« VorigeDoorgaan »
engine and of the machinery for squaring the slabs seems an intrusion. You have to descend here by steep paths among the crags, and may halt from time to time to inspect all the works and secrets of the quarry, the walls of which have a curious appearance from the perpendicular lines of cleavage. Then out to the beach again between piles of slates, and on to the primitivelooking little village of Beesands, redolent of fish, and there take to the cliffs again by a hilly, rugged path, from which you can see the upper part of the lighthouse rising above the extremity of a sloping, jagged promontory—a perfect sierra. There is a lonely, wild look about the place, as though you were getting beyond the confines of civilization. Another half hour and you look down on about a dozen rude little cottages, some close to the shingle, others raised a few feet on a shelf of rock, others on ledges and recesses of the cliff-the village of Halsands. I began to doubt for my night's lodging; but having descended, saw projecting from the corner of one of the largest cottages a swinging sign, ambitiously inscribed The London Inn. There was a large party in the kitchen: old fishermen and young fishermen, a couple of pilots, a butcher, a small farmer, and some of his men, holding a talk over their cider. I addressed myself to the ancient hostess, who sat darning stockings by the window—a clean broadbordered cap on her head, and a handkerchief pinned shawl-wise across her breast, such as we see in our grandmothers' portraits; but my having a bed was out of the question. It was no use talking, she wouldn't take a gentleman in unless she could make him comfortable. There wasn't quite room enough up-stairs for the family, let alone a stranger.
“ Who sleeps there?" I inquired, pointing to the little front parlour, and suggesting the possibility of a shakedown on the chairs.
"Oh, nobody slept there; of coorse not. She never had took people in to make 'em uncomfortable, and never would.”
I was in no humour for a retreat to Torcross, and calling for a glass of cider, sipped it, while exchanging a few words with the company. Here, as everywhere else, What news about the war? was the first question. Mine, already a week old, was news at Halsands; the listeners happily were all patriots, and not over critical. Then a matter of trade, in which “vowr-andsixpence” and “vive shillin's” were iterated again and again, was debated between the farmer and the butcher, and neither would give way. Then the man of meat changing the subject, talked physiologically: “ The life of a man,” he said, " was nothing but thousands of insects within him, which kept on eating away and building up as long as the body breathed. 'Twas ali nonsense,” he went on, “for people to say that strong drink did them good: he knew better.” “Why then do you drink ?" I asked. And his reply was one that takes the wind out of a teetotaller's sails—“Because I like it.” But he meant to give over before long, and quoted a passage from John Bunyan in proof of his sincerity.
While this was going on I saw the old lady beckon her daughter-in-law, and whisper a few words in her ear, and she presently gave me to understand that if I "didn't mind they'd manage a bed in the parlour." I had anticipated this result, and assured her that four chairs and a blanket would content me.
After tea I strolled along the beach towards the Point. In the cliffs here you make acquaintance with stone of a greenish-red colour, sprinkled and veined with quartz, worn into singular forms; and to see how they were overhung with ivy, how creepers wandered about the hollows, and oxeye, hemlock, and thistles grew from the chinks, was a very wonder. And so near the sea, too, as to be often washed by the spray. Huge masses of the hard rock form here and there an advanced guard of shapes not easy to describe; and behind them, in the cavernous recesses, little wooden huts are built for the storage of fishing-tackle. There was a refreshing influence in the saunter among the grim rocks: looking out on the tranquil sea; on the vessels in the offing; the lighthouse gleaming bright as a beacon in the rays of the western sun, the shadow meanwhile deepening under all the tortuous range of cliffs.
Then, returning, there was the magnificent expanse of the bay terminated by the headlands near Dartmouth ; Stoke Fleming church-tower, a conspicuous sea-mark, and the white line of foam all along the hollow shore. The village, too, so unsophisticated; the houses so out of proportion to the large families
inhabiting them; and the numbers of that large, flat fish, the ray, hanging up to dry, each with a circular hole cut through its body-all for bait. The children were carrying piles of them from place to place on their heads. And in a line on the beach, the boats piled with nets, ready for the next tide; and, scattered here and there, anchors, oars, buoys, lobster-pots, bits of cork, and broken timber. I envied the sketcher's cunning. Boys and girls were playing at a species of leapfrog over lumps of rock; the young men had got up a game of skittles for quarts of cider on the open space in front of the “Inn,” and the old men looked on,
seated on a low wall. But the dusk fell more and more, and in twos and threes players and spectators withdrew to their homes, bidding a general “ good night.” Among them was an old weather-beaten man, who “turned in," as he told me, with a heavy heart, for his wife was insane, and talked all night long without intermission, and kept him from sleeping, till he was weary of his life. “They took her into the 'sylum once,” he said, “but sent her back again; and
never gets a minute's rest.” My bed was ready, spread on a double rank of chairs. For a few minutes I heard the solemn plunge of the surge upon the beach, not forty feet from the window; and then I never slept better. .
The Start-Wild Cliffs—Tides and Currents-Breakfast in the Light
house — Sierra - Striking Scenery-Lannacombe Mill — Seaside Enjoyments—Prawle Point—The Royal William-Exhilarating Route “Ain't she a pictur” - Rickham-Coast-guard Men-Salcombe Sheltered Shore—Rich Vegetation-Bolt Head-Old Pensioner-Bolbury Down - Rotten Pits - Bolt Tail - The Fatal Ramillies—View of Bigbury Bay-Hope Cove-White Ale-Impromptu Hospitality.
UP and away betimes the next morning before all the village was awake, every step bringing me nearer to the promontory whose name, by frequent use, has become as familiar to us as a household word. In the slopes and hollows of the cliff you see small cultivated patches, where the fisher-folk grow cabbages and potatoes. Yonder is the white patch on the rock, just within the Point, marking the landing-place for the Trinity House steamer, when she comes with the periodical supplies of oil and stores. Then the path descends under the serrated ridge, and in about half an hour from Halsands you enter the well-kept premises of the lighthouse, and not without a feeling of surprise at finding things so carefully ordered in so wild a spot. A substantial house connected with the tall, circular tower, in a walled inclosure, is the residence of the