Mrs Mortimer lived in a tumbledown cottage halfway up a hill on the edge of Ashburton. She didn’t mind if the windows rattled or if the smoke from the fire went up her nose instead of up the chimney. She wasn’t miserable if it rained on the walk through the woods to town because if it was raining here, the sun would be shining somewhere else for somebody else. And if she lost a penny through the hole in her pocket, she’d be pleased if the person who found it might need it more than she did.
One morning walking towards town for the Tuesday market, she saw a black iron pot in front of her on the path.
‘Lawksamercyme!’ she exclaimed. ‘A pot on the path. I could do with one like that. I’ve got one already in the scullery but sometimes it feels lonely. I’ll take this one home right now and put them side by side to keep each other company. Proper job. What a lucky old thing I am.’
But when she looked again she saw it was full of gold coins glittering like the sunlight. ‘Lawksamercyme! Not only have I found a pot but also a fortune too. What a diddly diddly day it is for me. I’m as rich as a queen. I’ll have a crown and sit on a throne. Proper job. What a lucky old thing I am.’
But when she looked again it was full of silver coins shining like the moon on the river Ashburn.
‘Lawksamercyme! What a relief. To tell you the truth I didn’t really want to be a queen. Having to travel around the country and meet all those strangers. I’ve never been further than Caton. I once considered going to Buckfastleigh, but then thought better of it. No, I’m much happier with these silver coins. Proper job. What a lucky old thing I am.’
But when she looked again she saw there was a lump of copper.
‘Lawksamaercyme! Thank goodness. I was worried the Buckfast buccaneers might have robbed me of all those silver coins. This is much better. I’ll have this lovely lump of copper made into a fine copper kettle and have mugs of milky tea with slices of bread spread with creamy butter drowning with sweet whortleberry jam. Even better, I’ll ask everyone from Druid mine to share in my good fortune. And why not extend the invitation to those poor old miners wandering the moor like lost sheep without a shepherd.? Proper job. What a lucky old thing I am.’
But when she looked again she saw a lump of tin.
‘Lawksamerceme! This is much better. I can make my grandson a set of tin soldiers. He has such an imagination. He’ll have hours and hours of innocent fun fighting the French and giving Napoleon Bonaparte something to think about whilst imprisoned on Drake Island. Proper job. What a lucky old thing I am.’
But when she looked again she saw it was full of umber.
Lawksamercyme! It’s full of umber courtesy of the Roborough Umber Company. For those who don’t know as much as they should, umber is a form of haematite containing manganese and is used in paint, for making brown paper and for dyeing wool, but I will use it to finish my portrait of my brown cow Daisy. Proper job. What a lucky old thing I am.’
But finally, she spied a very strange thing indeed.
Lawksamercyme ! ’Tis a living creature. With the body of a sheep, the head of a wolf. With the ears of a hare and the horns of a deer. With the legs of a cow and a viper for a tail and a pair of buzzard’s wings to boot!
And with a howl and a bellow, with a baa and a swoosh it rose out of the pot, winked at Mrs Mortimer and shot along the river to King’s Bridge to give Cutty Dyer, the evil water sprite who made the river run red with the blood of naughty children, the scare of his wicked life.
‘Lawksamercyme! I’ve seen the Beast. It’s not a legend. It’s not a myth of the mist. It does exist. I’ve seen the Beast, the Beast of Daftmoor. Proper job. What a lucky old thing I am.’
And with that, she picked up the pot and took it back to her tumbledown cottage and set it beside the other one in the scullery. And since that is the end of the tale I’ll stop wagging it.
© Clive PiG 18/09/2016 Word Count: 759
The Beast Of Daftmoor