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spots, and forbears now and then to give local habitation and name.” Most excellent advice! That I have followed it to some extent is, I think, shown by the later remarks of the same critic, who writes of a more recent work of mine : “We are relieved to note that Mr. Hissey does not wax eloquent con cerning one of the most beautiful and unspoilt towns in Sussex. He passes through it with commendable reticence.” It is a pleasant experience for a critic and an author to be of one mind; for an author to profit by a critic's criticisms!
Returning, in due course, to our comfortable quarters at Horncastle, on dismounting from our dog - cart there we noticed an old man standing expectantly in the yard. He was oddly dressed in that shabby-genteel manner that reminded us very much of the out-at-elbows nobleman of the melodrama stage, for in spite of his dress his bearing impressed us; it was dignified. He at once came up to us and exclaimed, “ I've got something to show you, that I'm sure you would like to see.” I am afraid that we were just a little heated and tired with our long drive and day's explorations; moreover, we were looking eagerly forward to a refreshing cup of afternoon tea, so that we rather abruptly rejected the advances made; but the stranger looked so disappointed that we at once repented our brusqueness, and said we should be pleased to see what he had to show us. Whereupon he beamed again, and pulling an envelope out of his pocket he extracted therefrom a piece of paper, which he handed to us for our inspection, with a smile. On this we read
A MAN OF MANY ACCOMPLISHMENTS 345
“There now,” he exclaimed, “Miss Corelli, the famous novelist, wrote that for me the other day when she was in Horncastle. I thought you would like to see her handwriting. I've lots of interesting things I could show you at my house if you like. I've got letters from other great people. I've got Robert Burns's-Bobbie Burns I calls him—snuffbox, for which I have been offered £200 and refused it. I'm a poet, too, and have composed a lot of original poems. I can sing a song with any man. I'm a ventriloquist also, and have given entertainments lasting two hours. I'm the oldest cricketer in England ; but I won't detain you longer now. I could go on for an hour or more all about myself, but I daresay you are tired with driving. Here is my name and address,” handing us at the same time a rather dirty card. “Now, if you would allow me, I should be pleased to show you round our town at any time, and point out all the interesting things therein, for it is a very interesting old place.”
Manifestly we had come upon a character, curious above the general run of characters; the man interested us, we felt glad to have met him, and thereupon arranged that he should show us over the town in half an hour's time. So he departed with a smile promising to meet us in the hotel yard in half an hour. Then we sought the ostler and asked him
about the stranger. We were informed that he was a Mr. Baker, who kept a small sweetmeat-shop in the place, and was a great antiquary. “He always goes after strangers who come here. I expect he saw you come in yesterday; he's been hanging about the yard all the afternoon expecting you back. He's a regular character." So we had concluded ; still, antiquarianism and selling sweetmeats did seem an odd mixture!
It so happened that a day or two after this, chance threw us unexpectedly in the company of the famous novelist, who was staying at the same hotel in a Lincolnshire village that we stopped at, and during the course of a conversation about many things, we told her the amusing incident of our being shown her autograph at Horncastle. It appeared that out of pure good-nature Miss Marie Corelli had given Mr. Baker her signature, as he had boldly come to her and asked for it! Possibly had he not been such a manifest character he would not have obtained it so readily, for the autographhunter has become a nuisance in the land! Somehow it has always been our fate when taking our driving expeditions to become acquainted with at least one or more notable persons. This tour proved. no exception to the rule.
We found Mr. Baker duly awaiting us at the time and place mentioned. First he took us to the church, wherein he pointed out to us thirteen scytheheads hanging on the north wall, three of which were mounted at the end of poles so as to make rough but effective spears; these, he told us, were relics of
A WORTHY KNIGHT
the battle of Winceby Hill, and it was with these primitive but at the period formidable weapons that the Lincolnshire rustics were armed who helped materially to overthrow the King's forces. The rusting relics of the never-returning past interested us, and as we looked upon them the centuries gone seemed somehow to narrow down to years; the mind is beyond time and space! Then our guide pointed out to us the tomb of Sir Ingram Hopton, who was slain at the fight, having previously unseated Cromwell during the struggle. His epitaph, inscribed upon a mural tablet, runs as follows :
Here Lyeth ye worthy
Hopton who paid his debt
Of seising ye Arch-Rebel
1643. “There is a tradition,” said Mr. Baker, “that Sir Hopton was killed by having his head struck off at a blow, whereupon his horse rushed away with his headless body, and did not stop till he came to the knight's front door at Horncastle. But I cannot answer for the truth of the story, so you can form your own conclusions in the matter," which we did. Now our self-appointed guide led us to one of the side aisles, and began to lift the matting up from the pavement, in search of a tombstone he wished to show us, but for some inexplicable reason he could
not readily find it. “It can't surely have run away ?” we exclaimed, amused at the perplexity of the searcher; "tombstones don't often do that.” But the light was rapidly fading; already it was too dim to read inscriptions on the dusky flooring, darkened further by the shadows of the pews, so we left the tomb unseen. If I remember aright it was to the memory of Tennyson's parents-in-law.
Mr. Baker then invited us to his house, an invitation we accepted; we were taken there by what appeared to be a very roundabout way, in order, we imagined, that our guide might point out to us one or two things of interest. First we were shown the square red-brick house near the church which was formerly the home of Mr. Sellwood, whose eldest daughter Tennyson married. Except for this second-hand kind of fame the house is not notable in any way; it is of a comfortable old-fashioned type, without any architectural pretensions whatever-a type that possesses the negative virtue of neither attracting nor offending the eye. As Mr. Baker was a very old man (he told us he was born on ist November 1814), we ventured to ask him if by any chance he remembered seeing Tennyson as a youth when living at Somersby. He told us that when he was a boy he distinctly remembered Tennyson as a young man. “We did not think much of him then; he used to go rambling miles away from home without his hat; we used to think him a little strange. I have been told as how when he was a boy he was a bit wild like, and would get on a mule and make him go by rattling a tin box, with marbles