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A MEDIEVAL LEECH
moments, and these seemed many, when the mood inclined them they wrought carvings that were imbued with life; and laughed, or grinned, or joked in stone or wood to their heart's content ; then the whole soul of the craftsman entered into his work—and the inanimate matter lived, breathed, and struggled. His comicalities are simply delightful; he was the medieval Leech and Keene! Truly not all the old monks took religion seriously! but whatever their virtues or failings they were artists of no mean merit.
A civil tramp—Country hospitality—Sleaford—A Lincolnshire say
ing—A sixteenth-century vicarage-Struck by lightning—“The Queen of Villages”-A sculptured anachronism-Swineshead -A strange legend- Local proverbs—Chat with a “commercial”-A mission of destruction - The curfew-Lost our wayOut of the beaten track—A grotesque figure and mysterious legend- Puzzling inscriptions—The end of a long day.
JOURNEYING leisurely on we presently arrived at the curiously entitled village of Silk Willoughby; here again on asking the name of the place, which we did before consulting our map, a native shortened it to Silkby. It is a marked tendency of the age to contract the spelling and the pronunciation of names to an irreducible minimum,—a tendency that I have already remarked upon. Well, perhaps for everyday speech, Silk Willoughby is rather overlong, and the more concise Silkby serves all needful purposes. Still this pronouncing of names differently from what they are spelt on the map is sometimes inconvenient to the stranger, as the natives have become so accustomed to the abbreviated expression that the full title of a place, given precisely as on the map, is occasionally unfamiliar to them, and they will declare hopelessly that they “never heard of no such
place.” On the other hand, once when driving in Worcestershire we were sadly puzzled when a tramp asked us if he were on the right road to “Kiddy”; it eventually turned out that he wanted to get to Kidderminster. I verily believe, tramp though he was, that he looked upon us as ignoramuses in not recognising that curt appellation for the town in question! He was a civil tramp though, for there are such beings in the world, and we always make it a point to return civility with civility, whether it be a ploughboy or a lord who is addressing us. “Well now,” he exclaimed in genuine surprise as we parted, “to thinks that you should not know that Kidderminster is called Kiddy. Why, I thought as how everybody knew that." In Sussex, too, once when driving near Crowborough a man in a trap shouted to us to know if he were “right for the Wells,” for the moment it did not occur to us that he meant Tunbridge Wells, but that we discovered was what he did mean.
In Silk Willoughby, by the roadside, we noticed some steps with the stump of the shaft of the village cross on the top; on four sides of the base of this were the carved symbols of the Evangelists, much worn but still traceable. We found that these steps, as is frequently the case, formed a rendezvous and a playing - place for the village children, a fact that can hardly tend to the preservation of the carvings!
As we had got down to make a sketch of the ruined cross we thought we might as well walk
across the road and have a look at the ancient church. On reaching this the first thing that attracted our attention was the following, “Iohn Oak, Churchwarden, 1690,” cut boldly straight across the old oak door, though why John Oak's name should be inscribed in such a prominent position, and handed down to posterity thus I cannot say. Possibly he presented the door to the church — though it looks older than the date mentioned and modestly inscribed his name thereon to record his gift.
Within we found the building in a state of picturesque but pathetic decay. Right in the centre of the nave was a big wooden post reaching straight up from the stone slab floor to support the open timber roof above; all the windows, except one to the right of the chancel which from its position was hidden from the general view, had lost their stained glass; and a huge horizontal beam that stretched across the chancel also blocked the top of the east window,—the unhappy result of a previous restoration we were informed. On the floor we noticed an incised slab inscribed to the memory of one of the Armyn family ; this bore the date of MCCCLXVIIII, and was decorated with a finely engraved cross, and a shield charged—I believe that is the correct heraldic term—with a coat-ofarms. Another old tombstone laid on the floor, having an inscription the lettering of which was deeply cut, we should have liked to decipher, for it looked of interest, but as the greater part was covered by a pew this was impossible.
Whilst we were endeavouring, with but small success, to puzzle out some Latin (or dog-Latin) verse on an ancient brass, the rector made his appearance, and, learning that we were driving across country and strangers in the land, forth with invited us to the rectory for afternoon tea. Such kindly attentions had become quite customary features of our wanderings, so much so that we had ceased to wonder at them, and we greatly regretted in this instance to be obliged to decline such thoughtfully proffered hospitality, as we had no means of lengthening out the day to embrace all our pleasures! Truly the lot of the driving tourist is an enviable one, a very enviable one when it takes him into the pleasant land of Lincolnshire: a delightful thing it is to experience this old - time friendliness—a friendliness that makes the wheels of life run so smoothly, and reveals the gracious and sunny side of human nature.
A mural tablet in the chancel rather amused us by the invitation contained in the first two lines of a long inscription,
Kind stranger stay a moment ere you go,
Thus were we bidden to read through a tedious and wordy eulogy upon a youth whose only distinction appeared to be that he died young,—there is such a thing as consistency in epitaphs, the tomb of many a hero takes up less space than this one! The famous Speaker Lenthall of the Long Parliament directed that “no monument whatever should be