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Soon, especially if man is to be allowed to help Time in the work of obliteration, quaint and interesting epitaphs will only be discoverable in books ; perhaps better this than to be lost altogether, but I do not like my epitaphs served thus ; I prefer to trace them for myself direct from the ancient tombstones, even though it entails a journey, time, and trouble to do this, for then I know they are genuine. I have an uneasy suspicion that the majority of clever and amusing epitaphs we find in books never came from tombstones at all, but owe their existence solely to the inventive faculties of various writers; I hope I am wrong, but my hoping does not prove me so! As an example of what I mean, I was reading a work the other day by a learned antiquary, in which I found quoted quite seriously the following droll epitaph
Underneath this ancient pew
with the information that it existed in a church in Berkshire. Now this really will not do, it is far too indefinite; I object to be sent epitaph-hunting all over a whole county ; it would surely be as easy to give the name of the church as to state that it was somewhere “in Berkshire,” which is suggestive of its being nowhere! Even when you know the precise locality of the church wherein is a quaint epitaph, it is not always easy to find the latter, as on one occasion I actually learnt from the clerk that an inscription that I had come a long way specially to
see for myself and to copy, had been covered over and hidden by a brand new organ! Matting you may move, even a harmonium, and I always do on principle, as I once made an interesting discovery by so doing ; but an organ is a very different matter ; not that I should have any scruples under the circumstances in moving an organ, if I could!
From the church we strolled down the river-side, or as near to it as we could, in search of sketchable bits — and shipping, for though some ten miles inland (judging by our map), Spalding is a seaport, small, but flourishing in its way ; brigs and sloops, inconsiderable in size according to modern commercial ideas, find their way thither, and these are more profitable to the artist, if not to their owners, than huge steamers and big iron vessels. Small sea-craft are always picturesque, which is more than can be said of their larger brethren. On our way we passed a public - house, its projecting sign had two men's heads painted thereon, with the title above, “The Loggerheads,” and below the legend, “We be Loggerheads three,” a joke at the expense of the reader. It would be interesting to learn the origin of this curious and uncommon sign. I have consulted all the likely books in my library, but, though I find allusions to it, I can discover no explanation thereof.
It was late in the afternoon before we made a start from Spalding; exploring, sketching, and photographing, to say nothing of epitaph-hunting or chatting with local folk, take up time, so our morning slipped quietly away before we knew it,
though we had made an early beginning. As the time remaining was short, after a glance at our map, we determined to drive on to Bourn, a twelve-mile stage, and to remain there the night.
Since mid-day the sky had clouded over, whilst the barometer had dropped considerably; the weather looked gray and gloomy, and the wind blew gustily from the west. “You'll have a storm," prophesied the ostler, “and it's a wild, exposed road on to Bourn, right across the marshes, and there's no shelter on the way.” We smilingly thanked the ostler for his information and his solicitude for our welfare, but all the same proceeded on our stage, jokingly reminding him that we were composed of “neither sugar nor salt.” So with this encouraging “set-off” we parted, and soon found ourselves once more in the wide Fenland, with which our road was on a level, neither above nor below, as generally prevails in the district. Passing by a gray, stonebuilt, and picturesque old home, some short distance off in the flat fields, and leaving behind the last traces of Spalding in the shape of roadside villas and prim cottages, we entered upon a lonesome stretch of country, dark and dank and dreary, yet fascinating because so dreary, so foreign-looking, and so eerie!
Overhead, without a break, stretched the louring, dun-coloured sky; the low-lying landscape around, as though in sympathy therewith, was all of dull greens and grays, varied by long wide dykes and sedgy pools of a dismal leaden hue. The wild wind blew chilly and fitfully, and made a melancholy sighing sort of sound as it swept over the rank