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and went down and knocked at the door. No answer. Knock again; still no reply, not even the cluck of a fowl or bark of a dog ; no sound but that of damp wind sighing heavily among the trees. I peeped in at one of the windows, and saw the house was empty. Yet there was the garden around it, well stocked with fruit-trees, flowers, and vegetables. It looked mysterious; but later in the day I heard that the house being so lonely no one would live in it, not even the labourers; the last tenants had just left it in dread. Some melancholy author might find it a congenial residence.
Another half-hour along the gradually diminishing cliffs, and you look down on the mouth of the Erme—a stream which rising in Dartmoor here finds its way to the sea through an estuary three miles in length. It is wild at the entrance; but softening towards the interior, the banks may be seen winding away on either hand—a succession of curving masses of wood. At low water you may explore it by a road that skirts the shore, and travel up to Erme Pound, or onwards to the picturesque scenery about Ivy Bridge.
The path by the cliff brings you to a solitary cottage near the entrance, from whence, if the men are at home, you may get a cast across to the other side; or you may go a mile farther to the ferry, taking the lane, should the tide be in. I looked at the lane; the rain had converted it into a quagmire; and waited a short time at the cottage till a sailor who came on shore from a vessel at anchor rowed me across to the opposite landing.
Here I left the shore for a while, and followed the lanes to Mothecombe and Battisboro, through a pleasant rural district, but little frequented except by the natives.
Wherever you get a peep inland, the high, dark moor is still visible; and on the left, after an hour's walking, is seen a low, square building on the verge of the down, in view of the sea. It was built, so say the rustics, for
pleasure-house” by a certain squire, but now, roofless, and with iron-studded doors, it suggests rather the idea of a prison than of a bower. A mile farther, and a short lane on the left leads down to Stoke church, situate in a hollow, within a few yards of the sea, and so quiet and sequestered, that any heart-stricken mortal -such as we sometimes hear of-longing for a peaceful grave in a little rural churchyard, would here find a meet resting-place. The graves, marked by stones of dark slate, are numerous; for here are laid the dead of the parish of Revelstoke, mounds and headstones alike half concealed by tall, rank grass, through which you stride mid-leg deep. The church is a low, gray, rustic building, betraying signs of age in the lichens that fringe the venerable walls, soon, perhaps, to be hidden by the plants of ivy which have begun to creep upwards on either side. Service is held once in three weeks, and service in such a place—the song of thanksgiving and voice of supplication-would seem doubly impressive. And when the wind is up, the salt foam is drifted against the windows, and the roar of the storm is heard in pauses of the worship. I like to have a temporary halt in a lone churchyard when on my wanderings; but this of Revelstoke was more than usually favourable to contemplation.
The cliffs about here will repay the trouble of searching for their best points of view. You will find a pathway leading to the beach, or you may walk along the
top of the cliff to Stoke Point, a grand bluff of slate, with a floor of slate spread out at its base, and so round to Newton Ferrers. Better perhaps to return to the lane, for by-and-by you look down on the village of. Noss, scattered along the wooded ridge rising from the inlet that winds away among the hills ; and there beyond it, on the farther bank of the Yealm, is Newton. Homely, whitewashed cottages, set in deep masses of green; narrow lanes and paths running hither and thither among the gardens; here an open space thronged with children at play, there the school-house, compose a view wonderfully picturesque. Standing high above the valley your eye takes in everything at once: all the life, the goings and comings of the village; and the voices ascend to your ear. The water adds to the effect-it seems a double river; but continuing onwards, you see where the inlet enters the Yealm. People cross the Channel, and travel hundreds of miles to see places that have far less claim to notice than Noss and its environments. Were it in the south of France, instead of an out-of-the way corner of Devonshire, enterprise would soon have its Grand Hôtel de Noss for the allurement of visitors.
The scene is so interesting that you will stop frequently on the long descent of the road to observe and fix its features in your mind. At length you cross a bridge over the Yealm, and take the road along the edge of the river's bed, to the public-house at Newton Ferrers: the only one in the parish. It was about eight in the evening when I arrived, to exchange, as it proved, the calm of Nature for a Babel of boys and men gathered in and around the little hostelry. “There
goes a postman,” cried the boys, seeing my knapsack as I turned in at the door. Luckily there was a vacant bed, and by a few civil words to the hostess I got admission to the snuggery behind the bar, where I took my tea unmolested by the smoke and noise that
pervaded all the rest of the house. At Bantham I had seen a specimen of the way in which village life begins its Sunday: here I saw the manner of its end. The habit of deep drinking, shamed from our high places, lingers in the nooks and corners of the land.
The next morning, what a contrast! A Sabbath stillness reigned over the whole neighbourhood. The village at work was quieter than the village at rest. The ebb tide had laid bare the causeways which cross the two channels, affording ready access between Noss and Newton, and shortening the distance to Stoke by about a mile. Here and there moored under the bank lay one of those trim, sharp eight-oared boats in which, if local testimony may be trusted, adventurous villagers row far out to sea, and return with kegs of brandy, in spite of the vigilance of the coast-guard station half mile lower down the stream. In fine weather some have pushed their trip as far as Jersey, and not without profit.
Leaving Newton, you follow the path by the side of the Yealm, till stopped by another inlet on the right; and standing here at the point where a few steps lead down to the shore, you will have to cry "Over," and wait the result. “Over” repeats an echo, surprisingly distinct, in the wooded hill opposite, provoking you to reiterate the call, and the more so, as dilatoriness seems to be the rule of the ferry. At last the boat appeared,
deliberately rowed by a woman, and the tide being out, I had to cross a slope of mud to get to it, for no one cares to build a jetty where passengers are not numerous; and unless there be a jutting rock embarkation is always a disagreeable task at low water. Here the branching stream has all the appearance of irregular land-locked lakes, shut in by wooded hills, terminating in a low cliff. Having scrambled up on the opposite side, you are in a position to see that the scene is one of real beauty. A blue channel, green banks, gray cliffs, and a background of trees; and to seawards, off the mouth of the estuary, there lies the Mewstone, an islet familiar by name all over the kingdom, a pyramid of turf and rock, and Rame Head away in the distance, hiding all the coast beyond.
About two miles along the cliffs and you are at Wembury church, the tall, grizzly, weather-beaten tower set off by patches of glowing orange lichen, and the churchyard wall so near the edge as to leave scant room for the path. Two or three cottages and a little mill stand below, at the foot of the descent; then comes a low cliff, the margin of pleasant fields, fronted by a broad floor of rock on which the waves expend their strength, and a path teeming with wild flowers. Half an hour more and, rounding the flank of a hill, you see the entrance of Plymouth Sound, part of the Breakwater, and the lighthouse on its farther extremity. Every step now becomes invested with pleasurable excitement, for it brings you nearer to a magnificent seaview where Nature and Art have done so much; one intimately associated in our minds with England's naval history. Another turn, and the whole Sound opens.