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The Legend of how the Witch of Wookey was Turned to Stone
At the request of the villagers of Wookey, Father Bernard was appointed by the Abbot of Glastonbury to exorcise the Witch of Wookey.
Father Bernard had particular skill in such matters, being deeply versed in the exorcising of necromancers and wizards.
The villagers led the Father to the shadow of the cliff at the valleys end where his keen grey eyes rested on the entrance to the rock; then he looked up to the sky, as if in invocation. Unfastening the rosary and the crucifix about his neck, he moved forward, and was swallowed up by the interior darkness of the hill
For a time, with his arms stretched out before him, the monk groped blindly onwards, and already the tunnel he traversed appeared to be unending, when a point of feeble light shone through the blackness. He pressed on until he was within the threshold of a yawning cavern.
Something moved by the stone lamp set on the floor at the farther side. A crouching heap of rags stirred, heaved and then erected itself into the uncertain light from the wisp of flame. A peering form, gaunt and terrible, confronted the monk across the width of the cavern. The pale features of the stranger were barely visible in the gloom; the face of the Witch glared in full, misshapen relief above the flicker of yellow light.
There was a hissing intake of breath, a lean arm shot out towards the Benedictine, and a gloating chuckle sounded through the chamber. Then a voice, malignant and threatening, addressed him; “Rash beyond all reason, why comest thou to look on me?”
The beads were swiftly passing beneath the touch of Father Bernard’s fingers, but his answer sounded high and calm in the quiet of the cave.
” It is Holy Mother Church that bids thee. Repent O misguided spirit, and leave thy wickedness ere judgment overtake thee. Thou troublest heaven with thy sorceries and thy mischiefs are abhorred of all mankind. Repent; put away the powers of evil, for thy spells shall not avail thee against the wrath that is to come.”
The arm was gradually withdrawn, and behind the monk rose a sound of hoarse and laboured breathing. Father Bernard lifted up the crucifix and never turned his head. ” Woman ” he said solemnly, ” I say once more, Repent; for thy wizardry can harm me not.” An empty hush came down on the cave again, but for a moment only; then peal after peal of long-drawn laughter, beating on the ears and distracting the senses, ran round the gloomy void. A circle of livid light grew about the rock on which the Benedictine stood, and a thick haze interposed between the Witch and the hooded figure of the man.
With his lips moving silently, and his eyes riveted on the obscuring outline of the Witch, the monk advanced. As he stepped beyond the confining ring of flame with unscorched robes, a rending crash shook the Cave, and a mass of rock, breaking out of the lofty roof, fell headlong over the place he had just forsaken. With a shriek of execration and anger, the hag sprang back towards the river, signing swiftly with her hand.
But Father Bernard had raised his own. His gaze was relentless and fixed, and a stern and quelling authority showed in his aspect.
The Witch checked, and halted suddenly immovable, while a shadow of fear flashed across her intent and baleful visage. In strong, unhurried tones the monk was speaking, and the sonorous Latin phrases rang with a hollow echo through the cavern.
The Witch of Wookey convulsively stiffened, as if held in an invisible grasp. The glare froze in her eyes, and her lips writhed back in an effort to frame a final malediction. Her evil figure subtly changed, appearing to solidify and straighten; the tattered garments seemed to sink in and merge with her aged flesh. A supreme tremor passed into an unbreathing, deathly rigour, and, as the monk’s voice ceased, only a stony image reared itself by the unheeding river.
Folding his black robe about him, Father Bernard turned towards the way he had come. As he gained the rocky passage, the oil in the lamp sent up a hovering tongue of flame and went out.