Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

the houses, and then at once you are struck with the difference between the county you are in and the one you have left. It is obvious. The generally soft features of Devonshire are exchanged for a landscape of a stern and unfinished aspect. Trees are few; and you see a prominent characteristic of Cornwall--a surface heaved into long, rolling swells, brown and bare, not unlike what we should fancy of waves from the adjoining ocean solidified, cut up into squares by thick stone fences, which in many places are thickly covered with brilliant yellow stone-crop, growing from the crevices. By the time you have noted these peculiarities, and the alternate horizontal and vertical construction of the fences, you leave the highway, the main route to Liskeard and the west, and turn on the left into the road to Antony and the small towns on the coast. For the time, the sea-side had greater attractions for me than the interior.

A rise of the road gives another view over the Sound and its naval phenomena; and on the right you see that irregular inlet, Lynher Creek, at the extremity of which stands the old town of St. Germans. In about an hour you come to Antony, where, as in most of the villages throughout the country, the church is by far the most noticeable object. Standing on a steep hill-side, a deep notch has been excavated to get a level floor; and in walking round it a singular effect is produced by finding yourself many feet below the surrounding surface, and the rows of graves and tombstones. While the people are in church their friends are mouldering in some parts of the churchyard, at a level above the heads of the worshippers : a fact by no means salubrious.

But the tower is good; some of the stained glass in the windows is excellent; there is a monument to Carew, who wrote the interesting Survey of Cornwall; and on one side is a hedge sprinkled with flowers. The stocks are under the church porch, and a couple of low stools for the misdemeanants : a combined indulgence which I never saw elsewhere. The village, too, has a foreign look about it; and here you will make acquaintance with the first Cornish stile : some six or eight slabs of stone about nine inches wide placed edgewise on the ground eighteen inches apart, in a narrow gap of the thick stone fence; and you step from one to the other of these as on the rounds of a horizontal ladder. Insufficient as this contrivance seems, it effectually prevents the escape of sheep or cattle.

. Ere long another village, Grafthole, and the elevation of the ground commands a wider prospect of the bare and dreary moors, and you are near enough to the shore to see the irregular outline of the cliffs. The road had been gradually getting worse, and the miles seemed unusually long, as they always do when you have no other measure than guesses of the country-folk. It was already dusk when I passed through a third village, which rejoices in the name of Nackers, and turned again to the left to the coast-road for Looe, a narrow uneven lane, ankle deep in sludge from recent rain, where walking became slow and laborious. The landmarks were becoming indistinct, and when the track fell away down a steep hill, between high hedges, to avoid the wrong turnings was no easy task. A little lower, and I met a cold, dense mist creeping up from the sea, making the night still more dark and dreary. It was near ten o'clock, and yet five miles to Yes,

you can.

Looe. They might be long miles; midnight would be an awkward hour to arrive in a strange place; I was tired, too, with the walk from Newton Ferrers, and, under the circumstances, thought it best to retreat, and take my chance of the entertainment to be found under the little swinging sign I had seen at Nackers. I trudged back : it was too dark to see what was painted on the board ; but there was a cottage a short distance off, in the rear of a garden, with a cheerful light shining from the open door. Looking in, I saw a man blowing the fire, and inquired if his were the public-house.

“ There ain't no public-house in the village, Sur; but we takes in travellers here."

The sign was only an advertisement of ginger-beer. “Can I have a clean bed, and a room to myself ?" that

I'll warr'nt the bed shall be clean,” replied the man, suspending his task with the bellows; and I could have tea, also, when “missus" came home. So, having meanwhile taken a survey of the apartment, and noted signs of cleanliness and humble comfort, I laid aside my knapsack, and, stretching myself upon a couple of chairs, made the best of my novel position. How, even in England, a little departure from the beaten track and usual habit will introduce a wayfarer into circumstances as strange as they are unexpected! I, for one, rather like to make acquaintance with an humble interior; you see life there divested of some of its conventionalities. The man inclined to be friendly and confidential; shoemaking was his trade, eked out by a little speculation in thirsty weather. “Missus,” had gone with the boy and a donkey to deliver an order of ginger-beer, at a house some two miles away; the price was sixteenpence a dozen, which included delivery and fetching home the empty bottles. She did not, however, return so soon as was expected; and being hungry I proposed to make tea without further delay.

“Better wait a bit longer," said the man; "we shall be sure to make a mess on't.”

No fear of that, as I soon showed him, when he brought out the needful appliances, and filled the teapot from the kettle that boiled with a merry hiss on the blazing hearth. Just then “missus” returned with the boy, donkey, and empty bottles; she immediately set to work with hospitable demonstrations to supply my wants, and seemed to have an idea that I could eat an unlimited number of eggs. Presently I heard her moving about overhead preparing the bedroom, to which I soon after ascended by the short straight flight of steps, not without misgivings as to the accommodations. But the room, though low and open to the thatch, was clean, and with no appearance of habitual neglect hurriedly disguised. There was a mahogany four-post bedstead too; the sheets were clean, the washstand properly furnished, and towels without stint. I have often paid two shillings for a bed, where the appointments were stingy in comparison. The woman refilled my teapot as soon as she descended; and after I lay down I heard the honest couple chatting in a low tone over a quiet cup of tea.

The noise of the man's hammer mending my boots woke me early the next morning; and if frequent snatches of whistling may be accepted as evidence, the shoemaker was in good spirits. Daylight, with its prying rays, did nothing to alter the favourable impression the cottage had made on me the evening before;

[ocr errors]

neither did the breakfast. My boots were ready; but it came on to rain heavily, and though I care little for rain when once on the road, I prefer not to start in the midst of a down-pour. At such times a book becomes doubly acceptable, and taking Trench's Lessons in Proverbs from my knapsack, gave myself up to the genial little volume, chatting occasionally with my entertainers, who, having again filled up the teapot, had sat down to table. To talk of themselves seemed to give the man especial pleasure. He once brewed and sold tablebeer, thinking he might do so without a license; but the magistrates, when he was summoned before them, having asked whether the innocent beverage, in common with ale or porter, was not made with malt and hops, he had to answer in the affirmative, and was convicted and fined accordingly. Since then he only meddles with ginger-beer, the sale of which, with his trade, his pig and garden, and a forage on the beach after a storm, keeps them “ pretty comfortable." He thought the “genelfolk” a little too hard on the poor, and had a notion that government might do something to mitigate the effects of local despotisms; for as it was, “them as worked the hardest didn't get fair play.” He felt inclined at times to emigrate; and would, if he could only be sure of being better off ; a question on which I gave him satisfactory reasons for staying at home. If the thousands who depart every year would but live half as frugally and work half as hard in England as they are compelled to do in America, they would never have reason to leave their native country. The world seldom hears of the thousands who would almost give their right hand to be back once more in the land of their forefathers. “After that,” exclaimed

« VorigeDoorgaan »