Last time, in Part 6, we were discussing the apparent abduction of Mr Noy, and his being found five or six days later, very close to his own farm, although he did not recognise where he was. There is an alternative version of the story which tells the abduction story from Mr Noy’s point of view:
“Mr Noy told his neighbours that when he had reached the village of Ludgvan, the night being clear, he thought he would take a shortcut across the moor and save nearly a mile, instead of going all the way round by the stony path.”
Here’s a map where the orange arrow indicates “Ludgvan” and down in the south west is St. Buryan, generally recognised nowadays as Cornwall’s capital of witchcraft:
Mr Noyes’ horse, however, which was used to finding his own way when his rider was drunk, preferred the usual route by the stony path, and Mr Noy was forced to pull him towards the opposite side of the common.
He then found himself in an area that was unknown to him, although he had been, or so he thought, over every single inch of the common both in winter and summer. Alarmed at the strange appearance of everything around him, he tried in vain to retrace his steps. Not knowing what to do, he let the horse take its own course. Yet instead of proceeding homeward, the horse took Mr Noy to a strange land so crowded with trees that he had to dismount and lead his horse. He wandered for miles and miles, sometimes riding but more often on foot, never seeing any habitation at all. It was a strange, unknown place, which he believed must be outside his own parish, but in which other parish he couldn’t tell. At last he heard lively music and saw lights glimmering through the trees.
People were moving about, which made him hope that he had arrived at some farm where they were having a harvest festival and the farm labourers, after supper, were dancing in the town square.
The dogs hung back, and the horse didn’t want to go on, so he tied it to a tree, and walked through an orchard towards the lights. He came to a meadow where he saw hundreds of people.
Some were seated at table, eating and drinking. Others were dancing to the music of a tambourine. This was played by a young lady dressed all in white who was standing only a few feet from him.
He looked at her closely and was surprised to see that the young lady was none other than Grace Hutchens, a farmer’s daughter. She had been his sweetheart for a long time, but she had died four years ago. At least he had mourned her as dead and she had been buried in the local churchyard.
She turned closely towards him and said, “Thank the stars, dear William! I have come to stop you being changed into the fairy state that I am in. Woe is me!”
He tried to kiss her. “Beware”, she exclaimed, “Embrace me not. Touch not the flowers nor the fruit. Eating a plum from this enchanted orchard was my undoing.
You may think it’s strange, but it was because of my love for you that I came to this.
People believed that I was found dead on the moor. It was supposed that I must’ve had an epileptic fit, as I was subject to them. What was buried as me, however, was only a changeling, a sham body. It was not me for I feel much the same now as when I was alive.”
Grace then told the story of how she herself had been ensnared.
“One evening, I was out on the moor looking for stray sheep, when I heard what I thought was you whistling to your dogs, so I went towards the sound to try to meet you. I got lost, though, under ferns higher than my head. I wandered on for hours among pools and bogs without knowing where I was going.”
After rambling many miles, as it seemed to her, Grace waded a stream and entered an orchard. Then she heard music and walked towards it. She passed into a beautiful garden with roses and beautiful flowers that she had never seen before. Apples and other tempting fruits dropped onto the paths or hung overhead.
This garden was so surrounded with trees and water that, like one led by the fairies, all her efforts to find a way out were in vain. The music too seemed very close at times but she could see nobody.
Weary and thirsty, she picked a plum, that looked golden in the starlight. Her lips no sooner closed on the fruit than it dissolved to bitter water which made her faint. Then she fell to the ground in a fit and became unconscious. She didn’t how long it was before she woke up to find herself surrounded by hundreds of fairies who made great efforts to get her to remain among them. They had very much wanted a servant girl to tidy up, someone who could bake and brew, one would clean their houses and nurse the changeling children who were never as strong as they used to be, for want of beef and good malt liquor, so they said.
Grace told Mr Noy how at first she was sickened by the fairies’ bland food of honey and berries. Her stomach had felt so watery and she often longed for some salt fish.
The only good thing was goats’ milk,
“For you know,” she said, “that goats are often seen on moors among the rock outcrops and in other wild places miles from houses. They are lured away by the fairies to feed the babies and changelings. There are sometimes twenty goats here. A cunning billy goat often comes among the farm goats but then disappears with the best milkers. He is a decoy, just a fairy in goat form.”
A “changeling” is a child believed to have been secretly substituted by fairies for the parents’ real child in infancy. Bottrell does not offer any explanation of why they do this. I suspect he had none.
I do suspect, though, that, if tales were told of changelings nowadays, we would soon begin to suggest that they were cases of alien abduction, carried out to extract sufficient genetic material to create perfect doubles, whose purpose is, at the moment, completely unknown.