« VorigeDoorgaan »
I stretched myself on the turf near the little building, and ended the Sunday with a quiet perusal of the Lessons in Proverbs. The sun was setting when I went back to the inn.
At eight the next morning, the Queen steamer came down from Morwellham, crowded with passengers going on a trip to the Breakwater. They had come from Tavistock and the villages round about, and seemed resolved to have as much pleasure as they could out of their holiday. I went on board with the Calstock contingent, and away we steamed under the green shadow of the hills to Cothele landing, where another party entered; and so down the widening Tamar, touching here and there to take in the eager waiting groups. How they enjoyed themselves! and all the more for being ignorant of, or having left behind, the solemn conventionalities of the drawing-room. Peals of laughter flew continually from one end of the deck to the other; yet had the laughers inclined to be critical, they might have taken exception to the stowage of the ginger-beer on the gratings of the engine-room, where it would be kept comfortably warm; and to the uncouth sandwiches supplied to them. The demand was brisker than the beverage; and there being no mugs or glasses on board, purchasers had to drink the languid fluid as best they could, and pay a penny deposit until they returned the bottle. Some betook themselves with great apparent satisfaction to eat nuts: dry husky nuts on a hot day in July! Meanwhile three German musicians, with the habitual melancholy look of their class, played a succession of lively airs, which kept up the hilarious disposition of the throng.
We met four steamers going up swarming with pas
sengers, and hearty was the interchange of cheers as we passed. The steward at Cothele House must have had a busy day of it. Smaller parties were floating up with the tide in pleasure-boats, flaunting their streamers past the slow coal-ships and barges labouring onward to he mines, and the vessels at anchor laden with ore. Each bend of the river opened a new scene. The hills sink two or three miles below Cothele, and are succeeded by swelling uplands, which, at some of the sharper turns in the stream, appear to inclose a lake. There are the towers of Pentillie Castle peeping from the woods on the right bank; and on the left the village and smeltingworks of Hall's Hole. Presently, on the same side, the woods of Warleigh, the church of St. Budeaux, and a glimpse of the tors of Dartmoor on the verge of the horizon; and on the Cornish side, Cargreen and Landulph church. Then the confluence of the Tavy; then Saltash, shabby-looking and antiquated; and we shot past the tall iron cylinder rising from the middle of the stream, on which the railway bridge is to rest, at a height of ninety-five feet above the water; then round Bull's Point, past the entrance to Lynher Creek, and there is the Hamoaze, a spacious estuary, four miles in length, alive with vessels, among which the mighty war-ships lying at their moorings appear, indeed, as huge floating castles, worthy of the flag they bear. As we shot past them and looked up, I could not help thinking of the cliffs under which I had walked; and I felt as proud of one bulwark as of the other. May England find both alike trustworthy in time of need.
I paid ninepence for my passage, and landed at Devonport, while the steamer pursued her voyage to the Breakwater, unhappily for those on board to encounter
a sudden thunder plump. I felt sorry for the gleesome damsels, who had brought out their newest parasols and gayest muslin dresses. The rain fell a little deluge while it lasted, but was soon over. I passed the remainder of the day in Plymouth, and at Mount Edgcumbe as already related; and, being desirous to know something of the internal economy of a of a boarding-house, slept at one near the post-office, and repented my curiosity, for the bed was colonised by the voracious prowler
"That, hushed in grim repose, expects his evening prey."
My intention to depart by the first train the next morning was sensibly accelerated.
It is a pleasant ride from Plymouth to Totness; fine rural scenery on either side, and picturesque where the railway strikes the roots of Dartmoor. You see touches of the mountainous while stopping at Brent, and at Ivy Bridge a romantic valley through which flows the Erme, a lively, sparkling stream, hastening to the sea, as we saw at Bigbury Bay. I left the train at Totness for a trip down the Dart, and had time for breakfast before the hour of departure. At the landing-place, approached by a grove of chestnuts, lay the Undine, a pretty little steamer that plies to Dartmouth and back during the season, at hours dependent on the tide. We started at nine-a numerous company-and were presently in the centre of the channel shooting swiftly down the stream. The view of the town, with its tall old church-tower, the bridge, the island laid out as a pleasure-ground, makes a favourable impression at the outset. On speeds the vessel between rich meadows and teeming orchards, and hills cultivated to the summit, the dark red soil
showing along the margin of the crops. Then higher hills hidden in glorious woods, here and there a red crag peeping through, and ivy and creepers so luxuriant you might fancy yourself among tropical vegetation. Sharpham shows a charming slope of foliage to the water; and a little lodge on the shore-a Dutchman's Lust in Rust. An echo haunts the trees at the bend; but the voice was coy and would not reply, or else we passed too quickly to catch it. On flows the river with frequent windings, requiring a quick hand and a vigilant eye on the part of the steersman. A minute's inattention and the Undine would be fast on the shallows. In all the hollows between the hills you see a few cottages, realising all your ideas of what rustic ought to be; and nets hanging to dry, or boats moored near the bank-all overshadowed by cherry-trees. So you speed, as it were, from one wooded lake to another, through unexpected openings in the hills; and you find the Dart to be no unworthy rival to the Wye. Another bend, and there is Stoke Gabriel at the head of a little bay on the left; then on the right Dittisham, a village of pleasant aspect, rejoicing in plum-trees; then the Anchor Rock in the middle of the stream, and a broad reach with Dartmouth at the end of it.
We had five hours to stay, and I took a leisurely survey of the rare old gabled houses, the quaint projections floor beyond floor, ornamented with grotesque carvings, some of them supported by sturdy pillars and wonderful brackets. Newcomen, one of the first inventors of the steam-engine, was born here, but in which house no one knows. St. Saviour's church is worth a visit: the pulpit is of carved stone, painted of all conceivable colours, and set off with gilt; and the screen
being similarly decorated, a singular contrast is presented to the dark oak panels and other fittings of the interior. The altar-piece by Brockedon, Christ Raising the Widow's Son, kept me sitting before it some twenty minutes. It is a fine picture-a memorial now of the painter, who was a native of Dartmouth, and presented it to the church.
Then down to the mouth of the river, skirting the hill under the trees, to St. Petrock's church, and the ruins of the castle on the brow of the hill, looking across to the ruin on the opposite shore: formidable defences once for the protection of the port. Then up Mount Boone, from whence is a magnificent prospect over sea and land; and seated in contemplation under the trees, you will be in no haste to leave it. I stayed as long as the time would permit, for it was my last view of the sea. Not for months would my eyes again roam over the boundless expanse of heaving blue. No rude commotion disturbed my farewell: from where I sat
Of softest waves that linger'd on the beach
I scrambled down to the beach and had a refreshing bath in a secluded little cove; walked back to the town, and had just finished dinner when the steamer's whistle summoned me on board again. We ran up merrily with the tide, and came to Totness about half-past four. A gentleman from Glasgow who was among the passengers, hearing me say I was going to see Berry Pomeroy Castle, offered me a seat in his fly. We started forthwith crossed the bridge and up the hills on the left bank of the river. The distance is but four miles, yet.