Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

scrambling down to their base, and along the narrow, slippery path leading into the chasm. Here you see an arch below the edge of the keeve, in which a flat slab having lodged, the stream is broken as it shoots through, and falls a thin flickering curtain into the pool beneath. The best view is from the farther margin of the stream, and to cross on the gravelly shallow below the pool will scarcely wet more than your shoe-soles. The effect is singularly pleasing. You are at the very bottom of the dell, in complete seclusion, with trees above trees on either side, forming a screen that admits but a dim light, a glimpse of the upper fall through the arch, and the pretty noise of the falling water. No other sound audible save the occasional twittering of a bird. There is a strange charm in the ceaseless plash and gurgling murmur. Part of Nature's music, produced by the simplest means. Water, after it has fallen a certain distance, contracts, and breaking into cavities, the air enters and forms bubbles; and these bubbles being continually broken by the descent of fluid behind them, produce the noise. The mere shock of water on water, so says Dr. Tyndall, is not sufficient of itself; and only by the breaking of the bubbles do we hear the ripple of a brook, the rush of breakers, or even the roar of the mighty Niagara.

Towards the close of a holiday one becomes avaricious of its enjoyments; and I lingered at the foot of St. Nighton's Keeve till streaks of red seen through the foliage warned me of sunset.

Retracing your steps, you see where the stream flows past the massive slab of slate rock lying in its bed, and disappears in the brake. Then up the damp, weedy path to the top of the bank, where stand the walls of a cottage

once the habitation of two recluse ladies who lived in it some years, a mystery to the neighbourhood, and died without revealing their secret. From thence a path slants across the fields and up the hill to a lane which brings you into the road again at the farm of Trethevey. If, on arrival at Longbridge, you find the struggle up the tangled valley too formidable a task, you may avoid the difficulty by keeping to the road for half a mile farther, and then turning off at the farm. The path across the fields leads direct to the Keeve, and while descending it you get a pleasant view up and down the valley.

ten

I overtook a labourer on the way to Boscastle, who, although he had tramped to and fro along the road for had years, never had the curiosity to turn aside to look at St. Nighton's Keeve: he had heard of it, that was all. Labourers, he told me, if hired by the year, had ten shillings a week wages, and all the wheat they needed in their families at twenty shillings a bushel-a Camelford bushel, which is twenty-four gallons. The Launceston bushel is sixteen gallons. Whether wheat rise or fall within the year, the price still remains the same to them. If hired by the week, their wages are twelve shillings; but then they have to pay the marketprice for their wheat, and to run the risk of lost time. He thought it was best to be hired by the year at ten shillings: could get on pretty well on that amount.

You get a sight now and then of some of the loftiest headlands from the road, and of Forrabury church on its hill, high above the rest. To that church hangs a tale: how that a peal of bells having been sent for from London, when the vessel arrived off the port she was wrecked, to punish the captain for vaunting his own skill, and denying the favour of Providence. All hands

perished, and the bells went to the bottom, where, on the eve of a storm, they may yet be heard mournfully tolling. And Forrabury still stands silent.

I took a road that led me to the upper end of Boscastle, and leaving my knapsack at the Commercial Inn, I hastened down to the port. The town is situate in a narrow valley which descends steeply between the hills to the sea. It appears to have been built by instalments. Here you have a short street; a little lower, a few houses at right angles to the road; then a chapel in the rear of a green; then another attempt at a street, relieved by trees and gardens; and at the bottom of the hill, near the bridge, the Wellington Family Hotel, new, and resplendent with whitewash. Here you see signs of business. The stream, a mere brook, bends to the left, fenced by thick stone walls, and on either side the space is occupied by warehouses, workshops, shipyards, timber-yards, and all the appliances of a busy trading port. The path, rising gently along the side of the valley, gives you a bird's-eye view of everything; and not without astonishment will you see how so limited a space has been turned to account. But you will be more astonished at the harbour: a narrow, tortuous inlet, which appears scarcely large enough for a jolly-boat, is made available for vessels of considerable tonnage. It is a marvellous instance of what may be accomplished by the right sort of enterprise. A small pier projects from one side at a right angle nearly all across the inlet; and a few yards nearer the entrance a breakwater projects from the opposite side, to check the rush of the waves, which set in with tremendous fury. Notwithstanding these barriers, hawsers as thick as your leg are needed to regulate the advance of a vessel:

you see them lying in readiness across the quay, looped over the short, strong posts; a good supply, lest one should break. The ropes and lines used under ordinary circumstances are useless here. Look at the boats afloat in the harbour: each one is moored with a stout hawser such as on the Thames would serve for the towing of an East Indiaman. To see a vessel enter in blowing weather would be a highly interesting sight. We have heard a good deal of late about a remarkable harbour in the Crimea; but Boscastle is a miracle compared with Balaklava. What would the Lord of Bottreaux Castle, who once reigned here, say, if he could come back and look at the place!

Still rising, the path sweeps to the top of the headland. Not far from the entrance of the inlet is a seat from whence you look down between the stupendous cliffs, as into a gorge. The dark precipices, rugged and caverned, show what the wind and sea have been doing for ages to heighten the effect of their grim features; and there are fissures which, at certain times of the tide, produce the phenomena of Kynance Cove on the grandest scale.

I rambled about the gloomy crags as long as the twilight served, and then went back to a late tea at mine inn. On passing the smithy I heard singing, and stopped to listen. The smith and his companions having ceased their labours, were rounding up the day with a little harmony. It was a hymn they sang; and the sound of the four musical voices, stealing forth in perfect accord on the calm evening air, fully justified the high reputation which Cornwall has won for her singing.

The capabilities of the Commercial Inn are better

and Mr.

than might be expected from external appearances; and I found tea prepared in unexceptionable style. It was long, perhaps, since the hostess had had a guest: very different, as she said, from what used to be the case before the new hotel was built. Finding that I listened to her tale, she proceeded to tell me of the changes that had taken place in Boscastle, and the growth of its trade, since she could remember: all the work of Mr. And how that the two local chieftains had quarrelled for the supremacy, and not to the edification of their respective clans, till at last one abandoned the field to the other, and betook himself to a neighbouring county. She had once paid a visit to some friends a long way off, who asked her so many questions about St. Nighton's Keeve, that her mortification was great on being obliged to confess she had never seen it; and immediately on her return she paid a visit to the romantic waterfall.

« VorigeDoorgaan »