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both very concave and slippery with the tread of generations departed. We reached a large parvise, or priest's chamber, provided with a fireplace; the uneven floor was strewn with bits of broken tiles, worm-eaten wood, plaster, bricks, etc. The chamber was exceedingly dusty and cobwebby, but we at once enthusiastically began to search amongst the litter for anything of interest, but, alas ! discovered nothing noteworthy; the tiles were modern. The sexton was right after all—it was full of rubbish! So, disappointed and almost as white as a miller, we descended the slippery steps. Then as the sexton
—there was no clerk, he informed us—seemed in a chatty mood, we asked him if he knew of any curious inscription in the churchyard. “Well, I think I can show you one that will interest you," he replied, whereupon he led the way outside and we followed. Coming to an old tombstone he remarked, “Now, I call this a funny one; it is to a man and his wife who both died in the same year, and were both exactly the same age to a day when they died.” Then he rubbed the ancient stone over with his hand, that we might better read what was written thereon, which I copied as follows :
A FORTUNATE COMBINATION
Provided the inscription records facts, it certainly is a curious coincidence; still quite a possible one.
Returning to our inn, we ordered the horses to be "put to,” and whilst this was being done, we had a chat with the landlord, from whom we learnt that he both brewed his own ale and grew.his own barley to brew it with. It is the pleasant fate of some of these remote old coaching hostelries in their old age to become half hotel and half farmhouse, and a more fortunate combination for the present-day traveller there could not be. By this arrangement the old buildings are preserved and cared for in a manner that diminished custom would hardly permit were they to remain purely as inns; nor does the providing suffer from the blending of uses, the produce of the farm being at command, which means, or should mean, fresh vegetables, milk, butter, and eggs. In the present case it further meant the rare luxury of homebrewed ale from home-grown grain, and a quart of such, does not Shakespeare say, “is a dish for a king"?
We drove on now through a pretty and wellwooded country, our road winding in and out thereof in the most enticing manner: every now and then we caught refreshing peeps of a far-away distance, faintly blue, out from which came to us a fragrant breeze, cool, sweet, and soothing. In driving across country it is not only the prospect that changes but the air also, and, as the eye delights in the change of scene, so the lungs rejoice in the change of climate. The landscape all around had a delightfully fresh and smiling look; it was intensely pastoral and peaceful, and over all there brooded a sense of deep
contentment and repose. Old time-mellowed farmsteads and quiet cottage homes were dotted about, from which uprose circling films of blue-gray smoke, agreeably suggestive of human occupancy. “How English it all looked,” we exclaimed, and these five words fitly describe the scenery. In that sentence pages of word-painting are condensed !
As we proceeded above the woods to the left and the right of us rose two tall tapering spires, belonging respectively—at least so we made out from our map-to the hamlets of Walcot and Treckingham. These spires reminded us what splendid churches some of the small Lincolnshire villages possess; there they stand in remote country districts often hastening to decay, with no one to admire them. The ancient architects who
Built the soaring spires
seem to have built these songs in vain : for what avails a poem that no one prizes? The Lincolnshire rustic is made of stern stuff, he is honest, hardy, civil, manly, independent (at least that is the opinion I have formed of him), but he is not a bit poetical, and a good deal of a Puritan: I fancy, if I have read him aright, he would as soon worship in a barn as in a church ; indeed, I think he would prefer to do so if he had his own way, as being more homelike. A clergyman I met on the journey and who confided in me said, “To get on in Lincolnshire, before all things it is necessary to believe in game, and not to trouble too much about
the Catholic faith.” He said this in a joking manner truly, but I could see that he jested in earnest : he further assured me as a positive fact that both devil-worship and a belief in witchcraft existed in the county. He said, “I could tell you many strange things of my rural experiences," and he did-how the devil is supposed to haunt the churchyards in the shape of a toad, and how witchcraft is practised, etc. “You may well look astonished,” he exclaimed, “at what I tell you, but these things are so; they have come under my notice, and I speak advisedly from personal knowledge.”
Presently we reached the village of Osbournby : here the church looked interesting, so we stopped in order to take a glance inside, and were well rewarded for our trouble by discovering a number of very fine and quaintly-carved medieval bench-ends in an excellent state of preservation. Medieval carvings have generally a story to tell, though being without words some people are forgetful of the fact, deeming them merely ornamental features, and so miss the carver's chief aim because they do not look for it ; sometimes, by way of relief, they have a joke to make, now and then they are keenly sarcastic: but the stories—not the jokes—mostly need time to elucidate, for they often mean more than meets the eye at a hurried glance; moreover they have to be read in the spirit of the age that produced them. One of the bench-end carvings at Osbournby that is particularly noticeable represents a cunning - looking fox standing up in a pulpit
preaching to a silly-looking congregation of geese, a favourite subject by the way with the monkish sculptors, and a telling contemporary satire on the priesthood by those who ought to know it best. It is remarkable that this peculiar subject should have been so popular, for I have met with it frequently, there is a good example of the same on one of the miserere seats in St. David's Cathedral. What does it signify ?
Still more curious does this strange satire seem when we remember that in the dark ages such carvings were the poor man's only literature, for then even reading was a polite art confined to the learned few, and spelling was in its infancy. One finds it difficult to conjecture why the Church allowed such ridicule of its religious preaching to be thus boldly proclaimed, so that even the unlettered many could hardly fail to comprehend its meaning, for in this case the story meets the eye at once and was manifestly intended to do so.
If we may judge them solely by their carvings the monks of old, at a certain period, appear to have been craftsmen clever beyond cavil, full of quaint conceits, not over refined, often sarcastic, sometimes severely so, but curiously broad in their selection of subjects for illustration. Of course they carved religious subjects as in duty bound, and with painstaking care, but these all look stiff and mechanical, forced and not spontaneous, possibly because they had to work more or less in a traditional groove, and consequently there was no scope for originality; but in their less serious