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placed over him, save only a plain stone slab with the two words
Vermis Sum." But he was a great man and lives in history. Frank Osborne, the author and moralist, and contemporary of Speaker Lenthall, also dictated the epitaph on his simple tombstone at Netherworton in Oxfordshire, in which he pertinently remarks :
I envy not those graves which take up room
Adds no desert.
After all, simplicity and brevity of epitaph appeal more to the heart of man than fulsome eulogy or “monumental show.”
In the chancel wall, immediately to the left of the east window, is a tall narrow niche. The rector said he did not know the original purpose of this, unless it were for ornament. The niche was too tall for a statue, and we imagined from its form that probably it was intended, of old, to receive the processional cross—the pre-Reformation churches being, I believe, provided with a recess or a locker for this purpose. A specimen of the latter, with the ancient ornamented oak door still in position, may be found in the church at Barnby in Suffolk.
Then, bidding good-bye to the courteous and hospitable rector, we once more resumed our pleasant pilgrimage, and, passing through an eye-refreshing
peace-bestowing country of green meadows, waving woods, and silvery streams, we reached the
ancient town of Sleaford just as the sun was setting red in the west, a fact, according to the well-known proverb—which however we have not found to be perfectly reliable—that should ensure fine weather for the morrow—“Red at night is a shepherd's delight; red in the morning is a shepherd's warning.” Well, I am not a shepherd, but speaking from my experience as a road traveller, who naturally studies the weather, I have frequently noted that a red morning has been followed by a gloriously fine and sunny day. When, however, the sky is a wan yellow at sunrise, and especially if the wind be south-westerly; then you may expect rain before evening with some degree of certainty ; but of all things to dogmatise about, the English weather is the most dangerous.
As we entered Sleaford we noticed a monument to a local celebrity, the designer of which we imagined had been inspired by the excellent example of a Queen Eleanor's Cross. The structure certainly adds interest to the street in which it stands, and this is a great deal more than can be said of most memorials of notables in the shape of statues, which, perched high on pedestals, are generally prominent eyesores that a long-suffering community has to put up with. Close to this monument was a pump, below which a basin was inscribed, “ Every good gift is from above." The quotation did not strike us as the most appropriate that might be chosen, as the pump was erected for the purpose of obtaining water from below.
Sleaford, on the day we arrived, offered a great
contrast to the slumberous quiet of Falkingham, for it was the evening of the annual sheep fair, and groups of agriculturists were scattered about engaged in eager conversation, and flocks of sheep were being driven out of the town, with much shouting, dog-barking, and commotion, and farmers in gigs or on horseback starting back home added to the general restlessness. Indeed, after the deep tranquillity of the lonely country roads we had traversed that day, Sleaford seemed a place of noise and bustle. Next morning, however, we found the streets quiet enough, as we remarked to a stranger in the stable-yard. “ Yes,” he said, “Sleaford is quiet enough. It sleeps more or less all the year, but wakes up once for the annual fair. You mayn't have heard the saying, Sleaford for sleep, Boston for business, Horncastle for horses, Louth for learning.'” “ Perhaps," responded we, mindful of yesterday, “ as it is Horncastle for horses, it should be Sleaford for sheep, not 'sleep.'” The two words sound very much alike. But our suggestion was scorned.
Rambling about the town we noted the date of 1568 on a gable of the half-timbered and creeperclad vicarage, that stood divided by a footpath from the church. A noble structure the latter, with a most effectively picturesque front owing to the fact that the aisles are lengthened so as to be in level line with the tower; the pierced parapet extending across this long front is adorned with bell-turrets, pinnacles, and minarets, forming a varied outline against the sky. Whilst we were taking a pencil
outline of this charming specimen of ancient architecture, a man in dark tweeds approached us, who said he was an amateur photographer, and would give us a photograph of the building if we liked. We thanked him very much for his kindness, but he did not go home to fetch the said photograph, as we expected, but stood watching us finish our sketch. Then we made some random remark to the effect that it was a very fine church,—we had nearly said “a very fine day,” from sheer custom, but checked ourselves half - way. In conversation we always endeavour to keep the weather back as a last resource; but old crusted habits are difficult to conquer. “Yes,” he agreed, “it's a fine church, but it was finer before the tower was knocked down.” For a moment we imagined that we were talking with an escaped lunatic; we had never heard of a church tower being “knocked down" before! “What," queried we, “ did a traction engine run into it, or how did it get knocked down?” The answer was reassuring; we were not talking to a lunatic! “It was knocked down by lightning when I was fifteen years younger than I am now. It happened one Sunday morning during service. The storm came on very suddenly, and I was sheltering in a doorway over yonder. Suddenly there was a blinding flash and a great crack of thunder, and I saw the tower come crashing down with a tremendous roar, followed by a cloud of dust or steam, I'm not sure which. Then the people rushed out of church pell-mell—men without their hats, all in the soaking rain, for it did pour
down, and women screaming. One woman shouted out that the end of the world had come ; it was the sound of the last trump,' and it was some time before she became calm. I never saw anything like it.” Then he stopped for a moment, and in a more thoughtful tone of voice proceeded, “Do you know that catastrophe set me thinking a good deal. It struck me as very strange that we should build churches for the worship of God, and that God should so often destroy them by lightning. That morning the public-houses escaped hurt, but the church was wrecked by fire from heaven. It does seem strange to me." And he became so engrossed in his talk that he forgot all about the promised photograph, and we did not like to remind him. “Why do you think the church was struck ?” he asked us as we parted. “Probably,” we replied, “because it was not protected with a conductor, or if it were provided with one it was defective.” “But that does not explain why Providence allowed it,” he retorted; but we declined to be drawn into an argument. So we hastened back to our hotel, and, as we had planned a long day's journey, ordered the horses to be “ put to” at once.
Our road out of Sleaford led us through a level pastoral land, pleasant enough to look upon, though there was nothing on the way of particular interest to engage our attention till we reached Heckington, a large village known locally, we were told, by the proud title of “the Queen of Villages.” It certainly is a pretty place, and it possesses a truly magnificent church that seems, like so many others in Lincoln