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No Supper, No Gold

No Supper, No Gold

It was late evening when a lone labourer was trudging home across the moor under the silvery light of a full moon. It had been a hard day spent shovelling potatoes into the cavern-like cavities of the potatoes caves and all the man wanted was his supper. It was a Wednesday so that meant his ‘missus’ would have a mutton stew slowly bubbling on the hearth. The very thought of that rich gravy, succulent meat and fluffy cloud-like dumplings sped him on faster. As he crossed the stretch of moor between Eylesbarrow and Combeshead Tor he could have sworn that he heard voices. The only people working this part of the moor were the tinners or ‘Old Men’ as they were known locally and for sure they would not be toiling away this time of night. Maybe it was the growling of his empty stomach, loudly crying out for its mutton stew? Onwards he trudged but then once again heard voices however this time he was certain of it. Cocking his head to one side the labourer managed to pinpoint from where the sounds were coming from, down in a nearby gully. Stealthily his lowered his aching bones to the ground and slowly inched his way over to the edge of the deep ravine. At first he thought he was seeing things and so wiped his eyes and once again peered down into the moonlit gully. A feeling of utter amazement came over him as he saw what lay below him and a nervous shiver ran down his spine like a trickle of ice cold water.

Down in the gully was an army of piskies, some frantically swinging their pickaxes into the rocks, others busily shovelling, whilst the rest trundled the spoil away in miniature wheelbarrows. All of the little folk were totally unaware of the man’s presence as they were so engrossed in their labours. The nearest piskie who appeared to be the foreman suddenly stopped work, threw down his shovel, straightened his back and shrilly cried, “supper time.” As if one, all the other piskies downed tools and began chattering excitedly to each other.

Unable to restrain himself any longer and with the thought of his own supper the labourer stood up and slid down the bank. The piskies immediately armed themselves with their picks and shovels and formed a defensive line. The man cautiously approached the tiny throng and asked what they were digging for so late at night. The piskie foreman looked the man straight in the eye and replied that they were digging for tin in such a tone as to suggest he minded his own business.

Hmmm, thought the labourer, they must be giving the ‘Old Men’ a helping hand so maybe they could give me one.”

He took a step forward, the picks and shovels were raised even higher, he stopped in his tracks.

 “Well, why don’t ee dig fur gold,” he slyly suggested, “an’ then I cud take some home wi me.”

The piskie foreman jabbed a tiny finger in his directed and said, “No supper, no gold, after supper.”

Hmmm, thought the man, he didn’t say no so maybe there will be some chance of gold after supper.”

 He knew only too well that unless he went with the little folk for supper he would never see sight nor sound of them again so he invited himself along. The plan being to eat with them then return to the mining gert, put them to work digging for gold and then go home with pockets brimming full of the precious metal. The labourer then began to dream what he could do with his new found wealth. No more ‘teddy’ digging, no more trekking miles going to and from work, no more tatty clothes no more leaky roofs and a brand new pony to get around on.

He was suddenly awaken from his dreamland of hopes as the throng of piskies led him off across the moor, past the ancient stone row onto Down Tor. It was here that  the rocks magically parted and he was led into a bright candlelit hall. No sooner had he stepped inside than the massive granite doorway closed with an almighty crash. As the man’s eyes became accustomed to the light he could see that there was a brigade of piskies busily preparing supper. There were tiny platters brimming full of whortleberries, miniature thumb sized pasties, little pots of heather honey and bowls full of cream. On the hearth was a large cauldron of tea bubbling and steaming away contentedly on a brandis (a triangular metal utensil for standing pots on in the hearth). The sweet aroma of hot tea reminded him that his mouth was as parched as dried up peat hag.

Cor, cud I do wi’ a cup of thik tay,” he murmured, and with that greedily pushed his way over to the cauldron. An explosion of piskies erupted as the little folk frantically dashed out the way of the lumbering giant charging bull-like down the hall. As he neared the hearth shrill warning cries of, “mind the brandis,” rang out. Unfortunately they were too late, he misjudged where the legs of the brandis stood and his big heavy boot skittled over the cauldron, pouring a torrent of hot tea down the length of the hall. The merry chatter of the piskies suddenly turned to a stark silence and numerous pairs of piggy eyes stared unforgivingly at the labourer. The piskie foreman stepped forward and wagging his finger declared in a loud voice, “No supper, no gold.” Immediately all the assembled piskies joined in the chorus, “No supper, no gold.”

The next thing the labourer knew was that he was laying on his back in the middle of the moor, staring at the moon. How he got there he knew not, what time it was he knew not but what he did know was that his succulent mutton stew would now be inside his old dog who would be contentedly snoring in front of the peat fire.

Huh, no supper, no gold,” he muttered, “I be gettin’ neither, no supper nor no gold, jest a praper ear bashin’ from the missus, all for the sake of a cup of tay.

 

About Tim Sandles

Tim Sandles is the founder of Legendary Dartmoor

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