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the district is not one which dealers can easily reach.
Some of these interiors are so beautiful in their peacefulness, their "tranquillity of order." I am thinking of one such now; the old porch, the large kitchen, the carved oak chest, the inlaid chest of drawers with its engraved brass locks and handles, the puppy sheepdog who has squeezed himself into the snug chimney corner and looks out furtively at the strangers, the picturesque old figure sitting by the fire in the wan December sunlight, knitting yarn which is spun from the fleeces of her own sheep. Her small hands move as deftly as if she were seventeen instead of seventy; her hair is smooth and glossy as a girl's. This is not ab solutely a wilderness where no man is, but it will show that it is thinly populated when I say that we walked two miles to this farm and met no one on the way.
But the most characteristic and altogether unique feature of this nook of earth is that it is full, brimming over, with superstition. It is difficult to believe that there is still a district in England where superstition is part of the life of the people. But here that difficulty presents itself again and again as we talk with old cronies over their fires, or along the green lanes. As you look at their keen, wrinkled faces, on which common sense, shrewdness, and long experience have set their mark, you wonder have they made such sinners of their memory as to credit their own fantasy, or- But what other solution can we find at our time of day? My attention was first drawn to this subject by seeing here and there, over the door of more than one house, a bough of birch suspended. If you ask the meaning of this, you will be told, with no suspicion of the humor of the thing, that it is good to keep off the witches. And-though this is strayingin the Border Minstrelsy of the other Border, the Northern Border of which this Western one so often reminds me, the birch-tree is surrounded with mystery too. It is the growth of other fields VOI. XII. 618
than those of earth; and this may be the wherefore of its earthly likeness having supernatural virtues.
It fell about Martinmas,
When nights are lang and mirk;
It neither grew in syke or ditch,
But let some of the dwellers in these valleys themselves tell of their own superstitions. Here is old Mr. Davies coming up the lane with his sheepdog at his heels. He is a keen-eyed man of business; a man of the world, as far as the world goes in this corner of it; a man who could no doubt farm his acres successfully in bad times. One glance at his cheerful old face will tell you better than many words can do that he is no "afternoon farmer," as we say about here, but one who gets up early and prospers accordingly. Leaning on his tall hazel staff-it is like the staff of a shepherd in a Nativity-he stops to talk. He tells you that he has been writing to the local paper to advise the nearest railway company (its nearest station is many miles away; no railway whistle is heard here) to bring a light railway up the valley, and he chuckles with amusement at your horror of such a destroyer of the beauty of the place. But if you ask him about a ghost which you have been told haunts this lane, his keen old face becomes serious at once. No ghosts or goblins had troubled him, he says, but Charles Jones and another chap had been terrible frightened by a flame of fire-it wasn't a will-o'-thewisp, you mind-as came from near the birches and disappeared by Ivvans's (Evans's) farm. He hadn't seen that himself, but he will tell you what he has seen-yes, sure-and that was once when he was up by where the parson lives. It was about twelve o'clock at night, or mebbe nearer one, and he saw, as plain as could be, a funeral coming along, and he heard the hum of voices like as you might if you went into Abergavenny market; but he could not
hear what they did say. It came along the narrow part of the road and went towards the village. And he did mind too how a very large funeral came through Hay one night and the man at the pike (there were turnpikes in those days) ran to open the gate and 'twas all vanished! He had often heard tell of that, and so he wasn't put about when he did see it himself.
And I think it was this same Mr. Davies who said one day, in all seriousness, that he did think wizards "ought to be encouraged, for they could tell a man a many things he didn't knowabout the weather and that-as would be useful to un." For there are still wizards, and wise women too, about here. They prescribe charms, and collect herbs and "witch's butter" along the hedgerows. A quiet, inoffensive race, their mission to cure and not to harm; and very unwilling to talk of their beliefs to any except those who come believing in them too.
At the end of a bit of common landthere are many such bits here about lives Mrs. Price. Hers is that Shake spearean garden of which I spoke just now, and hers, too, a cottage which is a temple of neatness, and she a fit presiding genius thereof. She is a bustling, practical woman, but she too can add to our stock of lore.
Of ghosts she knows nothing, but she can tell you, and very prettily too, in Herefordshire Doric- Awpíodev δ' ἔξεστι, δοκῶ, τοῖς Δωριέεσσι -about a Holy Thorn which grew in a hedge near here, "and it did blossom on Old Christ. mas Day. Not to say," she adds with great truthfulness, "as she had seen it for herself, but by what she did hear it did like bud out white all over. But so many folks did come about to see it, that the master took and cut it down. It was a very wicked thing of him to cut it down, for it was a Holy Thorn; and he didn't live long arter he'd done it." She has often heard too that at Christmas "the heifers and things do kneel down in the fields at midnight, with the tears running down their faces," and the bees are out and buzzing around their hives, "like as if it were mid
summer" so hallowed and so gracious is the time.
But it is to old Thomas that I owe most of my information about the past life of the district. He is nearly eighty. His recollections go back seventy years; and seventy years here mean more than they do elsewhere. As I talk to him I think with Wordsworth that the supernatural element in his life makes him "greater than he seems." He wears, indeed, a workhouse suit; he and his wife live (who can tell how they manage to live?) on a parish allowance; and yet he is always cheerful, always contented.
He remembers the days when there were stocks in the churchyard, and, more wonderful still, he remembers those who remember the days when men were put into them. He remembers how they played fives in the churchyard while service was going on in the church; and the red line along the whitewashed wall remains to this day "to witness if I lie." And in his grandmother's time there were fairies about. They used to come inside the house on rough, stormy nights when the household were gone to bed. They spoke Welsh about here in those days; and his mother often told him, when he was a little boy sitting in the chimney corner, how his grandfather would say to his grandmother, "Come to bed, Nelly vach" (little Nelly); "there's them outside as wants to come in." They would leave bread and cheese, and cider too, ready for the little elves, of whom Thomas said "he never heard no harm. They were little people, he supposedthat was all he knew of them." He has stories of ghosts and witches, and of those who could "lay ghosts" and "break witchcrafts," one of these, alas, long since vanished specialists being a certain Parson Jones, an M.A. of Oxford. And it was he, I think, who told us of a man who found a pipkin full of old guineas hidden under a thorn tree in his garden; and the possession of all that wealth only made him want to possess more, and so he scraped and saved, and lived on dry crusts "as no one else would eat," and was none the happier for his wealth. He, or such as
they went into the "beast-house." "They were great, towardly things, as quiet to drive as could be, and would work splendid. The farmers did work them on the land five years and then sell them to the butchers."
he, can tell us too of the sheep-stealers to turn their heads sideways every time on the mountains, whose annals are as exciting as those of the deer-stealers of former days. But on one subject he is reticent to a degree; the subject I mean of the illicit stills which were once not unknown in the farmhouses among these hills. When we asked him had he ever heard of people distilling whiskey hereabouts, he got surprisingly deafhe who had heard every question so far. "Witches?" he said.
whiskey-spirits; spirits, you know."
"Was there much drinking in your young days, Thomas?"
"Not a lot. There were cider shops, as we did call un. They hadn't licenses, but any one as could make cider did like distilling to sell it. They were hardish times then. Folks as could make a shilling any way were glad to do it."
It was useless. His ready wit evaded every form in which the question was put to him; and we must remain in ignorance of the how and where, but more firmly convinced that distilling had once gone on here, and that years after it had died out old Thomas preserved his old-world fear of the excise
As for wages, when he was a boy, five pounds a year and food, but not clothes, was the wage for a good all-round man who could "plough and sow, and reap and mow." Boys got two or three pounds according to their capabilities.
Flax was extensively grown in his young days, and was harvested, and sent to the weavers in the towns as it was needed, to be woven into a rough stuff much used for shirts. The roughness wore off in a short time, but the young farmers often got the men to wear their new shirts to take the roughness off for them. Fustian or moleskin jackets, low shoes, knitted stockings, and breeches, "and gaiters, were the usual costumes for farmers, but "the best sort" wore buckles in their shoes and "broad-cloth" suits. The laborers wore smocks made of Russian duck, which was so stout and waterproof that no rain would run through it. The art of making these frocks is not yet a lost one, but there is little request for it
When Thomas was a boy they used to plough with oxen, and he spoke with real affection of the tall Herefordshire cattle, Butler, and Scarlet, and Swan, whose horns were so long that they had
"Are people better off about here now than they used to be?"
"I can hardly say. They was hardish times when I was a nipper, but there were more people about, and more work done on the land."
But Thomas's stock of information is almost inexhaustible, and I must take leave of him and his reminiscences without even touching upon his talent for repeating old ballads. "I could tell you songs as would last all night," he once said; and some of these I have taken down, but they must be reserved to another paper dedicated to old Thomas alone.
But perhaps the wild life of this place will appeal to some more strongly than its vanished past can do. If so, the time to see it at its best is undoubtedly June. Some of us have perhaps, as we walked along a crowded London street on a June day, contrasted that scene and its full tide of existence with some such country fields as those of this little township, at the same moment and under the same fierce sunlight. think of London as a noisy place and of the wilderness as wholly quiet. Just the reverse seems to me to be the fact. In London all lesser sounds are lost, merged in one great monotonous roar of traffic; in the green wilderness there is a perplexity, a multiplicity of sound, but no one is lost or fused into a greater whole; on the contrary each little voice has its own place, each sound is accentuated, exaggerated-exaggerated until we almost think that we can hear "the
grass grow and the squirrel's heart beat." The chaffinch singing in the thorn-tree, with its shapely head towards the west wind, which is ruffling its gay feathers; the chiff-chaff with its two monotonous but beloved notes so redolent of spring; the willow wren's whistled imitation of the chaffinch's song; thrush, wildest of little poets, singing its very heart away in melody; blackbird, perhaps the dearest of all, with its "boxwood flute" and quiet meditation on life, and love, and all things around him; and the most wholly joyous of all songs-that of the lark, a quivering speck against a quivering blue sky. Who can tell what ecstasy of happiness is in that soaring little heart as it sings as near to heaven as its wings can reach?
These are, I think, the commonest of our songsters; but even as I say this, I remember so many more who all have their part in the great chorus-yellowhammers, linnets, pipits, tits of many kinds, and, not far off them, goldencrested wrens, with their sharp tee-tee ringing from among the many yewtrees which are a feature of this country. But why go on? This is mere cataloguing. Every hedge, every field, every yard of earth or of air is instinct with life and sound, if only insect life. Sound, sound, multiplied field after field; endless music on every side and "soft eye-music" too; melodies, unheard but not the less sweet, which every fresh summer day brings with it; the glory of the grass, the glory of the mountain, the glory of the great wide sky, decked now with light as with a garment; glories of which the heart can never tire. And the very night, too, is eloquent. Before the thrushes and blackbirds have finished their evensong, their last liquid notes that close the eye of day, the owlet is already chanting his dim part-long may he escape the pole trap at the edge of the wood! For, of all the sad sights in a sad world, there are few more sad than to see some beautiful wild thing hanging for long hours in patient misery, unrelieved by any hope but of death from a keeper, whose hereditary ignorance of the amount of mischief done by hawks and
owls would be laughable if its effects were less sad. England is to become a waste wilderness for the sake of a few mere pheasants in the coverts. But non ragionam di lor . . . The note of the brown owl is a very musical one and is heard perpetually around here, sometimes beginning as early as four or five o'clock on a March afternoon. It does not at all resemble Shakespeare's "Tuwit, to-whoo," which the other poets have copied. Rather it is a long and somewhat tremulous "whoo-oo." After the owl comes on the night-jar, whirring his wheel under the oak-tree; and the corncrake, wandering, wandering, in the sweet dewy grass, and all night long repeating that harsh call of which we never weary and which is never harsh to us. And its enemy, the mowing machine, does not come into this hilly land. Perhaps if we are out "when light on dark is growing," we shall hear almost under our feet a sound which has been described as resembling the quacking of a hoarse duck, and after it a snuffing sound such as a dog might make. This is a hedgehog out for his evening walk, accompanied, most likely, by Mrs. Hedgehog. I do not know if his vocabulary is limited to these two sounds. The witch in "Macbeth" says, indeed, that "thrice the hedgepig whined," but I never heard of its doing
Have I so far only mentioned common birds and beasts? They are not the less loved because common.
The meanest things below,
in there is a real love of nature in his heart who sees and hears them. But this neighborhood can boast of some creatures which are really rare in many parts of England. For a tract of country in which there is a river, a portion of real uncultivated mountain heath, a portion too of cultivated land, makes a happy hunting-ground for a naturalist; and such a happy hunting-ground is tais. About three hundred and fifty acres of the low hill opposite the mountain, of which I have already spoken,
are surrounded by a ring fence, and consist of sheep pasture, dingles running down to the brook below, the site (hardly the ruins) of a little alien priory, forsaken as long ago as the reign of Edward IV., much brushwood, as well as better pasture fields. Here is a haunt-one of the few English haunts -of black game; not numerous enough for a drive, and yet sufficiently numerous for their call—that sound as if they were clearing their throats-to be familiar. It gives a pleasant wildness, a far-away character, to their surroundings. They roost in trees at night, and are more at home on their feet than on the wing; but when once put up, they fly straight and strong and rather high. The stream is loved by dippers; but kingfishers are rare. I think the banks are too rocky, and perhaps the stream too rapid, for their mode of fishing. On the mountain there are ring-ousels in plenty. You can hear their sweet, wild song there any spring day, and perhaps find one of their nests hidden away among the heather. And, best of all, here are curlews-we lay the accent on the last syllable in this part of the world. Your first experience of them will perhaps be when you are out on the mountain in spring or autumn. If you hear the sound of a far-off whistle, like that of no other bird you ever heard, then look up, and high, high over your head you will see the beautiful creatures flying most probably in a wedge, and with a straight but rather slow flight. They are on their way to the sea if it is autumn; on their way from it if it is spring. They arrive here in March, and when they are settled in their summer haunts you will often hear their sweet tremulous whistle as they fly low over the mountain, and perhaps their other startled cry, which has been likened to that of the rare black woodpecker. The curlew is a handsome bird, varying very much ir size, but some of them stand quite eighteen inches high. They lay their eggs on the ground and on hardly any nest; and like those of the pewit, they are arranged in a quatre-foil. Pewits are rare here. They prefer tillage to
pasture land, but a few miles away their beautiful lonely cry is heard over every field. Woodcock and snipe abound, and not long ago I heard that one of the rarer solitary snipe had been seen. Some woodcock are said to remain here to nest.
As for four-footed beasts, "the little red fox from his hole in the rocks" on the mountain, where hounds so rarely come, prowls down to the farms, and the men tell strange stories of his cun. ning and his depredations. But the silent badger, which is comparatively common here too, is a far more difficult beast for a terrier to tackle in his hold. Good Bewick, whose sympathy with all wild things was so far in advance of his time, never said a truer word than when he told us that the badger is harmless and inoffensive, and unless attacked it employs its formidable weapons of defence only for its support. "As grey as a badger" is a proverb; and lately two white ones were, I am told, seen about here. I confess to a hopeless inability to tell a weasel from a stoat; one, or both, abound, and the cats often catch them and bring them into the houses. There is a good woman here who is proud of the exploits of her cats in catching "honts (moles) or any vermin moving in the ground." This same old body has the rare art of attracting birds and beasts to her, and last winter she had as many as five robins roosting in her little room at once. Her three cats, sleeping happily in front of the fire, did not molest the little visitors who came in under a flag of truce.
H. C. T.
From The España Moderna. CASTELAR ON DE GONCOURT.
"I did not know de Goncourt, but in his last book he says that he met me one day at the house of Jules Simon. I do not remember it. He adds that when leaving he changed hats. I do not remember that either. I do not even know what his hat looked like, but I have read his work