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Halesworth-Quaint Houses and Curious Carvings- Many Religions
and little Religion—Verses by a local Schoolmaster-Provincial Papers—A singular Sign--Chat with a Miller--A lonely ChurchBungay-Commercial Travellers-An old Stronghold-A fine Prospect-Anglers—The Faculty of Artistic Sight--Mettingham Church and Castle--Trespassing--A Peal of Silver Bells-Barsham-The Reason of Round Church Towers-A TraditionHaunted Houses.
HALESWORTH, where we had arranged to spend the night, proved to be an old-fashioned town possessing some interesting and picturesque timbered houses of ancient date. The carvings upon many of these are quaint, and, though in some cases crude, always effective. One curious bit of wood sculpture in bold relief that has place over a shop in the main street, I have reproduced as a heading at the commencement of this book.
We found an excellent inn at Halesworth, the Angel to wit, the pleasant picturesque hall of which is quite a feature in the place. It was hung round when we were there with old sporting prints and was bright with growing flowers. On the table here we observed a great ram's horn mounted with a silver top, and charged, we found on lifting this, with snuff. This great snuff-box gave evidence of being in frequent use; we thought that the habit of taking
tobacco thus had gone entirely out of fashion. It would seem that such is 'not the case at least in some parts of Suffolk.
Wandering about the town in the evening we came upon a contingent of the Salvation Army with banner flying and drum beating, and all the idle people of the place looking on. To be quite sure that we were not mistaken, we asked a person who was standing by us, who the people were, marching, singing, and shouting hymns so lustily, with much manifest satisfaction to themselves, but with a distressing disregard of all harmony. Our question was replied to with an indignant “Oh! them's the Scribes and Pharisees; one's only got to join them to be allowed to go about the streets and make as much noise as you like; of course it don't matter how much you disturbs your neighbours. I calls it quite a fancy religion. March about and sing and shout; if quiet people (who work hard all the week and only have Sundays for a rest) don't like it, well, they can do the other thing. We've a nice lot of religions in this 'ere country, it seems to me, and a precious little religion. 'Tain't English, I says, this marching about with drums and flags; it's a foreign fashion I'm told.' By all of which we gathered that our Halesworth friend was not an enthusiastic admirer of the Salvation Army.
On returning to our hotel we found that it possessed a pleasant bowling-green, so we betook ourselves thither to indulge in a last pipe before retiring to rest. Here we discovered some verses painted over a summer house upon the classic game
of bowls. We copied these with some trouble in the fading light. At the time we deemed them rather good ; probably it was that we were in a mood to be easily pleased, for on reading them over on our return home, we quite reversed our first opinion. The landlady told us that they had been written by the village schoolmaster in 1849, and said moreover that they were considered very clever, many people having copied them. It would seem that after all 'a prophet has' sometimes 'honour in his own country.'
We had not the green all to ourselves; there was a townsman there smoking a church warden contentedly, who watched the copying of the verses with evident interest. He was manifestly, as the Americans express it, 'spoiling for a gossip. At last he ventured to address me, and having broken the ice gave me the full benefit of his opinions. • You be a copying them verses, I see, sir ; they be much admired, that they be. I never read no poetry I likes better, that I never did. He must have been a great scholard who wrote them, that he must. The lots of people as I've seen a copying those lines, to be sure! You see, sir, I ain't had no grand schooling, there wern't no school boards in my time, but I can read, and I knows what I likes. And so the remarks followed each other apace, concluding with Supposes you bain't a poet, bees I smilingly replied that I had never written a line of poetry in my life. “Ah, sir,' he continued, • it takes a clever man to write poetry, that it do. Manifestly he thought that I was not clever
you, sir ?