade in Pendeen Cove. The old Squire was a justice; but he winked very hard, and didn't know anything about the smugglers. Indeed, some ill-natured people--and there are always such to be found in any nook or corner--said Nancy often took her master home a choice bottle of Cogniac; even a case of "Hollands" now and then; and, especially when there was to be a particularly "great run," there were some beautiful silk handkerchiefs to be seen at the Squire's. But this is beyond our story. When Nancy went into Jenny's cottage, Tom was there, and right busy was she in preparing some ointment, and touching her husband's eyes with it: this Jenny tried to hide in the mouth of the oven at the side of the chimney. Tom got up and said he must be off, and left the two women together. After a few idle compliments, Jenny said that Nancy must have something to drink before she started for Penzance, and she went to the sj5ence for the bottles. Nancy, ever curious, seized the moment, dipped her finger into the pot of green ointment, and, thinking it was good for the eyes, she just touched her right eye with it before Jenny returned. They then took a horn or two together, and being thus spliced, Nancy started for Penzance.
Penzance Market was in those days entirely in the street; even the old market-house had not yet an existence. Nancy walked about doing a little business and a great deal of gossiping; when amongst the standings in Market-Jew Street, whom should Nancy see but Tom Trayer, picking off the standings, shoes, stockings, hanks of yarn, and pewter spoons--indeed, some of all the sorts of things which were for sale. Nancy walked up to him, and, taking him by the arm, said, "Tom! ar'then't ashamed to be here carrying on such a game? However thee canst have the impudence, I can't think, to be picking the things from the standings and putting them in thy pocket in broad daylight, and the people all around thee." Tom looked very much surprised when Nancy spoke to him. At last he said, "Is that you, Nancy?--which eye can you see me upon?" Nancy shut her left eye, this made no difference; she then shut her right eye, and, greatly to her surprise, she saw all the people, but she no longer saw Tom. She opened her right eye, and there was Tom as before. She winked, and winked, and was surprised, you may be sure, to find that she could not see Tom with either eye. "Now, Nancy," said Tom, "right or left." "Well," said Nancy, "'tis strange; but there is something wrong with my left eye." [a]
"Oh, then, you see me with the right, do you?"
Then Tom put his finger on her right eye, and from that moment she was blind on that side.
On her way home, Nancy was always going off the road on her blind side; but the hedges kept her from wandering far away. On the downs near Pendeen there were no hedges, so Nancy wandered into a furze brake,--night came on, she could not find her way out, and she was found in it the next morning fast asleep.
The old Squire was out hunting in the early morning, according to his usual custom. In passing along the road leading to Carnyorth, he saw a woman's knitting-work hanging on a bramble, and the yarn from the stocking leading away into the brake. He took the yarn in his hand and followed it until he came to the old woman, who had the ball in her pocket. When the Squire awakened the old woman, she told him the story which I have told you. Her master, however, said that he didn't believe she had been into Penzance at all, but that she had stayed in the Cove arid got drunk: that when dark night came, she had endeavoured to find her way home,--lost her road, -- fallen down, and probed her eye out on a furze bush, and then gone off in drunken unconsciousness. Nancy told her master that he was no better than an unbelieving heathen; and to the day of her death she protested that Tom Trayer put her eye out. Jenny's ointment is said to have been made with a four-leaved clover, gathered at a certain time of the moon. This rendered Fairyland visible, and made men invisible.
Another version of this story, varying in a few details, was given me by a gentleman, a native of St Levan. It is as follows:-
[a] The tale, "Nursing a Fairy," where a similar incident occurs, will be remembered.