A Witch Discovered

This was told by an old Berkshire woman at the start of the 20th century. This has many of the elements of a classic witch tale, the wise local overcoming the witch who was hurting his friend, but leaves us wondering what happened next. This is from Tales of Old Berkshire by Cecilia Millson:

Two men, a carter and a thatcher, worked, slept and ate together but one became so thin and haggard that his workmate inquired the reason for his sorry state seeing that they both led similar lives. The poo carter replied that he w ridden so hard at night by a witch, who changed him into a horse by the aid of a magic bridle, that he was quite exhausted.

The thatcher, who was a “girt, powerful man”, offered to change places with his friend when they went to bed. Along came the witch, and that night she slipped the enchanted bridle on the wrong man.

Having ridden throughout the night she took her steed into the stale where the other witches left their horses. The thatcher was so strong that eh managed to take off the bridle and hide it underneath the manger. When the witch returned he jumped from his hiding place and quickly put the bridle over her. Then he rode to a blacksmith and asked that a new shoe be put on the horse’ forefoot.

The thatcher returned home, but when eh went to work the next morning he found his employer in great distress. He said his wife was ill and could not rise from her bed.  The thatcher asked he nature of the illness, but the farmer replied that he could not say as his wife had pulled the bedclothes over herself and would not talk or move. The thatcher’s suspicions were aroused and he advised the farmer to go to his wife once again and if she was still obstinate to pull back the bedclothes. This the farmer did and to the farmer’s horror he found that his wife had an iron horseshoe on her hand!

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