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the Thurlestone, and Burr or Borough Island, a smaller Portland, off the mouth of the Avon, and the stern black bluff between, the front of which having slipped down some six feet, is broken into strangely-hcaped crags--a very chaos. Descending soon after to the sand you again come upon specimens of the sea bindweed, looking so sad and solitary, that one may fancy them banished by Flora from happier regions.
The wild aspect of the shore is relieved by the cultivated uplands on the right, now green, now yellow, and here and there a church-tower marking the site of some hidden village. The sands spread out widely at the mouth of the Avon, but large patches are covered and fixed by coarse grass ; and along the rills that creep between the mounds, you may gather a feast of water-cress
a welcome regale for one on foot-cool and refreshing. About half a mile up the rough, deeply-furrowed cart-track, and you come to Bantham, built on a high bank, overlooking a long bend of the river-a village once frequented by summer visitors before railways diverted them to pleasanter places. You will find good, homely entertainment at the Sloop, and a few studies of the half-rustic, half-fisher species. I saw twenty or more of these broad-shouldered fellows wedged as closely into a little back-room as Dutchmen into the cabin of a trekschuyt, and went in to have a chat with them; but the hot, close atmosphere, charged with the odour of damp clothes, strong waters, and tobacco, speedily drove me forth again. It was one of those snug Sunday-morning sittings, not uncommon in out-of-the-way villages, where the telling of the news is promoted by something to drink.
Down the steep bank to the ferry and across the river. The tide was out, leaving a broad, smooth expanse of sand, a little soft in places, but not unsafe, over which
return to the mouth of the stream. In the low cliff, and the countless masses of rock of all sizes that peer above the surface, numerous examples of slate and crystalline formations may be seen in intimate association, beautified by pale-red glistening veins. Here and there a little rill furrowing its way across the sand, shows you some of the phenomena of streams; how it is they diverge, form an island, come together again, and finally, separating into branches, fashion a delta at their mouth. Here, too, are so many pools and patches of weed that you may beguile hours if you will with glimpses of natural history, and find the broad, brown level to be anything but a desert. Turning away from the river and mounting again to
of the cliff, there is Burr Island opposite, and if, as when I saw it, at ebb tide, you see the whole length of the sandy spit which connects it with the main shore, showing its brown back above the waters. The Island itself is but a small territory, about ten acres, with a few cultivated fields, a few cottages at the head of a little bay, a few boats used in the pilchard fishery, and the memory of a chapel dedicated to the saint of the Mount that once stood on its summit.
Down into another bay, and up again past the Shuffleborough coast-guard station, to a higher range of cliffs, Bigbury church-spire rising aloft on the right. From the crown of the steep you get a new view of Burr Island, showing the curious notch in its extremity.
The stone fences about here are built so thick and
solid, and smooth of surface, that they might serve for the walls of houses, and the upright slabs bristling along the top are
as troublesome to climb over as chevaux-de-frise. The latches of the gates, too, are on a great scale ; a slice of timber six feet long, crooked as a ship's knee, and heavy enough to fall into the snick against a gale of wind.
About two miles farther you descend into a ravine, beyond which is the highest cliff along the bay, and the ascent almost too steep for one pair of feet. I was preparing to mount, when a heavy shower came on, and soon a thin sheet of water was streaming down the slope, making the climb still more difficult. It seemed best to wait, and I took shelter for half an hour under the lee of an old wall, and while the rain pattered on my umbrella, made a little acquaintance with the economy and resources of the snails that were snugly ensconced in the chinks of the stones. I placed one on its back, if such an expression may be used, on a ledge, having a clear space of nearly two inches, and watched the result. First a little froth appeared at the orifice of the shell; then timidly and slowly, and with frequent drawings-back, one of the feelers was thrust out, then the other, stretching hither and thither in a preliminary reconnoissance. Nothing within reach; so the body emerged, with really graceful movements describing curves all round the position, until at last one of the still extended feelers touched the stone immediately above. It was suddenly shortened: a pause —then another touch, apparently satisfactory, for the body of the animal rose perpendicularly, and touching in turn, applied with the head a small spot of white varnish to the rough surface of the stone, drew back for a few seconds, and then, with another stretch upwards, affixed itself to the varnished spot, lifted the shell from below, shortened the body once more, then another upward stretch, and the operation was complete. The snail crawled slowly away, and found new quarters in a crevice about four inches distant.
How would an imprisoned snail behave? The base of the shell will bear considerable pressure, and I forced one tightly into a chink, the orifice uppermost, and waited; for the rain still fell. There was the same display of froth and extension of the feelers, and slow elongation of the body, which attached itself closely to the stone immediately above, and pulled, and pulled, and stretched to such a length as seemed impossible to be again accommodated within the brief spiral.
The hinder half of the body was of a pale gray colour, almost white, and from end to end there passed a series of those convulsive heavings exhibited by a snake in mortal struggle—efforts for liberty; but the shell was too firmly fixed. I expected every moment to see the body slip altogether from its habitation. Finding the vertical pull ineffectual, the snail released its hold, shrank itself up into a strange, slimy-looking mass, remained quiet for about a minute, and then tried again; but this time stretching out at an angle to the right. The same efforts were repeated, and with no better success than before. Another contraction; another rest, followed by another pull, at an angle to the left, and the strongest pull of all, exhibiting what was to me an astonishing degree of muscular
power. It was, as it deserved to be, successful; and an involuntary “ Well done!" broke from me
I saw the shell suddenly start from its confinement. The snail, as if nothing extraordinary had happened, crawled with accustomed slowness up the wall to the ledge next above; and when there I laid before it a small thistle leaf to reward its exertions. The creature began immediately to feed, careless of the minute prickles, and made a gap in the leaf with more celerity than might have been imagined of a tardy habit, displaying all the while a hippopotamus mouth, armed with serviceable teeth. The head moved as if mounted on a pivot, so readily was it turned in all directions, backwards even, while gnawing the leaf. Its appetite satisfied, the snail crawled away, as the other had; and I observed that the rain-drops falling on its body were unheeded; but if I touched it with ever so slender a blade of grass it immediately shrank, and paused for a while before resuming its course. One must not, it seems, think too meanly of snails.
Rain, though friendly to moralising, is not favourable to the romantic; and the rough hill-side which you admire for its steepness when dry and crisp under the sunshine, is beheld with very different feelings after a smart shower, when the turf is a saturated sponge, and your feet slip back with every step. You get to the top nevertheless, adding somewhat to your experiences of travel, if only the sight of the way in which the sheep make dry, snug, sheltering bowers for themselves in the clumps of furze.
In the wooded hollow of Stitscombe, about two miles farther, stands the loneliest house I ever saw, in the middle of a garden surrounded by trees. A pretty spot, but so quiet! I had a fancy to see who lived there,