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the hospitable woman came from the inner room with a large slice of plum-pudding; her “I dare say you can eat that too,” showing the estimate she had formed of my appetite.
It was the last day of haymaking; and every one was busy in the fields, eager to get in the hay, for a black cloud portended a storm. From time to time a man or a boy came in for bread, cheese, and cider, and went away with an ample store of each. " When folks work hard,” said the mistress, “they must have plenty to eat and drink;" betraying her kindness of disposition. The master himself came in, stayed a few minutes to talk with me about the war, and hoped I was not in a hurry. Who could be in a hurry to leave such an old-fashioned place, rustic without, and within wainscoated walls, wooden settles, low casements, big fireplaces, seats in the chimney-corner; and the old-fashioned spirit to bid
I felt embarrassed when about to depart. Should I offer to pay for my acceptable refreshment ? I did so indirectly, by taking out my purse.
The kind-hearted woman didn't want to be paid ; didn't expect to be paid; a stranger too, that was hungry. “No,” she said, “to my thinking the best way of paying for a kindness is to keep it going." I had brought a newspaper with me from Totness ; she was willing to accept that: “ They didn't often get news in that out-of-the-way place ;" and with a cordial shake of the hand we parted.
I had got over the worst of the route. The valley widened as it swept round the roots of Sharpitor, and walking near the river became less difficult. I passed another farm, an oasis of cultivation on the stony slope;
and the sullen pools in which the Dart loses all its vivacity. Another bold curve, and there in the distance is another bridge, and coming nearer you see two streams running down from opposite sides of a hill and meeting just below the arch. They are the East and West Dart, and this is Dartmeet, a sylvan spot in the heart of the moor. Two or three cottages, a grassy level shaded by a grove of ash-trees, a few patches of green turf, small fields and gardens ; and the wild waste all around.
Here passes the main road from Ashburton to Tavistock: after a survey of the scene which inspired me with a wish to explore the river still farther, I turned towards Ashburton. While pacing up the long winding ascent you see Yar Tor, crowned with crags on the left, Sharpitor similarly crowned on the right, and, still rising, miles upon miles of the great
You may get to the top of Sharpitor in half an hour, and have a still wider prospect. A region of blackness, strewn with innumerable rocks and boulders, and only within the circle of a few yards do you see that what looks black in the distance is beautiful with purple heath and timid flowers, among which tall foxgloves—flop-a-docks, as the cottagers call them-bend gracefully in the breeze. The blocks of granite are identical with those you saw at Scilly and the Land's End; the soil is the same, teeming with elements of fertility; but high elevation keeps it barren; and such it is for more than twenty miles from north to south, and fifteen from east to west: one bleak mountainous tract, cut up by ravines, in which the streams are always lively from the abundant rains. The fall of rain on and around the moor varies from fifty to seventy inches in the year; and when we remember that a fall
of one inch on one acre amounts to nearly 23,000 gallons, we may form an idea of the prodigious quantity that in the twelvemonth finds its way down from the 200,000 acres of Dartmoor to the fertile valleys around. “In the winter,” said a turf-digger, with whom had a talk, “We has the snow up to the roofs of the cottages."
To walk round Dartmoor, and penetrate its interior by some of the valleys, would be an interesting exploration for a few weeks of the summer-one that would introduce you to many unfamiliar aspects of Nature. Some of the landscapes, both north and south, are of surprising beauty. Then there is much in the moor itself: so many memorials of the past-so much that is mysterious, relics of ancient valour and ancient faithsuperstition as we call it. Till within a few years past the bonfires—which had their origin in the worship of Bel-might be seen blazing in the month of May. And the moor-folk could tell many a tale of what was done by the Pixies ; of the way in which supernatural beings perpetrated their mischief during the terrific storms to which the region is subject. They were firm believers in the efficacy of horseshoes; of the Lord's Prayer recited backwards; of a knife and fork placed crosswise on the Bible. And superstition lingers yet in Devon, perhaps more than in any other county. To sit at a church-door, and receive thirty pennies from the departing congregation; to exchange these for half-acrown, and walk three times round the communiontable with the coin in the hand; to have it afterwards made into a ring, and wear it, is believed to be a certain cure for any kind of disease. And not only in rural parishes ; for the experiment was tried in the
autumn of last year at Exeter cathedral, by a paralytic old woman.
Then there is the prison at Princeton, in the heart of the moor, where the convicts are employed in clearing the dreary wastes in the immediate neighbourhood. Their labour has not been fruitless: the yield of their farm in 1853 amounted to 9001.; and last year three successive
of clover and rye-grass were taken. Those who are unfit for out-door labour are employed in making clothing. Gas to light the establishment is made from the peat, of which abundant supplies exist for miles around. That Dartmoor is not wholly irreclaimable has been proved of late by the barley and root crops obtained by intelligent cultivators. Near Prince Hall, twenty acres of grass were let last year for 541. 10s., which in 1846 were worth no more than 31. 10s.
The road takes you back to Newbridge, from whence through Holne Chase to Ashburton is about eight miles. From Ashburton I walked on the next morning to Chudleigh, where I stayed four hours, wandering about its renowned limestone rock, and the pretty wooded glen from which it rises. At the foot of the hill, on approaching the town, you cross the Teign, and get a peep along one of its bends; and from Chudleigh to Exeter over the Haldon Hills, the range which seemed so mountainous when we looked at it from the mouth of the Exe some three weeks ago. The views near the foot of the hills on either side are charming. Then the village of Teignford, then Harpington, with its red sandstone church-tower; a place clean enough to be a Dutch village. Another hour, and you are in the metropolis of Devonshire, where again you are struck by a remarkable air of cleanliness.
I slept at Exeter; and walked about the next morn
ing to look at its antiquities, of which the Guildhall presents a noteworthy example. From the top of the tower of the cathedral you get an excellent view over the city and neighbourhood. I stayed up there an hour to contemplate it at leisure. There was a glimpse of the sea away to the south, and all around the most luxuriant greenness. Then up to Pennsylvania for the view from that quarter, and a little farther on to where you look from the opposite side of the hill down into the valley of the Exe; and ending with a stroll through the market, and along the bank of the river towards Topsham.
In the afternoon I went on by rail to Taunton, and had a walk of a few hours about the vale of the Tone in the neighbourhood of the town. It is quiet and pastoral. And on the following day a long ride across the rest of Somersetshire and by the familiar route of the Great Western Railway, brought me back to London.
And so ended a tour in the course of which I had walked four hundred and twenty-five miles, with none but happy results. It is no small privilege to be able thus to employ a holiday; to come home with recollections of majestic headlands and foam-fringed bays; of breezy moorlands; of heath-clad hills and sheltered valleys; of pleasant field-paths and of lonely lanes, where streamers of hay filched from passing wains hang on the hedgerows and overhanging trees; and, not least, of kindness among strangers. To shake off the social hamper once a year and ramble at pleasure enables a man to keep account with himself—to remember much that he forgets amid sedentary occupations and monotonous routine. Courage comes back as well as vigour; and the morbid feeling with which we are apt to regard