Picture of George Head

George Head

places mentioned

South from Douglas

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Douglas during the Cholera—Church of Kirkbraddan— A Funeral— Another Funeral—A Visit to the South—Derby Haven—Castleton—Poolvash—Marble Quarries—A Misunderstanding—A vicious Pony—Salt Water Spring—Port le Murray—Sullen demeanour of Females—Spanish HeadSea Birds—Further Misunderstanding—An Eclaircissement.

I VISITED the Isle of Man in the summer of that year, when the cholera made its first appearance in England; which disease had hitherto constantly hovered on my route, spreading its ravages in every town through which I happened to pass; but Douglas, on my arrival, was reported by all its inhabitants, free. There was, no doubt, an anxious and interested desire on the part of the townspeople to suppress, even the most remote hint of apprehension on the subject; for not only were paragraphs bandied about on sanatory regulations in the Manx newspapers, but the doctors fell to loggerheads in print with each other on the same theme. After all, I placed little faith and credence on these learned discussions, neither troubling myself on the theories of infection nor contagion, nor imagining that I received, whatever people might say, on the score of security, any additional assurance. Epidemic diseases, in my humble opinion, as the wind, that travels on sightless pinions, move whither they list, and like other metaphysical essences, are not to be made subject to physical laws. The terms infection and contagion, so long as matter be infinitely divisible, evidently mean nothing at all; for who can predicate of the mote that floats in the sunbeam, were it reduced to a millionth degree below mortal ken, that even so diminutive a portion of matter might not communicate by actual contact, by its very tangibility, a contagious disease; or that all those diseases known by the name of infectious, be not actually communicated by physical contagion or contact in the same manner. Of those epidemics, that during their visitations from time to time, sweep the land of the young together with the old, it were better at once to confess that we know no more after all of the abstruse principles of nature, that guide their origin, determine their properties, and provide for their creation or generation, than as to all such matters, we are able to determine with regard to our own existence.

It is certainly to be lamented, that the predominance of men's worldly interests, always defeats the pursuit of truth in matters of investigation, and in the present instance, when reports of the cholera at last began to arise, it was judged expedient rather to smother them at their birth, than repel, from an impression of fear, the usual concourse of summer visitants, and thence lose a source of annual profit to the inhabitants of the island.

Not a single case of the disease had yet been publicly promulgated, when I strolled one morning from Douglas towards the small ancient village of Kirkbraddan; the church and church-yard of which are situated on a secluded spot, two miles distant, adjoining the high road leading from Douglas to Peel Town. I thought I had never seen altogether a sweeter portrait of a village place of worship, or an humble edifice more truly adapted to a rural congregation, when I was unexpectedly interrupted by the sound of voices, joined in melody, and proceeding from a funeral party, who, as they walked along, were chaunting a hymn. These persons were advancing from the road along an avenue of stately trees leading to the church, which avenue, as trees in this part of the island are rare, is the more remarkable; and only so soon as they had entered the avenue, they began to sing. As they approached the grave, which I now saw had been already prepared, I had a better opportunity of observing the procession. The persons who chaunted, plain-dressed villagers, walked in front; then came two men, bearing the corpse of an infant in a coffin, suspended within a couple of feet of the ground on a sling, the ends of which were twisted round each of their hands. After the corpse, walked the parents, and then several of the sympathizing neighbours; these, and in fact almost all the attendants being provided each with a small cluster of flowers, as it were a melancholy emblem of death and infancy, of sweetness and decay. With such simple preparations, and although the coffin, on the lid of which a few of the flowers were strewed, was wholly uncovered, no memorial of real respect, or tribute of warm affection, was absent from the ceremonial: and if other striking images were wanting, by pathetic contrast with each other, to embellish the scene, that of the father of the baby, a sunburnt athletic peasant, in his own person, and relating to his child, afforded an example. On the one hand, a hardy British labourer, erect in the full vigour of manhood; on the other, an infant deposited in its grave; a countenance rigid and inflexible, and a heart panting in the throes of sympathy. As with unmoved expression, after the service was over, the mourning parent placidly leaned forward, to take of the early summoned a last adieu, not a muscle of his face moved, nor a lip stirred or quivered; but the tears that arose in his eyes, bursting through a channel petrified by grief, became every succeeding instant more and more swollen, till the stern law of gravity bid each tributary globule, first for a moment tremble in its sphere, and then drop upon the ground.

The child was no sooner buried, than another funeral party appeared, smaller in number, and unattended, as in the preceding instance, by singers, moving slowly and silently the whole length of the avenue, the bearers, carrying on their shoulders in the usual manner, the coffin of a full grown person, and about a dozen respectable, well-dressed people, walking two and two, closing the procession. At present, besides myself, there were hardly any other persons, as is usually the case on such occasions, present as spectators; therefore not wishing to appear singular, as the party moved towards the grave in another corner of the church-yard, I fell in the rear, and walked thither with the rest. The service was decently performed, and without hurry or the slightest deviation from established usage, but as I stepped towards the grave and looked upon the coffin, I perceived it was a plain shell, bearing only the sirname and age of the deceased upon the lid, without farther distinction or reference whatever; that is to say, Mrs.——, aged —. Thinking the circumstance strange, I was directing my enquiries to the subject, when I was accosted by a good looking man, dressed in a full suit of black, who politely undertook to satisfy my curiosity. My informant was not only chief mourner, but landlord of the deceased, who, he said, had arrived in Douglas from England only a week before, and had taken lodgings in his house as a stranger, upon the plea of expecting, as she said, ere many days passed, to be joined by her husband. He knew no more of her history, otherwise than she was taken ill and died; and in answer to additional questions, it further appeared, of a disease so sudden, that hardly thirty-six hours had elapsed to the present moment, since she was first smitten. Farther than this he was silent, neither could I persuade him to answer more interrogatories, wherefore, I came at once to a conclusion, that has been since verified by a visit in a subsequent year to the same spot, where the traveller may now see a number of diminutive grave-stones, planted in a dense cluster, so as by themselves entirely to occupy this angle of the church-yard. Every grave-stone bears its inscription, each inscription consists only of one word, and that one word is no other than "Cholera." Notwithstanding that my informant, when questioned as to the complaint of the deceased, most cautiously declined to relate a fact, that it became his interest as an inhabitant of Douglas, from general motives, to repress, he was not the less ready to tender his aid to a stranger, and in the total absence of friends and relatives, accompany, as chief mourner, the forlorn deceased to the tomb.

Even subsequent to this event, it was yet a few days before the disease was publicly acknowledged in Douglas; afterwards the intelligence spread rapidly through every corner of the island; the effects of which communication I had an opportunity of witnessing in an excursion in the interior. An unusually forcible sensation was indeed created among the simple-minded inhabitants; whereof I will now give a farther account, as I describe a visit made at that time to the extreme south of the island.

I left Douglas by a two-horse stage-coach, which travels three times a week from thence to Castleton, by a road which, although leading direct eleven miles from seaport to seaport, runs so much in land, that at rare intervals a view is obtained of the sea. The original road, the former having been made only a few years, is still more coastward, and here also the line of cliffs is so irregular, as to create in the minds of those, who love to ramble along the sea shore, a similar disappointment. In fact, a person desirous of an expedition under such advantages, and really anxious to see the coast of the Isle of Man, ought neither to travel on wheels nor on horseback, but go on foot, for by no other possible means, can he follow the bendings of the coast. The face of the country along this track, skirting the chain of hills which diagonally intersects the island, is sufficiently elevated to bear a mountainous character, but as its features are similar, in the line between Douglas and Peel town, of which part I shall take a little more notice by and by, I shall say no more as regards the surrounding scenery at present. Within a mile of Castleton, we passed through the small village of Derby Haven, having now reached the sea shore at Castleton Bay. Here, several new buildings have lately been erected, among the rest, the finest modern structure to be seen upon the island, a public college for the education of the sons of the clergy; and as the harbour of Derby Haven has superior natural advantages to that of Castleton, it is probable, as speculation rapidly continues to increase, that, in a few years at farthest, both places will be joined in one.

Notwithstanding the wide extent and bold sweep of the bay, the harbour of Castleton is shallow and rocky, accessible only to small craft, which in the mouth of the river, at the entrance of the town, may be seen at low water within a sort of rude dock, lazily reclining on their beam ends on the mud. It is not difficult to describe the features of the said river. Immediately above the dock, a stone bridge on two small arches spans its breadth. Above the bridge, the stream in summer is so shallow and scanty, that although a wide spread of boulders and shingle bear testimony to precarious freshes from the mountains, yet generally for the time being, a score of thirsty cattle could drink it dry; at all events, I have seen women dip tea cups therein, and several together thus, as by a regular process, filling their pails. Half a mile only above the town, the channel hardly exceeds a dozen feet in width, and then it dwindles to a rivulet.

Notwithstanding the residence of the Governor of the Isle of Man is in Castleton, and the head quarters of the troops, consisting of a company detached from the particular regiment doing duty for the time being in the city of Carlisle, are there stationed; the town, compared with the more busy appearance of Douglas, seems deserted and dreary; nevertheless the streets are considerably wider and cleaner, and the inhabitants, for the most part, instead of casual visitors, are permanent residents, including many persons who have married and finally settled on the island. The superb ancient pile of building called Castle Rushen, is well worthy of a visit, and at the present time in such good repair, that some of the apartments are appropriated to the purposes of a gaol, in others are held the regular courts of law, and a few are occupied by the municipal authorities, for the deposit of records and other public documents. Besides the aforesaid gaol, there is no other on the island.

My object not being for the present to remain at Castleton, I immediately hired a horse, and pursued my journey by a road which, proceeding for about the distance of a mile westward, is intercepted by another at right angles. By the latter road I then bent my course southward straight to the sea shore, till I arrived at the village, or rather at a row of small fishermen's cottages, called the village of Poolvash. This village was for the present my point of direction, for I was desirous of seeing certain quarries of native black marble, situated on the sea shore close adjacent. Arrived at the spot, having looked around without perceiving the quarries, I rode to the aforesaid cottages to make enquiry of a woman, whom, with a child in her arms, I saw standing at her door. The woman, stretching out her arm in the direction of a black reef of rocks, which the tide, at present on the ebb, had left bare, said that there were the quarries, at the same time she eyed me with a suspicious scrutinizing glance, that I thought singular. As I had obtained the information I required, and as the woman's dialect, in a sort of Welsh accent, was not very distinct, I forebore for the present to enter into further conversation, and immediately rode away. Then proceeding a few hundred yards along the beach, I dismounted, fastened my animal's bridle to a large stone, and walked seaward to the quarries. These consist of numerous small excavations, situated below high water-mark, filled with water at flood tide, and baled out previous to working every day, until the pit, becoming so large as to render the operation too laborious, is necessarily abandoned by the workmen, who then sink another. Reefs of remarkably black rock are abundant at this part of the coast; they extend considerably high upon the beach, although the pure marble, as already stated, all lies low; indeed a stranger might readily pass the spot, and unless the quarries were brought to his notice, fail to perceive them. They have been worked nevertheless many years, and actually furnished a part of the material for the building of St. Paul's Cathedral. Nothing more was now to be observed on the spot than a temporary mason's hut, surrounded by a few slabs for chimney-pieces and grave-stones, in progress of manufacture; the marble of which, of a rich black and shining quality, was already fashioned and polished. A few ordinary mason's tools lay scattered about the hut, but within and without there were no other preparations for labour, not even a common crane.

Intending to pursue the line of the sea shore on my return from the quarries, I had no sooner again approached the aforesaid fishermen's cottages, than as I was passing by, I was in a manner waylaid by half-a-dozen or more women, who having walked in the intermediate time out of their houses, had now assembled together, and were holding earnest colloquy with her with the baby. All appeared to be consulting together, but the first mentioned, acting as spokeswoman, broke silence, by asking me without ceremony and abruptly, whether or not I were a doctor? I immediately answered that I had not the honor to belong to such a learned profession, and was then proceeding to ride away, when having reiterated the question in an angry tone, she added, "you'll not tell me that you're no doctor, when I know very well that you are—I know you well enough and the horse you ride—I know where you came from—but go your ways! go your ways!" Being in total ignorance as to what extraordinary crotchet the woman had taken in her head, and feeling an inclination to come to a right understanding, I asked whether by accident any sick person happened to be in the house, intending thus merely to commence a rational conference; but the question, simple as it was, served not the purpose of reconciliation. "A doctor you are," exclaimed three or four together, "your horse belongs to a doctor; we know the horse as well as the doctor, who lives in Castleton." I now actually departed, thinking that, since through the identity of my horse I had got into the scrape, such as it was, it were well at all events for his former master to be rid of such a stumbling brute. The animal, in fact, really was I believe the very worst of steeds then on hire in the town of Castleton, and through ill luck, there being no other in the stable, I now happened to sit upon his back. He was a very old, narrow-backed pony, combining in a rare degree in his person, the infirmities of age, with the folly and forwardness of youth. His hoofs, lifted from the ground by an unbending knee, perpetually came in contact with the loose stones in his way; which he would kick before him to the right and left, almost with sufficient velocity to kill a sparrow. Frequent and serious trips were consequent on these collisions, some indeed so bad, that by main strength alone I was enabled to keep him on his legs, and after each blunder, the less easily recoverable by reason of spavined hocks, he no sooner resumed his equilibrium, than, as if in the joy of deliverance, he flung his nose in the air, and blindly bolted in all sorts of inconvenient directions. At the best of times he was hard-mouthed and restive, and particularly whenever, I stopped to admire a beautiful object, just as certainly he bobbed clean round like a whirligig, and set his tail to it. Such being the Pegasus I now unfortunately bestrode, whatever might have been the history of his former master, the doctor, I endeavoured to think of both as little as possible as I proceeded on my way, but as I rode onwards along the sea shore, which here spreads for two miles southward, in the form of an extensive bay, I could not help reflecting on the unaccountable conduct of the aforesaid women. Wherefore such indisputable tokens of ill will were now shewn towards me by a peasantry, whom till that moment, from previous experience and report I had imagined to be the most quiet, peaceable people on earth, I was at a loss to conceive; and the more I reflected, the more I thought that past appearances might very possibly be fallacious, and exhibit no proof of real hostility whatever. Nay, it seemed I thought feasible, that really believing me to be a doctor, the women were justly angry, because I denied my profession, and that too at a time, while a sufferer, for aught I knew, was actually in want of assistance. Some groaning dame perhaps was at that very moment invoking the aid of Lucina, whereby if so inclined, I, at all events, might have made a coup d'essai in the obstetric art, and gained by self-taught skill, a gratuitous diploma.

Two miles southward of Poolvash, is the little fishing town of Port-le-Murray, and about half way, close to the sea shore, is a stream which, rising a little below high water mark from a fissure of the earth, is called by the natives a salt water spring, and celebrated as a curiosity accordingly. Considering the nature of the ground from which it flows, I saw little to interest the mind in the phenomenon; for the island here assumes the form of a narrow tongue of land; and this stream very probably is supplied by a subterraneous channel from the opposite shore. While uncovered by the sea, it flows strong enough to turn a small mill. After all, it were perhaps a misnomer to call it a spring, if it be not that any stream continually flowing, whether salt or fresh, is entitled to the appellation; and at all events, follows the same law which regulates the equable supply of fresh ones, whereby underground reservoirs receive by constant drainage large volumes of water, sustained and replenished in a degree far exceeding its exit by narrower apertures.

"Rusticus expectat dum defluat amnis, at ille
Labitur et labetur in omne volubilis aevum."

A lively basin, a miniature fleet of boats, a sturdy well built quay, and a tidy cluster of houses, for the most part new, compose the neat busy little fishing town of Port-le-Murray, where on my arrival every man seemed bustling and active, and whether baling water out of his boat, laying rope in neat coils upon the shore, moving from place to place under a heavy load of net upon his shoulder, or engaged in any other portion of diligent labour, at all events, every single individual was booted like a rhinoceros.

Hence, I turned my pony's head inland, and then proceeding in a slanting direction, made the best of my way towards Spanish Head, one of the most rugged and lofty of those wild cliffs that bound the southern extremity of the island, the inland portion of this narrow promontory, here about a couple of miles wide, consisting of hills, rocks, valleys, ravines, and gulleys. I now made little progress, owing to the badness of the road, and moreover, the farther I went, the worse the track became, so that I was soon obliged to dismount and lead my animal by the bridle; sometimes passing over shelving slabs of rock, and frequently obliged to remove with difficulty huge loose stones, that casually intercepted the way. Meanwhile, the land on each side is divided in exceedingly small portions, fenced by stone walls, and the gigantic features on the coast bear inverse proportion to the limited extent of territory.

Within a mile of Spanish Head, stands a small hamlet, in a spot so retired, and composed of edifices so rude, that it is really hard to predicate of the houses at a little distance, whether they are masses of rock or human dwellings; however, as I approached, I perceived, in evidence of the latter conclusion, five or six women standing together on the spot. Not one man was present among the group, who by their behaviour might have given me fair reason to suppose that such a being was a rare visitant within their demesnes. I would very willingly have left my pony in this village, whereby I could have proceeded a great deal more at my ease alone, but the sullenness of the women, who by the way, in dress and appearance, reminded me of the peasantry of Tralee, in Ireland, made me disinclined to enter into any parley or negotiation. During my short trip from Castleton, I had little encouragement to enter into human conversation, and the fishermen's wives at Poolvash had read me a lesson by no means yet forgotten. Wherefore, regarding these Manx females, as wild, unsociable creatures, saying not a single word to any of them, and holding the pony's bridle on my arm, I doggedly walked on. However, a quarter of a mile farther, obstructions became so frequent, that to part with the steed became absolutely indispensable, wherefore, I made his bridle fast as well as I could to a stone wall, and there left him.

I had now arrived at Spanish Head, than which bluff angle of the coast there is no part perhaps within the extent of the three kingdoms more grand in feature and truly magnificent; the elevated plain, the precipices, on either side, and the roaring sea below, would rather seem in accordance with the limits of some vast continent, than merely a salient edge of the island of Mona, a diminutive speck hardly observable on the face of an ordinary map. Already a countless host of sea birds had notice of my approach, and accordingly the whole web-footed colony was in a state of alarm. The gulls wheeled round and round impatiently high in the air, and packs of the red-billed chough, with the continued harsh scream of the former mingled their wild cry, holding themselves as it were in a detached phalanx, and, like a party of marines, ready to do duty by the side of sailors. Theirs is a screaming, salt-water note; and as they feed occasionally upon fish, and as to their habits and inland retreats evince a similar taste with the gulls, it would seem as if nature designed these birds, though not absolutely aquatic themselves, to associate with aquatic companions.

Spanish Head, separated only from the small dissevered fragment called the Calf of Man, by a narrow and rapid channel, here stretches its precipitous crags into the sea. After walking a couple of hundred yards farther, I stood on its brink.

From the number of sea birds already on the wing, one might reasonably have concluded that all were already abroad, and had left their homes; but as I approached the verge of the cliff, my advent was the signal of a general panic, testified first by the appearance of several shooting upwards from underneath, in parties of three or four at a time, till all at once an entire legion were dislodged, and darted aloft, projected into the air by terror, like a shower of stones from a volcano. In a moment the whole space of air on all sides, around and about, was one continued swarm of life and feathers. Meanwhile the old gulls, turning rapidly on the wing, and urged by parental solicitude, testified by their looks and actions the intense bond of union with their young, and their fearless determination to repel, even at the risk of their own lives, or at least awe their invader. Sometimes they would hover and flap their wings only a few yards above my head; and again, twisting downwards their bills, and shaking their feathers as it were in very spite, would swoop suddenly below, as if for the purpose of knocking off my hat. On the projections of the rock, perched among holes and crannies, sat the unfledged nestlings, the sole object of the old one's care—the centre and mainspring of clamour and gyration; and there remained prudently waiting, as if wholly unconscious of danger, that critical moment of gull education, when the callow potbellied squab, after total transformation of being, may first securely dare to beat the air with his wings, and proudly soar aloft like the rest of his forefathers;—an awful adventure, as in human life, and liable to sad reverse if tried too soon; but the old gull well knows the exact moment to bid his son begone, and with a tickle under the tail, or a poke from the parent bill, for his patrimony, the proper instant, the period best befitting to introduce him to the troublesome world. If the young booby, like Icarus or Phaeton of old, undervaluing the experience of age, ventures to depart unbidden, just as certainly he cuts the thread of his own destiny, and prematurely finishes his vain-glorious career. Down he drops with a hard fall and a squelsh, embowelled, on the hard ground, doomed miserably to perish amid the buzzing of bluebottle flies, and deprived of the solace of funeral obsequies other than a garland of his own guts twisted about his ears.

Here I would readily have remained unsated by the sounds of undisturbed nature, or contentedly gazing upon massive abutments of earth and stone, fragments as it were of a crumbling world, were it not that the day was now fast waning, and my homeward progress, moreover, mainly depended upon the vile dumb pony now long since tied to the wall. But it were vain to disregard realities to the preference of unsubstantial reflections; therefore, unwillingly bidding adieu to the ocean landscape, I retraced my steps by the way I had come, till I perceived the said pony standing still in indolent attitude, and precisely in the same spot where I had bidden him farewell. Nevertheless he had displaced several loose stones from the wall with his nose, and had otherwise done all the mischief he was conveniently able to perform; wherefore probably self-gratulation, and his own reflections, made him tranquil. A man and woman stood not far off, as correctly as I could judge, not very well pleased with his transactions, therefore as I considered that the wall belonged to these people, I was the more careful as I repaired the dilapidations, not merely to set each stone on its angular edge, so that a pair of cock sparrows in a pitched battle might destroy its equilibrium, but to do the job well, and place each block carefully on a solid point of resistance. And having thus performed the service, as in duty bound, I thought I had thenceforward a right to walk peaceably away.

The woman and her friend were, as it appeared, of a different opinion; for the former, without preface or apology, now stepped up with violent air and attitude, and began at once angrily to abuse me, in language sufficiently distinct and intelligible, though delivered in broken English, and in a tone not unlike that used by the Welsh peasantry. At all events I had the satisfaction of an explanation on matters that hitherto baffled my comprehension; and while she continued her harangue, the man, who spoke nothing but Manx, remained all the time passively leaning his chin on the palms of both hands, supported by his elbows, upon the stone wall. In explicit terms, "She knew me very well," she said, "by my horse, to be one of those devils of Scotch doctors who went about the country spying into people's houses, poisoning all the wells, and, under the pretence of curing the cholera, pouring burning vitriol down poor people's throats, at the rate of five pounds a-head to be paid for the corpses. It was time," she farther added, working herself, of her own accord, to an extraordinary pitch of fury, "that an end should be put to all of us; and I might be sure," she said, "to meet my deserts as I passed through the village, for there the people were all ready and waiting to see me."

Finding that the simple nature of a superstitious class of people was excited by the precautionary measures adopted by the faculty, with regard to the prevention of the cholera, interfering as they imagined with the rites of sepulture, and that, whether justly or otherwise, this female was for the present so inflamed by rage, that, instead of a woman, had she been a steam engine she must inevitably, were it not for the aid of the safety valve, have burst the boiler, I thought it prudent to be silent while the hurricane continued to blow. After allowing her the free use of her tongue till she had expended all she had to say, I then replied as mildly as possible, "that she was from beginning to end quite mistaken,—that I was really no doctor, neither was I a wizard,— that I was a plain thinking individual, at all times inclined rather to be unmannerly than troublesome; but that since I had neither disturbed her's nor any other body's fire-side, so neither should any body deprive me of my right to wander where I pleased in the fresh air and sunshine:" and having said these, or words to the same effect, without producing much visible impression, I mounted my narrow-backed pony and rode away. Had I been alone, and unencumbered with the villainous steed, I would rather have made a circuit at any risk, so that I could have gone home any other way than through the village. As it was, the measure was inevitable. There was no resource. Meanwhile I regarded the animal in the light of my bane, and the evil genius that had shed a sinister influence on all my proceedings ever since I had been in his company. Owing to his identity, I had fallen into disrepute with the ladies of Poolvash, and now in the character of "le medicin malgre lui" I was about, from the same cause, to undergo perhaps still farther discomfiture. Most willingly I would have walked home on foot, and have left the brute behind; for, so far from rendering me assistance in case the enemy should attack in force, his presence would inevitably prove a main incumbrance. Nevertheless, hemmed in by the sea, and confined to the beaten track, with only a small switch in my hand, I rode towards the village.

Sure enough, as I approached the houses, a party had actually assembled to meet me, ten or a dozen or more; but, to my satisfaction, I observed that every one of these were women. Not a single male personage, except myself, was at this moment to be seen in the village; wherefore, although I was certainly only one against a host, and, as poets sing, the seat of mercy dwells afar from woman's heart, I forbore at all events to apprehend the meed of violence at women's hands: at least, whatever on the present occasion might have been my want of confidence, I took good care to betray to the parties no such sort of feeling. On the contrary, whipping along the garron pony to a speed equal to full five miles an hour, and riding straight forward to the best looking of the group, I paid her an explicit but well-merited compliment on the score of her beauty; and while she was relating the exact words of my address to her busily enquiring sisterhood, I lost no time to leave the subject in discussion, and ride away. It were well always in affairs of gallantry, if people would profit by a proper opportunity of taking themselves off, and make up their minds to rest content with what they have gained: in accordance with this sentiment and satisfied to live in the good graces of these females for a solitary instant, away I rode, without receiving farther molestation. Not looking behind me, as I left them in the distance, I wished, as the fast-flitting shadows of the day's incidents passed across my mind, I might never, on any future occasion, feel more cause for self-reproach; and I recalled to my mind the stanzas of the poet, who, without other mortal weapon than the aegis of harmless intent, scared a grizzly wolf within his native woods, by a strain to his Lalage.

On my return to Castleton I found I had cause for congratulation, thus to have fallen in with the ladies, instead of meeting with men. I there learnt that the very day before, a party of visitors to the spot, who arrived in a boat, were actually attacked by the inhabitants with sticks and stones, and severely maltreated.

George Head, A Home Tour through various parts of the United Kingdom (London: John Murray, 1837) Conversion to HTML and placename mark-up by Humphrey Southall, 2012.

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